A Manhattan grand jury indicted former President Trump on Thursday on criminal charges related to a hush-money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 campaign. He will be the first former president to face criminal charges.
- Plus, the push for anti-trans legislation in America.
Guests: Axios' Margaret Talev and Russell Contreras.
Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Robin Linn, Fonda Mwangi and Alex Sugiura. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.
- Trump indicted by Manhattan grand jury
- The legal woes surrounding Trump and his Manhattan indictment
- The forces behind anti-trans bills across the U.S.
NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!
It’s Friday, March 31st.
I’m Niala Boodhoo.
Here’s what we’re following: the push for anti-trans legislation in America. But first, a grand jury votes to indict former President Trump. That’s today’s One Big Thing.
A grand jury votes to indict former President Trump
NIALA: A grand jury in New York indicted former President Donald Trump yesterday on criminal charges related to a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels during Trump's 2016 campaign. Donald Trump will be the first former president to face criminal charges, and, according to one of his lawyers, is expected to turn himself in on Tuesday.
Axios’ Senior Contributor Margaret Talev is here for our Friday state of play. Margaret, first, can you just capture this moment…what you're thinking right now?
MARGARET TALEV: Well, Niala, this is history in the making. This is the first time ever that a former U.S. president is facing a criminal indictment, and that has profound implications for the future of American democracy. It puts the country at a crossroads after a couple hundred years of former U.S. presidents being shielded from this, but also generally avoiding the kind of actions that would put them in the crosshairs of something like this.
NIALA: What do we need to know about the charges so far?
MARGARET: Well, what we need to know is how much we don't know. The details are going to be unveiled early next week. And, until then, it's generally understood that this case has been related to the hush money paid to a porn star. But beyond that, what are the specifics? How strong is the case? What are the felonies, assuming that there's, uh, felony charges in here? We're gonna need to wait to see those kinds of details, and they will be important for the legal case.
NIALA: Margaret, how has former President Trump responded to all of this? We do know from one of his attorneys that he is planning to turn himself in on Tuesday.
MARGARET: Well Niala, those are the early indications, and he has put out a statement aggressively criticizing this action. But, uh, I think we're gonna need to watch in the coming days precisely how he's gonna respond. How's he going to message to his base what happens early next week, and how do his followers respond?
NIALA: What else have we seen in terms of reaction from Republicans on this?
MARGARET: We heard, even before this action, there were signs from House Republicans in Congress that they wanted the District Attorney Alvin Bragg to appear to answer questions about what he was doing before he'd even done anything. The question is now, uh, will they try to subpoena him? Do they intervene in the middle of a criminal case? And the early indications from House Speaker McCarthy and some of the others in Republican leadership is yes.
NIALA: Margaret, up until now, there, we have talked about the myriad of other investigations ongoing against the former president. How does this indictment change all of those?
MARGARET: Well Niala, this is the first ever criminal indictment of a former U.S. president. But, it's almost certainly not going to be the last in U.S. history, and it may not be the last for Donald Trump. He could potentially also face actions out of cases in Georgia and from federal prosecutors in the coming weeks. And there are some who say that this is a weaker case, that it’s not the kind of test of a first case to have, and that it could undercut the strength of those cases. And then there's a counter-argument that says this could actually potentially ease the burden for other jurisdictions, because up until now for a couple hundred years, there has been this sort of taboo or firewall against this kind of theoretical prosecution. And, uh, now that that Rubicon has been crossed, a case is just a case on the merits.
NIALA: Margaret, we talked about the historical significance of this. What does this mean going forward?
MARGARET: Well, it certainly means something has changed. These are not circumstances that are typical to former U.S. presidents. And you are seeing some people saying, if you bring criminal charges against a former U.S. president, American democracy as we know it is over. And then you're hearing people, including some constitutional law experts, saying, if you don't bring a case against a former president who has broken the law just because he's a former president, then you're weakening American democracy and this could actually strengthen American democracy. It is a test not just for Donald Trump, it is a test for the country. It feels like it could be a very important moment, not because of the particulars of this case, but because of the impact that bringing this case could have on the future of the American presidency.
