In This Episode
- President Biden reaffirmed his support for Ukraine during a fiery speech in Poland on Tuesday. His address followed his clandestine trip to Kyiv – and hours after Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that Moscow will suspend its participation in the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty with the U.S.
- Wisconsin voters headed to the polls for the state’s Supreme Court primary, a nonpartisan race that will nevertheless decide the court’s ideological majority. Shaniqua McClendon, Crooked’s vice president of politics, tells us who’s running and what’s at stake.
- And in headlines: another earthquake jolted Turkey and Syria, California Rep. Barbara Lee officially entered the race for Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat, and Brittney Griner re-signed with the Phoenix Mercury for the 2023 WNBA season.
- Vote Save America: No Off Years – https://votesaveamerica.com/
- VSA: Wisconsin Voter Guide – https://votesaveamerica.com/state/wisconsin/
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, February 22nd. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.
Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver. And this is What A Day where we are thrilled to see State Senator Jennifer McClellan become the first Black woman elected to represent Virginia in Congress. In the words of Lizzo, it’s about damn time.
Priyanka Aribindi: 100%. I mean, what could be better than a special election becoming an extra special election? You love to see it.
Juanita Tolliver: Love to see it. Welcome to Congress, Representative McClellan. [music break]
Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, rescue workers in Turkey and Syria soldier on after the region was hit by another powerful earthquake. Plus, another candidate has jumped into California’s Senate race.
Juanita Tolliver: But first, in a bit of a call and response, as we would say in the church down south, y’all. Yesterday, President Biden delivered a scathing speech in Warsaw, Poland, that we can all interpret as a direct response to Russian President Vladimir Putin. And Biden didn’t hold back at all. Check this out.
[clip of President Joe Biden] There is much for us to be proud of over the all that we have achieved together this past year. But we have to be honest and clear eyed as we look at the year ahead. The defense of freedom is not the work of a day or every year. It’s always difficult. It’s always important. As Ukraine continues to defend itself against the Russian onslaught and launch counter offensives of its own. There will continue to be hard and very bitter days, victories, and tragedies. But Ukraine is [?] for the fight ahead. The United States, together with our allies and partners, are going to continue to have Ukraine’s back as it defends itself.
Juanita Tolliver: The president worked hard to strike a balance between celebrating all of the coordinated effort between NATO allies and the brutal reality that this unprovoked invasion will continue so long as Putin continues. And in his speech, Biden went on to call out Putin by name, placed the blame exclusively on Putin for this continued invasion and reaffirmed support for Ukraine for as long as it takes. And given how close we are to the anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the president vowed that no matter what, the United States and its NATO allies will not waver. Here’s another clip I want you all to hear.
[clip of President Joe Biden] So tonight, I speak once more to the people of Russia. The United States and the nations of Europe do not seek to control or destroy Russia. The West was not plotting to attack Russia, as Putin said today. And millions of Russian citizens who only want to live in peace with their neighbors are not the enemy. This war was never a necessity. It’s a tragedy. President Putin chose this war. Every day the war continues is his choice. He could end the war with a word. It’s simple. If Russia stopped invading Ukraine, it would end the war. If Ukraine stopped defending itself against Russia, it would be the end of Ukraine. That’s why together, we’re making sure Ukraine can defend itself.
Juanita Tolliver: I mean, the president was crystal clear Priyanka. Putin chose this. Putin can end this. And Ukraine needs all the support it can get to defend itself.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. And, you know, not only was this speech very strong, but Biden also received high praise for his secret trip to Ukraine. Can you tell us a little bit more about that?
Juanita Tolliver: Right. Biden’s powerful speech follows his clandestine trip to Ukraine to meet with President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday. The Washington Post went so far as to describe the visit as, quote, “cloak and dagger”. Right. And while that phrase may be a little bit funny, it doesn’t quite capture the amount of risk that the president faced on the 22 hour long journey to Kyiv that included planes, trains and silent motorcades and the threat within the war zone city itself. And there was at least one air raid alarm blaring while President Biden was walking on the street with President Zelensky. But it was later confirmed that the plane in question did not pose a threat to Biden. And the impact of Biden’s Ukraine visit can’t be understated. According to reports, Ukrainian citizens were buoyed by Biden’s visit. One declared to Reuters, quote, “This is super. It’s great. Our partners are proving their support. This lifts some of the doubts I had about the United States’s loyalty. Another stated, quote, “This was as unexpected for me as for anyone else. It’s a very pleasant surprise. This visit is an important step by President Biden, and I hope that news on military assistance will follow this step.” So all in all, Biden’s symbolic visit essentially met the goal of reassuring Ukraine that the U.S. stands with them.
Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. And I don’t think anyone here was like he must, he has to do this.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: He really kind of went above and beyond to do this, because this is clearly very important to him, to his administration. And he is he’s walking the walk here. So that is very, very impressive. Earlier, you mentioned that Biden was responding directly to Putin’s remarks. Can you tell us a little bit more about what Putin had to say and how this went down?
Juanita Tolliver: Ugh. When I tell you, it was a mess. So let’s be real. Putin’s state of the nation address was giving lies, lies and more lies, like the lies Kandi Burruss called out on Real Housewives of Atlanta, like that’s where he was at. Putin had the nerve to say that the West started the war, that the war was necessary and that the West is targeting Russia. Of course, he also threw in a side of religion and anti LGBTQ language. So–
Priyanka Aribindi: Great.
Juanita Tolliver: I think all in all, this was yet another example of how detached Putin is from reality and the lies he tells himself every day to justify this invasion and the war crimes he’s committing. But on top of all of that, Putin used the speech to also announce that Russia would be pulling out of the New START arms treaty. Now, this is a big fucking deal, y’all, because it’s the last U.S. Russia arms treaty that required both nations to commit to regular communications on the status of their nuclear arsenals, allow regular on site inspections, and abide by caps on the number of deployed and non-deployed warheads each nation maintains. Shortly after the speech, though, there was a little bit of backtracking as the Russian Foreign Ministry said Moscow would respect the caps on nuclear weapons and continue communicating about test launching, though inspections still seem to be off the table. But we may get more clarity on March 1st, when the next round of communications are scheduled to occur between the two nations. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken kept a pretty level tone when he called Putin’s announcement, quote, “deeply unfortunate and irresponsible”. He added that the U.S. will be watching Russia and ensure that we are, quote, “postured appropriately for the security of our own country and that of our allies. I mean, it’s giving we’ll stay ready so we don’t have to get ready. But it also leaves space for Russia to reverse course. You know, so I feel like there’s a window.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, there is a window if they will take it. Though I don’t know if we should get our hopes up about that.
Juanita Tolliver: I think you’re right. I think you’re right.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I do want to pivot to something a little closer to home. Yesterday, Wisconsin voters headed to the polls for the state Supreme Court primary. The race has become incredibly expensive, incredibly high stakes. April’s general election will decide the court’s ideological majority. So currently in Wisconsin, there is a 4-3 conservative majority on the state Supreme Court. But one of the conservative justices has stepped down, which gives liberals a big opportunity, especially in a battleground state with power divided between Democratic Governor Tony Evers and a Republican controlled state legislature. The role of the state Supreme Court in Wisconsin really can’t be overstated. It is important. The court has the power to decide on a number of high profile issues, and the two candidates who advance in the primary will be up for the seat that will decide this majority. To learn more about this race and how to help, I spoke with Crooked’s vice president of politics, Shaniqua McClendon, friend of the WAD. She’s the person you got to go to when you want to know this stuff. I started by asking her why this election is so important, you know, not only in Wisconsin, but for all of us.
