Jun 14, 2023 - Podcasts

Trump faces his federal indictment

Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty on Tuesday in a Miami courtroom to federal charges around his handling of classified documents and obstruction of justice.

  • Plus, why Reddit API changes matter well beyond the site itself.

Guests: Axios' Alex Thompson and Sara Fischer.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird, Ben O'Brien 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.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Wednesday, June 14th. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Today on the show: why changes at Reddit matter well beyond the site itself. But first, former President Trump faces his federal indictment. That’s today’s One Big Thing.

Former President Trump faces his federal indictment

NIALA: Former President Trump pleaded not guilty yesterday in a Miami courtroom to 37 federal charges related to his handling of classified documents and obstruction of justice. Hours later, Trump spoke to his supporters from his Bedminster, New Jersey golf club. Axios’ National Political Correspondent Alex Thompson is here to unpack the entire day for us.

Hi, Alex. First, how did the scene unfold yesterday in Miami?

ALEX THOMPSON: It proceeded in a way that honestly shielded a lot of the media from seeing what really went on in the courtroom, uh, declined to let reporters have cameras, have cell phones. You know, the only images that we really saw from the courtroom, which, you know, was a really extraordinary day of the first ex-president indicted on federal charges. The only images we had were from sketch artists. We did not see the violence that some people feared outside the courtroom, which, uh, I think we can all agree was good news.

But afterward, Trump essentially treated it as if it was just an ordinary campaign day. He went to a Cuban restaurant in Miami, a famed one, met a bunch of supporters. He prayed, uh, with a few of them, and then a few of them even, you know, burst out into Happy Birthday because it is his 77th birthday.

NIALA: Former President Trump then addressed supporters in New Jersey. He talked a lot about the Presidential Records Act. Alex, so what's his argument there?

ALEX: The Presidential Records Act that was passed in the 1970s, really never anticipated somebody like Donald Trump. You know, in some ways it resembles a lot of the laws that have been passed that Donald Trump has been able to find loopholes on, or has, the very least, sort of stretched the boundaries of. And some arguments by Donald Trump's supporters say that the Presidential Records Act gave him the ability to take some of these records to Mar-a-Lago. Now what's really important here is that the indictment that was released last Friday doesn't mention the Presidential Records Act.

Now, the Presidential Records Act is what began this whole thing because the National Archives asked for certain documents, Trump's team said, no, this is sort of what prompted it. But it is very important to note that the, and I was talking to a lawyer that just recently left Trump's team just this last month, that this whole idea of I declassified them or they were classified, this is a distraction. This indictment is really about, not whether or not he had the ability to declassify them, but the fact that he retained national security documents, and that's really what this is about. The whole discussion about did he have the power to declassify, did he not? This former Trump lawyer, Tim Parlatore, told me basically this is a distraction. The bigger story is these are national security documents. Did he have the power to keep them or not?

NIALA: There was a call to his supporters that you heard. Many people in Miami, his supporters, repeat that Biden is threatening American democracy by prosecuting his main political opponent. What's your reaction to that?

ALEX: Well, first of all, I would say that President Trump anticipated that this could potentially happen, which is part of the reason why he announced his campaign so soon after the midterms. I mean, there were discussions among Trump advisors as early as last summer about announcing a presidential campaign because they realized that there were federal investigators and state investigators looking into some of his conduct. And, you know, Trump knew, as a part of a narrative, that it is much more complicated for any sort of investigators to prosecute a standing presidential candidate than it is just an ex-president. And so, uh, you know, that's my first reaction. My second reaction to it is that Trump has essentially made his prosecution a part of his argument on the campaign trail and that he is essentially arguing The reason he is being prosecuted is because he is a threat to people in power.

NIALA: I think a lot of people are wondering, is this gonna go to trial?

