In This Episode
- A number of inquiries into former President Trump’s interference in the 2020 election are advancing. Yesterday, the House committee investigating last year’s insurrection has asked Ivanka Trump to testify. Meanwhile, a Georgia District Attorney asked a judge to convene a special grand jury in a separate, ongoing criminal investigation into the former president.
- Famed fashion journalist and editor André Leon Talley passed away this week at age 73. He was American Vogue’s first Black male creative director and editor-at-large. We look into Talley’s life and legacy, as well as how he paved the way for Black and brown folks in the industry today.
- And in headlines: Democratic lawmakers asked Biden to change his counterterrorism strategy on drone strikes, the Supreme Court rejected another attempt to overturn Texas’ six-week abortion ban, and the CIA said that a foreign country is most likely NOT responsible for cases of Havana Syndrome.
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Gideon Resnick: It’s Friday, January 21st. I’m Gideon Resnick.
Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson, and this is What A Day, the official podcast of trying to do outdoor dining even though it’s freezing cold outside.
Gideon Resnick: That’s right, we are the soundtrack to eating dinner really fast before frostbite sets in.
Tre’vell Anderson: And crowding around heat lamps and risking minor burns because it’s worth it.
Gideon Resnick: Exactly. It’s worth it, for sure. On today’s show, Democratic lawmakers want Biden to change his counterterrorism strategy. Plus, an update on what Havana syndrome is and is not.
Tre’vell Anderson: But first, we have some developments in the investigation into last year’s insurrection at the Capitol. As a reminder, we mentioned yesterday that the Supreme Court denied former President Trump’s request that they block the release of various White House records related to January 6th. That is going to be significant moving forward. But Gideon, what else happened yesterday?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we got some pretty important information about more testimony that the House Committee is looking for. So here is Representative Bennie Thompson— he’s the chair of the January 6th Commission—talking about all of the investigation on ABC News’ “This week” earlier this month:
[clip of Rep. Bennie Thompson] What occurred on January 6 was definitely a dark day for our country. Our challenge is to get to the facts and circumstances that created it. We’re in the process of interviewing witnesses, taking depositions, and clearly we have uncovered some things that cause us real concern.
Gideon Resnick: Right. So Tre’vell, fast forward to yesterday—we found out that they’re looking for testimony from Ivanka Trump now, and that marks the first time that a Trump family member has actually been asked. And so Thompson wrote that Ivanka Trump, in her former capacity as White House adviser, was present when her father was pressuring Vice President Mike Pence to reject Biden’s victory. As The Washington Post noted, one of the interesting things here is that the committee’s letter to Ivana Trump includes details that are based on previous testimony that they got, including that of former national security adviser Keith Kellogg. Now, Kellogg essentially testified that former President Trump said to Pence something to the effect of: You don’t have the courage to make a hard decision—that being rejecting the results of an election—and that Ivanka Trump was in the room for that call. Kellogg also testified that Ivanka Trump told him that Pence was a quote, “good man” after the call took place.
Tre’vell Anderson: it’s getting spicy.
Gideon Resnick: It seems to be. And then in his letter to Ivanka, Bennie Thompson also wrote this quote, “the committee has information suggesting that President Trump’s White House counsel may have concluded that the actions President Trump directed Vice President Pence to take would violate the Constitution or would be otherwise illegal. Did you discuss those issues with any member of the White House counsel’s office?” End quote. The letter also mentioned evidence from court transcripts in which some of the defendants from the riot said that it was Trump’s statements about Pence that actually helped compel them to storm the Capitol.
Tre’vell Anderson: All right, so there’s a lot here. What other questions do they have for Ivanka?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, another big one is the committee says that it has information that she was basically asked by White House aides to get her dad to calm his supporters down. This also appears to draw on testimony from Kellogg too, who alleged that Ivanka agreed to talk to the president, but that she quote, “had to make multiple efforts to persuade Trump to act.” Kellogg said that he only asked Ivanka after Trump would not listen to him, would not listen to Chief of Staff Mark Meadows, or White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany. The letter also included some text messages from Trump allies believing that he had gone too far. One was from a House Freedom Caucus member who reportedly told Meadows quote, “If POTUS allows this to occur, we are driving a stake in the heart of the Federal Republic.”
Tre’vell Anderson: And that they did.
Gideon Resnick: Well, that’s what happened—spoiler alert. So that is all leading up to and during the day, but the committee is also reportedly interested in finding out whether former President Trump may have tried to block deployment of the National Guard after the riot began, and also what Ivanka Trump knows about what he was doing in the days after. So it’s certainly a lot of ground to cover, but what you can see coming through the line of questioning is an attempt to find a direct link between Trump’s words and actions and those of the rioters that day.
