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May 22, 2024
What A Day
Biden Welcomes Kenyan President For State Visit

In This Episode

  • Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced plans on Wednesday to fast-track a vote on a bill to protect access to birth control and other contraceptives. It comes the day after former President Donald Trump suggested he would be open to new restrictions, only to backtrack hours later. Longtime Capitol Hill reporter Eugene Scott explains the strategy behind Schumer’s fast vote.
  • Kenyan President William Ruto arrived in Washington on Wednesday for a three-day state visit. The White House will host him at an official state dinner tonight, making Ruto the first African leader to have state visit since 2008. We’ll look at what that 16-year gap says about broader U.S. relations on the African continent.
  • And in headlines: The New York Times reports a second right-wing flag was flown at a beach house owned by Justice Samuel Alito, the families of 19 victims of the Uvalde, Texas school shooting sued the school district and nearly 100 police officers for the botched response to the attack, and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak called for a snap general election on July 4.


Show Notes:



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Priyanka Aribindi: It’s Thursday, May 23rd. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What a Day. The show where we’re unsurprised by Nikki Haley’s non-existent backbone. 


Priyanka Aribindi: After blasting Donald Trump on the campaign trail for months, especially after he questioned her husband’s military service, Haley announced that she will in fact, be voting for the former president. 


Juanita Tolliver: Call it a lack of moral scruples. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That backbone’s been on the run for quite some time. [laughter] [music break]


Juanita Tolliver: On today’s show, US Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito is outed by his neighbors for flying right wing flags outside his home for the second time. Plus, several countries have come together to recognize a Palestinian state. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, on Wednesday, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced plans to fast track a Senate vote on a bill that would protect access to birth control and other contraceptives around the country. Yesterday, we told you how former president and current candidate Donald Trump flip flopped on this very same issue, first telling a Pittsburgh TV station that he was considering a, quote, “interesting” policy on contraceptive access and then taking to Truth Social later in the day to deny that he would ever do such a thing. As we know, GOP policies to impose restrictions on reproductive rights have been incredibly unpopular. They have lost at the ballot box every single time since the overturn of Roe back in 2022. And according to Democratic Senator Ed Markey, who is the lead sponsor of the Right to Contraception Act, the vote will be, quote, “clarifying” and force every Republican to go on the record on whether or not they believe that every American has the right to access contraception. To learn more about this bill and the strategy behind fast tracking the vote, I spoke earlier with longtime Capitol Hill reporter Eugene Scott. I started by asking him, what’s in the bill and why Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is reintroducing it now. 


Eugene Scott: So this bill is legislation that was introduced last year by a number of senators, including Edward Markey from Massachusetts and Mazie Hirono from Hawaii, that aims to codify and strengthen the right to contraception, which the Supreme Court, you know, first recognized more than 50 years ago. But this bill was introduced in 2023 after Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas wrote an opinion in 2022, in the decision that overturned Roe versus Wade. And in his opinion, Thomas wrote that he thought that the court should revisit past precedents. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Eugene Scott: One of those precedents was Griswold versus Connecticut, which is the decision that recognized the right to contraception. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And why is Schumer fast tracking this vote now? 


Eugene Scott: Well, June will be about two years since Roe versus Wade was overturned, and Democrats have been successful in pushing abortion rights forward by pointing to this Supreme Court decision and Republican efforts since then to restrict abortion. What Democrats now want to do is make the point that Republicans also want to restrict access to birth control, and they feel like the next few weeks will be an opportunity to really draw attention to that. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. And we talk a lot about on the show Trump’s power over the GOP. But how much do you think his recent flip flop on this very issue played into Schumer’s decision making here? 


Eugene Scott: Well, it’s certainly a factor, but the reality is Trump could flip flop again before November on this issue and do something completely different once he gets in the White House. The reality is, he is not always really consistent with where he stands on policy issues, especially those that could cause him to lose support with his base. And this is one of those. But this is something that Trump is trying to push to the states so that he doesn’t really have to take responsibility for a position in a way that could hurt him in the general. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Eugene Scott: With people outside of his base. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I know that there have been efforts to pass this before that have failed. Democrats have the majority in the Senate, but is this expected to pass at this point, and why is it still important to push, even if it isn’t? 


Eugene Scott: Well, one of the reasons Schumer really wants to push this bill right now is he and a number of Democratic lawmakers really want to get Republicans on the record with voting against IVF and birth control and other reproductive rights– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Eugene Scott: –topics before November, so that Democrats can campaign against them, because there’s a really good chance that Democrats could lose their majority. And Schumer is hoping that this could make it more difficult for Republicans to win. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And can we zoom out a little and talk about the bind that the GOP really finds themselves in over this issue, given, you know, just how unpopular anti reproductive choice policies are? 


