In This Episode
- Former President Donald Trump was indicted for the third time on Tuesday for the alleged role he played to overturn the 2020 election. He was charged with four criminal counts including conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding and more. We talk with Leah Litman, professor of law at the University of Michigan and co-host of Crooked’s Strict Scrutiny podcast, to break it down.
- And in headlines: the family of Henrietta Lacks reached a historic settlement with a biotech company accused of stealing her cells without consent, three of Lizzo’s former dancers filed a lawsuit against the singer and her production company on Tuesday, and Wisconsin’s Supreme Court officially flipped to a liberal majority for the first time in 15 years.
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Juanita Tolliver: It’s Wednesday, August 2nd. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What A Day. We are going to jump straight into the news because it is a big one. Former President Donald Trump was officially indicted for the third time yesterday.
Juanita Tolliver: Count them and they’re stacking up quickly against Trump so–
Priyanka Aribindi: They really are.
Juanita Tolliver: –like shout out to Jack Smith and Company for delivering this third indictment with federal charges.
Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously, this long awaited indictment is related to the January 6th insurrection and the accusation that Trump and his allies tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election. To help you get things straight. This new one comes out of a grand jury in Washington, D.C. The Mar-a-Lago indictment was from a grand jury in Miami. There are a lot of them. There’s a lot to keep straight. We would not blame you for getting confused. Here is special Counsel Jack Smith speaking at a press conference yesterday in D.C..
[clip of Jack Smith] The attack on our nation’s capital on January 6th, 2021, was an unprecedented assault on the seat of American democracy. It’s described in the indictment. It was fueled by lies, lies by the defendant, targeted at obstructing a bedrock function of the U.S. government, the nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.
Juanita Tolliver: I mean, cut and dry and delivered like only special counsel Jack Smith could. And when I tell you he was out of there, homie did not accept any questions. And this press conference lasted less than 3 minutes so–
Priyanka Aribindi: In and out. We talked earlier about all of this with one of our favorite legal experts. You know her, you love her. It is the one and only Leah Litman. She is the co-host of Strict Scrutiny and a law professor at the University of Michigan. We started out by asking her to break down the charges that Trump faces here.
Leah Litman: Trump was indicted on four charges, and the four charges basically describe three general conspiracies. One is to deprive people of rights that they hold. This is a conspiracy to basically throw out their votes and nullify their votes. The second conspiracy is a conspiracy to defraud the United States, here that is basically with interfering with a federal function here the counting of votes and certifying of votes. And the third and final one is the obstruction of an official proceeding, and that is the uh counting of ballots in Congress, as well as the procedures contemplated by the Electoral Count Act in the states.
Priyanka Aribindi: Are there any coconspirators here? What do we know about them, the people involved here?
Leah Litman: So there are six unnamed and unidentified coconspirators. So it’s federal DOJ policy and practice not to actually name unindicted coconspirators, although based on some of the allegations, you can kind of tell, uh at least who some of them are.
Juanita Tolliver: We can surmise.
Leah Litman: Um. [laugh] So not so secret. You know, I think as Attorney General Garland said, this has really been one of the most investigated alleged conspiracies against the United States in our history. So there has already been considerable reporting. There was the January 6th hearings and whatnot. So a lot of the statements that these, you know, unindicted, unnamed coconspirators have said have already been reported. And so that’s why we at least can tell who some of them are. But at least five of the six are Republican lawyers. That should tell you something.
Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, that’s definitely a wink wink moment because we know those names. But speaking of special counsel Jack Smith, he was in and out of his second press conference in like under 3 minutes. So he didn’t take any questions. But what new information did you get from that press conference? And if you could ask him a question, what would you ask him?
Leah Litman: I’m not sure we got a ton of new information from the presser itself. I think most of the new information came from the indictment. I think that that is how, you know, Jack Smith intended this to go like he wants people to read the indictment. This is another speaking indictment where it describes the arc of the conspiracies as well as the danger to democracy. On top of these specific allegations that are documented in the indictment. And so I don’t think he wanted the show to be the press conference. I think like he wants the statements to be extracted from the indictment and the statements to be reported from there.
