Going After Garland | Crooked Media
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September 20, 2023
What A Day
Going After Garland

In This Episode

  • Attorney General Merrick Garland testified before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday. During the nearly six-hour hearing, pushed back against claims that the Justice Department is unfairly protecting President Biden and his son Hunter, who has been under investigation since 2018.
  • The trial of two police officers accused in the 2019 death of Elijah McClain began in Colorado. A total of five first responders have been charged in connection with the 23-year old’s death, who died days after being put in a chokehold by officers and injected with ketamine by paramedics.
  • And in headlines: the Biden administration will grant temporary protections for hundreds of thousands of Venezuelan migrants in the U.S., Ohio’s Supreme Court ruled that the term “unborn child” can remain on an upcoming ballot referendum on abortion, and Lahaina’s 150-year old banyan tree that was scorched by the deadly Maui wildfires sprouted new leaves.


Show Notes:



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


Josie Duffy Rice: And I’m Josie Duffy Rice. And this is What a Day where we applaud Senator John Fetterman’s pledge to wear a suit on the Senate floor to save democracy. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Plot twist everybody. He only owns tan or plaid suits and he only wears ties with little pineapples on them, but we are still cool with it. He can do whatever he wants. [musical break]


Josie Duffy Rice: On today’s show, President Biden launched a workforce training program to put young people to work in green jobs. Plus, a sign of hope has emerged in Lahaina. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But first, Attorney General Merrick Garland testified before the Republican led House Judiciary Committee yesterday. What was he there to testify about, you ask? Well, none other than the hot topic of the Justice Department’s investigation of Hunter Biden. And it was basically a preview of what the Republican attempt to impeach President Biden will look like. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I feel like I can imagine how it went. But tell me, was it very civil and calm and measured? 


Priyanka Aribindi: It wasn’t not civil per se, but it was rather combative. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Okay. 


Priyanka Aribindi: These House Republicans, very combative. But it is surprising to see Attorney General Garland being combative. That is not usually his vibe. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Before we dive in to all of this, I want to give everybody a quick refresher on the Hunter Biden situation that we have going on here. It’s sometimes a little hard to keep track of amid everything else going on. And also, like all the lies that Republicans like to tell about it. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So earlier this summer, President Biden’s son, Hunter, reached an agreement with the Department of Justice to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges. And as part of the deal, he would accept terms that would let him avoid a prosecution on a separate gun charge. Republicans were not a fan of this deal. They thought that he was getting off easy and at the last minute under scrutiny by a federal judge, that deal ultimately fell apart. It led to Hunter Biden later being indicted on those gun charges. And he faces up to 25 years in prison and $750,000 in fines. No joke on either front. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s bananas. And also says a lot about our federal sentencing situation, that that would even be possible. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Seriously. So getting back to yesterday’s spectacle in Washington, though, it was a pretty testy 6 hours of testimony, and most of which focused on Republicans false claims that the DOJ is unfairly protecting President Biden and Hunter Biden because he is the president’s son. They also say that he is getting special treatment because the DOJ works for his dad. That is how this deal happened. That’s actually not how the Justice Department works at all. But it’s a central facet of their attempt to impeach President Biden himself. We have more on that to look forward to later this month. Just already bracing myself, already looked at my calendar. I am here indeed on that day. So we’ll be going through it together. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Lucky lucky you. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But again, no evidence supporting this. Merrick Garland, of course pushed back on this characterization. You know that Hunter Biden is getting special treatment, saying that he did not interfere or make any determinations in this case against Hunter. He stressed his own impartiality as attorney general. Take a listen to him in his own words. 


[clip of AG Merrick Garland] Our job is not to take orders from the president, from Congress, or from anyone else about who or what to criminally investigate, as the president himself has said and I reaffirm today, I am not the president’s lawyer. I will add, I am not Congress’ prosecutor. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s funny to think of this in the context of the Trump years. 


Priyanka Aribindi: This is exactly what I was thinking Josie.


Josie Duffy Rice: Trump was like, you’re my lawyer, right? 


Priyanka Aribindi: Of course, they just assume that because Trump treated it that way like everybody does, like–


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That is what’s happening here. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s so wild. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It is, it really is.


