Baltimore's Mayor Scott Says Key Bridge Cleanup Is Like "Jenga" | Crooked Media
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April 04, 2024
What A Day
Baltimore's Mayor Scott Says Key Bridge Cleanup Is Like "Jenga"

In This Episode

  • President Joe Biden and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu spoke on Thursday, the first time since Israeli strikes killed seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen in Gaza. Biden reportedly told Netanyahu that an immediate ceasefire was necessary and seemed to condition future U.S. support on improved treatment of Gaza’s civilians. Hours later, the White House said Israel agreed to open another border crossing into Gaza so more aid could get into the area. Crooked contributor Max Fisher explains the tonal shift happening in the White House right now and what we could expect to see going forward.
  • Biden heads to Baltimore Friday to assess the damage to the collapsed Francis Scott Key Bridge. The wreckage has almost completely shut down the Port of Baltimore, which supports tens of thousands of jobs in the region. Baltimore’s Democratic Mayor Brandon Scott talks about how the cleanup effort is going and what he hopes to show Biden during his visit.And in headlines: The centrist group No Labels ended its bid to field a 2024 presidential candidate, judges in Florida and Georgia slapped down separate efforts from former President Donald Trump to toss some of his criminal charges, and the first living person to ever receive a kidney transplant from a pig was able to head home after surgery.


Show Notes:





Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, April 5th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi and this is What a Day, the pod that reminds you that you need more than $60 million to run for president. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, you need a plan and a candidate. And the group No Labels just announced it couldn’t find either. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But you know what? We are here to help. We are happy to take the money you raised. We just won’t run. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, a different type of investment in democracy. [laughing] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, we’ll talk more about No Labels ending its attempt to create a third party, quote unquote “unity ticket.” Plus, President Biden heads to Baltimore today, and we talked to Mayor Brandon Scott about the tricky recovery effort after the collapse of the Francis Scott Key Bridge. 


[clip of Mayor Brandan Scott] It’s like Jenga. And you’ve all played Jenga. You know, when you move one piece, you don’t know how the other ones are going to react. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, it’s been a big week of developments in the war between Israel and Hamas. And we’re also seeing another shift in Biden’s tone towards Israel and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, a lot going on this week. Can you give us a quick rundown of how we got here? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. So it started on Monday with the Israeli airstrikes that killed seven aid workers with World Central Kitchen. Those are strikes that Israel took responsibility for, but they maintained were not intentional. That set off a new wave of condemnation against the civilian and humanitarian death toll of Israel’s military conduct from all around the world, including from President Biden. And it also set off a new wave of criticism of the US’s policies and continued military support of Israel, despite the administration’s several expressions of frustration with the Israeli government and their military’s conduct. Then, just yesterday, President Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu over the phone for the first time since the strikes. And he reportedly told Bibi that an immediate cease fire is essential to protect innocent civilians in Gaza and to improve the dire humanitarian situation. He urged Netanyahu to reach that without delay. According to a statement from the White House, Biden said during the call that Israel needed to, quote, “announce and implement a series of specific, concrete and measurable steps to address civilian harm, humanitarian suffering and the safety of aid workers.” And he made clear that U.S. policy with respect to Gaza will be determined by Israel’s immediate actions on those steps. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And I know that during all the chaos and tragedy of this week, there was also some news about U.S. weapons going to Israel. What happened there? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. So actually, the same day as the strikes, though it did happen a bit earlier, the U.S. granted approval for the transfer of thousands of additional bombs to Israel. According to an administration official those bombs will not be delivered until next year. But regardless, that is, you know, not the kind of headline news thing you want to see come out during a week where so much of the world’s attention is on the continued deaths of innocent people here at the hands of the Israeli military. To discuss the shifts that we’re seeing this week and why they’re happening now. I spoke with former international reporter and Crooked’s contributor Max Fisher. Take a listen to our conversation. So following Monday’s strikes by the IDF that killed seven World Central Kitchen Aid workers, Biden and Bibi Netanyahu spoke yesterday. We know that over the course of this conflict, their communication has really broken down and they have not spoken quite as frequently. So tell us a little bit about what we know happened during that conversation. And, you know, put that into context of of Biden and Bibi’s broader relationship for us. 


