Trump’s phone call; pandemic preparedness

Listen 49:15
President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington before boarding Marine One

In this Dec. 12, 2020, file photo President Donald Trump walks on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington before boarding Marine One. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

We start this hour discussing President Trump’s extraordinary call to Georgia’s secretary of state Brad Raffensperger pressuring him to “find” votes to overturn the election. Audio of their conversation was released this weekend. We’ll talk about what was said and the legal and ethical issues it raises with Temple University law professor CRAIG GREEN and former Pennsylvania Congressman CHARLIE DENT. Then; we turn to the pandemic, look at where we stand roughly a year into its spread. We’ll also talk about spillover events, when animal infections jump to humans, and how our activities are making the natural world more dangerous for people and animals. Science writer DAVID QUAMMEN joins us.

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Interview Highlights

On President Trump’s phone call

Marty Moss-Coane: We are used to President Trump defying norms, uttering falsehoods, promoting conspiracy theories. When you listen to this phone call, is this more of the same of what we’ve had for four years or something different and more dangerous? 

Charlie Dent: I mean, we’ve seen this before, but it’s just so blatant. And it’s you know, this is beyond offensive. It’s beyond absurd or inappropriate. This is grotesque and an obscenity to representative government and democracy itself. I mean, I just think you kind of run out of words to describe this. To overturn an election. Can you imagine if a congressman or any elected official had made a call like this to a county or a state? 

On President Trump’s allies in government

MMC: Craig, what did you hear in this call? 

Craig Green: I think this is both different and more of the same. This is the kind of abuse of the presidency that manifested many times before and of course, has influenced representatives not to support Trump and many other Republicans haven’t. Another concern, which I think is a little bigger, is this time an awful lot more important people are in on it. So, of course, Raffensperger hasn’t just fielded one nasty phone call from a Republican. This is at least the second. Lindsey Graham, Senator Lindsey Graham, very soon after the election, called to pressure Raffensperger to toss out all mail ballots legally cast and then denied it, which is the reason, by the way, this phone call was recorded. Raffensperger wasn’t going to be fooled again. 

On the origins of the virus

MMC: Are bats responsible for the Covid-19 pandemic? 

David Quammen: First of all, I’d say bats are not responsible because even if bats are the reservoir host of this virus, the place where it has lived over long stretches of time, bats didn’t bring it to us and the virus didn’t seek us out. Viruses don’t climb into humans. They spill into humans. So if this came from a bat, which it seems that it did, there’s very strong evidence but not final proof of that, then it’s because humans came in contact with the black bat in some sort of way that gave the virus the opportunity to take hold in humans. It’s not the fault of bats. It’s not even the fault of the virus. It’s an ecological interaction initiated by humans that has opened the opportunity for the virus to colonize a new kind of host. 

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