Priyanka Aribindi: Garland also repeatedly declined to answer questions from Republicans about how all of this went down internally at the DOJ or explain their decision making, both in this investigation and in the two federal indictments against former President Trump. That definitely pissed off these Republicans, if they had it their way, they would impeach this man, too. I mean, it’s probably coming, wouldn’t put it past them. But speaking of impeachments, like I mentioned earlier, House Republicans are holding their first impeachment inquiry hearing into President Biden very soon. It is on September 28th. They are expected to issue subpoenas to some of Biden’s family members as early as this week. That includes Hunter himself, perhaps. So we have a lot to brace ourselves for. Everybody just gird your loins. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s going to suck. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It really is. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Okay. In other news, the trial of two police officers accused of killing Elijah McClain began yesterday in Colorado. 23 year old McClain was killed in 2019 when officers wrestled him to the ground and placed him in a chokehold. Paramedics then injected him with ketamine and he had a heart attack and died three days later. You may remember this story, Priyanka, McClain was a violinist, a massage therapist, and he was like the sweetest, kindest guy ever. And his interactions with police were just like, particularly heartbreaking. I mean, all of these stories are heartbreaking, but this one hit even harder than many of the others. Body cam audio caught him as he was being choked by officers saying, quote, “I can’t breathe. I have my ID right here. I was just going home. I’m an introvert. I’m just different, that’s all. I’m so sorry.” And he also said, quote, “I have no gun. I don’t do that stuff. I don’t do any fighting. Why are you attacking me? All I was trying to do was become better. I will do it. I will do anything.”


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. Elijah McClain’s name, his face, his personal qualities, I feel like are some that will stick out in my mind for probably the rest of my life. He seemed like a really gentle, kind soul and met with just such a violent, traumatic end at the hands of police. Like so many others. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: For no reason. It really is just a heartbreaking story. It remains to this day. So tell us more about this trial. Who is on trial here and why did it take so long? It’s been four years. You know, why have we waited this long to get to this point? 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s a real example of how so many elements of the process work together to conceal police brutality. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: First, the coroner ruled that McClain’s cause of death was undetermined. That often happens in police brutality cases because coroners and law enforcement often have a really close relationship. And then even after that, the local D.A. in Aurora, Colorado, where this happened, Dave Young, said he wasn’t going to charge the police because there wasn’t enough evidence that cops had broken the law. I was under the impression that killing people was against the law. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Different rules for cops, as we already know. So after George Floyd’s murder, there was all this renewed attention on the case and Colorado Governor Jared Polis decided to appoint a special prosecutor. So in total, five people are being tried. Three police officers and two paramedics. They face 32 counts. They’ve all pleaded not guilty and they’re being tried in three separate trials. So this first one is a trial of two of the three cops, and all five of them were indicted in 2021, which was two years after the case. And obviously now they’re finally being tried. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Of course, the police officers are being tried. But you said the paramedics are also being tried here as well. Can you explain why that is? 


Josie Duffy Rice: What happened here was that the cops placed him in a chokehold. He had like a reaction to that. And then the paramedics showed up and they found McClain vomiting. He was suffering from a nosebleed due to the choking. He had already been rendered unconscious at least once. And the paramedics diagnosed McClain with excited delirium, which is if you’ve never heard of it. That’s because it’s basically like junk science that is used by police and prosecutors to cover up bad behavior. So the gist of this like, quote unquote “condition,” which is, by the way, not a real condition at all. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No. 


Josie Duffy Rice: People get agitated to a point that they die. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Which is so interesting because that does not really happen. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: In the real world. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Only if people are in the custody of or, you know, around police officers. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: So strange. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So strange how that happens. Like you said, it’s just this condition that pretty much exclusively occurs in police encounters. And it’s been criticized and debunked by not just legal system experts, but actual medical experts who are like this is not how things work. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right? Not a thing. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But the paramedics show up. They diagnose him with this excited delirium bullshit and then they decide to inject him with enough ketamine for a 200 lb. person, despite the fact that he weighed around 140 lbs. Soon after that is when he had suffered the heart attack. And that’s why paramedics are also being tried here. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Yeah, it’s egregious. It’s disgusting. I mean, not to mention that excited delirium kind of sounds like one of those things in old times that they would like– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Totally. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –diagnose women with. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Like it sounds like hysteria. A little bit.


