Washington Correspondent Paul Brandus shares the news affecting YOU from Washington — your money, your job, your life, reported fairly and accurately.

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September 17th, 2021: Jan. 6th Revelations, California Election, and Afghanistan

Introducing West Wing Reports - White House Correspondent Paul Brandus shares the news affecting YOU from Washington — your money, your job, your life, reported fairly and accurately every Friday.

For over a decade Paul Brandus has been at the White House as a member of the Press Corps. He has written books on presidential history, is a columnist for USA Today and Dow Jones/MarketWatch — and worked everywhere from Moscow to Wall Street, Capitol Hill, and the trenches of network television.

This week, Paul recaps news regarding "Peril," the blockbuster new book by The Washington Post's Bob Woodward and Robert Costa, the California recall election, and Secretary of State Anthony Blinken's Congressional testimony on Afghanistan. He also has the week's economic news - news that affects you - and more.

A new book by one of Washington’s most legendary journalists — reveals shocking new details surrounding the Jan. 6th assault on the Capitol.

California’s Governor gets to keep his job

And the Secretary of State on the hot seat over Afghanistan.

I’m Paul Brandus — you’re listening to West Wing Reports— it’s Friday, September 17th.

Here’s some context — the attack on the Capitol back in January — it’s impossible to overstate what a shock to the system it was. For one, to was the worst attack on Washington — since 1814, when the British invaded and torched the Capitol — which was still under construction — the White House and other federal buildings.

The worst attack in two centuries. Which means those who want to move on, forget it, insist it wasn’t a big deal — well, it was a big deal.

And this week we learned it was even bigger — and frankly worse — than previously thought.

A new book by the Washington Post’s Bob Woodward — and Robert Costa

claims that Pentagon leaders were so worried about then-President Trump’s instability and erratic behavior that he might try and launch a war — even use nuclear weapons.

The book — it’s called “Peril” — claims that the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff - General Mark Milley — had learned from intelligence reports that China was nervous and actually feared an American attack — so Milley called his counterpart in Beijing to calm him down and maintain the peace.

Woodward and Costa write that military leaders believed that Trump was in “serious, mental decline” Two days AFTER the attack on the Capitol

Milley also got a call from Nancy Pelosi — Speaker of the House and second in line for the presidency. She’s was as worried as the general was.

Woodward and Costa got an actual transcript of the call:

Pelosi: “Who knows what he might do. He’s crazy. You know he’s crazy. He’s been crazy for a long time…and what he did yesterday (she meant two days ago) is further evidence of his craziness.

General Milley says: “Madame Speaker, I agree with you on everything.”

Milley then brings in other generals — the top U.S. military commanders — and reminds them of the procedures that must be followed — these procedures (this is me talking now) these procedures are a safety measure to help ensure that wars are NOT started accidentally, or by some rogue commander.

Now Milley has come under criticism by Trump fans — for talking to the Chinese — but lesser known is that Trump’s hand-picked defense secretary Mark Esper — ALSO had concerns and also, according to the news service Axios — ALSO began taking steps as far back as October — even BEFORE the election — to maintain peace and stability. Esper asked his own aides to get the message out through backchannels.

Absolutely extraordinary — and shows you how dangerous the the situation was. Our top defense officials actually feared that President Trump was instable and erratic — and could start a war. For their part, Trump aides are outraged at this reporting - Trump himself has attacked Milley — there have been comments to the effect that the general — in talking to China — overstepped his authority, and was acting treasonously.

There’s something else too — and for that — let’s talk with a old friend, Greg Sargent. He writes the widely-followed Plum Line column in the Washington Post.

Conversation between Paul Brandus and Greg Sargent

Greg good to chat as always — among the bombshells — and you’ve written about this - is that Mike Pence, vice president at the time — said publicly on January 6th that he lacked the power to help then-President Trump overturn the election in Congress.

At the time, it looked like he was a hero here — following the Constitution — respecting the law. We now know that there’s more to the story:

The other thing I wanted to talk with you about Greg — is this recall vote in California. Governor Gavin Newsom has survived — he’ll keep his job — and it wasn’t even close — he got about 64-percent of the vote. No surprise — that’s a heavily blue state.

President Biden calls it — quote — a resounding win — unquote for everything he — meaning Biden — is trying to do — get people vaccinated, opens schools safely and so forth.

Greg — for both Democrats and Republicans looking at what happened in California — what are the takeaways — as you see it?

My thanks to Greg Sargent — of the Washington Post.

So the war in Afghanistan is over — but the war OVER Afghanistan — well, that’s still going on.

