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Hey, folks, I want to start the show today by talking to you guys very directly about a story that's been making the rounds, you have not missed it, I promise you. As you guys all know by now, my day job is as a co-founder of the Lincoln Project. And it's work that we've been doing now for well over a year, enormously proud of the success we've had in pushing back against Trump and Trump ism. But as you know, by now, this weekend, The New York Times published an extraordinarily disturbing story about John Weaver, one of the seven co-founders of the Lincoln Project.
I want to say this right off the bat. The contents of this story shocked and disgusted us at a profound and personal level. I have spent the last few days stewing with a sense of enormous rage over the totality of the deceptions that John Weaver engaged in, not only with the individuals that he was falsely promising jobs to, who were men of their age, etc., but to the degree to which he deceived the people he worked with for the first six months of the Lincoln Project.
And I want to be clear right here and right now, because there is an awful lot of misinformation coming from the Trump right about a key fact in the New York Times story, the Times story revealed that John had what I consider to be shocking and utterly repulsive connections and an attempt to no better word to seduce a 14 year old boy. These stories came to light and came to our attention for the very first time when The New York Times reported them.
I want to say that again. At no point at any time did any member, staffer, vendor, friend of the family hangers on. At no point did any member of our organization have any awareness at all of these allegations against John and the 14 year old boy. We were never informed of this until The New York Times brought us this information. And in the course of their developing the story, when we were made aware of that information, we issued a very vigorous statement, because while the things that John did that came to light from other reporting were sketchy and shitty and weird and not cool, this was a line that we were absolutely mortified by.
And I want to say this very clearly. If we had been aware of this, if I had been aware of this, I would not for a second have hesitated to report John Weaver to law enforcement. I would have done it in a hot minute. Now, any allegation to the contrary of this is an outright lie to provable lie. The New York Times itself has said that we were unaware of this. They reported it very clearly in their story, that it happened in twenty fourteen, that we were shocked when we were told about it.
And that's the truth of the matter. I'd say it under oath. Not one of us at any point was ever informed by any source other than The New York Times and the very, very last day before they reported the story that there was a 14 year old child involved. And I got to tell you, we are passionate people in this organization. And there's a part of me that wishes you could have seen the reactions from Steve and read Galen and I when we learned this news, because we're all fathers.
And we understood and we said this in retrospect, that John was a man who lived such a life of profound deception and such a man who lived such a life of ratcheting down a side of him that had to remain secret at all costs. And I have no way to understand how a person could intentionally approach a child like that. I have no way to understand that now. I have had my children in the last five years face unbelievably vicious attacks, stalking, harassment, death threats, rape threats of my daughter.
I get what it feels like when your child has been violated. I get what it feels like when their lives are disrupted. I get what it feels like when someone ruthlessly exercises power to try to break someone mentally. And that's what John did to this kid and to other people. And John Weaver knew what was going on, not just with the kid, but with other other individuals.
It turned out there were three people or three groups who knew what was going on with Weaver. The first was John Weaver. And, you know, you can't see into another person's mind, I was reading John Weaver's DMS or text messages, no one can see those things. That is his secret life. The second group that knew about it was a lot of gay Twitter apparently knew that John was was out hitting on of a Drammen. You know, this is also an area and I mean this without any facetiousness know, hey, I'm a fifty seven year old straight guy who lives in North Florida.
I'm not on gay Twitter, so I don't follow that set of dialogues. The fact that it was an open secret there does not make it something that we were aware of. And look, the final group that knew about John Weaver apparently were an awful lot of Washington and New York City reporters. And supposedly there was a story on this in twenty fourteen that was spiked or changed in a meaningful way. And we didn't have I'm not making excuses why we did.
No, I'm just saying these are reasons why we didn't know. And and the idea that there's perfect knowledge and that that somebody who is doing this kind of thing is going to tell their associates that he's doing that kind of thing is ludicrous. Now, I am sickened at his behavior and I'm sickened that we fell for a deception of this scope and scale. And I'm sickened by the fact that a predatory person tried to use our our organization and our mission to exploit it for personal reasons and reasons that I find inexplicable is a group that shares we share a very firm belief in accountability.
And I think John should be held accountable for what he has done with a 14 year old. But the degree to which we are being accused now of enabling a pedophile or grooming people, it tells you a lot about what's left of the other side of this equation. They're reduced now to trying to burn down a group that they hate with a fiery passion. Because we weren't psychic, because we didn't have access to John Weaver's DMS. I'm disgusted that I didn't understand it or perceive it.
