Aug 2, 2023 - Podcasts

Trump faces his third indictment

Former President Trump was indicted yet again on Tuesday. This time, it is over his alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The former president is expected to make an appearance in federal court in D.C. on Thursday.

  • Plus, a settlement for one Black family over one of medicine's most famous cells.
  • And, why Birkenstocks are back in style for investors.

Guests: Axios' Margaret Talev, Russell Contreras, Adriel Bettelheim and Dan Primack.

Credits: Axios Today is produced by Niala Boodhoo, Alexandra Botti, Fonda Mwangi, Lydia McMullen-Laird 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: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today!

It's Wednesday, Aug. 2.

I'm Niala Boodhoo.

Here's what you need to know today: a settlement for one Black family over one of medicine's most famous cells. Plus, why Birkenstocks are back in style for fashionistas and investors.

But first, former President Trump faces his latest indictment - this time over the Jan. 6 attacks. That's today's One Big Thing.

JACK SMITH: Since the attack on our capital, the Department of Justice has remained committed to ensuring accountability for those criminally responsible for what happened that day. This case is brought consistent with that commitment, and our investigation of other individuals continues.

NIALA: That's Special Counsel Jack Smith speaking yesterday, after former President Trump was indicted yet again. This time accused of a conspiracy to defraud the United States over the 2020 election, and like so many of those who attacked the Capitol on January 6th, Trump was also accused of conspiracy against obstruction of official proceedings.

Trump is expected to make an appearance in federal court in D. C. on Thursday. Axios senior contributor Margaret Talev is here with what to make of this. Margaret, can we start with your reaction to this third indictment?

MARGARET TALEV: Niala, I know we've all gotten used to this at this point. Former President Donald Trump indicted again. Wow, this is a really big deal. This puts into one document with penalties attached if he is found guilty everything that happened leading up to January 6th, on January 6th, and in the days after. And it is a massive measure of accountability for any U. S. citizen, but in particular for a former U. S. president.

NIALA: Trump's response was to liken yesterday's indictment to Nazi Germany. To be clear, did any part of this indictment question Trump's right to free speech in terms of how he talked about the results?

MARGARET: You're going to hear this argument again and again. We're already hearing the former president's defenders saying that this is an effort to criminalize political speech. But what the special counsel is arguing in this case is that this is not an issue of free speech. This is an issue of actions taken that violated the law.

NIALA: Margaret, this is a third indictment for the president. Can you put this all in context for us when it comes to Trump's very real legal troubles?

MARGARET: Now you're talking where politics and the legal system, how they collide. And so far we've seen these exist in a parallel universe. The president from a legal perspective is extremely vulnerable and continues to be. But politically, he's been bulletproof so far. You've seen in the most recent New York Times Siena poll, for example, his 37 point lead over his closest rival, DeSantis from Florida. If Donald Trump is indicted for his actions around January 6th and trying to overturn the 2020 election, will that become a pivot point? It may take a number of days, but this has been a question for a long time now. And we're about to find out.

NIALA: Margaret Talev is director of the Democracy, Journalism, and Citizenship Institute at Syracuse University. Thanks, Margaret.

MARGARET: Thanks Niala.

NIALA: After the break, a settlement for the family of Henrietta Lacks - whose cells changed medical history.

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

Yesterday would have been the 103rd birthday of Henrietta Lacks, an African American woman whose cells taken without her permission, changed medicine forever from vaccines to cancer treatments and more.

ALFRED LACKS CARTER JR.: We got justice. Her legacy is in good hands. And we're going to keep making sure Henrietta never dies, such as her HeLa cells never die.

NIALA: That's Henrietta Lacks' grandson, Alfred Lacks Carter Jr. at a press conference in Baltimore yesterday. After the family settled a lawsuit against a biotech company, they accused of profiting from her cells.

Since this story intersects across so many areas, we have our healthcare editor, Adriel Bettelheim, and our race and justice reporter, Russell Contreras, here with the big picture. Hello, gentlemen.

RUSSELL CONTRERAS: Good to be with you.

ADRIEL BETTELHEIM: Nice to be with you.

NIALA: Russ, can we start with you reminding us about Henrietta Lacks' story?

