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00:00: Hi, this is Jessie and Kennecott Alaska.
00:04: Right now I'm standing on Root Glacier and staring up at the second largest ice fall in the world.
00:11: This show was recorded at 158 pm on August 11th, 2023.
00:17: Things may have changed by the time that you hear it, but I'll still be here freezing my toes off.
00:22: Okay, here's the show.
00:27: ice is underrated as a natural phenomenon.
00:29: It sounds particularly nice in August and DC.
00:31: Especially when you have to run from the courthouse
00:33: to the Justice Department, relatively high speed.
00:36: Yeah, it's going to sweaty summer over there, I presume.
00:39: Hey there, it's the MPR Politics podcast.
00:41: I'm Miles Parks, I cover voting.
00:43: Susan Davis, I cover politics.
00:44: I'm Carrie Johnson, National Justice Correspondent.
00:47: Well, and the reason Carrie that you
00:48: are doing all that running today is because Attorney General
00:51: Merrick Garland has named a special counsel to investigate President Biden's son Hunter.
00:57: Today's announcement affords the prosecutors,
01:00: agents and analysts working on this matter,
01:04: the ability to proceed with their work expeditiously
01:07: and to make decisions indisputably guided only by the facts and the law.
01:13: This is the continuation of an ongoing investigation of the President's son.
01:17: Carrie, I'm hoping you can just explain all of this for us.
01:20: So this is Delaware, US Attorney David Weiss,
01:23: who had already been investigating Hunter Biden, but this is changing things.
01:27: Changing things a little bit, Miles.
01:29: He has been investigating Hunter Biden
01:32: for several years now since 2019 or so.
01:35: And of course, David Weiss was appointed by the former president, Donald Trump,
01:39: but the current administration kept him on because of this Hunter Biden investigation.
01:43: And over time, there's been a lot of back and forth, including with members of Congress on the Republican side.
01:51: But WICE has insisted he's proceeding with this probe.
01:54: Now, this week, something has changed.
01:57: And as of Tuesday of this week,
01:59: David WICE notified the attorney general
02:01: that something had changed in his investigation
02:04: that it had reached a certain stage.
02:06: Is the terminology Merrick Garland used?
02:09: And as a result, WICE asked to be appointed special counsel
02:12: and Garland granted him that power today.
02:15: The main difference, the main change,
02:16: seems to be at the end of a special counsel investigation,
02:20: that person right to hold report about why they decided to prosecute some people and why they declined to prosecute others.
02:26: And Merrick Garland says when that report is in, pursuant to the Justice Department regulations
02:31: in the law, he's going to try to make some of that public.
02:34: Okay, so how does becoming special counsel actually change the powers that David Weiss has in terms of investigating?
02:41: Not much.
02:42: Okay, so the special counsel operates outside the day-to-day supervision of the Justice
02:47: But still, the DOG leaders, like the attorney general, would have the ability to override
02:52: some big decision that David Weiss would want to pursue the differences that when it comes
02:55: to a special council, the Justice Department has to notify members of Congress when they override the special council's decisions.
03:02: And the other difference is that the writing of a report.
03:05: Kerry, there's a part of this that seems messy to me, in that this is the same attorney
03:10: who had reached a plea deal with Hunter Biden just a few weeks ago, that deal seemed to
03:15: to fall apart and court and apparently in this announcement that deal is completely gone.
03:20: Yeah, after I ran over to the Justice Department
03:23: to watch Mayor at Garland make this announcement,
03:25: a word came through on the court docketing system that in that case in Delaware,
03:30: where Hunter Biden had apparently reached a deal
03:32: to plead guilty to two tax charges
03:34: and be diverted on a gun possession charge while he was addicted to drugs.
03:39: That prosecutor say they're now at an impasse
03:41: with Hunter Biden's lawyers and that deal is dead.
03:44: That deal is dead, so they may be on a path for trial, or not a plea deal.