Max Fisher: So the really significant thing from the phone call between Biden and Netanyahu, I think, was the fact that he very specifically pledged to, uh condition US aid, future ongoing US aid to Israel on Israel meeting certain steps that it has to demonstrate that it is taking concrete steps and making concrete policy changes to better protect Palestinian civilians going forward. That’s a really big change because, the White House has really declined and really resisted using that specific point of leverage. The fact that the US is sending so many arms to Israel in order to specifically pressure for policy changes. So that, to me is the really big shift. And there’s a lot of indications that the Israelis are taking it very seriously. Uh. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Max Fisher: They immediately after this call, they said that they would start using uh the port at the city called [?] to deliver aid. They opened up a crossing in the north of Gaza that they had really resisted opening to allow for deliveries. They promised to uh bring in more aid deliveries from Jordan. That doesn’t mean that um Joe Biden is going to get what he wants out of Netanyahu. And there’s a lot that remains to be seen. But it really seems like this phone call has convinced the Israeli government that they at least need to make a show of really changing course, and that this threat that they got over the phone is making making them move to some degree. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, has seemed to spur somewhat immediate movement. But Biden, you know, has expressed his anger over what happened this week. But officially, the administration won’t say what changes, if any, they’ll make policy wise. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said while in Brussels, quote, “if we don’t see the changes that we need to see, there will be changes in our own policy.” But it’s been very consistently vague. So talk of conditioning, U.S. support for Israel have been going on for some time now. You know what has driven that pressure on Biden? Why is he being more forceful now instead of earlier and what do you think that could look like? 


Max Fisher: So on the the vagueness, I think it’s really important to put that in context with exactly what you’re asking about, which is the fact that, Biden has resisted making this kind of change for so long, because if this had happened five months ago, I think we would look at that vagueness and we would say, that’s actually a good thing if we want Israeli policy to change. Because what that means is they’re leaving their options open. You know, if they set a specific red line at a certain spot, then the Israelis will just inch right under it and see what they can get away with. So putting the pressure and the onus on the Israelis to prove to the White House is good. If you believe that the White House really intends to follow through. But, of course, what complicates and undercuts what Biden is trying to do to pressure Israel is the fact that, like you said, for the last six months, the US has let Israel get away with so much and it has responded to so many very um, really extreme crossings of US red lines, really extreme um disregard for Palestinian lives by expressing, you know, unhappiness privately with Netanyahu by saying we don’t want Netanyahu to do XYZ and then Netanyahu does it and nothing changes in US policy. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Max Fisher: So we’re starting to see how the White House has tied its own hands by sending so many signals to Netanyahu in the past that there’s no cost for crossing Biden, there’s no cost for, crossing U.S. red lines on this. So I think they know that they’re going to have to do a little extra work to put credibility behind their words finally, after they’ve done so much to undermine that credibility. As to your question of like, why now? I mean, part of it is that we know that frustration in the White House, not just with Joe Biden specifically, and maybe least of all with Joe Biden specifically, has been building for a really long time over Israel’s extreme disregard for Palestinian lives and how it has conducted this war and the extreme lengths that it has gone to prevent aid being delivered to Palestinians. The indifference that it has shown to US demands over the most minimal kind of efforts to protect civilian lives. And these two people don’t like each other for decades. And I think that this strike specifically uh that killed these seven aid workers with the World Central Kitchen, I think is kind of being seen as exemplifying everything that has come before, and exemplifying so much Israeli disregard for American requests to try to be a little bit less horrible in how it conducts this war. As to why Joe Biden specifically has shifted course, it’s honestly hard to say because he has been throughout this war, so committed to protecting the Israeli government and Netanyahu specifically from any sort of pressure for reasons that seem to be ideological or emotional, that it’s kind of hard to know what specifically changed in his own mind. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Senator Bernie Sanders joined Pod Save America for a conversation this week. He came down pretty hard on the Biden administration’s handling of the war in Gaza. We have a clip, so let’s play it for you. 


[clip of Senator Bernie Sanders] We’re working to do everything we can to change the Biden policy. My own view has been for months, not another nickel. The leverage we have, what is the leverage we have? The leverage we have is money, is military aid. So the idea that we’re sending bombs, the idea that we’re sending money to Netanyahu is, to me, reprehensible. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I mean, you you heard him loud and clear. Bernie really clearly said not another nickel. But the Biden administration sent notices to two other congressional committees to get started on the approval of a sale of $18 billion worth of F-15 fighter jets to Israel. So I want to ask you about what Congress’s role in this issue is. Is there any power that they hold? Is this all in Biden’s hands? What should we be looking to them for? 


