In This Episode
- Former President Donald Trump said he expects to be arrested tomorrow in connection with the yearslong investigation into a hush money scheme involving adult film actress Stormy Daniels. Trump called on his supporters to protest in opposition.
- Sunday marked the 20th anniversary of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Journalist and author Spencer Ackerman, who’s known for his work as a national security correspondent during the Iraq war, joins us to look back on his reporting and how its impact is still felt today.
- And in headlines: Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to the Russian-occupied Ukrainian city of Mariupol, Swiss banking giant UBS said it will acquire Credit Suisse, and Wyoming became the first US state to ban abortion pills.
- Rolling Stone: “The Iraq War Unleashed an Age of Grift. We’re Still Living in It” – https://www.rollingstone.com/politics/politics-features/iraq-war-jim-mattis-theranos-elizabeth-holmes-1234679057/amp/
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, March 20th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice. And this is What A Day, the podcast with a few less songs on it’s set list then Taylor Swift’s reported 44. 44 songs. Congrats on paying $250 per song. [laughter] I mean, it might be worth it. [music break] On today’s show, Wyoming became the first state to ban abortion medication. Plus, Chinese leader Xi Jinping is meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow today.
Tre’vell Anderson: But first, Donald Trump might soon be singing.
[clip of Locked Up by Akon plays] They won’t let me out. They won’t let me out. I’m locked up. They won’t let me out, no. They won’t let me out.
Tre’vell Anderson: [laughter] Oh, yes. Over the weekend, the reality TV star turned horrible former president said that he expects to be arrested on Tuesday of this week. Now, we know that the years long investigation into the hush money scheme involving adult film actress Stormy Daniels is nearing an end. And according to reports, Trump’s legal team has been anticipating that an indictment will happen soon. And with that information, Trump is basically signaling to his supporters to, you know, once again, quote, “Stand back and stand by.” If you remember that language which has played on a loop since and was a catalyst for the January 6th insurrection. He’s basically repeating the exact same thing. He actually explicitly said in a social media post this weekend, quote, “We must save America and protest, take our nation back.”
Josie Duffy Rice: I got to say, being his lawyer must suck, because [laughter] if I had him as a client, I’d be so frustrated.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I should note here that Trump’s team says that, you know, this is all just speculation based off of media reports and that no communication has come from the Manhattan District attorney’s office actually signaling that this will happen. But it’s quite obvious that Trump is, you know, trying to prep his most foolish followers in advance of what appears to be a likely indictment. And all of the reports are leaning in that direction of an indictment uh because of a flurry of activity related to the grand jury investigation, including recent testimony by Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer who’s already pled guilty to arranging the payment to Stormy Daniels. Now, whether an arrest actually happens on Tuesday is unlikely. There’s at least one more witness expected to testify before the grand jury today. And sources told The New York Times that even if an indictment did come down, logistics would likely delay an arrest beyond Tuesday.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, you know, I don’t like love prison. Not into prison I’m not into–
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm.
Josie Duffy Rice: I’m just, this isn’t my idea of real accountability. However, that being said, this is not the arrest I’m going to lose a lot of sleep over. But let’s think this out because the implications are obviously massive. So what would happen if Trump is indicted or arrested?
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, if Trump is indicted, he would be the first president to ever, you know, sitting president or former president to ever face criminal charges. So there’s not really any precedent for what would happen. But there are numerous reports from a variety of outlets that city, state, and federal law enforcement agencies have been meeting about the possibility and any security measures that might be necessary. Now, if the arrest does happen, one of Trump’s lawyers did tell The New York Daily News that he’d likely surrender, you know, follow the law, I guess, saying, quote, “There won’t be a standoff at Mar-a-Lago with Secret Service and the Manhattan DA’s office.” But also, keep in mind, right, that Donald Trump is currently running to be the Republican nominee for president in 2024. And according to a number of sources, he’s been trying to get his team to purposefully agitate his base, believing that an indictment would actually help him politically. And there might be some truth to that. We’ve already got some conservatives working hard to discredit the process and push the idea that even if the grand jury does indict him, if prosecutors, for whatever reason, can’t get an actual conviction in New York, all of this might lead to him becoming president again, which, you know, I hate to consider as a possibility. But, you know, stranger things have happened before in recent history.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. Stranger things like him becoming president the first time.
Tre’vell Anderson: [laughter] Yes.
Josie Duffy Rice: So.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely.
Josie Duffy Rice: It is totally possible. Anything is possible. Um. Speaking of bad decisions made by Republican presidents, uh Sunday marked the 20 year anniversary of the beginning of the Iraq war.
