In This Episode
- In a social media post on Thursday, former president Donald Trump said he has been indicted on federal charges. Trump faces at least seven counts in connection with the classified documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home last year.
- In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court voted to uphold the Voting Rights Act and reject Alabama’s congressional map, saying that the state legislature improperly diluted the political power of Black voters in the state. Melissa Murray, NYU law professor and co-host of Crooked’s Strict Scrutiny, joins us to talk about the high court’s history with the Voting Rights Act and the impact of Thursday’s ruling.
- And in headlines: smoke from Canadian wildfires continues to spread across the country, a squeaky dog toy that parodies Jack Daniel’s could be taken off the market, and YouTube has de-monetized several videos from conservative pundit Candace Owens that include anti-trans content.
- Strict Scrutiny live from Howard University – crooked.com/strictlive
- What A Day – YouTube – https://www.youtube.com/@whatadaypodcast
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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, June 9th. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi and this is What A Day where we plan to spend the entire weekend stewing over the reports that Kelis of the one and only milkshake fame is dating Bill Murray.
Tre’vell Anderson: Listen. The ice cream machine must be broken.
Priyanka Aribindi: Of all the boys. Um. We will reserve our judgment, at least for this take of the headlines. But that was not on my 2023 bingo card. I’ll just say that. [music break] On today’s show, smoke from Canadian wildfires continues to spread across the US. Plus YouTube is sending a message to Candace Owens to stop misgendering people.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. But first, just before we sat down to record today’s show, this breaking news came in. Former President Donald Trump posted on Truth Social Thursday evening that his legal team was told by the Justice Department that he has been indicted on federal charges.
Priyanka Aribindi: Say it ain’t so. What a big break for uh Truth Social. Really. But feels like a little bit of deja vu, honestly, for the rest of us.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Absolutely. So just to rewind a little bit here, we don’t have official confirmation from the Justice Department about this just yet, but this involves the federal investigation over the classified documents found at Mar-a-Lago last year. Multiple reports are saying that Trump faces at least seven counts as a result of this investigation. But again, as we sat down to record this show, we haven’t gotten the official word from the DOJ. Unfortunately, we do have some reaction from the man himself. Take a listen to this clip from a video–
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh God.
Tre’vell Anderson: –that Don Jr. posted shortly after the news–
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh no.
Tre’vell Anderson: –came down. Oh, yes. Buckle up.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, God.
[clip of Donald Trump] There’s never been anything like what’s happened. I’m an innocent man. I’m an innocent person. They had the Mueller hoax, the Mueller report, and that came out. No collusion after two and a half years. That was set up by Hillary Clinton and Democrats. But this is what they do. This is what they do so well.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm.
Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. The Robert Mueller throwback, no collusion. [laughter] These are things I have not thought of for years, honestly, blissful years of my life that I got back well you know, I spent a long time trying to forget those things.
Tre’vell Anderson: Right.
Priyanka Aribindi: But he really just brought it all back for us. [laughter] But anyways, this is really adding to all the legal trouble that he is in right now. Correct. Because this is just one of of many a thing.
Tre’vell Anderson: One of many. You know, he wants to be a victim so bad. I also want to note, assuming that we can take Trump and all of these sources speaking to the media about this at their word, this would be the first time in American history that a former president has ever faced federal charges. So that’s a big deal in and of itself. Not to mention that this fool is trying to run for president again. Okay. So we have to live through him [sigh] all over again. One other quick note. Trump also posted on his knockoff version of Twitter last night that he’s due to appear in federal court in Miami this coming Tuesday. We will, of course, be following that next week. So hold on to your butts. It’s gonna get rowdy, I’m sure.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, that’s a big one for me personally, because if Donald Trump gets indicted on my birthday, that’s a pretty good present from the universe. The universe really is looking out for me. I feel so you know, if that happens, I’m not opposed to it.
Tre’vell Anderson: Fingers crossed.
Priyanka Aribindi: Anyways, that was not the only big news, in some other big news that dropped yesterday. The Supreme Court issued a surprising five four decision, tossing out Alabama’s congressional map, saying that the state legislature improperly diluted the political power of Black voters in the state.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now, I have been giving the Supreme Court a lot of shit lately because they have deserved it, But–
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Tre’vell Anderson: I think they got this one right. I think they got–
Priyanka Aribindi: I know.
Tre’vell Anderson: –this one right. Tell us more about this case.