03:49: And the open question is, what facts
03:53: has this US attorney, David Weiss, uncovered,
03:56: to reach a certain stage in this investigation?
03:58: And one of the main questions in my mind,
04:00: and I've asked people at the Justice Department, they won't answer me as,
04:03: Weiss initially was investigating,
04:06: not just Hunter Biden, the president's surviving son, but also others.
04:10: And the Special Counsel paperwork,
04:12: you know, DOJ is such a stickler for the paperwork.
04:15: References this probe, involving allegations of criminal conduct by Hunter Biden and others.
04:21: Garland and Weiss are two people who seem to work so hard
04:25: to say they are above the politics of the situation.
04:27: Weiss wrote a letter to Congress to Jim Jordan
04:30: that had a the judiciary committee just a few weeks ago,
04:32: sort of pushing back on Republican concerns that this has been overly politicized
04:36: or that Hunter Biden was getting a sweetheart deal.
04:39: They are clearly very aware of how politically fraught this is.
04:44: But it is amazing to me that we are now in a position where both the former president
04:49: and the current president who are the front runners for the nomination in 2024 now have
04:53: three concurrent special counsel investigations going into either themselves or their families.
05:01: I don't have any brilliant political analysis on this because we've never been here before.
05:06: And I do think this all happens at a time where a significant number of Americans do question
05:12: the integrity and the nonpartisan nature of the judicial system.
05:15: And it does seem like a very politically sort of dangerous and tricky time.
05:20: And there's no easy, clean, clear way out of this.
05:23: Well, the solution used to be to appoint an independent council.
05:26: And when that law lapsed after all kind of mayhem and mess during the Bill Clinton administration,
05:32: they turned to this regulatory power, this special council power.
05:36: supposed to insulate investigations from allegations of partisanship, but that
05:42: doesn't seem to work very well, especially in this environment. The question is
05:45: what's the alternative? Absolutely. So David Weiss was held over from the
05:49: Trump administration. He was leading this investigation. He's asked to be named
05:54: special counsel. He is today named special counsel and Republicans on
05:58: Capitol Hill like Jamie Comer, the Kentucky Republican who leads the House
06:02: So oversight committee now says, okay, well, this is a stone wall attempt by the Justice
06:07: Department and the Biden administration, a stone wall congressional oversight.
06:10: When for a long time, the request or demand from Republicans had been a point to special counsel.
06:15: Well, now they have, and the answer is still not satisfactory, at least politically.
06:19: And politically, I also think it's worth noting that significant numbers of House Republicans,
06:24: including the Speaker of the House, have already been leaning into an impeachment conversation
06:27: against sitting President Joe Biden. Republicans don't have the goods on that yet. People like Jim
06:33: Jordan and James Comer have been suggesting that the president could be implicated in the business
06:39: activities of Hunter Biden. There is simply as we sit here today, no concrete impeachable evidence
06:44: of that, but they have these ongoing investigations into the Biden administration. And frankly,
06:50: most congressional Republicans in the House are very loyal behind Donald Trump. And I think that
06:56: that the political pressure in congress to turn up the heat on a potential impeachment inquiry
07:02: only intensifies because of this news they'll both say look there stonewall in congress
07:07: and look there's got to be something more to this that's what i was going to ask to is
07:12: a lot of listeners are probably listening this thinking is the only way that some of these
07:16: house republicans are the only way that they're going to be satisfied is if in black and white
07:21: this whole thing ends up by saying that yes president joe biden was somehow implicated
07:26: and did illegal things related to his son.
07:28: Is that the only way this ends up in a way that House Republicans are satisfied with?
07:32: I think that if you look at it strictly through a political lens,
07:35: I think that many Republicans,
07:37: one simply do believe that the Justice Department has been corrupted and tainted.
07:41: I also think that being able to have any kind of political attack against the president that they oppose
07:47: is good politics for them going into a national election, especially as a counter-argument
07:53: to the myriad legal problems their own potential nominee has.
