Classified documents found at Mike Pence’s home, Oscar nominations and snubs: 5 Things podcast

On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: Classified documents found at former VP Mike Pence’s Indiana home

USA TODAY Investigative Reporter Erin Mansfield has the latest after classified  documents were found at former Vice President Mike Pence’s home. Plus, USA TODAY National Correspondent Elizabeth Weise explains what the Doomsday clock  announcement means, the Biden administration plans to send more than 30 frontline battle tanks to Ukraine, the Department of Justice files an antitrust lawsuit against Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and USA TODAY Movie Critic Brian Truitt talks through the Oscar nominations.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Wednesday, the 25th of January 2023. Today, more classified documents, this time surrounding the former Vice President. Plus the world moves closer to catastrophe on the doomsday clock, and the Oscar nominations have arrived.

Classified documents have been found at former Vice President Mike Pence’s home in Indiana, and the FBI retrieved them last week. Producer PJ Elliott spoke to USA TODAY Investigative Reporter Erin Mansfield to find out the latest.

PJ Elliott:

Erin, thanks for joining the show.

Erin Mansfield:

Happy to be here. Thank you.

PJ Elliott:

So what do we know about these documents that were found in former Vice President Mike Pence’s Indiana home?

Erin Mansfield:

So it’s a handful of documents is what we know. They were found in his home January 16th, so that was a little over a week ago. And since then, Pence has worked with a lawyer to contact the National Archives and cooperate with the Department of Justice to try to return any relevant materials classified or even the boxes that the classified documents were in. Pence’s lawyer was sending formal letters to the National Archives as early as January 18th, and then on January 19th, we know that the FBI performed a search of his Indiana home. From what we can tell, everything was consensual. The tone of these letters that my colleague Francesca Chambers was able to get between the former Vice President’s lawyer and the National Archives, it’s very forthcoming. Statements like, “We know you do some really important work. We want to get you whatever you need. How can we make that happen?”

PJ Elliott:

Do we know who found the documents?

Erin Mansfield:

It’s not 100% clear. Could have been his lawyer, could have been him himself, but we do know that what his lawyer said is that once they realized they were there, Pence put them in a secure safe so that a proper authority could come take them.

PJ Elliott:

So the elephant in the room here is what the hell is going on with all these documents being found all over the place? Is the FBI going to have to search literally every politician’s home who has ever had access to classified documents?

Erin Mansfield:

I mean when I heard this I was joking, “Maybe I should look through my home,” right? I think a lot of us were thinking that. It does raise serious questions. Now, these are different cases. Obviously the case with Trump at Mar-a-Lago, that involved extensive back and forth, and the FBI had to actually execute a search warrant. In the cases of Biden and Pence, we’re seeing a lot of consents and, “Here, come take them,” kind of attitude. But the bottom line is that these are documents that are not in classified storage facilities. They’re in people’s homes and offices. And that raises a lot of questions about how are documents supposed to be stored? How can so many people at such a high level not be keeping them in a more appropriate place?

PJ Elliott:

Do these documents being found at Pence’s home lessen the blow for the documents found at Biden’s home and office?

Erin Mansfield:

You’re going to have an eye of the beholder, whether you’re viewing it through a partisan lens or not. But I would say the more this widens, the more it becomes more of a question of a systemic issue than an individual doing something wrong.

PJ Elliott:

Erin, thanks so much for the information. I really appreciate it.

Erin Mansfield:

Thank you for having me.

Taylor Wilson:

You can read the full story, including some great reporting from USA TODAY White House Correspondent Francesca Chambers with a link in today’s show notes.

The world is closer to catastrophe than it’s ever been since the first nuclear bombs were released at the end of World War II. That’s according to the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, who moved the so-called Doomsday Clock forward yesterday. They say we’re now just 90 seconds to midnight. For more, I’m now joined by USA TODAY National Correspondent Elizabeth Weise. Beth, thanks for hopping back on 5 Things.

Elizabeth Weise:

Hey, happy to be here.

Taylor Wilson:

So let’s start with the basics here. What is the Doomsday Clock?

