You Can't Always Declassify What You Want | Crooked Media
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September 20, 2022
What A Day
You Can't Always Declassify What You Want

In This Episode

  • The legal battle over sensitive government documents seized from Mar-a-Lago continued on Tuesday, as lawyers for Donald Trump and the Justice Department met for the first hearing overseen by the special master appointed to review the materials.
  • The midterm elections are fast approaching, and a lot of candidates and organizations are vying for financial support. Shaniqua McClendon, Crooked’s political director, shows us how you can make a difference with your donations – even if you don’t have a lot to give.
  • And in headlines: separatist regions in Ukraine moved closer to holding referendums to join Russia, Hurricane Fiona hit the Turks and Caicos islands, and world leaders gathered in New York for this year’s United Nations General Assembly.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Wednesday, September 21st. I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan and this is What A Day where we are using the last day of summer to take a road trip, go to the beach and have a whirlwind romance. I’m sure my husband will understand. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, it’s summer. It happens. Summer fling don’t mean a thing. [laughter]


Erin Ryan: Oh well, oh well, oh well, uh uh as they say in Grease. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: On today’s show, breakaway regions of Ukraine plan to vote this week to become part of Russia. Plus, dozens of people were charged with stealing millions of dollars in pandemic aid that was meant for low income children. 


Erin Ryan: But first, new developments in former President Trump’s battle over sensitive government documents seized from Mar-a-Lago by the FBI. On Tuesday, the first hearing was held involving the, quote, “special master” appointed to review the documents for privileged information. And it was a special hearing indeed. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Beyond truly, truly special. So there is something almost every day in the news about this case. It is a lot to keep up with. So can you refresh our memory on how exactly we got here? 


Erin Ryan: Why of course I can, Priyanka. So, as you know, Mar-a-Lago was raided by the FBI on August 8th, and agents seized 11,000 documents, over 100 of which were marked classified. In addition, they found four dozen empty folders also marked classified, which ominous– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yikes. 


Erin Ryan: Hope those were just extras. Uh. [laugh] Trump’s legal team had argued that a special master should be appointed to determine which documents the government shouldn’t have access to because they contain privileged information. Team Trump got its way there when U.S. District Judge and Trump appointee, [?] Aileen Cannon granted the request and appointed Judge Raymond Dearie, a veteran FISA court judge who was first appointed by Ronald Reagan in 1986 to be that special master. Are you following along so far? 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m still with you. 


Erin Ryan: Okay, good. Because I am barely with myself. [laugh] It was the first time that lawyers from the Department of Justice, Team Trump and Judge Dearie met and it was a shit show. First of all, the call in number to listen to the hearing was widely disseminated, which wouldn’t have been a big deal if somebody in Judge Dearie’s courtroom knew how to work the mute button. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh, no. 


Erin Ryan: But when you’ve got thousands of people calling in and none of them are muted. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s giving early pandemic. No one knows how to find mute on Zoom. Every meeting is a disaster. Vibes in the biggest, worst way possible. 


Erin Ryan: Yeah. In the minutes leading up to the hearing, the line was a cacophony of people chattering and other people telling the chattering people to shut the fuck up. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Of course. 


Erin Ryan: According to one journalist who was stuck on the line, one man even sang America the Beautiful. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Interesting venue for that. 


Erin Ryan: Yeah. A lot of interesting choices here. Once somebody found the mute button, Trump’s lawyers and the DOJ lawyers argued over which documents Dearie should review. The government wanted Dearie to exclude from his review the 100 highly classified documents that had been recovered due to their sensitive nature. Trump’s lawyers argued that those documents weren’t actually classified, but gave no proof that Trump had declassified them. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Hmm. But like Donald Trump is usually so trustworthy. So we should just, you know, take their word for it. 


Erin Ryan: Yeah, 100% word is bond when it comes to this guy. Dearie noted that Trump’s lawyers hadn’t actually argued in court that the documents were declassified. Trump just said so on social media. Dearie basically told Team Trump that they needed to put up or shut up on whether these documents were declassified or not. Until then, he will just go by the fact that the documents say classified on them and are thus classified. Trump’s lawyers asked Dearie to expedite their top secret security clearance approval process so they could review the allegedly declassified documents themselves. That didn’t go well, either. Dearie said that they were not in the, quote, “need to know category”, which made Trump’s lawyers mad. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. So let me get this straight here. Trump’s legal team’s argument is basically that these documents are not classified. We don’t have any proof of that. But will you also please give us top secret clearance to review these top secret, but somehow also unclassified documents so we can tell you if they contain privileged information, even though you are the one who was appointed to determine that very information. 


