Even The Scandals Are Bigger In Texas | Crooked Media
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August 03, 2023
What A Day
Even The Scandals Are Bigger In Texas

In This Episode

  • Former President Trump pleaded not guilty to the four criminal charges against him tied to his actions leading up to January 6th. The next hearing will be on August 28th.
  • Suspended Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton’s long-delayed criminal trial is expected to begin early 2024. But before that, he has an upcoming impeachment trial on September 5th.
  • Also in Texas: A federal lawsuit was filed on Wednesday to stop the state’s ban intended to target drag performances. The suit argues that the law is unconstitutional and threatens the free expression of the state’s residents, including drag performers.
  • And in headlines: the U.S. government ordered the partial evacuation of embassy personnel in Niger, the line-up for the knockout round of the World Cup has been finalized, and Florida effectively banned AP Psychology as a course for high school credit.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Friday, August 4th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan. And this is What A Day where the Kia boys can’t steal our Kias if they’re on fire. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Kia and Hyundai told owners of certain 2023 and 2024 models to park them outside for now because of a mechanical defect. 


Erin Ryan: Yikes. So until they’re recalled and repaired, park near some marshmallows, not in a garage. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Big yikes. We don’t like the sound of that at all. 


Erin Ryan: No. [music break] On today’s show, we cover the latest from the worst little state house in Texas. Plus, we talk about some surprising upsets in the World Cup leading up to the knockout round, which starts tomorrow. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, a quick Trump update. A Trumpdate as they are affectionately known here. The former president pleaded not guilty to all four federal criminal charges against him yesterday. Those all related to the January 6th insurrection. He appeared in person at the D.C. courthouse before he boarded a plane to New Jersey and on the tarmac to reporters he called it a, quote, “very sad day for America.” Just one little tear. 


Erin Ryan: I would say I’m more just mildly annoyed constantly. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s many other things. It’s not sad. The start date for the trial was not set, but the court did set a pretrial hearing for August 28th, which is just five days after the first Republican presidential debate. Just mark up your calendar as August is already getting crazy. We are not coasting our way through the rest of the summer. And as we said a few days ago, Trump’s court calendar is absolutely packed. To recap, in October, he has a civil trial in New York. In January, he has both a defamation case and a class action lawsuit against him. In March, he has the hush Money trial, and finally in May, he faces the Justice Department’s other charges for classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. The man is booked and busy really overcommitting here with the presidential election also on his plate. Wouldn’t mind if he offloaded something. 


Erin Ryan: I’m going to say he gets invited to more court houses than most 32 year olds get invited to weddings. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s a little impressive. It really is. We will obviously keep following Trump’s legal troubles for all of you as it continues to develop. But we have a ton of other news for today’s show. 


Erin Ryan: Moving on to deep in the heart of the nation, the phrase don’t mess with Texas exists as a warning to outsiders because Texas is doing a great job of messing with itself. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. 


Erin Ryan: First, I want to talk a little about Texas Attorney General Republican Ken Paxton, who is currently suspended from his job because he’s in a whole mesquite mess of trouble. Yesterday, a Texas judge decided that Paxton’s long delayed criminal trial over alleged 2011 securities fraud will proceed sometime early next year, probably. Paxton’s legal team, prosecutors and the judge will huddle back up on October 6th to hash out specifics, including what I imagine must be a lot of backpay for those prosecutors who’ve been working on this case since 2015. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. 


Erin Ryan: They’re waiting until October to set a date because Paxton faces an impeachment trial before the Texas State Senate that starts about one month from today on September 5th. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen. A lot of déjà vu, a lot of bells ringing here. But I think the main takeaway is Republicans and impeachment just simply an absolutely iconic duo, can’t have one without the other these days. Anyways. Can you remind us of the details of what led up to all of this? Because it all came out of a Republican led Texas State House. So perhaps surprising to people watching from afar. 


Erin Ryan: I love this story. It is a mess, but I love it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It really is. It really is. 


