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Welcome to Save America. I'm Jon Favreau. I'm John Lovett. I'm Tommy Vietor. Later on the pod, Tommy talks to House Foreign Affairs Committee member Joaquin Castro about the assassination of an Iranian nuclear scientist and the prospects for diplomacy under the incoming Biden administration.
Before that, we will talk about how Donald Trump's very stupid coup attempt has finally fizzled and break down Joe Biden's picks for his national security, economic and communications teams.
But first, if you can please support the organizers in Georgia who are doing everything they possibly can to make sure Mitch McConnell loses his job as Senate majority leader.
These are the very same organizers who just turned Georgia blue for the first time in decades. You can help them through an organization called America Votes Georgia by going to vote Save America Dotcom. Every last vote today, please give what you can. There is nothing more important than the two races in Georgia right now.
All right. Welcome back, guys. Welcome back. Let's catch up on some news you may have missed over the holiday. Donald Trump continued his quest to set a record for the number of times a presidential candidate can lose a single election.
He's now lost to recounts. Thirty nine court cases and his fight to delay the final certification of results in every battleground state he lost. On Wednesday, General Services Administrator Emily Murphy bowed to reality by ascertaining Biden's victory and allowing his team to begin the transition process. And on Thursday, Trump himself gave a slight nod to reality while he was sitting at a tiny desk yelling at reporters. Here's a clip.
If the Electoral College does elect President Lincoln, why are you not going to leave this building?
Just say certainly it will. Certainly I will. And you know that it's sort of different. Just to be clear, if the Electoral College votes for Joe Biden, we're going to see what they do. They made a mistake because this election was a fraud. Just saying the said this election was a fraud. I mean, they have Biden beating Obama on Obama's vote in areas that mattered in terms of the election in swing states. And yet he's losing to Obama all over the place.
But he's beating Obama in swing states, which are the states that mattered for purposes of the election. So, no, I can't say that at all. I think it's a it's a possibility. They're trying to look between you people. Don't ask don't talk to me that way. I mean, just you're just a lightweight. Don't talk to me that. Don't talk to the president of the United States. Don't ever talk to the president that way.
But I'm going to go with another question. Go ahead.
Famous respecter of presidents. Yeah. All right.
So Trump becomes the first U.S. president to try to overturn the results of a free and fair election in order to stay in power. He had much of the Republican Party and a good chunk of the country behind him. He failed.
Love it. Why? What went wrong? What went wrong? Well, first of all, the election wasn't close enough to steal. Mm hmm. That's the most important thing that happened to you know, there's a big difference between what a lawyer will say at a press conference in front of a landscaping outlet and what they'll say in court. They just didn't have a case and they got laughed out of court. They lost dozens of cases.
And ultimately, while a bunch of Republican politicians were either too craven or cowardly to tell the truth or chose to outright embrace what Donald Trump did, Democrats held enough power and enough places and just enough Republicans like five or just five of them didn't go along with this enough to make it possible for Trump to muddy the waters, enough to take this further than he did, not to mention the Constitution, making it quite difficult for him to do things like send his own electors and have the Michigan legislature disregard an election and take other steps that aren't afforded to those people by law.
So, you know, he had a propaganda machine at his back. He had a lack of scruples at his back. He had Republican cowardice and a willingness to subvert democracy at his back.
But it wasn't enough, Tommy, anything to add? No. I mean, look, I think of it hit on it.
When you have no case and you find your lawyers on it and it's probably it's probably not going to end well, you know, I mean, like they had Trump had real election lawyers on the campaign and then everybody, like, slowly stopped responding to the hashtag rigged group chat. And the people left were just there because they would feed him conspiracy theories. So, yeah, I mean, look, I, I don't feel great about the process. It was horrible to watch this, like, election fraud, Human Centipede, that was part PR campaign, part bad lawyering part.
Just a president who loves conspiracy theories to account for his own failings. But yeah, it ended very badly for Trump and I would argue for the country.
The most important thing to me is that our judiciary system upheld the law and the constitution here, because, like you said, you know, we there was a lot of Republicans behind Trump. There weren't a ton of Republicans who refused to go along with the scheme. But importantly, they were key Republicans in key states. Right. The Georgia secretary of state, the the board of elections, Republican and Michigan. Right. They were they were key Republicans.
But you don't in the future want to count on individuals to just do the right thing in these scenarios. You want to count on institutions.
And like I have been terrified over the last four years of all of the right wing judges that Trump and McConnell have appointed across the judiciary, including especially the Supreme Court.
But like Rudy in that band of morons, we're not just laughed out of court because they were bad lawyers, though they are very, very bad lawyers.
They were left out of court because, like you said it, they didn't have a legal case and they couldn't fight.
Of all the right wing judges that McConnell and Trump stack the judiciary with over the last four years, they couldn't find one one judge in the entire country who would entertain their belief that there was four instances of fraud, voter fraud, and not just instances of voter fraud, but enough voter fraud to throw out the ballots of every voter in the entire state, which is what they needed to do.
So like all of these Republicans who even did the right thing, Raffensperger in Georgia and the guy in Michigan and stuff like even if they didn't do the right thing, it then would have gone to court and none of these courts entertained their bullshit. And that I think we should feel good about.
Yeah, I do I you know, I think sometimes we've been protected by Trump's incompetence, and in this case I am like I I think we should not concede that on the judicial front, it is not clear what the greatest lawyers could have contrived to figure out a way to get these cases to go a different way. I mean, even Rudy Giuliani, like you said, you know, they weren't able to prove fraud. They weren't even alleging fraud.
They weren't even able to go in front of these judges and alleged fraud. And these are people that would say anything, do anything. I mean, there was the fact there is a great piece in The Washington Post that walk through the kind of timeline of events. And what was what is amazing about it is you have some of the most fringe and despicable figures in Republican politics being like, I'm sorry, but this is not for me. You know, like.
Yeah, like Pam Bondi backing away from a podium. People like Jason Miller clearly talking to this reporter, trying to say that they're not the crazy ones. Like you have some of the scum of the earth trying to create distance from people like Gina Ellis and Rudy Giuliani, who are, as they said in the piece, like performing for an audience of one, you know, so like I don't know what better lawyers would have done in this situation if there was they had no case.
You know, it was like there no case. But, you know, they they wanted Jim Baker and they got Rudy's medal. That's for men. And that's that's not going to end well no matter what.