Priyanka Aribindi: So Trump’s calendar honestly getting packed lately. So I’m going to recap it here for everybody listening. Take a deep breath. It’s a long ride. He’s got a civil trial in New York for October, a class action lawsuit next January, the Hush Money trial in March, and then the feds other case against him in May. Plus, we are waiting potential charges brought against him in Georgia. How is this different from everything else that he is up against at the moment?
Leah Litman: The previous indictments and charges, some people have criticized them on the ground that the crimes alleged there basically didn’t match you know the threat that Donald Trump posed to our constitutional democracy or the things that were most dangerous about his conduct. And this indictment very much does that like this charges him with the crime to literally overturn the results of democracy. And when you’re thinking about, like the most serious charges you know that could be brought, this is going to be one of them. Like this one is, again, going to the heart of, I think, the crime that Donald Trump will be viewed most harshly from in history.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Juanita Tolliver: And after the indictment was released, Trump’s campaign released a lengthy statement in which they call the third indictment of the former president, quote, “nothing more than the latest corrupt chapter,” in what the campaign characterized as a politically motivated witch hunt. They also added that Trump has always followed the law and the Constitution with advice from many highly accomplished attorneys. I need your reaction to that last line specifically, please. Cause no.
Leah Litman: These attorneys are highly accomplished in the number of crimes that they are you know alleged to have engaged in in a relatively short period of time. So, you know, on one hand, impressive. Um. On the other. Not really sure who I would want to be taking legal advice from. And I think, you know, part of what is remarkable about this indictment is it goes through in a really thorough and systematic way. All of the lawyers, federal officials, state officials who were telling him this is bullshit, Joe Biden won the election. So sure. Right. He could find some crazy pants who were willing to say publicly that the election was stolen, even though privately they were admitting that was fraudulent and not true. But that doesn’t make it so.
Juanita Tolliver: Another thing that was reported was that U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan has been assigned to this case. And, you know, I did a quick little Google situation. I saw that she was a Black woman, which gave me supreme delight, but also that she was appointed by President Obama. So what else do we know about Judge Tanya Chutkan?
Leah Litman: She is a very well respected and well-regarded judge. Um. She has also been involved in some of the sentencing cases for individuals involved in the January 6th attempted insurrection. And she has been the judges who I think has approached those cases more seriously and imposed lengthier sentences than some of the other federal judges who have been overseeing those cases. So that’s, you know, some other information about the perspective she might bring to this case.
Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. I want to zoom out a little bit and talk about the timeline of this particular case. What do we know about it and do we know how it will affect, you know, all of these other cases that are also ongoing as this unfolds?
Leah Litman: Trump’s appearance is going to be this week. Beyond that, you know, we don’t have scheduling information as far as, you know, what steps might happen next or any proposed timeline. And I think it would be difficult to say like whether this case is going to happen before some of the others. It’s possible that this case actually does proceed to trial before the Florida documents case, just because that case involves, you know, classified information and there are separate procedures, you know, that might need to be followed um regarding that information. But it’s just hard to say. And, you know, of course, the defendant cannot simultaneously be in multiple proceedings at the same time. And so, you know, the courts will have to schedule the proceedings, you know, not to happen at the same time. But there’s no reason for them to be, you know, ordered sequentially based on when the indictment happened versus, you know, the court’s own calendar. Any pretrial motion practice that happens in a particular case as well as additional legal or procedural questions, you know, and when those are resolved in a particular case. So it’s just hard to say. You know, there’s no question Trump is going to try to push this until after the election.
Juanita Tolliver: Of course.
Leah Litman: Just like he did in the Florida documents case. So he can basically run on the platform of like pardon me, for crimes against democracy, which, you know, I guess we’ll see how broad an appeal that has. But yeah.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I mean, speaking of the election, what kind of impact do you think this indictment could have on the upcoming presidential election?
Leah Litman: Speculating about what the core constituency of the Republican Party likes in their candidates, I feel like is a little bit outside of my expertise. [laughter] Um. Hard to say whether more crimes are good or bad or whether certain crimes are good versus bad.