Priyanka Aribindi: You know what they say about a broken clock. But anyways, at issue here was a map that the Republican held state legislature of Alabama drew following the 2020 census. That is when, you know, all these states redraw their legislative maps based on the results. Of the seven congressional districts in the state, only one was a majority Black district. Despite the fact that the state’s population is actually 27% Black. The state had illegally packed many of those voters into a single district while dividing other areas with Black voters across multiple other districts. So essentially, your basic packing and cracking for any of you who have learned about gerrymandering in school or since then, that’s basically like this is the textbook version of what happened. At stake, of course, was Alabama’s map. But several other GOP led states have taken a similar approach with their own maps. Supporters of voting rights were worried that if the court had gone the other way on this, it would have made it harder to challenge other maps under Section two of the Voting Rights Act. I wanted to learn a little bit more about what happened here and why, because this actually was a surprise. So earlier, I checked in with Melissa Murray. She is a law professor at NYU and one of the co-hosts of Crooked’s legal podcast, Strict Scrutiny. She is so smart and such a wealth of knowledge. She explained that the court in recent years has not had a great history with the Voting Rights Act. They have gutted it over the years, so this was actually a very surprising result.
Melissa Murray: That’s a huge victory. I want to underscore that. It was a huge victory. It’s a major victory for civil rights groups that have been fighting and litigating these kinds of challenges all throughout the country. But it’s also a bit of a pyrrhic victory or maybe it’s a non defeat, if you will, because when you really think about it, we’ve already lost a lot because those maps actually went into effect in the 2022 election. They may have been significant in shifting the balance of power in the House of Representatives and though going forward we have perhaps the status quo preserving Section two of the Voting Rights Act. We haven’t gotten the kind of full throated victory that the United States and its people deserve.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. I mean, I was going to ask you about that because you had some thoughts on Twitter and I was like, that is interesting because when you see it on its face, it does look like, you know, oh, this is great. Something right happened for once. But there’s a lot of context that people need to know.
Melissa Murray: Again, I think it’s very easy for folks in the media to trumpet this as a victory. And it is a victory. And I don’t want to undersell that. And this was a huge win for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, who was taking the lead in litigating this case. It was a huge victory for Deuel Ross, the African-American lawyer who argued this case before the Supreme Court and did a masterful job. But I’m coming back to the fact about how anesthetized we’ve become to what we can expect from this court. This is a victory, but it’s not the victory that we deserve. And we shouldn’t be giving this court a pass because they months later agreed that this was an unlawful racial gerrymander. It was an unlawful racial gerrymander back in February 2022, when this court allowed these maps to be used. And we should remember that and we should hold them accountable for it. And we shouldn’t celebrate it as the court doing something right. We should make clear that the court did something really wrong back in February–
Priyanka Aribindi: Right.
Melissa Murray: –2022, and they’ve now corrected it well after the time to do so.
Priyanka Aribindi: Definitely. I mean, I wanted to ask you about some of the justices, for example, Brett Kavanaugh. I know he flipped on this issue. What do you make of that?
Melissa Murray: Well, [laugh] a lot to say here. In his separate opinion in this case. You know, Justice Kavanaugh suggests that Gingles, which is one of the major precedents here, that the majority refused to narrow in the face of Alabama’s request to do so, that Gingles would stand. The court said that, but Justice Kavanaugh, in his separate opinion, seemed to suggest that maybe there’s some play in the joints there, and in the future, maybe he’s receptive to tinkering with the Gingles analysis, or maybe narrowing the scope of how and when claims can be brought under Section two of the Voting Rights Act. So, again, to say this is an unalloyed victory, I mean, I think is to miss some of the crumbs that are being dropped here. Some of the bread crumbs like this is going to be a live issue. This is a court that has shown its disdain and antipathy for voting rights in the past. In Shelby County versus Holder in 2013, which dismantled the preclearance regime of the Voting Rights Act. In Brnovich versus Democratic National Committee in 2021 that hobbled Section two and again, in those emergency stays issued on the shadow docket. This is not a court that has been full throated in its support of voting rights, and we shouldn’t expect them to be full throated in that support going forward. And we’re getting some hints that there may be some room to maneuver going forward and they may take that opportunity. And Justice Kavanaugh’s opinion was one of those opinions that suggested that.
Priyanka Aribindi: Hmm. All right. Tell us more about Justice Thomas’s dissent as well.
