In This Episode
- Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Leah Litman, co-host of Crooked’s Strict Scrutiny podcast, breaks down all the charges and where the case goes from here.
- And in headlines: Janet Protasiewicz won the Wisconsin Supreme Court race, Republican lawmakers in Tennessee moved to expel three Democrats for leading a demonstration for gun control, and Rupert Murdoch ended his engagement to his fifth fiancee.
- Crooked Media | Strict Scrutiny – https://crooked.com/podcast-series/strict-scrutiny/
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, April 5th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver. And this is What A Day where before you ask. Yes, we’ve already had our faces photoshopped onto the brand new Barbie poster. I’m quite pleased.
Priyanka Aribindi: There is some new pep in our step after we got those pictures. [laughter] I, we look good.
Juanita Tolliver: A little hairflip a little vibe.
Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously.
Juanita Tolliver: A little fuchsia. You know.
Priyanka Aribindi: I think we’re both ready to be in Barbie’s world. [music break]
Juanita Tolliver: On today’s show, three Democrats could get expelled from Tennessee’s House of Representatives for leading a protest on gun reform. Plus, media mogul Rupert Murdoch has called off his engagement to his fifth fiancee. Yikes.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Feels like it probably was the right call. Might have been for a–
Juanita Tolliver: Number five.
Priyanka Aribindi: You know, any of the past four too, but [laughter] it’s fine. But first, in a Manhattan criminal court yesterday afternoon, former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush money payments made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels.
Juanita Tolliver: I mean, Priyanka. It was a long day of footage of motorcades and planes. Set the scene for us.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. So on Tuesday afternoon, Trump turned himself in to Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office and was placed under arrest. While in custody he was fingerprinted and processed. Those special accommodations were made for the former president. He only spent a short time in custody ahead of his 2:15 arraignment, and he was not handcuffed and did not have his mugshot taken at the time, much to our chagrin. We all were looking forward to the mugshot photo, maybe a picture of him in handcuffs. We did not get it sadly. Outside the courthouse, hundreds of protesters, both in support of and against the former president, gathered for hours awaiting Trump’s arrival. That group included Marjorie Taylor Greene, who–
Juanita Tolliver: Gag.
Priyanka Aribindi: –compared Trump’s arrest to that of Nelson Mandela and Jesus Christ himself. And even embattled Representative George Santos showed up. Though they both did not end up sticking around for too long.
Juanita Tolliver: Two things here. I’m so grateful that Representative Jamaal Bowman was there to tell Marjorie Taylor Greene to get the fuck out and two, I just want to point out that there were more cameras than protesters because this was not only domestic news, y’all. This was international news–
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally.
Juanita Tolliver: –because this is the first time in our country’s history that a president has been charged with a crime. So this is a huge deal with mostly cameras.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, as there should be, there’s a former president rolling up to the court to get arrested. Like, yeah, it’s crazy.
Juanita Tolliver: Casual.
Priyanka Aribindi: It is crazy. Under the circumstances, there were some additional security arrangements made by the court. Access to the 15th floor of the courthouse where Trump was arraigned was restricted in addition to the entrance of the DA’s office for some time. The wifi was even disabled for most of the afternoon at the request of the Secret Service. I don’t really get that one, but it seems like they were–
Juanita Tolliver: Child.
Priyanka Aribindi: –they were really trying their best here to keep it–
Juanita Tolliver: Very thorough. Very thorough.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Keep things secure. But all of those things did not stand in the way from us getting the news out of the courtroom. Prosecutors allege that Trump was trying to undermine the integrity of the 2016 election through a scheme to pay hush money to women who claimed to have extramarital affairs with him and that he, quote, “repeatedly and fraudulently falsified New York business records to conceal criminal conduct that hid damaging information from the voting public.” Basically, he illegally paid people to conceal information that we all should have known. As I said earlier, Trump pleaded not guilty to all 34 felony counts against him, and he made no public remarks going into or out of the courtroom. He apparently saved them all for Truth Social, and, of course, his televised address from Mar-a-Lago later Tuesday evening, where he returned immediately after the arraignment. I mean, it was basically a word salad of every catchphrase he has ever coined. If you did not tune in, you were not missing out. But he did have this to say. Once he eventually got around to addressing his arrest.
[clip of Donald Trump] The criminal is the district attorney because he illegally leaked massive amounts of grand jury information. For which he should be prosecuted, or at a minimum, he should resign.
Juanita Tolliver: I mean.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay then.
Juanita Tolliver: Way to attempt to deflect. But also, like, I’m so grateful that almost every news station cut away in 10 minutes or less because this was just a campaign rally. This was literally a campaign speech.
Priyanka Aribindi: It was a campaign speech that made very little sense, minimally coherent.
