Part of a Series

ProPublica reporter Andy Kroll joins the show to talk about MAGA extremism in Michigan, Project 2025, and the impact the far right’s agenda could have on U.S. democracy. Colin and Erin also discuss Donald Trump’s hush-money trial in Manhattan and talk about abortion rights with Sabrina Talukder, director of the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress Action Fund.


Colin Seeberger: Hey everyone, welcome back to “The Tent,” your place for politics, policy, and progress. I’m Colin Seeberger.

Erin Phillips: And I’m lead producer Erin Phillips, filling in for Daniella Gibbs Léger. Colin, did you have a good Memorial Day weekend?

Seeberger: I did have a good Memorial Day weekend. It was full of unicorn sprinklers, family lunches, and transitioning my little kiddo from a crib to a toddler bed—which actually went spectacularly well, so we were very pleased in our house.

Phillips: That’s awesome to hear. That’s a big step.

Seeberger: It is. How about your weekend?

Phillips: It was great. I went and climbed some rocks in the mountains of West Virginia. Very beautiful, very peaceful, but I am glad to be back. I’m glad we both had a little time to rest because you, I heard, had a great interview this week.

Seeberger: I did. I chatted with Andy Kroll from ProPublica. We talked about the political consequences of MAGA extremism in Michigan, as well as the radical right-wing Project 2025 agenda and what it could mean for our democracy.

Phillips: That’s awesome. Andy is a great reporter, and I’m glad he could join us for this conversation. But before we get there, we’ve got to get to some news.

Seeberger: We do. And this week, we finally heard closing arguments in the criminal trial that Donald Trump has been facing in Manhattan for the hush money payment scheme that he was involved in.

Phillips: We did. So let’s talk about where things stand as we await a verdict.

Over the past weeks, the jury in Manhattan has heard from 20 witnesses and seen over 200 exhibits. And they all indicate that back in 2016, as you said, Donald Trump used his fixer, Michael Cohen, to make a hush money payment to keep adult film star Stormy Daniels quiet about their alleged affair in an effort to boost his own electoral prospects. He also is alleged to have falsified reimbursement checks to Cohen.

Now, there’s been a lot of spin about this trial in the past few days, so let’s set the record straight on a few things here. First, this case was investigated and brought before a grand jury of everyday Americans who felt there was sufficient evidence to indict Donald Trump and move forward with this trial. And now, a jury of everyday Americans will determine the outcome.

And second, this case is similar in a lot of ways to the 11,000 other charges New York state prosecutors have filed of first-degree falsified business records over the past decade. So, other than the fact that Trump is a former president, this case really isn’t all that unprecedented.

It’s also worth noting that during the course of the trial, Trump has violated the court’s orders at least 10 times. He was found in contempt of court twice for threatening staff, intimidating witnesses, and criticizing jurors. This is unacceptable behavior. I mean, if any other American on trial acted like this, they’d very likely have found themselves in jail by this point, but it just demonstrates Donald Trump’s disdain for the law.

Seeberger: It absolutely does. And to that end, it also underscores why Americans disagree with him on this case and its significance. In recent weeks, poll after poll have shown that voters think the charges at the center of this case are credible and serious. Americans understand that in a functioning democracy, no one can be above the law—and that includes a former president.

This case is about so much more than a hush money payment. It’s really about Trump’s repeated efforts to interfere and undermine our elections—be it in this case of withholding critical information from voters before they cast their ballots in 2016, or being receptive to Russian efforts to interfere in our elections, or in 2020 when he sought to overturn those election results, and right now in 2024 already signaling his intent to dispute the election results in this November’s elections before they’ve even taken place. We can’t lose sight of this key fact. It continues to pop up left and right and until there’s some accountability, I think we should expect that it’s going to continue to rear its head.

And yet, MAGA Republicans seem to have done just that. MAGA extremists, like [House] Speaker Mike Johnson (R-LA), Sen. J.D. Vance (R-OH), Sen. Tim Scott (R-SC), and others—they continue to vigorously support and prop up Donald Trump in this case and all of the instances of election interference that I talked about and election subversion that I talked about previously.