Erin Ryan: Yeah. Starting to think these might be some crappy lawyers. [laughter] The main thing to remember here is that whether or not these documents are classified doesn’t matter. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Erin Ryan: The government’s complaint against Trump is that he kept documents after the government asked for them back, which is a violation of multiple laws. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Erin Ryan: Judge Dearie has until the end of November to review all 11,000 documents, and thus the enraged monkey that is justice continues to hold on for dear life to the dozens and dozens of feral hogs that are former President Donald Trump’s legal strategy. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, those feral hogs, sadly, uh will never die. Nor will these ones, I suppose. But in other news, it is Wednesday, WAD squad. As you all know, on Wednesdays leading up to the midterm elections, we do a little segment here called WAD the Vote. 


[clip of WAD to Vote intro music] WAD to Vote. 


Erin Ryan: Whoa. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. We get high tech on the show. 


Erin Ryan: I feel like doing some roller skating tricks to that music. What are we tackling this week? 


Priyanka Aribindi: So this week. We are talking all about money. So the WAD squad knows how often we direct you all to candidates and organizations you can help support in some way. But we also want to be strategic here. We want to make sure that when we are donating ahead of these elections, that we are being really strategic, that all of our dollars will go the furthest towards making a difference. They aren’t going to lost causes or people who don’t need more money to win their races. And we all also have a budget. So we got to be a little picky when it comes to who and what is getting our donations. These have to be good enough to double check my credit card CVV code [laughter] to give this donation. So who should get what and how much are they getting? To answer these questions I went straight to an expert, Crooked’s own political director, Shaniqua McClendon. Hi, Shaniqua. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Hello. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We’ve talked so much about how important it is to vote, but when people give donations, how can that make or break a candidate or a cause? 


Shaniqua McClendon: Unfortunately, money makes everything go round, including campaigns and elections. Giving to candidates allows them to hire staff. It allows them to hire the people who are going to knock on doors and talk to voters and also put commercials and ads on social media just to get their message out. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Uh. And for organizations, it means they also get to hire staff. But organizations exist long after campaigns leave. And so they need money to stick around and, you know, not have to lay people off once an election’s over and just continue the work that they do year round. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. So to make this a little bit easier for everybody, I thought we could do a little bit of visualization. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’ve got a stack of 100 bucks here. [sound of flipping through paper money] It is Monopoly money. If you couldn’t tell. Our audience might not know. That is what we get paid in to work here at Crooked Media. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Unfortunately. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But it’ll work for our purposes here today. So, Shaniqua, can you help me divide up this hundred bucks between, you know, different causes, candidates, organizations, wherever it will make the biggest difference and impact ahead of this election cycle. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Yes, I would be delighted to. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Perfect. First thing I feel like everybody thinks about when you think about donating, it’s these candidates. You’ve been hearing their names. They’re starting to run ads. How much should we be giving to them? 


Shaniqua McClendon: So right now, where we are with Election Day, not that far away, I’d say about 30%. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Okay. 


Shaniqua McClendon: But I would also break that down, giving about $10 to federal candidates and then $20 to state and local candidates. Right now, federal candidates have been on TV. People have been giving them a lot of money. But state and local candidates, they need their name out there. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Shaniqua McClendon: They need people to recognize their name when they go vote. And so this is the perfect opportunity as people start heading to the polls to vote, to make sure people are familiar with these local candidates by helping getting their name out there right now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. Hundred bucks right here. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Uh huh. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So ten for our federal candidates and we’ll do twenty for our state and local candidates. So, five, ten, 15, 20. Awesome. So we still have 70 bucks left. [money flipping sound] What is next? What is getting the biggest chunk of this money? 


Shaniqua McClendon: Voter mobilization and about $60 of your $100 should go to that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: What is that? How do I give to that? 


Shaniqua McClendon: So if you go to, there is a fund there where you can donate. But these funds go to literally getting voters to the polls. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. 