But it is it's funny. It's like, why did they get Rudy and Jenna and Sidney Powell? Right. It's it's it's because, like, the real lawyers knew that there wasn't a case, so they didn't want to be part of that fucking clown show. So they only have the clowns left, you know.
But like you had a Trump judge in Pennsylvania eviscerate their case saying voters, not lawyers, choose the president. Ballots, not briefs, decide election charges of unfairness or serious. But calling it election unfair doesn't make it so. Charges require specific allegations and then proof we have neither here like this.
And I'm surprised that, first of all, that they haven't found any instances of voter fraud. But even if they found some voter fraud here and there and isolated incidents, what the Trump campaign was essentially asking is if there's even a couple instances of voter fraud, you should throw out the ballots of everyone in the state. Right. And there was no judge even willing to entertain that completely insane idea.
Yeah, I mean, there's no remedy, and that makes it difficult, I will say something that Republicans won't Republican lawyers that won't say in press conferences, but I do think there's a lesson here we should be really kind of chastened by is the lesson is it's easier to steal an election before the vote than after. Right. It's easier to suppress the vote before the election than after these these Republican cases were incredibly unsuccessful post-election, but they had more success leading up to it to prevent votes from being counted in the first place.
And I think that is I think where they will turn their attention moving forward. The lesson is there's no remedy post-election. So you got to prevent people from voting before election, which essentially is Raffensperger should not be seen as some hero in Georgia.
He wrote an op ed basically saying that like, you know, these Republicans are crazy and the Trump people are crazy trying to overturn the election. But by the way, we should have signature match and we should have all these voter restrictions for next time. So we don't like. So they are are ready to go for it next time. But it is before the election. It's not stealing it.
It's what let's steal this election like professionals. Please behave like professionals. So Trump is still out there saying that he won the election, that there was massive voter fraud. The whole thing was rigged against him. He's blamed Democratic officials, Republican officials, CNN and The New York Times, Fox News, Twitter, the FBI, the Department of Justice list goes on of the people who've wronged him, every conspiracies crazier than the last. And, you know, the problem is the overwhelming majority of the 73 million Americans who voted for him believe at least parts of it.
Tommy, how much does that keep you up at night and what, if anything, do we do about it?
I mean, I think that pervasive disinformation and conspiracy theories like this are are bad and poisonous in ways that aren't even obvious or even probably quantifiable right now. I don't think there's anything we can do about Trump constantly pushing this stuff because it's just what he's going to do. It's the only way he can convince himself that he is not, in fact, a gigantic loser, which is what he is. Do you think just stepping back, it's worth noting that you had some of these same concerns after Clinton lost in 2016?
There was a poll right after the election in November by ABC Washington Post that found that, like, I think a third of Clinton supporters felt like the 2016 election was not legitimate. And that was before all the Russian interference stuff really got kicked up.
So there's going to be some of this. I think what Trump and these goons are doing is worse.
They are pushing this conspiratorial claim that the election was rigged that will make people lose confidence in the concept of democracy, the concept of voting. And my concern is more long term, which is that they do what you are sort of saying, John, which is use these arguments to undercut efforts to make it easier to vote generally in America. Right. Like, that's a long game. They want to make it harder to vote by mail. They want to put in place strict voter ID laws.
They want to reduce the amount of early voting. That's where I get concerned about a broad swath of the American people thinking there is pervasive voter fraud because all of that folds into voter suppression efforts, which frankly is the much bigger problem.
Love. What do you think? Yeah, I mean, look, we have. All these polls coming out showing, you know, whatever some big chunk of Republicans don't believe the election was conducted fairly, it mirrors every other poll that reflects misinformation on the right. We have a massive misinformation and propaganda problem. It is corroding every aspect of our culture and society. It is the great threat to our country and it will continue to be one. You know, there's going to be a lot of hand-wringing about Democratic messaging.
There's going be a lot of hand-wringing about Democratic strategy. We should have those debates. We should have that conversation. But collectively, we should mix in with our self flagellation, a recognition that vast parts of the country never hear the message. They never hear what we're saying. They never hear mainstream news. Generally, they're hearing right wing propaganda. They're on that. They're in that bubble. It's and and collectively, it's it's the threat. And I don't you know, you you have a conversation about the threat and it's really difficult.
And nobody has perfect solutions. Nobody has perfect answers. It's and it will be with us for a long time. And I think we do have to make voting easier. We have to do everything we can to like I don't think we should have votes counted slowly over the week that follows an election because there will be bad faith attacks on the process. I think we need to have the votes counted. And in advance of the in advance of Election Day, I have the absentee ballots counted as they come in because we need the results to come in faster because this space creates and sows doubt.
But we need more paper records. We need we have we have 95 percent, as Krib said, you know, we have ninety five percent paper paper records for every electronic vote cast a 100 percent. They're just like small steps we need to take, too.
But the problem is to even take those small steps. We need power, right. Democrats need power in these state legislatures, in all these different levels of government.
And, you know, I think the reaction from some when you look at Trump's base and what they're willing to believe is, all right, so he won 47 percent of the vote.
There's there's been like for you to forty five percent of the country for a long time that's willing to believe any fucking bonkers conspiracy theory that Republicans throw out there. The Fox News does that Donald Trump does. Right. And maybe the first reaction is, well, ignore those people. There's more of us than them. The problem is because of gerrymandering, the Senate, the Electoral College, these people, geography, geography. Right.
These people have more voting power than the rest of us. It is a huge issue. If we win the two Senate seats in Georgia. Right. We can pass a John Lewis Civil Rights Act, strengthen and expand voting rights, get rid of gerrymandering, reform the Senate winning in Georgia, what also led by the judiciary with more sane judges. If we don't win in Georgia, it is a struggle to win. We're going to have to sort of convince some of these people to vote Democrat just because of the math.
And that's really hard.
It's then then you're, as you were talking about it, like we've got to figure out how to reach these people with messages that aren't full on conspiracy, like just lunacy every single day.
I think something times in politics, things that have been around for, say, a decade are treated as immutable. But they're not. They change.
You know, fifteen years ago, George W. Bush presiding over the last Republican president to provide over preside over economic and societal ruin in his day, as they all do, as they often do in the waning days of his administration.
