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July 17, 2023
What A Day
Crimea River

In This Episode

  • On Monday, explosives damaged a key bridge connecting the Russian mainland and Crimean Peninsula. Russia blamed Ukrainian forces for the deadly attack on the Kerch Bridge, and Russia soon after said it would halt its participation in the Black Sea grain deal.
  • Donald Trump’s legal team is heading back to court today for a pre-trial hearing in the former president’s classified documents case. The hearing could shine a light on how Judge Aileen Cannon plans to handle the case, and whether the trial will begin before or after the 2024 election.
  • And in headlines: an Iowa judge issued a temporary injunction blocking the state’s new six-week abortion ban, House Democrats unveiled a new resolution to censure Republican George Santos, and more employers in the U.S. are ditching marijuana drug tests for new hires.


Show Notes:



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Josie Duffy Rice: It’s Tuesday, July 18th. I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


Juanita Tolliver: And I’m Juanita Tolliver and this is What A Day, giving a solid side eye to anyone who tried to watch the No Labels town hall online yesterday. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah you know, given all that coal lobbying money, you think they could afford an actual sound system? 


Juanita Tolliver: I think this just goes to show how little $70 million dollars can do for a potential presidential bid. [laugh] [music break] On today’s show, more smoke from Canadian wildfires has triggered another round of air quality alerts here in the US. Plus, more employers are ditching marijuana drug tests for new hires. I mean, I support that. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. That’s good news. But first, on Monday, the Kerch Bridge, the bridge connecting Russia with Crimea was damaged in an explosion. Russia blamed Ukrainian forces for the attack, which was carried out overnight by drone. Soon after, Russia stated that they would stop participating in an agreement that allowed Ukraine to export grain via sea. It’s a decision that could have global consequences. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, it’s giving reckless response. But buckle up, because this is a lot. Let’s start with the attack. Tell us a little bit about the Kerch Bridge and why it may have been targeted. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The significance of the bridge is both practical and symbolic. So the bridge is 12 miles long, connects Russia with Crimea. As you know, Russia illegally annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and the area is now like a vacation territory for Russians who want to visit the mountains or the beaches. They often come to Crimea. The only way that they can get to that area without going through what CBS News describes as, quote, “land routes mired in fighting,” is to cross the bridge. They’re kind of cutting off this access point for Russians. It’s also the symbolic resonance, because also, according to CBS News, the bridge, quote, “serves as a visible reminder to Ukrainians of Russia’s claim over Crimea.” But most importantly, the bridge has been pretty important for Russia’s military right throughout the war it’s been this way to transport military forces and equipment. And so now Putin is disputing this. He was quoted as saying the attack, quote, “bears no significance because the Crimean bridge hasn’t been used for military means for a long time.” But that seems to be at least partially bluster. Right. It does seem to have an impact on the military that this bridge is now suffering pretty significant damage. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. Like the math ain’t mathing you wouldn’t have this type of retaliatory posture if it wasn’t critical. But also– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: –if you’re a Russian going on vacation in occupied land, like– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: Really? Yeah. You should actually have to go through the fighting. You should have to experience that. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: And not to mention, this was the second time this bridge was targeted and damaged. So you said that the Ukrainian military was allegedly responsible for the attack, but have they confirmed that? 


Josie Duffy Rice: No, they have not officially confirmed this. Russia did blame Ukraine immediately, saying, quote, “What happened is another terrorist attack of the Kyiv regime.” That was Putin repeating his regular talking points that Ukraine is somehow the aggressor in this war. Ukraine has not accepted or denied responsibility, but in what the AP is calling a tacit acknowledgment. What I would also call a tacit acknowledgment, that Ukraine’s security service spokesman said in a statement that the agency would give details of how they accomplished the, quote, “bang” after Ukraine won the war. So they have some insight into how this was done. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, I’m genuinely gagged at the quote bang like– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: Okay, we’ll tell you how we did it when we win. Sure sure sure sure.


Josie Duffy Rice: When we win. Right, right, right.