Shaniqua McClendon: So last year, all of us watched in horror as the Dobbs decision overturned Roe v Wade and access to abortion throughout the country, and Wisconsin is one of those states that actually had an existing ban on abortion that was superseded by Roe v Wade. But with that not on the books anymore, Republicans are arguing that they can actually ban abortion. And this is a law that was put in place in 1849 that Republicans are trying to put back on the books. And the law is being challenged right now and it will ultimately make its way to the Wisconsin state Supreme Court. And who’s in control of the Supreme Court at that time will play a huge role in what the outcome is. On top of that, maps, Wisconsin is they have some of the I don’t know, another a better word, shadiest Republicans in the country. And they will find a way to draw unfair maps. And um right now, Governor Evers has been able to prevent really bad maps from being in place. The maps that were approved, you know, they favor Republicans, but not as bad as they could have. But that is because Republicans do not have a supermajority in both chambers. So the redistricting process will likely go to the courts and they’ll have a decision. And I think one of the biggest fears is the election in 2024. In 2020 there was a 4-3 decision rejecting the crazy Donald Trump lawsuits that were trying to overturn the state’s election results. But if conservatives are able to add, you know, another ultra conservative person to the courts in 2024, they might not reject those types of lawsuits. We might see Wisconsin voters reelect Joe Biden and the courts say, well, we don’t like that, we’re going to overturn the election and give it to somebody, which could be Donald Trump, because he’s already announced that he’s going to run.
Priyanka Aribindi: Right no, this seems like Wisconsin voters have a real shot here to kind of prevent this extremism from going any further. Like the vote here really does matter. So can you tell us a little bit about who is running and and you know what we know about them?
Shaniqua McClendon: Yes. So one of the conservative candidates, his name is Dan Kelly, and he is someone who’s been endorsed by radical anti-abortion groups like pro-life Wisconsin and Wisconsin Right to Life, which oppose abortion under any circumstances, even including rape and incest. He once equated affirmative action with slavery and has offered a lot of praise for Justice Scalia’s dissent on Obergefell, which was the court’s 2015 decision recognizing marriage equality for all Americans. He’s also has a ton of money from a billionaire Republican donor who’s donated money to anti-democracy candidates and causes such as Doug Mastriano, who we know lost to Josh Shapiro in the governor’s race in Pennsylvania last year. He also helped organize the Stop the Steal rally ahead–
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh.
Shaniqua McClendon: –of the January sixth insurrection so–
Priyanka Aribindi: Great.
Shaniqua McClendon: Not only do you not want him in office, it seems like you wouldn’t want him around generally, but not someone that [laugh] that you want on the on the state Supreme Court. And then on the progressive side is Janet Protasiewicz. So this is someone that progressives are actually excited about having on the ballot. She is someone who is publicly and openly and honestly for access to safe and legal abortion, believes in free and fair elections and is someone that, if she’s on the court, will uphold access to abortion, make sure that we have fair maps, and also is someone who would not try to overturn the will of the voters by rejecting whoever they decide to elect for president.
Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. So it sounds like very clear differences between our candidates here. One thing I do know is that Wisconsin voters, all of them are facing a few challenges as they go to vote and try to make their voices heard in this election. Can you walk us through, you know, some of the obstacles there are to voting in Wisconsin?
Shaniqua McClendon: Actually, at the court’s discretion right now, they have a conservative majority and they actually took a really radical step of ruling that nearly all absentee ballot drop boxes are illegal, despite the boxes having been legal in the past in Wisconsin. The reason that that’s important is because more ballot drop boxes mean more people can submit absentee ballots. They can kind of do it on their schedule and it can be flexible. And they don’t have to be tied to our rigid election polling hours. And so this is something we’ve seen throughout the country. It’s like one of the quickest ways that conservatives will try to make it harder to vote. And basically in 2020, at the height of COVID, a lot of states made it easier to vote specifically absentee and mail ballot voting. And I don’t think that’s why Republicans lost. I think Republicans lost in 2020 because they are awful. But um a lot of Republicans are pointing to these box as some kind of unfair advantage despite both parties using them. And so they’ve taken that away in the same decision that they got rid of those ballot drop boxes, they also imposed new restrictions on how voters can return their ballots. And so they created a lot of uncertainty over whether family members or caregivers of voters with disabilities can return their mail in ballots. And so there’s just a lot of confusion, which is another thing conservatives often do. They’ll create a lot of confusion around some things so that people will be scared to even try to turn in a ballot for a family member or someone they care for who has a disability. That’s why we are encouraging people to get involved, because, one, a lot of people don’t actually know that this election is happening. And then on top of that, a lot of people don’t actually know who the candidates are. And the way the candidates will show up on the ballot are without a party affiliation because this is actually supposed to be a nonpartisan election. So we’re trying to get the word out because all of these obstacles are in place for voters.
Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Crooked’s vice president of politics, Shaniqua McClendon, as we went to record this show at 10 p.m. Eastern on Tuesday. Janet Protasiewicz, the Liberal judge for Milwaukee County, has captured more than 46% of the vote and will automatically advance to the general election. We are waiting on more results, but we will be sure to keep you posted on this important race leading up to April 4th. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: Another earthquake has rocked Turkey this week. Eight people were killed and 300 others were hurt following Monday’s 6.3 magnitude quake, which hit a city near the border with Syria. Turkey’s Disaster and Emergency Management Authority reported that it was followed by 90 aftershocks. It comes as relief efforts for the devastating February 6th earthquake continue and the death toll continues to rise. As of Tuesday evening, at least 47,000 people are confirmed dead from the initial quakes. It is unfathomable that something like this–
Juanita Tolliver: Truly tragic.
Priyanka Aribindi: –was to happen you know within two weeks, the same month–
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: –that such a devastating earthquake already hit this area.
Juanita Tolliver: The Biden administration announced a set of new policies on Tuesday that would make it harder for migrants to seek asylum at the U.S. Mexico border, though it appears to mirror a controversial Trump era proposal. It comes as Title 42 is set to expire this May. That policy has allowed the federal government to turn more than 2 million people away from the border since the start of the pandemic. Under the newly proposed rules, migrants would have to schedule appointments at an official port of entry to qualify for asylum, and they need to be denied asylum in the countries that they pass through on the way to the U.S.. Democrats and immigration advocates were quick to compare the new rules to the so-called transit ban during the Trump administration, which rights groups said forced legitimate asylum seekers to put themselves in danger. The ACLU has pledged to fight the rules in court if the policies are put in place.
Priyanka Aribindi: The Supreme Court is taking up big tech this week over two cases that will have huge implications for tech companies and whether they’re liable for the content on their platforms. The justices heard oral arguments yesterday in Gonzalez v Google, a lawsuit brought by the family of Nohemi Gonzalez, the L.A. area exchange student who was killed in the 2015 Paris terror attacks. They say that algorithms that power recommendations on YouTube promote content from terrorist groups like ISIS, which feeds into their recruitment. Another similar lawsuit was brought by another family against Twitter. Their daughter was also killed in an ISIS attack. And that suit alleges that the social media platform aided the group by allowing its content to go unchecked. Both cases challenged Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, a federal law that has shielded social media companies from being sued for what users say or do on their platforms. A lawyer representing the victims in both cases argues that tech companies should be held responsible for the real life consequences of their content moderation policies or really lack thereof, have offline in our real world.
Juanita Tolliver: Brittney Griner has officially resigned with the Phoenix Mercury for the 2023 WNBA season. Griner, who was a free agent, said in December, a mere week after she was released from a Russian penal colony that she intended to rejoin the squad. No big deal, right? Griner spent ten harrowing months in Russian custody and has kept a pretty low profile since returning home. Though she was spotted at the Super Bowl, which was held in Glendale, Arizona. And at an MLK Day event in Phoenix, where she lives. Griner has been with the Mercury since she was selected as the first overall WNBA draft pick in 2013. Having missed the 2022 season, Griner is expected to make her grand return on May 19th for the team’s season opener against the Los Angeles Sparks.
Priyanka Aribindi: That’s really exciting that she’s making it back onto her team.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: I want to get tickets for this game now.
Juanita Tolliver: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: Sounds fun. Oakland congresswoman and friend of the WAD, Barbara Lee, has officially entered the race for Dianne Feinstein’s Senate seat. Lee kicked off her campaign yesterday weeks after she reportedly told her fellow lawmakers about her intention to run. She is currently the highest ranking Black woman within the House Democratic leadership, and if elected to the Senate, she would be just the third Black woman to serve in that chamber. She made her first appearance on the national stage in 2001, when just days after the September 11th terror attack, she cast the only no vote in the House authorizing then-President George W. Bush to take military action in Afghanistan. Lee, who is 76 years old, told the San Francisco Chronicle that her decades long career in politics and advocacy work is based on her own lived experience from growing up in the segregated South to surviving domestic violence. She is now up against Representatives Adam Schiff and Katie Porter, who have already raised millions of dollars for their respective campaigns.
