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July 26, 2022
What A Day
Brittney Griner’s Defense

In This Episode

  • WNBA star Brittney Griner is set to testify in Russian court today for the first time since being detained back in February at a Moscow airport. Her defense team hopes that her guilty plea will be taken into account by the court as a mitigating factor in its sentencing.
  • Russia said on Tuesday that it will pull out of the International Space Station after 2024. This would end decades of partnership between the country and NASA – which is led by the United States – and Russia will reportedly build its own space station after 2024.
  • And in headlines: another January 6th rioter was sentenced to prison, the principal of Robb Elementary was placed on paid leave, and the Biden administration proposed a new rule that would make it illegal for healthcare providers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ patients.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, July 27th, and I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. And this is What A Day, where we are, I guess, congratulating Nick Cannon on the birth of his eighth child.


Priyanka Aribindi: I guess. This child was born last month. Cannon just announced the news yesterday. Some of us thought that number was in the double digits–so congrats, Nick Cannon. Eight kids, good for you. Before we get started, I wanted to say hi to everyone. It’s been a while. I’m back from my world tour. Hope you all missed me. I know, Tre’vell, you’ve been gone, too.


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. We’re both back. They can calm down in the Instagram comments. Everything is fine.


Priyanka Aribindi: Everything is all good. We are here for you. I missed you a lot. Stick with us, we have plenty of days. So in today’s show, another January 6th rioter was sentenced to prison. Plus, we didn’t get a chance to say goodbye to the Chaco Taco, but the ice cream treat is apparently no more.


Tre’vell Anderson: But first, an update on the Russian case against WNBA star Brittney Griner. This morning, she is set to testify for the first time since being detained back in February at a Moscow airport. Here she is speaking briefly to ABC News yesterday. It’s a little hard to hear, but we want you to take a listen anyway.


[speaker] Do we want to say something to Cherelle?


[Brittney Griner] Good luck on the bar exam.


[speaker] How do you feel? Do have any complaints?


[Brittney Griner] No. No complaints . . . waiting patiently.


Tre’vell Anderson: If you didn’t catch that, she wanted to tell her wife, Cherelle, real good luck on the bar exam, and that she has no complaints at the moment and is being patient.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, she’s had to be very, extremely patient, more than she really should have. Can you remind us all how we got here?


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. As you’ll remember, Priyanka, Brittney was arrested and charged with drug smuggling. I know that sounds like a serious charge, and that’s because it is. She is facing up to ten years in a Russian penal colony. But I’d just like to note for posterity’s sake that they found less than a gram of cannabis oil in her luggage. After months of silence, Brittney pleaded guilty to the charges earlier this month, with her lawyers noting that she said that she did not intend to commit the crime. She says it was the result of packing in a hurry.


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, so where do things stand as of now?


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, now her defense team is hoping that the guilty plea will be taken into account by the court as a mitigating factor in its sentencing. And yesterday, they presented further evidence to try and prove that the two-time Olympic gold medalist is not a criminal. That included the fact that her use of Ms. Mary Jane is medicinal, and not recreational, because she suffers from chronic pain. They also brought in the director of Brittney’s Russian basketball team and the team’s doctor who said she never tested positive for drugs while playing for them. A third witness was one of Griner’s Russian teammates, team Captain Yevgenia Belyakova talking to the press after the hearing, translated by CNN:


[clip of Yevgenia Belyakova] Brittney was always a great teammate, and that is why I’m here to support her and be there for her at this difficult time. We miss her so much. I miss her energy.


Priyanka Aribindi: Brittney will be testifying today and answering questions from the prosecution. Is there any sense that this will help her get home any sooner?


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, we can only hope. Her testimony has been pushed back a couple of times to give her more time to prepare, and that’s largely because experts say whatever she says could be received a variety of ways by the prosecution and judge, and so there’s a tightrope to walk already that is intensified, right, by the US’s strained politics with Russia over its ongoing invasion of Ukraine.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, a terrifying situation to be in for her. And that strain that you’re talking about really doesn’t seem like it’s going anywhere. Russia appears to be cutting ties with other countries across the world. Yesterday, Russia said it will pull out of the International Space Station or ISS after 2024. This would end decades of partnership between them and NASA, which is led by the United States, and they will reportedly build their own space station after 2024.


