Voting Rights And SCOTUS Wrongs | Crooked Media
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July 02, 2021
What A Day
Voting Rights And SCOTUS Wrongs

In This Episode

  • The Supreme Court affirmed two provisions of an Arizona law that restricted voting rights, yesterday. One would void ballots from citizens who voted in the wrong precinct, and the other would restrict voters from having their ballots delivered to a polling station by a third party.  The justices also overturned a California law requiring charities to disclose the identities of their major donors, citing it as a violation of the First Amendment.
  • The Manhattan DA’s Office charged the Trump Organization for an alleged 15 year tax evasion scheme involving concealed benefits paid to executive employees. The focus of the prosecution is on the firm’s CFO, Allen Weisselberg, who is expected to take the brunt of the criminal charges instead of Trump himself.
  • And in headlines: the U.S. gained international support for a global minimum tax, Liz Cheney was nominated to the January 6th Committee, and Britney Spears’ father remains part of her conservatorship.




Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, July 2nd. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Erin Ryan: And I’m Erin Ryan, in for Gideon Resnick.


Akilah Hughes: And this is What A Day, wishing you good luck as you absolutely crawl through your last workday before a holiday weekend.


Erin Ryan: You want to look not too busy. You don’t want to look overworked, but you want to look like you’re working so that nobody would dare ask you to do anything else.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, if you don’t have a summer Friday, just establish one. On today’s show, the Trump organization is indicted for tax evasion. Plus, we’ll have headlines. But first, the latest.


Erin Ryan: Yesterday was the last day of the Supreme Court session, aka the season finale of SCOTUS. And like all recent seasons, I mean sessions, of the Roberts court, it sucks.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I think that that’s a fair assessment. But what went down yesterday?


Erin Ryan: Well, we got two rulings, one on voting rights and another on dark money. Both went the way that court watchers predicted they would go: 6-3 partisan splits with the conservative majority prevailing. Let’s start with the voting rights case, Brnovitch v. Arizona, because it’s best to get the worst news out of the way first.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah.


Erin Ryan: The court ruled that an Arizona law limiting the way that ballots can be cast does not violate the Voting Rights Act, which is a big blow. The justices upheld two of the Arizona law’s provisions, one that outlaws ballot collection by anybody other than caregivers, election officials and mail carriers, and another that mandated that ballots cast in the wrong precinct be thrown out. Voting rights advocates claim that the Arizona law effectively suppressed minority votes. And the Voting Rights Act specifies that no matter what lawmakers intent is in making new voting laws, if the effect of the law disproportionately impacts nonwhite voters, it violates the VRA. But the Supreme Court conservatives decided that part of the VRA wasn’t a thing, throwing out a lower court ruling in the process. In her dissent, Justice Elena Kagan accused the conservative majority of attempting to rewrite Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act.


Akilah Hughes: I mean, I think she’s right. So this must be great news for the Republicans in the 17 states that are currently trying to make laws to restrict voting and enshrine their minority rule for another generation. Then there’s the other ruling that the Supreme Court made yesterday. So can you tell us about that one?


Erin Ryan: Brings me no pleasure to do so, Akilah, but I will. The court ruled against a California law that required charities to disclose to the state the identities of their large donors. The same 6-3 ideological split came out in favor of protecting the anonymity of extremely wealthy people who don’t want other people to know what wacky causes they support.


Akilah Hughes: This seems not good or in the interest of anyone but those very wealthy people. And then there was a third big piece of news out of SCOTUS yesterday, something that didn’t happen. Erin, what’s going on?


Erin Ryan: Yeah, so yesterday, 82-old liberal Justice Stephen Breyer did not announce his retirement. This despite pressure from liberal groups, which comes from the fact that he’s 80-fucking-2-years old, and the last time a justice that old didn’t retire under a Democratic president, things did not go well for progressive ideology on the highest court in the land. Breyer logic is literally how we got Justice Amy Coney Barrett. This is literally the most recent possible lesson we could learn about this, and we are not learning this lesson. God—


Akilah Hughes: No we sure don’t.


Erin Ryan: —dammit, Steven Breyer. Ugh. And Mitch McConnell has straight-up bragged about having no political goals beyond obstructing Joe Biden’s political agenda and promised that he would block a Biden Supreme Court nomination. So we better hope Justice Breyer stays on this planet for long enough, while Democrats still control the Senate or until we can elect more Democratic senators next year to make McConnell’s drawly gurgling irrelevant. Because if this is how conservatives handle a 6-3 majority, imagine what damage they do with 7-2. Akilah, next session we got guns and abortion. So . . .


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I’m sure that’s going to end up great for everybody. [laughs]


Erin Ryan: The party is just beginning.


Akilah Hughes: We love it.


Erin Ryan: That’s the news from DC, but Akilah moving to New York, tell us about a story that broke there yesterday.