Know John Weaver was never with the Lincoln Project physically, which I'm grateful for at this point. And we did a virtual campaign right up until the last three months where we all went out to Park City, Utah, where two of our founders lives to even read. And we had a virtual covid pod. And we you know, we worked the campaign from there. John never joined that organization. John was never out there. Now, in July of last year, there were rumors that The New York Post was going to report out a story about John being up in Guys DMS.
And we heard about it because the Trump campaign was bragging about it, bragging it was coming that they had a pet reporter. They were going to put it out. Around that time, John informed us he had a serious cardiac issue, serious heart attack. While the story from The New York Post was one of five thousand stories that come at us every day, the thought that somebody that we thought was a friend and that we thought it was an honest person and somebody that we were dealing with in a way that that was transparent, we were like, what can we do?
How can we help your family? So drumming on medical leave. And he was on medical leave right up until this story from a lot of these far right guys started circulating in the last couple of weeks. And we asked John, just as we had asked him during the initial rumors, that there was going to be a story. Is any of this true? Not because we were worried that John was gay. Who cares? Right. But because it made our organization and our mission something that would be compromised and that it would give a vector for attacks by the Trumps.
Well, John's dishonesty to his family and to his associates and to people in this organization is the capstone of a life of deception. And John's statement after that first set of stories came out that he was gay and the closeted life and was acting out on his whatever. If it had stopped right there, if that had been the extent of it, John would have disappeared into relative obscurity. He would have been gone from the Lincoln Project no matter what.
He'd been gone for seven months, functionally speaking, OK? He would've been gone because there was this new reporting from the Times because there was this new layer to this. And by the way, folks, the degree to which John deceived us is not what I'm worried about right now. John Weaver engaged in a set of behaviors that went far beyond a guy who was closeted. It went far beyond someone who didn't want to talk about their sexuality. It went far beyond any kind of redemption in my mind.
And I spent a long career in politics and I've seen a lot of shit. I've seen good people do bad things. I've seen bad people do good things. I've seen bad people do bad things. Is a bad person doing a bad thing? I get the attempt to burn down the Lincoln Project with this is going to be a passionate cause of Don Junior and his little flying monkey minions for a long time. But we're an accountability organization. We're transparent organization.
We've been transparent about this. We set our peace. But the truth of the matter is what they're doing is trying to politically angle in on something that they see as a vulnerability for somebody who's no longer associated. With our organization and if we had known anything about this would never happen. Thank you, Don. Junior has tweeted about me like three times, which means my whole all of my Twitter mentions are people telling me to go kill myself. But basically, he alleges that I tried to get the New York Post story killed, which again, I don't know John Weaver and I've never met him.
And I don't have anyone who knows me, knows The New York Post, does not care what I think about anything, but also the allegations that I knew something that wasn't public knowledge, which isn't true. I didn't know anything. So I am, you know, as someone who considers myself to be a person who cares a lot about these kind of things and about the abuse of power, really, these allegations are to me, even though I know they're not true and they come and I've always thought of myself as a person who really cares deeply about trying to write injustices.
So to be accused of knowing something, which I didn't, but that is still very profound. And I always want to be on the right side of things and to be looking out for people who have been taken advantage of or abused. So I still feel deeply and profoundly and my heart breaks for these people and it is always our job to keep powerful people accountable.
Hi, folks. This is Rick Wilson and welcome to The Daily Beast's The New Abnormal.
Hi, I'm Molly John Fast, a left wing pundit and an editor at large at The Daily Beast.
I'm also an editor at large at The Daily Beast, a former Republican political strategist, best selling author and full time troublemaker. We're here to have fun, sharp conversations with some of the smartest people in media, politics and science to help make what's happening in the country and the world clearer. We take the issues seriously ourselves, not so much.
Our world has been turned upside down on the new abnormal. We'll talk about the people who got us into this mess and how we get ourselves out of it.
So I guess what I was doing on the 6th, planning the capital riots, according to Rudy Giuliani, I was apparently you know, I got to say this after all the seriousness and the thing I just talked to you guys through all the seriousness, the funniest fucking thing of my life is that my old boss is on TV saying that the Lincoln Project helped plan the Capitol Hill riots. More specifically, that a guy who works for Lincoln Project, who used to be with Romney, that was saying that's what he is saying.
And listen, even Steve Bannon, even Ikarus, is if you're going one way on her.
Do you remember the famous. Well, maybe not. Well, you're way too young for this. Yeah. There was a 1970s television show called Space Ninety That Way. And The Theory of Space 1999 was that the moon had been torn from the orbit of the Earth that was traveling to space. And the farther away it went, the crazier ship got. Imagine for a second. OK, imagine for one second that the Republican Party is like that moon hurtling through space.
