Sep 23, 2022 - Podcasts

Immigration energizes midterm voters

With midterms right around the corner, last week saw a bump in voters showing interest in immigration over abortion.

  • Plus, the U.S. sanctions Iran, after the death of a woman in police custody.
  • And, passengers say they’re more frustrated with U.S. airports.

Guests: Axios' Margaret Talev and Laurin-Whitney Gottbrath.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Erica Pandey, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Alexandra Botti, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Fonda Mwangi, 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.

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ERICA PANDEY: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It’s Friday, September 23rd.

I’m Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo.

Here’s what you need to know today: the U.S. sanctions Iran after the death of a woman in police custody. Plus, passengers say they’re more frustrated with U.S. airports.

But first, immigration becomes a top issue for midterm voters: that’s today’s One Big Thing.

The fallout from classified documents found at Trump's Mar-a-Lago home, the January 6th committee's plans for next week, and new issues take the spotlight ahead of the midterms. Those are the big stories we're gonna talk about today as we wrap up this week in politics with Margaret Talev. Margaret, the first hearing in the Trump Mar-a-Lago case happened on Tuesday. What did we learn?

MARGARET TALEV: Well, Erica, I think we learned that, uh, Raymond Dearie, the special master 78 year old, uh, longtime judge on the foreign intelligence surveillance court who Donald Trump and his team thought maybe would be a friendly for him, uh, that he is so far anything, but. He's really come out of the gate, saying, the former president's lawyers have until the end of this month to actually raise any factual disputes, he's saying they need to go on the record in court and say whether they actually think FBI agents lied about what was seized or whether they don't think that.

ERICA: Ginni Thomas, who's the wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, and a conservative activist, has agreed to sit down for a voluntary interview with the House January 6th select committee. What's the significance of this?

MARGARET: I mean, it could be very significant. Of course it's obvious why the committee has wanted to talk to her for months now. Text messages that have been obtained, reporting that it's been out there in the public eye for months now, that showed that Ginni Thomas had played quite an active role once upon a time in encouraging Mark Meadows, you'll remember, that was former president Trump's then Chief of Staff, encouraging Mark Meadows to get involved in trying to overturn the 2020 election. We know that Ginni Thomas, at least for a portion of it, attended that January 6th rally. So putting Ginni Thomas on the record with how actively was she pushing for change inside that White House? And, uh, what are the firewalls between her and her husband who of course is a Supreme Court Justice.

ERICA: Zooming out a little bit the midterms are right around the corner and Democrats thought abortion would be a top issue in the election. Last week has seen a bump in voters showing interest in immigration. What's going on here?

MARGARET: I still think abortion is gonna be a huge driving issue. It's probably Democrat's strongest issue in terms of energizing, not just their base, but in terms of turning out centrist voters and suburban female voters around the country. Having said that, we can look at metrics like Google searches and we can see where people's interest is rising and falling. And what that shows us is that over the course of the last few weeks, both Google searches and social media engagement around abortion has really taken a dip as interest around crime and immigration has risen. You know, Ron DeSantis, the governor in Florida, Greg Abbott the governor in Texas, you've seen these figures, ride headlines about, um basically busing or flying, asylum seekers or undocumented migrants to Democratic cities and states. And there's been a lot of discussion about you know whether, you know, whether that's appropriate or whether these are human pawn, but the bottom line is whether it helps or hurts these Republican candidates who are the face of it. It unquestionably shifts the conversation away from abortion and to immigration and Republicans believe that is helping them I think in the final weeks of this election we are just gonna see an enormous amount of energy in advertising, as well as messaging on crime and on immigration as well as on abortion.

ERICA: Margaret Talev is Axios’ Managing Editor for politics. Thanks Margaret.

MARGARET: Thanks, Erica.

In a moment, the U.S. reacts to mass outrage in Iran.


The U.S. sanctions Iran after the death of a woman in police custody

ERICA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Erica Pandey in for Niala Boodhoo.