NIALA: Margaret Talev is a senior contributor to Axios. Thanks, Margaret.
MARGARET: Thanks Niala.
NIALA: What questions do you have about this situation? Email me at podcasts at axios dot com or you can text me the numbers in our show notes and we'll try to get to some of them soon.
In a moment: the push for anti-trans legislation across America.
The push for anti-trans legislation in America
NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I’m Niala Boodhoo.
Over 100 pieces of new legislation were introduced in states this year that place limits on gender affirming care for transgender people.
The result, writes Axios’ Oriana González, is less healthcare access for transgender people and a patchwork of sanctions on health providers. Most of these bills have focused on care for young people, but some states have now also introduced measures that would restrict healthcare to adults.
Healthcare isn't the only area being targeted by new anti-transgender bills. Hundreds of new laws restricting participation in youth sports and more are emerging in state legislatures around the country.
Axios’ Justice and Race Reporter Russell Contreras is reporting on the forces behind these bills on this trans day of visibility. He's here with more.
Russ, I mentioned a few, but can you tell us some of these latest bills targeting transgender people?
RUSSELL CONTRERAS: Well, the bills run the gamut. There are some that are targeting healthcare. There are also some bills attempting to regulate what people read in schools. There are also some bills that are trying to regulate drag shows.
NIALA: Who is pushing these new laws, and what's the strategy?
RUSSELL: Well, there are dozens of conservative groups that are pushing them, but I focused on three groups: the Alliance Defending Freedom, the Family Research Council, and the Liberty Council. These groups have raised millions of dollars in recent years to fight against Roe v. Wade. Once that has been accomplished, they've turned their attention to these trans bills. They say this is a natural progression. This is part of their religious beliefs. The groups have shaped similarly worded parents rights bills that seek to ban minors from attending drag shows, prevent trans youth from receiving gender-affirming care and restrict their participation in high school sports.
Polls show that the majority of Americans don't believe that there should be any discrimination against trans people. However, polls are divided on whether Americans believe that trans kids should be allowed to participate in high school sports. This is an opening for many conservative groups because they believe they can pursue legislation in this arena and get bills passed.
NIALA: There are groups like the American Medical Association, among others, that have chimed in on these debates. What are you hearing from opponents of these laws?
RUSSELL: Well, opponents of the laws say that a lot of the arguments in defense of passing something like this is based on what they call, quote, pseudoscience. I talked to the ACLU, and they say these bills challenge the very tenants of America’s free speech, but also access to healthcare. Major medical organizations like the American Medical Association and the American Academy of Pediatrics consider gender-affirming care medically necessary and could be potentially lifesaving.
However, I talked to the Family Research Council, the group that's behind many of these bills. They say that, wait a minute, the science that has been presented in defense of gender-affirming care is flawed. They say this is based on consensus, not research.
NIALA: Russ, you recently wrote about the changing demographics in states like Texas and Arizona, where white evangelicals have now been outnumbered by Hispanic Catholics. What effect does this shift have on this conversation?
RUSSELL: You know, in the mid-2000s, white evangelicals represented about a fourth of the American population. Today it's 14% in Texas, a place where white evangelicals run the Texas legislature, it is also only 14%. The largest percentage of people who identify with the religious affiliation are Hispanic Catholics, they're about 21%. White, mainline Protestants numbers have also been declining. They tend to be more moderate to progressive. But conservative white evangelicals, their numbers are dwindling. Many experts have told me they believe this is white evangelicals’ last hurrah. They are looking at these anti-trans laws as the last attempt to remain relevant.
NIALA: Russell Contreras covers justice and race here at Axios. Thanks Russ.
RUSSELL: Thanks for having me
NIALA: That’s it for us this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Robin Linn and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our senior sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief and Aja Whitaker-Moore is our executive editor. And special thanks as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.
I’m Niala Boodhoo. Stay safe, enjoy your weekend and we’ll see you back here on Monday.
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