And whenever something goes wrong — or APPEARS to go wrong — that’s when the opposition party’s outrage machine kicks into high gear — holding hearings, pointing fingers, always trying to gain partisan advantage.

That was the case this week when Secretary of State Anthony Blinken was summoned to Capitol Hill to testify about the American withdrawal, last month, from Afghanistan.

One of the Republicans who grilled him was Florida Congressman Brian Mast. Here’s a portion of their exchange, with Mast speaking first:


Words like “false,” “lies” — and later — a phrase — “manipulated evidence” — all accusations leveled against President Biden. For its part, the White House denies this — saying the withdrawal was bound to be messy whenever it occurred.

The nastiness here is a reflection of one of Washington’s biggest problems - the distrust each side has for the there — which makes it harder to get things done.

And now that the dust has settled and most Americans are moving on, what do the polls say? One reason Republicans smell blood here is because most Americans think the withdrawal was botched — after all 13 troops were killed. At the same time though, most Americans ALSO think that it was about time we got out of Afghanistan after 20 years. And Biden did it. So there’s something in the data here for both sides — historians will be debating all this for years to come.

No shortage of economic news this week. On the jobs front — Unemployment rates were stable in 35 states and lower in 15 states plus D.C. — that’s what the Labor Dept. said Friday. Highest unemployment rate: Nevada, 7.7%; lowest: Nebraska 2.2%. Easy to find work in Nebraska if you’re so inclined.

And speaking of jobs — if you’re not vaccinated, you may have a tougher time finding work. By the end of August, the share of job postings on mentioning vaccination requirements rose 242% from the same point in July.

Some companies say if you’re not vaccinated — don’t even think of applying.

Time for our sound bite of the week — it comes from former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie. He was speaking at the Reagan Library out in California. And his topic — well, let’s just say some fellow Republicans might not want to hear it.

[C-SPAN Clip]

What’s interesting is that the applause for Christie wasn’t exactly overwhelming. Let’s hear that one sentence again — hear how much applause Christie gets:

All he’s saying here is that Republicans need to focus on facts and the truth. What a concept — but he gets some nervous laughter and some mild and short-lived applause.

You can interpret that for yourself — I think that’s really interesting.

Let’s take a quick look at some polling: Not individual polls, but aggregations of them— in other words you take all the individual polls, put ‘em in a blender and hit puree — I think that’s there right setting.

Anyway, what comes out are two of these so-called “Poll of Polls”

The first is the Real Clear Politics average: It shows

President Biden’s approval 45-point-two percent

Disapproval 49-point eight.

The other one is FiveThirtyEight:

Similar results: Biden approval 46-percent

Disapproval 49-point one.

So the president is underwater in both — the low point of his presidency so far.

The president was asked about this the other day — he didn’t seem too concerned he said I’m a big boy, I’ve been doing this a long time. Still — there’s no doubt the White House wants this slide reversed. They’re hoping that the infrastructure bill, his social spending bills get passed — but there main thing continues to be the pandemic — which just won’t go away. The data shows at this point it’s largely because of folks who refuse to get vaxxed — or wear a mask — the pandemic of the unvaccinated. And that’s where we are with that. Somehow public health — public safety — has been politicized.

Now Let’s open up the West Wing Reports archives — and take a look at what made history this week in the past:

And 1994 — a major security scare — listen to this — a stolen airplane crashed just steps from the White House - just below the president's bedroom.

These tidbits are in one of my books: On This Day — This Day in Presidential History — you can also follow me on Twitter — WestWingReport — where I tweet about this stuff every day.


Time now to highlight one of the terrific podcasts by one of Evergreen colleagues. This week, it’s “Wild, Precious Life” by AnnMarie Kelly. She’s an author, educator, lifelong learner - we should all be lifelong learners, right? Anyway, Annmarie talks with the most interesting group of writers, musicians, entrepreneurs, and wanderers — folks who inspire ALL of us to reach beyond our divisions and discover what it means to be wild, precious, and brave. Hers’s a little teaser:

[Wild Precious Life Teaser]

“Wild, Precious Life” by AnnMarie Kelly — I know you’ll enjoy it. Just go to Evergreen Podcasts - com.

We end each week with a quote — something to think about. This week: from Abraham Lincoln.

“Do I not destroy my enemies — when I make them my friends?”

Think about it.

West Wing Reports is a production of Evergreen Podcasts.

Special thanks to CSPAN for the audio clips.

Our producer and sound designer and engineer: Noah Foutz

Executive producers: Michael D’Aleoia and Gerardo Orlando.

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