Juanita Tolliver: [laugh] So what should we expect now? Is Russia like we know they’re huffing and puffing. What does retaliation look like? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Immediately Putin stated, quote, “There will be a response from Russia of course,” so retaliation seems definitely expected. And some of that retaliation or response has already begun. According to The New York Times, soon after the attack on Monday, Russia said they would no longer be part of the Black Sea Grain deal, which was this agreement that gave permission to Ukraine to export its grain by sea, even though there is a naval blockade from Russia. So it kind of gave permission to Ukraine to still get their exports out. Monday was the deadline to extend that deal. Russia says I don’t want part of it anymore. Um. And this is a really big deal because Ukraine is a major, major grain producer and also produces other foods. This was a big part of the conversation at the beginning of the war. Right. The impact it would have– 


Juanita Tolliver: Yup. 


Josie Duffy Rice: –on the entire world’s food supply. So if they can’t export, it has this really major impact on the entire global food market, on Ukraine’s economy and on kind of the global economy. And basically, the agreement had allowed food prices to remain stable and allowed grain prices and corn prices to even drop this year. But a spokesperson for Russia has said that the agreement is now halted until, quote, “the Russian part is completed.” 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, let’s just add this on to the list of human suffering and crimes against humanity committed by Russia. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: [laugh] Um. By blocking this grain. But also what was that spokesperson alluding to when they said the, quote, “Russian part is completed,” what is that? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Russia has been walking back this agreement for a while. They’ve threatened to exit it over and over again. It was extended temporarily. It’s been kind of tenuous. Because they say that they, restrictions and barriers to their own exports haven’t been addressed. And so they’re basically saying it’s not fair to them. So they’re claiming that the decision to back out of the Grain Deal has nothing to do with this bridge attack. That feels unlikely. It feels like the timing of the attack, the timing of the backing out by Russia, you know, on the date that this agreement is going to expire. It all feels like intentional timing, let’s put it that way. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. Again, I’ll say it, the math ain’t mathing. They clearly know what’s up with all of this. But define the impact here, because I know it’s going to be big. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s going have a major, major impact. Even though Ukraine can move some exports through the E.U., it’s really practically impossible to meet the same level of exports without the sea access granted by this deal. And so the price of things like bread and pasta is probably going to increase worldwide, availability is going to drop. And this is a problem for areas that are already food insecure, especially regions served by the World Food Program, which gets a significant amount of its food resources from Ukraine. So this means that, you know, people will go hungry. 


Juanita Tolliver: Yup. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Because of the exit of this agreement. So it’s not a small thing. 


Juanita Tolliver: It’s a huge thing. And again, more human suffering at the hands of Russia. And thinking back stateside today, Trump’s legal team is headed back to court for a pretrial hearing in the federal criminal case where Trump is charged with 37 felony counts. And all eyes won’t be on Trump because naturally, he wouldn’t deign to show up in court without a legal order to appear. But all eyes will be on Judge Aileen Cannon and the decision she’s going to be making about how classified materials will be handled and the pace of the case in her courtroom. I’m just going to keep it a hundred, with y’all and say I’m not expecting much in the way of timing and pace from this Trump appointed judge because, you know, she’s got a rep for siding with Trump. But maybe, just maybe, she could surprise us all. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, she’s made the news and made the show a couple of times for some of her decisions. So tell us a little bit about this reputation and how she’s kind of shown favoritism in the past? 


Juanita Tolliver: To put it mildly, last summer, after Trump ignored repeated requests to return classified documents from the White House and the FBI eventually raided Mar-a-Lago. Judge Cannon did a bit of judicial overreach on Trump’s behalf when she agreed to Trump’s request to appoint a special master to review each of the classified documents. Now, that move would have slowed down DOJ special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation to a snail’s pace. But thankfully, a three judge federal appeals panel reversed her ruling, noting that she didn’t even have the legal authority to appoint a special master in the first place. Now, Judge Cannon will either continue on that path of acquiescing to Trump’s legal demands or she may try to overcompensate in an effort to appear impartial. And we may have gotten a taste of that overcompensation. When Judge Cannon set an August 14th trial date that even had the DOJ saying, hold up, slow your roll. Essentially, special counsel Smith said that prosecutors need until December, at least due to the complexities of this case. And we’ll hear more about that during the pretrial conference later today. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So pretrial conferences, as you know, are not usually like super exciting. 


Juanita Tolliver: At all.