Max Fisher: There are things that Congress can do, but it’s mostly up to the White House. On specific arms sales, congress can do things like provide these kind of notices that they’re concerned about an arms sale and that can delay things and hold things up. Um. It’s fully within the White House’s power to circumvent any of those if it wants to. I think what is likeliest to move the White House from Congress is public pressure, and to put the White House in the position of having to publicly push forward certain arms transfers, like the arms transfer that um Senator Sanders referenced, which is this $18 billion planned sale to Israel for a bunch of fighter jets. A fuzzier way that Senate Democrats can pressure Biden is by holding that up, so that if Biden wants it to go forward, he has to publicly overrule them, which I think he’s not going to want to be seen doing at this moment after he’s just issued this ultimatum to Netanyahu. But like you said, it’s mostly up to the White House for how or what they want to do to condition aid to Israel. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. And as all of this goes on, we, of course, are getting closer and closer to our elections in November. There are a bunch of delegates heading to the DNC that Wisconsin told to show up as an instructed. What does Biden have to do in the next few days to show the frustrated voters all over the country that that he can handle this, that things are changing? 


Max Fisher: My sense of the uh US based advocacy groups that are trying to push him on this is that while they would love to see steps from the US, demonstrable steps like this that have secured the opening of the Erez crossing in northern Gaza, or the threat to condition aid, that I think what they really want is they want to see fewer Palestinians being killed in Gaza. I guess what is really important to people is to see–


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Max Fisher: –a reduction in the violence and the harm in that war. Um. And that is something that Joe Biden can influence. And I think for whether he did it, got there for the right reason, or the wrong reason. He is finally starting to do that. But from what we know from the relationship between US and Israel over the last six months is that one day, one phone call and a couple concessions are not going to actually change things meaningfully on the ground. That that’s only going to come through sustained pressure that will lead Israel to in a more permanent, ongoing way, temper its conduct in this war so that you don’t see, quite so many and quite so many horrible incidents of, civilians being killed by the IDF. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And that was my chat earlier with Crooked’s Max Fisher. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Thanks for that, Priyanka. Turning now to Baltimore. President Joe Biden heads there today to assess the damage to the Francis Scott Key Bridge. That’s the bridge that collapsed on March 26th after a large cargo ship crashed into it. Six workers who were on the bridge at the time filling potholes, all of them immigrants, died. The bodies of two of those workers have been recovered, and the search continues for the remains of the remaining four. Meanwhile, the massive cargo ship known as the Dali is still trapped under all that wreckage. The ship’s crew is still on board to maintain the ship. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. Okay, so it has been a little over a week since the bridge collapsed. What kind of resources are being put towards the cleanup effort? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, President Biden has promised that the federal government will provide all the resources Baltimore needs to rebuild the bridge. The administration has already announced $60 million in emergency relief. But experts say rebuilding the bridge is likely to cost significantly more than that, close to half a billion dollars at minimum. Meanwhile, the Port of Baltimore remains almost completely closed, and that’s creating a real economic crisis for the city and the state. The Maryland governor’s office says that more than 15,000 jobs are tied directly to the port. Work has slowed or even stopped for a lot of people who work there. And that’s not to mention the knock on effects for the tens of thousands more whose jobs are supported in some way by the port. To get a better sense of what this all means for the city of Baltimore and beyond, I spoke with the Democratic Mayor, Brandon Scott, ahead of Biden’s visit today. He’ll be meeting with the president as he assesses the damage to the bridge. And I started by asking Mayor Scott to describe the damage he’s seen up close. 


Brandan Scott: This is a collapse and massive destruction like I’ve never seen. I’ve seen since I’ve been in office a block of houses explode. I’ve seen other small building collapses. But when you think about the size and the span of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, the size of that vessel, that’s almost as big as the Empire State Building. And think about the bridge laying on top of it. Right. But what you can’t see is the mangled and tangle, debris and wreckage that’s underneath the water that is so mangled and tangled that we had to stop having divers go in that is making this a recovery and salvage operation extremely complicated or the most complicated, as some of I’ve heard from some of the the folks involved that they’ve ever seen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Do y’all have an estimate yet on how long this process of recovery will take? We know that there are people who are still on board the ship um at a point. Any idea in that regard? 


