The Push for More Ukraine Aid | Crooked Media
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January 16, 2024
What A Day
The Push for More Ukraine Aid

In This Episode

  • President Biden invited Congressional leaders to the White House Wednesday for their first face-to-face talks in months about critical aid to Ukraine, immigration and border policy, and aid for Israel. Meanwhile, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos on Tuesday where he emphasized the need for more aid and called out Putin directly.
  • In the Middle East, fears of an expanding war in the region have multiplied in recent days. The U.S. launched a new airstrike against Houthi ballistic missiles in Yemen on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Iran launched missiles of their own at locations in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan.
  • And in headlines: Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson dropped out of the race, the Supreme Court decided to stay out of the debate over bathroom access for transgender students, and Elton John joined the EGOT club.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, January 17th. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What a Day. The pod that doesn’t like book bans. But we’ll make an exception for books by Bill O’Reilly. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Two of his books were among the thousand titles taken off the shelves temporarily in a Florida school district last week. Maybe you shouldn’t have been so woke, Bill. 


Juanita Tolliver: Or maybe you just shouldn’t promote book bans. I mean, that’s the whole other idea here. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Did we just win him to our side? Perhaps.


Juanita Tolliver: [laugh] Doubtful. [laugh] Doubtful. [music break] 


Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, Houthi rebels and U.S. forces trade more fire in the Red sea. And we explain the backstory behind the fighting. Plus, the Republican we didn’t realize was still in the presidential race drops out of the presidential race. Asa Hutchinson called it quits. We hardly knew ya. And by hardly, I mean not at all. 


Juanita Tolliver: Oh, I bet most of the country is like, who’s that? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Who? Why did I get a push alert for this? Like this is not worth it. 


Juanita Tolliver: Not worth it at all. But first, President Biden has invited congressional leaders to the White House today for their first face to face talks in months about critical aid to Ukraine, immigration and border policy, and aid for Israel. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Zooming in on Ukraine specifically, how are negotiations looking so far? 


Juanita Tolliver: Legislative aides and White House aides have been negotiating with their counterparts on the Hill for the past few weeks. But what’s most concerning about Ukraine funding is that House speaker Mike Johnson has told members of the Republican conference that he will reject the Senate’s Ukraine border deal, and Johnson has never committed to a timeline for a Ukraine aid package. Of course, today’s meeting will include a bipartisan group of committee chairs and ranking members. So we should all watch to see how Johnson’s posture evolves, because this group is nothing like the MAGA extremists in his conference who want to delay much needed aid to Ukraine in exchange for more restrictive border policies. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. So yesterday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky also addressed the World Economic Forum in Davos. What was his message to those attendees?


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. President Zelenskyy received a warm reception at Davos as he delivered a broad appeal for support from the West. In his address, he emphasized the need for more aid. He described how the Ukrainian army has been fighting back against Russia, including shooting down Russian missiles. And he called out Putin directly. Take a listen. 


[clip of Volodymyr Zelenskyy] Putin is trying to normalize what should have ended in the 20th century. Mass deportations, cities and villages razed to the ground. And the terrifying feeling that the war may never end. In fact, Putin embodies war. We all know that he is the sole reason why various wars and conflicts persist, and why all attempts to restore peace have failed. And he will not change. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, it’s the reality, or especially around this sense of the war never ending, that we know Putin likes to leverage for his advantage to try to wear them down. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: Zelenskyy also added that the Russian invasion is about democracy at a global scale, not just in Ukraine. And he projected confidence that allies like the European Union and the United States would send more aid within a matter of weeks. President Biden is working to deliver that, and has previously warned that failing to approve funding could hand a victory to Russian President Vladimir Putin. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. Speaking of Putin, I heard that he also delivered an address of his own yesterday, not at Davos, he did not get invited to that kind of thing. What did he have to say about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine? 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. Great clarification. He was not at Davos y’all. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. 


Juanita Tolliver: He just did a little number on local television. 


Priyanka Aribindi: He cannot show his face in polite society. 


Juanita Tolliver: [laugh] No. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s a no. 


Juanita Tolliver: But in his televised address, Putin planted a flag of sorts by declaring that if the invasion continued on its current path, then Ukraine would suffer a, quote, “irreparable blow,” and he wouldn’t have to abandon the Ukrainian land that Russia currently occupies. Putin’s comments followed a meeting among national security advisers in Davos about the terms of Ukraine’s peace formula, which included Russia leaving Ukraine entirely and giving back the roughly 18% of territory that they’ve taken over during the invasion. Apparently, that was a nonstarter for Putin, who described Ukraine’s position as a, quote, “prohibitive demand.” Thankfully, leaders in the region support Ukraine and its demands, including Poland’s President Andrzej Duda, who said it makes complete sense for Ukraine to not cede any ground to Russia. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I mean, earlier we had a little discussion about whether or not to include the word delulu in the show, and it got cut but like let’s bring it right back here because– 


Juanita Tolliver: Okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –it is completely delulu to think that Ukraine will just give up 18% of its territory and and call it a day. I’m sorry. I’m I’m glad that someone is reiterating– 


Juanita Tolliver: I mean. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –that that would be just a complete nonstarter. That’s not okay. 