Tre’vell Anderson: Can’t believe it’s been 20 years since that beginning, the impacts obviously have been widespread. Talk to us about the latest news regarding Iraq.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, So. Well, first of all, there is latest news regarding Iraq, which means that this war has gone on for an unreasonably long time. Uh. Last Thursday, the Senate moved forward to repeal the 2002 Authorization for Use of Force in Iraq, marking a formal conclusion to the, quote unquote, “conflict.” The war began back in March 2003, when the U.S. bombed Iraq, launching a war that lasted officially eight years until 2011. And unofficially, to this day. Right. Because that occupation continues. The Iraq war once had bipartisan and widespread civilian support and widespread opposition. I remember protesting it back in high school. Now, of course, the Iraq war is regarded as a major mistake in American military history, resulting in hundreds of thousands of deaths, millions of displacements, countless dollars spent and the destabilization of American foreign policy in the Middle East. And it resulted in significant suffering from veterans here. Here’s a clip from Congressman, and Iraq war veteran, Ruben Gallego, talking about the trauma he suffered due to his service in the war.
[clip of Ruben Gallego] I dealt with a very inhumane condition of seven months of hard combat. For years it made it very difficult for me to actually form strong relationships with other people because I got so used to people dying or leaving me right away because of the war. You know, a lot of us end up addicted. People find addictions in other and other forms and like I did it in trying to find and chase like this reason why I survived and uh my friends didn’t.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. That’s–
Josie Duffy Rice: That’s devastating.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. Such a reflection on, like, the impact, right of of those decisions.
Josie Duffy Rice: You know, keep in mind that the Iraq war is based on one of the most brazen American lies in recent history. Right. Weapons of mass destruction that it turned out never existed. When you think back on that, it’s kind of shocking, right? It’s like–
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah.
Josie Duffy Rice: Oh. This is a term that if you remember, we heard day in and day out for years. Right. And then they were like, jk, not a thing. [laughter] Which feels in hindsight like bananas.
Tre’vell Anderson: Super horrible, right?
Josie Duffy Rice: Super horrible. So I wanted to look back on this moment in history with someone who covered it in real time as a journalist. So I sat down with Spencer Ackerman. He’s known for his work as a national security correspondent during the Iraq War, and he’s also the author of the book Reign of Terror How the 9/11 Era Destabilized America and produced Trump. I started by asking him where he was when the U.S. began its invasion of Iraq in 2003 and how he felt watching it happen, especially after 9/11.
Spencer Ackerman: I worked for a really toxic uh pro-war magazine at the time called The New Republic, and I was surrounded by a ton of ideologically motivated bloodlust that masqueraded and understood itself as the highest aspirations of the human endeavor that had convinced itself that the Iraq war was a ethical, humanitarian enterprise, that this was a new birth of freedom that was about to be unleashed in the Middle East. And working in the background was a sense that ideological debts were going to come due and the pro-war forces were going to collect. There was a belief not just in the endeavor, but that the war itself would vindicate those who advocated it. And–
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Spencer Ackerman: –the real wages of this was going to be felt by the humiliation and discrediting of the tens of millions of people who had gone out in the streets to oppose the war.
Josie Duffy Rice: So as you mentioned, you worked at the New Republic at the time. Can you talk more about what made you skeptical and how you came to see that there was this moral imperative to actually end the occupation?
Spencer Ackerman: As the, the Iraq war in 2002 coalesced from kind of a preoccupation amongst elite Washington and 9/11 inflected militarism. There were aspects of it that I thought didn’t really make a lot of sense or seemed kind of pretextual, like the aggressive effort by the Bush administration to say that Saddam Hussein had a nuclear weapons program that was going to yield a–
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Spencer Ackerman: –bomb very soon, which just didn’t seem particularly true, and then especially trying to tie Saddam Hussein to 9/11 itself, which was still seemed like nonsense. And then what I didn’t get as a young reporter in Washington in those days was that those voices in favor of the war were not going to be interested in staying around to see how horrific this was for human beings. That had a very profound effect on me. I remember the late summer, early fall of 2003, which was really when resistance to the occupation that we called the insurgency was beginning to, to really coalesce. Some of us from the New Republic were invited to the Pentagon to get a briefing from Jerry Bremer, who was the occupation chief. I came into that briefing armed with a sheaf of things that I found disturbing about the way the occupation was, was getting off the ground, in particular um about electricity generation. Baghdad really got unbearable heat, and now the electricity grid was unable to generate nearly the amount of kilowatt hours for the average Iraqi citizen. Bremer just sort of hand waved this away and said like, you know, we’re working on this aggressively and sort of viewed this as a question of irritation that I wasn’t really asking a question about its impact on people. In his mind, I was asking a question about the failure to deliver on public pronunciations. The people themselves were an afterthought, and that stuck with me.