Shaniqua McClendon: And so that includes things like voter registration and then actually getting people to the polls, calling them, knocking on doors, making sure they know where their polling location is. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Shaniqua McClendon: But then once they get there, making sure their vote’s protected, there’s a lot of efforts to make people tell them they can’t vote or require the IDs that people need. Making sure we’re investing in voter protection initiatives so that once people do vote, their vote is actually counted. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. Now more than ever. 60 bucks. Yes, 20, 30, 40. Breaking out the singles here. [laughing] A lot. A lot here. So I’m going to count out ten. One, two, three, four, five. This is getting messy. Six, seven, eight, nine, ten. To voter mobilization. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Candidates take up a lot of TV time. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Shaniqua McClendon: And that’s why you hear about them and they ask you for money. I’m now asking for the organizations. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Got it. Ten bucks left. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Yup. 


Priyanka Aribindi: What do I do with this? 


Shaniqua McClendon: You know, we’ve kind of looked at the election, and so moving forward, we just need to build out infrastructure so that we’re always engaging with voters, seeing what they need. Again, that will go to organizations, but those $10 can go there. This is an investment in the future. And then next year we can think more about investing in infrastructure building, but just to give them a head start as they get started next year. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Ten bucks to infrastructure building. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Yup. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Love it. I’m out of money. So let’s recap a little bit. We got our biggest stack here. $60 bucks is going to voter mobilization. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Yup. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And we can do that via the Every Last Vote fund, Right? 


Shaniqua McClendon: Yup. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Our next stack is $20 and that is to state and local candidates. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Yup. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. $10 for federal candidates. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Uh huh. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And our last ten bucks for infrastructure building. Yeah. A hundred bucks. That was so easy. And I feel like this is a good multiple because, you know, you could do this with $10. You could do this with multiples of ten multiples of 100. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Whatever you got. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Yeah. The more money you have, the more you should be investing in our democracy. Because don’t you want it to last? 


Priyanka Aribindi: You heard her. So what if you know, you’re not in the position? You don’t have extra cash to spare for this election cycle? What can you do to help progressive causes and candidates? 


Shaniqua McClendon: Yeah. If you have time to volunteer, you can go to and you can sign up to volunteer on races around the country with the organizations we just mentioned. To get all of those things done, to call voters, to knock on their doors, send text messages, sign up at midterm madness and you can find other ways to get involved. Money matters, but so does the time that people can devote. And you should not feel like giving money is the most important thing. All of it’s important. Give whatever you can. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That is Shaniqua McClendon. Crooked’s political director. She, like me, is a huge fan of Parker Brothers and the real estate game Monopoly. Thank you so much for all of the help. 


Shaniqua McClendon: Yes, thank you for having me. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We will put some links to help you get started with your own giving in our show notes. That is the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. 




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Russian state media announced yesterday that separatist regions in Ukraine will hold referendums to join Russia. Experts say that it’s a prelude by the Kremlin to take over these areas and that the voting won’t reflect the will of the people who live there. The voting could start as early as Friday and will be held in southern and eastern territories that have been at the center of this war. And all of this is happening as Ukraine’s counteroffensive strategy against Russia continues to make progress. 


Erin Ryan: We told you earlier this week that Alabama state officials weren’t ready to use nitrogen to execute death row inmate Allen Miller. But now they might have to because yesterday a federal judge ruled that the state cannot use lethal injection to execute him. The ruling states that Miller cannot be killed by, quote, “any method other than nitrogen hypoxia” because he chose to die by the untested execution method. State officials can appeal the ruling, but Miller’s execution date is still set for this Thursday. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Every part of this is bad. Maybe we just shouldn’t be in this situation at all. Have we ever thought of that? An update on Hurricane Fiona. The now category three storm hit the Turks and Caicos Islands yesterday where officials urged residents to shelter in place amid torrential rains and heavy winds. Meanwhile, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic are still reeling from the damage. FEMA said that at least four people in Puerto Rico were killed during the storm. And officials say that most of the island still doesn’t have power or running water. Over 1 million people in the Dominican Republic also don’t have access to clean water. Hurricane Fiona is expected to move towards Bermuda tomorrow where residents are already under a tropical storm watch. 