It really tells you everything you need to know about the Republican Party’s priorities right now. All they care about is holding on to power, no matter what the consequences are for our democracy. So I’m hoping that—this case is now with a jury—I’m hoping that we finally see some accountability for Trump’s disregard for the law. If the jury ends up finding him guilty, he should be held responsible just like any other American that violates the law.

And in the event he’s convicted, Trump and his MAGA allies have a responsibility to exercise restraint, not launch a political crusade against our judicial system and the people who support it. But I’m not going to hold my breath.

Phillips: You definitely shouldn’t, Colin, because I think you might be holding it forever, and we don’t want you to pass out.

Seeberger: Thank you. I appreciate that.

Phillips: Now, moving on to another issue that’s dominated headlines for a while now. Here to talk to us about some of the latest news on abortion rights is Sabrina Talukder, director of the Women’s Initiative at the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Sabrina, welcome back to the show.

Sabrina Talukder: Hi, friends. Thanks for having me.

Phillips: Thanks for being here. So, we’re awaiting some pretty momentous decisions on reproductive rights from the [U.S.] Supreme Court right now. Could you explain these cases and what you expect the likely outcomes to be?

Talukder: Absolutely. There are two big cases—and the decisions are likely to come out mid- to end of June—that will determine the fate of women and abortion access for the rest of the year.

And what I’d love to do is zone in on these cases, but also make sure that we take a step back so that folks at home know what this means in the big picture of women’s health. The two cases that I’d love to talk about with you guys today is first, Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. the FDA, and second, Idaho v. United States.

Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. the FDA is probably a case that you’ve heard a lot about in the news. It’s all about mifepristone, which is the first medicine of a two-step regimen used to induce an abortion. And the reason why this case is so extreme and radical is because mifepristone has been on the market for over 20 years.

The only reason why it was debated on the steps of the Supreme Court is because there was a case brought by far-right anti-abortion activists. And they brought this case, which is meritless and baseless, in front of the most notorious anti-abortion district court judge in the country, Judge [Matthew J.] Kacsmaryk.

And the reason why this case matters—and it’s so important—is because medication abortion is the most common form of abortion care in America. And if mifepristone is deemed—of course, inaccurately—but if it’s rendered ineffective or dangerous, that has far-reaching consequences, not just for pregnant women, for miscarriage management, for abortion care, but also for other uses of mifepristone, like for Cushing’s Syndrome, for diabetes.

And one really important thing that we need to remember is that this case should never have come into a court of law because of something called legal standing. And that’s really what’s going to determine the Supreme Court outcome on this case. We’re very hopeful, based on oral arguments, that mifepristone will be essentially not even debated because the case has no legal standing.

Legal standing is a really basic concept, a really common legal procedure that determines if a case has been brought to court. And it essentially is based on whether or not someone suffered an injury. And in this case, I think we’re all asking the same question: If mifepristone has been on the market for 20 years, it’s been used by over 5 million women effectively, how is there an injury? And how is a case being brought now? And the only answer that anyone can possibly give is that this case was allowed to enter a court of law, let alone the steps of the Supreme Court, because of Judge Kacsmaryk, because of the [U.S. Court of Appeals for the] 5th Circuit, and because we have a pipeline right to the Supreme Court from the most notorious anti-abortion judge all the way to Justice [Samuel] Alito.

We’re really hopeful that the case will be thrown out based on legal standing. This is not the last time that we’ll hear about mifepristone, and there are so many ways for anti-abortion advocates to bring back this issue in the judicial system. And so I don’t want folks to rest easy, but we will be there to guide you through every step of the process, because it’s going to be a pretty wonky and terrible one, I think.

One case that we need to talk about more is Idaho v. United States. Idaho v. United States is about this direct conflict between a very narrow portion of Idaho’s abortion ban and a big federal law called EMTALA, the Emergency Medical Treatment and Labor Act.