Tre’vell Anderson: So tell us, what does this mean both diplomatically and for the future of the ISS?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, good question. So the ISS has been a model of international cooperation for a long time. It’s a collaboration between the U.S., Russia, Japan, Canada, and the European Space Agency. And it’s been a symbol of unity ever since the end of the Cold War. The station itself is divided into two segments. There is the Russian orbital segment and the US one. And according to a former NASA astronaut, the two segments cannot function independently–they rely on electricity and systems from one another–so it’s really not clear yet if Russia’s departure means that the entire ISS can’t go on. This isn’t the first time that Russia has threatened to leave the ISS, but this time around Roscosmos, which is the Russian state corporation responsible for space flights and research, seems to have the approval of Russian President Vladimir Putin. They may follow in the footsteps of China, which has never been allowed on the ISS. China is actually expected to have their own fully-operational space station by the end of this year.


Tre’vell Anderson: And space isn’t the only place where Russia is isolating. Can you tell us more about what’s happening between Russia and the European Union at the moment?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So yesterday EU governments made the decision to cut down their consumption of natural gas this winter, Russia being the major supplier of natural gas to those countries. This comes a day after Russia’s state-owned energy company announced that it would substantially cut down natural gas flow through a major pipeline to Europe, bringing it down to 20% capacity. This sent prices way up and it prompted fears that Russia could cut off gas even further, especially during the winter months when people need it for heating to power their homes. The EU appears to be taking this action to protect themselves, and they’re describing it as a sacrifice, not an easy decision, but one that they had to make. Energy ministers approved a draft law that was designed to decrease demand for gas by 15% between August of this year and March of next year. It starts with voluntary steps at first, but if it doesn’t get consumption down to where they want it to be, there will be some mandatory actions as well. So lots in the news today about Russia, but that is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Priyanka Aribindi: Another January 6th defendant was sentenced to prison on Tuesday, this time for assaulting not one, not two, but three police officers during the riots. Mark Ponder will serve five years after pleading guilty to the assault charges against him in D.C. court. And his sentencing comes as the Justice Department continues to widen its criminal probe into the insurrection. Last week, two men who served as top aides to former Vice President Mike Pence testified before a federal grand jury. This makes the two men, Marc Short and Greg Jacob, the highest-ranking officials from the Trump White House to cooperate with the department’s investigation. But no investigation is complete without some–you guessed it–emails. The New York Times published some never-before-seen emails yesterday between members of Trump’s campaign that clearly show their plans to overturn the 2020 election, specifically their effort to recruit fake Electoral College electors that would vouch for Trump’s nonexistent win. The emails show that members of the campaign knew that the quote unquote, “stolen election” claims were bogus because they kept using the word fake in reference to their fan cast of electors. Attorney General Merrick Garland, I’m not sure how much more evidence you need to prosecute the big, bad orange man, but hopefully this helps, even a little bit. Although we should say that yesterday, The Washington Post cited anonymous sources at the Justice Department to report that the DOJ is investigating Trump’s actions in the weeks leading up to January 6th. So we’ll follow that story once we know a little bit more.


Tre’vell Anderson: The slow trickle of justice in the Uvalde the massacre continues, as Mandy Gutierrez, the principal of Robb Elementary, has been placed on paid leave. An interim report by a state House committee found that Gutierrez knew the lock for the room where most of the shooting occurred was broken and had ignored a report by the classroom’s teacher Arnulfo Reyes, who was shot in the attack, that the door didn’t always lock. Gutierrez is the third person to be suspended since the report, joining Uvalde police lieutenant Mariano Pargas, who was the acting police chief the day of the massacre, and Pete Arredondo, the chief of the school district’s police department. Arredondo, meanwhile, is awaiting the rescheduling of a board meeting to decide whether or not he should be fired.


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s been a slow trickle of justice, and everything we learn continues to be horrifying. We’re tired of using the word unprecedented just as much as you’re tired of hearing it, we promise, but much of the country does face unprecedented weather right now. A state of emergency was declared in Missouri and the Saint Louis area yesterday after the city was drenched by over nine inches of rain within 12 hours. Intense flooding killed at least one person, and yesterday’s rainfall broke the city’s all-time record that was set in 1915, with even more in the forecast for today. Meanwhile, intense heat is baking the Pacific Northwest, where Oregon’s governor Kate Brown declared a state of emergency until next Sunday. Some temperatures crossed into the triple digits, which is rare for a state where the average temperature this time of year is around 85 degrees. And remember that hot weather can be deadly to both humans and animals. Reuters reports that in Kansas, during a heat wave last month, over 2,000 cattle died, and the number was so overwhelming that ranchers resorted to disposing the carcasses in landfills. This is your nudge that climate change is real–I’m pretty sure everybody listening to this show doesn’t need a nudge, they know that–but you should really subscribe to Crooked’s Hot Take, if you haven’t already, to learn even more about this.