Juanita Tolliver: Sadly, what Putin is used to is strong arming people though. So I guess this is his global wake up call. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, we hope so. Thank you so much for that Juanita. We’re going to turn now to the Middle East, where fears of an expanding war in the region have multiplied in recent days with a chaotic wave of attacks, including everybody from the Houthis in the Red sea to the U.S. and its allies, even Iran itself. There is a lot going on, but hopefully we can break it all down so you understand what’s going on, where and why. 


Juanita Tolliver: Let’s start off with the Houthi rebels from Yemen. What’s the latest there?


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. Yesterday, the U.S. launched a new airstrike against Houthi ballistic missiles in Yemen. This was the third strike of its kind by the U.S. and according to officials, they launched it preemptively because of the threat that those Houthi missiles posed to U.S. Navy ships, as well as other merchant ships in the area. As we’ve reported before on the show, the Houthis have attacked several ships in the Red Sea. They have been doing so for months now, and they say that their attacks are in protest of Israel’s military actions in Gaza and in solidarity with Palestinians. But a lot of their targets have been commercial ships without any specific connection to Israel. What they do have a connection to, though, is global trade, which is why the US and the UK have gotten involved here in such a big way. At the end of last week, the US and the UK launched a coordinated strike using missiles and fighter jets to hit nearly 30 locations in Houthi controlled parts of Yemen in order to take out equipment supplies like missiles and drones and of course to send a message to the Houthis. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, I know that the U.S. and U.K. tagged team this and dropped about 150 munitions, but not all of their allies signed on to this. France, for example, did not agree with this move because they feared it would be an escalation. But what else do we know about the Houthis history in the area and how they’re affecting trade? 


Priyanka Aribindi: The Houthis are a militant group in Yemen. They overthrew the country’s government back in 2014, and they are backed financially and with arms by Iran. As has been the through line with so many of these militant groups that we have discussed. And since the start of the war between Israel and Hamas, they have launched dozens of missile and drone attacks at Israel. Most of those attacks were deterred, but they’ve also been attacking ships in the Red Sea for months now with much more success. Those attacks have made it a lot less safe for ships to travel via the Suez Canal, which is a hugely important route in global trade. So a lot of the world’s biggest shipping lines, oil producers, etc. have had to find alternate routes, including going all the way around the Cape of Good Hope in South Africa. So just like complete detours, and a lot of extra mileage. That’s prompted a surge in oil prices. It’s increased insurance rates, and it could negatively affect other things in the economy if it goes unchecked, which you know, nobody wants to see. So you have a lot of people who are very unhappy with these attacks. 


Juanita Tolliver: Have these strikes by the U.S. and their allies deterred the Houthi strikes in the Red Sea so far? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s a good question. I mean, not that we can see so far. The U.S. and the UK’s joint strike was on Friday, but over the weekend, the Houthis tried to hit an American warship that they claimed was carrying missiles to Israel. On Monday, they damaged a commercial ship from the US, even after the third U.S. strike yesterday, the Houthis launched another attack on a merchant ship that same afternoon. According to National Security Council spokesman John Kirby, the US isn’t looking for a war here. They still don’t want things to escalate. But I mean, it appears that they just are. We’ll be watching very closely to see what happens here in the coming days, because it doesn’t look like these strikes are coming to an end. According to officials, the Biden administration also plans to put the Houthi rebels back on the list of foreign terrorist organizations. They took them off of the list in 2021 because of concerns that that designation might make it difficult to deliver aid and assistance to the people of Yemen, who have been experiencing a mass humanitarian crisis for years and years now. But after the last week especially, they are expected to be back on that list. 