Tre’vell Anderson: I mean, I see the link, but I’m glad that they’re going to find it themselves.
Gideon Resnick: Right, right.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now also in Georgia, a separate criminal investigation into former President Trump advanced yesterday as well. What did we learn there?
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis asked the judge to convene a special grand jury in the ongoing investigation into interference in the 2020 presidential election by Trump and others. So Wilis’ office has run into trouble getting witnesses to cooperate voluntarily—a common thread that seems to come up a lot in these—and this grand jury, of course, would have subpoena power. Willis said that Brad Raffensperger, Georgia’s Secretary of State, was one of the. People who refused to cooperate absent a subpoena and so one of the focuses here is a call that Trump made to Raffensperger asking him to find the exact amount of votes that he lost the state by. The exact amount—very coincidental.
Tre’vell Anderson: Uh oh.
Gideon Resnick: And asking for the special grand jury as opposed to a normal one, Willis said that one of the advantages is the ability for them to focus solely on this case. Now that jury is not going to be able to return an indictment, but it can make recommendations for criminal prosecution. We’re going to have more on where all of these investigations are going very soon.
Tre’vell Anderson: So many investigations, so little time.
Gideon Resnick: That’s the truth.
Tre’vell Anderson: Now we’re going to take time to memorialize someone who passed away this week, the famed fashion journalist and editor, André Leon Talley.
[clip of André Leon Talley] It’s tough being a big Black man in the world as you know, but you can get through it. Truman Capote once said style helps you get up the stairs and down. One of my favorite quotes of the great Truman Capote.
Tre’vell Anderson: That was the voice of Talley speaking to me back in 2017. He died Tuesday night, reportedly of a heart attack at the age of 73. And I wanted to talk a bit about his life and legacy as a titan of industry.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and Talley is perhaps most well-known for his stint as a top editor at Vogue. But for those who don’t know much more about him, tell us more.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, so André Leon Talley was born the grandchild of a sharecropper in the fall of 1948. He was raised by his grandmother in the still legally segregated South, and he grew up to become one of the most powerful Black people in fashion. And yes, he had a storied career that landed him as American Vogue’s first Black male creative director and later their editor-at-large. But before that, he got his start in journalism working for Andy Warhol—yes, that Andy Warhol—at Interview magazine. Then he held high-ranking positions at Women’s Wear Daily and W Magazine, becoming a tastemaker whose encyclopedic knowledge of fashion history and his southern Black church-inspired perspective literally made him one of one. He was the only Black man doing what he was doing on the level he was doing it at right. And despite all of the racism and homophobia he faced—though, he never said he was gay, by the way—he put a number of cracks in the fashion and journalism industry ceilings that many of us Black and brown folks in these industries, like myself, are still benefiting from today.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And then in addition to all of his work in journalism, he also made quite a bit of a mark on TV.
Tre’vell Anderson: Oh yes, if anyone out there is like me, you will remember him, perhaps as the judge on America’s next top model. That is where I first discovered his brilliance and he became a personal, what I like to call, possibility model. And by that, I mean, he was someone who long before I even decided to pursue journalism professionally, showed me that I too could do this work and carve a lane for myself, even though I don’t look or talk or act like what we’ve been told a journalist is supposed to be.
Gideon Resnick: Yeah, that is a really beautiful sentiment. And you mentioned that you did interview him back in 2017. So what was that like?
Tre’vell Anderson: I’ve actually had the opportunity to interview him three times before he died. That first one, which was the most impactful for me, was the day after his documentary “The Gospel According to André” premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. You can stream it on HBO Max right now if you’re interested. I was so nervous and anxious, but it was a really beautiful moment because he took a liking to me. And after that interview, we sat on a couch and he said, some really moving things.
[clip of André Leon Talley] I love that you went to Morehouse.
[Tre’vell Anderson] Yeah, it was an experience.
[clip of André Leon Talley] It’s a major institution.
[Tre’vell Anderson] Mm-Hmm, mm-hmm. I loved it.
[clip of André Leon Talley] I’m thrilled that you went to Morehouse.
[Tre’vell Anderson] I was a really great experience. It was—
[clip of André Leon Talley] You were born to [unclear] André Leon Talley one day. I can tell. [laughs]
[Tre’vell Anderson] That’s the highest compliment I have ever gotten in [unclear].
[clip of André Leon Talley] You are going to be. You are going to be. You’re very impressive.
Gideon Resnick: Wow, that’s incredible.
Tre’vell Anderson: It was amazing. By the way, that video I posted it to my Instagram if you’re not already following me. And in 2020, I found out that he wrote about me and that moment in his biography, the “Chiffon Trenches.”
Gideon Resnick: And you’re just going to leave it at that? What did it say? What was, what was the gist of it?