Melissa Murray: So Justice Thomas wrote a scathing dissent in which he excoriated this sort of hastily cobbled together it seemed majority of the three liberals and the chief justice and Justice Kavanaugh. He said that race should have no role in the drawing of districts, that the majority had prioritized race over other values in drawing districts, in determining what fair districting looked like. And I don’t know if it augurs anything going forward. I mean, but I do think it means that he’s really mad about the use of race. And I think we’re going to see that play out when we get a decision on the affirmative action cases. And if you’re just sort of reading the tea leaves and thinking about who’s been assigned what opinions in which sessions of the court’s term this year, the affirmative action cases are still out. And one of the justices who has not written in that session in which the affirmative action cases were heard is Justice Thomas. So it may be the case that he may have the final word on how much race can be used in our public policy and public discourse.
Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, wow. And I feel terrified about that prospect.
Melissa Murray: You should feel terrified. I mean, this descent, if it is a harbinger of things to come, it means that affirmative action case is going to be a banger and not in a good way.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, no. Let’s talk about the impacts of this decision, though. You know, how will this affect communities and voters of color specifically, and what impact could it have on nationwide elections?
Melissa Murray: So it’s obviously huge. Again, the impact of gerrymandering is enormous. It makes it difficult for voters of color to be represented in wide numbers in state legislatures and in Congress. It’s enormous. So this is a huge victory going forward. Um. It doesn’t necessarily mitigate the losses that occurred in the 2022 midterm election. And again, I think we have to think about it in that context. But it means going forward that the core of the Voting Rights Act, what has remained since 2021 in that decision in Brnovich versus Democratic National Committee, that’s been preserved for now. But this is a conservative supermajority of the court. It’s antipathy for voting rights is well known and well documented. This is not going to be the last word.
Priyanka Aribindi: It’s become clear we can’t rely on this court to uphold voting rights and do the right thing always. But what needs to be done to protect voting rights and our democracy as a whole? Like what’s the even the starting moves here?
Melissa Murray: Priyanka, it’s a terrific question. We’ve been talking entirely about the court. The court’s not the only actor in our democracy. Where is Congress on this? When I wrote that long Twitter screed today. One of the things I noted was that in 2013 in Shelby County versus Holder, Chief Justice Roberts, in that five four majority, only invalidated the preclearance formula of the Voting Rights Act. It didn’t actually dismantle the preclearance regime entirely, it just invalidated the formula. Congress could have picked up the ball and written a new formula that comported with the parameters of the court’s decision in Shelby County versus Holder saving the preclearance regime. But Congress is famously polarized and dysfunctional at this moment in time. They never did that. And that’s why the preclearance regime died. That’s why we don’t have preclearance. And that’s why states like Texas can pass laws that basically say Harris County can’t do anything to have local control over its elections. Like they can stick it to minority populations and Democratic um strongholds in red states. They can do all of that because there’s no preclearance regime. If Congress could step in and pass any of those laws that are intended to shore up voting rights, we would have a much different field of play. If it could step in, restore the preclearance regime, firm up protections under Section two. Congress wrote the VRA and Congress has strengthened the VRA. And in the face of this court’s efforts to dismantle and hobble the VRA, Congress can step in and bolster it. And it won’t. And it should.
Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Melissa Murray, co-host of Crooked’s legal podcast, Strict Scrutiny. We’ll keep you posted as more decisions are handed down by the Supreme Court later this month. But if you want to hear more about yesterday’s decision, be sure to tune in for Strict Scrutiny’s live stream that is happening at 1 p.m. Eastern today. Truly the perfect timing. We’ll have more information about how to register at the end of the show and we’ll include it in our show notes as well. [music break] Let’s get to some headlines.
Priyanka Aribindi: In other Supreme Court news, we have an update on an unusual trademark case that we have told you about on the show before. The justices unanimously sided with Jack Daniel’s Tennessee whiskey in their lawsuit against VIP products. That is the company behind the Bad Spaniels squeaky dog toy that parodies the iconic liquor brand. Jack Daniels sued VIP back in March, claiming that their goofy lineup of dog toys violates federal trademark law by mimicking its whiskey label and changing the label copy to poop jokes. Seriously, people went to law school and went into debt to help litigate this. I’m sure they’re feeling great just about now. A lower court ruled that VIP’s, shall we say, creative license, was protected by the First Amendment. But the high court disagreed. Yesterday’s ruling allowed Jack Daniel’s to revive its lawsuit against VIP in the lower courts, which could ultimately force the company to pull its Bad Spaniels Silly Squeaker off of the market. If you happen to be a dog listening to the show today and you are tilting your head to understand what is going on. Legal experts say that VIP still has a shot at winning this case. That is because the company has argued that consumers can, in fact, tell the difference between a bottle of Jack and a squeaky dog toy. Hmm.