He lost huge swaths of Republican support. He did he his approval rating dropped far lower than Trump did. Right. Which means that, like just fifteen years ago, this problem was not as bad. This problem has gotten worse. There is something that has changed and it can change back or change to something new.
Yeah, and I would say the other thing that this whole, like, attempted coup experience should remind us is that these, which is a new right, is just a terrible right. Look, these local and state races matter so much.
I mean, we've been saying this for the last four years, of course, but like not only governor, but secretaries of state, attorneys general, judicial elections, state legislators like these are the people who really sort of run the mechanics of elections and making like the reason that I was never very afraid of this coup attempt is because I knew that if all else fails, we'd have Democrats in positions of power in enough battleground states to hit 270 for Joe Biden, which is a scary place to be.
But we have that comfort because of the Democrats who are in power there.
OK, so one potential problem for Republicans in having a base that is believes in all of these conspiracies is that it may be difficult to get your supporters to vote in elections that you keep telling them are rigged. This is already happening with the runoff in Georgia last week. Some rich Trump donor from Atlanta who was responsible for one of the frivolous election lawsuits tweeted to his 600000 followers that he won't be voting in the runoff if Perdue and Leffler don't, quote, fix the Dominion voting machines, which have been somehow rigged to give us a Democratic president and a more Republican Congress.
So this is one of several Trump supporters who've been urging people to boycott Georgia. Tommy, how much of a problem? Is this for Republicans in Georgia and can we help make it worse? Yeah, I mean, the answer is I don't know, but I love it. I love every second of it. I'm going to drink it in.
I mean, you. Yeah, you have Trump the bigger things. Trump has repeatedly attacking Brian Camp, the Republican governor of Georgia, for not intervening in the election to overturn it, throw it to him despite the fact that that would be clearly illegal. Over the weekend, Trump said he was ashamed of endorsing Kemp. So this is this is a big story in Georgia.
And then you mentioned at the grassroots level that attorney Lin Wood is telling people not to vote in elections that have Dominion voting machines. He doesn't seem to understand that even if you voted absentee as your workaround, that a Dominion voting machine would then count that absentee ballot. Right. The secretary of state is out there like head in hand at how stupid this plan is. So clearly, Republicans are getting concerned.
Trump's going to go to Georgia for a rally on December 5th. It will be very interesting to see how much that turns into your typical, like hour and a half long stand up list of grievances. Get Don Junior out there tweeting that everybody needs to vote.
Like, how much does this matter? We don't know. How much does it matter when you have three hundred million dollars of TV ads pouring into the state? I don't know. What I hope is that progressive groups are pouring gas on this fire. They're boosting comments like these on social media platforms, especially on Facebook, trying to use Republicans words against longer term. Brian Kemp is up for reelection in twenty twenty two. He will probably face a primary that might include what's a Goober's name?
Doug Collins. Yeah.
Yeah, he's a first class goober. Yeah. And a couple of fucking first class goober.
They sit in first class goober together or might have a rematch with Stacey Abrams. So, like, you know, this might not just be a special election problem for the Republican Party, it could be longer term. I don't you know, we'll see. I don't want to get myself too excited here, but it's it's fun. It's fun to watch. I love it.
I think Mr. Trump has been wronged. And I don't think that I don't think Purdue and Lefler have been standing up for him. Now, they've been there, basically Democrats at this point, but just a couple of there's just look, you have to choose which Democrat you want Warnock, USCIRF, Lefler or Perdue, a couple of budget.
It's basically a primary. It's a pretty contentious primary. I say vote for the the left candidate in the primary. That's my position. I always support the most progressive. No, look, I'll just I'll tell you, my honest reaction to this has been, which is like, again, I don't know, same as Tommy, but I think we're also like there's been a lot of coverage over the last four years that treat Trump supporters as naive and not enough to treat them as cynical.
And I actually think one of the lessons of the last four years is that they're more cynical than they let on this pool of people. So my expectation is that Trump goes down there, tells people how important it is to vote for for Leffler and Perdue, even though the election was rigged against him because of Brian Kemp, who fucking sucks. And this doesn't become and we should and by the way, we should act as if it isn't going to be a big issue.
We should presume that all these people are going to turn out and try to in any way. That said, I definitely support you know, to do it is a podcast I'm twisting.
And I think it would be a real shame if someone paid to put those tweets and those videos of Trump supporters saying that people should boycott the runoff. In front of this on the screens of Georgia Republican voters, I think would be a real shame if that happened. Yeah, Tucker, that was all over Facebook then.
It was sucking. Someone ran. And whole effort to do that. That would I just don't know if I could support that.
Also, by the way, just one one note on Kempt, you just goes just like, you know, Trump will go and then there will be a new Trump. And the lesson from what we see with camp like camp, he keeps saying, you know, I have to do my job, but I wish this Ravensbruck guy would do a better job of, like, auditing the vote. He's trying to push it down and it doesn't work, man.
It doesn't work. Have in on this shit doesn't work.
So President elect Biden has made a slew of personnel announcements over the last week, putting together an administration that so far very experienced, diverse and unsurprisingly reflective of Biden's policy and political views.
Let's start with some of the high profile national security positions that were announced just before Thanksgiving. Tony Blinken, a secretary of state, Alejandro Mayorkas, who would be the first Latino and the first immigrant to run homeland security, Avril Haines, who would be the first woman to serve as director of National Intelligence, and Linda Thomas Greenfield as US ambassador to the U.N., which Biden is elevating back to a cabinet level position. These are all roles that will require Senate confirmation.
Biden also named Jake Sullivan to serve as his national security adviser. And John Kerry is coming back as special presidential envoy for climate. Tommy, what do you think about the picks and what, if anything, do they say about how Biden intends to conduct foreign policy and national security?
So I'll focus on Tony of Real and Jake the most, just because I know them very well from the Obama days, they are all like incredibly they're brilliant people. They're principled, they're good folks. I think, you know, it's really Tony, to me, was a signal of Biden's focus on international organizations and institutions and diplomacy and a desire to empower them have real had a bunch of jobs in the administration.
She was deputy director of the CIA and deputy national security adviser. But I worked with her the most when she was doing national security law, including the as the deputy White House counsel focused on national security affairs. And I think that just sort of tells you her orientation, which is to approach the intelligence community from a legal framework as opposed to like a military background, for example.
