SCOTUS Holds Off On Big Case Decisions... Again | Crooked Media
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June 06, 2024
What A Day
SCOTUS Holds Off On Big Case Decisions... Again

In This Episode

  • Thursday was a bit of a letdown for Supreme Court watchers. The justices issued opinions in three smaller cases, but we’re still waiting for decisions in more than two dozen others with just a few weeks left of the term. Some of those cases could be hugely consequential, touching on everything from reproductive rights and presidential immunity to social media and guns. Melissa Murray, co-host of Crooked’s legal podcast ‘Strict Scrutiny,’ says we should brace ourselves for a wild June.
  • And in headlines: An Israeli strike killed dozens of Palestinians who were sheltering at a U.N. school complex, prosecutors called Beau Biden’s widow to the stand to testify in Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial, and Pat Sajak hosts his final episode of Wheel of Fortune today.
Show Notes:


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Tre’vell Anderson: It’s Friday, June 7th, I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And I’m Priyanka Aribindi and this is What a Day. The show where we couldn’t help but smile when former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was ordered to report to jail by July 1st for contempt of court. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yes, I know we are supposed to be prison abolitionists, but every single time I get news like this, I’m like, come on now. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s hard to fight the grin. It just, I don’t know, it starts spreading. I mean it’s contagious. 


Tre’vell Anderson: [laugh] It does. 


Priyanka Aribindi: It’s hard to stop. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, prosecutors call Hallie Biden to the stand in the Hunter Biden gun case. Plus, the Trump campaign makes it official and sends paperwork to eight potential VP picks. 


Priyanka Aribindi: What is this, The Bachelor? [laughter] But first, Thursday was a bit of a letdown for Supreme Court watchers. Scotus issued opinions in three cases involving Native American tribes, life insurance policies, and bankruptcy claims. But we’re still waiting on rulings in at least a dozen major cases that could have the potential to change American society and life. The cases cover everything from reproductive rights, presidential immunity, social media, guns, and so much more. But none of those appear to be on the agenda this week. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Okay, so then when can we expect to hear the rest of these decisions. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Over the course of the next three weeks. If you haven’t already, just brace yourselves for a wild month ahead. Or, uh you can, like me, book a plane ticket out of the country and do your best to avoid. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m jealous because they are definitely going to make it interesting these next few weeks. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I’ve gotten in the habit of trying to plan my vacations to coincide directly with them, because I want no part in it. For the rundown on this week’s decisions and what’s to come. I spoke with friend of the pod and co-host of Strict Scrutiny, Melissa Murray. I started by asking her to explain more about those three decisions that came out on Thursday. 


Melissa Murray: So there were three opinions that were announced, and they weren’t the big ones that we were expecting. Um. One was a bankruptcy statutory interpretation case that was called Truck Insurance Exchange versus Kaiser Gypsum, it was a unanimous opinion written by an eight person court. The eight justice majority unanimously reversed a lower federal court um on a question of statutory interpretation involving the Bankruptcy Code, and it said that this insurance company was a party in interest and therefore had an opportunity to participate in the restructuring process of this major bankruptcy that was happening. Although their participation was not intended to be a veto or a particular vote in the restructuring process, but that they were a party in interest and that provided them with a voice in the proceedings. So, you know, bankruptcy lawyers around the country cheered. But to me, what was most interesting about this case was, as I said, it was unanimous, but only eight justices participated, which meant that one justice decided to sit it out. And do you know which justice it was, Priyanka. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh do tell. 


Melissa Murray: Well, he’s been in the news recently because people have been calling for him to recuse in other cases, and he’s steadfastly refused to do so. But he showed in this case that he, Samuel A. Alito, can recuse when he is bestirred to do so. And apparently– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Why in this case? 


Melissa Murray: We don’t know. That’s the other beautiful thing about the Supreme Court. They don’t actually have to explain themselves when they recuse. So we don’t actually know why– 


Priyanka Aribindi: Bizarre! 


Melissa Murray: –he recused himself in this particular case. Another opinion was issued in a case called Connerly versus the United States. This was again another statutory interpretation question, this one involving an issue of tax law around a closed corporation, also known as a family business, and whether an insurance policy taken out on behalf of the business had to be counted as part of the business’s valuation for purposes of their taxes. And the court concluded that if you take out a life insurance policy on the holders of your company, like the people who are involved in your business here, it was two brothers who took out life insurance policies on each other. Those life insurance policies, in certain circumstances, become part of the assets that the business owns, and they have to be factored into the valuation of the business when the business is valued and their taxes are assessed. So that was also a unanimous opinion, that one written by Justice Thomas. There was another case, um this one involving Native American tribes that had a more predictable fracture. So this was a five to four decision in a case called Becerra versus San Carlos Apache Tribe. And it was again, involved health law, federal Indian law and statutory interpretation. And the basic question was whether in certain circumstances where Native American tribes have a right of self-determination to operate and provide their own medical health services within the context of their tribal governance, whether in those circumstances certain expenses had to be reimbursed by the federal government. And there was a five to four victory, with the three liberal justices being joined by Justice Gorsuch and, interestingly, the chief justice in favor of the tribes. Not surprised by Justice Gorsuch, um he has often been a sort of steadfast defender of tribal sovereignty, more surprising to see the chief justice. But, you know, you love to see it. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Certainly, very fascinating. We are still waiting on a number of blockbuster cases related to, you know, everything from reproductive rights, Trump cases related to January 6th and immunity, homelessness, and more. What decisions were you expecting to see on Thursday? 