Now it is separated from the orbit of reality and is increasingly soaring out into the black cosmos, into some kind of bizarro news zone that we don't even that we don't even like begin to understand. And so when Rudy is out saying, critics are saying the Lincoln Project planned the Capitol Hill riots, it's straight up defamation, OK, it's it's like every lawyer in America was like, oh, dear God, oh, dear God. So he goes until Wednesday to respond to our our legal team, which they sent out, I must say, quite a letter on Friday scourging scourging the sinur and the idea that the idiot that planned the riots is amazing to me.
But I don't understand Rudy. He must know that he's just lying, right. I mean, didn't he plan the riots?
I think he's now into the upside down. I mean, I think he's now, like, off in space. You know, he's around people now who say shit like that. It's like, oh, what you saw. I saw it on 4chan. Oh, really? It was on a random dischord cold. All right. It's all right. Or whatever, you know, what the fuck.
Yeah, but it is interesting, the silence of Donald Trump. It is profound, don't you think?
I would say that the silence of Donald Trump is not only profound, but irritating to him. He's frustrated. This is why he's got his his fist up Don Junior's ass, making him talk and flap his jaws like a like a hand puppet on a whole variety of things, because only Don Junior can still speak to the mob and the. That Trump has been silenced is still one, that it's not quite sinking in, it's why you see so many different weird schisms and bangs back and forth on on where they're going.
The Republican Party seems like a mess, right? I did write a book about this. Yeah. Tell me more.
Predicting it, as you may have heard and we've talked about it at some point. But, you know, the whole thing about Rudy, as crazy as he's getting and as wild as the says, and because apparently, even though Donald Trump is sending people out trolling like strip mall law firms to try to find somebody to defend him on the floor of the Senate, he can't find anybody, including like all the bottom feeders. This will be Rudy's last gig.
He still won't get paid for it. And it's going to be tough after Dominion's finished with him. I mean, I kind of regret that the potential for for us suing Rudy over accusing us of, I don't know, organizing a violent insurrection, we're going to be in line behind Dominion who are going to basically leave Rudy with nothing but nothing but regrets when he's done so.
Dominion seems real tough, I have to say. I wrote a piece on Dominion and like they're filing is like they do not feel like they are going to let this one go.
No, no. You know why they're not going to let this go? Because they reached a point where they said, our brand, unless we push back and are direct about this, our brand is done. Yeah, they're hammering back on Rudy and the other and Lin Wood and Sidney Powers accusing me, Sidney Powell, the whole, you know, a lunatic cadre of Trump enablers, the dream team, if you will.
It's a dream team that can't win a lawsuit, a dream team, the whole thing with Dominion and just the constant defamation. It's sort of amazing to me that I was reading something Rudy said. And Rudy was like we did manage to convince a large part of the population that the election was rigged.
Yeah, he did. Right. And at the end of the day, it's like that was the goal. And now they have undermined elections and they have sold this big lie to the point where even though we had I mean, and the other thing that I think is important that I just don't think we spent enough time on is that we did not have a peaceful transfer of power for the first time in modern life. We did not we had a coup.
It didn't work. It was a stupid coup, but it was a coup. And so now we have a situation where we have a country where a large swath of it does not believe the election was free and fair. And the Republican Party, as a response has decided they're going to make it harder for people to vote. So I'm not convinced Republicans are basically splintered off into two groups, the retiring. Right. And people who are like we have to make it harder for Democrats to vote, for Democrats to vote, for people to vote.
And then MTG Marjorie Taylor Green, who believes that Jews have Lazarre, that should be the actual minority leader of the House.
Right now. She has more power than Kevin McCarthy.
She's the spiritual minority leader of the House. I think of her as the de facto minority leader.
The thing about MTG, just for one last second here, is that for so long, said Trump ism is bad for the Jews. Have for so long said, you know, because people say, well, he's good on Israel. He loves Jews. Right. Because his daughter, his beloved daughter, married a Jew. She's a virulent anti-Semite. And nobody, you know, it's like, well, you know, I mean, it's like you guys, the people who hate, you know, the racists also hate you, right?
Like the whole idea. The Jews aren't the people who hate everyone who is different from them are suddenly going to love Jews is like such a nutty notion.
But Molly, I think the most dangerous thing about her is that she's revealed the Jewish superweapon.
It's not sarcasm. It's not it's the Jewish families are spaceless are no spaces that there is never a space laser.