07:57: I mean, this is just tit for tat politics in a lot of ways.
07:59: It's dirty politics, but it's very real.
08:02: And I think that this kind of development politically probably
08:06: enhances the internal power at least that the speaker has
08:10: to be able to move forward with at least an impeachment inquiry
08:12: into the president, which is what the speaker was discussing
08:15: before Congress went out for the August break.
08:17: Have we heard anything from the White House
08:19: and from Hunter Biden's legal team, Carrie?
08:21: The White House is just referring all questions to the Justice Department.
08:25: And what I've been hearing is that the White House learned about this announcement when it became public.
08:30: You know, DOJ did not call over and give any advanced notice.
08:33: As for Hunter Biden, his lawyer, Chris Clark, put out a statement saying,
08:37: this doesn't really change their understanding of the nature of the investigation.
08:41: And it's the same guy in charge, David Weiss, the US attorney in Delaware.
08:45: And from their point of view, his powers don't really change being a special counsel.
08:51: They said that whether it's in Delaware or DC or anywhere else, they expect to quote
08:56: fair resolution and not infected by politics and they say they're going to do what's necessary
09:02: on behalf of Hunter Biden to make that happen.
09:04: What comes next as this process unfolds?
09:07: Well, I think the most likely thing to happen next is for the judge to respond to the notification
09:13: by prosecutors in Delaware that this plea deal isn't an impasse and it's basically dead.
09:18: We may expect some kind of court filing from Hunter Biden's legal team, but once the
09:23: government says the plea deal is dead, it seems like it's dead.
09:26: I know now you do CPR on it anymore.
09:28: And then I think they're potentially on a path to trial.
09:31: And other things I'll be watching for miles are whether anybody else have note gets interviewed
09:36: by the FBI or these Justice Department prosecutors working for David Weiss.
09:41: The allegations from Capitol Hill at least have been that other Biden family members may
09:45: have some involvement in some of these accusations.
09:48: I don't know where that ends up, but certainly I have a lot of questions about whether other people are going to be interviewed of note.
09:54: All right, well we will leave it there for now.
09:56: MPR's Carrie Johnson, thank you so much.
09:58: Happy to be here.
09:59: All right, we're going to take a quick break. We'll be right back.
10:03: And we're back. And senior White House correspondent Tamar Keith joins us now.
10:07: And Tam, you've been traveling this week with the president. He went to Arizona and he designated a new national monument near the Grand Canyon.
10:15: Tell us a little bit more about what this monument is and why it matters.
10:19: Yeah, so it's about a million acres of land surrounding the Grand Canyon National Park.
10:26: And this is land that originally was belonged to Native Americans and was taken from them.
10:34: And in essence, this is giving that land back, permanently protecting it.
10:40: And Interior Secretary Deb Holland said that it will be jointly managed going forward.
10:47: The Bosch Nawazzo, Ita Kupini, or ancestral footprints of the Grand Canyon National Monument
10:55: will help address past injustices and create a biting partnership between the United States
11:01: and the region's tribal nations in caring for these lands.
11:06: And there are about 3,000 significant sites in this land, culturally and religiously important sites.
11:13: So those will be permanently protected.
11:16: Also there had been a moratorium in place in this area on future uranium mining leases and permits.
11:25: This will make that permanent.
11:27: So existing uranium mining can continue future uranium mining.
11:32: It is not happening.
11:33: It doesn't sound like this is necessarily substantively a huge deal, but maybe one of those days
11:39: where it just feels good to get to be president to do something like this.
11:42: And have a beautiful backdrop with, you know, and create a new big piece of protected land.
11:50: It was really important to the congressional delegation.
11:54: Sure.
11:55: They had been lobbying heavily for this.
11:56: It had bipartisan support, polling in the state indicated it's widely popular.
12:02: And oh, wait, this is a state that will be a key switch.