Melissa Murray: Everyone is waiting with bated breath to hear about the Mifepristone case, and whether the FDA’s regulations of mifepristone will be determined to be valid or invalid. That’s the case about whether the federal law, EMTALA which requires hospitals that receive federal funding to provide stabilizing emergency care to patients, including abortion care, whether that federal law is preempted by an Idaho state law that very, very severely restricts access to abortion. We also have been waiting, and I think we are likely to continue to wait to get a decision on the Trump immunity case. And of course, that decision is going to be really pivotal because it will determine whether a sitting or former or future president has complete immunity or even partial immunity from criminal liability, like whether or not the president is truly above the law. And you heard it here from me. I think it’s kind of not going to matter for purposes of this federal indictment against Donald Trump, whatever the Supreme Court says, because the fact of the matter is, the Supreme Court has really waited and waited and waited and literally moved with all of the alacrity of a glacier. By the time they do issue it, the prospect of the people of the United States getting to see a trial on whether or not Donald Trump participated in the January 6th insurrection and in so doing, violated several laws as he’s been indicted for. I think it’s going to be very unlikely that we ever get to that trial. So I say the whole question of criminal immunity is going to be an academic one, because in practicality, this court has already immunized Donald Trump from criminal liability for that particular indictment. 


Priyanka Aribindi: In the meantime, other Trump trials have been delayed. Judge Aileen Cannon pushed back Trump’s Mar-A-Lago case. Georgia appeals court indefinitely halted the 2020 election interference case, while it figures out what they’re doing with D.A. Fani Willis. If she can stay on. What does that mean now for the opinion on this immunity case? 


Melissa Murray: The Mar-A-Lago documents trial, that is the most open and shut case. Like I mean, it’s sort of like, do you have classified documents? Are you supposed to have classified documents? Did you mean to have the classified documents? It’s kind of like, yeah, yeah, yeah, guilty. And I think it would be a very straightforward case, and I think they’d return a verdict faster than they did in the New York Manhattan DA trial. The fact that we’re not going to get a trial there, that seems to be all about decisions that Judge Cannon is making. And some of those decisions, I think people might speculate whether that is purposeful or not, but it does mean that we’re unlikely to get a trial there. In the Fani Willis circumstance, that’s the Georgia election interference case. Um. That’s a state level case. I think that also was a case where it was very cannily indicted, like she had a major multi defendant case, and it was done purposefully under that Georgia Rico statute to, I think, produce a dynamic where lower level defendants would eventually sort of plead up and up, and eventually you would get to the people on top Rudy Giuliani, Mark Meadows, Donald Trump himself, all of that kind of halted with these allegations of ethics violations that weirdly happened right after Kenneth Chesebro, Sidney Powell, Jenna Ellis, who are major players in all of this, pleaded guilty. I don’t think that was inadvertent. I mean, I think the case was gaining momentum and something had to be done to stop it. They made these allegations against Fani Willis. The optics of the circumstances, like, let’s be frank, were terrible. Like, please don’t sleep where you eat. I’ll just put it like that. The TLDR for all of this is making sure these cases never get to trial before the election is exactly what Donald Trump should want as a defendant, right? I mean, most defendants want to be exonerated, but like, this guy probably doesn’t, and he wants to go as long as possible, because if he doesn’t have a trial before the election and he wins the election, he can then direct his Department of Justice to kill the federal January 6th election interference case and the Mar-A-Lago documents case. Um. He can’t do anything necessarily with the Department of Justice vis-a-vis the Georgia election interference. But if it just goes on indefinitely and they can’t find a prosecutor, it might just peter out. And if he’s president and there are questions and, you know, depending on what the Supreme Court says about immunity, it might be that we have to wait until he’s no longer president to even deal with that case. 


Priyanka Aribindi: That was my conversation with Melissa Murray, co-host of Strict Scrutiny. You can listen to more Strict Scrutiny wherever you get your podcasts. 


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




Tre’vell Anderson: Let’s get to some headlines. 


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Israel fired a strike on a school sheltering displaced Palestinians in Gaza early Thursday that left more than 30 people dead, 23 of which were reportedly women and children. The Israeli military claimed that Hamas militants were operating from within the school. Israeli fighter jets reportedly used U.S. made munitions in the strike. 