Yeah, the Jewish space laser is is the greatest threat to mankind. Just ask Mergenthaler Greene. It's quite clear that you're just trying to cover it up. I'm going to have to go. Oh, I'm going to have to go. Cartmill, you show me a laser. Molly is don't you, laser? And I said, Are you sure? Yeah. Are you just like the laser laser man.
So what I'm watching Margarito. I agree with social media, though. She seems to have more aspirations than Trump ever did. And it really feels to me like she has the aspiration that she's going to be on that ticket in twenty, twenty four. She working, that girl working.
And what do we think?
Margaret Taylor Green, she's a twenty, twenty four presidential candidate, right.
Well, she's not a I don't she's at least the vice presidential candidate. I think she's I think she's running to be vice president. I think she and Lauren Bobert are going to have to be out in a in the Moghadam for who's going to be the vice president tonight in the market in the it's Marjorie Taylor Green.
And Lauren Bobette, can you see, like Trump, what he's read, negotiated at least for Mar a Lago, like you said, nothing about a dog.
I do think the greatest thing about Kevin McCarthy going down there to kiss Trump's ass is that he's now promising. I'm going to sit down with Marjorie Taylor Green and speak to her about her language, whereas Trump is going to be like, oh. My beer, Marg's my go. I'm just trying to channel Trump becoming more Floridian.
There's a scenario where Donald Trump goes for Florida and he start, you know, eventually he buys them.
But and truck and I don't know what that is. So in Florida, Molly, as you may know, we have a variety of swampy terrain now. And there are there competitions in the great state of Florida where gentlemen equip their trucks with large knobby tires and go mud bogging.
I should read this in the sort of Richard Attenborough The mode bulking sport is an exotic pursuit to the Florida native.
But there's this there's a scenario where Donald Trump becomes a mud blogger, starts wearing nothing but a search, wearing a tank top and flip flops to Wal-Mart. Yeah, he's not.
You want to go to the hog dog rodeo this week in. Debbie Dingell is the congresswoman from Michigan's 12th Congressional District, and today she's here to talk to us about covid relief as well as the capital insurrection High Representative Angle.
I'm Ali, and we're so excited to have you. I was hoping first that we could talk a little bit about January six, if that's OK. You can talk about anything you want. OK, good, because I feel like we haven't heard enough of what it was like during the Capitol riots for the Democratic Congress people. And I think that narrative has kind of gotten lost. And it seems pretty important.
You know, I think about January 6th a lot. I was on the House floor when the siege really started. I knew that there were going to be protests. I knew that there were going to be demonstrations. I knew a lot of people had come from Michigan. But if you're a woman from Michigan, you're used to protests, you're used to people exercising their right of free speech. I have people that talk to me or give me a hard time or protest or disrupt speeches or I've had any number of experiences, especially over the last two years, that what I always try to do is to stay calm and to listen and to talk to them.
So I wasn't overtly worried that day, though I would have hoped that someone had thought to have somebody around should it get out of hand. When we were on the House floor, had been asked by leadership to be on the House floor. And I suddenly noticed Nancy and Steny being whisked away. And at the same time, some of the leadership staff came over to me and said, we need you to help keep people calm. Will you go to the mic and we'll give you a script?
We're going to keep this proceedings going up. And I said, sure. So I'm at the mic and I'm watching. Remember, you're inside a closed chamber. We're supposed to be the safest place, one of the safest places in the world. And Jim McGovern is in the chair and we're trying to keep it going. And law enforcement comes in and tells us in there starts to be screaming. There's pounding at the doors. Officers are yelling at people and say, make sure those doors are secure.
Make sure those doors are secured. My colleagues, we're taking benches and chairs and helping secure the doors. And we were told to sit in our chairs, pull out our escape hoods, which are the gas masks, and that if we were told to kneel, we needed to do so right away because there could be some shooting. It still seems surreal, but we did what we were told and people began to take up their gas masks. I didn't know how to use one, to be perfectly frank, a lesson I've learned from that day.
Get a lesson and the noises got louder and louder. And they said that they were going to evacuate us. So they wanted us to go quickly and smoothly. And it was a people helped each other. There was no Democratic or Republican in that room at that moment. We were colleagues trying to help each other. And I still have to find the young Republican freshmen and help me. But as we were leaving, you could hear them pounding at the door.
You could hear them breaking the glass in the speaker's lobby. And as we got to the stairs, you heard a gunshot and somehow you knew it was real. And we just kept moving. We kept moving till we got to an undisclosed location where we were for four or five hours without a lot of information. There were no televisions. We didn't really understand what was happening outside.
