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February 23, 2021
What A Day
The Return Of The Tax Returns

In This Episode

  • The Supreme Court threw out the final Trump lawsuit challenging the results of the 2020 election, and also paved the way for Trump’s taxes to be disclosed to a New York Grand Jury.
  • The US is behind other countries in our ability to sequence and track COVID variants, but the White House announced they would devote $200 million to expanding those efforts and there’s even more in the upcoming economic relief package. In the UK, prime Minister Boris Johnson is hoping to slowly ease out of lockdown, with a plan to reopen schools on in two weeks.
  • And in headlines: officers in Colorado didn’t have a legal basis for frisking and restraining Elijah McClain, Virginia will become the first Southern state to end the death penalty, and a new podcast from Obama and Springsteen.

 

Transcript

 

Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, February 23rd. I’m Akilah Hughes.

 

Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day where we are still seeking sponsorships from FDA-approved vaccine brands.

 

Akilah Hughes: Yeah, if you guys are just thinking about giving us some, some little needles with the vaccine and some instructions on how to use it, we will be happy to pass that on to the audience.

 

Gideon Resnick: Mm hmm. I’m going to do a PSA where I have two of the Sputniks in each arm.

 

Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Well, you can take that one.

 

Gideon Resnick: On today’s show, what the FDA is saying about booster shots and the UK’s plan to get out of lockdown, then some headlines.

 

Gideon Resnick: But first, the latest. And we’ll start with a couple of L’s that Trump was handed yesterday by the Supreme Court. Number one, the election that never ends has finally come to an end as SCOTUS has rejected all of Trump’s lawsuits challenging it. Hopefully next week’s Sunday shows will refrain from having Republicans on who are still denying Trump’s loss now that his idiotic attempts at overthrowing the election are through. We’re looking at you, Steve Scalise— get a hobby. Yesterday, the court threw out an appeal from Pennsylvania Republicans to disqualify mail ballots. Justice Clarence Thomas, who should retire already, disagreed with the decision. He wanted to weigh in on the Pennsylvania case even though it would not have changed the outcome of the election but would have made clearer who has the final say on legal changes made to election laws. He said as much in his dissent and he was joined by two other justices. But majority rules and dumb lawsuits drool, I guess.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that’s what I learned from Schoolhouse Rock. And then there was another L that you were talking about. What happened there?

 

Akilah Hughes: Yeah, OK, so the bigger L—it was that SCOTUS basically paved the way for Trump’s mysterious and oft-unavailable taxes to be disclosed to a New York grand jury in a criminal probe. So what started as an investigation into bribes to one Stormy Daniels, became a deeper investigation into possible insurance and bank fraud. The order rejecting Trump’s appeal was exactly one line that read: the application for a stay presented to Justice Breyer and referred to the court is denied.

 

Gideon Resnick: Short and to the point. And so what’s next for the disgraced former president, legally speaking?

 

Akilah Hughes: All right. So here are the highlights of his lowlights. A Fulton County criminal probe into Trump’s meddling into the election in Georgia. A defamation suit from E. Jean Carol over Trump’s response to her rape allegation. There’s another defamation suit from a former Apprentice contestant over his response to her claim that he sexually assaulted her. A lawsuit from Representative Bennie Thompson and the NAACP—happy Black History Month—over Trump’s role in the insurrection. And, you know, any civil or criminal liability Trump might have for his role in inciting that riot. Quite the list. So while we all look forward to maybe a better summer than we had last year, Trump is almost certainly looking forward to bad news.

 

Gideon Resnick: That sounds about right. So that is the court side of things. Now, let’s talk about the Department of Justice. Yesterday was day one of confirmation hearings for Merrick Garland, Biden’s pick for attorney general. So let’s start with a clip from his opening statement.

 

[clip of Merrick Garland] The president nominates the attorney general to be the lawyer, not for any individual, but for the people of the United States. July 2020 marked the 150th anniversary of the founding of the Department of Justice, making this a fitting time to remember the mission of the attorney general and of the department. It is a fitting time to reaffirm that the rulle, role of the attorney general is to serve the rule of law and to ensure equal justice under law.

