In This Episode
- Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to investigate how classified documents turned up at President Biden’s home, and at an unsecured private office he used after his time as vice president. Dan Pfeiffer, co-host of Crooked’s Pod Save America, joins us to unpack what we know so far, and how the discovery compares to Donald Trump’s case.
- And in headlines: an L.A.-based bank agreed to pay $31 million to settle allegations of lending discrimination, thousands of New York City nurses ended their three-day strike, and FTX co-founder Sam Bankman-Fried defended himself on the newsletter platform Substack.
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, January 13th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi. And this is What A Day where we are brainstorming which appliances to take away from conservatives after we saw how mad they got about gas stoves.
Tre’vell Anderson: I feel like blenders are probably popular in–
Priyanka Aribindi: Oooh.
Tre’vell Anderson: –You know, Republican households. I don’t know.
Priyanka Aribindi: Blenders? Panini pre– uh are Republicans into paninis? [laughter] I don’t know. [music break] On today’s show, an L.A. based bank has agreed to pay over $31 million dollars for allegedly discriminating against Black and Latino homebuyers. Plus, Sam Bankman-Fried thought it would be a good time to start a substack.
Tre’vell Anderson: Ohyoyoy.
Priyanka Aribindi: Love that for him.
Tre’vell Anderson: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: Great.
Tre’vell Anderson: But first, a follow up on a story we mentioned on yesterday’s show about those classified documents that were found at President Biden’s home and an office space he once used. Turns out there were more documents found than we the public were initially told. It’s a little complicated, Priyanka. So I’m just going to start from the beginning.
Priyanka Aribindi: Perfect.
Tre’vell Anderson: Back in November, just before the midterms, Biden’s lawyers discovered what they say was a small number of classified documents dating from his time as VP under President Obama. That batch was found inside a locked closet in an office at the Penn Biden Center for Diplomacy and Global Engagement, that’s a think tank in D.C. and Biden apparently used this office after he was vice president. The discovery was immediately reported to the National Archives, who referred the matter to the Justice Department, you know because, of course, classified materials shouldn’t be laying around all willy nilly [indistinct]. We don’t like that.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely not.
Tre’vell Anderson: We don’t like that. And so then Attorney General Merrick Garland then assigned John Lausch Jr to conduct a preliminary assessment of the material to determine if a special counsel was needed. Then a month later, and this is some of the new information here. Biden’s lawyers told Lausch that they had found a second set of classified documents, this time in Biden’s garage in his home in Wilmington, Delaware. And there was also a single page document found in an adjacent room. Then just last week, Lausch told Attorney General Garland that a special master was indeed warranted for this case. That is when we started hearing piecemeal news reports about the two discoveries. Which brings us to the news yesterday, when Garland appointed Robert Hur, the former U.S. attorney, for Maryland, to investigate. Now, we don’t know exactly what the documents are or how sensitive they may be, But, you know, that classified distinction does mean something.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Tre’vell Anderson: But the administration is cooperating with the Justice Department as they investigate. And I’ll just note how a number of folks are comparing Biden’s classified doc situation to Donald Trump’s, who you remember is being investigated after hundreds of classified docs were seized from his Florida home last year.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right. Uh. Definitely not the same exact situation. But to get into more of what’s going on and you know why those aren’t equivalent. I spoke earlier with Dan Pfeiffer. He is a former White House communications director, the host of Pod Save America and the author of the book Battling the Big Lie. I started out by asking Dan, how these materials may have ended up where they were found.
Dan Pfeiffer: Hard to know for sure exactly how this happened, but at the end of any administration, there’s a massive process to pack up the White House very quickly, get everything out the door so the new president can move in. It seems likely in this situation that a bunch of papers were being moved and that these papers were incorrectly filed, which is why they were with them. It shouldn’t happened, but you can see how it could happen in that situation.
Priyanka Aribindi: Sure. So, I mean, you were a White House communications director once upon a time. What is your assessment of how the White House is handling all of this? What do you make of their messaging so far?