And in Idaho’s abortion ban, it’s a near-total ban, meaning that it outlaws abortion at every step of pregnancy. And there are very narrow carve-outs, like allowing for an abortion for the life of a woman and issues of rape or incest—like, super narrow. However, because abortion care is outlawed at every point in pregnancy, it directly conflicts with EMTALA, which states that providers have to provide any kind of stabilizing care to anyone that comes into an emergency department.

So that means that physicians, and particularly emergency care medical professionals, are put in this untenable position. If a pregnant woman comes into the ER and for whatever reason requires an abortion for any other reason except that she’s on her deathbed—like she’s about to lose an organ, her future fertility is going to be compromised unless she gets an abortion—unless it’s extremely obvious in that specific instance, physicians and medical providers are either going to be criminalized under Idaho’s abortion statute or subjected to civil enforcement under EMTALA.

And the really terrifying thing about this case is that it may not go the way that we hope. And that means that not only will pregnant women be regulated to second-class citizens—they will not have the same protections under EMTALA that every other citizen in the United States does—but we will see devastating consequences for every single pregnant woman across the country.

And we’ve already seen the far-reaching consequences of abortion bans, and particularly within emergency departments. There’s a staggering drop of medical residency students that are applying for states with abortion bans. There is a really terrifying drop in people applying for emergency departments, because the care that they have been taught to provide is criminalized.

And so we’ve seen a growth of maternity care deserts. We’ve seen a rise in maternal mortality in states with abortion bans. And what I want folks at home to know is that Idaho v. United States is one of the most important cases about abortion care that we’re not talking about, but it also affects every single family and every single person in the United States.

Seeberger: Well, of course, it’s not just MAGA extremists on the Supreme Court who are seeking to undermine access to abortion care. We’re also seeing it from politicians. Most recently, last week, the governor of Louisiana signed a bill passed by the state’s Republican legislature that would classify abortion pills, abortion medication, as controlled substances. So basically equating it to something like heroin.

Where did this decision come from? What are some of the potential consequences of that classification? And do you worry that other states who are controlled by MAGA extremists might be looking at passing similar laws?

Talukder: I am so excited to talk about this development because I’m a former public defender and have litigated issues of controlled substance offenses. So, I’ve been waiting for this moment.

Seeberger: Go off. Go off, Sabrina.

Talukder: So, the first thing is that there has been a longstanding movement to criminalize medical care and abortion care.

And when we say “criminalize,” we throw that word around a lot. But it means to use the criminal legal system to punish, to deter people from a political end. And in this case, it’s the use of an extremely arcane system of putting specific drugs onto a chart that allows prosecutors to place high felony charges with the highest level of punishment against individuals.

The controlled substance offense is how you can specifically use big felony charges, big federal cases against individual people. And the reason why this is possible is because there has been a longstanding movement to criminalize abortion care that started 50 years ago. But now, all the stars have aligned for MAGA extremists and anyone who wants to deter access to care, to abortion care, to use this arcane system to do that in a way that is terrifying.

I have represented people who have been charged with very similar category 4 CSO [controlled substance] offenses. And I can say that the charge itself, the punishment that is connected to it, has an extreme effect on not just the person but the community itself. And what we’ve seen post-Dobbs [v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization] is with this wave of the criminalization of physicians and criminalizations of people aiding or abetting, is that it forces the issue of abortion care to go underground.

People are always going to seek care because they have to, because they need to. And they’re going to do as much as they possibly can to get that care. But by criminalizing this, women are going to be forced to try and obtain lawful medication—medication that is proven to be safe and effective—in the shadows.

And that is what I’m really terrified about: That something like this, which has already happened in bits and pieces across the country, can happen for broad swaths of patients that are just seeking care.

Seeberger: That’s all the time we have for today. Sabrina, thank you so much for joining us on “The Tent.” It was great to chat with you.

Talukder: Thanks for having me.

Seeberger: Listeners, that’s all we’ve got this week. If there’s anything else you’d like us to cover on the pod, hit us up on Twitter @TheTentPod. That’s @TheTentPod. And stick around for my interview with Andy Kroll in just a beat.

