It’s Tuesday, February 1st, and this is your Morning Wire. Listen to the full podcast:
1) Joe Rogan Responds To Critics
The Topline: Joe Rogan has responded to critics who claim his popular podcast is responsible for spreading misinformation about COVID, as Spotify announced it enacted new policies to address concerns about his show.
Quote Of The Day: “Eight months ago, if you said ‘if you get vaccinated you can still catch COVID and you can still spread COVID,’ you’d be removed from social media. They would ban you from certain platforms. Now, that’s accepted as fact.”
– Joe Rogan
On Sunday afternoon, Spotify announced they would put a warning label on COVID-related content; and several hours later, Rogan responded with a ten minute Instagram video.
On Monday, many headlines from large media outlets framed Rogan’s comments as an apology. Though he said he’ll work on offering a more balanced mix of guests, the host didn’t say he’d stop interviewing controversial experts moving forward.
He also spent several minutes defending the backgrounds of the two guests who have caused the most controversy — cardiologist Peter McCullough and mRNA researcher Dr. Robert Malone.
Rogan also pointed out that he’s interviewed doctors on the other side, including an epidemiologist on Biden’s COVID advisory board and CNN’s Dr. Sanjay Gupta. He then pushed back against the term “misinformation” itself because, as he noted, claims that were considered misinformation a few months ago — and were censored by other Big Tech companies like Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube — are now widely accepted as fact.
Spotify: CEO Daniel Ek said Spotify users will notice a new content warning ahead of any podcast episodes on their platform that discuss COVID.
2) FBI Accused Of Leading Gov. Whitmer Kidnapping Plot
The Topline: In October 2020, the FBI arrested six men for allegedly planning to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer (D), but documents filed by their attorneys claim the plot originated with and was entirely driven by FBI informants.
The FBI filed charges against 14 members of a Michigan-based militia group called the Wolverine Watchmen — six of whom were allegedly ringleaders and eight were allegedly providing material support. Agents said they planned to kidnap Governor Gretchen Whitmer at her vacation home in September 2020. 13 of the 14 men have pleaded not guilty.
On April 1, 2020, an FBI informant told the feds that the armed group planned to storm the state capitol in Lansing; and they were surprised when state police let them inside, as soon as they had their temperatures taken.
The FBI says this emboldened them to hatch a plot to kidnap the governor, blow up a nearby bridge to slow down police, and either execute her or make her face a private trial for tyranny. The agents arrested the men on October 8th.
The defendants say the FBI engaged in government entrapment. Under the law, federal agents can monitor and collect information and intelligence on targets, but they have to show the suspect was already predisposed to commit crimes, and they can’t persuade or induce reluctant or unwilling marks.
A total of 12 FBI agents or informants were involved. An informant named Steve Robeson paid people’s way to conferences, bought them moonshine, and used federal money to purchase weapons for others in the group. An FBI memo says Robeson wasn’t just recording but was “leading the conversations.”
The defendants admit they fantasized out loud about committing crimes, but say they never had a functional plan.
Agents say the defendants made innocent-sounding comments as cover, but the federal prosecutor admits “some defendants were initially skeptical … but their confidence and commitment increased with training, reconnaissance, and preparation.”
The government claimed that Robeson went rogue, claiming “Steve was a ‘double agent,’ often working against the interests of the government.” They caught on to him when he tipped off another informant about the federal investigation. Thirteen days before the sting operation, the feds charged Robeson with illegally purchasing a firearm for himself, but not for the suspects.
By disowning Robeson, the FBI seeks to block the release of 258 statements by or to informants that the defendants say will exonerate them. One comment by an FBI agent said, “We have a saying in my office. Don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story.”
Some of the agents involved in the case have also come under fire.
An FBI agent named Jayson Chambers promoted his private intelligence firm, Exeintel, by bragging about his success in FBI investigations — so the defendants say he had a financial incentive to arrest people for the alleged kidnapping plot.
Remember: Federal agents say infiltrating extremist groups saves lives by preventing terrorist attacks. In this case, the FBI says it will strongly dispute the defendants’ portrayal of its agents in court. The trial is scheduled to get under way on March 8 in Grand Rapids.
3) Behind The Battle Over Ukraine
The Topline: At a U.N. Security Council meeting on Monday, Russia accused the U.S. of fear mongering while the U.S. said the presence of troops at the Ukraine border is a real threat.
Daniel Kochis of the Heritage Foundation explained on Morning Wire how Russia’s interests in Ukraine go beyond a desire for agricultural and industrial resources or territorial advantages.
There’s a shared cultural and religious lineage for many Ukrainians and Russians. Ukraine is seen as both a threat and an opportunity by Russia. As a country that has generally rejected the east in favor of the west, Ukraine could be a catalyst for societal unrest in Russia.
Regarding the timing of this military aggression, Kochis said this was a calculated move since President Joe Biden is in the White House. The Nord Stream 2 pipeline was opposed by the Trump administration, but construction restarted in February after Biden took office.
Sanctions might be harder to impose than previously thought. Germany is the largest purchaser of Russian gas in the world, making it unlikely that the Germans would support sanctions which would impact their energy supplies if Russia doesn’t launch a full invasion.
Ukraine’s military capability is different now than it was during the previous invasion in 2014, with 150,000 active duty troops ready, and 100,000 in reserve.
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