It's such a scary story. So then what happened when they started evacuating you?
Well, we all just I mean, we moved very quickly. We went down a lot of stairs and a lot of narrow hallways. It was a bit of chaos of trying to know where we were going, where we're going to be safe. I actually once we were in our undisclosed from again, I did not know how serious it was until I saw videos of what was happening when I went back to my office at like 5:00 a.m. after the day and we'd gone back and we had certified the vote.
I was I have a new member from Michigan, Peter Meyer, whose father has been my friend for a long time, and Peter kept checking on me. And I said, Peter, people aren't wearing masks in here. We kind of worry about covid. And he looked at me and he's an Iraq veteran and he said, Ebbe, you worry about the danger. That's the closest to you right now. And I think he had a much better sense.
You know, you're a woman from Michigan. You've been living with this for a while, the last two years for me. I somehow got what I call a President Trump hate tunnel, especially when he was in Michigan, said John Dingell was in hell and went after me. You can imagine and I know my husband's and happened, but you can't imagine just the kind of hate that comes with the kinds of things that are said, the kinds there are a lot of good things to.
People are very supportive. But I'm really worried about the division that we see in this country. But I have become I'm a person that's out. I like being with people. I will not allow myself to be cut off from people. But you also develop a sixth sense of going to pay attention when someone may be in your orbit that you got to watch. You've got to be careful of living that way.
For a couple of years, we've had Governor Whitman on the podcast. I mean, she has been the center of of a lot of this, too. Can you talk a little bit more about what you mean when you say as a woman in Michigan?
Oh, that's part of it. There are several of us. I mean, even Mary Barra, the CEO of General Motors, has had some of Donald Trump's attacks on her. Gretchen, who's one of my dearest friends, has obviously been one of the targets. Dana Nessel has had its Rasheda and I have to try to make humor out of lemonade, out of lemons. We're like, who does he dislike more, you or me? She decided along the way it was me.
I don't know why, you know, we shouldn't attack people. The vitriolic this hate rhetoric that's dividing this country was fear and hatred is simply not OK. And I think all of us have to stand up to it. I am going to stand up to it, but I have had to live with it for a couple of years, very personally.
Yet when Trump attacked your husband, how did you survive that? What did you do to keep yourself sane?
I just kept going because that's what John Dingell would have told me to do. And I was very I was not going to stoop to the president's level. I think that at that time it woke up a lot of people about what was happening to civility in this country. I was touched by the number of people that did reach out and both sides of the aisle. And I really wanted it to be a learning moment for people to think about what we say to each other, that we are human beings that do have feelings and that words do have consequences and that we all have to take responsibility for a little more kindness, a little more civility and respect, treating each other with dignity, which we are losing in this society.
I have this question about Michigan, and I know is it because it's a state that's so divided politically that you have these militia groups, or do you understand why this is happening in Michigan?
Because it feels like Michigan is a hotbed for it's not new. It's not just because Gretchen Whitmer was elected governor or Debbie Dingell on machine or in the House of Representatives. I have to remind people that one of the worst incidences of domestic terrorism, the Oklahoma City bombing, was done by the Michigan militia. And these are people who have very strong feelings. They believe in less government. They believe in the right to carry arms. And be careful. We've been talking about them today.
Michigan has a lot of independent communities with very strong feelings that it's a history of it. I have known it for forty years.
It's hard to, like, make sense of, but it's important points. So can we just talk for a few minutes about covid legislation? Yes. So Democrats control the House and the Senate, but it's a very small majority, as we've been talking about, and they don't. And again, in the Senate, it's not really controlled quite the traditional way. So I'm just curious to know, do you feel like Democrats have learned a lot from the time of Obama?
Like, do you feel like there's real legislative change from that era?
So we're going to have to see. So there are many new people that were not there during the Obama era. I think Joe Biden is not President Obama. I think he is. I actually do believe that Joe Biden is the right man at the right time. I think he's a man with empathy and sympathy and comes out of the Senate, believes in working with everybody, knows how to reach across the aisle, doesn't look at a. As an R or D, but looks at somebody as a human being, he knows how to build a coalition to try to bring consensus, to listen to people, to hear all sides of an issue.
He's not doctrinaire, as some are. So I think that people in both Houses, House and Senate, are very aware of the stakes. And twenty, twenty two, I think that there are people who are students of history and will learn what happened or what did not happen. What the future will be for twenty, twenty two I think is not yet clear and will be decided by the collective actions of very diverse caucuses in both the House and the Senate.
Do you think that we are in a position it feels like Republicans answer to Trump ism is to try to make it harder to vote? Do you think Democrats have a chance to sort of get a voter rights bill passed?