12:05: I'm sorry, I'm just going to say just so happy.
12:06: Who is the devil?
12:07: The Arizona, which is pretty important.
12:10: You're looking ahead to 2024.
12:12: Exactly.
12:13: It's one of those key states.
12:14: Also, particularly significant for Secretary Holland.
12:16: Yeah, she's the first Native American interior secretary.
12:20: And it was a pretty neat event with leaders from tribal nations there for the signing in this just beautiful expanse.
12:29: The indigenous vote in Arizona is also not insignificant, intense to vote democratic.
12:35: You know, the Arizona margin was super narrow in 2020.
12:39: There's politics at everything the president's going to do now who's running for re-election,
12:42: especially in a state that could be one of the most decisive in 2024, and to do something
12:46: that means a lot to a very critical voting population.
12:49: It doesn't take a genius to connect the political dots in this one, but...
12:52: Right, and this is actually the fifth monument that President Biden has designated.
12:57: He did another one of the Bears Eer Monument, one in Colorado right before a big Senate race there.
13:04: So, you know, this is a thing that a president can do.
13:07: Yeah.
13:08: The president, presidents don't have a lot of unilateral powers domestically.
13:12: Making monuments is a thing they can do.
13:14: We should also note that there's probably a lot of things that indigenous and Native American
13:18: communities would like to do that are much more complicated.
13:20: So this is one of the easier ones to give sort of a show of respect to that community.
13:25: And there's a lot of other requests that might not be as easy to deliver on.
13:29: Well, and the climate angle is huge here too, right?
13:32: Because President Biden has been trying to tout himself as the president who has done
13:38: the most to fight climate change of any president in our lifetime.
13:43: And I wonder how that kind of PR fight is going.
13:47: Does he feel like he's getting enough credit for the things that his administration has done?
13:51: That was a big message of this trip that he took out west was, hey, look at all of these
13:59: climate-related things that we've done or we're doing.
14:02: He in New Mexico went to a factory that used to make solo cups.
14:09: I don't know if they were red, but they made solo cups and it had been shuttered since 2020 this factory.
14:14: Now it is opening to make windmills, the giant windtowers.
14:20: He has talked about, he talked about it on this trip in fundraisers where there isn't
14:24: tape, but where you often get a little more insight into the president's thinking.
14:30: He, he, at one fundraiser talked about how he doesn't feel like he's getting credit
14:34: yet for these things that they've done.
14:37: And he thinks that eventually the credit will come that people will understand that this
14:42: thing called the Inflation Reduction Act is a huge investment in green energy and other
14:49: climate-related incentives, he thinks eventually he might get credit for that, he hopes.
14:55: And then two days later at another private fundraiser at a very lovely home in Park City,
15:01: Utah, he said, you know, maybe we made a mistake calling it the inflation reduction act
15:09: because people don't know what it does.
15:12: Well, also, the inflation reduction act has a ton of climate change provisions in it,
15:16: But these are like long-term generational shifts of like tax.
15:19: You know, it would take-
15:20: Why are they just in the beginning of implementing?
15:22: Yeah, like absolutely.
15:22: It's gonna take decades to sort of reap the benefits of this.
15:25: So the idea that like people one, understand the climate change provisions of the Inflation
15:30: Reduction Act and are feeling it in any real time way is like, of course, you're not
15:34: gonna have a ground swell of support from America.
15:37: Thank you, Mr. President.
15:38: And Sue, right, isn't this like a broad, every president, I feel like-
15:41: Nobody gets enough fresh straight-
15:42: No, no politician, they get for the things they've done, right?
15:45: Yeah, I mean, part of it, you could say is the White House's fault.
15:49: This is a campaign swing that's a messaging swing, but they do have a pretty powerful
15:53: microphone and maybe they haven't been talking about this in a way that has been effective to their cause.
15:58: And also, voters just don't say thank you.
16:01: Elections are really, very rarely about the past.
16:03: They're always about the future.