Josie Duffy Rice: So why is today different and what should people be looking out for? 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah, you’re right. Pretrial hearings are usually all about procedure, setting days, looking at calendars and whatnot. But this is Trump we’re talking about. So brace yourselves. Up to this point, Trump’s legal strategy has been dodge, duck, dip, dive and dodge. Even today’s press conference was pushed back by a few days. But what takes the cake is that Trump and his legal team are trying to delay the trial until after the 2024 presidential election. Yes, after I said after. In their filing, Trump’s lawyers wrote, quote, “There is simply no question any trial of this action during the pendency of a presidential election will impact both the outcome of that election and importantly, the ability of the defendants to obtain a fair trial.” Now, in my mind, that translates to Trump thinks a trial will hurt him and he wants to put it off because if he wins in 2024, he thinks the DOJ special counsel won’t be able to prosecute a sitting president. It’s a complete nightmare. And honestly, this erratic man needs to be held accountable immediately. And the public agrees. As polling from Politico and Ipsos shows that 62% of the country thinks that Trump needs to face trial before the 2024 election. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, this to me feels like such a specious argument because maybe it does affect the way people vote. But as a voter, I believe that we should know what happens with our president and criminal charges before we go to the ballot. That feels like a fair thing– 


Juanita Tolliver: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: –for voters to have in their pocket. 


Juanita Tolliver: It’s pretty casual, especially when you consider that he’s facing 37 federal criminal charges. Like that’s nothing to scoff at. I mean, I don’t need to know in order to know who I’m voting for. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: But. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: Some people out there, some of those independents or Republicans who are looking for an off ramp. If they exist. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: Need to know how this trial would go down. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: The other thing that people should be keeping an eye on at today’s pretrial hearing is how Judge Cannon decides to handle classified materials in this trial. As I mentioned before, she wanted to create barriers to access earlier in this investigation, but she was overruled on appeal. So now we have to see how she rules today. Of course, prosecutors are likely going to want jurors to be able to see classified material so they can grasp the gravity of the materials that Trump took from the White House and refused to return to the National Archives. You know, the same documents that Trump reportedly showed off to random guests and biographers so today should yield some big decisions that will dictate how this trial proceeds. Naturally, we’ll keep an eye on how all of this unfolds, but that’s the latest for now. We’ll be back after some ads. [music break] 




Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Josie Duffy Rice: First, a quick update on a story that we brought you yesterday. An Iowa judge has issued a temporary injunction blocking the state’s new six week abortion ban from being enforced. The order by Polk County District Judge Joseph Seidlin means that abortion in Iowa is once again legal for up to 20 weeks of pregnancy, as the legal challenge against the new ban plays out in court. So that’s great news. The ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and an abortion clinic in Iowa City, sued the state last week after the GOP led state legislature passed the ban. The groups argue that it violates the state’s constitution. Meanwhile, Iowa’s Republican governor Kim Reynolds, says she intends to bring the fight to the state’s Supreme Court. 


Juanita Tolliver: I mean, I’ll take some positive news in terms of access. So– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: If you live in Iowa, you can have an abortion up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. So– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: Shout out to access continued there. Shout out to the ACLU and Planned Parenthood, too. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s big news. 


Juanita Tolliver: A Saint Louis area cop has been charged with assault and kidnapping for allegedly beating a man until his jaw broke before leaving him stranded in a remote area. Investigators say that on July 4th, Samuel Davis took a man into custody at a Walgreens in the city of Northwoods, handcuffed him, put him in his patrol car, then turned off his body camera before driving him outside of town. That’s when Davis allegedly pepper sprayed the man and beat him with his baton and told him not to come back to Northwoods. According to his charging documents. Davis didn’t tell dispatchers he had someone in custody and didn’t write up a report about the incident. The man was later found by a witness who called 911. They both said that a police officer was responsible for the assault. Davis was arrested in North Carolina yesterday and will be extradited back to Saint Louis, where he’ll be held on a $750,000 cash only bond. He has also been suspended from duty while the investigation continues. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Horrifying. House Democrats unveiled a new resolution yesterday to censure Republican George Santos for lying about, well, pretty much everything during his 2022 campaign for Congress. Santos is already under investigation by the House Ethics Committee and is facing 13 federal charges of fraud. And while this latest move by House Democrats faces an uphill battle, they’re using the same expedited process that Republicans used last month to censure Democrat Adam Schiff over his role in the investigation of former President Donald Trump. The idea is to put pressure on vulnerable Republicans who are ready to 86 Santos from the chamber, even though GOP leadership has stood by him. New York Democrat Ritchie Torres, who spearheaded the resolution, said, quote, “If you are a member of Congress who has informally condemned Mr. Santos, then you should have no trouble formally censuring him. He has disgraced the institution, and the institution should speak with one voice against his misconduct.” 