Erin Ryan: The Justice Department charged 47 people in Minnesota for allegedly stealing nearly $250 million dollars from the government, which was supposed to go toward feeding children in need during the pandemic. Prosecutors said this is the largest COVID relief fraud scheme they’ve uncovered so far. The defendants are connected to a nonprofit called Feeding Our Future. Before the pandemic, the organization actually served food to kids in underserved communities. But according to the DOJ, participants in the scheme ran an elaborate system to dramatically increase the amount of money they received, even creating lists of fake names of children they claimed to be feeding. The defendants allegedly pocketed the cash for themselves and used it to buy things like luxury cars, jewelry and vacations abroad. None of which you can eat if you’re a hungry kid. They face a number of federal charges, including money laundering, conspiracy, wire fraud, and illegal kickbacks and Priyanka. I heard there is an opening for several lunch lady positions in hell. [laugh]


Priyanka Aribindi: Tuesday marks the start of Coachella for diplomats. Hundreds of world leaders are gathering in New York for this year’s United Nations General Assembly. Uh apparently, there are flower crowns there too. [laugh] For the first time since the start of the pandemic, members are meeting in person to discuss the pressing issues that their countries face. The war in Ukraine will dominate this year’s agenda and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is expected to join the assembly virtually to discuss Russia’s invasion. Other topics up for debate include Iran’s nuclear program, the Taliban’s rule over Afghanistan and Israel’s occupation of Palestine. All right. All the big ones over here. President Biden is expected to address the assembly today with remarks about his efforts to combat the climate crisis. Supply chain issues. The state of the pandemic and more. 


Erin Ryan: And a late entry for song of the summer, the only division of the military with a cancelled TV show about it on Netflix. Space Force debuted its official anthem yesterday. The song is called Semper Supra, which means always above. And I know this is an audio medium, but if you could see my face, I’m cringing. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No one’s face looks good here. No one’s happy. 


Erin Ryan: Ugh, please remove your hat or your astronaut helmet and enjoy a brief sample. [clip of music plays, a sample of Semper Supra] Uhhh, that sounds like a song that Homelander from The Boys would commit mass murder to. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Don’t like it. I don’t like it one bit. 


Erin Ryan: If you didn’t hear, the lyrics were “where the mighty watch fly guardians beyond the blue. The invisible frontline war fighters brave and true.” Sounds like it was put into and out of Google Translate several times. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Several. 


Erin Ryan: Doesn’t make any sense. Single tears rolling down my cheek, then floating around my rocket ship like tang. Early reviews of the song are mixed with the website, describing it as, quote, “not a banger”. Literally the only people you need to impress. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So confused for something that is supposed to be so modern. You’re out there fighting aliens or whatever the fuck. 


Erin Ryan: Yeah. Have Daft Punk do the theme song to space force. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Pleae. They would never they’d be like, fuck right off with that. 


Erin Ryan: The defense budget has room to pay Daft Punk. 


Priyanka Aribindi: They’re the only ones that can afford it. And those are the headlines. One more thing before we go. The first day of fall is right around the corner and there is nothing like drinking a hot cup of coffee on that first chilly day. As you break out the heavy sweaters in the back of your closet, you are speaking to a room of people from Los Angeles. But sure, that must be nice. It also means that everyone is back to work and school and schedules are filling up. I have to make sure my mug is full too. So that is where Crooked Coffee comes in. Crooked Coffee is ethically sourced, premium coffee delivered straight to you from your pals at Crooked. Fall is also mid-term season. Have we mentioned that on the show? I don’t know. And as always, a portion of the proceeds from every Crooked Coffee order go to Register Her, an organization that helps register and activate voters across the country. Go to to pick up a bag and cross something off of your to do list. [music break] That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Squeeze the juice out of the last day of summer. Just make sure it’s not citrus in the heat, bad, and tell your friends to listen. 


Erin Ryan: And if you’re into reading and not just the lyrics to Google Translated military songs like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Erin Ryan. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And drink lots of water diplomats. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, camelbacks. Highly recommend. 


Erin Ryan: Absolutely. And don’t take random pills– 


Priyanka Aribindi: No pills–


Erin Ryan: –the other diplomats– 


Priyanka Aribindi: -please. 


Erin Ryan: –hand you. You don’t know what’s in them. 


Priyanka Aribindi: You don’t know. 


Erin Ryan: It’s dangerous. It’s a dangerous time to be taking drugs that strangers give you at Coachella. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Be safe out there. [music break] What A Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Jazzi Marine and Raven Yamamoto are our associate producers. Our head writer is Jon Millstein and our executive producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.