In This Episode
- The House select committee investigating the insurrection is reportedly going to seek an interview with Virginia Thomas, the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. She was found to have lobbied former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue a plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election, sending 29 texts on the subject.
- Immigration advocates, lawmakers, and health officials are urging President Biden to overturn Title 42, a Trump administration policy used to block migrants at the borders from seeking asylum due to COVID-19. Karla Marisol Vargas, an immigration attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project, joins us to discuss the policy and the legal battles against it.
- And in headlines: Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine continue in Turkey, China put half of Shanghai on lockdown to contain a growing COVID outbreak, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the infamous Don’t Say Gay bill into law.
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Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday, March 29th. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice, and this is What A Day, where our policy is if you disagree with anything we say on the show, you are allowed to slap Gideon.
Gideon Resnick: Yes, I agreed to this policy long ago, before I had learned to read everything that’s in a contract, but I am a man of my word.
Josie Duffy Rice: Love it.
Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, officials decide the fate of a public health order used to send away migrants at the border. Plus some of the worst takes we saw from the infamous slap at the Oscars.
Josie Duffy Rice: But first, some updates on the January 6th investigation, which, believe it or not, is still ongoing. First, according to multiple reports, the House Select Committee investigating the insurrection is soon going to seek an interview with the spouse of a Supreme Court justice, and no it is not Joanna Breyer, Gideon, what more do we find out here?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, Joanna is off the hook for now, as far as we know. So the Committee is reportedly looking to interview Virginia, or Ginni, Thomas, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’ wife. The reason I think it will be pretty clear: as we had discussed before on here, Ginni Thomas was lobbying former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows to pursue a plan to overturn the 2020 presidential election, sending around 29 texts on the subject in fact. There have been some subsequent calls for Justice Thomas to recuse himself from any cases pertaining to the election, at bare minimum, seeing as his household shared, shall we say, biased viewpoints here.
Josie Duffy Rice: I would say biased viewpoints. That seems fair. So following this path with Ginni Thomas gives the panel some additional options. What are those?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So they could, for example, call other people with whom Thomas was communicating and/or subpoena the records from the conservative group that she is on that advanced the “Stop the Steal” movement. That group is called CNP action. One other interesting detail that the New York Times pointed out: the panel could ask about these so-called quote unquote “best friend” that Thomas referred to in one of the texts to Meadows. There is quite a bit of speculation that could potentially be her husband.
Josie Duffy Rice: There is also a little bit of news on Trump himself here. Is that right? So can you talk to us about that?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So there was a civil case regarding January 6th, not a criminal case where the bar is higher. In that case, a federal judge said on Monday that Trump had quote, “more likely than not” end quote, committed a federal crime by trying to stop the certification of the election results. That statement came from a ruling that was issued by a U.S. District Court Judge David Carter that addressed emails Trump and the conservative lawyer, John Eastman, were sending. Carter ruled that Eastman would have to turn over more than 100 of these emails to the House Committee. So the ruling, of course, does not mean that Trump will in fact be charged with a crime. But observers did suggest that it could increase pressure on the Department of Justice’s own investigation of the January 6th riot, particularly if the House does end up making a criminal referral in the future.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I love that we have to have a judge tell us that he probably broke the law. I feel like it’s pretty straightforward.
Gideon Resnick: Just maybe.
Josie Duffy Rice: OK, so lastly, yesterday, two former Trump officials also face criminal contempt referrals. So what happened there?
Gideon Resnick: They were referred for criminal contempt, Josie. The House Committee unanimously voted to hold the former Communications Chief Dan Scavino and former Trade and Manufacturing Director Peter Navarro in contempt for refusing to comply with committee subpoenas. Now, they both have said that executive privilege was what kept them from cooperating. Now, though, the Full House will vote on whether to refer these two gentlemen to the DOJ for prosecution. We will keep everyone updated as all of that progresses.