 

Akilah Hughes: Yeah, wow. Imagine equal justice under the law. So in that clip, he says the attorney general is the lawyer for the people of the United States, not any one person, a.k.a. this is not going to be a Bill Barr-Donald Trump situation. Another big focus was the threat of domestic terrorism and white supremacy. So Garland spoke about his experience investigating the Oklahoma City bombing and said that investigating the attack on the Capitol would be his number one priority if confirmed. By the way, later today the Senate is holding its first public hearing on the insurrection outside of the impeachment trial. And they’re going to be hearing from several witnesses, including the Chief of the D.C. police, the former Capitol Police Chief and the former Sergeants at Arms. So we’ll be watching that, too, for more info on security failures.

 

Gideon Resnick: That we will. And then on that note, Garland of the US faces a, quote “more dangerous period from domestic extremists than we did at the time of the Oklahoma bombing in 1985.” So what were the other big themes he presented?

 

Akilah Hughes: Well, it was all sort of related. So he talked about racism, discrimination, and said he wanted to prioritize civil rights at the DOJ. Garland’s career hasn’t been in civil rights, which disappointed some activists when he was nominated by Biden. They had wanted to see someone with that kind of track record and they did not get that. But during the hearing, Garland talked about how other top DOJ officials he’s been nominated with, like Vanita Gupta, have the experience and skills that he doesn’t and now he’ll be relying on their leadership. Gupta was the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Chief in the Obama administration, and now she’s been tapped to be the Associate Attorney General.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, Garland’s confirmation hearings are expected to wrap up today, and he is very much expected to be confirmed.

 

Akilah Hughes: Yeah, finally good. But switching to COVID—one day I thankfully won’t have to say that anymore—we’ve been talking a lot about the two Vs: vaccines and variants. So as the listeners know, there have been some concerns about how to keep vaccines current with new mutations. The FDA partially answered this question yesterday, but what was the takeaway?

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so big picture: they think that when and if these booster shots get developed, they aren’t going to need to go through super extended clinical trials. We all remember waiting to hear the results of those in the last few months, but now the FDA is saying to companies like Pfizer and Moderna: you can study the effects of these altered vaccines on a smaller scale; we know that the original ones work now, they might just need some tweaks. It’s sort of similar to how we treat flu shots every year. As New York Times noted, this wasn’t put out with the expectation that these booster shots would be necessary or made right around the corner, but more so to say in the event that if we do need boosters, let’s make the process faster. Instead of those long clinical trials comparing the vaccine to a placebo in the real world, the recommendation is that scientists draw blood from a small group that has received the altered vaccine. Then they’d see what the immune response looks like to the variants in the lab.

 

Akilah Hughes: All right. So we’ll see what happens with vaccines getting updated or not. Meanwhile, there’s some progress on the country’s ability to actually track the variants.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yes, some progress indeed. The White House announced last week that they were devoting an initial 200 million dollars to those efforts. That is going to reportedly bump up the number of genomes the CDC can sequence from about 9,000 a week to a goal of around 25,000. It’s not going to be immediate, though. And that is just a small start to how this is going to go. Democrats in Congress, like Senator Tammy Baldwin, are talking about almost two billion dollars for this. It would be part of the upcoming economic relief package. And the context here is the United States is way far behind other countries in our ability to know when and where these variants are popping up. According to The New York Times, the U.K. began their sequencing program back in March of last year, and now they sequence up to 10% of all positive tests. So it’s very important for us to catch up so that we know where these are and what to actually do about them.

 

Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and the U.K. has been in a pretty strict lockdown for what seems like forever now, largely because of this contagious variant. But they might be getting closer to out of the woods, right?

 

Gideon Resnick: Yes, at least that’s what Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hoping to convey. Yesterday, he said schools are going to reopen March 8th. Then three weeks later, people can socialize outside. That is pretty strict [laughs] that you weren’t able to do that. At the same time, though, places like gyms, restaurants and shops are staying closed for at least another month. They’re going to try to go really slowly because the openings and closings of last year were all over the place. It was hectic, and Britain ended up with the highest death toll in Europe.

 

Akilah Hughes: Yeah, and this is coming at a moment when the UK is pretty far along with vaccination. So that’s also a part of this.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s definitely been the thing that’s driving it. The UK has vaccinated over 17 million people with first doses. That’s roughly about a quarter of the population, if my math didn’t fail me—I’m sure someone will let me know. For us, though, as we closely watch how quickly the variant in the UK overwhelmed the hospital system, I think Johnson and this plan are going to be under a microscope, too. So hopefully their spring and ours is better than our collective winters. But that’s the latest for now.