Josie Duffy Rice: Hysteria, exactly. That’s exactly it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Stuff that we know is like just a crock of shit. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Right. And it’s like crazy because they’ve been diagnosing this for years. And for years people have been like, okay, I guess it was excited delirium. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Sure. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And turns out that’s not a thing. It’s worth noting that the fact that the paramedics are being tried as well makes this case even more complicated. Right. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Because we can tell already from opening statements yesterday, it’s clear that the cops’ attorneys are going to make the argument that they didn’t cause McClain’s death right, the paramedics caused McClain’s death by injecting him with ketamine. Surely the paramedics are going to claim the same thing, right? That they’re not the cause, but that the police are the cause. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s basically going to be both parties, like pointing a lot of fingers. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Totally. 


Josie Duffy Rice: What we do know is that the paramedics wouldn’t have even been there had the cops not tried to hold this 23 year old kid in a chokehold. 


Priyanka Aribindi: No, it absolutely seems like every person involved in this– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –has some responsibility here. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, exactly. So, of course, we will be following this trial and the two others, and we’ll bring you more information as they play out. But that is the latest for now. We will be back after some ads. [music break]. 




Josie Duffy Rice: Let’s wrap up with some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Starting off with some news that broke late last night. The Biden administration said it will grant temporary protection for hundreds of thousands of Venezuelans who are already here in the U.S.. The order will extend what is known as temporary protected status to Venezuelans who arrived in the country by the end of this past July. The designation, which already applies to nearly half a million other Venezuelan migrants, makes it easier for them to get work authorization in the U.S.. This is a big deal and will allow migrants who are being housed in cities across the country to support themselves sooner. 


Priyanka Aribindi: President Biden yesterday announced a launch of a new program to put more than 20,000 young adults to work in conservation, clean energy and climate resilience jobs. The program, called the American Climate Corps, will provide paid training for a wide range of green projects like managing forests to prevent wildfires, restoring land and waterways, and advancing environmental justice. Most of the positions won’t require prior experience, and the administration is also pushing for new rules to make it easier for participants to get hired in federal public service roles. The announcement comes as President Biden is trying to drum up more support from young voters going into the 2024 presidential campaign. And it’s a win for youth led environmental activist groups like the Sunrise Movement, which have pushed and lobbied for a civilian climate corps. Take a listen to what executive director Varshini Prakash had to say about the initiative. 


[clip of Varshini Prakash] Young people have been rallying and demonstrating and striking and sitting at policy tables and fighting for the future workforce that we need to stop the climate crisis. And we won. 


Priyanka Aribindi: This is really exciting. These sound like really cool, interesting opportunities. People need jobs and these actually sound like they will not only make a difference in our world, but also be really cool to actually do so this is exciting. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. It is exciting. And now to Ohio, where the state Supreme Court ruled that the term unborn child can remain on an upcoming ballot referendum instead of the word fetus. So to get you up to speed on how we got here and what’s at stake, Ohioans will be heading to the polls in November to vote on issue one, a referendum that could enshrine abortion protections into the state’s constitution. And last month, abortion rights activists sued the state’s GOP led ballot board for switching out the word fetus for unborn child in that measures’ summary. Even though fetus is what’s used in the full text of the amendment. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Weird. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The lawsuit said that the board’s language, quote, “aims improperly to mislead Ohioans.” But in a ruling late Tuesday, the state’s Supreme Court rejected that argument and said that the ballot’s language does not constitute, quote, “improper persuasion.” A spokesperson for Ohioans United for Reproductive Rights, the group that filed the lawsuit, said in a statement, quote, “This should have been simple, but the Ohio ballot board tried to mislead voters yet again. Issue one is clearly and concisely written to protect Ohioans right to make our own personal health care decisions about contraception, pregnancy and abortion free from government interference. The actual amendment language communicates that right clearly and without distortion.” I feel like this is particularly crazy because if you’ve ever dealt with a ballot amendment, a referendum, or like watched that process, the language of what’s actually on the ballot goes back and forth between both sides a lot. It is extensive negotiation about this. So for the ballot board to just like decide to switch it up to language that’s not even in the amendment.