Juanita Tolliver: Belligerent.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s um it’s giving the meme of like, okay, grandma, time for bed like [laughter] got to wheel you off the stage.
Juanita Tolliver: Okay, Boomer. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, but anyways, to break down this situation, get all the details, we brought in Leah Littman. You know her, you love her. She’s the co-host of Crooked’s Strict Scrutiny podcast. Leah, welcome back to the show.
Leah Littman: Thank you for having me. On a rainy day, as Alanis Morissette predicted.
Juanita Tolliver: Right, rainy day, historic day. And let’s talk through these documents. So we’ve got dates and check numbers listed in the indictment. We’ve got catch and kill schemes. Two women paid off and a doorman spilling the tea about a secret baby in the statement of facts. So break it all down for us, Leah, what are the charges and what makes them felony charges?
Leah Littman: So the base charge is falsification of business records in violation of New York law. And that’s a state crime. That’s why it’s being prosecuted by the you know D.A. in New York. That is generally a misdemeanor, however, but it becomes a felony when the falsification of business records is done with the intent to conceal or promote a violation of some other law or to commit some other offense. And so the allegation is the business records are falsified to cover up or, you know, to pursue some other offense. And at the press conference, as well as in the accompanying statement of facts, there’s some indication about what those other offenses might be.
Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. So that’s where all of these other salacious details are coming from.
Leah Littman: Well, I mean, the salacious details are definitely related to the, you know, other crimes that uh are alleged to have been violated here. But they are kind of core to the falsification of the business records charge as well. I mean, like this was money that was being shelled out to cover up a series of affairs, children that he may or may not have had. And that’s why these business records were falsified.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. There were no cuffs, no mugshot, at least not the fake mugshot that Trump has already put on a shirt and is out there selling. If I were to ever commit a crime, could my attorneys get these kind of terms for me? Because this is not my understanding of what people experience.
Leah Littman: It is definitely not the usual course, and I think that’s an important context for people to understand. Even while we are saying no one should be above the law, the reality is there are different criminal legal systems in the United States. And when you’re a former president with this kind of legal representation, you can negotiate all kinds of things that, you know, the average person who doesn’t have those kind of resources may not be able to. So here, for example, the you know prosecutor apparently just gave up the opportunity for a mug shot and they’re just like, we’re not going to do that at all. This wasn’t the usual course of proceedings, but I’d say this is not kind of the status quo.
Juanita Tolliver: And I don’t know about you, but I really wanted a mug shot. Like–
Priyanka Aribindi: Right!
Juanita Tolliver: Am I alone in that?
Priyanka Aribindi: The cops, [laughter] the mug shot, like. I don’t know. We’ve been waiting. We’ve been waiting a long time.
Leah Littman: I think the reality is like this is going to be a long wait. I mean, the next kind of court appearance in this case isn’t until the end of the year. So.
Juanita Tolliver: It’s going to be long and it might be messy along the way. We know the judge during the arraignment or according to reports, expressed that he’s very concerned about Trump’s online rhetoric. But there wasn’t a gag order issued today. And I’m sure Trump and his family are only going to continue to escalate matters. We know that Trump Junior posted a picture of the judge’s daughter during the arraignment. So do you think a gag order will eventually come or will Trump just keep trumping?
Leah Littman: I think it is really going to depend on what happens. You know, the prosecution did not ask for a gag order. And the judge also said, you know, I wouldn’t have been inclined to grant one. And I think the showing required to obtain a gag order is pretty high, given that you are, you know, restricting someone’s ability to speak and limiting, you know, their free speech rights. But if anyone. Right. Could make a really solid case for why they need to be subject to a gag order. Right. It could very well be Donald Trump. You know, I mean, if you look at the accompanying statement of facts, there are tweets, you know, that Donald Trump sent out that are now a part of this indictment that are basically, you know, part of an ongoing criminal violation. And so could he eventually do or say or truth enough to justify a gag order? Perhaps. But it’s a little bit difficult to know how this might play out.
Juanita Tolliver: And the other thing that was mentioned in the arraignment was a protective order, which is a little bit different because the DA talked about it in the context of preventing Trump from sharing materials disclosed during discovery. Can you describe a little bit more about what goes into a protective order and if that seems like a realistic expectation?
Leah Littman: Yeah. So during this kind of stage of the case, there’s going to be discovery, which just means like sharing of evidence, you know, that the government, the prosecution has with the defendant and some of the evidence that they have, they might not want publicly disclosed, perhaps because it was, say, testimony before a grand jury, um you know, which is supposed to be confidential. That’s just one example of where the government might want to ensure that Donald Trump isn’t, say, like just tweeting out pictures of pieces of evidence against him in the way that he used to do with like classified material or like keeping boxes of it and like sharing it with his friends at Mar-a-Lago. You know, another–
Juanita Tolliver: Oh my god.
