Axios (2018) s04e16 Episode Script

Season 4, Episode 16

Russell Senate Office Building WASHINGTON, D.
Morning, Senator Paul.
Thank you so much for having us in.
Senator Rand Paul, R-KY / an interview At a July Senate Health Committee hearing, Senator Rand Paul accused Dr.
Anthony Fauci of lying about whether the National Institutes of Health (NIH) funded "gain-of-function" research at the Wuhan Institute of Virology.
Gain-of-function research is the process of altering a pathogen to make it more transmissible in order to better predict emerging diseases.
Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky, thanks for having us into your Hill office.
We're glad to have you.
You're running for reelection this year.
You set a record for your quarterly fundraising for a Senate race.
And one of your donation pages says, "Fire Dr.
" How helpful has that been? I think that people across the country are very disturbed at how much he's lied that he's in charge of the entire thing.
- You've gone at him in hearings.
- Yeah, we're still going at him.
We have brand new news today that says that the NIH is now admitting that there was gain-of-function research there and he lied about it.
So this is a letter from the National Institutes of Health to Congress.
And it acknowledges funding research in Wuhan that you and Dr.
Fauci had gone at it about.
And so in the letter they acknowledge that, yes the viruses did gain in function.
They became more dangerous.
So they've created a virus.
It doesn't exist in nature.
It's become more dangerous.
That is gain of function.
Now, they try to justify it by saying, "Well, it was an unexpected result.
" I'm not sure I buy that.
Think about it.
You take an unknown virus, you combine it with another virus, and you get a super virus.
You have no idea whether it gains functions or loses function.
That's what the experiment is.
I don't know how anybody could argue that's not gain-of-function research.
So, Senator, you had a hot tweet.
You said, "'I told you so' doesn't even begin to cover it here.
" - What should happen next? - Well, he should be fired.
- Dr.
Fauci should be fired? - Absolutely.
- By the president? - Absolutely.
The thing is just for lack of judgment, if nothing else.
He's probably never going to admit that he lied.
He's gonna continue to dissemble, and try to work around the truth.
Let me go out on a limb.
President Biden is not gonna fire Dr.
So what can Congress do, or what are you gonna try to do? We're calling for an investigation and hearings on this.
We've been calling for that for months.
But you're right.
There's been a great deal of resistance on the Democrat side.
Would we not want to know the origin of the virus and if it came from a lab, particularly since this research still goes on? The debt ceiling fight has been put off till December.
Your fellow Kentucky senator, Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader, has said he won't vote for it, that he won't help Democrats raise the debt ceiling.
Do you believe him? I don't know what other people think or what their conclusion'll be.
I know mine.
I think we shouldn't raise the debt ceiling unless we had dramatic budgetary reform.
That's what's in the constitutional amendment to the Constitution.
Do you really think Mitch McConnell's gonna screw the Democrats this way? - I don't know what he's going to do.
- Or risk default? All I can tell you is that I won't vote to raise the debt ceiling unless we had significant budgetary reform.
Simpler question.
What do you think is gonna happen in December? The debt ceiling will go up.
But it always does.
- But you see it as fake drama? - Maybe.
The thing is it always goes up.
There is a certain amount of gamesmanship on who to attach the blame to.
Now, the spending of this year, almost all of it has been by Democrats, almost entirely Democrats, the spending.
In previous years, there was some Republican complicity.
I wasn't for last year's spending or this year's spending, so I'm not voting for raising the debt ceiling.
But the Democrats can do it just with Democrat votes, but they're trying to spread the blame.
Senator Paul, way back in 2015 when you announced for president, you said you were gonna take Bitcoin.
And that was pioneering at the time.
Six years later, is crypto bigger or smaller than you would have thought then? Bigger.
I think I've been amazed at the growth of it.
And I've always been more a person who believed that our currency should be backed by something of real value, like gold or silver or commodities.
I always was wondering, "Well, crypto's not backed by anything either.
" But here's what I've started to believe now, is that the government currencies are so unreliable.
They're also fiat currencies.
They're not backed by anything.
The dollar's been more stable than most other countries, and so it is the reserve currency.
By the way, this is the spiel that made you a rock star with young people during your presidential campaign.
Well, I've started to question now whether or not cryptocurrency could actually become the reserve currency of the world as more and more people lose confidence in government.
How concerned are you about illicit uses of crypto, and should there be more regulation, oversight because of that? I'm more concerned with government snooping into our bank accounts, whether it's cryptocurrency or your bank account.
On the wall behind you there's a framed signed portrait of Donald Trump.