Erin Ryan: So you may recall how this whole story broke into national headlines like a Kool-Aid man full of whiskey, spiked sweet tea. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Erin Ryan: First, back in May, a video went viral of Texas House Speaker Republican Dade Phelan slurring his words in a state of possible intoxication while presiding over the state legislature. In a rare move, AG Paxton, also a Republican, called for Phelan to resign over the incident. But then hours later, Phelan’s office fired back that Paxton had only called for Phelan’s resignation in retaliation. That’s because there was an investigation by the House into Attorney General Ken Paxton’s conduct. That investigation had been revealed only hours before. It was over Paxton’s attempt to use $3.3 million dollars in taxpayer funds to settle a whistleblower lawsuit from former staffers who alleged that they were fired in retaliation for accusing the attorney general of corruption. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. The plot could not get any thicker, but I feel like we might get some additions here. 


Erin Ryan: I can’t even describe it without taking a breath in the middle of it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Erin Ryan: I run out of oxygen. There’s so much cor– it’s a lasso of corruption. And it seems that the drunk Dade Phelan video was being passed around by supporters of Bryan Slaton, another Republican who had a bone to pick with Phelan. Earlier this year, Slayton was expelled from the Texas legislature after providing alcohol to and having a sexual affair with a 19 year old aide. Illegal. 


Priyanka Aribindi: All right. This is all Republican on Republican fights, though, like I’m not hearing you bring up any Democrats. [laugh] Tell me more about that. 


Erin Ryan: Oh, no, no. But there’s more. Paxton’s impeachment articles are complicated and many, but one of the things the whistleblower’s alleged was that Paxton traded inappropriate favors with a prominent donor. Including having the real estate developer donor give Paxton’s mistress a job. Oh, and did I mention Ken Paxton is married to one Angela Paxton, who is a Republican member of the state Senate. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Of course he is. 


Erin Ryan: The same body that in a month will weigh whether to remove her husband from his job. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. [laugh]


Erin Ryan: Angela Paxton, unfortunately for those of us who love mess will be recusing herself from the trial. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Apparently Angela Paxton is the only one in this situation who wants to unsubscribe from the messiness a little bit. Uh. Feels like she can’t fully get away from it, though. But that impeachment trial, as a reminder, starts next month on September 5th and part of this other criminal trial Paxton faces ties back into that? Explain how that works. 


Erin Ryan: Yeah. So four of the 20 articles of impeachment Paxton faces deal with the securities fraud case likely headed to trial in early 2024. We’re laughing. We’re having a great time. But I know this is very serious because, you know, Texas’s 30 million residents deserve a functional state government that isn’t consuming itself with Republican on Republican slap fighting and blatant corruption. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. 


Erin Ryan: The position of the Texas AG is one of the most important and powerful law enforcement jobs in the country. An investigative series by the Texas Tribune that just ran this week outlines how the AG’s office was transformed over the last couple decades into a weaponized right wing legal machine. We’ll link to that in our show notes. It is a fascinating but infuriating reading. Additionally, former state AGs in Texas have moved on to even more powerful offices. Current Texas Governor Greg Abbott was AG same with Texas Senator John Cornyn. Before Paxton girlbossed a little too close to the sun he was well teed up to similarly ascend. I mean, he still might. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. 


Erin Ryan: He’s won two elections since he was indicted eight years ago. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it feels like an indictment is a stamp of approval for uh Republican voters at this point. So. 


Erin Ryan: Yeah, I thought they loved law and order. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Not for them, though. 


Erin Ryan: So, yes, this is all very serious and sad. On a macro level, however, on the other hand, Democrats in Texas have it hard enough and they deserve to enjoy a little GOP cannibalism as a treat. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I think it’s allowed you can savor it a little bit. You can enjoy the chaos. Anyways, the next story we’re covering is also out of Texas, just a two for one today. A federal lawsuit was filed on Wednesday to stop Texas’s ban against public performances that of course is intended to target drag. That ban is currently scheduled to take effect on September 1st. The ACLU of Texas is representing a group of drag performers and LGBTQ+ advocates in this case against the Texas attorney general and others. The suit argues that the law is unconstitutional and threatens the free expression of the state’s residents, including drag performers. This is one of several anti LGBTQ+ measures that has been approved by Texas’s Republican controlled state legislature because when they are not embroiled in chaos, they are causing it actively. 