So I think that that's a good sign in my book, Jake Sullivan, who Levin knows incredibly well to like he was an Iran deal negotiator. He worked at the State Department as the head of policy planning. So he is likely to prioritize that diplomatic toolbox as a way to solve problems. And that's a very good thing from the national security advisers, because, you know, you want to have an emphasis on diplomacy and not always look to military solutions.
So I think, like the big picture is these are exactly the people who I would have expected to work for Joe Biden in these jobs. I think all of them are incredibly loyal to him. They're incredibly smart. I think all of them have learned from the mistakes of the Obama administration, like you should. Google Tony Blinken talking about mistakes and regrets from Syria on CBS News. It's worth listening to. But they are like experienced good human beings, highly professional.
I think it'll be a great team. And it's exactly what you should have expected to get from Joe Biden. Love it, what do you think you you've worked with Jake a long time. Yeah, no, it's I worked with Jake when he was a policy aide for the Hillary Clinton campaign in 2008, as was Neera Tanden, she ran the policy shop and Brian Deese, who's in the running to be director of the National Economic Council. And Jake and Brian are people that I got to know.
Well, first of all, they're just two of the smartest human beings you'll ever meet in your life. They're just brilliant people.
This is nothing actually. Like Tucker Carlson went on a rant about this a while ago before his for his latest, you know, transmutation into fascist, white nationalist. And and it was that Republican staffers on the Hill are more moderate than their bosses. But it's also, I think, been a fact for a long time that Democratic staffers on the Hill are more liberal than their bosses. And I just remember having a lot of conversations over the years with Jake, with with Brian that were just about like progressive politics and about how to make the country a more progressive place.
And I also remember once in a while I would play poker with Brian and Jake and I would just lose because they're much smarter than me. And finally, I just said, like, how about we just make a deal where I pay you twenty dollars to be my friend?
Like, I don't why don't we cut the shit that's better.
I also like one thing about all of these picks so far is, you know, we've talked a lot about how Biden is really in the center of the Democratic Party, not like centrist politically, but like not far left and right, and sort of has evolved along with the Democratic Party and always stays sort of in the center of the party.
A lot of these picks are similar. And like, you know, when I interviewed Jake for a long time for the wilderness, I interviewed like high level Hillary people, high level Bernie people to try to see, like, different parts of the party. And, you know, like Jake and Fase who was working for, you know, had worked for Bernie. They were both people who they worked for their candidate. But they really have sort of empathy and understanding for people on the other side of the fight like they really are.
And Ron Klain is like this, too.
These are people who are respected along the Democratic Party spectrum, which is a hard thing to do in this in this current climate. Right. Especially with Twitter and everything else. But they do he has he has picked a lot of people who are both find themselves in the center of the party and have respect along the spectrum.
Most of these folks so far, I think he's either widely respected on both sides, well respected on both sides. Yeah, they're straight shooters.
I say one more thing that I do not work closely with LMA orcas who's going to run DHS, but we've talked about what a fucking disaster the Department of Homeland Security has become an ice under Trump.
And to have someone who was the key architect of DACA helped normalize relations with Cuba, a Cuban immigrant himself, a refugee himself, the first immigrant refugee to run. DHS has been praised by immigrant rights groups. Like that is really helpful to me in seeing what happens with the future of DHS and immigration under the Obama administration. So there's a great big. I do hope that there's a conversation in the next four years about the Department of Homeland Security and whether the way it's currently constituted makes any sense, because it doesn't.
It's very stupid. It's huge, and it's a legacy of a post 9/11 hysteria that didn't make sense then and didn't make sense now. I also hope that, like having key diplomats like Linda Thomas Greenfield and Tony and Jake involved will lead the Democratic Party to be more full throated in defense of diplomacy. It drives me absolutely crazy when Democrats talk about the way the Iran nuclear deal and they lead the conversation with four hundred caveats about how it's flawed in time, limited in this and that.
When we're currently watching the alternative, which is the outgoing Trump administration trying to start a war to solve a problem that had been handled like we should just be in favor of diplomacy, diplomatic solutions, we should think about engagement in the world in those terms, not in terms of sending our military to every fucking continent possible. If we can right size those things over the next four years. And again, pull back from this post 9/11 legacy of the war on terrorism and all the mistakes of the Bush administration and Iraq, that would be an enormous step forward for the country, for the world.
And something I'd like to see. And I think this team is well positioned to do that.
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Lord Jones Dotcom slash cricket to some Senate Republicans are already threatening confirmation battles, despite the fact that only nine Cabinet nominees in history have been rejected by the Senate.
The last time it happened was in 1989. Marco Rubio attacked Biden's national security picks for going to Ivy League schools and being, quote, caretakers of America's decline. And John Cornyn tweeted that he may not confirm Tony or real unless they disclose the clients they worked for at their old consulting firm W Advisors.
So I'm almost positive that a list of clients won't satisfy John Cornyn. But in general, how do you think Biden should handle these potential nomination fights? What do you think, Tommy?
How much do we I mean, if like if we win two races in Georgia, we can tell Marco and Cornyn and Mitch to shut the fuck up forever. Right.
If we don't, you kind of need to kiss Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney's ass for some of these nominations, right?
Yeah. I mean, first it's on Marco Rubio because I can't resist. Like, do you think he designs his tweets to be twenty percent stupid so that everyone dunks on him so that it gets picked up? Because like Marco Rubio, if you're if you're going to criticize, like where people went to college in a potential Biden administration without talking about how Jared Kushner bought his way into Harvard and then became the shadow secretary of state. And you didn't say anything.
I don't want to hear about it ever again from you.
You have no credibility, I think, in terms of Cornyn. And just like the bigger picture, like I think you ought to start by being clear eyed about the fact. John Cornyn and Mitch McConnell and all of these guys, they don't care about the substance in any way, shape or form, they do not care about conflicts of interest. They don't care about where these guys worked. Right. They didn't care when Trump made a Raytheon lobbyist, his secretary of defense, they didn't care when he made a literal Twitter troll, the director of national intelligence, who had zero.
He would have worked for me in the in the Obama administration. He had no qualifications to do that job. This is entirely about politics and it has to be approached accordingly because you're not going to hand these guys some magical set of documents and John Gordon decides, aha, OK, now I'm fine.