Tre’vell Anderson: I would have to agree with that reasoning. [laugh]
Priyanka Aribindi: They might have themselves a little point there.
Tre’vell Anderson: We’re still keeping an eye on the skies across the northeast. New York City’s air quality has improved since Wednesday’s apocalyptic orange views, but experts are still cautioning residents to limit their time outdoors. As wildfires continue to rage across eastern Canada. The smoke has now billowed west toward Chicago and could reach as far south as Florida in the coming days. However, it’s likely that air quality will not deteriorate as badly in those areas compared to what we saw across the major cities along the East Coast this week. Meanwhile, The New York Times reported that there was a noticeable uptick in emergency room visits in New York City on Wednesday as more people were admitted for various breathing problems like flare ups of asthma, which, as a reminder, disproportionately affects Black and Latino children, as well as people living in lower income areas. Public transit centers in D.C. and New York stepped up and began offering masks and upping air circulation on subway trains.
Priyanka Aribindi: And staying with some climate news, it has been an extraordinarily hot week in Puerto Rico, where temperatures have soared well into the triple digits. In some areas, the heat index, which measures how hot it feels due to humidity and other factors, topped 120 degrees Fahrenheit.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow.
Priyanka Aribindi: Um. I lived in L.A. for a long time. That is not a temperature we ever hit and not one that I would ever be okay with. Big yikes. I don’t like it. The National Weather Service has issued an excessive heat watch for the entire island through Saturday night. It’s part of a larger heat wave that has blanketed the entire Caribbean, which meteorologists warn could become more frequent as a result of human driven climate change. The U.S. territory is also grappling with a power grid that was battered by hurricanes Maria in 2017 and Fiona just last year. The ramped up demand for electricity has periodically left thousands of residents without power for air conditioning over the past few days, which is horrific considering the temperatures that they are in, that is not right. No, no, no.
Tre’vell Anderson: Not a good time to be having electricity and air conditioning issues at all.
Priyanka Aribindi: No, no, no.
Tre’vell Anderson: And finally, YouTube has demonetized several videos from conservative pundit Candace Owens saying that her not cute habit of misgendering and dead naming transpeople violates its policy against hateful and derogatory content. While YouTube doesn’t specifically mention misgendering anywhere in its public policies, the video streaming platform issued a statement saying that it will not run ads on content that deliberately uses the wrong gender pronouns when referring to a trans person or invokes a name they no longer use. This is a big deal because Owens has a lot of influence on the platform with over a million subscribers on her podcast channel alone, where she frequently, quote unquote “debates” whether trans people should have rights. YouTube taking a stand against misgendering could mean that other big conservative pundits who make a lot of money off the platform, like Ben Shapiro and Steven Crowder, could risk getting demonetized themselves if they continue pushing anti-trans rhetoric. As you might guess, Owens claims that YouTube is censoring her by doing all this, but many of her anti-trans videos are still up and available to view. She just can’t make any money off of them.
Priyanka Aribindi: Ah. Yes, censoring. That is exactly the definition of that. You know I feel like YouTube, that is a good move. Like I can’t really argue with you there, but like, why not take the full step? You you went halfway. It’s an important half, but take the full step. It’s Pride Month no less.
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Pride month. Say it with your whole chest YouTube.
Priyanka Aribindi: Something for the people.
Tre’vell Anderson: Say it with your whole chest.
Priyanka Aribindi: A little something for the people. Make some headlines. Do something that actually would be considered good for pride.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely.
Priyanka Aribindi: Just a thought.
Tre’vell Anderson: Absolutely. Why not? And those are the headlines. We’ll be back after some ads with the latest cringey efforts to celebrate pride.
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, WAD Squad. And before we sign off for the week, it’s time for a little segment we like to call rent free. Because no matter how many things are happening in the news and there’s always so many things, there’s always that one thing that ends up living rent free in your head.
Priyanka Aribindi: We know the sensation all too well. We are here today with our good friend, Crooked Associate editor Julia Claire. She is the mastermind behind the What A Day nightly newsletter. Julia, welcome back to WAD. Thank you so much for being here.