 

Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about the band that is playing at my house: it’s Daft Punk, which announced their breakup, yesterday. Daft Punk was formed by robot-guys Thomas and Guy-Manuel while in Paris in 1993. Over the past 28 years, they released some of the world’s most popular and influential dance songs. They didn’t give a reason for breaking up, though they did post a video where one of them blows the other up. So Giddy, what’s your reaction to this news? Do you have any random access memories of Daft Punk you want to share?

 

Gideon Resnick: First want to say that video: what a way to go out. Just uh, not saying anything—.

 

Akilah Hughes: [laughs] The only way to go out if the show ever ends, [laughs] it’ll end with us exploding each other, I guess.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah, it’s the perfect way to say goodbye. That’s, that’s what they say. My random access memories . . . uh, I, I remember like in 2007 walking across that huge Lollapalooza field from like, something like Wilco, which was very, you know, Chicago-y in like, you’re there—it’s like dads and kids are there together—to like across the field to Daft Punk, where at the time if I had known what Molly was, I would have identified lots of it floating around. Because it was another world, like they had the huge pyramid thing that was flashing. I just remember like being like shocked that that was possible in a setup, like for two guys. So that was really cool. My other random access memory is that I think they previewed Get Lucky at Coachella when I was in college, perhaps.

 

Akilah Hughes: Wow.

 

Gideon Resnick: And there was like a small—this is very nerdy of me—but there’s like a small video that they played, it might have been like during a set from Pharrell or someone, where they were like: oh, this is coming out. And I remember like, hearing that little guitar riff and just like watching that over and over and over again. So, I’m gonna miss these weird, weird masked man.

 

Akilah Hughes: Yeah. It’s a great song. It’s a song that I feel like people just forget about all the time. It’s a good one. “We’re up all night to get lucky.” [laughs]

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah.

 

Akilah Hughes: Oh, man. I’ve never seen them live, so I’m glad you’ve gotten to several times.

 

Gideon Resnick: It is, it was just such a jarring experience for a young me, not really understanding the full context of what people may or may not have been doing at a show [laughs] like Daft Punk’s. But, you know, congrats to them. Same question for you, Akilah. What are your random access memories here?

 

Akilah Hughes: Oh, I have a few. So, obviously, they’re not in person. But I will say that I came up on the Internet at a time when something called Daft Hands and Daft Bodies took the world by storm. I don’t know if you all remember these viral videos, but they were set to ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger’—

 

Gideon Resnick: Oh yeah.

 

Akilah Hughes: With some really solid finger movements and arm dance moves choreographed so that the words would change. And I remember thinking, like: this is the coolest shit, like this is why the Internet is existing, that’s the only reason. It’s for like, cool teens to come up with, like, amazing creative ways to express lyrics. And so I love that so much and I remember it was probably around the same time I was working at Forever 21—shout out to all the Forever 21 kids [laughs]—and we had these monthly CDs that would come in over the course of the summer. And I remember Kanye’s song, Stronger, which samples ‘Harder, Better, Faster, Stronger,’ was like the only song on that specific soundtrack that we were all like: Who is this!? And I remember that being like a real cultural reset, like not since Aerosmith and Run DMC had there been this crossover of like, genres. And I think that that’s honestly like the reason that Kanye shot to the stardom that he had was that like, oh, no one was sampling like deejays at that point. It was all like oldies and, you know . . . Babyface [laughs]. So I just think that it was yeah, like that was probably my introduction. And then, of course, you have to go through the entire 28-year long history. But they just they were a group that got better and better. I love their mystique. I love that it was never like, you know, they were never, you know, super about putting their face out there. They’re just like: we like making the hits, we like making you dance. So, love them.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah. It’s, maybe it is just because, like, we’re right around that age of the you know, we’ve lived one Daft Punk in our lives basically—with, uh, a little change—that like it feels like there’s been a moment for every single thing that they’ve done at a certain point in our lives, which um, which is cool. It’s cool. I also feel old.

 

Akilah Hughes: Yeah, yeah. I’m sad that they’re leaving us. But, you know, we’ve got, we’ve got the memories and I feel like there’ll be like reunion tours and stuff. Right? They can’t be out of the game forever.