So I think the Biden team needs to approach this fight and provide what is standard in these positions when it comes to like, you know, lists of things someone did at their past job or statements or all the appropriate vetting because vetting is important. But then they need to use their public messaging to pressure the shit out of the Senate into getting people in place for critical national security roles. And if McConnell and Cornyn and these goons fight that and they try to hamstring the national security of the United States by not confirming a secretary of state or defense or a DNI, then you figure out ways to go around the Senate by using recess appointments or the vacancies.
Act like Mitch McConnell can't have a veto on who you put in your cabinet. That's absurd. It's not what the founders intended. It's advise and consent. It's not you know, your feelings were hurt by something Neera Tanden tweeted, therefore, you can refuse her nomination. It's ridiculous.
Also, I think if they do, if there's more Cornyn and Rubio tweets like there have been now at this stage, I think it's somewhat dangerous for Republicans because then the message going into Georgia is like, if you want to let the Republicans completely sabotage Joe Biden's government before it gets off the ground, if you're basically going to say he is not allowed to even form a government, that's how bad the gridlock is going to be.
Then you can vote for Perdue and Lefler and you will get not only legislative gridlock, but Joe Biden won't even be able to have a national security team, won't even be able to have an economic team. That's what they're saying right now. I mean, like it can look to obstructive. And that's why I think you see the Cornyn and the Rubio is doing this. But like a lot of other Republicans in the Senate so far, at least holding their fire, maybe they want to be assholes after the Georgia Senate elections.
But I do think that's that that's one issue that they have to worry about because they basically, like people don't reject cabinet nominees.
That doesn't happen in the Senate, like you get the team that you want. And yet they're already saying that they don't they won't give that to Joe Biden. Yeah, you have to just also assume, by the way, like they're boring, they're boring picks like competence is now kind of seen as boring, right? Like it's just like, oh, like, ho hum. They know they're qualified, but like Susan Collins, Mitt Romney, like, they don't want to vote against these people.
They don't want to be part of this fight at all. At all. And I just don't you know, maybe McConnell can prevent there from being a vote. But if there's a vote, these people will get through. And I think even John Cornyn knows this. No one makes political predictions that turn out to be false more frequently than John Cornyn does.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, it might even be some concern about them getting out of committee to prevent the Susan Collins is of the world from even voting on them, which would be an even further step in the direction of obstruction. That is unprecedented.
Let's talk about Biden's economic team, which he announced today for Treasury former Fed Chairwoman Janet Yellen, who would be the first woman to hold that position for Deputy Treasury Secretary Obama Foundation President Wally Adelmo for director of the Office of Management and Budget Center for American Progress, President Neera Tanden for the Council of Economic Advisers, Cecilia Rouse as chair, as well as Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein, three very well respected progressive labor economists. It's also been reported that Biden intends to name Brian Deese, a former Obama administration official and current head of sustainable investing at BlackRock, to be the director of his National Economic Council.
Biggest announcement here is Janet Yellen for Treasury. What do you think of that choice? Love it.
Yeah, I mean, look, I know Neera. You know, Neera is one of the smartest people in Democratic politics. She's also not afraid of that tweet button. She'll click it, you know, she'll show her tweet. And so she's definitely like, well, it's it's a reminder that, like Joe Biden is not on line. Joe Biden's campaign is not online. Like there has been a there's been like somebody pointed this out, like trying to explain why people have such a strong and visceral reaction to Neera Tanden would be very hard to do because it is based on years and years and years of Twitter fighting.
But on the whole, like, you know, I know Brian is like I think Brian Deese would be like he's just as I said earlier, he's one of the smartest people you'll ever meet. He is a progressive. Like I know that Sunrise, which we love, like, has attacked him for having worked at Black. Right. I am very confident that he chose to go into the private sector in a way that he thought would comport with his values, which is why he worked on sustainable development there so that he could go back into the government and fight for climate change, fight for progressive economic policies.
So I think he's the kind of person you want in that job. I you know, look, I Janet Yellen, the one thing that I think is cool that, you know, we talked about this, about climate change, I think about about our hopes for climate change after the transition. And one one.
One potential role of a Treasury secretary is to view climate change as systemic risks to the economy. This is something that David Roberts has written about a few people have written about. It's basically interpreting climate change as an economic threat, which it is. And she's somebody who's talked about that. And I think that's kind of exciting. And it's exciting to imagine a Treasury secretary viewing climate change as posing a systemic risk to our economy, because that gives the Treasury secretary a number of new tools to fight climate change.
That is very good.
Yeah, but my overall view on an economic team, you want climate hawks and not deficit hawks, and.
That's right. Every single one of these people fits into that category. Right.
Like, you know, with Yellen, you get someone who is maybe the most widely respected economist sort of across not only the Democratic Party, but even into the center right. Elizabeth Warren said Yellen is smart, tough and principled. She said that she stood up to Wall Street banks. So you've got a fan. And Elizabeth Warren, Gary Cohn said she'd be a steady hand on the other side. Democracy for America, like very liberal progressive groups, said she's going to be a historic progressive choice.
So, like a lot of plaudits for Yellen from across the political spectrum is hard, right? Because we have worked with a lot of these people closely. Right. So obviously, they were former colleagues. Some of them are friends. We are obviously biased. But like, if you just take the person's sort of if you take the relationship out of it. Right.
And knowing these people like what happened last time Brian Deese was in a position of authority in the government. Right? Well, he helped save the auto industry and restructured it with the highest fuel economy standards in history. And he's one of the lead negotiators of the Paris climate accords. But that's what Brian did last time he was in government. You know, Bill McKibben, who was a longtime climate activist whose organization literally wants to stop all new fossil fuel projects, tweeted out this long thing over the weekend vouching for brands.
John Podesta vouches for him.
You know, I think in general, I don't think the main obstacle to progressive policy outcomes will come from any of the people that Biden has selected so far. It'll come from either a Republican Senate or right wing judges striking down Biden's executive actions like those are the big worries that we should have going forward, not necessarily any of the people who Biden selected, all of whom are extremely experienced. It's a very diverse team. And like you said, they're they're very progressive policy makers and almost every every instance.
I mean, look, we're kind of focusing on the ones that have, like, kicked up a little bit of controversy, which is, I guess, the point of kicking up controversy. But the Republican response to Neera Tanden nomination to run OMB came from John Corden's flack, who basically said she was mean on lying to Republican senators.