Tre’vell Anderson: It was a beautiful passage in which he kind of said that he saw a lot of himself in me, and he compared our first interview to his first interview with Karl Lagerfeld. It was wonderful. But Gideon, his impact goes beyond just little old me. Here’s what Washington Post senior critic at large Robin Givhan said to PBS about his passing:
[clip of Robin Givhan] I think that every time André took another step forward, he cleared the path a little bit more, he opened the door a little bit farther so that a few more people could step through. I mean, I think every time he defied a stereotype, he made the fashion industry that much more inclusive.
Tre’vell Anderson: André Leon Talley’s death has been a really emotional one for me this week, but I’m so honored that I had numerous opportunities to give him his flowers while he could still smell them, and I know that his legacy will surely live on. And that is the leaders for now.
Gideon Resnick: Now, let’s get to some headlines.
Tre’vell Anderson: Secretary of State Antony Blinken meets with his Russian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, today in Geneva. This high-stakes meeting comes as roughly 100,000 Russian troops are stationed at the Ukrainian border. Earlier this week, Blinken met with Ukraine’s President Vladimir Zelensky to discuss America’s support for Ukraine. And yesterday he met with European allies in Berlin, where he said this:
[clip of Sec. State Antony Blinken] If any Russian military forces move across the Ukrainian border and commit new acts of aggression against Ukraine, that will be met with a swift, severe, united response from the United States and our allies and partners.
Tre’vell Anderson: Blinken’s remarks came after President Biden’s Wednesday press conference, where he said Russian President Vladimir Putin will likely invade Ukraine. Biden and the White House tried to clean that up a bit and strengthen their words in the aftermath. And to deter Russia, yesterday, the US sanctioned four Ukrainian officials accused of working with Russian intelligence, and the U.S. also approved providing additional arms to Ukraine.
Gideon Resnick: Sticking with Biden and international affairs, Democratic lawmakers sent Biden a letter yesterday asking him to change his counterterrorism strategy, specifically on drone strikes. This came a day after The New York Times published newly-declassified surveillance footage from a drone strike in Kabul, Afghanistan last August that killed 10 innocent civilians, including seven children. The Pentagon admitted that the airstrike was a quote, “tragic mistake” but it also said that no one would face punishment for it. The letter from 11 senators and 37 House members cited concerns about quote, “repeated civilian casualties arising from secretive and unaccountable lethal operations.” They also argued that civilian deaths from drone strikes are undercounted and warned the status quo of using them needs to be overhauled. The Biden administration is currently reviewing its policy on using drones in warfare, but also he has used them less than his predecessors. A new report from Airwars, a monitoring group, said that military airstrikes fell by more than half in 2021—Biden’s first year in office—compared to 2020,
Tre’vell Anderson: The Supreme Court rejected yet another attempt to overturn Texas’s six-week abortion ban yesterday, dealing another blow to reproductive rights activists and abortion providers. After the court voted to uphold the law last month, the case went back to the conservative 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for review. Yesterday’s ruling was a response to abortion providers requesting that the case go to a district court judge instead, one who was more likely to rule against the ban that has now been in effect for five months. The request was rejected without any comment, but Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Stephen Breyer, and Elena Kagan wrote a fierce dissent to the decision as liberal pillars of the court. Sotomayor said quote, “This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas who have a right to control their own bodies.” The case now remains at the 5th Circuit Court, where it could be delayed for several months.
Gideon Resnick: The CIA published a report yesterday saying that a foreign country is most likely not responsible for the hundreds of cases of Havana syndrome reported worldwide. To refresh your memory in case you have been going on with your lives, Havana Syndrome is a mysterious condition that really only affected the U.S. Department personnel stationed in foreign countries. Its symptoms include dizziness, headaches, and difficulty concentrating, all of which coincide with the disease known as being homesick. It happens. It was first reported by officials stationed in Havana, Cuba, in 2016—hence the name—and it kicked off years of minor Hysteria, with some officials theorizing that the sickness was part of a coordinated attack by Russia on American intelligence personnel. Media outlets really jumped in on the rumors as well, reporting on theories that the disease was caused by portable microwave weapons. So many people believe the disease was a real threat that the Senate even unanimously passed a bill last year to support the syndrome’s victims. Listen, if only we could get that kind of bipartisan cooperation for basically any of our other problems—
Tre’vell Anderson: If only that.
Gideon Resnick: —that are on the table at the moment. A senior CIA official stressed yesterday that its investigation into who or what causes Havana syndrome is ongoing. But for now, the CIA said in its report that most cases are attributed to preexisting conditions. This is really confusing because do we believe everything the CIA is saying? I’m very turned around about all of this.