RUSS: Yeah, she was someone who had suffered from cervical cancer and was in treatment and then passed away. During this time of her treatment, some cells were taken that developed into medical breakthroughs across the country that we're still feeling today. The issue here is the idea that the bodies of people of color are not respected while alive, nor are they respected while they're dead.There was never a consent and never a conversation with the family to say, hey, this woman, your mother, she will not die in vain. We can take pieces of her body to help others. Had there been that conversation, we would have been having a totally different story today. You have to remember that in the 1950s, America didn't want Black people to share the same bathrooms and fountains in certain parts of the country, nor that they want to share medical facilities. So the idea of consent is really strong here, and it's a legacy that continues to loom over us today.

NIALA: Adriel, what's the scientific legacy of those HeLa cells today we're talking about the world of medicine?

ADRIEL: Well, the thing that stunned the physicians in 1951, while she was being treated was that the cells were expected to die, and instead they essentially doubled every 24 hours. They became the first cells that could be easily shared and multiplied in a lab. And since then, they've been used to study effects of toxins and drugs and hormones and viruses on the growth of cancer cells without experimenting on humans. They contributed to development of, uh, HIV/ AIDS treatments, leukemia, Parkinson's disease, and, COVID most recently. But the crux of the suit, as Russ said, really came down to the company, being alleged to be mass producing and selling tissue taken from her without consent. And this notion of, you know, an ill gotten gain, could be the basis of further actions against other companies that are still using the samples.

NIALA: Do we know anything, Russ, about the terms of this settlement?

RUSS: We don't. A lot of the terms of the settlement were kept confidential. We don't know the details. But what we can say is there is a legacy of distrust among people of color against the healthcare industry largely we point to Tuskegee, but it goes back even further at a time of enslavement. We have instances of forced sterilization. And so this case resonates that lack of acknowledgement is really painful and is really indicative of the reckoning that we haven't really addressed in this country.

ADRIEL: People might be wondering whether there's a time limit statute of limitations on this and the company, Thermo Fisher did try to get this case dismissed last year, arguing that the statute of limitations was up and that they weren't a bona fide purchaser of the cells. I think the point to be made here is that the benefit from her genetic material kept accruing and while we don't know the details of the settlement, that clearly was a factor in this outcome.

NIALA: Russ and Adriel, can I end by asking what we started with? Did Henrietta Lacks' family get justice yesterday?

RUSS: It's hard to say what justice is in a case like this. We do know that by the family bringing this to court, we know Henrietta's name. We know her story. What it does start a conversation about the bodies of people of color and us to forcibly look in the mirror and acknowledge this lack of consent but also sit back and say, Henrietta saved many lives.

NIALA: Russell Contreras is Axios' Race and Justice Reporter. Adriel Bettelheim is Axios' Senior Healthcare Editor. Russ, Adriel, thank you.

ADRIEL: Thank you.

RUSS: Thank you.

NIALA: Fueled in part by pandemic purchases from people like me - Birkenstocks are again having a moment. Axios' Business Editor Dan Primack to catch us up quick on one of the most hotly anticipated public offerings this year.

DAN PRIMACK: Here's the backstory on Birkenstock. The German sandal maker was founded over 250 years ago, and in the past few decades has gone from trendy, to uncool, to trendy, to uncool, to trendy again. In terms of ownership, it was bought in early 2021 by a private equity firm called L. Catterton, whose L reflects an affiliation with the owner of Louis Vuitton.

Now, L Catterton wants to get a return on that investment, and there are signs that the IPO market is finally becoming amenable to new companies, particularly those with household brand recognition, following the recent success of restaurant chain Cava. L Catterton paid around 4 billion to buy Birkenstock, and a Bloomberg report last month said that an IPO could value the company at around 6 billion.

That's not too shabby a profit, but an even newer Bloomberg report suggests an 8 billion valuation, or twice what the private equity firm paid. And that's where Barbie comes in. Yeah, Barbie. Birkenstock has strong growth, with revenue climbing nearly 30% last year, but expectations are there could be hyper growth right now,

Because Margot Robbie sported pink Birks in the Barbie movie, which appears to have sparked a surge of Birkenstock sales. Just imagine if Oppenheimer had also worn a pair.

NIALA: Dan Primack is the author of the Axios Pro Rata daily newsletter.

NIALA: That's all we've got for you today!

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

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