So that's a nonstarter for them.
Boo hoo, man. Like, again, the Constitution says advise and consent. It doesn't say we have to coddle your thin skinned, like crybaby boss. You guys are a bunch of cowards. I'm sorry if that hurts your feelings, but like, it's a very Trumpton thing to say. You have to be nicer to me or else you can't work in the government. That's absurd. I agree. Like the criticisms of Brian Deese from climate activists felt particularly just misguided.
You know, John, you tick through some of the Paris climate accords fighting to increase fuel efficiency standards in cars, but also think like Brian will be helpful because his mindset is going to be how do we use every single lever of government available to us across the entire government to combat climate change? John Kerry will be doing the same thing. And I get that people don't like Black Rock and some of these firms. But his job was trying to get BlackRock and other clients to increase their investments in renewable energy sources and not fossil fuels.
So I think the guilt by association thing is really strained by the reality of what he did in government and at BlackRock.
Everyone's everyone's criticism. If you want to criticize picks, that's totally legitimate. It's just like, you know, judge these people by their actions once they get the jobs, just like, see, look, this economic team. I think what's exciting about it is they are all more all the people running the economic team are more progressive than some of the people on Obama's economic team.
Right. Who tended to be more deficit hawks at the time, like Neera, has pissed off a lot of people online on the left.
But like from a policy perspective, she put out a cap, put out a health care plan that was more progressive than Joe Biden's health care plan. They got closer to Medicare for all than Joe Biden or a lot of the other Democratic candidates, Heather Boushey and Jared Bernstein and Cecilia Rouse, like they are very progressive labor economists. They focus on inequality, on wage growth, on full employment. Like that is a very progressive economic team that you have right there on the Council of Economic Advisors like people should be.
I'm excited about that as someone who cares a lot about economic inequality and wage growth. Yeah, I also to like these are also a lot of people that are that went through the fire of the Great Recession and the intransigence and Mitch McConnell, it is extraordinary how set up we are for a repeat of of a lot of what happened then. We are in a great economic crisis. We need massive stimulus. Mitch McConnell right now, unless we win those Senate seats, holds the key to doing that.
A lot of what we need to have happen will have to happen from the administrative level. You know, even as they've been criticizing some of these picks, you know, data for progress, justice Dems, a few other organizations put out a series of steps that they thought a Democratic administration could begin to take with administrative power. And I think that to me is is the most important thing. Like, I do think that this is a team that is committed to using executive power as aggressively as possible in the early days of this administration, in part because of the lessons of what happened in the early days of the Obama administration.
Yeah, those who say that the one thing I'd push the team on is I hope they're willing to take the risks, because what we found out in the Obama administration is like, why did we have to wait till the second term or almost the second term to do DACA? Because a lot of the lawyers were worried that it wouldn't pass muster.
Right. And that could be true for a lot of these executive actions. The lawyers could be correct. But I think you need to sort of take the risks. One thing we've learned is that you should try to take the risks first, especially if you have a Republican Senate that will not let you do anything legislatively.
So finally, Biden announced his communications team, which will be the first in history to be led entirely by women. Kate Bedingfield is White House communications director. Jen Psaki is White House press secretary. Kathryn Jean Pierre is principal deputy White House Press Secretary. Pili Tober is Deputy Communications Director Ashley Ayten as the vice president's communications director and former cricket media contributor Simon Sanders as the vice president's chief spokeswoman. I knew we'd finally get some representation on that government.
Any thoughts on the comms team and particularly how they might restore relations between the press and the White House time? I know you've thought about this a lot. Yeah, look, it said that that is an all star team. I mean, I'm really glad they brought in the whole campaign team because there is literally no experience quite like being on the campaign to understand what the president thinks, what Biden and Harris have said in the past, what the pitfalls are of those positions, reporter relationships.
They'll also have relationships with with Ron Klain and Jen O'Malley and all these senior people who are coming in who can help them do the job. Like that's that's the key. Jen Psaki, who we all worked with forever, who we all love, brings a ton of experience from her time at the White House. She brief to the podium at the State Department, which is arguably a hell of a lot harder given the range of shit your ass. So like they are ready to go on day one.
I think the biggest challenge for all of them is like, how do you restructure the communications shop in the White House for the media landscape of twenty twenty? And the answer cannot be to just ditch what Trump did and go back to what Obama did in 2008, because in some ways, I think like the briefing room fights, the fights from the podium with the White House press corps are now secondary. And the bigger fights, the more important fights to win are on Facebook and YouTube and unfortunately, Twitter and social media platforms.
So they're going to need to have a huge digital team that is like super sized and creative. And that's going to have to extend to thinking harder about outreach and interviews to like different outlets that are not just The Washington Post or traditional political news sites. And that part of it is going to create some friction between them and the press corps.
I remember when we created this silly little behind the scenes video series called West Wing Week and basically was like this guy, Josh Earnest, who's the nicest human being on the planet, the press secretary and the second secretary and reporters call that was it the Ganda?
Yeah, they called it propaganda. Right. And it was like it was ridiculous then.
But if you take that kind of like owned content stuff, you create yourself off the table, you are going to hamstring yourself.
So they're going to need to sort of ignore some of the the complaints about creating that kind of content and just be clear eyed about the fact that the press corps is going to be even harder on them than before to show how balanced they are after spending four years fact checking Trump. So they're going to need to go around.
The more like the piece of this that is just about restoring integrity to the briefing room is almost the easiest part. Like these are honest, factual people who care about doing the job well and getting back to reporters like they can fix that piece. They basically have fixed that piece. I think with the personnel changes, the far bigger challenge is figuring out how the hell you reach the entire country when half of it doesn't believe in objective facts and the other half is listening to on or whatever garbage news outlet.
And the good news, again, is that the team that was on the campaign is better prepared than anyone to understand that like media landscape and to and to work through it because they just won an election. So it'll be like it's be tough.
They're going to deal with some really annoying, you know, allegedly principled whining from reporters. But they got to do their jobs and reach people, not go through the press.
And I think this will be a fantastic team to do that. And I know and have worked with a lot of these people, but especially I'm so happy to see Jen Psaki as press secretary. I mean, I've I probably know, Jen longer than most people in politics. I've known her for 17 years now.