Josie Duffy Rice: We want to turn now to an important immigration policy that might end or get extended by tomorrow. It’s Title 42. The Trump administration had used the policy to block migrants at the borders from seeking asylum due to the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s a policy the Biden administration continues to use. Gideon, what’s been the criticism of this?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it was first implemented, like you said two years ago, in March of 2020 by the CDC. And since then, immigration officials have reportedly used this order to expel almost two million people, most of them at the southern border, and according to Human Rights Watch, a disproportionate number who are Black, indigenous or Latino. According to the advocacy group Human Rights First, there have been almost 10,000 reports of kidnaping, rape, and other attacks on people who have been sent away at the border under this policy.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, there are a number of immigration advocates and lawmakers and health officials who have said that Title 42 does nothing from a public health standpoint, and they’re urging the Biden administration to overturn it. And it seems like the next chance is tomorrow, yeah?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So the CDC, who first invoked this policy, has been reviewing Title 42 every 60 days. That’s even as they make different calls on public health for the United States while this policy has been in place.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right, right.
Gideon Resnick: The next deadline is on March 30th, which is tomorrow. So to discuss Title 42 and the legal battles against it, I spoke to Karla Marisol Vargas, an immigration attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project. And I started by asking her about the orders massive ramifications.
Karla Marisol Vargas: So these are people that have tried to go the right way, quote unquote, even though there is no right way. Even if you crossed the border through an unauthorized port of entry, you still have the right under our law to ask for asylum. But it is important to note many of these folks did try, right, to present themselves at the port of entry to ask for asylum and agents basically told them, Our border’s closed, there’s no asylum—because of Title 42.
Gideon Resnick: And can you talk about where things stand in terms of the timeline here? So there’s the CDC aspect of this, and then there’s also a separate timeline in terms of where things stand in court. Can you walk us through that a little bit?
Karla Marisol Vargas: Yeah. So there’s a lot of question right now as to whether or not the CDC is going to renew the Title 42 order as applied to adults and to families, because very recently, as a result of one of the many lawsuits that are going on, the CDC just recently canceled the Title 42 order as applied to unaccompanied children. And so as of March 12, so children, unaccompanied children, meaning children who arrive at our borders without a legal guardian or a parent, cannot be expelled—expulsion being a technical word. These removals that are happening under Title 42 are not deportations. Deportation is a legal process. However fraught with problems it may be, it is a legal process that is codified in our legal system. Title 42 removal is called an expulsion because it’s something that’s happening completely outside of our immigration legal scheme. And then parallel to that, we also have litigation. We have two main cases right now. The first is called Huisha-Huisha v. Mayorkas, the case that is challenging the application of Title 42 as applied to families. That case had a recent win in March. Where we’re at procedurally in that cases a preliminary injunction. A preliminary injunction is basically and ask saying, Hey, Judge, this policy is really harmful and it’s going to cause irreparable harm while we figure out whether or not it’s legal. Acknowledging that litigation takes a long time, why don’t we put a pause on this policy, order the government to stop this policy while we decide its legality? The District Court granted us a preliminary injunction, so it was a great win. But the Biden administration appealed, right? So the Biden administration was basically defending this policy, this Trump-era policy in court to continue expelling families. But one of the main things out of that decision was the judges really called into question whether or not this policy was actually based in science, whether the public health rationale of this policy was real. The other case that was also challenging Title 42 in some way was a lawsuit filed by the state of Texas, but it was arguing the opposite, to continue using Title 42. That particular case was filed by the state of Texas because when President Biden came into office, he exempted unaccompanied children from the CDC policy, his administration did, obviously via DHS. So then the same day that the decision in the Wiltshire case came down that afternoon, the State of Texas then also issued their decision, basically saying that the Biden administration could not exempt a population in the way that it did from Title 42. What ended up happening there was that the CDC then issued that order just exempting children as a whole. You know, we have yet to see how Texas may respond to that, but right now, I think, you know, the biggest thing that we’re paying attention to as advocates is really the CDC’s decision after its review process on March 30th.
Gideon Resnick: I’m curious how, if at all, Ukraine and the policies that the administration has announced about refugees from Ukraine has sort of complicated the picture here.
Karla Marisol Vargas: The first thing to note is that we’re acknowledging that they are refugees, and I think that’s a huge win that hasn’t happened when we talk about, especially Black migrants, for example. But giving them any sort of refugee benefits, allowing them via parole, which you know, the administration has said they will be doing—those are great. Those are necessary, right? These are individuals that need protection, but so are all of the other individuals who are waiting and have been waiting in extremely dangerous situations. I think the very racist undertones of these policies are really being played out when you look at our government’s approach to Ukrainian refugees versus all of the other also refugees who have been displaced from Central America, Black refugees who have also been displaced from countries like Haiti, from Cameroon, who’s been asking for TPS for so many years.