Dan Pfeiffer: They’re doing the best they can. I have great sympathy for the communications people in the situation. When they started talking about this on Monday night, Tuesday morning. It was one set of documents at the Biden Penn Center, as of Thursday morning or Wednesday night I guess it was another set of documents in the garage and then maybe some in an adjacent room. Hopefully that is everything. But always the hardest thing is to be able to answer questions when you don’t know what you don’t know. I think they are doing this correctly thus far. Take it seriously. Talk about your cooperation, which is a very implicit distinction with how the former president is handling this, but also don’t make it into a bigger deal than it is. This is substantively an issue, but there is a just a gigantic difference between what President Biden is dealing with and what Donald Trump is dealing with, how they conduct themselves and the gravity of the situation in terms of the number of documents, how they were handled, and most importantly, the legal jeopardy the two were in and separately. And so there’s always a danger that you can buy into the premise of a scandal hungry press and treat it as a bigger deal than it is. So you have to be realistic and optimistic about the outcome without buying the premise that somehow these two things are the same.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, I want to follow up on that really quickly. So if you’re talking to, you know, a family member or a friend maybe who doesn’t keep up so closely with the news but has heard a little bit about this, has heard a little bit about Trump’s situation, is kind of drawing a parallel between the two. How would you talk about this with them? Like how would you explain the differences?
Dan Pfeiffer: So President Biden inadvertently took a small number of documents amongst all the papers he left the White House with. As soon as his team discovered they had those documents, they immediately turned them over and began cooperating with the investigation. And there is always an investigation whenever classified information is misplaced, intentionally or otherwise, to assess intent, but also what security risks happened because of that, misplacing. Right. What secrets are out there, who possibly had accesses here, sort of a damage assessment, it’s called.
Priyanka Aribindi: Sure.
Dan Pfeiffer: What President Trump did is he took a ton of documents on purpose, refused to turn them over at one point, hid them from the people who wanted the documents, had his attorneys lie to authorities about having turned them all over. He was so obstinate in returning them that the only way the FBI thought they could get them back was to show up at his house unannounced and search for them.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Dan Pfeiffer: After the FBI did that, the president lied, accused the FBI of planting the documents, then said that he declassified the documents, a statement so false that no one who worked for Trump was willing to repeat it in a court of law for fear of being disbarred and continues to attack the law enforcement who undertook this to this day. To consider these the same thing’s sort of like bouncing a check inadvertently in massive FTX financial fraud. They are similar in the sense they both involve documents, but they are massively different in every way. The investigations are different and the potential legal consequences are minimal if and barely possible for Biden and dramatic and potentially likely for Trump. I think one other thing it’s helpful for people to understand is that it’s incredibly important we take classified information and security very, very seriously. And this is a very unfortunate error on behalf of the president’s team when he was vice president. However, this is not the most unusual thing in the world, and we would get very little attention if it was not in the context of Trump’s massive, willful violation of our national security with his documents, like when we worked in the White House. And you are someone like I did who had access to classified information, people would sometimes come by after work and see if you had left anything on your desk. And if you did leave something on your desk, you could possibly lose access to classified information. Or there could be a some sort of look into how that happened. You know, Foreign Service officers who work around the country will sometimes take the wrong folder home. That is very different from someone intentionally stealing those documents. For whatever reason, Trump had them.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Dan Pfeiffer: And if it was what’s happening in the Trump world, this would get very little attention because it would not seem so unusual. It’s only in the context of our former president stealing nuclear secrets, hiding them at his beach house, intentionally obstructing an investigation to keep those nuclear secrets that this is treated as such a gigantic deal.
Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. So Attorney General Merrick Garland announced yesterday that he appointed a special counsel, Robert Hur. He’s a former Trump appointee, and he is going to take over this investigation. What can we expect from him and how might he be conducting this investigation?
Dan Pfeiffer: It is not unusual for a attorney general to appoint a special counsel who will operate quasi independently to look into any sort of investigation involving the president or their family to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest. This should hopefully, you know, it’s going to depend a lot on this individual. Are they truly going to operate in an independent career spirit or is there a partisanship here? Because if this is going to proceed along the way, it should go. It should wrap up pretty quickly. We know from reporting that the Department of Justice has already interviewed the people who were involved as the custodians of those documents on the way out of the White House. And so there’s not so much further this should go and will hopefully resolve itself quickly.
Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Dan Pfeiffer, host of Crooked’s Pod Save America and author of Battling the Big Lie. We’ll be sure to bring you more updates on this as we learn more. But that is the latest for now. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: The Justice Department ordered City National Bank to pay out $31 million dollars yesterday for discriminating against buyers of color, marking the largest redlining settlement in DOJ history. The Los Angeles based bank is accused of refusing to market or underwrite mortgages in predominantly Black and Latino communities between 2017 and 2020. And federal officials allege that City National was so reluctant to lend money to nonwhite borrowers that it opened 11 new branches during that time period. But only one of them was located in a neighborhood where the majority of residents are people of color. City National is just the latest of many banks that have been caught red lining over the past several years, and cracking down on the discriminatory practice has been a big priority under President Biden, who set up a redlining task force when he took office.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay, great that he did that because why is it still happening?
Tre’vell Anderson: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: What? This was supposed to stop a long time ago. So quit it with this and I hope everyone else who’s doing it gets fined just as much money because it is extremely bad and extremely wrong.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely.
Priyanka Aribindi: The Federal Aviation Administration is zeroing in on what caused the mass outage that grounded thousands of domestic flights across the U.S. on Wednesday. Officials said that the software system that the agency uses is nearly 30 years old. And this week, a corrupt file triggered a shutdown of its primary and secondary systems. Don’t expect the FAA to leap ahead into the future anytime soon because the software isn’t scheduled to be updated for another six years. This revelation has prompted questions about why the FAA hasn’t revamped its system since installing it in 1993.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow.
Priyanka Aribindi: The agency is expected to lay out its next steps to prevent more outages in the coming days.
Tre’vell Anderson: 30 years, you haven’t had an update in 30 years. That’s absurd.
Priyanka Aribindi: What? How does a computer system from 1993 still run? I don’t understand.
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, it’s barely running apparently so, here we go. Thousands of New York City nurses ended their strike yesterday after reaching a tentative agreement with the two remaining hospitals that were still at the bargaining table. Union representatives said at a press conference that the new proposed contracts meet their members demands for higher raises and better staffing to support overwhelming amounts of patients.
Priyanka Aribindi: Awesome news. We love the nurses.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes.
Priyanka Aribindi: And your daily reminder that money is not actually real. Yesterday, former billionaire Sam Bankman-Fried made his first detailed response to the fraud allegations that were leveled against him and his cryptocurrency exchange FTX, which reportedly lost track of about $8 billion dollars of its users funds. Like many of our generation’s greatest thinkers, Bankman-Fried shared his words on Substack. In a blog post he said, quote, “I didn’t steal funds and I certainly didn’t stash billions away.” Bankman-Fried suggested that FTX users could still get their money back, pointing to the recent recovery of $5 billion dollars by FTX’s bankruptcy lawyers to bolster his argument. In other news, we should take, as a hint to return to the barter system. As of this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk holds the Guinness World Record for the largest loss of a personal fortune after shedding $182 billion dollars as Tesla stock plummeted by 65% in 2022.
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s just too much money in the first place. He’ll be all right. I’m sure.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. He’ll be all right but like here’s the thing, I’m not rooting for this man. [laughter]
Tre’vell Anderson: And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads with another look at the always impressive creative output of Congressman George Santos. [laugh] [music break].
Priyanka Aribindi: It is Friday WAD squad and today we are trying out a segment inspired by a rising autobiographical fiction writer who has made big waves this year. The Man, the Myth, heavy emphasis on the myth, congressman George Santos. It has been hard to keep track of all of the lies that the new congressman from New York has told on his path to the US Capitol from lies about his achievements in the world of business to lies about how several of his family members died. But it is our civic duty to do so. So Tre’vell, I’m going to test your knowledge by asking you to identify which two of the following statements were lies that Santos actually told and which one is a lie that we made up. It’s a twist on the classic game two truths and a lie that we are calling three lies.
Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] Love the game, love the idea, hate liars. So we’ll see how this goes.
Priyanka Aribindi: Are you ready?
Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s do it.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. So first up, George Santos claimed he was in the crowd when Britney Spears and Madonna kissed at the VMAs. [laughter] But records show he was living in Brazil at the time. Second, he claimed he ran an animal charity that saved thousands of dogs and cats. But there is no evidence that any such charity ever existed.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm.
Priyanka Aribindi: Third, he claimed that he led his college volleyball team to a championship victory at a college he never even attended.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. Okay. And one of these is not a real lie.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, one of these is a lie we made up, but two of them he actually just told people. [laughter] So–
Tre’vell Anderson: That is interesting. You know, I feel like the obvious one is to go with, you know, the Britney Madonna kiss, that feels like the most specific but also the most absurd. However, the volleyball team situation at a school that you didn’t even go to, that does feel very like deeply creative. And, you know, I know we we have a very creative team here, you know–
Priyanka Aribindi: We do.