Juanita Tolliver: Not a single lie detected. Come on. [laugh]


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. This is a really straightforward thing. You can actually just say it’s not okay to lie like this as an elected official. 


Juanita Tolliver: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That feels nonpartisan. 


Juanita Tolliver: Censure Joanne the scammer, Congressman– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Juanita Tolliver: –edition. [laughing]


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. Exactly. Precisely. 


Juanita Tolliver: Smoke from Canadian wildfires has once again triggered air quality alerts in dozens of cities across the United States. The haze has already reached the Midwest and Northeast and even in the Great Plains and parts of the South. As of yesterday, more than 70 million people in more than two dozen states were affected by the smoky conditions. And more smoke is expected to blanket much of the East Coast through at least this afternoon and could reach as far south as central Florida. Y’all, I walked my dogs. I see the smoke. It’s coming again. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh, no. 


Juanita Tolliver: Prepare yourselves. Residents in areas under air quality alerts are once again advised to limit the amount of time they spend outdoors and to wear a high quality mask if possible. It’s the second time in less than a month that wildfire smoke from Canada has worsened air quality in the lower 48. Though these warnings aren’t expected to be as bad as they were in early June. As of this week, nearly 900 fires are burning across Canada and have to date scorched nearly 25 million acres. The Canadian government said over the weekend it has deployed military personnel and equipment to help local firefighters who are already overwhelmed by the scale of the disaster. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Thank God. And to wrap up with a different kind of smoke. More employers in the U.S. are choosing not to test potential new hires for marijuana.


Juanita Tolliver: Yay! I feel like it should– 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s great news. 


Juanita Tolliver: –be smoke or edibles. [laughing]


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s true. 


Juanita Tolliver: Like whatever. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s, lots of different ways you can apply this rule. That’s according to a report from the Washington Post on Monday. As more states have moved to legalize recreational cannabis and support for legalization has jumped drastically in the last two decades. It is getting harder for companies to justify passing over qualified candidates, especially younger ones who test positive on a drug test. And earlier this year, Michigan ended marijuana testing for most state jobs except for law enforcement, health care and jobs operating heavy machinery. As one H.R. manager who supports ditching these drug tests told the Post. Testing quote, “for a legalized substance is not in our best interest.” Yeah, that makes sense. However, experts say many employers are still struggling to adapt to the changing legal landscape surrounding marijuana while also keeping their workplaces safe. But in the meantime, save yourself some time from searching for whatever weird advice the Internet will give you on how to pass a drug test. Go ahead enjoy that extra edible tonight. You’ve earned it. 


Juanita Tolliver: [laugh] Oh gosh. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Also to the employers. If you can keep your workplaces safe from legal alcohol, you can keep it safe from legal marijuana. And you’re fine. Everything’s fine. Relax.


Juanita Tolliver: That’s all we’re saying. 


Josie Duffy Rice: That’s all we’re saying. 


Juanita Tolliver: That’s all we’re saying. I think about the carve outs for people working in factories or operating heavy machinery or in health care. I get it. I get it right. Like like I feel like parameters are– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Use your judgment. 


Juanita Tolliver: –realistic. Uh. But like you said, there are so many other substances that cause so much more harm than marijuana or THC that clearly you have safe workplaces and functioning adults in. So–


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Juanita Tolliver: I’m here for it. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, it’s big news. It’s good news. And those are the headlines. 




Josie Duffy Rice: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Do not operate any heavy machinery [laughter] and tell your friends to listen. 


Juanita Tolliver: And if you’re into reading and not just Judge Aileen Cannon’s schedule like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Juanita Tolliver.


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


[spoken together] And enjoy your edible.


Juanita Tolliver: [laugh] Without operating any heavy machinery. [laughing]


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Without machinery. 


Juanita Tolliver: I feel like that’s our astricks. 


Josie Duffy Rice: We do agree you should avoid machinery. Yeah. [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. Our intern is Ryan Cochran, and our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. [music break]