Gideon Resnick: That was my conversation with Karla Marisol Vargas, an immigration attorney at the Texas Civil Rights Project. We’ll keep you updated on where this goes tomorrow, but that is the latest for now. Now, let’s get to some headlines.
Peace talks between Russia and Ukraine continue today in Turkey. And in a recent interview with Russian reporters, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said that he would agree to try to have his country adopt a neutral non-nuclear status. That would mean, like Switzerland, Ukraine would not take part in future military conflicts, as well as no longer pursue being in NATO. Zelenskyy said that that could only happen if Russian troops withdraw so that Ukrainians can vote in a referendum agreeing to it. However, a senior U.S. State Department official told Reuters that it does not appear Putin is ready to compromise towards a cease fire. And a Ukrainian intelligence official believes that Putin’s ultimate goal is to seize and control the eastern part of Ukraine. These peace talks continue through tomorrow. The negotiations from March 3rd in Kiev, are also making headlines because The Wall Street Journal reported yesterday that several people in attendance were possibly poisoned. That included two Ukrainian negotiators and Russian oligarch Roman Abramovich, who had been there as an intermediary. After the talks wrapped, they suffered symptoms such as red eyes and peeling skin. It wasn’t clear, though, who targeted the group, but all those affected are not in grave danger at this point and are improving. Well, hmm.
Josie Duffy Rice: Casual poisoning, today. On Monday, China put half of Shanghai on lockdown in an effort to contain a growing COVID outbreak in the city. Shanghai officials announced the move on Sunday night, despite repeatedly saying that they would not impose more restrictive measures on its residents. The lockdown is considered China’s biggest since 2020, when the country shut down Wuhan, the city where the virus was first discovered. There will be two phases. One half of Shanghai will be on lockdown until Friday, after which the other half will start its own stretch for five days. During the lockdowns, non-essential offices and business must close and public transport will be suspended while officials conduct mass COVID testing. The drastic measure comes amid record-high case counts throughout China as it clings to its zero-tolerance approach to containing the virus. But experts worry that the Shanghai lockdown will further interrupt the global supply chain and slow the country’s economic growth.
Gideon Resnick: It never ends. Truly, never ends. Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed the infamous Don’t Say Gay bill into law yesterday, which bans discussions of gender and sexuality in classrooms between kindergarten and third grade. The move was met with immediate backlash from LGBTQ+ activists and allies who have been fighting the measure ever since it was introduced in the state legislature. Among the organizations that spoke out against the governor yesterday was The Trevor Project, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing suicide among LGBTQ+ youth. CEO Amit Paley said of Monday’s signing quote, “LGBTQ youth in Florida deserve better. They deserve to see their history, their families and themselves reflected in the classroom.” Disney, the company that faced controversy for its donations to every single sponsor and co-sponsor of the bill, also spoke out against DeSantis on Monday in a thoroughly magical attempt to make us forget their inaction and impartiality as the bill moved through Florida State Legislature. The company wrote a statement condemning the governor and vowing to help get the law repealed. It said quote, “We remain committed to supporting the national and state organizations working to achieve that.” But as of right now, the law will officially go into effect in July. I was searching for “we need to talk about Disney” in the like, “We need to talk about Bruno” intonation, but it just wasn’t there. It was like 70% of the way there, and it just wasn’t 100%.
Josie Duffy Rice: And news about big numbers the human mind can’t fathom, the White House announced its $5.8 trillion budget yesterday, reflecting the Biden administration’s spending priorities for the coming fiscal year. As promised, the proposed budget includes a minimum income tax of 20% for families worth over $100 million, plus a corporate tax increase, and it would reduce the national deficit by about $1 trillion over 10 years. Here are a few other big takeaways from Biden’s plan, which still has to be debated and approved in Congress: it is light on Build Back Better content, with Biden’s signature domestic policy plan shrunk down to just one line of the 157-page document, reflecting the uncertain future of that spending package. Elements of that plan are sprinkled throughout Biden’s budget however, including $44.9 billion for climate spending. However, all of that pales in comparison to the $813 billion Biden wants for national defense. Here’s Biden on that point:
[clip of President Biden] And this will be among the largest investments in our national security in history. Some people don’t like the increase, but we’re in a different world today. America is more prosperous, more successful and more just when it is more secure.