It's been a week since 22 year old Mahsa Amini died in police custody in Iran. She was arrested for allegedly violating a religious law requiring women to cover their hair. There are reports that she had been beaten. The force known as Iran's Morality Police say Amini died of a heart attack in detention after three days and was not mistreated. Though her family has said she was a healthy young woman with no preexisting conditions. Since her death protests have erupted all over Iran. And on Thursday, the US Department of Treasury put sanctions on Iran's law enforcement in response to Amini’s death.

Axios Lauren-Whitney Gottbreath is here with the big picture. Lauren-Whitney, what are these sanctions and what will they mean for Iran?

LAURIN-WHITNEY GOTTBREATH: So these sanctions, target Iran's morality, police as well as seven senior leaders of Iranian security institutions who the US say participate in sort of the mass crackdown on protesters, including violence against protesters and with these sanctions, all property and interest and property of the individuals and the entities that have been sanctioned in the United States or that the US currently controls we'll be blocked by the United States. So, in practical terms, the sanctions might not mean all that much considering there are a lot of sanctions already on Iran by the US and it's unknown how much property these individuals currently have. But what the treasury has done is sent sort of a big statement to Iran condemning not only Mahsa's death, but also the crackdown on protestors.

ERICA: So put these protests in context for me a little bit. Since the Islamic revolution in 1979, Iranian women have been required to cover their hair and dress modestly and women at this protest have been burning their hijabs in the streets and cutting their hair. What is the Iranian people's history with protesting the government and could we see change resulting from this based on that precedent?

LAURIN-WHITNEY: Certainly. So this is probably some of the worst unrest Iran has seen since 2019, when there was sort of mass protest over fuel prices and other economic conditions. And what we saw in 2019 was massive crackdown on protestors and unfortunately lots of deaths. Now, as to whether Iran will reckon with the things that Iranian women and their supporters are calling for, including, potentially getting rid of this role on hijab, I think that's a question that I can't answer. That being said, I do think Iran is sort of having a moment, and it's really a matter of how far the government takes the crack down.

ERICA: So from a social media standpoint WhatsApp and Instagram have been reported restricted in Iran as of Wednesday, what has been the reaction from the rest of the world on these events?

LAURIN-WHITNEY: Right and it's not just WhatsApp and Instagram now. There's also been a widespread, sort of crackdown on mobile networks inside Iran and sort of wider internet access as well, which is quite troubling and it's what we saw in 2019. Especially because Iranians tend to mobilize on social media. And there's been condemnation across the board from the United States to European countries, to the UN, who are concerned at not only what the violent crackdown will mean inside the country, but also what it will mean for human rights in the country as a whole.

ERICA: Axios’ Deputy World Editor, Lauren-Whitney Gottbreath. Thanks for joining us.


Passengers say they’re more frustrated with U.S. airports

ERICA: One last thing to leave you with on this Friday:

When it comes to air travel…it’s 2019 all over again. With traffic back to pre-pandemic levels, airports are a huge source of frustration for travelers once again. That’s the big takeaway from J.D. Power's latest annual Airport Satisfaction Study, which says overall satisfaction has fallen 25 points this year, for a score of 777 out of 1,000. Flyers’ biggest gripes are overcrowding; expensive food and beverages, as inflation takes its toll… and terrible parking.

Minneapolis-Saint Paul International Airport had the highest passenger satisfaction score among major airports, at 800 – while Newark Liberty International Airport was dead last – after a year where it’s been plagued with major delays. Wherever you’re heading this weekend or in the months ahead…we wish you luck.

And that’s all for this week. Axios Today is produced by Fonda Mwangi, Robin Linn and Lydia McMullen-Laird. Our sound engineer is Alex Sugiura. Alexandra Botti is our supervising producer. Sara Kehaulani Goo is Axios’ editor in chief. And special thanks as always to Axios co-founder Mike Allen.

I’m Erica Pandey – stay safe, enjoy your weekend, and Niala Boodhoo will be back with you here on Monday.

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