Erin Ryan: I feel like a lot of people are going to be in the legal crosshairs with this law. So can we get to some specifics of what’s actually in the law? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. So this bill known as SB-12, targets any kind of performance that could be perceived as, quote, “sexual,” and it offers criminal penalties, including up to a year of jail time for the artists or others who support them. So very vague. No definition of what that actually means or who gets to decide. As it’s written now, it could apply to drag. Sure, it could also apply to things like plays and musicals, cheerleading and karaoke. So an earlier version of the bill was actually amended to remove language that explicitly targeted, quote, “a male performer exhibiting as a female or vice versa.” But still, critics think that the law’s vague language and broad possible interpretations could give officials the ability to target any kind of performance that they don’t like or approve of, which in this case is probably by design. 


Erin Ryan: So vague. I feel like it also could apply to so many performances that involve costuming and a heightened expression of gender. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Erin Ryan: Even if you are expressing the gender that you identify with. So like child beauty pageants or anything like, what a mess. We need smart people to write laws and not bigots. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. 


Erin Ryan: Thanks for that update on Texas. But to remind listeners, Texas is not the only state attempting to enact a drag ban. Where are we at right now with the other states that have tried to do this? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, you’re right. It’s definitely not the only place this is happening. Similar laws have run into trouble elsewhere as well. In Tennessee, which was the first state to attempt such a ban. A Trump appointed judge actually rejected it this June as, quote, “unconstitutionally vague and substantially overbroad,” and said that it encouraged discriminatory enforcement, which I think is also a very key part of all of this. Of course, it’s vague. Of course it’s completely broad. But to enforce it, you have people just absolutely discriminating against others. But the state’s Republican attorney general has tried to appeal that ruling. Same thing in Florida, where their drag ban was championed by governor and flailing presidential candidate Ron DeSantis. A federal judge there issued a preliminary injunction until a trial is held to determine the law’s constitutionality. And in Montana, where local pride is actually being celebrated right now, I believe it’s the 30th anniversary. A federal judge last Friday temporarily lifted that state’s ban on drag performances just one day ahead of the start of the party on Saturday. 


Erin Ryan: What a mess. The way these judges are ruling against these laws across the country helps confirm that they weren’t written well. They were just designed to discriminate. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Absolutely. And I mean, if you remember, most of this hoopla was kicked up after the idea that drag was being performed in front of minors. It was all about protecting the kids, just patently false fear mongering techniques used by these Republican lawmakers. Here is one of the plaintiffs in the new lawsuit, an Austin based drag performer called Brigitte Bandit, who spoke out against the law before the state Senate this past March. 


[clip of Brigitte Bandit] None of us want to have children at our drag shows at the gay bar at 11 p.m. on a Friday night, and there are already laws preventing that from happening. But we do want to continue our events like drag storytimes that are intentionally modified to be appropriate for children. Drag is simply a form of art and like any form of art, it can be produced by many different kinds of people and be modified for different kinds of audiences. Thank you so much for your time and consideration. 


[clip of unspecified state lawmaker] Thank you for your testimony. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Thank you, Brigitte, for that very, very clear breakdown of what so many people have failed to grasp here have not even attempted to understand. Thankfully, none of the efforts by Republican state lawmakers to ban drag from being performed in front of minors have actually been successful up until this point, we fingers crossed, knock on everything that it stays that way. 


Erin Ryan: These people are single minded assholes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yup. 


Erin Ryan: And they have the ability to tolerate decades of being told no. Look at what happened with Roe v Wade. We have to have the tenacity of a hateful Texan who gets mad that a person wearing a giant bouffant wig is reading the very hungry caterpillar to kids that are delighted by it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s a tall order, but I feel like now that we see what we’re up against, we may have it in us. 


Erin Ryan: I think we do. And that’s our update on Texas today. But we didn’t even get to the story of Texas A&M hiring prominent journalist Kathleen McElroy to run its journalism program and then backing out of the hire because of political pressure and then having to pay McElroy a million dollars for the whole ordeal. But you can read more about that story in our show notes. Go Woke, Go Broke. Or opposite. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I guess. 