Juanita Tolliver: Leah said, I am not in their minds. [laughter]
Priyanka Aribindi: I continue to have faith that for the modal American, you know, the normies who turned out in 2020 and 2022, being indicted for more crimes and serious crimes against our democracy is a negative. One would hope. I’m not going to say this is going to help him or not in the Republican primary with Republican voters. But I continue to hold out hope that if you explain to people he is literally being indicted for trying to throw out your votes and nullify votes cast in the 2020 election, that that would cause them to think maybe this person should not be in charge of the American government.
Priyanka Aribindi: And that was our earlier conversation with Leah Litman, professor of law at the University of Michigan and co-host of Crooked’s Strict Scrutiny podcast.
Juanita Tolliver: I just love her for breaking it down for us. And I got to say, Priyanka, after reading through some of the indictment, I’m still looking at Mike Pence like, how could you possibly still cover for this guy? Because there’s a clear timeline in there that says the night before January 6th, Trump told Pence he was going to come after him publicly. So not only did he paint a target on your back, he told you he was going to do it. Yet and still Pence is like, I mean, maybe he broke a rule?
Priyanka Aribindi: [sigh and groan]
Juanita Tolliver: Casual. It’s weird.
Priyanka Aribindi: Weird is one way uh [laugh] one way to put it. Certainly strange. Anyways, we have plenty more conversations and analysis about the indictment throughout the Crooked Network, all of your favorite shows. Make sure to download the bonus reaction episodes by both Pod Save America and Strict Scrutiny. They are out now wherever you get your podcasts. That is the latest for now. We will be back after some ads. [music break].
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Trump might need a GoFund me for all of those charges that he’s facing. The Trump aligned PAC Save America is down to just $3.6 million dollars after starting off the year with 105 million.
Juanita Tolliver: Whoa.
Priyanka Aribindi: That is according to a public campaign finance report released on Monday. Since January, Save America has spent $40 million dollars on legal fees on the numerous cases that he and his associates have been facing. Save America, no relation to our pod, Save America.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. If it’s not clear. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: If it isn’t already clear there yeah, they clearly did not um Google when they were making that name. Their extremely low funds have prompted the group to make a highly unusual request. It is actually asking a pro-Trump super PAC called Make America Great Again INC to refund a $60 million donation that it previously made. The pro-Trump PAC and super PAC are supposed to be independent groups who cannot coordinate on strategy. But as per usual, Trump is toeing the line of what is legal, according to experts. I’m not an expert. Doesn’t seem like they’re towing here.
Juanita Tolliver: More like erasing the line. Throwing it away completely doesn’t exist in their mind so.
Priyanka Aribindi: Exactly.
Juanita Tolliver: Here’s a great update in a decades long case of medical theft. The living relatives of Henrietta Lacks reached a historic settlement with a multi-billion dollar biotech company accused of stealing her cells without her consent. Lacks was a Black woman from Baltimore diagnosed with cervical cancer in 1951. But during a procedure at Johns Hopkins Hospital, tissue was taken from her cervix without her permission. She passed away that same year, but the cells grown from that tissue, HeLa cells as they’re known, went on to become a cornerstone of modern medicine and led to huge medical advancements. Despite all that, the Lacks family has never been compensated. And so in 2021, her relatives filed suit, arguing that the story behind HeLa cells is a prime example of racism and exploitation within the U.S. medical system. Her family announced a settlement yesterday with the company Thermo Fisher Scientific. Although the details were not made public, the news also came on what would have been her 103rd birthday. Lack’s only living child, now 86, said of the settlement, quote, “There couldn’t have been a more fitting day for her to have justice for our family, to have relief. It was a long fight over 70 years, and Henrietta Lacks gets her day.” Like, I really appreciate this family for not letting this go, for filing that suit, because–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yes.