Does he remain the future of the Republican Party? I think for now he's the biggest presence in the Republican Party and may remain so over time.
Time will tell.
You and President Trump tangled this summer over a House primary in Ohio.
Your guy lost.
His guy won.
You said that you should apologize.
It showed that if you cross him you're gonna get incoming.
Well, the thing is, is I'm a big boy.
He's a big boy.
I saw him last week.
And he said "There are some things you've crossed me and disagreed.
" And I said, "Well, that's who I am.
I think that may be why you like me, is that I'm willin' to stand up and tell you what I think.
" - You assume he runs in '24? - I think all signs point towards that.
- You would be for him? - Yep.
You assume if he runs he gets the nomination? If he gets the nomination, what's the likelihood he beats your former colleague, President Biden? Donald Trump has to change and transform the ceiling that he has.
And the ceiling includes college- educated women, college-educated men, suburban voters that have hung in the balance in a lot of elections but I think drifted more towards the Democrats recently.
If he's willing to try to figure out how to get his message to them I think then he'd have a chance in 2024.
You ran for president in 2016.
Do you have that running-for-president thing out of your system? You never say never.
So we'll see what happens.
And once someone's run, it never gets out of their system.
Well, I wouldn't say that either.
I just say I don't know.
I really don't know.
I'm running for reelection to the Senate in 2022.
We'll see how that goes.
And then, you know, after that we'll see.
But I don't have a secret plan or anything that I'm running for president in 2024.
But you're not done.
Not by any means.
They need me up here.
If I'm not up here, who's gonna try to stop the wars? Who's gonna try to get you to be left alone, to get government to leave you alone in your own personal life? I think there's room for the libertarian message in Washington.
In a statement, National Institute of Health (NIH) director Dr.
Francis Collins said that any claims NIH-funded research could have caused the pandemic are "demonstrably false.
" And in response to Senator Paul's accusations, a spokesperson for Dr.
Fauci told Axios "Dr.
Fauci has been entirely truthful.
" 2.
New kid on the blockchain / Sam Bankman-Fried, FTX CEO FTX is one of the world's largest cryptocurrency exchanges, handling about $14 billion in transactions every day.
It recently moved its headquarters from Hong Kong to the Bahamas.
Nassau, Bahamas FTX headquarters Sam Bankman-Fried FOUNDER & CEO, FTX Sam Bankman-Fried started FTX in 2019 when he was 26 years old.
The company is currently valued at $25 billion.
How you doin', man? Hey.
Thanks for inviting us to your home, I guess, sort of.
Thanks for coming.
You are believed to be at least the world's richest 29-year-old, with $22 billion of paper wealth.
Can you get your head around $22 billion? Is that something that when you think about it, it screws with your mind? I can't get my mind around it from a personal wealth person.
I don't know.
One car seems like plenty to me.
It's sort of like a mind-boggling number.
I don't understand how you can spend anything within orders of magnitude of that scale on yourself.
The context that I think about it in is things bigger than me.
I think about it in in contexts of markets, and donations, and initiatives because that's where you see numbers of that scale.
What are the sorts of initiatives that you could do with various sorts of money on a national or global scale? So let's talk about FTX in general.
As a company, you guys are very young.
But you're by most measures one of the top five crypto exchanges in the world.
You guys recently moved here to the Bahamas.
Why are we here? Or why are you here? The Bahamas became really one of the first jurisdictions in the world to pass comprehensive crypto registration.
They're one of the only ones who have actually rolled something out.
And because of that, it gives a lot of comfort for us, being here, that we can be registered, we can have a framework to be working in.
A lot of people don't understand crypto.
What is the simplest explanation to a layperson? First of all, it's a natively digital set of currencies.
Almost no currencies that exist today were made for the internet, were made in a world where everyone had access to computational devices, to connectivity.
A second thing.
The ideal world, even if everyone's using different assets, everyone's using the same system, the same rails, the same communication.
That's not true right now, right? The U.
bankings rails are different from what a lot of other countries use.
You can have a ledger that different countries both trust to settle payments between each other.
So you're an American.
You were literally born in Silicon Valley.
You go get educated at MIT ultimately.
Are you concerned at all that by basing yourself here, or Hong Kong before, that you are ceding that regulatory discussion to others who are based there because you're not a U.
company? We're not ceding that discussion.
We actually have been very involved in it.
So I was I spent last week in Washington, D.
having meetings with policy makers and regulators.
We are on the phone at least weekly and often daily with them, both in the United States and globally.