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Spencer Ackerman: I would be dishonest with you if I were to say that, you know, there was like one really like inciting event. But by the spring of 2004, it just seemed to me like not only was the war unwinnable, but you shouldn’t wish to win a war like that, because what winning a war like that means is you are suppressing a foreign population, subjecting it to your will and extracting its wealth.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. You recently wrote a piece for Rolling Stone for the 20th anniversary of the war, where you spoke to an Iraqi author who said, quote, “Most of the Iraqis see the occupation has yet to end properly.” The U.S. withdrew from Iraq in 2011, but we know that wasn’t the end of America’s presence there in many ways. What do you make of that quote? What do you say about where the occupation is now?
Spencer Ackerman: Well, it’s continued really ever since the withdrawal in 2011 was a very brief intercalary episode between the return to Iraq to wage a war against ISIS and then the kind of current situation where the United States has 2500 troops in Iraq, 900 in Syria, and the Iraqis have no power to stop this. That was proven in 2020 when the U.S. assassinated the Iranian External security chief, Qasem Soleimani, in Baghdad. And the Iraqi parliament voted to demand that the United States leave and the State Department informed them that that simply wouldn’t happen, that the only thing the United States would discuss would be the parameters. And so when I started to write this Rolling Stone piece, it was important to me that this not be yet another story about how Americans felt sad about the horrors they inflicted upon another country. You know, I can’t talk to everyone in Iraq. I can’t, you know, provide a survey, but I can certainly talk to um some Iraqi writers and filmmakers and people who have been able to get their voices out in describing what it’s like now when they see this kind of period where the Iraqi political situation remains uh characterized by first a sectarian divide that the United States, I would say, not only exacerbated but exploited and now exists as this kind of, you know, wealth extraction and money laundering enterprise. So Iraqis look at the presence of the Americans and many see this American presence as not designed for them. It doesn’t make–
Josie Duffy Rice: Right.
Spencer Ackerman: –their lives better. It’s not supposed to, but rather it’s a reminder that their fate in many ways is out of their hands.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, absolutely. It’s just so funny to think about this because it’s hard to imagine. Right. But there are a lot of people out there, including a lot of people who listen, and who are just too young to remember the invasion. They don’t understand what it was like to watch it happen. Their lives have kind of always existed in this shadow of it. Right. How do you explain this moment in history and what it was like to live through it to people who now are adults?
Spencer Ackerman: The first thing that I say is that never for a moment think this won’t happen again. The reason why America went to war in Iraq is because it’s done this so much in its history. You know, you can think back to uh the American conquest of the Philippines, the American conquest of Hawaii. The more you read American history, I tend to find, the more you see the Iraq war again and again in different phases. Before the Iraq war, one of the most evil wars ever fought in American history, a war of aggression. The U.S. Mexico war um of the 1840s. Also launched on the lie that American blood has been shed on American soil, which was which was never true. But that was how we got a whole lot of the West. If we’re really going to get out from the legacy of the Iraq war, we have to do some really serious contemplation about how democratic with a small d our foreign policy making actually is. How its economic foundations lead towards expansion, including overseas resource capture and extraction. And then finally, how deeply American this is, how often the patterns in American history repeat themselves in times of war and in times of fear.
Josie Duffy Rice: That was my conversation with author and journalist Spencer Ackerman. Also, if you haven’t already, check out Pod Save The World’s bonus episode that aired on Friday to hear an amazing conversation with Congressman, and Iraq War veteran, Ruben Gallego. We will, of course, keep you posted on how this all develops, but that is the latest for now. [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: Now let’s get to some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: Russian President Vladimir Putin made a surprise visit to the Russian occupied Ukrainian city Mariupol, on Saturday, which has seen some of the worst fighting and devastation throughout the war. This was Putin’s first time in the area since his invasion. Putin also went to Crimea this weekend to mark the ninth anniversary of Russia illegally annexing the area. These visits come after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant Friday for Putin’s arrest for war crimes. And Putin isn’t the only world leader seemingly unfazed by the accusations. Chinese President Xi Jinping will head to Moscow today to meet face to face with Putin. This will be Xi’s first foreign trip since securing his historic third term in office.
Josie Duffy Rice: Swiss banking giant UBS announced yesterday it will acquire failed bank Credit Suisse. The Swiss government quickly helped broker the deal, bypassing the shareholders vote in order to get the deal underway before Asian markets opened this morning. As we’ve discussed on the show, Credit Suisse’s shares went into freefall last week, leading to the bank’s collapse. UBS will pay more than 3 billion swiss francs, which is about $3.25 billion U.S. dollars to acquire its competitor in what has been referred to as a, quote, “emergency rescue.” Last night, Swiss President Alain Berset touted the deal, saying, quote, “An uncontrolled collapse of Credit Suisse would lead to incalculable consequences for the country and the international financial system.”