Leah Littman: –kind of favorite pastime. But, you know, we don’t know yet what the evidence is. But just based on kind of general practices, including like confidentiality of grand jury proceedings, there’s good reasons why the prosecution might not want all of the evidence just disclosed publicly. You know, we’ll see again what is required to ensure that that actually happens.
Juanita Tolliver: We know this arraignment brought a lot of randos who are not New Yorkers to New York.
Leah Littman: So many.
Juanita Tolliver: Including one Marjorie Taylor Greene, who was unceremoniously removed from a protest. But she gave an interview today where she compared Trump’s arrest to get this Nelson Mandela and Jesus himself. And, of course, she’s 100% delusional, right?
Leah Littman: It’s well known that Jesus was also arrested for making hush payments to um–
Juanita Tolliver: Come on.
Leah Littman: –uh women that he was having extramarital affairs with. Admittedly, like I, you know, I am Jewish, so I didn’t read the sequel. So, like, maybe that was covered there, but um who knows?
Juanita Tolliver: But can you also just tell all the people how he is absolutely nothing like Nelson Mandela? Like there is no comparison here.
Leah Littman: Yeah. Again, it’s a little bit difficult to know like what things these people are like trying to say. I assume it’s like some sort of like tortured extended analogy to saying this is like when Nelson Mandela engaged in civil disobedience in order to dismantle apartheid. I don’t know exactly like what they are saying is the analogy here. Like, are they conceding he did violate the law because that’s what civil disobedience means. Are they saying he was making hush payments to a porn star not to influence the election, but in order to dismantle apartheid? Like, I don’t know. Right. Like, these people are very imaginative, But yeah, those are some possibilities.
Priyanka Aribindi: Leah, we’re asking a lot of you to jump in their brains like that, so thank you for indulging us. But anyways, after the arraignment, D.A. Bragg told reporters these are felony crimes in New York State. No matter who you are, we cannot and will not normalize serious criminal conduct. What do you make of that?
Leah Littman: You know, I think this is consistent with a theme that has been coming out of this office, which is no one is above the law and we can’t decline to charge this case just because it involves, you know, someone who was the president who was ultimately elected and conduct that they engaged in in order to influence the election. You know, there’s not kind of like a safe space to commit crimes, you know, in the lead up to an election just because you really want to get elected. And–
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Leah Littman: I take that to be kind of reflective of that approach to the case.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. Is there anything else we didn’t touch on in our questions that you think is important for people to understand about everything unfolding right now?
Leah Littman: Maybe just the timing and like, you know, it’s basically going to be like four months before any next papers are filed and four months after that, before the government responds. And like it’s just like this is going to be hanging over for a while.
Juanita Tolliver: Buckle up, y’all. Years are, I think, are going to like to the point where it’s going to be a question about will this be resolved before 2024, it sounds like–
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Juanita Tolliver: –absolutely not.
Leah Littman: Yeah, I think it’s very unlikely. You know, if you’re not even going to have the next hearing and that’s not a hearing at a trial. That is a pretrial hearing until December 2023. It’s a little bit hard to imagine how this all gets wrapped up, you know, before the 2024 election.
Juanita Tolliver: Leah, thank you so much for breaking this down. I feel a little bit smarter and more prepared to wait the long haul that seems to be ahead of us.
Leah Littman: Of course. Happy to join.
Priyanka Aribindi: That was our conversation with Leah Litman, co-host of Crooked’s Strict Scrutiny podcast. And as we just mentioned, this saga is only getting started, so we will keep you updated as it all develops. In the meantime, we’re going to take a quick break for some ads. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: The polls have closed in Wisconsin, where the future of the state’s Supreme Court was on the ballot. As we sat down to record the show at 9:30 p.m. eastern on Tuesday night, progressive candidate Janet Protasiewicz is projected to win that race.
Juanita Tolliver: Victory. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: So exciting. It is sweet. It really is. We’ll bring you another update on tomorrow’s show. But we want to emphasize that the stakes here were so high because this all boiled down to how the ideological balance of the court would tilt, since the court will weigh in on everything from abortion, political maps and voting rights in the Badger State. So hugely, hugely important victory. And staying with the Midwest as of our recording time, Cook County Commissioner Brandon Johnson is also projected to defeat former schools executive Paul Vallas in the Chicago mayoral race. Both Johnson and Vallas are Democrats, though Vallas had called for putting more cops on Chicago’s streets. Johnson will take over for outgoing Mayor Lori Lightfoot, who was eliminated from the race during the first round of voting in February. Some exciting news in Chicago and in Wisconsin. I’m a midwest girl, so I’m I’m happy.
Juanita Tolliver: I’ll just say it’s been a hell of a day. Between the Trump arrest and arraignment, Protasiewicz’s win–
Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously.
