news·3 min read

Daily Skimm: Afghanistan's Presidential Election, Trump's Commutations, and Kenan Thompson at Nerd Prom

Afghan President Ghani
Getty Images
Feb 19, 2020


The Story

Five months after Afghanistan’s presidential election, we have a winner.

Drum roll please… 

It’s incumbent President Ashraf Ghani. Back in September, Afghans hit the polls with two front-runners: Ghani and the country’s CEO (yes, that’s actually his job) Abdullah Abdullah. But there was a record low turnout, in part blamed on the Taliban threatening attacks on election day. The results were then delayed for months because of misconduct and fraud allegations, as well as technical issues. But there’s a plot twist.

Go on…

The country’s independent election commission says Ghani won with a little more than 50% of the votes. But Abdullah, who got almost 40% of the votes, also claimed victory. It’s not the first time Abdullah’s challenged the results. In 2014, both candidates claimed victory and the US had to help them reach a power-sharing deal. Now, Abdullah’s calling the results “illegal,” and says he’ll form his own “inclusive government.” It’s unclear what he means by that.


The election news comes at a crucial time: the US and Taliban could soon sign a peace deal, paving the way for peace talks involving the Afghan gov. But the Taliban reportedly called this election a “fraud,” and yesterday’s results don’t bring the sides any closer to ending America’s longest war.


What people are watching…

China. The country is expelling three reporters from The Wall Street Journal. Earlier this month, the outlet published a coronavirus-related opinion piece with a headline that China called racist. In response, it’s now revoking three reporters’ press credentials – though it seems none of them contributed to the opinion piece. And it’s calling on the Journal to apologize and “hold the persons involved accountable.”

  • Taking it up a notch: China has long tried to silence critics at home. But this is seen as an escalation to do that abroad, as it’s rare for China to expel a foreign correspondent.

Who handed in their orange jumpsuit…

Former Illinois Gov. Rod Blagojevich (D). Yesterday, President Trump used his pardoning power to commute Blagojevich’s prison sentence. A little background: Blagojevich was convicted on corruption charges, including for an attempt to literally sell off former President Obama’s open US Senate seat in 2008 (Blagojevich got dibs on appointing Obama’s successor). He was one of 11 people who were granted clemency yesterday. And it’s worth noting: Blagojevich had a stint on Trump’s reality TV show “Celebrity Apprentice.”

What’s kicking it to the man…

Kickstarter. Yesterday, it announced that its employees voted to unionize, making Kickstarter the first major tech company to do so. Their employees will be affiliated with the Office and Professional Employees International Union, which reps more than 100,000 workers. Despite pushback from leadership last year, the company’s CEO now says it respects their decision and is “proud of the fair and democratic process” that led them here.

Skimm More: Our guide explains the history of labor unions and the decline in membership in recent years.

What’s putting the “comms” in “comedy”…

Nerd prom.”

Live Smarter

Sign up for the Daily Skimm email newsletter. Delivered to your inbox every morning and prepares you for your day in minutes.