Priyanka Aribindi: How much longer uh till we hear from President Biden or the administration that this does not cross the red line? That’s an impossible line to cross, it seems. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Mm hmm. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Disgraced former president and convicted felon Donald Trump has reportedly begun vetting some of his potential VP picks. Trump’s campaign has reportedly asked multiple contenders for official paperwork. Washington correspondent and former vice reporter Alexis Johnson tells us what Trump is looking for in selecting his VP and who’s made the shortlist. 


[clip of Alexis Johnson] Trump’s audition requirement seems to be who can be the most MAGA. Now, with contestants like Senator Tim Scott from South Carolina or the Florida Congressman Byron Donald, Trump is clearly thinking he may need help reaching Black voters. But with folks like senators JD Vance and Marco Rubio, he actually doesn’t need any help winning Florida or Ohio. So those choices are purely based on their Trump minion abilities. That goes for North Dakota Governor Doug Burgum as well. But Burgum may actually be the “safe”, quote unquote, normal, low profile, balanced option that Trump needs. And his name is rumored to be very high on the list. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Former Secretary of Housing and Urban Development Ben Carson, Arkansas Senator Tom Cotton and New York Representative Elise Stefanik are also names that appear on the list, according to a source who spoke with media outlets anonymously. I, for one, just um going to say that is a cursed piece of paper. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah. No thank you. Prosecutors in Hunter Biden’s federal gun trial called his brother Beau’s widow, Hallie, to testify Thursday. She spoke about her volatile romantic relationship with Hunter, how he introduced her to crack cocaine, and how she found the gun at the center of the case. Here’s Strict Scrutiny’s Melissa Murray. 


[clip of Melissa Murray] What her testimony did was effectively show that at the time that Hunter Biden was trying to get this gun, to purchase this gun and filling out these forms where he was supposed to be truthful, he was using drugs and perhaps even was a drug addict, and therefore he made false statements to the federally licensed gun dealer. And also on this form. And those are crimes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Prosecutors will continue questioning Ed Banner, the man who found Biden’s gun, in a trash can today. They are expected to rest their case after calling two more witnesses. President Biden said Thursday he would not pardon his son if he’s convicted. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Listen, I know the big part of the testimony that we learned on Thursday was what Melissa said. It’s that um, Hunter Biden lied about using drugs when he tried to get this gun. But my biggest takeaway is that they were all on crack, like, this is wild. [laughter] Who knew? We knew about Hunter. But Hallie, I don’t know this is messy. Messy. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Wow. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And finally, today, we bid farewell to Pat Sajak as the longtime host of Wheel of Fortune. Sajak announced his plans to retire from the beloved nightly game show last summer. His final episode on the show airs tonight. After 40 years of playing fill in the blank. Sajak started his TV career as a weatherman and debuted as the host of Wheel of Fortune in 1981. He and his costar Vanna White have more than 8000 episodes of the game show under their belts. I thought we had done a lot of WAD. No. Child’s play for those two. On Thursday, Sajak sat down with his daughter Maggie, the social correspondent for Wheel of Fortune, to reflect on his run. The interview aired on Good Morning America. 


[clip of Pat Sajak] I do know that somewhere along the line we became more than a popular show. We became part of the popular culture, and more importantly, we became part of people’s lives. And uh, that’s been awfully gratifying. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Wheel of Fortune will continue to air through 2028, though it’s unclear who the new host will be. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Priyanka. I think it’s my time. 


Priyanka Aribindi: I think it’s your time, too. It seems like there’s a job opening. Is Wheel of Fortune the one where you spin the wheel? 


Tre’vell Anderson: Oh yes. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Is that how it works?


Tre’vell Anderson: But the wheel is on the ground, not standing up. FYI.


Priyanka Aribindi: Oh oh oh oh. [laughter] Really telling on myself as not a viewer of Wheel of Fortune. We discussed this before the show. I was more of like a Jeopardy, Who Wants to be a Millionaire. Tre’vell is saying like, no, no. Wheel of Fortune.


Tre’vell Anderson: You like games that make people think. Mm hmm. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Anyways, and those are the headlines. 




Tre’vell Anderson: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe. Leave a review. Throw your hat in the ring to be the next Wheel of Fortune host and tell your friends to listen. 


Priyanka Aribindi: And if you are into reading and not just the list of deranged freaks Trump is considering for his VP like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Priyanka Aribindi. 


Tre’vell Anderson: I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


[spoken together] And give Vanna White a raise. 


Priyanka Aribindi: She’s still going to be there. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Yeah, she is going to be there. 


Priyanka Aribindi: She’s the only one with institutional knowledge. Get her more money. 


Tre’vell Anderson: She should be the new host. But you know, I’m a mind my business. 


Priyanka Aribindi: You and Vanna, that’s a dream team. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Me and Vanna. Oh, this is perfect. 


Priyanka Aribindi: Perfect. Yeah. [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: 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.