Tre’vell Anderson: Well, listen, their record is not in their favor if we’re being honest. But dizziness, headaches, you can’t concentrate—sounds like a regular Monday morning to me.
Gideon Resnick: I was going to say, yes, jet lag can be really difficult. It’s true. And those are the headlines. We’re going to be back after some ads.
Gideon Resnick: It’s Friday WAD squad, and today we are wrapping up by doing a segment called The Solution, where we propose a fix to a news story that has created chaos in our world. Guiding us through it, as always, is our head writer Jon Millstein.
Jon Millstein: Hey everybody. Thanks very much for letting me be here.
Tre’vell Anderson: Thanks for coming.
Gideon Resnick: Thank you.
Tre’vell Anderson: All right. So the candy company Mars rolled out a rebrand of their iconic talking M&M’s characters yesterday in service of being more quote, “inclusive and current.” Whatever you were expecting this to mean, though, the rebrand is probably different. Under the new campaign, the Orange M&M will be more open about his struggles with anxiety, the red M&M will be less bossy, and visually the images are embracing the modern age by wearing different shoes—like those of the female brown M&M, which have gone from a high heel to a more functional lower heel. The most dramatic change is definitely to the green M&M, who has always been characterized in ads as generally horny. She’s the one with full and uncanny human lips, and she has now replaced her iconic white Go-Go Boots with a pair of plain white sneakers. If you need to understand why this is significant, here’s a reminder of how this candy talks:
[clip of Green M&M] Mmmmm, introducing raspberry almond M&M’s premiums. Rich premium chocolate with luscious almonds and the sweet taste of raspberries.
Gideon Resnick: That alone is the explicit tag on the pod tomorrow.
Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, the changes to the green M&M have a lot of people talking because she’s such a beloved character. So for the newly de-sexualized green M&M, here’s John with The Solution.
Jon Millstein: For those of us who have spent years celebrating the green M&M as a badass, confident piece of candy who’s not afraid to lead with her sexuality and in doing so consistently steal the spotlight from her boring, low-libido, low-testosterone male counterparts, this move by Mars is equivalent to a cold-blooded murder. If the company is committed to going down this path, they can at least minimize harm by giving this new unrecognizable Go-Go Boot-free green M&M a color that no one cares about, like maybe aquamarine, then publicly admit that they’re hiding the true green M&M from public view because she doesn’t fit with their puritanical, 1950s repressed Republican ideals. Right now, Mars has basically put a chastity belt shaped like a big sneaker on the world’s most iconic party candy, and they’re asking us to give them a pat on the back. They are giving the green M&M a strict curfew of 8pm and no lock on her door and expecting us to say thank you for knowing what’s best for our confused and devious friend. If Mars just copped to the fact that it, as a company, is afraid of sex and then took the green M&M out of the picture, we could at least be free to imagine she’s out there living the life she deserves: hiring the world’s most handsome pool boy and then spending all day drinking mojitos and watching him sweat under the summer sun. Or maybe dating Pete Davidson AND Kim Kardashian AND Kanye AND Julia Fox, and not telling any of them about the others, so that she can cause huge drama. As a side note, if restricting a candy’s bodily autonomy is what Mars sees as progress, they’ve got way bigger problems than the green M&M’s Go-Go Boots, their whole company is a problem, and they’ve just lost four customers: me, Tre’vell, Gideon, and one person who is listening to this podcast.
Gideon Resnick: That is why you joined today, to learn the truth, and we thank you for sticking around for it.
Tre’vell Anderson: I’ll just say, I buy a lot of M&M’s so now that they have lost my business, it’s going to impact the stock price, I promise.
Jon Millstein: Watch your NASDAQ, watch your Yahoo Finance app tomorrow because it will be a bloodbath.
Tre’vell Anderson: That was The Solution. One more thing before we go: this week on Hysteria, J. Smith-Cameron from Succession joins the talk all about the newest season of the hit show.
Gideon Resnick: Wow.
Tre’vell Anderson: Plus, Erin and Alyssa also discuss the state of the Omicron variant and everything going on with the Supreme Court. New episodes of Hysteria drop every Thursday. Listen wherever you get your podcasts.
Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, keep your microwaves away from us, and tell your friends to listen.
Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading, and not just apologies on official Mars Corporation letterhead like me, What a day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Tre’vell Anderson.
Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.
[together] And we’ll grab you a table outside!
Gideon Resnick: Under very specific conditions, and those conditions are it is at least 55 degrees.
Tre’vell Anderson: Or maybe it’s not. Grab you one of those puffer jackets—you’ll be amazing.
Gideon Resnick: I don’t recommend it. I’m telling you, I don’t recommend. 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 producers are Leo Duran and me, Gideon Resnick. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.