When you were in D.
last week, what specifically did you talk about with regulators? And are you concerned that the U.
is significantly behind the rest of the world? I'm concerned it could get behind the rest of the world.
I think that there needs to be action taken sometime in the next few years.
I think that you will see more and more crypto flight from the States.
Do most of them understand what you're talking about, is most of your job from your perspective education? So it's a broad spectrum.
When you look at the regulators, increasingly they know a fair bit about the space.
I think frankly a lot of the numbers in the space surprise even people who know a fair bit about it.
Daily trading volume in cryptocurrencies globally- - You mean how large it is.
- Exactly.
$200 billion are trading a day.
That's within a factor of two or three of how much U.
equities trade.
So these are big numbers.
There's talk at least that there could be an executive order come from the Biden White House vis-a-vis crypto.
One of the things that's been floated is the idea of a crypto tsar.
Should the U.
have a crypto tsar? So it depends on what the crypto tsar is, right? And one thing this could mean is just a semi-formal, semi-informal person whose job is to coordinate, to coordinate agencies.
I think frankly that would make a lot of sense.
When you're talking to people and they hear or they know the company's recently relocated, redomiciled to the Bahamas, these islands obviously have a historical reputation, among other things, for money laundering, for tax avoidance.
Any concern that FTX's reputation particularly in the U.
, is being sullied a bit by being here? Look, it's something that we have to worry about, right? It always is.
I think that what we say about that is basically, "Look, here's our anti-money laundering policies.
" We do more anti-money laundering work than almost any other companies do.
And if that means going in line with regulation, so be it.
And if that means going way above what regulations require, so be it.
FTX recently has gotten into the NFT business.
The first NFT sold from FTX was the word "test," which looks like it was written by an eight-year-old on an Etch-a-Sketch.
It sells for $270,000.
Why is that if not a scam, why is that not just total bullshit? So yeah.
I was, I don't know, surprised by that.
I honestly have so here's a perspective on You don't seem to be saying, "I don't know why someone did that.
" So sort of.
But here's the thing that's tricky for me.
Visual aesthetics are not a thing that I understand or that appeal to me very much.
So paintings in general, artwork, I actually don't get it.
I don't personally understand the appeal of a Rembrandt painting.
And so when I see NFTs, part of me is like, "I don't get the appeal of some of these," but part of me is like, "Okay, I honestly don't understand the appeal of the Mona Lisa to be honest.
" But the Mona Lisa compared to somebody writing "test" as a JPG.
But how about those paintings that are six lines that cross with each other.
How much should that be worth? They all look dumb to me, but they all look beautiful to other people.
And I think that a lot of these NFTs mean a lot to the people buying them.
Many folks who are crypto entrepreneurs or work at crypto companies talk a lot about the mission.
And so do you.
The future mission, and decentralizing finance, and how cryptocurrency could kinda bypass authoritarian regimes.
You've been pretty clear that the reason you launched FTX in part was because you want to get really rich and then be able to give that money away.
And the term that you not that you've adopted it-it's a pre-term, but it's one that you use- is "effective altruism.
" What does that phrase mean to you? Let's say you want to do as much good as you can for the world, right? You want to maximize the amount of positive impact you have.
What should you do with your life? What maximizes your positive impact? And in some cases, you can't calculate it out exactly.
But that doesn't mean you can't try and estimate it.
Have you been giving a good amount of money away? And if so, how much and to what? You know, I have been giving.
I've probably given something like $40 million this year or something.
If you were told a couple years ago or maybe even today that you could get insanely wealthy doing anything, you could run a crypto company, you could teach second grade math, doesn't matter, what would you be doing? I really liked working as a quant trader.
It was a good fit for me.
And I think that part of me would want to do that.
There's a part of me that wants to play games all day.
That part would get bored.
I think that part would be really happy for a month and then it would be like, "All right.
It's time to get back to work.
" What's your favorite game? I play League of Legends sometimes on the computer.
And I play Bughouse sometimes.
It's a 2v2 chess variant with a lot of time pressure on it.
Where do you want to eventually focus most of your interest? 'Cause there's a lot of different things you can go after.
There are.
And part of my answer is I don't know and I don't think I should know.
If I had one answer to that question, I would not be maximizing my impact because the odds are we'll learn something over the next decade that will change our minds about what we should be doing, and you have to be open to that.
- Sam, thank you very much.
- Of course.
Thank you.
Meet the Schlapps / riding the Trump wave CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, is America's largest and most important annual gathering of conservatives.
It is hosted by the American Conservative Union (ACU).
Matt Schlapp is the chairman of the ACU, where his wife Mercedes Schlapp is a senior fellow.
