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May 20, 2024
What A Day
The ICC Seeks Arrest Warrants

In This Episode

  • The International Criminal Court’s chief prosecutor on Monday announced plans to seek arrest warrants for the leaders of Hamas and Israel — including Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu — over their actions during the war in Gaza. Farther east in Iran, the country’s supreme leader looked to project stability after President Ebrahim Raisi and another top official died in a helicopter accident Sunday. Vox foreign affairs reporter Ellen Ioanes explains what’s at stake for both countries amid simmering tensions in the Middle East.
  • And in headlines: Prosectors in Donald Trump’s criminal hush money trial officially rested their case against the former president, voters in Georgia head to the polls to cast ballots in the state’s primary election, and organizers in Nevada say they’ve gathered more than enough signatures to qualify a ballot referendum that would enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution.


Show Notes:



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Josie Duffy Rice: It is Tuesday, May 21st. I’m Josie Duffy Rice. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And I’m Tre’vell Anderson and this is What a Day where we are questioning Michael Cohen’s self-help defense for stealing money from the Trump Organization. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m not questioning this. I love the idea of taking people’s money and calling it self help. That is very up my alley. Trendsetter, game changer Michael Cohen giving me ideas. [laughter] [music break]


Tre’vell Anderson: On today’s show, it’s primary day in Georgia. Plus, the Dali cargo ship finally makes its way out of the Baltimore port. 


Josie Duffy Rice: But first, on Monday, the International Criminal Courts chief prosecutor announced that he was seeking arrest warrants for both Israeli and Hamas leaders on charges of crimes against humanity. The prosecutor, Karim Khan, said that he had decided to seek arrest warrants for Hamas leader Yahya Sinwar, its military leader Muhammad Deif, and Hamas’s leader in Qatar, Ismail Haniyeh. He is also requesting arrest warrants for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Defense Minister Yoav Gallant. I spoke with Ellen Ioanes, a world news reporter from Vox. Here’s what she said about the charges. 


[clip of Ellen Ioanes] We do have reason to believe, like especially because of Hamas’s actions in the very beginning, like murdering civilians is, that is a war crime. Karim Khan, the chief prosecutor has said today in these announcements he’s especially pointed to starvation tactics and that kind of siege warfare as a reason to go after these arrest warrants and to seek them out. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So what exactly does this mean? Are these leaders now facing arrest? 


Josie Duffy Rice: No they’re not. Not at this point, at least. The prosecutor’s request has to first be approved by a panel of judges, and that can take a couple of months at least. But honestly, even if it is approved, it’s not really clear this is ever going to result in like a real criminal prosecution or consequences. Right? Because first of all, like the United States, Israel isn’t even a member of the ICC. It does not grant the court jurisdiction in either Israel or Gaza. So many are arguing that Israeli leaders these warrants can’t really like lead to their arrest, especially if they’re in their home country. Now, in theory, they could still get arrested if they were to visit one of the 124 countries that do recognize the International Criminal Court. And meanwhile, like the ICC says that they actually do have the right to prosecute war crimes in that territory because Palestine is a signatory. The court accepted Palestine as a member in 2015. So there are all these kind of like technical questions here, but it’s not actually really about that. It really doesn’t seem like the ICC prosecutor is itching to like, put Netanyahu in handcuffs, right? It’s more of an opportunity to send a message. It’s a very official way to signal a broader international displeasure with Israel’s actions in Gaza. It’s a significant deal, especially in many other countries. Now, the United States notably takes the ICC less seriously than some other countries. So here’s Ellen again. 


[clip of Ellen Ioanes] We do not really think about how other countries see international law, like, for example, European countries take international law a lot more seriously than we do. So somebody told me, a couple of months ago that places with power don’t really care about international law. And I think that’s kind of been true. 


Tre’vell Anderson: So what does the Biden administration have to say about these warrants? 


Josie Duffy Rice: Oh, they are vocally, vocally denouncing the ICC decision as it pertains to Israel. Biden stated, quote, “there is no equivalence, none between Israel and Hamas.” On Monday, he also said during a speech that the Israeli military action in Gaza, quote, “is not genocide.” 


[clip of Ellen Ioanes] The leader of an ally to the United States may have an ICC arrest warrant out. That’s a big deal. And the US has come out, has really strongly condemned it. Matt Miller today was in a press conference [?] to condemn this action. Biden, Kirby, they’ve all said, you know, this is ridiculous. You can’t equate Israel and Hamas, you know, these are not the same things. 


Josie Duffy Rice: So, as we mentioned, it will take some time before these warrants become arrests. If they become arrests. But I also spoke with Ellen about the death of Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi. Iran announced five days of mourning honoring the deaths of the president and Foreign Minister, Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, and the other officials who were killed in Sunday’s plane crash. The Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, posted on X, our Honorable Raisi worked tirelessly. But there are many people, both in Iran and around the world who are not grieving the president’s death. Raisi is remembered by many in the country as the Butcher of Tehran, one of the four judges that has been accused of overseeing the execution of political prisoners in 1988, after the Iran Iraq war and brutal actions against political opponents and protesters. I asked Ellen about what his death means, given that Iranian government functions quite differently than, say, our government does. Is this really going to have an impact on the stability or power of the Iranian regime? 