Gideon Resnick: Mm-hmm. Okay.
Josie Duffy Rice: Speaking of security and how much our country loves spending money on it—and I put security in quotes—Biden’s budget allocates $30 billion for police funding, compared to $380 million for criminal justice reform. Those numbers are the same, right?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Was there anything recent that would have changed the approach here at all? I don’t, like I don’t know.
Josie Duffy Rice: I kept hearing that we were defunding the police. So I’m confused because it seems like we’re still funding the police as we have been every single budgetary season, for what, four decades minimum?
Gideon Resnick: At minimum. Yeah. We love giving everybody that is around guns access to them as well as more money. That’s the two commonalities I guess. And those are the headlines. We will be back with our coverage of TV’s biggest slap since NBC’s The Slap in 2015 during Sunday night’s broadcast of the Oscars. But first, here are some ads.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Tuesday WAD squad, and today we’re talking about a moment that made us want to go back in time and beg Al Gore not to invent the internet: Will Smith slapping Chris Rock hard in the middle of Sunday night’s broadcast of the Oscars.
[clip of Chris Rock] Oh wow, wow. Will Smith just smacked the shit out of me.
Gideon Resnick: Wow, indeed.
Josie Duffy Rice: The moment was pretty wild. It was about as chaotic as anything I think I’ve ever seen on live TV.
Gideon Resnick: I think so.
Josie Duffy Rice: If you weren’t watching, here’s a quick rundown. Before he presented the best documentary Oscar, which went to “Summer of Soul”, Chris Rock made a joke about Jada Pinkett Smith being in G.I. Jane 2. Jada has hair loss from alopecia and seconds later, moving at near Hancock speeds, Will was up on the stage slapping Chris Rock and then back in a seat, telling Rock to keep Jada’s name out of his mouth. It was like a dream.
Gideon Resnick: It was.
Josie Duffy Rice: It was like a crazy thing happening in all of our brains at the same time.
Gideon Resnick: The only way that I could gauge that it was reality was Lupita Nyong’o’s reactions throughout it.
Josie Duffy Rice: Totally.
Gideon Resnick: Which were on the same emotional journey that ours were collectively.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yes, yes.
Gideon Resnick: And of course, as shocking as it was to watch, many would say the worst was in fact yet to come in the form of 24-hours and counting of screeching and barely-tethered-to-reality discourse that played out online and in the media. So Josie, we wanted to get your thoughts on what you saw from a legal and, shall we say, criminal justice standpoint.
Josie Duffy Rice: We shall say that. As you said, the bad takes on Twitter and beyond were absolutely flying. I have to say, years on the God-forsaken website of Twitter, and I think this was the biggest ratio of worst to good takes. Just terrible—
Gideon Resnick: Yes.
Josie Duffy Rice: —minute after minute.
Gideon Resnick: It was the thing that everybody saw, which means that everybody also wanted to say bad things.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah.
Gideon Resnick: We should not allow certain people to participate in big cultural events like this if they’re going to talk the way they talk.
Josie Duffy Rice: Free speech, overrated. Just kidding. Free speech is great, but sometimes it’s painful, and yesterday was one of those days. So like you said, there are a couple of particularly problematic trends, and I wanted to advise us all to avoid playing into them. So number one is, stop saying that Will Smith should be arrested and charged. I saw one person say that Will Smith should have been immediately chained to his chair, which is bananas. This lock-em up language is truly out of control, so cut it out.
Gideon Resnick: That’s a jump from he should face consequences, too also, they should be medieval, which I, it was confusing.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. It’s very [unclear], you know? Look, is it a good idea to slap someone? I do not recommend it. It’s not a good idea to slap someone in national television. Not OK. Physical violence is not something I recommend, even when you are furious about you wife being insulted. But have you guys heard about prisons and jails lately? They’re basically mazes of torture chambers that we subject people to in order to get the satisfaction of consequences. But what if we had the temerity, the audacity, to imagine other consequences, to think of ways to reach some sort of resolution without involving handcuffs or a jail cell? What if we tried to figure out how to solve this conflict instead of trying to punish our way through it?
Gideon Resnick: Three words: Red Table Talk.