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Seeberger: Andy Kroll is a reporter for ProPublica covering voting, elections, and other democracy issues. He previously served as the Washington bureau chief for Rolling Stone, and in 2022 published the book A Death on W Street: The Murder of Seth Rich and the Age of Conspiracy. He’s also worked at Mother Jones, where his reporting on self-dealing during the Trump presidency sparked multiple congressional investigations.

Andy, thanks so much for joining us on “The Tent.”

Andy Kroll: Great to be here.

Seeberger: So, you recently wrote a story I read last week on how the MAGA movement in Michigan is not just gone about reshaping politics in the state but is fundamentally upending democracy. I certainly encourage our listeners to read it, but can you talk a little bit more about some of those changes that we are seeing in Michigan and how the rise of MAGA extremism has put democracy on its heels?

Kroll: So this whole story started when I was watching events unfold in Michigan—which I should add, is my home state.

Seeberger: Yes, you should.

Kroll: I follow Michigan politics with the same obsession I follow University of Michigan football. Go Blue. Had to get that in there, obviously. And then about a couple of years ago—2021, I would say—my home state, which I had, again, followed religiously for decades, stopped making sense to me.

I was following events unfolding. I was following the rise of what has come to be known as the America First or MAGA movement in Michigan and seeing things that I just did not understand. And by that I mean this influx of people into the political system, into the Republican Party system, who were really galvanized by a single issue. And this issue wasn’t taxes. It wasn’t education. It wasn’t any of the policy discussions that we have that usually animate a presidential campaign, a senate campaign, a local school board race.

Seeberger: Yeah.

Kroll: These were people who believed with a bone-marrow-deep conviction that the 2020 election had been stolen, that it was a fraud perpetrated on the American people. And in Michigan in particular, this group of political newcomers, folks who had never been involved in politics and who are now flooding into the system, believe this. And they believe that their home state—their backyard, effectively—was center stage for this massive crime.

And so that’s why this is a democracy story. That’s where this started for me, was seeing these folks come into the political system. They become precinct delegates, which are these lowest-level grassroots activists. And then they start climbing the ranks of the Michigan Republican Party. They get more senior roles. They start overwhelmingly deciding who the party’s nominees are, and that’s why two of the most important nominees in the 2022 elections in Michigan were both out-and-out election deniers. And then that’s why in February of 2023, where my story kind of really kicks into gear, an out-and-out election denier named Kristina Karamo—someone who both believes the 2020 and 2022 elections were total frauds, despite no evidence to support that—becomes the chair of the Michigan Republican Party.

And this is a phenomenon that had been playing out in other states. But really, the starkest version of it just happened to be in my home state, in some cases not that far from where I grew up. When that happens, you get on a plane, you go back to your home state, and you try to figure out why.

Seeberger: Well, you talked about folks in this movement securing roles as precinct captains, right? And you touched on it, but these are also your future county boards of election officials who play a critical role in, oh, I don’t know, certifying election results, right? And so they’re establishing this pipeline that goes well beyond innocent election monitoring responsibilities that we’ve seen both parties have participated in over the course of decades, but really pose a threat to the future administration of free and fair elections.

So, one of the things you touched on is that MAGA extremists seem to have kind of a complicated relationship with Donald Trump. Are they ready to move on? Are they still with him? In what ways do you see the MAGA movement has become potentially bigger than Donald Trump, and what does that mean in terms of the anti-democratic, more authoritarian bent to this movement’s future?

Kroll: This was the really interesting thing about going back to Michigan to report this story at the time that I did it. I mean, this was in January, February, March, a little bit of April earlier this year. And you had this vicious battle inside the Michigan Republican Party, again, not unlike vicious battles we’ve seen in Georgia and in Arizona and in Nevada, other battleground states. And the battle is over trying to dislodge, to remove, the head of the party—again, this election denier named Kristina Karamo.