Eugene Scott: I mean, it’s incredibly unpopular. There’s a poll from 538 that says that like more than 90% of Republicans support birth control pills, the reality is voting against making contraception a right doesn’t really serve Republicans well. But we have seen Republicans continue to vote against reproductive rights that even members of their own party support, in part because the organizations and the donors that support Republican lawmakers aren’t always on the same page as Republican voters. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with longtime Hill reporter Eugene Scott. 


Juanita Tolliver: Thanks so much for that Priyanka and Eugene. In a few blocks from the Capitol building. President Biden and first lady doctor Jill Biden, welcomed the President and First Lady of Kenya for a state visit on Wednesday. The visit is the first state visit for any African president since 2008, and it marks the 60th anniversary of U.S. Kenyan diplomatic relations. Now, there are reasonable questions about why former President Barack Obama did not invite any African heads of state for a state visit during his two terms in office. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. 


Juanita Tolliver: Though there are far fewer questions about why former President Donald Trump didn’t extend any invitations given his arm for rhetoric. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. That would make sense. But–


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –what is on the agenda for President Biden and Kenyan President William Ruto while he’s here? 


Juanita Tolliver: They have a lot of ground to cover during the next few days. Here’s national security communications adviser John Kirby outlining the agenda in a White House video posted on 


[clip of John Kirby] The agenda is chock full of important discussions. Everything from climate change and how we’re working on that challenge together, to clean energy technology, emerging technology opportunities, trade and investment opportunities, but most importantly, people to people ties and improving the relationships between the Kenyan people and the American people. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Who chose that background music because they–


Juanita Tolliver: It was a lot. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Get rid of them. No.


Juanita Tolliver: That [?] sounded like the little xylophone in music class, elementary school, you know. Like no.


Priyanka Aribindi: Cut ties immediately. [laughter]


Juanita Tolliver: In all seriousness, though, according to reports, another topic that will be included in Biden’s conversations with Ruto is Haiti. Kenya will be deploying 200 of the 1000 troops to the Caribbean nation as part of a UN approved multinational mission to support the Haitian police force as they combat the extreme gang violence and political unrest on the ground. According to CNN, the first delegation of the Kenyan command staff arrived in Haiti on Wednesday, and the mission is set to begin by the end of the month. In recognition of this effort and Kenya’s long standing partnership with the U.S., the Associated Press has reported that President Biden is planning to designate Kenya a major non-NATO ally. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wow. Okay, so big deal. And while the U.S. has been less active in efforts to boost African economies, China and Russia have very notably expanded their footprint on the continent. So how has Kenyan President Ruto responded to this reality? 


Juanita Tolliver: In a quote to The Washington Post, President Ruto is calling for more U.S. engagement, stating, quote, “America needs to show up” and quote, “democracy must deliver.” Ruto also added that development is extremely difficult when a majority of the nation’s budget goes toward foreign loans, including a $4.7 billion loan that Kenya borrowed from Chinese banks to finance a high speed rail project that went dormant after the first stage of construction was completed in 2017. The next phase of the project is set to break ground in 2025, but the budgetary issue has resulted in critical responses to Ruto’s state visit. Take a listen to what Agnes Mumbi Ng’aru, a member of the East African Legislative Assembly, had to say about the visit on Citizen Kenya TV. 


[clip of Agnes Mumbi Ng’aru] I would have told my hosts to give me time to reorganize, and then we can arrange it probably in two or three months time after probably I sort out our budget, uh in the country. 


Juanita Tolliver: I expect we will hear more about the budgetary issues Kenya is facing during the joint press conference with President Biden and President Ruto later today, ahead of the state dinner. And speaking of the state dinner, there are reports that the White House will serve a surf and turf style dinner with lobster, short ribs and chilled tomato soup. As Kenyan Nigerian American chef and author Kiano Moju told The Washington Post, I’m just picturing me serving cold soup to my mom, who was Kenyan, and she’d be like, why are you punishing me? [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: Yes, there is nothing wrong with this menu, but context is important. Like, you’ve got to know who you’re serving this food to. And this seems like a wacky choice. 


Juanita Tolliver: A wacky choice that is a departure from protocol, where there is usually fusion. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: Between the host and visiting country leaders and cultures. But here we are. We’ll have to wait and see how the Kenyan president and First Lady react to being served cold soup. But that’s the latest for now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: We’ll get to some headlines in just a moment, but if you like our show, please make sure to subscribe and share it with your friends. We’ll be right back after some ads. [music break]




Priyanka Aribindi: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito has been coming under fire after reports emerged last week that he was flying an upside down American flag outside of his house in January 2021. The New York Times spoke with neighbors who saw and photographed the flag, which has been used as a stop the steal symbol by supporters of former President Donald Trump, who falsely claimed that Trump won the 2020 presidential election. It’s extra wild because at the same time that this flag was flying, the Supreme Court was considering whether it would hear a 2020 election case. But it gets worse. New reports emerged that another right wing flag, this time the Appeal to Heaven flag, was seen flying outside of Alito’s Beach house in New Jersey just last summer. That flag was carried by January 6th insurrectionists. And just to be super clear here, justices are not supposed to express any kind of political bias whatsoever, let alone fly these flags outside of their homes. At the end of last year, the court adopted a pretty performative ethics code. Seems too little, too late here. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, I do appreciate Representative Steve Cohen of Tennessee for introducing a resolution in the House to censure Supreme Court Justice Alito. Also, I appreciate those neighbors who knew to document this crazy behavior. 