Brandan Scott: No. And this is what we were going to continue to say, is that this is going to be a long haul. Folks are seeing the some of the work start to happen on the surface. That’s complicated enough. But with what I said about the mangled and tangled wreckage underneath, our colonel of the Army Corps engineers here in Baltimore, has said it’s like Jenga, and you’ve all played Jenga. You know, when you move one piece, you don’t know how the other ones are going to react until you move that piece. And that’s the critical thing, because not only are we going to try to get this channel back open for the port, of course, most importantly, recover those who are still missing. But we have a duty to do this safely and responsibly so that no one else is injured. And we have to do that for our divers, for those workers to salvage, everyone that will be out there working. So there is no timeline, because every single time they remove a piece, the reassessments and everything has to happen to do it the right way. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mayor Scott, President Biden is coming to visit in person. What do you hope to convey to him when you meet with him? 


Brandan Scott: Well, this is just a continuation, right? I talked to the president on the phone. I’ve talked to the vice president on the phone. A convey of, first and foremost, my sincere appreciation for their leadership and support, but also convey again in person so when he sees it, the depth of the issue that we have at hand and how we’re going to continue to need his leadership, his guidance, his support to make sure that no family, no business, no individual impacted by this tragic collapse is left behind. 


Tre’vell Anderson: We know that the wreckage has, you know, almost completely shut down the Port of Baltimore. Your office has announced a million dollar relief fund for workers who depend on the port to make a living. But you also acknowledged, right, that it won’t be nearly enough of, you know, what you all need. How long do you expect those funds to last? What needs to happen in the long term to make sure right that the people and the businesses that have been hurt by the port closure, can stay financially afloat? 


Brandan Scott: Yeah. Listen, we’re going to do everything that we can. And again, I can’t say this enough that this is a partnership. Folks have to stop and not think about this as a Baltimore or a Maryland tragedy. This is a national tragedy. What we are doing here, locally, is we’re trying to start that conversation and help to fill those gaps. That one million dollars will provide, rehiring and retaining, support for workers and small businesses impacted by the collapse because we everyone knows about the large businesses, but there are businesses that someone they own a trucking company and only have two or three employees, right? They can’t work and they don’t have, uh the ability to do some of the other things. And what this will allow us to do will give, 75, 100 per worker in subsidy payments. It allows them to do that for three months. That’s $22,500 per worker, and that will support 130 workers. We’ll be able to do another 130 friday, April the 5th, announcing another $1 million. We’re going to do it all. Everything that we can do here locally, working alongside our federal and our state partners to fill in gaps wherever we need be. Because that’s what local government does. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. You mentioned how, you know, this is an issue that is going to impact that has already impacted more than just Baltimore, more than just Maryland. It’s a national issue. We know that the Biden administration has, you know, greenlit some emergency relief funds. We also know that it likely is going to take many millions more than that amount for all of these repairs that you’ve discussed. I just wonder from your vantage point, considering how politicized this has become, you know, in the event that Congress needs to, you know, pass additional funds for reconstruction. What is your sense or your hesitation, your feeling around the role that Republicans might play in in preventing that? We’ve seen some of them already criticize the idea of paying for the bridge’s repair. 


Brandan Scott: Yeah, I think that that listen, we know that right now we have some folks who are just always loud and loud and wrong, all the time, speaking about issues. But I think that sensible Republicans and what I’ve heard from my congressional leaders, I heard from sitting in a car just today that he’s spoken even with Senator McConnell, and he understands the importance of this port and the federal government supporting. Congressman [?] said he’s talked to the Speaker. And the Speaker understood the importance of federal support in supporting this port. This should not be a political issue. And we have to say that over and over again that we’re talking about a bridge collapse, a bridge named after the person who wrote the national anthem. Right. That we lost six people who were working to fill potholes and make transit better for us. And now, even in that fallout is enough. But now the fallout for having one of the most important ports in the country and in the world close, and all of these workers who are out of work, some and impacting the supply chain for everyone. That is not a political issue. That is an American issue. And we want our folks to represent and work for Americans in the way that we know they should. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. And then there’s also the you know, every time situations like this happen, we often also see, you know, the racism and the white supremacy pop up and get in the way as well. You know, there have been some racist attacks on you and your handling of this crisis. You told MSNBC that, quote, “we know what they want to say, but they don’t have the courage to say the N-word.” I was waving my church fan in the background. You didn’t know it. But I want to ask you, what does it say to you that these folks over here are focusing on these, you know, racist dog whistles while you’re trying to focus on rebuilding and keeping your community going? 


Brandan Scott: Listen, I’ll never be afraid to call a racist and racist idiots out for their racism and all the other things that they always constantly say. But what I will not do is allow those folks to distract me from the work at hand. For going out there and recovering these folks that are still there, and help returning them to their families to help begin closure, going out and helping to reopen our channel, supporting our businesses, supporting our workers who are Baltimorians who, have who have every worry in the world right now about how they can continue to provide for their families. Nothing is going to distract me from that, ever. 