Former President Trump is a candidate, obviously, again, and he decides he’s going to weigh into this nasty dispute in Michigan by choosing the slightly less extreme Republican, a former congressman named Pete Hoekstra, to replace Kristina Karamo, who is the choice of the America First MAGA movement.

Now, just to visualize: This movement, these are people who are mobilized, activated by former President Trump, activated by Trump’s allies like Steve Bannon, especially. So they got into politics because of him. They got into politics, in many cases, because of the so-called “big lie,” which Donald Trump did more than anyone to amplify.

But when they see Donald Trump turn on Kristina Karamo, when they see Donald Trump endorse former Congressman Mike Rogers (R-MI), someone who is anathema to the America Firsters, they start to say, “Well, maybe our leader isn’t so great anymore,” or, “Maybe he’s lost his way.” I had activists in Michigan say, “We think he’s lost his soul, and we don’t really feel like we need to follow him anymore.”

Now, does that mean they’re going to pack up their stuff and go home? Of course not. It means that we’re starting to see a glimmer of a post-Trump Republican Party. And it’s not entirely clear yet what exactly that consists of. I mean, from what I’ve seen, both in Michigan and in other states, it seems like it’s much more Christian-based, much more focused on a kind of conservative Christian message. Some people call it Christian nationalism.

We definitely saw that in Texas this past weekend where the Republican Party there had its statewide convention very much about spiritual warfare and fear-mongering about LGBTQ rights. And so I think that is a little bit of what this post-Trump Republican Party might look like.

Now, obviously, that’s kind of a moot point if Trump wins in November. But it’s interesting that these folks are going to continue forward. They’re not all of a sudden saying, “Well, all that stolen election stuff that we said before—well, we don’t like Trump anymore, so we don’t believe that.” You can’t put that toothpaste back in the tube.

Seeberger: Yeah.

Kroll: So there is this search now for, where do those people go, what kind of energy, what kind of message do they bring to it? They are not going away, though. That I can absolutely guarantee.

Seeberger: Well, it’s fascinating, because we are seeing the candidate who got his start in American politics promising to drain the swamp is out there, The Washington Post has reported, is out there rubbing elbows with big oil execs and saying, “If you raise $1 billion for my campaign, I’ll corruptly reinvent American policy to benefit your bottom line,” right? Does that not get right at the heart of exposing how much of a fraud everything that he initially presented himself to the public as?

So, I’m curious. It suggests to me that there could be real advantage for Democrats, for progressives, to spend some capital in creating friction between what Donald Trump sold himself as, this MAGA figure, and how he is actually campaigning and governing if he were to be reelected president. But if Donald Trump returns to power, we, I think, can still expect to see attacks on democracy not go away. Even if they were to claim power, we know that there are a number of different ways that they’re talking about trying to usurp Democratic officials from being able to exercise their own power and legal discretion, right?

We’re seeing this very clearly sketched out in Donald Trump’s allies’ Project 2025; we would call it an authoritarian playbook to reinvent America. What is Project 2025 all about, and can you describe what it hopes to do to the power of federal agencies, federal civil servants who serve in government and serve presidents of both parties? What would the effect on our government’s ability to function actually look like?

Kroll: Project 2025 is this many hundreds of pages long report put together by a constellation of conservative think tanks, activist groups, dark money organizations, all trying to create a plan so that if Donald Trump is elected in November, they can put in place an America First agenda. And it goes across all the issue areas, across all the agencies, basically from day one—I think literally from day one, if you read the report, and if you read—

Seeberger: Yeah, they have a 180-day playbook.

Kroll: Yes, exactly. And that has to start on day one. And what that really is, is a recognition that when Trump got elected in 2016, no one really expected it. He didn’t have a bench of experts. He didn’t have people in mind for Cabinet positions. I mean, he really didn’t have much of a policy agenda, period.

Seeberger: The policies were really shaped by the agency heads, right? Who were random people who happened to pass through Donald Trump’s orbit.

Kroll: Right, right. And those people ran a gamut of former Exxon Mobil CEO Rex Tillerson being secretary of state, Betsy DeVos being the secretary of education.