And she is like the kindest, most competent, hard working person in politics. People love her. Reporters love her like it is impossible not to like Jen Psaki. And I think for that role, which is a really tough role as the press secretary, you have to sort of balance relations between, you know, everyone in the White House and the president and all the advisers and the press and sort of be the go between and be advocates for both the press and the White House staff.
Like she is sort of a perfect person to do that.
And, of course, like, you know, I know Kate well and Samon from her time at cricket. And it's a really fantastic team. So I'm glad he announced all of them. Love it. Any any final thoughts there?
No, I mean, look, I agree with everything you're saying. It's just stepping back like it's such a relief. It's just a relief. It adds to the sense that, like, we really are transitioning to something so much better. We all know that. But seeing each post, seeing each person, like just the people that we know is just so reassuring. Like these are decent, honest people who are good at their jobs, who are competent and have the right experience, who won't use the the briefing room to spread right wing propaganda and and covid discord and covid.
Right, right, right. And covid, not to mention covid. So like my takeaway just in seeing these announcements over the past couple of days has just been like the relief of removing Trump, hitting me again that like not only removing Trump, removing all the kind of sycophants and villains that have been around him for the past four years. And just that alone is such an important change. So I just was excited about it and like. Yeah, and like look like I also just want to say one thing, too, which is that, like, I joked about Europe being a tweeter.
But the one thing I will say about Neera is that, like, she's a fucking fighter. She's been a fighter for a long time. And she like she takes hits and she had her emails hacked and like, you don't have to like her, you can be critical of her, be critical of her, you know, be critical of can be critical of the decisions she's made. But the one thing that I do think is really impressive about Neera Tanden as a person is that like that is a person in the trenches who, like, has never been cowed by criticism.
So, you know, I think she can take it. I'll tell you what, we've all tweeted enough that we're not getting confirmed.
Yeah. Speaking of, you know, people who tweet a lot. Right. I empathize with the position. Yeah. Going out to find the right ambassadorship for me.
When we come back, we will have something warm. When we come back, we will have Tommy's conversation with Congressman Joaquin Castro.
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Some family socks and sweaters they don't share. I don't know what your family does. We think of we don't share. We don't have family socks. I buy individual socks. You know, I don't I mean, give give people in your family socks, you know. I thought you meant family member socks. This isn't a hard case. I thought you meant like family socks. Like, these are family socks. Do you have one big guity of your family socks, like a family Christmas, or are they just like a bin, just like a barrel filled with loose socks?
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I am now joined by Texas Congressman and member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Joaquin Castro. Congressman Castro, thank you so much for joining us today.
Yeah, thanks for having me. I appreciate it. I really appreciate it too.
I know my my brain is a little slow after way too much turkey, so I do really appreciate the time helping us understand this stuff. So last week, a top Iranian nuclear scientist was assassinated. Most people believe that the Israeli government was responsible for his assassination, in part because Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has specifically named this scientist before and because Israel is known to have assassinated several other Iranian nuclear scientists between 2010 and 2012.
My first question is, just as Congress been briefed on this action at all and then just moreover, what's your initial reaction to, I guess, what you've read and seen so far? Well, you're right.
I mean, there's been a lot of public speculation about who exactly is responsible. And I'm looking forward to getting briefed as a member of the Intelligence Committee as soon as possible. We go back into session later this week. And so I hope and expect that that will be part of our our briefings and in terms of the purpose or what it's accomplished. It comes at a very critical time, as you know, because the United States is changing presidents. Joe Biden is going to become president on January 20th.
And I think that's led to a lot of speculation about the idea that a nation or nations were trying to undermine the ability of the new Biden administration to be able to negotiate with the Iranians, bring them to the table and get back into the way. And I certainly hope that even if that was the purpose, the intended effect, that that is not what happens, that we're able to successfully renegotiate our way back into the jackpot.
Yeah, I'm glad you raised that, because, you know, this is not the first assassination of an Iranian figure by the US or Israel this year. Right. I mean, we all remember it feels like a lifetime ago, but in January, the US killed Qassem Soleimani, who is the head of the IRGC Quds Force. There were reports that the US asked Israel to take out an al-Qaida leader in Tehran. I guess sort of two part question.
I mean, what's your level of concern about possible retaliation from Iran to these operations? And, you know, do you believe this theory that we're seeing that this was designed basically to make diplomacy more hard? Well, you know.
I'm going to obviously as a member of the committee, I want to wait and see what the briefing tells us, but as I mentioned, I mean, it comes at a very suspicious time, at a critical time. And President Trump was clearly against the Iran agreement, the JACOWAY, and has also led a very reckless foreign policy. I mean, he never developed a comprehensive or structured foreign policy. I believe a lot of it was bluster and throwing punches, a lot of different countries, including some of our allies.
And so, you know, so it's not hard for people to imagine that there was some intent here to make it harder for us to get back into the jackpot. But whether that intention is successful or not depends upon how the Iranians and the United States and others handle this.
And, yeah, I mean, look, killing Iranians and killing Iranian scientists and so forth, there is you would suspect and even Admiral Admiral McRaven said recently that you would suspect that there's an inclination among the Iranian government to try to retaliate or at least seriously consider it. And so we do have to be mindful and we have to be wary of that.
Yeah, and I guess there's sort of a related question of what the US may or may not have known. Right. I mean, there is all these reports that Mike Pompeo was in Israel for meetings just before this happened, which raises the question of like, did the US assist somehow in this effort? Because, you know, this scientist, Mohsin, fuckers out a he's a you know, he's not a general. He's not directing troops. He's someone who was seen as the key mind, who could potentially help develop a nuclear weapon.
Right. And all these technical steps required for Iran to take a nuclear weapon fitted into a warhead, put it on a missile, which obviously would be enormously dangerous and destabilizing. And I certainly to think about like a comparison to him and some US leader, if if there is one like you could think about DARPA. Right. Which does advanced research at the Pentagon, they're credited with creating the Predator drone. Right. Or the Department of Energy, which oversees America's nuclear weapons arsenal.
I guess the question is, if the US condones this attack, do you worry that this could set a precedent that could make those people like the secretary of energy suddenly is seen as a as a target that is lawful by the international community?
Yeah, you know, in my statement that I put out, I condemned it. I think the United States should condemn it. And if it's true that the United States knew about it or somehow consented to it or participated in it, I think it's very ironic that we were successfully containing Iran's nuclear program under the Jaquie.