Elizabeth Weise:

It’s not a real clock. It’s a metaphor, but it’s a metaphor for how close humanity is to annihilation. This is something that a bunch of atomic scientists, including Albert Einstein, back in 1945 after the United States had dropped the first and only, thankfully, two atomic weapons ever discharged in anger. And the atomic scientists said you know what? People don’t get how fundamentally different nuclear war is from the conventional war that we’ve had for tens of thousands of years. It’s not just yeah, we kill everybody in your city, it’s we kill everybody on the planet. And they wanted to make sure that people understood that.

And in 1947, they started once a year saying, “This is how close our experts think we are to killing ourselves with these atomic weapons.” And they’ve been doing it every year since, and they’ve broadened it. It’s not just atomic weapons now. It’s climate change. It’s the fact that human beings keep moving into wildland areas where there are animals that are giving us new diseases that we didn’t used to have before that are causing plagues. They’ve even included dis and misinformation because people aren’t able to make rational decisions when they have bad information, and also biological weapons.

Taylor Wilson:

All right, so how about these findings that the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists released this week? How close are we actually to Armageddon, and what reasons did they give that we’re closer than we’ve ever been?

Elizabeth Weise:

Yeah, it’s not good. It’s just not good. So they went to 90 seconds to midnight, the closest it had ever gotten before, and that was the last two years was 100 seconds to midnight. The things that they called out are the increasing number of statements Russia has been making about using nuclear weapons in its war against Ukraine. And Russia has said that if it feels that the Russian state is fundamentally threatened, that using nuclear weapons might be a possibility.

And everyone is saying they can’t imagine that anyone would ever do this. And Vladimir Putin, the president of Russia himself, has said, “Of course we wouldn’t do that. We’re not mad men. We know that would be crazy.” But Putin and others in the Russian government keep bringing up nuclear weapons. 

Climate change has been something they’ve been looking at since the aughts. Climate change has been something they’ve been looking at. While there’s really good news – renewables have gotten insanely cheap, so cheap that they’re actually cheaper than coal and cheaper than natural gas in a lot of places – there’s concern that because of Russia’s war on Ukraine that has driven up fossil fuel prices. And it’s also limited the accessibility of natural gas for a whole lot of reasons I won’t go into here, and that has actually increased the amount of fossil fuels people are burning, and that’s problematic because we really need to start decreasing that number.

Taylor Wilson:

All right Beth, can you give us any good news? Is this all doom and gloom or can we actually move the clock back?

Elizabeth Weise:

We totally could, and it’s up to us to help make that happen. I mean that’s what they keep saying. It’s not all doom and gloom. The whole reason that they started this back in 1947 is because they said, “If people are aware, then people can push their elected leaders or they’re non-elected leaders.” It has gone back. Actually in 1991 there was a significant treaty that the Soviet Union and the United States signed, and then we had the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the clock was set back minutes. So it can go back and we have that capability, and that’s their whole point is they say this is a time of the year when you stop and you say, “We can walk ourselves back from the brink. Let’s do it.”

Taylor Wilson:

Elizabeth Weise, thanks as always.

Elizabeth Weise:

You’re so welcome. Thanks so much.

Taylor Wilson:

The Biden administration plans to send more than 30 frontline battle tanks to Ukraine in a reversal from its previous stance. The Pentagon had resisted sending the tanks, citing heavy maintenance they require and a need for jet fuel for the engine. A German-made tank runs on easier to source diesel fuel, but Germany wanted the U.S. to commit its tanks before sending its own. The Biden administration has already sent Ukraine $27 billion in military aid since Russia’s invasion last year. The weapons have grown increasingly sophisticated and deadly, and the tanks and armored personnel carriers now being given to Ukraine are the same ones used by the U.S. Army’s frontline soldiers.