I think we have to work very hard to do that. My biggest anger about this last election is the fact that President Trump has caused a great deal of anxiety, lack of respect, trust, integrity and credibility of our election system. And that's inexcusable because voting is the very foundation of what our democracy is. So I think we need to try to pass legislation that ensures everybody who wants to vote can vote, that they do so in a manner to which they are not intimidated.
I have Bill, two years ago, Pat introduced it again. Some of the Republicans are saying this. We should have a paper ballot. I'd like that paper ballot so we can go in and do audits that way. But I think Republicans and Democrats alike have a responsibility to ensure that every American has trust in the integrity of the election system in the United States of America.
One last thing I want to ask you is you have you know, you're talking about what happened on January 6th, and then you have people in the house like Marjorie Taylor Green and Lauren Bopara, who, again, are we don't exactly know their connection to the riots, but clearly they were not you know, it wasn't good. And these people won't go through the metal detectors and they won't wear masks. Does it feel like there's a part of the house that is dangerous?
Does it feel I mean, how does it feel to work with people like that every day?
Terrorism is to try to make you be terrified. You know, I dealt with this, quite frankly, for the last two years at different events in Michigan, just going from farmers markets or giving a speech when people would come in. I think we do need a full investigation. Clearly, there was some kind of collusion as to what happened at the Capitol on six. There were even I complained the day before the election about a group of tourists that were in the building because the building was supposed to be on lockdown.
And the policeman said to me, they came in with the member, we can't say no. I was angry because they weren't wearing a mask mask. But obviously, in retrospect, because I complained everybody everybody knows that I saw a group and want the facts, I don't think it's good to not speculate on the facts, but I'm going to keep going to work. I'm going to keep doing my job. I am not going to be afraid of my colleagues and my Republican colleagues have a responsibility to make sure that their Republican colleagues are acting in good faith.
And on our side, we're going to make sure our support and our job is to represent the American people and protect our democracy. Hey, folks, if you haven't heard every single week, we do a special bonus episode for Beast Inside The Daily Beast membership program, sometimes we interview senators like Cory Booker or the folks who explain what's happening behind the scenes and media like Jim Acosta or Soledad O'Brien. Sometimes we just have fun and talk to our favorite comedians and actors like Busy Philipps or Billy Eichner and sometimes just Molly and I shooting the shit.
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She's going to talk to us about the vaccines as well as what's going on in Russia.
You've written pretty extensively about Navalny and what's happening in Russia. So I would love to know what is happening in Russia.
As most of our listeners may know, Navalny was poisoned at the end of the summer, beginning of the fall, and the Trump administration really struggled to figure out how they were going to respond to such news. I mean, it was really hard for the White House to try to get the president's attention at this period of time, because you have to remember, this was leading up to the November election. And the president at the time was focused sort of on nothing else besides trying to win.
And so we've talked with a lot of former officials who worked in the Trump administration on Russia policy specifically, who say they had concocted a new policy sanctions package that would punish Russian individuals and institutions who participated in the poisoning of Navalny. Now, that never actually went through the clock, sort of ran out. So then when Navalny was recently arrested, the Biden administration was sort of forced into a corner or has been forced into a corner to respond. Now, we've seen the national security adviser and Secretary of State Blinken come out and offer statements to that extent, saying that they're reviewing all options.
We've reported that senior U.S. officials in state at the National Security Council and within the Treasury Department are reviewing sanctions similar to those that had been drafted under the Trump administration but never ended up going through. So what they're basically waiting for is for Europe to decide how they want to proceed with sanctions, because all of that needs to be coordinated quite closely for maximum punishment. And so Europe has said they're going to wait for 30 days. They're going to have Russia 30 days to release Navalny.
And if they do so, it's unclear what the European Union will decide to do. I know the US officials we spoke with are on board with that strategy. I think this is a bit of a waiting game. The US administration, the Biden administration has really tried to get off on a somewhat of a good footing with Russia. They've extended the new START treaty for another five years, and that was the first move they made with Russia. But with the arrest of Navalny, now they're sort of debating how best to move forward.
And I think the 30 day time period that Europe has offered them will give them that time and space they need to drop that sanction those sanctions. Do you get a sense of what the administration's next move is here?
Well, as I said, they are drafting sanctions against Russian individuals and Russian institutions involved in his poisoning and arrest. And so what I've been told is that those conversations about sanctions are sort of separate and apart from the conversations that are ongoing about how to punish Russia for other malign activities, including the fountain used in Afghanistan, the interference in the twenty twenty election and the older ones. Right. So there's a lot to deal with for the Biden administration. And I think they're trying to view all of those issues in silos.