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s so wild. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It really is. It’s so crazy. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Michigan’s Supreme Court just killed a last ditch attempt to hold former state and city officials accountable for the Flint water crisis. On Wednesday, the court rejected a series of appeals that would have revived felony charges against seven people, including former Governor Rick Snyder. To refresh your memory, the crisis started back in 2014, when Flint city officials started using the Flint River as a water source to save money. Health officials at the time insisted that the water was perfectly fine to drink and didn’t need to be treated. But as we know now, that was not the case. As a result, lead from old pipes leached into the drinking water supply for the Majority-Black City. For over a year, tens of thousands of residents were exposed to dangerous amounts of lead, and at least a dozen people died from an outbreak of dangerous bacteria from the contaminated water. To this day, many residents continue to grapple with the long term health issues stemming from the crisis, and prosecutors said that they are deeply disappointed by the decision but are looking at other options, including sharing evidence of their findings with the public. 


Josie Duffy Rice: A Moscow court ruled yesterday that American journalist Evan Gershkovich will remain behind bars. The court refused to hear an appeal against his pretrial detention, which means he will stay in jail until at least November 30th. It’s the latest legal setback in the long battle for the Wall Street Journal reporter’s release. Gershkovich was arrested by Russian authorities in March during a reporting trip, Russia’s main security service, the FSB, accused him of trying to obtain state secrets. Charges that Gershkovich, his employer, and the United States government have all vehemently denied. Now, this is the third time that his pretrial detention has been extended. If convicted, he could face up to 20 years in prison. The White House has even accused the Kremlin of holding him hostage, though the State Department has acknowledged that despite ongoing talks to free him, they do face an uphill battle. Gershkovich is the first American reporter imprisoned in Russia on espionage charges since the Cold War. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I imagine he’s terrified. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s awful. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It needs to be a bigger deal. They are not even letting him do, like, an appeal against his pretrial detention. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah, and it’s a real assault on the free press. It’s very terrifying. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And finally, a much needed sign of hope in the aftermath of the deadly Maui wildfires. The 150 year old banyan tree in the heart of Lahaina town sprouted new leaves for the first time since the disaster. If you have ever had the privilege of visiting Lahaina, you have probably seen this tree before. It is one of the biggest banyan trees in the world, standing at 60 feet tall. The beloved tree was badly scorched during the fires with its trunk burned black and its leaves shriveled. Many residents were worried that it wouldn’t survive. But about a week after the fires initially broke out, arborists found signs that it was still alive. Locals sprang into action to nurse the tree back to health. They even rushed to deliver thousands of gallons of water to the tree every single day to help nourish its roots. And all that effort seems to have paid off. State officials posted a video this week showing new green leaves sprouting from its branches. While it’s not guaranteed that the tree will make a full recovery, experts who have volunteered countless hours to care for the Banyan say that it’s a sign that it’s definitely healing. Many locals see the Banyan trees resilience as a good omen for the community’s recovery following the deadliest wildfire in modern U.S. history. Yeah, we don’t know if the tree will make a full recovery, but it really does feel like a sign to be– 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –hopeful about that there is–


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –still life there and growth after such a tragedy. 


Josie Duffy Rice: It’s hard to find any sort of like hope in this terrible–


Priyanka Aribindi: Right. 


Josie Duffy Rice: –awful event. But there’s something beautiful about the tree surviving. 


Priyanka Aribindi: 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. Hug an arborist and tell your friends to listen.


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you’re into reading and not just lawsuits over ballot referendums like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Priyanka Aribindi.


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


[spoken together] And show us the suit Fetterman. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m pro sweat pants everywhere. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Me too. 


Josie Duffy Rice: And I feel it is Congress’s duty to make sweatpants appropriate in the workplace. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Normalize it for the rest of us. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Truly. 


Priyanka Aribindi: But I mean, if he’s offering to wear like fun ties to work, I feel like he’s a guy I would trust to take fun tie day seriously, but not–


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. 


Priyanka Aribindi: –too seriously. 


Josie Duffy Rice: His clothes are chaotic in just the way we need.


Priyanka Aribindi: Exactly. [music break]


Josie Duffy Rice: 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. And our senior producer is Lita Martinez. Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka. [music break]