Juanita Tolliver: –the history of physicians in this country abusing Black women, taking from them all for the sake of medical advancement, it’s hundreds of years old. I’m thinking of the man dubbed the father of gynecology, who we know operated on enslaved Black women with no anesthesia, essentially torturing them for the sake of medicine. So, again, shout out to her family.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, far too late, though we are glad that they finally got what they deserved here. New Jersey Lieutenant Governor Sheila Oliver died unexpectedly yesterday after she was hospitalized the day before. Oliver was 71 years old. Oliver was the first Black woman to serve as assembly speaker in New Jersey’s history, and the second to lead a legislative chamber in the country. And during her time as lieutenant governor, she advocated for tighter gun laws and helping struggling cities. New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy called appointing her as lieutenant governor the best decision that he has ever made. In a statement by her family, they said that she will leave behind a, quote, “legacy of dedication, service and inspiration and will be remembered for her commitment to the people of New Jersey and her tireless efforts to uplift the community.”
Juanita Tolliver: Three of Lizzo’s former dancers filed a lawsuit against the singer and her production company in Los Angeles yesterday. They accused her of sexual harassment, creating a hostile work environment, religious harassment, and more. They also claim that Lizzo pressured some of the plaintiffs into participating in an uncomfortable nude photoshoot, forced them to interact with nude performers at an Amsterdam nightclub, and required dancers to undergo an excruciating 12 hour audition in order to keep their jobs. In addition to all of this, the allegations include that Lizzo body shamed some of her dancers. And this feels really strange because that’s antithetical to every single thing that we know about Lizzo and her sense of promoting body positivity right? Of the night in Amsterdam, the legal complaint from the plaintiffs reads, quote, “plaintiffs were aghast with how little regard Lizzo showed for the bodily autonomy of her employees and those around her, especially in the presence of many people whom she employed.” The lawsuit doesn’t specify a dollar amount for the damages, and my understanding is that up until this point of our record time, like her team hasn’t responded to media requests for comments or anything. So that’s kind of giving a red flag in my mind.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, this is really disappointing. Some of these allegations are really disturbing and and not something you want to see, especially from someone who up until now has had such a positive–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: –public image. So this is really disappointing, very much looking to see what they have to say. And finally, let’s close out with some good news here. We have a good story for you. Everybody get excited. Wisconsin’s Supreme Court has officially flipped to a liberal majority for the first time since 2008. That shift comes after Judge Janet Protasiewicz was sworn in yesterday for her ten year term as a Wisconsin Supreme Court justice. She took the place of retired conservative Justice Pat Roggensack, who served for two decades. As you’ll remember, Protasiewicz was elected back in April, where she campaigned on abortion rights and overwhelmingly defeated her conservative opponent, former Wisconsin Supreme Court Justice Daniel Kelly. Part of that campaign took her to the sold out Pod Save America live show in Madison last March. Take a listen to this clip.
[clip of Judge Janet Protasiewicz] I think you all know what my value is. People should have a right to choose. That is my value. And I think that that is paramount. And I certainly expect that we’ll be looking at that issue in the near future.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely will be. Liberals–
Juanita Tolliver: Period.
Priyanka Aribindi: –now hold a 4-3 majority on the court until at least 2025. Let’s keep it going. I love this number. Would love it even more if it was uh 5-2?
Juanita Tolliver: I mean.
Priyanka Aribindi: 6-1? 7-0?
Juanita Tolliver: If you leave it in the hands of Wisconsin Democrats, we know they deliver so I’m like–
Priyanka Aribindi: Truly.
Juanita Tolliver: –keep it going, keep it moving because we need more of this, especially when this court will likely be facing decisions around 2024, as well as abortion rights, which the judge mentioned in that clip.
Priyanka Aribindi: 1,000%. They are an inspiring team to volunteer with, to work with. And if you’re part of Vote Save America, you know you’ve been around them. So congratulations.
Juanita Tolliver: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: To them and all the volunteers who worked on making this happen. This is amazing. And those are the headlines. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Keep fighting to end racism and exploitation in the medical system and beyond, and tell your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just about liberals holding the court’s majority like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Juanita Tolliver.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
[spoken together] And clear your schedule Trump.
Juanita Tolliver: He’s giving booked and busy like in the worst way. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: In the worst way. Oh my God, yes.
Juanita Tolliver: Thankfully, some of these judges don’t mess around like I’m ready to see them not allow him to deploy his regular delay tactics. So let’s get these on the books. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz, our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers. Our intern is Ryan Cochran, and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.