Juanita Tolliver: –Brandon Johnson win like, I’m feeling good. I’m feeling real good.
Priyanka Aribindi: All of this and the Barbie trailer. I mean.
Juanita Tolliver: Come on.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s a day. When it rains, it pours.
Juanita Tolliver: The cherry on top.
Priyanka Aribindi: When it rains it pours. But in a good way.
Juanita Tolliver: Right. [laughing] And in Tennessee. [clip of chanting of large group of people shouting Fascist] That had a good beat to it. You just heard the sound of protesters yelling fascist from the galleries of Tennessee’s House of Representatives Monday night as Republican lawmakers moved to expel three of their Democratic colleagues for, quote, “disorderly behavior”. Last week, Representatives Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who represent more than 200,000 constituents, led a group of demonstrators through the Tennessee Capitol to call for stronger gun control laws in the wake of the Covenant School shooting in Nashville. The resolutions to expel all three passed along party lines with a final vote expected to come down tomorrow. A spokesperson for Tennessee’s House speaker who called the protest an insurrection confirmed to a local newspaper that building access has already been restricted for the three Democrats. Representative Gloria Johnson, who represents the Knoxville area, said she’s considering a lawsuit.
Priyanka Aribindi: Those protesters were not wrong.
Juanita Tolliver: At all.
Priyanka Aribindi: This should be upsetting. This should be alarming. This is absolutely wild. Just because these people have a dissenting view from them and led a protest, a peaceful protest.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: If that’s not American, I don’t know what is. That’s so crazy. A state representative in North Carolina is expected to announce today that she will be switching her party affiliation, giving Republicans a veto proof supermajority in the democratically governed swing state. Even without the addition of Representative Tricia Cotham, who ran as a Democrat to represent her overwhelmingly blue district in Charlotte, Republicans have held a majority in the state House and Senate for over a decade, but they have been kept in check in recent years by Democratic Governor Roy Cooper. With a supermajorit, GOP lawmakers will have enough votes to override any veto from the governor and Cotham, along with two other Democrats, have already handed them a victory on that front. Just last week, they held out on a vote that allowed Republicans to override Cooper’s veto on a bill to relax background checks on handgun permits. If that was her soft launch of embracing the Republican Party’s backwards ass platform, which, by the way, includes a near-total abortion ban. Consider today’s announcement, the hard launch. This is wild.
Juanita Tolliver: Talk about imploding your career in a district that went 23 points for President Biden. Like–
Priyanka Aribindi: Right?
Juanita Tolliver: What is this woman thinking like, okay, this might help you in the short term, but no one’s going to claim you after this. No one.
Priyanka Aribindi: All the people who voted for you in this district that are going to be like, excuse me, what happened? This is absolutely not what I put you in office to do, must be feeling so cheated right now.
Juanita Tolliver: But in a huge loss for the romantics out there. Yesterday, news broke that 92 year old news baron Rupert Murdoch had ended his engagement to 66 year old Ann Leslie Smith after a mere two weeks of betrothed bliss. The real life Logan Roy proposed last month on St Patrick’s Day, given the details of his proposal to gossip columnist Cindy Adams, a writer at his very own New York Post. As far as why things went south is largely unclear, though a source told Vanity Fair the billionaire had become increasingly uncomfortable with Smith’s outspoken evangelical views. Tough loss, Rupert. But here’s hoping you can take this time now to really focus on you, specifically your defense for the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit trial against Fox. You know, your little cable TV network, which is set to start April 17th, like this is bonkers. One, a whirlwind romance like okay. But two, I’m also like, did this go up in flames because the judge called him out last week about he’s able to travel for his upcoming nuptials? Like, really? Really, sir?
Priyanka Aribindi: If you’re 92 years old and you’re proposing, you probably want to be 100% sure, like, why are you going to flip flop on this like, how are you going to make that decision at age 92? You’ve done this four other times. That’s all I got to say.
Juanita Tolliver: I mean, at age 92, he’s probably like, I better get this right this time. You know, time is of the essence. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: If you mess up that many times like is it just fine? Just date like it’s okay. It’s fine not everybody has to–
Juanita Tolliver: Do nothing. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: –be married. Just chill out. And those are the headlines.
Juanita Tolliver: [AD BREAK]
Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Shoot your shot with a newly single Rupert Murdoch and tell all your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just ballot drops for incredibly important regional elections 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 Barbie forever.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, my God.
Juanita Tolliver: Honestly at my big age. I just want the Corvette. Just give me the Corvette.
Priyanka Aribindi: We need the Corvette. Raven on our staff made us great Barbie head shots.
Juanita Tolliver: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: But I need to watch this trailer. I need to sit here. A lots been going on today, I haven’t had the time to dig into it. [music break]
Juanita Tolliver: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Raven Yamamoto is our associate producer. Our head writer is Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.