The SMN Interviews: ‘Human jukebox’ Nikhil Bagga, Rep. Monica Stonier, Rob McKenna

Jan 13, 2024, 2:44 PM

Image: Nikhil Bagga...

If you haven't heard Nikhil Bagga so far in your life, you are in for a treat. (Photo courtesy of

(Photo courtesy of

The following is our weekly series highlighting the best interviews from Seattle’s Morning News on KIRO Newsradio.

State Rep. Monica Stonier

Following up on our conversation with Washington Gov. Jay Inslee on Jan. 5  in which he refused to answer our questions about the impact of the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) on gas prices through avoiding a direct answer, we had Democratic Rep. Monica Stonier on the show. We invited her on to talk about her proposed House Bill 1455 to set a minimum age requirement for marriage. However, as a Democrat who also supports the CCA, we also wanted her to answer the same questions we had for the governor.

SMN exclusive: Gov. Jay Inslee doubles down on the Climate Commitment Act despite high gas prices

As for House Bill 1455, it may come as a surprise, but our state still allows kids as young as 15 to marry with a judge’s approval. In a previous article about the bill we learned that in the state of Washington, 4,831 people younger than age 18 were married between 2000 and 2018. In most cases, the young girls are marrying adult men at least four years older than them. Those marriages required a judge’s approval, with 17-year-olds needing just one parent or legal guardian to sign off.

Many of these marriages are born out of cultural or religious traditions, but Stonier points out youth who enter marriages are more likely to divorce, more likely to experience domestic violence, and have less resources at their disposal for help.

“Young people who are married before they are legal adults do not have access to the full range of legal services, counseling therapy, financial support they might need if they were in a coercive and abusive relationship,” Stonier emphasized.

She says while the bill stalled last session, there is bipartisan support this session to get the new law passed.

When asked about the CCA, however, Stonier sounded less sure about wading into this tricky political topic and, by my ear, just echoed what we got from Gov. Inslee — that the CCA is about preventing pollution, improving health outcomes, and holding oil companies accountable for “gouging” consumers.

So far, neither Inslee nor Stonier will say, “We said gas prices would not be impacted in a major way, but as it turns out prices did increase more than we thought or wanted. We are working on a solution.”

Washington politics: Inslee accused of dishonesty over climate law’s impact on gas prices

What would it cost them politically to tell the truth? How will their inability to understand their constituents’ displeasure with gas prices impact the next Democratic candidate for governor? Republicans already have their answer: There is an effort to repeal the CCA that (likely) will be on the November ballot.

You can listen to our conversation with Rep. Stonier below here:

Teen musician Nikhil Bagga

A highlight of the week was having 14-year-old Nikhil Bagga into our studios to talk about his excellent electric guitar performance of the national anthem at the NHL Winter Classic, a game played outside at T-Mobile Field on New Year’s Day where the Kraken beat the Vegas Golden Knights.

If you missed it – you can watch her performance here.

But we had Nikhil in to talk about how he got to the main stage at such a young age. Turns out, he started by playing piano but when that didn’t quite resonate with him he picked up a guitar and the rest is history. He says he practices about two hours a day and the teen even has songs streaming on Apple Music and Spotify.

The ‘human jukebox’: Nikhil Bagga plays at T-Mobile Field

The polite, humble young man played an original song for us and we delighted in his meaningful lyrics and unique voice.

“It wasn’t a break up. It was about a party that I wasn’t invited to. But they played my song over the speakers so …” Nikhil trailed off, again taking the high road by singing about his life but never revealing too much about who inspired the lyrics.

Nikhil says he hasn’t considered going on one of America’s many televised talent competitions, and is working to making connections in Seattle’s music scene as he continues his studies at Bellevue High School.

Listen to our full conversation here:

Former Attorney General Rob McKenna

Lawyers for former President Donald Trump argue that he should be immune to criminal consequences for anything done while in office. We spoke to former Washington Attorney General Rob McKenna to comment on the trial.

“First, he’s arguing that his actions after the 2020 election were part of his presidential duties. They were an official act and therefore cannot be prosecuted for them. That argument has already been rejected by the same court of appeals, but by different judges, different panel, in the civil case brought by the Capitol Hill police officers,” McKenna said.

McKenna explains that in the police officers’ argument, they said when you’re campaigning for an office, you’re not holding the office. Seeking an office is acting in your own capacity; therefore, it is not covered by official acts. There’s a jurisdictional argument as well, as McKenna explained.

“There’s this jurisdictional argument, and this is where the panel this week went first. They asked Trump’s lawyers whether they even have the authority to take up Trump’s immunity appeal before his trial,” McKenna said.

Unless there’s an explicit constitutional or statutory guarantee that would stop a trial from occurring, the issue should be left for appeal until after the trial has occurred. This means this panel of three judges could have an off-ramp to say they have to wait until after trial to hear the appeal. That would mean the trial would move ahead sooner.

Later in our discussion with McKenna, we ask about the former president’s promise to pardon participants in the attack on the Capitol, including the “Proud Boys” — an all-male, far-right, neo-fascist militant group that engages in political violence. Does this get the former president close to embracing an armed personal militia?

Listen here for the full McKenna conversation:

Listen to Seattle’s Morning News with Dave Ross and Colleen O’Brien weekday mornings from 5-9 a.m. on KIRO Newsradio, 97.3 FM. Subscribe to the podcast here.

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The SMN Interviews: ‘Human jukebox’ Nikhil Bagga, Rep. Monica Stonier, Rob McKenna