But you had [former senior adviser to the president] Jared [Kushner] doing his thing in one corner with his consultant friends, and then you had [former director of the Office of Management and Budget and former White House Chief of Staff] Mick Mulvaney and his hardcore conservatives. It was all over the place, a schizophrenic approach to governing.

This is a plan. Project 2025 is a plan that is trying to bring an extremely conservative playbook, as you rightly put it, to every agency and to really put in place an agenda that would be pro-corporate. It would try to replace tens of thousands of government employees with political loyalists, people loyal to former President Trump. Because that was one of his big issues, one of his big squabbles in the first term, was that all of these deep-state government servants who’ve done this job for 10 years and they’ll be doing it for another 30 after it because they’re government servants, civil servants, “They’re not loyal to me. I need loyalists in there.”

And it is a really, really dramatically conservative vision for every element of the federal government, whether we’re talking about the climate, whether we’re talking about civil rights, whether we’re talking about the regulation from the FDA [Food and Drug Administration] or HHS [Department of Health and Human Services], health care, the prescription drug world, medicine, etc., that would, frankly, seek to reorder American society.

And one of the parts that I think is most worth highlighting is a belief and then a plan to make the Justice Department a sort of appendage of the White House. There is this policy, there is a belief and lots of norms and guidelines and so on that the Justice Department should operate independently because it is the chief law enforcement agency of the United States of America. It should not be doing the bidding of the president or the vice president, their aides, whatever. The Trump allies’ Project 2025 would do away with that vision and instead see the Justice Department as a tool in the president’s toolbox and in a future president’s toolbox. And that has really, really serious consequences for a free and fair, equitable justice system. So I would absolutely focus on that.

And then there’s this plan—Schedule F is another policy set of reforms that’s gotten a lot of attention. This, again, is replacing tens of thousands of nonpartisan career government employees, people who’ve devoted their life to working as scientists at the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], working as researchers at HHS or at the NIH [National Institutes of Health], working as lawyers at the Justice Department, and not bringing a political agenda, but just applying their expertise, their experience, to whatever their role is. And getting rid of those kinds of people and replacing them with loyalists. And Project 2025 and the groups involved in that have been developing these lists of people who have gone through a sort of vetting process.

Seeberger: A training program.

Kroll: A training program, a vetting process that can be considered for these roles the moment Donald Trump wins the presidency, if he wins the presidency. So, this would be a very, very different presidential term for Donald Trump than what we saw last time. And it would be pretty dramatic, not just a shift to the right, ideologically speaking, but just a pretty big change in how a presidential administration functions and basically disregards the kind of guardrails, norms, democratic norms that Republican and Democratic presidents have followed for decades.

Seeberger: Yeah, I mean, it looks a lot like how authoritarian governments that have come to power over the past century have been able to cement their grip on power, eroding the institutions that, like you say, for so long have been based on norms, not actual statutes followed by government employees. So, could be hugely disruptive. You mentioned stripping the Department of Justice’s independence and using that as a tool for the president to control.

Trump has also entertained doing the same for the FCC [Federal Communications Commission]. He’s talked about doing the same for the FTC [Federal Trade Commission], so he can try to intervene and prevent potentially what information you are getting on the news, on the airwaves, what news you’re seeing printed in the paper, what investigations are brought against companies who are screwing over consumers. All of those things, Donald Trump has said that he believes should be housed in direct control of the president. That’s a night-and-day view of how government has functioned and how it could function if this Project 2025 and Donald Trump’s promises were to come to fruition.

But as we approach this November, we are just about five months out from the election, lots of people have opinions about how the press should be covering the campaign, covering what the candidates have done and what they want to do for the future. I’d be curious, as a member of the press, what tips do you have for journalists as they embark on these next five months and holding the candidates accountable as well as making the choice for voters something really clear for them to understand?

