Aug 16, 2022 - Podcasts

GOP calls to "defund the FBI"

Some Republican lawmakers are embracing a new rallying cry to "defund the FBI," following last week's search of Mar-a-Lago. It's a message that stands in stark contrast to the GOP's position as the party of law enforcement, especially since the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests and calls to "defund the police."

  • Plus, the Colorado River reaches a drought tipping point.
  • And, Scotland becomes the first country to provide free period products.

Guests: Axios' Andrew Solender; Sam Metz, who covers the Western U.S. for the Associated Press.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Alex Sugiura, and Ben O'Brien. 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.

Go deeper:


NIALA: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Tuesday, August 16th.

I’m Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what we’re watching today: the Colorado River reaches a drought tipping point. Plus, Scotland becomes the first country to provide free period products.

But first, today’s One Big Thing: GOP calls to Defund the FBI.

Some Republican lawmakers are embracing a new rallying cry to “Defund the FBI,” following last week’s search of Mar-a-Lago. It’s a message that stands in stark contrast to the GOP’s position as the party of law enforcement, especially since the 2020 Black Lives Matter protests that had calls to Defund the Police.

Axios’ Political Reporter Andrew Solender has been talking to members of Congress about this, hi Andrew.

ANDREW SOLENDER: Hey, how's it going?

NIALA: Andrew, “Defund the Police” was the message from some Democrats beginning in 2020, but now Republicans are saying the same, but for the FBI? Who in particular is saying this?

ANDREW: That's right. So, particularly members of the freedom caucus. So Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, kind of the usual suspects when it comes to road testing, sort of new right wing positions. Green in particular has been selling “Defund the FBI” merchandise on our campaign website. You know, we've also heard from some others, the chair of the Texas Republican party. From, Jeff Duncan, uh, who's another Freedom Caucus Member, and candidates as well. Several candidates in, in key races, uh, in New Hampshire and North Carolina have also echoed this position.

NIALA: So how could this new message from the GOP change things for the Republican party ahead of the midterms?

ANDREW: So what we're hearing from both Republican and democratic strategists is that this could give Democrats an opportunity and an opening to kind of counter the defund message from Republicans that we've been seeing. Republicans have really leaned into that. These last two cycles, uh, the NRCC has put out press release after press release hitting Democrats who received money from organizations that endorsed defunding the police. And now Democrats, you know, are already, as we're seeing fundraising off of the GOP calls to defund the FBI, and other campaigns telling us that they might incorporate it into their messaging as well.

NIALA: Is there polling that explains the nuance here about how Americans might feel about defunding police versus the FBI?

ANDREW: Well, the polling we've seen on defunding the police, that is a very unpopular position. Campaigns that I've spoken to seem to think that defunding the FBI would be similarly unpopular, if not a little more. There isn't polling on the particular question of whether voters approve of defunding the FBI, but one poll from Politico Morning Consult shows that 49% of voters somewhat or strongly approve of the Mar-a-lago search that spawned those calls, versus only 37% who disapprove. The caveat there is that in that poll 72% of Republicans strongly are somewhat disapproved. Now obviously just because you disapprove of this particular action by the FBI doesn't necessarily mean that you want to defund or abolish the agency altogether. But all that said, you know, this is an easy indication that at least half of voters, roughly speaking, do not want to defund the FBI, but probably significantly more.

NIALA: And is it fair to say that the majority of Republicans are also not making this call? What do we know about that?

ANDREW: Yeah. I mean, so far it's mostly Republicans, who are either, in safe Republican seats, who hold sort of very right wing views or are trying to court, uh, Republican primary voters and upcoming primaries.

NIALA: Andrew Solender is part of Axios politics team. Thanks, Andrew.

ANDREW: Thank you.

NIALA: After the break, how some Western states are grappling with drought.

Colorado River reaches a drought tipping point

Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodho. The Colorado River in the Western US is facing its worst drought in more than a thousand years and studies tie the drought in large part to global warming. 40 million Americans depend on the river for drinking water, and now seven states are bracing for federal cuts to their water use. Reporter Sam Metz calls this week “the most consequential week for Colorado River policy in years.” Sam covers the Western US for the Associated Press and joins us now from Salt Lake City. Hey Sam!

SAM METZ: Hi, thank you for having me.

NIALA: Sam, can you catch us up quick on first, how bad the drought situation is for the Colorado river basin.

SAM: Sure. So the Colorado river basin has been in a drought for about 22 years. And the seven states in Mexico have divided up the water under a series of agreements that date back a century to 1922. And they anticipated a river that had more water flowing through it then has been flowing through it as the region has been hit with drought. 40 million people rely on the Colorado river for their drinking water. Um, that includes cities, Denver, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, Tijuana. And it also sustains a 15 billion a year agricultural industry that grows most of the nation's winter vegetables.

NIALA: So why is this such a consequential week for Colorado river policy?

SAM: About 60 days ago, the Bureau of Reclamation gave the states an ultimatum. It told them “you guys need to figure out a plan to cut two to 4 million acre feet of water in your consumption, or have those cuts imposed upon you.” One acre foot is enough for two to three households approximately per year. So that's a huge cut. and the states right now are trying to hammer out the final details to figure out how to get to that number.

NIALA: So the Bureau of Reclamation, which oversees water projects in the west, has said immediate action is needed to avoid a water supply crisis. Next year, when we say crisis, what exactly does that mean?

SAM: So when we say crisis in the Colorado river basin, often what we're referring to is Lake Mead and Lake Powell, depleting to levels at which hydropower could no longer be produced. So the lakes are depleting as more water is diverted from the Colorado river than flows through it. And everyone wants to make sure that those lakes don't fall to a point that water won't be able to move through the dams and produce hydropower.

NIALA: So what's really at stake here?

SAM: This is a pretty complicated topic. It's a dizzying array of agreements that span back a century and it can be really hard to navigate. I think what people in the west need to know is that a future with less Colorado river water could really change the way of life in cities that rely on the river as their primary source of water and also have massive impacts on the food system. Because this is really the nation's bread basket. We grow a ton of winter vegetables in the Colorado river basin. And as these cities and growing states like Utah and Arizona kind of anticipate future growth, they're having to come up against this reality that long-term drought is likely going to imperil a water supply that they've long relied on.

NIALA: Sam Metz covers the Western YS for the AP joining us from Salt Lake City. Thanks Sam.

SAM: Thank you so much for having me.

Scotland becomes the first country to provide free period products

NIALA: Before we go, Scotland made history yesterday as the first country to begin providing period products for free, at public facilities. Scottish Labour lawmaker Monica Lennon, who introduced the law in 2019, told BBC Scotland that the goal is to make tampons and pads as readily available as toilet paper.

According to UNESCO, 1 out of every 10 menstruating youth across the world misses school during their cycle because of lack of access to menstrual products or resources. Activists call that “period poverty,” and a study published in the Journal of Global Health Reports this year found that almost 12 million low-income Americans have had to choose between paying for menstrual products and food.

Lennon tweeted on Monday: “Proud of what we have achieved in Scotland. We are the first but won’t be the last.”

That’s it for us today!

I’m Niala Boodhoo, thanks for listening, stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

Go deeper