The Department of Justice has filed an antitrust lawsuit against Google’s parent company Alphabet. The suit alleges that the company has monopolized the digital advertising market. The government’s complaint outlines three different advertising technologies and alleges that Google has tied them together to maintain dominance in digital advertising. They are the Publisher ad server, which allows website publishers to sell ads on their websites, the Advertiser ad network, which allows advertisers to buy space, and the Ad exchange, which is technology that pairs buyers and sellers of advertising together. The case is the latest move by Washington to crack down on unfair competition in big tech, and the Justice Department already has another antitrust lawsuit pending against Google filed in 2020. That suit focuses on the company’s dominance in the search engine market.

This year’s Oscar nominations are out with “Everything Everywhere All at Once” leading the way with 11, and Jamie Lee Curtis got her first nod for her role in the film. Producer PJ Elliott got a chance to talk with USA TODAY Movie Critic Brian Truitt about some of the movies that didn’t make the cut.

PJ Elliott:

Brian, thanks for coming back on the podcast.

Brian Truitt:

Of course. Thanks for having me.

PJ Elliott:

So what were some of the movies that got snubbed for Best Picture?

Brian Truitt:

Going in, there was a chance that there could be more than five blockbusters for the first time in forever, but “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever” didn’t make it in, or the Indian blockbuster didn’t make it in that. That was my best movie of last year, so it not making it in kind of hurt my soul a little bit. But it’s interesting because there’s a chance to get all these blockbusters in and they’ve talked about the Oscars trying to get more populist. That’s why they put it back to 10 best picture nominees because they wanted blockbusters getting in there. But then you have something like “Triangle of Sadness,” which gets in there and hardly made any money, but it was kind of a critical hit.

You had some smaller films get in there that were kind of a surprise. And “All Quiet on the Western Front,” that probably took our spot because usually there is a “Parasite” or “Drive my Car,” some kind of international film that gets into the best picture conversation in a big way, where it was “All Quiet on the Western Front” this year because it got a raft of BAFTA nominations and I guess BAFTA voters overlap a bunch with the Academy. So I think that’s why that did so well. It got nine … I mean other than, so “Everything Everywhere” got 11, and then “Banshees of Inisherin” and “All Quiet” got nine each.

PJ Elliott:

How does “Top Gun” get nominated for best picture, but Tom Cruise not get nominated for best actor?

Brian Truitt:

Well, you got “Avatar: The Way of Water” that gets nominated without a best director or a best anybody, no actors at all. I mean I’m surprised. Honestly, the best actor field is probably the weakest. It’s Austin Butler, Brendan Fraser, and Colin Ferrell, then a very steep drop off after that. Because that was like, “Well, who else gets in?” Bill Nighy got a SAG nomination, and actors make up the biggest voting block in the academy, so it was a good prediction that Bill Nighy would make it in. But that fifth spot was kind of a wild card because Adam Sandler got the SAG Award nomination. I mean honestly, he was really good in “Hustle,” I wouldn’t mind seeing him in there. But they went with Paul Mescal from “Aftersun,” which I thought he was good. I didn’t love that movie as much as other people did, but he was good in it.

I would’ve loved to have seen Tom Cruise, though. I feel like Top Gun kind of got everybody back to the movies, made a trazillion dollars. It got a best picture nomination, it got a screenplay nomination, which kind of surprised me. Got some other technical things. Why not give Tom Cruise? He’s kind of been the face of theatrical exhibition for decades at this point. He’s the guy who’s just like, “Go to the movies or else.” That’s been his whole shtick. And this is one of the best things he’s done in a while because the reason why “Top Gun” works so well is because A, they pretty much copied a lot of the old film, but two, it’s just like they gave him something to do, emotionally. So I would’ve liked to see him … and I think a lot of people would’ve, but he’ll be best actor in our hearts I guess.

PJ Elliott:

Brian, thanks so much. I really appreciate it.

Brian Truitt:

Thank you. Appreciate it.

Taylor Wilson:

For more coverage, head to the Entertainment section on USATODAY.com.

And a shout-out to Scott Rolen, who was elected to the Baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. The third baseman played for four teams, notably the Phillies and Cardinals. He’ll join Fred McGriff, who was voted in by the Hall’s Contemporary Era Committee in December. Read more at USA TODAY Sports.

And as always, thanks for listening to 5 Things. You can find us every morning right here wherever you’re listening right now. I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.