Tre’vell Anderson: That was my conversation with Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott. That’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]




Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The No Labels party announced yesterday that it abandoned its 2024 presidential campaign effort. It’s not by choice, though. Every potential candidate it approached turned them down. No Labels was a well-funded group that tried to create a third party ticket featuring centrist candidates. But in breaking the story, the Wall Street Journal said No Labels couldn’t convince any of the 30 people it approached to say yes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m sorry this is objectively so hysterical. It is not for lack of trying. It is not for lack of funds. Literally no one wanted to be associated with them. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. And that list included folks like Republican Chris Christie, Democrat in name only Joe Manchin and even Dwayne The Rock Johnson. Y’all. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Even he knew better. He was like, absolutely not. Not not with you people. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The group was already reeling from the death of its co-chair last week, former Senator Joe Lieberman, founder and other co-chair Nancy Jacobson said in a statement to the Journal that, quote, “the responsible course of action is for us to stand down.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s weird because that’s been the responsible course of action this entire time. But um, I guess you can say that now. Fine. We hope former President Donald Trump is already used to getting smacked down by judges, because it happened again several times yesterday. First, a Georgia judge on Thursday rejected Trump’s effort to dismiss the charges in the state’s case against him for election interference. Trump had tried to argue that the case violates his right to free speech. Then there’s the federal case where he’s accused of mishandling classified documents. Yesterday, U.S. Judge Aileen Cannon denied his request to dismiss the charges against him. He once again argued that the Presidential Records Act gave him the authorization to keep materials. But the judge’s order keeps the door open for Trump to still use that argument in court. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Alaska Airlines said yesterday that Boeing has paid it $160 million for losses tied to the grounding of its 737 Max nine planes. The payment is related to the January incident, where a door panel blew off a plane departing from Portland just after takeoff, forcing the pilots to make an emergency landing. No one was seriously injured during the incident, but afterward, the FAA grounded all Max nines for at least two and a half weeks for inspections. The payment from Boeing covered Alaska’s losses for the first three months of the year, and Alaska says it expects more payments in the future. Alaska wasn’t the only airline with Max nines in its fleet, though, and it’s unclear if Boeing has made similar payments to other airlines. It’s all just more bad news for Boeing, which is also facing a criminal investigation from the Justice Department over the incident. 


Priyanka Aribindi: The first living person to ever receive a kidney transplant from a pig was able to head home yesterday after surgery almost three weeks ago. This marks a major medical breakthrough. Rick Slayman, a 62 year old man in Massachusetts, was diagnosed with end stage kidney disease and in order to survive, he needed an organ transplant. He had already had a human kidney transplant in 2018, but that began to fail last year. So his doctor suggested that he try this experimental treatment, and it was greenlit by the Food and Drug Administration. The pig kidney went through a special genetic modification process to prepare it for a human body. The reason they went this route is that there are way more people who need organ donations than there are people who are eligible to donate them. According to data from the nonprofit Donor Network West, and government data shows that this disproportionately affects Black Americans. So the success of this operation on Slayman, who is a Black man, means that there’s hope for others in a similar position. In a statement issued through Massachusetts General, the hospital where he was treated, Slayman said, quote, “I’m excited to resume spending time with my family, friends and loved ones free from the burden of dialysis that has affected my quality of life for many years.” 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, I love science, okay? And I love that it’s gotten to a place where we can, you know, help folks live longer lives. Um. And also, this sounds like the beginning of a, you know, Marvel movie or something where someone–


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –now has super powers at the end of, you know, their surgery. And so–


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: You know, let’s keep our eyes out for Mr. Rick Slayman. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, Slayman, already a perfect superhero name. I’m into it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Really good. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m into it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Really good. [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. 




Tre’vell Anderson: If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, thank a pig and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just the long list of people who RSVP’d no to No Labels like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


[spoken together] And give us that 60 million. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No labels. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay. I could do a lot with that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’d take a few donations here and there. No cut it. 


Tre’vell Anderson: A couple. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Cut it guys. Cut it. [laughter] I don’t want it on the record. I don’t want to commit to anything. I don’t know what I’d do. I’d take the money and run. We all know my stance is that you guys would never, ever hear from me again. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Erica Morrison, Michell Eloy, Greg Walters and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Leo Duran and Adriene Hill is our executive producer. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.