 

Gideon Resnick: Yeah. They’re going to play from Mars or something. You know, that’s why the rover is there, I’m sure they’re scouting locations.

 

Akilah Hughes: I sure hope so. Well, just like that, we have checked our temps. Stay safe. Why don’t you work harder, better, faster, stronger on listening to more Daft Punk songs? And we’ll be back after some ads.

 

[ad break]

 

Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.

 

[sung] Headlines.

 

Gideon Resnick: A new report found that police officers in Colorado didn’t have a legal basis for frisking and physically restraining a Elijah McClain in a chokehold. Those officers killed McClain in 2019. He was a black man and was 23 years old. The new report came from an independent investigation and it concluded that the initial investigation into McClain’s death was deeply flawed. That first investigation was conducted by detectives from the same department as the officers who were responsible. And they reportedly failed to ask basic questions about the incident, and used specific language that led to the officers’ exonerations in court. The new report also found that paramedics incorrectly sedated McClain without conducting anything more than a brief visual observation. The panel recommended a complete overhaul of the Aurora Police Department’s accountability system, along with new policies and training on the use of force.

 

Akilah Hughes: Virginia is on its way to becoming the first state in the South to abolish the death penalty. State lawmakers yesterday gave their stamp of approval to a bill that will effectively end capital punishment. Now, it’ll head over to get a signature from Governor Ralph Northam, who has already said that he will sign it into law. Virginia historically has executed more people than any other state—considering that they started doing it in 1608. But even since the Supreme Court reinstated the death penalty in the 70s, Virginia has executed over 110 people, which is more than every other state aside from Texas. Only two men are currently on death row in the state, and the legislation is expected to convert the sentences.

 

Gideon Resnick: In the aviation world, your goal is always to assure your customer that their plane won’t explode or fall out of the sky. Now, Boeing has struggled with that challenge for a while now, and their luck didn’t improve this weekend with one of their planes shedding engine parts over Colorado and another doing it in the Netherlands—it’s good to be consistent. The planes were different, but their engines were both built by a Raytheon-owned company called Pratt & Whitney—sounds like a boarding school. In response, Boeing grounded 69 of their 777-model planes with engines from the same manufacturer. Investigators from the National Transportation Safety Board are looking into why the Colorado engine caught fire. A similar malfunction happened on a Pratt & Whitney-equipped flight in 2018. And at that time, the NTSB faulted the company for failing to conduct sufficiently thorough inspections. As an experienced paper airplane guy, I know that cutting corners does not work and will only make it so your secret note doesn’t reach your crush.

 

Akilah Hughes: That’s true. There’s a new podcast from two relative unknowns—their names are Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen and they think they’ve got what it takes to crack the Spotify podcast top 10,000. The show is called Renegades: Born in the USA, and statistically it contains the most dad energy ever presented in this format. The Boss and the O-Boss met on the campaign trail in 2008, and Springsteen helped to close out Obama’s presidency with a private concert in January 2017. The show is both personal and universal, touching on race, fatherhood and division in America—I believe it’s Springsteen who’s talking about race—it also contains bombshells some may find shocking, like the way Obama pronounces the word guitar:

 

[clip of President Obama} It made sense. If you’re gonna be a rock n roll star, you’re gonna play the gui-tar.

 

[clip of Bruce Springsteen]] Guitars were cheap.

 

Akilah Hughes: [laughs] All right. Well, he is our country-western president and my cowboy hat is off to him. Renegades was recorded last year and it came out yesterday on Spotify. If you’re the judge in charge of Springsteen’s DWI case, please listen carefully to see if he says I plan to get hammered on my motorcycle in November, 2020. If he does, fine. But if he didn’t . . . better.

 

Gideon Resnick: It could be a clue.

 

Akilah Hughes: And those are the headlines.

 

Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, share your random access memories, and tell your friends to listen.

 

Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just about the long and storied bromance between the Boss and the O-Boss like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out, subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.

 

Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.

 

[together] And we’ll see you on the charts, Obama.

 

Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Maybe we’ll talk about dad stuff. You don’t know.

 

Gideon Resnick: Um-hmm. Good luck, Renegade.

 

Akilah Hughes: [laughs] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.

 

Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.

 

Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon is our assistant producer.

 

Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producers are Katie Long, Akilah Hughes and me.

 

Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.