Julia Claire: Thank you so much for having me. It’s great to be back. Happy Pride Month everyone. [laughter]
Priyanka Aribindi: Hell yeah. Happy Pride. Okay, so tell us. I know there is one story that has been taking up way too much of your brain space this week. Let us in. A little producer may have told me that what you picked actually has something to do with Pride Month.
Julia Claire: Well, you know what? I actually had a different uh segment planned for rent free today. And then I saw a tweet that–
Priyanka Aribindi: Uh oh.
Julia Claire: –could not be ignored. [laugh]
Priyanka Aribindi: Couldn’t be unseen.
Julia Claire: And it comes from none other than our very own CIA.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mmm.
Julia Claire: The CIA did allyship today by posting a pride tweet for the ages. And I’m going to read it to you. CIA’s 2023 theme for Pride Month is WELCO-ME in all caps. Wellness, Equity, LGBTQ+, Community, Openness, and the last one is just me. [laughter] Those were the last two for welcome. Pride Month is an occasion for all of us at the agency to pay tribute to the rich history, community and mission contributions of our LGBTQ plus officers. Hashtag Pride 2023.
Tre’vell Anderson: Wow.
Julia Claire: The CIA said gay rights. Uh. It’s the funniest tweet in the world.
Priyanka Aribindi: Did we like it better when Kirsten Gillibrand did? Like whose do we like best? [laughter]
Julia Claire: The CIA’s is particularly funny because I just obviously the clandestine services have no interest in quote unquote, “openness” about anything.
Tre’vell Anderson: Right.
Julia Claire: But in particular, the CIA just had explicit ways of investigating gay people for years.
Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm.
Julia Claire: I found this memo that was published in 1980, an internal memo at the CIA for, quote unquote, “homosexual investigations.” And it is about how to identify someone who is gay, particularly a gay man. There are some all time pull quotes in this memo, uh and I will read you one right now. The subject, one of the most common mistakes made by the average person is the conviction that he can recognize a homosexual on sight. This is similar to recognizing a communist. The subject–
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh.
Julia Claire: –has a mental or emotional problem rather than a physical one. You know, you can’t just know by sight so they give you some tips. They said a homosexual frequently uses a post office box to receive mail from trusted friends.
Priyanka Aribindi: What?
Julia Claire: Although bills, ads, junk mail and letters from relatives are received at his residence.
Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, so the gays go to the post office a lot.
Julia Claire: He is dragging P.O. boxes to hell.
Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah.
Julia Claire: Whoever wrote this. His telephone number is often unlisted. He does his own shopping, avoiding, where possible delivery people or other outsiders coming to his home.
Tre’vell Anderson: What?
Priyanka Aribindi: What?
Julia Claire: His car parentheses preferably foreign is often [laughter] reserved for weekends, rarely driven to the office.
Priyanka Aribindi: How’s he getting to the office? [laughter]
Julia Claire: I don’t know. He’s walking.
Tre’vell Anderson: He’s walking I guess?
Julia Claire: And taking public transportation, the gays are using public transportation. And I think that’s what they’re saying.
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh wow.
Julia Claire: Um. They also have definitions for gay, straight, and bi.
Priyanka Aribindi: Ah.
Julia Claire: I mean, my favorite one is the definition for straight. [laugh] Straight, this word means, quote, “normal.” [laughter]
Tre’vell Anderson: Just that simple.
Priyanka Aribindi: Can we for a second just circle back really quickly to the acrostic poem that they wrote in that tweet? What?
Tre’vell Anderson: I would just like to say on behalf of the community that it’s also okay to not celebrate pride. You know, you this is–
Priyanka Aribindi: Just–
Tre’vell Anderson: Just ignore us. Leave us out of it. Okay. We didn’t ask for this.
Priyanka Aribindi: Just be normal, as you say, just be normal. That is Crooked associate editor Julia Claire. Julia, thank you, as always, for sharing just things that we could not live without knowing.
Julia Claire: Bye. Thanks, guys. [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Give Candace Owens a big thumbs down on YouTube and tell your friends to listen.
Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just poop jokes on squeaky dog toys 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 see you in Miami, Donald.
Tre’vell Anderson: Or maybe not.
Priyanka Aribindi: Awful orange in Miami just dripping. I’m picturing like Rudy Giuliani [laughter] dripping down the face. I don’t like it.
Tre’vell Anderson: It’s what he deserves.
Priyanka Aribindi: It really is. But still disgusting. [laughter] [music break]
Tre’vell Anderson: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our show’s producer is Itxy Quintanilla. Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf are our associate producers and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. [music break]