Akilah Hughes: All right. So finally, some decent news from our busted justice system. So on Wednesday, we found out that the Trump organization would be charged and yesterday we got more details. So according to an unsealed grand jury indictment, Manhattan’s D.A. office has charged the Trump Organization and their top financial executive, Alan Weisselberg, with 15 years’ worth of tax evasion. So if you filed a little late, go easy on yourself, because at least you filed. They’ve pleaded not guilty. Though, as The Atlantic pointed out, Trump’s statement about the matter suspiciously lacked any language about his innocence or how he expects to be exonerated.


Erin Ryan: Wow. I can’t imagine former President Trump not being a good or clear writer. That’s very weird and out of character for him.


Akilah Hughes: Yes.


Erin Ryan: OK, so what’s the DA’s office alleging?


Akilah Hughes: Basically, for at least the past 15 years, they believe, based on tax records, that the organization helped executives avoid paying taxes by just paying them under the table. And more specifically, they believe that Weisselberg avoided paying nearly a million dollars in taxes by concealing benefits he got like a free apartment and tuition payments for his relatives—not even for him, like he didn’t learn anything, his family got to for free—which is really wild when you think about that case in Texas where that mother is serving time because she sent her kid to a different school district, then the one they lived in.


Erin Ryan: Yeah, and meanwhile, we have like multimillionaire executives being paid as though they’re a 12-year old cutting grass.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, it’s really wild and kind of backwards. [laughs]


Erin Ryan: —crazy. So can we expect any perp walks this week?


Akilah Hughes: Probably not. So Weissenberg turned himself in yesterday morning and entered the courtroom in handcuffs and he surrendered his passport. So that was probably the extent of the circus we’re going to get this week. New York State’s Attorney General Letitia James has been a part of the probe that led to these indictments, which are the first to come after a nearly three-year investigation. And if this case goes the way her other ones have gone, we can expect a trickle of damning information for months re: Trump and his firm. But right now, the focus is on the prosecution of Weisselberg and could he cut a deal and rat out the former twice-impeached president? Will he even have to if the money trail proves the government right? Well, I have my popcorn at the ready in any event, so we’ll let you know what details come next. That’s the latest for now.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Friday, WAD squad, and for today’s temp check, we’re talking about a TV show that’s mainly consumed in viral 30-second chunks on the Internet: The View, which will see its conservative co-host, Megan McCain depart at the end of this month—yay-yay—per an announcement McCain made on the show yesterday. So McCain cited her desire to stay in Washington, D.C. after giving birth to her daughter Liberty last year as her reason for leaving the show. McCain’s tenure has been marked by frequent controversy, high ratings, and this extremely memorable reaction from Whoopi Goldberg.


[clip of Meghan McCain] The American experiment is the way to go. And if we have two American women, Meghan Markle and Oprah Winfrey, who are single-handedly finishing what George Washington and our revolutionary counterparts, did. I’m all for it.


[Whoopi Goldberg] OK.


Akilah Hughes: [laughs] All right, so [laughs] Erin how are you reacting to this news?


Erin Ryan: You know, like, you know what I would like to see after this? Moving forward, no more children of fabulously wealthy politicians taking jobs away from regular people who really could use them. No more Bushes on the Today show.


Akilah Hughes: Thank you.


Erin Ryan: No more Huntsmans on Fox and Friends. No more McCain’s on The View. You guys don’t need a job. You have Fuck-It money. You have Fuck-It money for generations.


Akilah Hughes: Literally.


Erin Ryan: Like go take a job being a docent somewhere.


Akilah Hughes: Exactly. Point to art at any local museum.


Erin Ryan: Exactly. Like, be someone who just reads children’s books to kids at a library and doesn’t get paid for it because you can do that all day.


Akilah Hughes: I mean, if they can read. [laughs]


Erin Ryan: You have a million-bejillion dollars. I just think we need to stop, we need to stop hiring political children for media jobs. They’re taking jobs away from people who really could use those jobs. OK.


Akilah Hughes: They really truly are.


Erin Ryan: Rant over. Same question for you, Akilah.


Akilah Hughes: I mean, I’m just excited for the peace of mind that Whoopi Goldberg may have for a little while. You know, she deserves it. She has been absolutely hounded by this crazed woman and her futuristic hairstyles that don’t always slap. You know, sometimes they’re a miss. And I just think that Whoopi at this point, you know, an EGOT winner, deserves peace, should be allowed to weigh in on commercials about, I don’t know, gay families or, you know, whether she’s going to try these, like, new foods. You know, like this is the level of discourse I’m looking for in the View. I’m not looking for Meghan McCain soap boxing weirdly about the founding fathers and their intent for Meghan Markle and other TV show stars to finish what he started. I just don’t know. I don’t think, I think Whoopi deserves at least a month off too after this. Just like that, we have checked our temps. Stay safe, protect Whoopi Goldberg at all costs and we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Erin Ryan: Corporate CEOs should make the most of their time they have left with their offshore accounts—you know, look them in the eyes, kiss them, cuddle them—because the US is getting support to establish the global minimum corporate tax rate. Officials from 130 countries agreed to a rate of 15% in any country where companies operate. OK, 15%?!? That’s like—


Akilah Hughes: That’s nothing. That was my discount at Forever 2, [laughs] when I worked there.