Alexandria, VA You're the Schlapps.
You're a household name for conservative Republicans.
Three years ago, the New York Times said, "Meet the Schlapps, Washington's Trump-era it couple.
" What's it been like to be the it couple in the post-Trump era? We never thought of ourselves as any kind of an it couple.
We both love politics.
We met in the White House working for George W.
And Washington has changed a lot.
It's not so much about Trump is here, Trump isn't here.
It's just a lot nastier place to be if you have our views.
Why do you think that is? Well, just because I've lost so many friends.
I don't know if my wife feels the same way, but you feel it was No, I think the friends still like me a little more than you.
They like you better.
Everyone likes you better.
I can't tell you how many times people would have stopped me in the airport or a train station and say, "Hey, I saw you on CNN," or, "I saw you on MSNBC," or, "I saw you on PBS.
" You know, Margaret, all that's dead.
Somebody who has my point of view we're not welcome in those places anymore.
That that's a very stark change.
Joe Biden won the election last November.
He's the legitimately elected president of the United States.
Do you dispute any of those facts? Look, he's in the White House.
He won the election.
You also have to acknowledge that we had a presidential election, an election generally, unlike any we had ever had because we suspended the rules because of the terrible pandemic.
That resulted in us not following the verification of voters in these states.
But to be clear, there has been no findings of widespread voter fraud that would impact the outcome of this election.
What you're saying is on the widespread piece of this.
I don't believe it would change the outcome of the election.
But I will tell you a lot of people out there are very concerned about election integrity.
I think it's important if you both believe that Joe Biden is the legitimately elected president of the United States Joe Biden is my president, and I want him to succeed.
And I want him to project strength overseas.
We have never participated in any kind of rhetoric that would undermine that.
So what's the likelihood Republicans do win back the House next year? There's a mood in the country that D.
's broken and that the Democrats have moved way too far to the left.
The focus is not on the Republicans and all their solutions.
And that's kind of the way it is when you don't have the presidency.
So you predict Republicans take the House and the Senate in the midterms? - Do you? - You're the political person.
I do.
Margaret's trying to drive a wedge between us.
I don't know No.
But we're fairly optimistic.
I think we can win them both.
I think that looking at that swing voter, they were hoping that we'd have the pandemic under control.
That's what Biden promised.
Donald Trump certainly seems more and more likely to run for president.
It almost seems certain at this point.
Is that how you both see it? We might have to disagree on this.
We just talked to him last week.
And what we noticed is while we're in his office there's a whole line of candidates, and congressmen, and senators that know that his endorsement is the most impactful thing in their race.
I've left every interaction or every conversation going through my own analysis, "Is he gonna run or is he not gonna run?" I left this interaction saying, "I think it's a greater than 50% chance that he runs.
" I think for him he wants to know that it's a doable thing, to win the presidency again.
I do think that it's gonna depend also on how well the Republicans do in the House and the Senate.
I think that's a big factor.
You're saying that if they won both chambers, he'd be more likely? - More likely to run.
- I agree.
Would it be nuts for any Republican to challenge Donald Trump if he does run again? Could Mike Pence beat him? Could Ron DeSantis beat him? My belief if Donald Trump gets in the race, it's gonna be a lot like 2015-2016.
It'll be controversial.
There'll be some Republicans who hate the idea and will try to fight it.
I think if when it gets down to the debates and having the primaries and the caucuses, my guess is he'll clean up just like he did in 2016.
You're seeing a lot of these Republicans, they're going out.
They're traveling to these different states, laying the groundwork and waiting to see what Donald Trump does.
How do you think about vaccinations? I know that you both have said that people have the right to make decisions for themselves.
- Are you both vaccinated? - I won't answer the question.
- It's none of your business.
- Why? I get to run my health care.
I'll make the decisions for myself.
My wife will make her decisions.
We'll make the decisions for our kids.
My mom's 81 years old.
I was so happy when she got the vaccine.
She wanted to get the vaccine.
It gave her peace of mind.
Your parents got the vaccine.
Other people decided not to get the vaccine.
For us to use that as a weapon against them to say, "You can't go to your work," to say, "You can't go to this school" I'm not asking you to weaponize them.
You just shared your mom's status 'Cause she does.
Because they do.
They share it.
But you don't feel comfortable sharing your own? I feel comfortable talking about anything.
I'm telling you it's none of your business.
I will make the decisions for my health care.
I won't tell you if I've had COVID.
I won't tell you if I haven't had COVID.
I won't tell you these things.