Juanita Tolliver: So aside from backing the Houthis, I know Iran is in the mix separately as well. Tell us more about what’s happening there. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes. In the past two days, Iran launched missiles of their own at locations in Iraq, Syria and Pakistan. So a lot going on there. They claimed that the attack in Iraq was on a spy base for Israel’s intelligence agency, and that the ones in Syria and Pakistan supposedly targeted militant groups that are anti Iran. This takes place in the wake of two recent attacks in Iran, the first by the Islamic State at a memorial procession which killed at least 84 people, and the second on a police station that killed at least 11 police officers. Clearly a lot happening on this front as well, and even more unhappy people in many more countries. Yesterday, Iraq recalled its ambassador from Tehran calling Iran’s attack a, quote, “blatant violation of their sovereignty.” And in Pakistan, they echoed the same sentiment. A lot of that sentiment going around. The U.S., UK and France have all condemned the attacks as well. But, you know, all of this continues to unfold, and we will continue to watch and keep you updated as we learn more. That is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break]




Juanita Tolliver: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Juanita Tolliver: After receiving his own participation award on Monday night, Republican presidential candidate Asa Hutchinson has decided that he’s done participating. Somehow, the former Arkansas governor stuck around long enough to be on the ballot and got 191 votes total [laughter] among all 99 counties in Iowa in the Iowa caucuses. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I didn’t mean to be mean, [laughter] but like, oh my gosh. 


Juanita Tolliver: He tried. He participated. [laughing] 


Priyanka Aribindi: That’s like two votes a county, which is impressive, I guess. 


Juanita Tolliver: I mean, Hutchinson ran an anti-Trump campaign, even suggesting that Trump could be disqualified from running for president under the 14th amendment. He was actually the first candidate who called for Trump to step aside. Great message. Wrong messanger here. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wrong messenger. 


Juanita Tolliver: I don’t think he has any pull here. [laughing] That’s the case we’ve seen taken up in Colorado and Maine that we’ve covered on the show. Throughout his campaign, Hutchinson highlighted his two terms as Arkansas governor and his prominent roles in the George W. Bush administration. He also called for the U.S. to be more energy independent and criticized Biden’s economic and border policies. Obviously, none of this worked. [laughing]Our only question is who’s next to throw in the towel? Also, the New Hampshire debate that was on the books for tomorrow has been canceled after Nikki Haley said she wouldn’t participate unless Trump does. And let’s be real, he’s not gonna. Gag. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, they they are never gonna debate. It’s never gonna happen. 


Juanita Tolliver: You said fetch is never gonna happen, I love it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No, fetch is never happening. You said our only question is who’s next to throw in the towel? I have an additional question. Who authorized the push alert that went to everybody’s [laughter] phone that Asa Hutchinson dropped out of his race because, I’m sorry. There are, like, 100 people who know who that man is. All of them listen to this podcast. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m sorry. Who cares? Who cares?


Juanita Tolliver: No, 191 people in Iowa care. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Fine. Fine, 191 people. Donald Trump was back in the courtroom yesterday. 


Juanita Tolliver: Oh, wait, which one of the four legal cases is it for this time? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. I mean, it’s a good question. This is Trump’s federal civil trial that kicked off yesterday that’ll determine how much money he might owe former advice columnist E. Jean Carroll for defamation. A reminder in 2019, Carroll publicly accused Trump of raping her in the mid ’90s and then sued him for defamation when he denied the charge. This is the second defamation trial, Trump lost a case last year for what he said about Carroll in 2022. The takeaways from yesterday, Carroll’s lawyer said that while Trump was president, he, quote, “used the world’s biggest microphone to attack Miss Caroll to humiliate her and destroy her reputation.” Of course, Trump’s attorney claimed that Caroll’s career has prospered since she accused Trump of sexual assault. The attorney also broke one of the rules that the judge put in place, which is that Trump’s lawyers can’t argue that Trump didn’t sexually abuse Carroll because they proved that he did already. That was already been proved. So best of luck with that one. One of Trump’s attorneys also resigned from his legal team on Monday. So, you know, things going really swimmingly for them over there. Carroll is expected to testify today, and Trump’s lawyers have indicated that he will also testify. But we will see if that actually happens. He has changed his mind before on this kind of thing. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. Don’t hold your breath on that one. In a victory for trans kids, the Supreme Court yesterday decided to stay out of the debate over bathroom access for transgender students for now at least. Without comment the High Court rejected an appeal from an Indiana school district and left in place a lower court’s ruling that allowed transgender boys to use the boys bathroom. The Metropolitan School District of Martinsville appealed that ruling to the Supreme Court, which, in case you forgot, has a 6-3 conservative majority. Meanwhile, at least nine states in the US have enacted laws that prohibit transgender students from using bathrooms that correspond with their gender identity. Because, of course, harming children is always one of their priorities. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Mm hmm top of the list. 


Juanita Tolliver: And the Supreme Court sent out another rejection letter yesterday. This time, it declined to hear an antitrust case between Apple and Epic Games, the maker of Fortnite. Without explanation, the High Court denied appeals by both Apple and Fortnite. As a result, developers like Epic have the green light to insert in-app links and buttons to other payment options that can bypass Apple’s App Store, which avoids giving a cut of the sales to Apple. We love it. Stick it to the man. Yes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, they don’t need that money. 