Erin Ryan: So much mess in Texas, so little time. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. I mean, there is just an endless amount today and all days. Obviously, we will continue to follow these stories and what happens, Texas, we’ve got an eye out for you. Unclear if your state lawmakers do, but we do. But that is the latest for now. [music break]


Erin Ryan: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Erin Ryan: The U.S. government has ordered the partial evacuation of embassy personnel in Niger following last week’s military coup. The State Department announced the move on Wednesday and told non-emergency U.S. government employees and eligible family members to leave the country temporarily. Core staffers will remain at the embassy and it will stay open for limited emergency services to U.S. citizens. To get you up to speed. Last week, soldiers detained Niger President Mohamed Bazoum and hours later announced they had seized power and, quote, “put an end to the president’s regime.” President Bazoum was elected back in 2021 and his inauguration marked the first Democratic transfer of power since the country gained independence from France in 1960. The United States considers the country a key ally in West Africa, and the Biden administration has been reluctant to declare the recent events in Niger as a coup. Because doing so could put U.S. military aid to Niger at risk and endanger its ties to the country. In the statement released Wednesday, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller said, quote, “The United States remains committed to our relationship with the people of Niger and to Nigerian democracy. We remain diplomatically engaged at the highest levels.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: The lineup for the knockout round of the Women’s World Cup was completed yesterday, but not without some real upsets and some very historic wins. Germany, Brazil and Canada made a very high profile exits from the tournament, and for the first time ever, Morocco and Jamaica both qualified to move on to the next stage. And history is continuing to be made with South Africa and Nigeria, both advancing, marking the first time ever that three African teams have qualified for the knockout tournament. And a struggling U.S. women’s national team barely scraped by, making it into the knockout round after a draw against Portugal on Tuesday. Finally, Marta, who is widely regarded as the greatest female soccer player of all time, delivered an emotional farewell as she announced her retirement. She played on the Brazilian national team for six World Cups and is a two time Olympic silver medalist. The round of 16 kicks off tomorrow with Switzerland versus Spain and Japan facing Norway. I feel like it’s going to be a fun weekend of soccer. So grab yourself a beer, maybe a coffee. It might be early if you’re watching in the States [laughter] and watch. 


Erin Ryan: In some more breaking news from the dystopia that we call Florida. The state has effectively banned AP psychology as a course for high school credit. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Do they teach Black history in that one, too? Like, why? 


Erin Ryan: That’s according to an announcement by the College Board yesterday, which in a statement said The Florida Department of Education told superintendents that teaching content on sexual orientation and gender identity is illegal. So I guess everybody in all books in all Florida schools is a they/them.


Priyanka Aribindi: Apparently. 


Erin Ryan: If gender identity is illegal it is the they state. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Who knew? 


Erin Ryan: [laugh] I know. Florida officials said districts could still offer the class, but only if the material completely omits sexual orientation and gender identity. Once again, do they know what psychology is? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Clearly not. 


Erin Ryan: The College Board said they would not modify the course to comply with Florida’s new laws, meaning that any AP psychology course in Florida from here on out would either violate state law or college credit requirements. In Thursday’s statement, the board said, quote, “Coming just days from the start of school, it derails the college readiness and affordability plans of tens of thousands of Florida students currently registered for AP Psychology, one of the most popular AP classes in the state.” 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, as you pointed out earlier, they uh clearly have zero understanding of psychology because these classes, by banning them, they made it punk to take an AP class, which is hard to do. 


Erin Ryan: Yeah, pretty hard to do. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And finally, trans students in Indiana must be given access to bathrooms and locker rooms that are consistent with their gender identity. That is thanks to a federal appeals court on Tuesday. It upheld decisions by lower courts who also ruled that two Indiana school districts must allow three trans students access to those facilities. Those districts were both sued in 2021. In the opinion issued on Tuesday, the judges wrote that the U.S. Supreme Court will likely step in at some point with more guidance given the litigation over trans rights happening across the country. I’m a little terrified for them to touch anything on this topic. Nearly a dozen states in the U.S. have already enacted laws restricting bathroom access for trans students, including Florida, Kansas and North Dakota. Indiana does not currently have such a law. Following Tuesday’s ruling, legal director of the ACLU of Indiana, Ken Falk, said in a statement, quote, “Schools should be a safe place for kids, and the refusal to allow a student to use the correct facilities can be extremely damaging.” 