[clip of Ellen Ioanes] So within 50 days, according to the Iranian constitution, the government has to hold a new election for president. That might not be super meaningful in the short term. But what we should kind of be thinking about is what this means a lot more long term. Because Raisi was, he was a cleric and he was he was a jurist and he had been part of, if not necessarily, the inner circle. He had been part of the government or the structure for a really long time. And a lot of people saw him as potentially a successor to Ali Khamenei, the Ayatollah who is now 85 years old and he’s not in great health. And so Iran has gone through only one transition of power in this way. Right. So this is going to be monumental. And again, Raisi was kind of seen as maybe a successor. He’s a hardliner. He’s you know, he wears the black turban. He’s very severe looking. Um. So the black turban means he’s he’s a descendant of the prophet. But, you know, he’s been involved throughout his career in these very hard line actions, including potentially these extrajudicial killings of political prisoners in the ’80s. And he was the president during the Woman Life Freedom protests. Right. So he was also carrying out and overseeing a lot of arrests. You know, who’s going to come next? Like who is going to be the next Ayatollah? That’s something that we don’t know. I mean, I just don’t think there, we will see too much change, either domestically or in terms of foreign policy. This may, in fact, actually be a chance for Iran to kind of scale back. This may actually be a bit of an opportunity to de-escalate. Um. I think Iran needs to engage in face saving practices and situations, um and create its own domestic and foreign legitimacy with actions like the attack in Israel that we saw in April. I hope everybody takes this tragic opportunity to take a minute and assess and de-escalate, you know, whether that’s with the nuclear program or whether that’s um, in terms of the war between Israel and Hamas. I hope that this is an opportunity for everybody to just step back and really think long term about what these relationships and these dynamics are going to be like in the future, because that’s not something that I see at all. And it’s quite frustrating and it’s really damaging to a lot of people. It’s cost 35,000 lives just in this conflict, because we’re not thinking and we’re not promoting long term thought about, okay, how are we all going to live together in this place that these people live? 


Josie Duffy Rice: And that was Ellen Ioanes, world and weekend reporter for Vox. We will link to some of her work in our show notes, but that is the latest for now. We will get to some headlines in a moment, but if you like our show, make sure to subscribe and share with your friends. [music break]




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


[sung] Headlines. 


Tre’vell Anderson: The prosecution in former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial in New York officially rested it’s case on Monday. This comes amid former Trump fixer Michael Cohen’s fourth day on the stand. He was the prosecution’s final witness. Now it’s time for Trump’s defense. Trump’s lawyers called former federal prosecutor Robert Costello. Costello was once a legal adviser for Cohen. His testimony was meant to attack Cohen’s credibility but it was cut short on Monday when Justice Juan Merchan cleared the courtroom mid testimony. At one point, Costello rolled his eyes and said, jeez, under his breath while he was on the stand. After Merchan excused the jury, he told Costello, quote, “if you don’t like my ruling, you don’t say, jeez, you don’t give me side eye and you don’t roll your eyes.” The trial will resume today with more testimony from Costello. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I do love a judge saying, don’t give me side eye. This is at a trial. First criminal trial of a United States president. Truly incredible. Okay, here in Georgia, voters are heading to the polls on Tuesday for the state’s primary election. That includes me. Early voting finished on Friday with a higher than expected turnout of more than half a million people. One of the big races to watch is the state Supreme Court race here in Georgia. Former U.S. Congressman John Barrow is challenging the incumbent, Andrew Pinson, who is an appointee of Governor Brian Kemp. Barrow has made protecting reproductive rights a pillar of his campaign. And we’ll be watching that race very closely. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis is also on the ballot up against a more progressive Democrat, Christian Wise Smith. And finally, Marjorie Taylor Greene. Yes, of bleach blond bad built butch body fame has no Republican challengers, but there are four Democrats vying for the nomination to run against her in November, so there is lots to keep you updated on. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Organizers in Nevada say they’ve gathered more than enough signatures to qualify a ballot referendum that would enshrine abortion rights in the state’s constitution. The group Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom announced Monday it had gathered more than 200,000 signatures, nearly double the number needed to get the measure on the November ballot. Lindsey Harmon is the president of Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom. She told us the campaign’s success shows Nevadans are excited to weigh in on the issue. 


[clip of Lindsey Harmon] We’re really looking forward to folks coming out on both sides of the aisle. This is definitely a nonpartisan issue. We expect to see a lot of Republican support on this, too. So this is an incredibly important election for us on the national stage, and we know that abortion will be central to that. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Abortion access is already protected in Nevada under state law. But Harmon says an amendment to the Constitution would make these protections even harder to strip away. The Nevada secretary of state must now verify the group’s submitted signatures before the proposed amendment is certified. 


Josie Duffy Rice: The cargo ship that hit the Francis Scott Key Bridge in Maryland has finally moved from the site of the crash that killed six construction workers almost two months ago. Five tugboats towed the massive 947 foot long ship out of the Port of Baltimore on Monday. The ship, known as the Dali, has been stuck there ever since it lost power in March, blocking other ships from passing through one of the busiest ports in the country. But even though the ship has moved, the ship’s crew is still stuck on board. They haven’t been allowed to leave because maritime law dictates that ships must be stopped at all times. And on top of that, the ship’s Indian and Sri Lankan crewmembers are currently not allowed to set foot on U.S. soil because their visas expired while they’ve been stuck. It is still unclear when crewmembers will be allowed to get off. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Being stuck on a boat. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Unbelievable. 


Tre’vell Anderson: For however long. I don’t know. 


Josie Duffy Rice: 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. If you’re in Oregon, Idaho, Kentucky, or Georgia, do not forget to vote and tell your friends to listen. 


Tre’vell Anderson: And if you are into reading and not just maritime law like me, What a Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Tre’vell Anderson. 


Josie Duffy Rice: I’m Josie Duffy Rice.


[spoken together] And we need some self-help cash. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Just like send a little over this way. 


Tre’vell Anderson: Listen, I’m going to drop my Venmo and my Zelle in [laugh]–


Josie Duffy Rice: Yes. 


Tre’vell Anderson: –in the show notes. 


Josie Duffy Rice: Yeah. Same. [laughter] [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.