16:04: And I think it might take a long time for anyone who's affected by this to connect that dot of what it meant.
16:10: And also, it's like, great.
16:11: What are you doing now?
16:12: And I think that that is going to be a challenge for them, especially for things like
16:15: climate change provisions that are like generational in shifts.
16:18: This isn't something that in any way is going to have a real time impact, I think, on the average everyday American.
16:23: Yeah.
16:24: It gets at this kind of broader issue of like fighting climate change.
16:28: It is really hard to get politicians to care about climate change because it's such a long
16:32: term, big picture thing that it's really hard to like say, I did this and so this happened,
16:38: you know, it's like going to be decades.
16:40: And yet part of this trip was completely overshadowed by a hurricane-driven fire in Hawaii that killed dozens of people.
16:50: And there were all of these headlines as the president is trying to talk about what
16:55: he's doing about climate change, about this terrible fire, about heat waves in the south
16:59: and there had been heat waves in the west.
17:02: I think that the White House is of the view that people are growing increasingly conscious
17:09: of the threat of climate change that it feel people are are believing that
17:14: all of these things aren't just coincidences that more and more people are
17:17: concerned about climate change especially to see like Arizona in a state like
17:20: Arizona.
17:21: Alright let's take a quick break and when we get back can't let it go.
17:28: And we're back and it's time to end the show like we do every week with can't let it go.
17:33: The part of the show where we talk about the things we just cannot let go of politics or otherwise.
17:37: Sue why don't we start with you.
17:39: This week is a politics thing.
17:40: We already talked about it on the podcast, but the Ohio Special Election or the referendum on the ballot question.
17:45: We had a very good podcast on it earlier in the week, but the thing I can't let go about
17:49: it is the turnout for this election.
17:51: And we didn't really get deep on that.
17:53: But part of why I can't let it go is that this is a process that Republicans essentially
17:58: engineered both the timing and how it would be done in order to sort of benefit their side.
18:04: They controlled the Secretary of State's office, the legislature, the governor's office,
18:08: And also holding elections in August is generally done because you expect that you know,
18:12: people are vacation, people aren't always in town.
18:14: You must have voted August.
18:15: I even don't like to think about politics in August.
18:17: I think they were quite to minimize turnout.
18:19: Exactly.
18:20: And the exact opposite happened.
18:22: Obviously, the election has not been fully certified yet, but as of this morning, over
18:27: 3 million votes were cast in that election.
18:29: And for perspective, it's about three quarters of the vote that was cast in the competitive
18:34: 2018 Senate race and it's almost double the amount of votes that was cast in the last competitive
18:38: Senate Republican primary.
18:40: So the turn of that race really surprised me.
18:42: I was texting.
18:43: I have a bunch of friends in Ohio and I was, you know, before I said, what do you think in?
18:47: And they were like, it's so hard to tell.
18:48: It's so hard to tell.
18:49: And I think it surprised everybody.
18:51: So that's what I can't let go this week.
18:54: I mean, I think it is, as you guys discussed on the pot earlier this week, proof once again
18:58: that when you try to take away people's opportunity to have a voice, they often have a giant
19:05: roar. It's also tricky too. And I was on a press call with the Ohio Democratic chair this
19:10: week. And another thing I think is funny about this, like, too cute by half by Republicans,
19:15: perhaps, is that why do it in an off year? You know, I think that also doing it in an off
19:19: year is a way to like not keep up the momentum on a presidential year, especially next year.
19:23: But at the same time, having this ballot question in November has also given Democrats a new voter
19:30: file that will show you more first-time voters, persuadable voters, people that voted one way and another.