Kroll: I would say a couple of things. I would say, don’t become immune to the kind of anti-democratic rhetoric that we’re hearing out on the campaign trail, and I’m not just referring to former President Trump. Though obviously, as a recent New York Times analysis showed, he has been seeding this narrative of election fraud or a stolen election; talking about undocumented immigrants, or in his words, illegal immigrants; illegal aliens voting, even though that is not by any means a widespread problem in this country. Don’t become numb to that kind of stuff. Because for every 10 or 15 or 20 or 100 times that we as journalists hear it, voters out there are probably just hearing this for the first time, or they’re just reading about this for the first time. And it is important to make that clear and to not couch it in both sides-ism or euphemism what one of the two major candidates for the presidency is doing. And again, you don’t have to editorialize. In fact, you shouldn’t. You just have to report what he says.

And what he’s saying is, he’s seeding this message. He is dog whistling, though he’s not even really dog whistling, because he’s just kind of coming out and saying it.

Seeberger: He wants to be a dictator on day one.

Kroll: He wants people to think that if the election does not turn out his way, that it was not because he lost in a fair democratic election, but that there was some kind of fraud, just as he did in 2020 and even a little bit in 2016. People forget, but there was a whole thing about illegal voting then as well. So I think that that is a big part of it.

And I think with President [Joe] Biden and his campaign and Democrats down the ticket as well, they need to be held accountable as well to either what they’ve done and what they’re saying on the campaign trail, or if they are in any way indulging or if they are overstepping on calling out Trump on things he’s saying about democracy. I mean, you got to call that out as well, because I do think there is a cumulative effect here. If Democrats just talk about Donald Trump and how he is a threat to democracy or how he’s seeding this narrative about election fraud, I do think—from talking to people on the ground myself—that that breeds a kind of, not a nihilism, but a belief that, well, maybe there’s nothing that could be done about it.

Seeberger: Democracy is broken. We don’t have a role in fixing it.

Kroll: Yeah.

Seeberger: So just, you know—

Kroll: Yes, exactly.

Seeberger: —shake things up, and how bad could it get?

Kroll: Yeah, I think a drumbeat of just that Trump is a threat to democracy and that these things he’s saying are sticking in the minds of his followers, and they can’t be debunked or persuaded otherwise—I do think that that has a demoralizing effect on folks who maybe don’t believe those things, but also think, “Oh God, you know what? I’m going to go out and vote, and these folks on the other side believe all this crazy stuff, this fact-free stuff. I’m too exhausted by all of this.”

And so I think that the candidates also need to remind people that, one, there really isn’t any evidence at all that widespread fraud is out there or that Donald Trump is going to demoralize everybody, that he that he has pure mind control over his followers, but also just to try to give a message as well that keeps people engaged and does not make them feel demoralized.

I see that in my own extended family members, some of whom I saw in Michigan, in fact, who just are like, “This whole thing is such a mess. Like, why do I even want to even get involved in that?” And I’m kind of like, well, whichever way you vote, it still matters. And there’s still a lot at stake that isn’t necessarily just all riding on either this one race or riding on this one phenomenon with Trump that we’re talking about. So I try to remember that myself as well when I’m reporting on these things.

Seeberger: Yeah, I mean, there’s a reason why you’ve got about 40 percent of Americans actively avoiding news. They don’t want to engage.

Kroll: Which hurts me to hear—pains me to hear. But I live in the real world.

Seeberger: I am sorry for you and your colleagues. That said, I have to believe that many of them will engage as we get closer to the election. And I think that the American people care about their futures and are going to do their homework.

I think, if I could offer one lesson for our reporter friends, it’s also don’t underestimate the American people’s intelligence. Because I think that they have surprised us again and again and again. And with that, Andy Kroll, thank you so much for joining us this week.

Kroll: Thanks for having me. It’s been a pleasure.

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Seeberger: That’s all the time we have this week. Be sure to go back and check out previous episodes. Erin, I don’t know about you, but right now sports has taken over my life. I’ve got my Dallas Mavericks, who are one game short of the NBA finals. My Dallas Stars have two more wins away, hopefully, God willing, in the Stanley Cup finals.

