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Forecast podcast: Biden classified document scandal threatens to derail political agenda

President Biden stands at a podium. Behind him is a large American flag. The lighting is deep red.

Editors Jimmy Lovaas and Jeff Landset discuss President Biden’s classified documents scandal, plus more on an opposition-initiated referendum in Slovakia, China’s Lunar New Year, Bolivia celebrating its Plurinational State Day and the 12th anniversary Egypt’s revolution.

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These stories and others are also available in our free weekly Forecast newsletter.

This episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, David Wyllie, Irene Villora, Agnese Boffano and Jeff Landset.  Music courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Have feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed? Drop us a note: hello@factal.com.


Factal Forecast podcast transcript

This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.

JIMMY LOVAAS, HOST:

Welcome to the Factal Forecast, a look at the week’s biggest stories and what they mean from the editors at Factal. I’m Jimmy Lovaas.

Today is January 19.

In this week’s forecast we’ve got an opposition-initiated referendum in Slovakia, China’s Lunar New Year, Bolivia celebrating its Plurinational State Day, the 12th anniversary of Egypt’s revolution and a look at U.S. President Biden’s classified documents scandal.   

You can also read about these stories and more in our weekly newsletter, which you can find a link to in the show notes.

Slovakia referendum

Information compiled by Alex Moore

JIMMY: Slovakia will be holding a referendum on Saturday. The opposition-initiated vote is seeking to trigger the collapse of the government.

Opposition parties delivered a petition with the requisite number of signatures to initiate a referendum in late-August. It’s seeking constitution changes to allow the parliaments to collapse the government while also attempting to trigger the collapse of the current government. 

Slovak referendums require at least 50 percent voter turnout, a figure that opinion polls are doubtful will be met this time around. 

Now, the vote follows a no-confidence vote in parliament that collapsed the majority government toward the end of 2022. That could trigger a process that would see former populist Prime Minister Robert Fico take a central role in Slovak politics once again. 

Fico could pursue a hardline against support for Ukraine and its refugees in opposition to the pro-western policies of President Zuzana Čaputová.

Lunar New Year

Information compiled by David Wyllie

JIMMY: China will celebrate the Lunar New Year on Sunday. It’s the country’s first major holiday since ending its so-called “Zero COVID” policy.

The coronavirus-related restrictions were loosened in the wake of protests that gripped parts of the country in December, leading to a rapid rise in cases which caused global alarm. 

As for Lunar New Year, many millions of people are expected to travel, with those living in cities returning to their hometowns and stoking fears of a new wave of infections and deaths.

Now, the World Health Organization has called on China to increase transparency and release more data on coronavirus-related infections and deaths ahead of the expected travel rush in the days surrounding the holiday. 

China released data Saturday saying nearly 60,000 people had died since the loosening of restrictions in December, a figure thought by some experts to be a tenth of the true total.

Bolivia’s Plurinational State Day

Information compiled by Irene Villora

JIMMY: Bolivia will celebrate its Plurinational State Day on Sunday as protests continue in the south of the country. 

The holiday commemorates the 2009 promulgation of Bolivia’s current constitution which officially recognized the multi-ethnic nature of the country.

Bolivian trade unions have called marches nationwide on Sunday to show support for the government amid ongoing protests across the south. Those protests are over the arrest of opposition figure Luis Fernando Camacho. 

He’s accused of participating in the 2019 ouster of former President Evo Morales. 

The unions describe the current protests as an attempt to destabilize the country. 

Now, the pro-government marches will conclude with a rally in La Paz where President Luis Arce is expected to give a speech on national unity and economic stability. 

Celebrations will extend into Monday with events also held outside Bolivia. 

Former President Morales will attend commemoration ceremonies and meetings with leaders of social movements in Argentina after claiming the current Bolivian government did not invite him to take part in national festivities. 

Finally, opposition sectors have not announced counter-protests for Sunday but they will hold marches on Wednesday to reject police brutality and to demand the release of those arrested during demonstrations.

Egypt revolution anniversary

Information compiled by Agnese Boffano

JIMMY: Next Wednesday will mark the 12th anniversary of the revolution in Egypt.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets in 2011 in what they called a “day of rage” against the then-dictatorial President Hosni Mubarak and the poverty, political repression and corruption prevalent in the country. 