And rather than be reactionary like the Trump administration, which, quite frankly, they are trying to sort of slow down the process and think more strategically about their long term relationship with Russia. Under the Trump administration, there was a lot of demand from Capitol Hill and elsewhere that the president and the White House punish Russia for for its malign behavior. And from the folks we've talked to who worked on Russia policy in the Trump administration, all of that policy was was really reactionary and and sort of not thought out in a cohesive way.
So the Biden team is trying to back away from from that kind of process.
Did Trump ever enact any sanctions towards Russia?
So after Navalny was poisoned, President Trump, I think, publicly said he wasn't sure who actually poisoned. There was some speculation on his part quite publicly, 500 pound guy, right?
Yeah. I mean, he was sort of trying to downplay the situation. But behind the scenes, people who were actually working on Russia policy were quite concerned and had drawn up an interagency plan to sanction Russia. But that plan never formulated. I mean, look, drafting sanctions takes a lot of time for it to go all the way down and then all the way back up through the interagency takes time. And so as the election neared, the president was less interested in making that happen.
So, no, it never happened.
So one of the things you wrote about that, I thought it was super interesting. Was it like got kind of lost in the shuffle because it was one day after we got rid of the worst president we've ever had, was that the Biden administration came in and said that with the Trumps, covid plan was worse than we imagined was the quote. Could you talk to us a little bit about the details of what Biden actually discovered when he got into office?
And it was a little difficult for reporters to figure out what exactly the Biden administration meant when they said that they were looking at the vaccine distribution system and were alarmed about how bad it was. Essentially, it was unclear during the transition with the Biden team. How much contact they had with Operation Warp speed and what the Trump administration on not just vaccine development and manufacturing, but also distribution to states. And so what happened was in the first few days of the Biden administration, officials were really trying to wrap their hands around the issue.
We had state saying that they had shortages, but also they had not administered all their doses. And so what the Biden team attempted to do was just a basic accounting exercise, essentially to figure out where all these vaccine doses were, whether they were so good and they could be used and put into people's arms, and how to go about making sure there was a steady stream of doses coming here in the next few weeks. Now, there was a system in place from the Trump administration that was developed under the Trump administration to distribute vaccines to states that that that system has existed for months.
It was developed over the past eight months or so. But the real problem seems to be on the state level, what happens to these doses when they arrive at their distribution points and how are they tracked from there? And there was really no way to do that at the federal level. But the Trump administration had said was we're going to get you the vaccine and it's up to you states to figure out what to do with them. What the Biden team has now figured out is that states need a lot more guidance and help in getting those shots into arms.
And so that's the real struggle they're facing right now.
The thing that I'm struck by is that it seems like nobody really knows how much vaccine America has.
That's right. The CDC director, Rochelle Walensky, has said quite publicly over the past 10 days or so that that the CDC does not have a full accounting of how many doses of vaccine exist in the distribution system either. I've heard her speak over the past two days or so, and I guess that process has been going quite well. They are more confident that they know where these doses are. But this is the number one priority within the Biden administration right now is finding doses and making sure they don't go to waste before they start to ramp up supply through other means.
They want to make sure that these expensive vials are not going to waste. So that is an accounting exercise that they are still in. The process of doing their rhetoric right now has been we have only been here for X amount of days. Please give us time. This is not easy. I think they're only going to be able to use that excuse for so long. Look, you're in government. This is your job. These things take time, especially coordinating them across all the states and territories when everyone has different distribution plan is a slog.
But from what I hear, the CDC should have a better idea of where things stand this week.
Do you think that there's a certain amount of there was a certain amount of obfuscation in the transition.
So I hear different things about what was shared during the transition. You talk to people who worked with Operation Work speed under the Trump administration who say that they were perfectly clear about where things stood. And then you hear people from the Biden team who say we received nothing so I can get somewhere in the middle of that. I think part of the problem is that the transition team just didn't fully understand that there was no real plan to get the vaccine doses from the distribution points into people's arms.
That seemed clear. Yeah. Operation Work speed on the face of it was a delivery service. It was. It was I mean, it was a manufacturing. And actually the production of the vaccine was which was crucial and important. But then beyond that, it was really more of a delivery service rather than an administration service.
Right. I mean, that is what strikes me is that it seems like even when they were talking it up, they always Trump administration never sort of made the leap that these this vaccine would have to go into people's arms and how they would actually do that.