Juanita Tolliver: [laughing] Period. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: And in some award show news that dropped after we went to record yesterday’s show, Elton John has joined the EGOT club. The singer won the Emmy for Best Variety Special on Monday night for his concert film, Farewell from Dodger Stadium. The three hour concert was live streamed globally on Disney Plus from Los Angeles last year, documenting John’s last ever show on tour in North America. And the award makes John the 19th person in history to win an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar, and a Tony in their lifetime, or EGOT for short. Viola Davis was the last person to achieve the coveted status in 2023, when she picked up her first Grammy. Clearly just an icon’s only award. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: John was unable to attend the Emmys on Monday night to accept his new trophy, but the producer of his winning special, Ben Winston, gave a speech in his place. Take a listen. 


[clip of Ben Winston] We knew the show would be historic, because it was going to be Elton’s last ever show in North America on tour. We didn’t know it was going to be historic because it was going to win a man who has, uh, created the soundtrack to all of our lives, who’s done so much great for society, who is all of our heroes. We didn’t know that it was going to win him an EGOT. Thank you so much. We are so grateful. 


Juanita Tolliver: That’s so special. Like, my heart is–


Priyanka Aribindi: I know I like–


Juanita Tolliver: –warm. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: –chills. [laughter] I know that’s really sweet. John wrote in a statement after the ceremony, quote, “tonight is a testament to the power of the arts and the joy that it brings to all of our lives.” Who would know better than him? As Ben Winston said, he’s brought so much of that to all of our lives. We’re all so grateful. 


Juanita Tolliver: I love also that they FaceTimed him in the moment. Like I didn’t see video of it, but they FaceTime him and he woke up screaming. It was fabulous. It was a wonderful celebration. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh my god I love that! 


Juanita Tolliver: So even though he wasn’t there. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That makes me so happy. 


Juanita Tolliver: He did feel the love. Yes.


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh my god. Amazing. 


Juanita Tolliver: And finally, a story about two airlines that will find a way to charge us for saying their names, y’all. A federal judge yesterday blocked JetBlue Airways from acquiring Spirit Airlines. In a 109 page decision, U.S. District Judge William G. Young sided with the Biden administration and barred the $3.8 billion dollar deal, saying that the merger would reduce competition. Because Spirit is so competitive y’all. [laughter] 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh. 


Juanita Tolliver: Oh goodness. The Justice Department sued last year to block the deal, and in Judge Young’s ruling yesterday, he wrote that the merger would harm consumers that rely on Spirit’s low cost model, saying, quote, “Spirit is a small airline, but there are those who love it…” [laughing] 


Priyanka Aribindi: Define love. 


Juanita Tolliver: I couldn’t even get through that. Are there? Okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Divine love. I’m sure there are people who use it and and use it frequently, but I don’t think they love it. 


Juanita Tolliver: Young went on by saying that to those dedicated customers of Spirit, this one’s for you. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: Did he raise a beer too? What’s going on? 


Juanita Tolliver: But he’s so serious. They don’t serve beer on Spirit. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: They’re like, you want a water? It’s nine dollars. [laughter] 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. Following the ruling, Spirit Airline shares fell 47% by Tuesday afternoon, and JetBlue shares went up 5% because I think that explains the dynamic of this merger to begin with. [laugh] Right. Like, okay, both companies said that they disagreed with the decision and were evaluating whether or not to appeal. In a post on X FKA Twitter, President Joe Biden wrote, quote, “today’s ruling is a victory for consumers everywhere who want lower prices and more choices,” And no reclining seats. [laugh] I got to stop. He didn’t say, no reclining seats y’all. Okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it is a win for them, I suppose. Maybe it’s a win for me, I don’t know. I’m staying comfortably on Delta. I’m sorry guys, I’m stuck there. Stuck there because of my credit card. It’s fine, it’s fine. 


Juanita Tolliver: And those are the headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Mm hmm. [laughter]




Juanita Tolliver: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, make Spirit Airlines your Valentine and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just woke literature by Bill O’Reilly  like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver: I’m Juanita Tolliver. 


[spoken together] And Elton John finally EGOT what’s coming to him. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen we love a good pun. 


Juanita Tolliver: Do we? 


Priyanka Aribindi: We didn’t write said pun, we’ll tolerate a pun. We’ll read it. We’re delirious. We’re having a day on this show, if you did not know. 


Juanita Tolliver: But also to my friends who know how much I loathe puns, that one’s for you. [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: Just a little something for the fans at home. [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: 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 showrunner is Leo Duran. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.