Josie Duffy Rice: You know what? Let’s start there. Relatedly, there’s a lot of talk about how if Will Smith were poor, he would have been arrested immediately so therefore he should be arrested now. But I just wanna remind everyone we’re not trying to make our justice system more equal by treating rich and powerful people worse, but by treating struggling powerless people better. And it’s also worth a reminder that Black men, like Will Smith, are already incarcerated at a disproportionately outrageous rate. So just another thing to consider before you call for the cops to pick him up.
Gideon Resnick: OK. So that some of them. What other takes did you see that we should try to avoid Gideon?
Josie Duffy Rice: I am begging people not to do these weird, slippery slope arguments. Lots of comedians are now saying that because of this, assaults are sure to happen all the time against comedians, a marginalized group if you didn’t know. There’s also these arguments that are like, What if what had happened had been something totally different? For example, Judd Apatow said that Will Smith could have killed Chris Rock. And then there was this tweet saying that, What if Will Smith had hit Betty White or Bob Saget and they had hit their head and died? And this is a tweet from a real live doctor, Gideon. What happened was bad enough.
Gideon Resnick: Right.
Josie Duffy Rice: You don’t have to take it to this worst, most extreme possible conclusion. Like, chances are, this is not going to start a Purge-like scenario where everyone goes after comedians.
Gideon Resnick: Well, now you said it, so just be careful. That’s all.
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s true. Blame me, not Will Smith. It’s unlikely to shift norms in any way because it’s one moment at the Oscars between two rich famous guys. And Will Smith, in fact, did not hit Betty White or Bob Saget who are both no longer living, nor did he kill or almost kill Chris Rock. So this is just a reminder to focus on what actually happened, and not some bizarre, slippery slope hypotheticals. If you need those to prove your point, your point isn’t great.
Gideon Resnick: We should note as well that Smith has since apologized for the incident. Last night, he posted a statement to his Instagram, describing his behavior as quote, “unacceptable and inexcusable.” But before we move on from this topic, really quick, Josie, I want to put you through something horrible.
Josie Duffy Rice: Noooooo.
Gideon Resnick: And ask you to say which of these three takes on Slap Gate that I saw was the absolute worst from your personal point of view. Are you ready?
Josie Duffy Rice: I’m so ready . . . and not ready at all at the same time.
Gideon Resnick: Well, that’s how we live life. From lawyer Sarah Specter, quote, “If only Will Smith got as upset when white men take away his right to vote.”.
Josie Duffy Rice: Oh my God.
Gideon Resnick: This one’s from Peter Boghossian from the Intellectual Darkweb: quote, “If Rock had even a basic proficiency in jujitsu, he could have easily choked him out.” And this last one from someone whose Twitter account is wisely anonymous: quote, “as my six year old said this morning, ‘in a world full of Will Smiths, be a Zelenskyy.'”
Josie Duffy Rice: Oh no! OK. Nine million percent, all of them. But I am trying to decide between the first and last.
Gideon Resnick: OK, Josie, so you’re deciding between quote, “If only Will Smith got as upset when white men take away his right to vote” End quote. And quote, “as my six-year old said this morning, ‘in a world full of Will Smiths, be a Zelenskyy.'” End quote.
Josie Duffy Rice: The first is a certain kind of offensive that I can’t even give credence to, so I’m going to go with the last one because the idea of combining the Will Smith-Chris Rock scenario and the war in Ukraine is so outrageous that it has to stop today. And your six-year old didn’t say that.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, whenever there’s a child that’s invoked, they obviously didn’t say anything. Yeah, the worst iteration of the tweet is like the spin the wheel of current events and combine two things, like, In a world full of Will Smiths, be Justice Stephen Breyer. Like, what does that—?
Josie Duffy Rice: It doesn’t mean anything. It means nothing.
Gideon Resnick: Tell me what that means? I don’t know. Those are just two guys. Those are just two guys.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right, who happen to be on headlines at the same time.
Gideon Resnick: That was our recap of the fallout from Slap Gate. Al Gore, please on invent the internet. That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, forward us some incriminating texts sent to you by Ginni Thomas, and tell your friends to listen.
Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading, and not just enlightened slap takes like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter, so check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And slap Gideon, if you want.
Gideon Resnick: Hey. No! No, no, no. No Gideon will be harmed in the making of WAD.
Josie Duffy Rice: You know what? It can happen.
Gideon Resnick: Mm-mm. I do not condone. 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 producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.