Juanita Tolliver: Look. This race is definitely going to be one to watch. On Monday, Axios reported that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy granted Fox personality Tucker Carlson and his production team exclusive access to 41,000 hours of Capitol surveillance footage from the January 6th insurrection. Last week, Carlson’s TV producers began the arduous process of sorting through the footage in D.C. with the intention of airing excerpts on his primetime show in the coming weeks. When he hasn’t been giving totally balanced rants about the perceived attractiveness of the green M&M. Carlson has used his platform with Fox to question official accounts of the events of January 6th. The House speakers move to share this footage with Carlson has drawn harsh criticism from his peers in Congress with House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries calling the decision a, quote, “egregious security breach.” I’m also just looking at McCarthy like you really want to put January 6th front and center after it cost Republicans electoral gains in 2022? Like people didn’t just vote against extremism and attacks on our democracy? Just the kind of genius moves you’d expect from the guy it took 15 separate floor votes to get elected by his own party. But alas.
Priyanka Aribindi: You know, you say 15, and I remember it as more than that. But like, honestly, if it’s 15, that’s less than the people were out here thinking. So good for you. Kevin McCarthy–
Juanita Tolliver: [indistinct]
Priyanka Aribindi: I guess, that’s your one claim to fame. And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads to give Marjorie Taylor Greene some relationship advice.
Juanita Tolliver: Oooh mess.
Priyanka Aribindi: Geez. [laughter] [music break].
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, WAD squad. And for today’s temp check, we are talking about the newest season of secession.
Juanita Tolliver: Love a pun. [laughing]
Priyanka Aribindi: On Monday, Marjorie Taylor Greene tweeted, quote, “We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. Everyone I talked to says this from the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America last policies. We are done.” That was like truly some word salad. So please hats off to me for being able to read that sentence. [laughter] To those who need a history refresher. They tried this once. It did not go so well. While people on both sides of the aisle chastised Greene’s tweets, helpfully reminding her that secession is quite literally unconstitutional. She also represents the growing radical bloc on the right that held Kevin McCarthy’s bid for House speaker hostage. So, Juanita, just how pressed should we be with MTG’s latest ploy for attention?
Juanita Tolliver: Girl, that’s all this is. But the Confederate Queen clearly wants to commit treason, so go for it and end up in jail please. Like that will be my happy ending.
Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, like, don’t they take an oath that they like are not about this?
Juanita Tolliver: You think she read that? You think she has the reading comprehension skills to understand what it means to protect and defend the Constitution? [laughter]
Priyanka Aribindi: I just attempted to read that, clearly she does not. [laughing] It just feels like something. Maybe she didn’t want this job. Like maybe she just didn’t understand what exactly this job was.
Juanita Tolliver: Priyanka, she absolutely wanted this job, though, to do exactly this, treason. That’s the goal.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah yeah.
Juanita Tolliver: That’s the goal. Wait, wait. Treason with a side of racism. You know, racism has to be front and center for her.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, totally. Oh, totally. Just like that. We have checked our temps. What would you say? I don’t even know.
Juanita Tolliver: I’m lukewarm on this Confederate queen. I’m lukewarm. [laughter]
Priyanka Aribindi: Ice cold, hate this bitch, bye. [laughter] One more thing before we go. The important work of political and civic engagement doesn’t just happen every two years. 2023 has some critical elections coming up, starting with a must win Supreme Court seat in Wisconsin. Right now, you can donate to our no off years fund and help get out the vote in Wisconsin ahead of their April election and sign up to stay in the loop on what’s happening and how you can get involved. Head over to VoteSaveAmerica.com to get started. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Look up Brittney Griner best dunks on YouTube [cheer] and tell your friends to listen.
Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just whatever the opposite of Marjorie Taylor Greene’s Twitter pages 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 Sparks versus Mercury.
Priyanka Aribindi: Who do you got?
Juanita Tolliver: I mean, I’m going to ride with Brittney Griner, all day.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hate to be the Sparks in this situation. [laughter] I don’t think any of us are rooting for you. [music break]
Juanita Tolliver: 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.