That day marked the beginning of Egypt’s revolution in the region-wide pro-democracy movement known as the Arab Spring. 

And while the uprising was successful in toppling Mubarak, the repression to the unrest is estimated to have left at least 300 people dead in Egypt.

Now, 12 years on from the Arab Spring and under President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, Egypt now has the country’s worst human rights record and is among the world’s largest jailor of journalists

Security reinforcement is expected across populated areas of main metropolitan cities Wednesday. That, despite anti-government sentiment being near-impossible to express from within the country. 

Analysts have expressed doubt that there is space for nationwide pro-democracy protests to take place in 2023.

Biden classified documents found

Information compiled by Jeff Landset

JIMMY: Our last item for this forecast is on President Biden’s classified documents scandal. For more on that I spoke with fellow editor Jeff Landset.

JIMMY: Hello, Jeff.

JEFF: Hi, Jimmy, how are you?

JIMMY: I’m well, thank you. You know, before we get into the implications and whatnot, can you maybe just give us a brief explanation of what we know about this story so far?

JEFF: Sure. We learned this month that the personal attorneys of President Biden found approximately 20 classified documents in an old office of his think tank as well as in his home garage. They found these documents before the midterm elections, at his office, and they found more the next month while searching his home in Wilmington, Delaware.

JIMMY: And these are documents from back when Biden was vice president, right?

JEFF: Correct. As far as we know, all these documents date back to when Joe Biden was vice president under Barack Obama. As far as the content of the documents, we believe that they are related to several countries. But as far as that goes, we don’t know much more than that.

JIMMY: How has Biden responded to the growing controversy?

JEFF: When he found out about it, he said he was surprised. At least that’s what he told the media. As far as his administration and the press secretary, they have not exactly been transparent about the whole thing, but they have said that they will cooperate with the investigation. They also told the media that they won’t necessarily tell us what’s in the documents and what happened prior to the documents and how they got into his office and home until the investigation warrants that.

JIMMY: Unsurprisingly, a lot of Biden’s opposition have had some sharp criticism of the Biden documents, especially considering the heat former President Trump has come under due to his mishandling of classified material. I guess my question is, is that criticism warranted? How are these two scandals different?

JEFF: Sure, they are similar in the same way that classified documents were found in places that they should not have been. But other than that, there are not a whole lot of similarities. Joe Biden’s documents — there was approximately 20 of them found in his home and office. As for President Trump’s, there were several hundred, at least 300, and his cooperation has been lacking, to say the very least. He is also being investigated for possibly obstructing the investigation.

JIMMY: You know, what are the political consequences from all this?

JEFF: Sure, so this is the first major political scandal for President Biden since the Republicans took control of the House of Representatives. Unsurprisingly, they have already announced that they will be investigating this. The House Judiciary Committee now led by Rep. Jim Jordan from Ohio has announced an investigation into the scandal and is looking for any information on how this happened. So yeah, so this could be a years-long process of Republicans looking into President Biden and a scandal of his own making.

JIMMY: Well, you know, I guess the big question here is, what do you think folks should be watching for next?

JEFF: Sure, if more documents are found that obviously is an interesting twist to the story, but also look for any sort of criminal charges or investigations into the transition from the Obama presidency to the Trump presidency.

JIMMY: Well, Jeff, that’s all the time we have for today, but I know you’ll let us know if there are any major developments and thanks for catching us up to speed. 

JEFF: No problem. 

JIMMY: Take care.

JIMMY: As always, thank you for listening to the Factal Forecast. We publish our forward-looking podcast and newsletter each Thursday to help you get a jump-start on the week ahead. Please subscribe and review wherever you find your podcasts. We’d love it if you’d consider telling a friend about us.  

Today’s episode was produced with work from Factal editors Alex Moore, David Wyllie, Irene Villora and Agnese Boffano. Our interview featured editor Jeff Landset and our music comes courtesy of Andrew Gospe.

Until next time, if you have any feedback, suggestions or events we’ve missed, drop us a note by emailing hello@factal.com

This transcript may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability not guaranteed. 

Copyright © 2023 Factal. All rights reserved.

Music: ‘Factal Theme’ courtesy of Andrew Gospe

Top photo: President Biden, seen here on Sept. 1, 2022 in Philadelphia, has pledged to cooperate with investigators after classified documents were found his private office and residence. (Photo: Adam Schultz / White House)

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