My husband is a huge New York Rangers fan, and they’re one win away from the NHL finals. So, things are crazy. I am constantly consumed in sports. My child goes down, and I’m locked in. I’m staying up way too late for a work night, but I have to watch.

Phillips: Yeah.

Seeberger: I mean, it’s kind of a huge era right now for Dallas sports, between the Texas Rangers and the World Series last year, both hockey, basketball looking pretty good.

My Dallas Cowboys, y’all are a mess, and you need to get it together this season. So I will be closely watching what happens when NFL returns in September.

Phillips: I think you’ve got to. It’s all coming together for Texas right now. It’s all coming together for your household.

Seeberger: Fingers crossed.

Phillips: I can’t say I’m as tuned in as you are, but I’m happy that you have plenty to watch. I mean, I feel like it’s a slow TV season, so at least you’ve got the sports going on.

Seeberger: That is true. That is true. Well, I hear that there’s also things that you’re super excited about right now.

Phillips: Yes. Well, I finally got to see the illustrious Chappell Roan live and in concert.

Seeberger: And the review?

Phillips: Amazing.

Seeberger: OK.

Phillips: Absolutely amazing. I mean, it’s such an experience. I know everyone talks about the Eras Tour. It’s very Eras Tour-like.

Seeberger: Yeah.

Phillips: People do the outfits. She has themes for every show. So, our theme at the Richmond show was Pink Pony Club. I have never seen so many pink cowboy hats in my life.

Seeberger: I love it.

Phillips: Like the Party Cities all around Richmond were sold out. They all had light-up pink cowgirl hats, and they were all sold out of all of them. You couldn’t find them anywhere.

Seeberger: That’s awesome.

Phillips: So pink boas, pink cowboy hats. Very fun. I mean, she was phenomenal. The vocals were amazing. Some people, I think, are better in concert even than they are on their recordings. I mean—

Seeberger: She was one of them?

Phillips: She was stunning.

Seeberger: Well, I cannot wait to watch —I’m not sure if you are a fan, but “Lady Gaga: The Chromatica Ball” is coming. I think it’s HBO—I may be forgetting or misremembering. But yeah, I went to the concert a few years ago, and I am excited to relive the magic. And we’ll be keeping an eye out for that. Coming to TV soon.

Phillips: I love Lady Gaga. I will have to check that out. That sounds very exciting.

Seeberger: That’s all the time we have this week. Everybody, I hope you all had a wonderful Memorial Day weekend. Hope you’re taking care of yourselves, and we’ll talk to you in June for Pride Month.

“The Tent” is a podcast from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It’s hosted by me, Colin Seeberger, and co-hosted by Daniella Gibbs Léger. Erin Phillips is our lead producer and guest host for this episode. Kelly McCoy is our supervising producer, Mishka Espey is our booking producer, and Muggs Leone is our digital producer. Hai Phan, Matthew Gossage, Olivia Mowry, and Toni Pandolfo are our Video team.

You can find us on YouTube, Apple, Spotify, Google Play, or wherever you get your podcasts.

The positions of American Progress, and our policy experts, are independent, and the findings and conclusions presented are those of American Progress alone. A full list of supporters is available here. American Progress would like to acknowledge the many generous supporters who make our work possible.


Daniella Gibbs Léger

Executive Vice President, Communications and Strategy


Colin Seeberger

Senior Adviser, Communications

Erin Phillips

Broadcast Media Manager

Kelly McCoy

Senior Director of Broadcast Communications

Mishka Espey

Senior Manager, Media Relations

Muggs Leone

Executive Assistant

Video Producers

Hai-Lam Phan

Senior Director, Creative

Matthew Gossage

Events Video Producer

Olivia Mowry

Video Producer

Toni Pandolfo

Video Producer, Production



Explore The Series

Politics. Policy. Progress. All under one big tent. Produced by CAP Action, “The Tent” is a news and politics podcast hosted by Daniella Gibbs Léger and co-hosted by Colin Seeberger. Listen each Thursday for episodes exploring topics that progressives are focused on.


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