Because what's gonna happen, Margaret? You know damn good and well what's gonna happen.
It becomes a political question about what the head of the CPAC has done vis-a-vis COVID.
What's next for CPAC? We're gonna continue to take this movement all over the world.
We had plans to be in Israel.
We've been in Japan several years.
We've done a CPAC in Korea.
We've done a couple of 'em in Brazil.
We've been to Australia.
What does it mean to be a conservative? I think of some of the old kind of measuring sticks for that, which are, a healthy relationship with corporate America or embrace of capitalism.
What does the movement mean to you today? It is about being able to worship freely.
It's about being able to raise your family freely.
It is about being able to have free speech.
Let me say real quickly I do think there has been a breaking between the Republican Party, the conservative movement-which is essentially the Republican Party; there's no Republican Party without the conservative movement- and this idea that we're allies with corporate America.
When corporate America is pushing vaccine mandates, when they're pushing those politics, it's offensive to those who support the Republican Party and the conservative movement.
So my message to corporate America is, "You blew it.
" You alienated yourself from your base of support.
They thought that they could appease the left and that the people, this broad midsection of this country would just go along with it, and they're not going to.
Moonshot / NASA Administrator Bill Nelson NASA headquarters WASHINGTON, D.
The U.
spaceflight program "Artemis" aims to return humans to the moon by 2024.
Private space companies are playing an unprecedented role in NASA's lunar landing plans.
- How are you? - I'm good.
It's good to see you.
I'll duck under this.
How you doin'? In April, NASA awarded Elon Musk's company SpaceX the contract to build the first commercial human lander.
But, the project will likely be delayed by a lawsuit brought by Jeff Bezos's company Blue Origin alleging NASA did not run a fair competition.
Do you ever worry that those billionaire competitions, that this whole commercial spaceflight thing could overshadow NASA in some way? Not at all.
As a matter of fact, a Republican and I crafted the bill that set NASA on the course we're on.
One course is a commercial course.
The other one is get NASA out of low-earth orbit and go explore.
There's all of this controversy over the human lander for the moon program.
It's not a real lot of controversy.
It's the fact that two billionaires seem to be at odds with each other.
And they're taking it into the courts.
We don't know what the court's gonna decide.
We know what the administrative court decided.
They said that NASA's earlier- this-year award to SpaceX was good.
That has been appealed by Jeff Bezos, one of the contestants.
Do you resent that NASA is being caught up in that sort of conflict though? Not at all.
I think we're the beneficiary.
Look what Elon Musk has already brought to the table with crew being delivered cheaper and on a routine basis to the International Space Station.
Look at the attention that it has brought to the space program.
If Jeff Bezos called you up tomorrow and said, "Hey, I have a seat on Blue Origin's New Shepard for you," would you say yes? Would you go? Well, of course I would want to just like if there were a seat on SpaceX or if there were a seat on Artemis.
But it's time for the new generation.
This is the Artemis generation.
So Artemis program is NASA's big push to get people back to the surface of the moon by 2024.
When are we gonna see that first launch of this big rocket? Shortly after the first of the year.
So it's no longer 2021? We're looking at 2022? First of the year.
Partisan worries with the Trump administration not come into play for you? When it was first announced 2024 is was just around the corner even in 2019.
NASA is not a partisan agency.
It's not even bipartisan.
It's nonpartisan.
A space program ought to be multi-administration program because it takes such a long time to develop these technologies.
Why not change expectations when coming in as a new administration.
That rocket is gonna be ready.
Do you worry that in 20 to 30 years the U.
could lose sort of its dominance in space to China? Question is is China gonna beat us back to the moon? I think we're in a space race there with China.
We want to cooperate with them if they will be transparent.
But our efforts have not been met with acceptance.
It's too bad.
Because look what happened to two mortal enemies in the Cold War.
It's a somewhat different situation with China because of the Wolf Amendment, right, which is that NASA can't move into bilateral agreements with China without specific approval from Congress, which actually kind of limits some of the power that you have.
Would you advise Congress to eliminate the Wolf Amendment? That is not my place.
Is it worth working with China to get them on board with something which would govern sort of how people behave on the moon and Absolutely.
We want transparency, we want rule of law as we go back to the moon.
It's something that now multiples of nations have joined us.
But China is obviously an omission that I hope will change.
William Shatner, is he a space cadet or an astronaut? Well, it depends on how you define it.
He went up about 55 miles and down.
How do you define it? Let me tell you how the Association of Space Explorers define it: at least one orbit.
Now, other people define it a different way.
I'm not gettin' hung up in these definitions.

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