Erin Ryan: Schools should just have individual bathrooms with lockable doors like a New York City restaurant. And anybody can use it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I mean, if it fucking bothers you so much, like, it doesn’t really seem like a hard fix. 


Erin Ryan: Everybody’s got a unisex bathroom at their house. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Erin Ryan: Why does it matter if they do that at school? I don’t get it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It would make too much sense Erin. It would make too much sense. And those are the headlines. We will be back after some ads with something better than finding love. It is finding love and norovirus on a Caribbean cruise. That is in just a moment. I can hardly wait. 




Erin Ryan: It’s Friday, WAD Squad. And for today’s temp check. [cheery music starts playing] Oh no. Is it already that time? Are you an overworked woman working in the big city, trying to have it all? But come Christmas time, you’ll be single, unhappy and tanless. [laugh] Then you might be able to find that bland plaid wearing down to earth bearded man of your dreams who definitely wasn’t in the U.S. Capitol on January 6th by [laugh] heading to the smallest town on the water, the Hallmark Channel Christmas cruise, the first scheduled cruise for November of next year, booked up so fast that tickets sold out the same day they went on sale in July. And so this week– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Jeez. 


Erin Ryan: –the organizers announced a second cruise. 


Priyanka Aribindi: [?] 


Erin Ryan: They both depart from America’s Christmas capital, Miami, Florida, [laugh] for a four day trip to the Caribbean’s Christmas capital, the Bahamas. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Great. 


Erin Ryan: Tickets start at $800 per person and go all the way up to $8900 a person. Great way to get your grandkids mad at you for wasting their inheritance. Some of the activities will include meet and greets with actors from Hallmark movies, an exclusive world premiere of a new Hallmark movie. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh God. 


Erin Ryan: Though it hasn’t been announced what they’re called yet and more. So, Priyanka, would you embark on this cruise and throw your phone overboard to prove you’ve given up on your hectic city life? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, I think I got a couple of years left in me of hectic city life before I really throw in the towel and head on the Hallmark cruise. Absolutely not. I would not go on this, not to flex, but I do have a family, so I do think I would be spending the holidays with them. 


Erin Ryan: [laughing] Oh, my God. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Anyways, Erin, what are your thoughts? 


Erin Ryan: I am getting diarrhea just thinking about this. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Truly. [laugh]


Erin Ryan: I don’t want to do it. I don’t understand why it’s leaving from Miami and going to the Bahamas. As someone who grew up in a cold climate, there is nothing that doesn’t scream Christmas like palm trees? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Erin Ryan: Why not go to Alaska? There are cruises that go to Alaska all the time, and that’s way more Christmasy. I’m not going to go on this thing, but I’ve got notes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: A lot of notes. 


Erin Ryan: You know what? Look, I don’t want to yuck anybody’s yum. If this is your thing, Great. It’s just not mine. 


Priyanka Aribindi: If this is your thing, she won’t. I will. It’s disgusting. Anyways.


Erin Ryan: [laugh] And just like that, we’ve checked our temps. They’re predictable and comforting as a Hallmark Christmas movie starring a nondescript white woman with perfect beach waves. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Of course. Of course. [music break] 




Erin Ryan: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Continue to mess with Texas and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just AP psych syllabi like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Erin Ryan: I’m Erin Ryan.


[spoken together] And don’t actually throw phones this Christmas.


Priyanka Aribindi: Unless you’re throwing yours away because you got a new one from Santa. I don’t recommend throwing your phone into the ocean though. Feels good in the moment. Probably, but uh probably a logistical nightmare. 


Erin Ryan: A lot of work to do to make up for that moment of just pure release. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. [music break] 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. [music break]