ALEX: Trump may not be the most fluent on policy or, I think people point to, you know, a lack of skills in some other areas. But one thing that Donald Trump is one of the most skilled people in America at is delaying trials. And he has had decades and decades of experience at this. His entire approach has been delay, defer, delay, defer, file motions, file for extensions. This has been Trump's playbook his entire life and again the lawyer team is flipping over, so who knows what could change. But in talking to his former lawyers, they already have a series of huge motions and extensions to file. I would be shocked if this trial was resolved before the 2024 campaign. And even if it is, it will almost certainly be appealed if Trump is found guilty and I think a lot of his recently departed lawyers, expect this to go all the way to the Supreme Court in the end.

NIALA: Alex Thompson is Axios’ national political correspondent. Thanks Alex.

ALEX: Thanks so much.

NIALA: In a moment: protest against a new Reddit policy…and why it matters.


Why changes at Reddit matter well beyond the site itself

NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Thousands of Reddit forums went dark this week to protest the company's new policy of charging developers for access to its data. Roughly 57 million people visit Reddit daily across all digital platforms, and the blackout included dozens of channels that have more than 10 million subscribers. Axios’ Sara Fischer is here to explain what's going on.

Sara, Reddit announced in April that it would start charging third parties for its application programming interface, or API, starting July 1st. For people who don't know, what exactly are these third parties and how are they using Reddit?

SARA FISCHER: Yeah, Niala. So developers oftentimes will sort of plug their systems into the backend of big tech firms, not just Reddit, but Twitter, Facebook, et cetera, and the idea is it gives them access to data in large forms in real time. Now, developers use that data for all sorts of different reasons. You know, some will use it in order to better inform products. Others will use it to create apps. With Reddit, they long let developers access all of this data for free. But what happened is with the advent of AI, a lot of big tech firms think about OpenAI and Google and Microsoft were able to leverage Reddit's vast quantity of data to train their algorithms.

Reddit CEO told the New York Times in April that he basically didn't want that to happen, saying they should pay up. But the challenge now, Niala, is that developers that were using Reddit's API, its backend interface to fuel their apps or games or what have you, they also now have to pay up, and a lot of them can't afford it.

NIALA: How much is Reddit planning on charging Sara?

SARA: Well, it depends, and that's something that they're communicating right now to a bunch of different developers. For one developer, they were saying that Reddit would charge them up to $20 million a year, which is astronomical because it's based on how much data you'd be downloading at a certain time, et cetera. I think the challenge for Reddit is that they need to distinguish how they're going to give access to people who wanna use this data to fuel chat apps or whatever have you. That one $20 million example came from a guy who literally has an app just for easily reading Reddit stories on your phone. Versus the people who wanna really use it for serious commercial purposes, like a Google. The policy right now doesn't really distinguish between the two. However, it does give free access still to nonprofit researchers, those type of things.

NIALA: Sara, can you give us the big picture here? I can imagine for people who are not on Reddit thinking, why should I care about this?

SARA: Well, for one, Reddit informs a lot of Google searches. Oftentimes, when you're typing in a Google search, like who is this actor married to? Sometimes it'll bring you to a Reddit thread of a hyper engaged community that might be talking about that answer. But then two, what's happening at Reddit is actually part of a broader trend in big tech. For years, big tech firms made a ton of money on advertising, and so they let developers and users access their products for free. Now that the ad market has slowed dramatically, a lot of tech forms are trying to figure out how they can charge people for using their data. Twitter announced that it was going to be charging developers for access to its API. Then Reddit followed to do the same. And so I think the big picture is that these platforms that we long thought would be free to use for anyone, whether you're a regular person or an engineer, suddenly are not becoming as free.

NIALA: Sara Fischer writes Axios Media Trends Newsletter. Thanks Sara.

SARA: Thank you Niala.

NIALA: And one last thing before we go: writer Cormac McCarthy died yesterday at the age of 89. He’s the author of 12 novels, among them “The Road,” “All The Pretty Horses,” which won the National Book Award in 1992, and “No Country For Old Men,” which was adapted into an Academy Award winning film in 2007. His most recent two novels were published just last year.

That’s it for today. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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