19:35: So it also sort of gives them a tactical tool going into 2024 that they might not have had if the
19:41: ballot question was on next November's ballot as well. So there's some political ironies happening
19:45: in many different ways about what happens. It's also hard to imagine. I cannot think, and it also
19:50: obviously goes back to abortion as something that drives turn out to right because
19:54: this was considered kind of a proxy battle ahead of the november election and i
19:58: cannot think of another topic that would do this for three million votes for an
20:01: off your election in august like like what else
20:04: drives people to vote that much i can't think of another topic yeah um tam what
20:08: can't you look up so as we discussed i was on this western swing with the president and
20:13: when you are in the press pool you spend a lot of time just waiting, sitting, sitting often in vans.
20:22: However, President Biden had this interview
20:25: with the weather channel at the Grand Canyon.
20:28: And we were like, hey, hey, can you let us out of the vans?
20:34: And while we were enjoying the majesty of the Grand Canyon,
20:37: one of the park rangers was telling us about this really amazing snake that maybe has a Barbie tie-in.
20:46: Okay, I don't know.
20:47: Okay, they have pink rattlesnakes in the Grand Canyon. It is a rattlesnake that only lives in the Grand Canyon
20:55: And it is adapted to the red dirt of the Grand Canyon
21:00: It is called sea organis a business
21:04: The Grand Canyon rattlesnake and it's pink is it dangles?
21:08: I mean, it's not Barbie thing. It sounds fun until I think about like a camouflage rattlesnake
21:12: And I now I'm kind of scared. Yeah, I just Google image some snake pictures
21:16: It's a little Barbie pink.
21:17: That was a little Barbie pink.
21:18: We were suddenly very nervous about stepping on a snake
21:22: and the Ranger was like, oh, don't you worry.
21:25: All of these feet trumping around.
21:27: No rattlesnake wants to see you.
21:29: So it is going to clear, they have definitely cleared the premises in advance of the president's arrival.
21:35: I was gonna, I keep feeling like there's some joke
21:36: about like snakes avoiding the press pool or something like that.
21:39: I feel like I can't think of the joke right now,
21:41: but it'll come to me in like a week.
21:43: It'll hit me.
21:44: Miles, what can't you look of?
21:45: The thing I cannot let go of is this week,
21:49: we had, I feel like once a year, there's a really good baseball fight.
21:54: Okay.
21:55: And there are a lot of sports where fights happen all the time.
21:58: Baseball is not one of them.
21:59: I feel like every once in a while,
22:01: you'll see people kinda yell at each other,
22:03: the dugouts are clear, people some light shoving,
22:06: but mostly it's kinda just like puffing your chest out
22:09: and being like, you don't come after my guy,
22:11: I won't come after your guy.
22:12: but this week in a game between the Cleveland Guardians
22:15: and the Chicago White Sox punches were thrown,
22:18: including one that landed, knocked the guy down,
22:22: and then he got up and he's like legs were all jelly.
22:24: Like, you know, when you like really land right hook.
22:27: So I just like, I'm not condoning fighting,
22:30: but I do think like in a sport where there is none,
22:33: I think I appreciate it a little bit more just because it's kind of special.
22:37: Was it a full like empty shell?
22:38: Everyone, obviously, yeah, once,
22:40: I mean, people were grabbing each other, people were pulling each other back,
22:43: but it was really these two guys.
22:44: And like three or four punches were thrown.
22:47: One guy threw like three, missed all of them.
22:49: The other guy only threw one, but landed it.
22:52: So I think if it was a boxing match, he probably won like 10-8.
22:56: Does this happen frequently on the NPR softball team?
23:00: All right, that's a wrap for today.
23:03: Our executive producer is Muthoney Maturi.
23:05: Our editor is Eric McDaniel.
23:06: Our producers are Elena Moore and Casey Morel.
23:09: Research and fact-checking by our intern Lee Walden, thanks to Krishnadev Kalimer and Lexi
23:14: Shiphiddle.
23:15: I'm Miles Parks, I cover voting.
23:17: I'm Susan Davis, I cover politics.
23:19: And I'm Tamara Keith, I cover the White House.
23:21: And thank you for listening to the MPR Politics podcast.