Tre’vell Anderson: –at WAD.
Priyanka Aribindi: We do. Hmm. Which one you want to go with?
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m going to go against my better judgment, and I’m–
Priyanka Aribindi: Well–
Tre’vell Anderson: –going to say that the one that is is a lie that he did not say, is the volleyball one at the school he did not attend.
Priyanka Aribindi: I’m sorry. That’s wrong. Your first instinct was totally right. [laughter] Yes. Um. He was not indeed present for the kiss. But like I mean, he’s probably going to hear this and [laughter] tell everybody he was so.
Tre’vell Anderson: He’s gonna be like, Oh, darn.
Priyanka Aribindi: Listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: I should have came up with that one, too.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s not too late sir. You can keep spinning these lies. [laughter] Like I don’t think he’s going to stop any time soon. I don’t think he’s capable of stopping. But anyways, that was three lies. Thank you so much for playing Tre’vell. Please, everybody keep finding old lies from George Santos so we can play this game every single week. [laughter] And one last thing before we go. Today is our final show with our head writer, Jon Millstein. He has spent the past three years with us here as a part of the WAD squad tirelessly writing many of the jokes that you’ve heard on hundreds of episodes of this pod, even a few of the good ones.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. You know, every now and again [laugh] he gets it right, and we love him for it. But in all seriousness, Jon has kept our spirits high and our show titles snappy, even as we scramble to cover major election cycles, natural disasters, and the latest developments in international chess cheating scandals. So before he embarks on his next endeavor, a few of us here on the team wanted to take a moment to share what we’ll miss the most about him. [warbley piano music plays]
Josie Duffy Rice: Jon, as my best friend in the world, it gets pretty rude for you to leave me and us. We’re going to miss you so much. Have a great time at your next job, but not too great.
Juanita Tolliver: I’m going to miss hearing Jon say wassup every time we log on to the zoom for work as a team. It was always the highlight of my morning.
unspecified speaker 1: Jon. My number one. My day one. I’m going to miss most of all your freaking use of the word freaking. Forever embedded in my vocabulary.
unspecified speaker 2: Even though I see John almost every day, I don’t know that I’ve ever seen him in a bad mood. So I will miss the light that he brings to every recording session, along with the same joke about [?] at the end. Uh. But most of all, I think I’ll miss how every once in a while he will come up with a joke, a reference that no one else on the team has any idea what he’s talking about, which he usually chalks up to being from New Hampshire, which I’m still not entirely sure is a real place.
Gideon: Jon, this is Gideon. I don’t know if you remember me, but this is uh what I sound like. I always loved seeing the different pasta that you were making around dinner time when it was time to record.
Priyanka Aribindi: What I’m going to miss most is Jon telling us to record the intro just one more time, but as written and uh shorter without our interjections that are not funny. It is his very polite, very kind way of saying that we are not as funny as him and should probably stop trying to be.
Tre’vell Anderson: I am definitely going to miss how you make sure we hit the jokes in the ways that we need to hit the jokes. If that means we got to do it two or three times, we do it two or three times.
unspecified speaker 3: Jon I’m going to miss how supportive you always are. No idea is a bad one. Even if we have the most silly ideas, you run with it. We are sad to see you go.
Tre’vell Anderson: Aw.
Priyanka Aribindi: Jon, you’re a real one. You’re OG WAD squad forever. You’re always welcome back here. And from all of us here on What A Day, thank you so much for everything Jon. We wish you all the best on your new adventure, and we will miss you so, so much. [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review, buy the FAA a new computer, and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just lies by George Santos like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
[spoken together] And we’re coming for your microwave.
Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. Y’all don’t deserve to have okay appliances. All right.
Priyanka Aribindi: I love my microwave. There is people with like no microwave households and I, I could never.
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh listen. I use mine every day.
Priyanka Aribindi: Every day.
Tre’vell Anderson: Unapologetically. [laugh] [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: 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 Lita Martinez, Michael Martinez, and Sandy Girard. Production support comes from Leo Duran, Ari Schwartz and Matt DeGroot with additional promotional and social support from Ewa Okulate, Julia Beach, and Jordan Silver. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.