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. The Biden administration proposed a new rule on Monday that would make it illegal for federally funded health care providers to discriminate against LGBTQ+ patients. The policy would also protect pregnant people who are denied care, including abortions, across the United States. The idea here is to counter the overwhelming wave of abortion bans and anti-LGBTQ+ health care laws being passed by Republicans across several states. But this proposal faces an uphill battle. White House officials worry that the federal rule won’t stand up against the state laws in court.


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. You know what? They’re allowed to worry, but you still got to do it. Please do something. We need your help out here.


Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely.


Priyanka Aribindi: Speaking of homophobic and transphobic lawmakers, Republican House Representative Glenn Thompson joined dozens of his colleagues last week when he voted against the Respect for Marriage Act, a measure that would codify same-sex marriage at the federal level. But just three days later, Thompson turned around–he had the audacity to attend his gay son’s wedding. I don’t really know how he showed his face there, but he seemed to do that, and thought it was just fine. Thompson’s son confirmed this to NBC News on Monday, and according to a statement from the Congressman’s press, secretary, Thompson and his wife were, quote, “thrilled to attend and celebrate their son’s marriage”–they just don’t think he should have the right to get married. Cool. However, his son and his new son-in-law have stayed mum since talking to NBC. Surely this will all blow over before Thanksgiving, but if it doesn’t, you know, feel free to have your own Thanksgiving. Some things, just not worth it.


Tre’vell Anderson: Here’s the thing: I did pretty okay without a dad in my life for a little bit, so, you know, try it on for size. I am sure you’ll do all right.


Priyanka Aribindi: You’ll do fine.


Tre’vell Anderson: In a blow to fans of rhyming food, the Choco Taco is dead. And according to its maker Klondike, we have only ourselves to blame. On Monday, the company told multiple outlets that people just bought too many of their other products and they had to make room. Fear not, Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian tweeted out, quote, “I’d like to buy the rights to your Choco Taco and keep it from melting away from future generations’ childhoods.” Wow. A rich person who’s actually helping humanity with his millions. We love to see it.


Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, it’s shocking. It really is shocking news. Almost as shocking as a rich person paying their taxes–but maybe he’s not doing that. Maybe he’s saving Chaco Taco instead.


Tre’vell Anderson: Well, conspiracy theories claim this is just a successful marketing campaign to boost sales when the product inevitably returns. And there may be something to that, because the company said on Twitter that, quote, “We’re working hard to find a way to bring Choco Taco back to ice cream trucks in the coming years.”


Priyanka Aribindi: This is the company that’s saying this. The company saying we’re working hard and they decide if the Choco Taco is back. This is a stunt. I have called this since this afternoon, when I saw this news. You know, they’re in charge and we’re all talking about it. We all want Choco Tacos now. And, you know, I like a good scheme, but we got to call it what it is. Choco Taco, I don’t think is going anywhere.


Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, the people have spoken. Okay? So bring back the Choco Taco.


Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go. There are 100 days until the mid-term elections. We know now just how high the stakes are, and on November 8th, we need to make sure that our voices are not only heard, but that they’re protected.


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, yes, yes. You can join Vote Save America’s Midterm Madness program, and take our “Count Me In” pledge to volunteer, including our July 31st Weekend of Action, which is this coming weekend. Get involved in the most important elections in 2022 at Votesaveamerica dot com/midterms.


Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, bring Brittney Griner home, and tell your friends to listen.


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you’re into reading, and not just Choco Taco news like me, What A Day is a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Tre’vell Anderson.


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


[together] And if you have cows, give them some air conditioning.


Priyanka Aribindi: Maybe a fan, maybe a Choco Taco–something to keep them cool.


Tre’vell Anderson: Maybe not the Choco Taco. That can get a little dicey, if you know what I mean.


Priyanka Aribindi: Fine, fine. Maybe a grass taco. What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producer is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.