Tre’vell Anderson: Wyoming became the first U.S. state to ban abortion pills on Friday after Republican Governor Mark Gordon signed the anti-choice bill into law. As we’ve discussed on the show, the FDA approved drug, Mifopristone has been under attack since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade last year. Wyoming’s law bans the use of abortion medication with few exceptions, and it also puts physicians or anyone who distributes the medication at risk of paying a fine up to $9,000 and serving up to six months in jail. According to the Guttmacher Institute, Wyoming is one of 15 states restricting access to medication induced abortions.
Josie Duffy Rice: Now, take a chill pill because we’ve actually got some good drug news. On Saturday, California Governor Gavin Newsom announced a plan to cap insulin prices at $30 statewide. The state’s partnership with nonprofit generic drug manufacturer Civica RX will cut insulin costs by as much as 90%. Additionally, Newsom announced plans for California to begin manufacturing its own Naloxone, known as Narcan. Naloxone, when administered nasally can reverse opioid overdoses, preventing the fatal effects of highly addictive and widely available drugs like fentanyl. California is currently seeking a state based manufacturer to start production of the lifesaving drug.
Tre’vell Anderson: I love that news. Yes.
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s great. It’s great news.
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s nearly springtime in Paris, and thanks to a strike by the city’s garbage collectors, the air has a certain je ne sais quoi if you will. As the demonstrations against French President Emmanuel Macron’s plan to change the nation’s retirement age have grown, Paris’s municipal waste collectors are just over two weeks into a collection strike, as well as a blockade of the city’s trash incinerators. It’s giving Le Mis and we love that. Or maybe we don’t.
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s true.
Tre’vell Anderson: I don’t know.
Josie Duffy Rice: I don’t know how we feel. But I do love Le Mis.
Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] Right. While the minister of the Interior claimed Friday emergency powers had been invoked to force some workers back to emptying bins, over the weekend the city estimated that over ten metric tons of garbage had gone uncollected in the streets. That’s over 22 million lbs. of trash throughout the capital’s 20 districts, leaving one of the world’s most romantic cities stinkier than blue cheese on hot concrete.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, that’s the worst thing I’ve ever thought of.
Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, all of the honeymooners who are there, gazing up at the Eiffel Tower.
Josie Duffy Rice: Will be divorced very soon.
Tre’vell Anderson: –is you know. [laughter] And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads with our thoughts on celebrity stylist Law Roach’s retirement announcement. [music break].
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Monday, WAD squad. And for today’s temp check, we’re talking about the Instagram grid retirement post that has sent waves across the fashion industry. Last Tuesday, celebrity stylist Law Roach, known for bringing us years of incredible red carpet looks for celebs like Zendaya, Issa Rae and Ariana Grande, and Celine Dion shocked the fashion world by posting a now deleted red all caps stamp graphic reading retired. In his caption saying he was sick of the industry’s politics, lies, and false narratives. On Friday, Roach expanded on his announcement for the first time in an interview with The Cuts editor in chief Lindsay Peoples Wagner. Roach and Wagner covered a lot of ground in the hour long interview. Being Black and in fashion, his continued love for his day one muse Zendaya, and the anonymous Vanity Fair Oscars afterparty client that helped push him over the edge. So Josie, are we getting to the bottom of which celebrity caused a problem that night? Or should we let the man rest and retire in peace?
Josie Duffy Rice: So it wasn’t Zendaya.
Tre’vell Anderson: It was not.
Josie Duffy Rice: And that’s kind of all I care about. I got to say.
Tre’vell Anderson: [laughing] You know, it’s just really interesting. I will say you should all check out the interview. I don’t think we’ve seen like Black folks in fashion, particularly talking about the unique experience of of navigating that very white sector of an industry. Um. And so it’s really unfortunate that he feels like he has to, you know, retire because of all of the politics. But, you know, hopefully this him being open about his experiences will, you know, lead to some some shifts in the industry, if you will.
Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, I hope so. I mean, I also just really love the idea of people deciding they’ve had enough, you know?
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. He’s like, listen, I’m not doing this suffering thing anymore. I’m out of here. And we love that. Just like that, we’ve checked our temps. They’re, you know, they’re good. They’re in solidarity with Law Roach quitting. So there’s that. Shout out to him.
Josie Duffy Rice: Shout out to him. [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, post your retirement on your social media of preference and tell your friends to listen.
Josie Duffy Rice: And if you’re into reading and not just how much trash it’d take to cover the Eiffel Tower like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
[spoken together] And bon garbage.
Josie Duffy Rice: Get it?
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes. [laughter]
Josie Duffy Rice: It’s like when you go on a trip to France, but instead you [laughter] just see trash everywhere.
Tre’vell Anderson: Everywhere. Could you imagine? Ugh. I’d want a refund. [music break] 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 Jocey Coffman and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. [music break]