And now what it has been substituted with under the Trump administration is this recklessness, including if it is, if it is borne out that the United States somehow participated. And of course, I don't know that yet. But if it is, then this recklessness and the use of assassinations in lieu of actually sitting down at the bargaining table and reentering an agreement that was containing their nuclear program, that to me is highly ironic.
But it also, as you mentioned, is dangerous. I think all around we have tried now. We tried for generations, but we have tried intensely over the last 20 years to combat terrorism. And you've got to imagine, again, as Admiral McRaven alluded to, that this only stokes more hate and division and fear.
And so, again, I think it's a dangerous move all around. Yeah, me too.
Switching gears a little bit. So President elect Biden has announced a number of senior foreign policy aides, the secretary of state, the director of national intelligence, his national security adviser. What do you make of the team so far and what are you hoping to see when it comes to future positions like Department of Defense or CIA director or other key top positions?
I think he's named a top flight team. I think he's named a great group of folks who have vast experience. These are people who are not unlike in the Trump administration, unfortunately, that we just live through. These aren't people who are new to their subject matter and they're folks who are very well experienced in what they're doing.
And so I have you know, I'm incredibly hopeful about the coming years under the Biden administration. And, you know, they're facing some very deep challenges around the world. The United States is no longer perceived as the North Star on the issues that we worked so hard on for four generations, on freedom, on democracy, on human rights, on rooting out. Corruption, Donald Trump spent four years damaging our reputation around the world, and it's going to take a lot of effort to get that back.
And, you know, I agree with what Joe Biden has said in the past, which is you can't just basically put Humpty Dumpty back together again. You're going to have to build back better. And I think so far it looks like he's picked a good team to help him do that.
Are there like top three or four areas that you'd like to see him prioritize when it comes to that that mission you outlined? Yeah, well, there's a few things.
I mean, I think that for the executive branch and for Congress, every committee with any kind of jurisdiction in Congress, our number one mission when the new president comes into office has to be ridding ourselves in this country and around the world of covid-19. So that's got to be the top priority for for the president and for Congress. But then beyond that, I think that we've got to work hard to get back into the jackpot. We got to get back into the Paris climate agreement.
We've got to re-engage the world to counteract what I mentioned, which is that the world does not perceive us in the same way that they did four years ago. And more than that, the world has started to go around us. You have nations like China that have been able to build up their diplomatic reputation, their developmental reputation, and strengthen their alliances in places like Africa and Latin America, because these countries are turning to nations like China rather than the United States.
And that is directly a result of what we've seen over the past four years. So he's got to go in there and really re-engage in a big way. That's going to be extremely important. Agreed.
So you're on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. You are running for the chair and the next Congress.
How can your committee help shape US foreign policy? And what would you prioritize in that role if you were the head of the committee?
A few things I think I was saying before the election that no matter who wins the presidency in November, and now we know that it's Joe Biden, but the Congress has to stand up for its constitutional powers, specifically its war powers and and any kind of military engagement that the United States government engages in. And over the years, what I've seen is that Congress has taken a back seat almost willingly, at some point sidelined itself in these very what are very tough decisions but necessary for Congress to take.
So I would work on repealing the HMS and replacing them where necessary, but I think they've been overused. I think that's a that's a broad feeling in Congress and even among the American people. So we have to work on that fundamental issue, which is Congress needs to not be a spectator to war powers and action needs to actually participate. But beyond that, I think that we've got to go around the world when it's safe. Right. And work with the Biden administration, be a partner with them to let the world know that we're back, that we're back as a leader on freedom and democracy and human rights and all of these things.
That's going to have to be done by by Zoome or by teams or whatever. In the meantime, write like whatever the platform is. But when it's safe, if I was chair, I would organize us fanning out in the world to meet face to face with our allies to let them know that we're back. That's going to be incredibly that soft diplomacy, so to speak, is going to be incredibly important.
And then also look looking at different issues through a foreign policy lens in a way that we have not in the past. And I'll give you a few examples of what I mean by that. Climate change, climate, refugees, deforestation, the rights of women around the world, the rights of LGBT individuals and others, the rights of the indigenous. We tend to see those issues not so much as foreign policy issues, but either as domestic issues or even specialty issues.
And and as I've run this race for foreign affairs chair, I've said I think we need to put these things front and center as foreign policy issues.
Yeah, I totally agree with that. And then last question for you. I mean, I know you've you put forward a bill that would help increase diversity in the State Department.
What do you think that that Congress can do in the Biden administration can do to help rebuild an organization that has lost so much mind share, like so many great people have left because they were denigrated by Rex Tillerson or Mike Pompeo said, like, how do we recruit people back into these key foreign service jobs?
I mean, that's a great question. I mean, you know, I've talked about rebuilding our infrastructure for diplomacy for the United States, and it's going to be harder than it sounds. And the reason I say that is because morale at the State Department is near an all time low.
Less people are taking the foreign service exam, which is always been have been a very prestigious thing to go into the government and serve in the foreign service. More people are walking out the door at. At the Trump administration, State Department than we've seen in a long, long time, and so you've got to go in there and fix all of those things and at the same time make sure that the diplomatic corps and the State Department reflect the diversity, the face of this country.
And that has eluded us not just during the Trump years, but it's eluded us for a while, even though there have been folks with the best of intentions we before I'm not talking about the Trump years before the Trump years. We've never quite gotten it. And to the point now where I think right now there are about four African-American career ambassadors and maybe three Latino or Latina career ambassadors, you know, so the numbers are incredibly low.
And so my legislation is aimed at helping us improve those things, you know, but most of all, it's got to be an issue that's on our radar and that we're very intentional about improving. Yeah, agreed.
Well, it sounds like a great bill. I hope it moves quickly. And thank you so much for your time today, Congressman Castro. I really appreciate it. Thank you.
Thanks to Congressman Castro for joining us today and will talk to you later. I forgot to make my joke, I had a joke ready, which was that Trump is like our angry ex outside our houses in the middle of the night. That's it. That's it.
I know about it. Yeah. So it's a boom box playing Rudy Giuliani. So stupid. I hope there's music under that to cut how bad it was we saw on the show. I can't tell. All right. Hotei of America is a crooked media production, the executive producer is Michael Martinez, our associate producer is Jordan Waller. It's mixed and edited by Andrew Chadwick.
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