Erin Ryan: Yeah, that’s like Airbnb, like service charge. But OK, if this is a progress then let’s take progress. This would theoretically cut down on tax avoidance, which is estimated to cost governments between 100 and 240 billion dollars each year. Potential holdouts India and China signed on to the proposal, though some countries in Europe and Africa still object because they don’t want to lose out on foreign investments. Biden said money from the tax increases would go towards generational investments that would keep America competitive in the global economy. Negotiators hope to firm up the rules of a G20 summit in October and implement them by 2023, if we all have been burned to death by then.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, that’s a good point. Please, climate change, don’t do it. A judge denied Britney Spears’s request to remove her father from the financial side of her conservatorship on Wednesday. This came exactly a week after Spears shared heartbreaking testimony about this extremely restrictive legal arrangement. The ruling sparked actions from Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bob Casey, who called on the Department of Justice to establish more federal oversight of the country’s guardianship system. They cited Spears’s case as an example of the very flawed conservatorship system that subjects many people to unjustified and oppressive legal arrangements. Bessemer Trust, the wealth management firm that was set to take over Britney’s estate with her dad, has dropped out of the arrangement as well, citing Britney’s testimony against the conservatorship last week.


Erin Ryan: Everything I learn about conservatorships I’m like: that doesn’t seem like it should be OK.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Could, could be better. Could, could be completely overhauled, quite frankly.


Erin Ryan: We’ve got some notes for the whole system on conservatorship.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. Tear it down.


Erin Ryan: Yeah. Yikes. We’re getting a better view of the group that will decide whether it’s good or bad for the president to ask people to do terrorism, because yesterday House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced that Republican Liz Cheney will serve on the committee to investigate the January 6th riot by a pro-Trump mob. Cheney is one of two House Republicans that voted to establish the committee. Other members of the group Pelosi announced yesterday where its chair, Representative Bennie Thompson, and six other Democrats, including former impeachment managers Adam Schiff and Jamie Raskin. Big Jamie Raskin fan over here. I think he’s just great. I think that’s a good fit. Minority leader, Kevin McCarthy can nominate five Republicans to the panel, but it’s not known if he’ll do it because Kevin McCarthy doesn’t really do anything.


Akilah Hughes: Ever.


Erin Ryan: At all. He has reportedly threatened any Republicans who take an offer from Pelosi to join, with removal from their other committee assignments, which is a great reminder of the awesome power of bipartisanship. And also, it’s a great reminder of the fact that Matt Gaetz, who stands accused of child sex crimes, still sits on the House Judiciary Committee because apparently Kevin McCarthy doesn’t care about that.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, not at all. I mean, woof, yikes. So there’s news about the world’s most intolerable athletic event, billionaire race to space. So yesterday, Richard Branson announced he’ll take off on a suborbital space flight as early as July 11th, allowing him to beat Jeff Bezos, who’s set to fly out on July 20th. Branson owns Virgin Galactic and had been scheduled to fly on the company’s signature ship after Bezos. Yesterday he described a switch to an earlier flight as a, quote “incredible, wonderful coincidence” which is an example of the kind of self-delusion that lets you do insanely well in business. Over in Bezos’s spaceship, from his company Blue Origin, a special passenger was announced yesterday: it was Wally Funk who trained to go to space in 1961 and an all-woman program that was canceled before launch—can’t imagine why. Funk is 82, so she’ll be the oldest person to go to space. And as a sign of respect, Jeff Bezos needs to wear a helmet that lets her pinch his cheeks through it.


Erin Ryan: OK, here’s, here’s something: I feel like 82 is borderline too old to go to space. Like Wally Funk sounds awesome, but 82, I’m like concerned about her welfare. I think if you’re too old to go to space, you should be considering retiring from the Supreme Court. That’s just my take.


Akilah Hughes: You know, I think it’s a good take, and those are the headlines.


Akilah Hughes: One more thing before we go on the latest episode of With Friends Like These, host Ana Marie Cox is joined by the creator and host of WNYC’s podcast “Death, Sex & Money,” Anna Sale.


Erin Ryan: Together, they discuss the themes in Anna’s new book “Let’s Talk About Hard Things. Check it out by subscribing to With Friends Like These wherever you get your podcasts.


Akilah Hughes: Also, have an amazing holiday weekend. Go on Twitter. Find the patriotic ballad we made for the Fourth of July—I think you’ll like it—and play it on a loop at your barbecue. We’ll be back in your ears on Wednesday, July 7th.


Erin Ryan: That’s all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, fear the person who replaces Meghan McCain, and tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: And if you’re into reading, and not just stories that say Jeff Bezos is stuck in space and he can’t get back like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at I’m Akilah Hughes.


Erin Ryan: I’m Erin Ryan.


[together] And Happy Fourth of July!


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, I hope you get something barbecued and you eat it.


Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.


Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.


Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.


Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.


Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.