That's exactly right. And I think, look, you know, public health systems across this country are chronically underfunded and have been for decades. And what we're seeing now is is the result of that, that there just simply aren't enough people in these health departments to make sure that this goes smoothly. They're relying on volunteers who are trying to reinvent the wheel every day at these massive distribution hub. And so that's how it's sort of a disaster right now. When when the states and cities are trying to do this on its own, it's going a lot better than hospitals and other health care facilities.
Can you talk just for a second? Do you have any I don't know if you've been writing on this or but about West Virginia.
West Virginia. That's my next big story. I know it feels important.
Everyone I talked to is so impressed by West Virginia and what they're doing. I am increasingly everyday impressed by the numbers they're putting up. You know, I've talked to a lot of people about West Virginia. I hope to maybe travel there soon to do a story about it. But the main thing that I heard from from people who have been looking at this issue is that West Virginia really relies on this idea of having mom and pop shop type pharmacies where, you know, the people that run these these pharmacies and these health care institutions are sort of so ingrained in their communities where they know everyone who's coming in or signing up to get a vaccine.
They know their medical history, they're sort of BS. They're not doctors or nurses, but they're people who the community trusts and listens to. And so that's why I think this a supply and demand gap is so minimal, is because they've been able to get people to sign up for the vaccine and they've been able to administer it through these smaller pharmacy institutions. And it's something that you don't see replicated across the country because, you know, look, every state has different kinds of population.
Some are rural, some are urban. But I think for West Virginia, this local pharmacy system has been a really good way for the state to distribute the vaccine.
Yeah, it's fascinating. I mean, it's like it's almost counterintuitive, right, that you would go into a much more sort of less centralized way of doing it. But it seems to work.
Yeah, but this has always been what health officials have stressed since day one. We need community leaders who are not not only going to go out into their communities, churches, other kinds of religious institutions or schools and sort of preach the idea of signing up for the vaccine and how safe it is to reduce hesitancy, but also to help streamline things and to get the word out about how the process works and where you can sign up all all of these things.
We should be relying more on these kinds of community leaders. And when we talk about public health systems being so chronically underfunded, these kinds of community leaders can really fill that gap and we should be relying on them more. Thank you so much. That was great. Thanks for having me, guys. Really appreciate it.
And we are here on our fuck that guy, our favorite and only segment, it's not our only segment anymore. OK, we have another segment, but we're not the most famous segment. It's our yes. Our segment that if we had merchandise, we would merchandise for that guy. We would we would we should do that for charity. Let's do that for charity. We should hope for charity.
Murchú Good for charity. That's right. I love this. Let's do it. As someone who has been on clubhouse before, my fact that guys, Elon Musk I actually was a big fan of Tesla when it came out and I was on clubhouse. Yeah, it was on clubhouse yesterday. And he gave a talk at one o'clock in the morning, Eastern ten o'clock. I'm the reason why I say fuck that guy Elon Musk is he's very, very, very rich.
He has an opportunity to help lots of people. He was one of the first real misinformation coronavirus spreaders. He's used his platform for real dubious stuff. And even though he has done some good stuff, like the the cool SpaceX stuff is really cool, I think that he really has sort of managed to not do the right thing when it comes to a lot of things. And so and also he has these like wacky kind of alternate views that are really kind of destructive.
And he has benefited so much from government, you know, from. Oh, for sure. Government partnerships, that the idea that he's ultimately kind of like all of these Trumpy guys who want to destroy the government is really fucking appalling. So as much as I appreciate some of the cool science stuff you've done, I'm going to have to put you in the fuck that guy category.
Hey, Mariotte, I'm going to put you in the fucking category this week because you are still in bed with Donald Trump says cut it out.
You know what? Oh, look, the Marriott is still basically running Turnberry for Trump. And this is one of Trump's like bailout movements. He needs to keep his golf courses alive and its overseas operations alive so he can flee. The country is just as close as it.
But Mariotte still very eagerly, eagerly in bed with Donald Trump every day. You know, Mariotte, I would just like to point out that a meaningful number of your customers are not people of of people of Trump's color, which is to say orange and the poison of his brand is spreading to your brand. Enjoy.
On that note, we'll wrap up this episode of The New Abnormal for The Daily Beast. In future episodes, we'll be talking with smart folks in The Daily Beast and beyond for media, culture, politics and science to help us understand what's happening to our country and the world, we hope you'll subscribe to us on your favorite podcast app and share the show on social media if you'd like to follow us on Twitter.
I'm at Mahjongg Past and he's at the Rick Wilson. Thanks so much for listening and we'll see you again on the next episode.