Priyanka Aribindi: More pictures please. I need all of these neighbors to snap all the pictures of all the crazy shit you see. 


Juanita Tolliver: The families of 19 victims of the Uvalde school shooting reached a $2 million settlement with the small city on Wednesday. The families are now suing the school district and nearly 100 Texas Department of Public Safety officers who were involved in the bungled response to the shooting. Speaking at a press conference on Wednesday, Javier Cazares, whose nine year old daughter Jackie died in the shooting, said the whole world saw the obvious failures that happened that day. 


[clip of Javier Cazares] Justice and accountability has always been my main concern. We’ve been let down so many times. The time has come. Do the right thing. 


Juanita Tolliver: You can hear the heartbreak in his voice and the urgency around action here. It’s been almost two years since a teenage gunman entered Robb Elementary School in May 2022, killing 19 children and two teachers in connecting classrooms. Police officers waited more than an hour to confront the shooter. While the settlement with the city is low, attorneys for the victims families say they chose to settle to avoid a costly legal fight that could have left Uvalde bankrupt. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Spain, Ireland, and Norway announced on Wednesday that they plan to recognize Palestine as an independent state. It’s a huge step in the Palestinian liberation movement and a blow to Israel’s relationship with the European countries. But what does this announcement really mean? We called up our good friend Ben Rhodes, former deputy national security advisor to President Obama and the co-host of Pod Save the World. He said that it’s a symbolic move, but it’s still an important one. 


[clip of Ben Rhodes] There are about 140 countries in the UN General Assembly that recognize a Palestinian state. So this is a relatively small number to add to that. But it’s three European countries and Europe is a place where there’s an underrepresentation of countries that recognize Palestine. And also it’s three countries sending a message. And I think that message conveys a frustration with U.S. policy, which has been to not recognize Palestine and to try to pursue a state through negotiations. These are three U.S. allies essentially saying, we don’t think that’s right anymore. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Of course, Israel was pretty quick to condemn the decisions. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said it was, quote, “a reward for terrorism.” 


Juanita Tolliver: British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak is calling for a snap general election in the country on July 4th. 


[clip of Rishi Sunak] Now is the moment for Britain to choose its future, to decide whether we want to build on the progress we have made, or risk going back to square one with no plan and no certainty. 


Juanita Tolliver: A snap election is when a general election is called earlier than scheduled, usually every five years in the UK. While Sunak’s call for new elections wasn’t a surprise, the date was. It’s months earlier than most analysts and government officials expected. Sunak didn’t offer an explanation and his announcement didn’t go as planned. He was standing outside in increasingly heavy rain and about halfway through his speech, activists started blasting a song known as an anthem of the opposition Labor Party. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Brutal. 


Juanita Tolliver: I feel like the song was you about to lose your job. [laughter]


Priyanka Aribindi: Pretty much. Pretty much. 


Juanita Tolliver: Sunak’s Conservative Party is seeking to extend its 14 year control of the government, but it’s facing massive headwinds. Most recent opinion polls in the country show the conservatives trailing the Labor Party by around 20 points. I think my song prediction was accurate, and I think the other thing that’s really telling about this decision and the date of July 4th, is that the people within Sunak’s own party are questioning why he would do something in the summer instead of the fall, because they’re pointing to the election, they’re pointing to what they can run on. And they don’t seem to have a lot. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And while we’re on the topic of July 4th, if you are sitting here wondering why they are doing this on a holiday weekend, just a reminder, not a holiday across the pond. Not–


Juanita Tolliver: Nope. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –something they recognize. 


Juanita Tolliver: Nope. [laughing]


Priyanka Aribindi: And those are the headlines. 




Priyanka Aribindi: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, take down Samuel Alito’s freaky MAGA flags and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just all the polls predicting major conservative party losses in the UK like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Juanita Tolliver.


Priyanka Aribindi: I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


[spoken together] And hands off our birth control sickos. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, yeah. No. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Get out of here with that. 


Juanita Tolliver: You’re not taking it. You’re not taking it. And I mean, Trump’s gonna forget he told you that he was gonna take it, so yeah. There’s that. [music break]


Priyanka Aribindi: What a Day is a production of Crooked Media. It’s recorded and mixed by Bill Lancz. Our associate producers are Raven Yamamoto and Natalie Bettendorf. We had production help today from Michell Eloy, Greg Walters, and Julia Claire. Our showrunner is Erica Morrison, and our executive producer is Adriene Hill. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.