Center for American Progress Action

Mark Joseph Stern on Trump, the Courts, and Accountability
Part of a Series

Mark Joseph Stern, senior writer for Slate, joins the show to discuss former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial, the implications his legal cases have for American democracy, and the U.S. Supreme Court decisions we can expect to come at the end of this term. Daniella and Colin also talk about MAGA Republican flip-flopping on reproductive rights and how the Biden administration is delivering for Black Americans.


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

Colin Seeberger: And I’m Colin Seeberger. Daniella, did you hear that Serena Williams may be back?

Gibbs Léger: I saw that. She hinted with a tweet. What did she say? “I think I’m ready to hit some balls.” I was like, “Ma’am! Ma’am.”

Seeberger: Well, she just had her second child, and this teaser comes about nine months after she delivered her second kid. And at the Center for American Progress Action Fund, we believe every parent deserves to be able to take the leave that they need to recover and bond with their newborn child. So you go, Serena. All about it.

Gibbs Léger: Exactly. If this is really true, it will be amazing, and I am definitely here for it.

Seeberger: Well, in the meantime, I hear you had a great interview this week.

Gibbs Léger: I did. I talked to Mark Joseph Stern, who’s a senior writer on courts and the law for Slate. We discussed Donald Trump’s hush money trial, the implications his legal cases have for American democracy, and—you know we had to go there—[U.S.] Supreme Court decisions as we approach the end of the term.

Seeberger: I can’t wait to hear it, and obviously a lot of ground to cover. But first, we’ve got to get to some news.

Gibbs Léger: We do, because I have something I want to talk about.

Seeberger: What’s that, Daniella?

Gibbs Léger: So, in recent weeks, a number of MAGA Republicans have flip-flopped in their stances on abortion, or made comments trying to muddy the waters, or confused people about their position on it.

Seeberger: Why would they do that?

Gibbs Léger: Gee, I have no idea why they would. So let’s take Larry Hogan, for example.

Seeberger: Please.

Gibbs Léger: When he was governor of Maryland, he vetoed a bill to expand abortion access. He’s also refused to clarify his stance on IVF and dismissed the need to enshrine abortion rights into Maryland’s state constitution.

And yet, all of a sudden, he’s come out as “pro-choice” and suggesting that he supports Roe v. Wade. This is the same man who very clearly said that he would caucus with Republicans if elected to the Senate and refused to state declaratively his position on reproductive rights until, of course, after his recent primary election.

He thinks voters are easily hoodwinked. Well, guess what, Larry? You can’t be pro-choice and fall in line with a MAGA agenda. They are mutually exclusive.

Seeberger: Teaming up with [Sen.] Ted Cruz (R) is not a strategy to advance abortion rights.

Gibbs Léger: No, it is not. But he’s not the only one, Colin. Kari Lake, who ran for governor in Arizona in 2020 and is now running for Senate in sepia tones—I’m sorry, I had to do it—has also switched up her stance. She previously called abortion the “ultimate sin” and said abortion pills should be illegal. She also supported Arizona’s archaic anti-abortion law, which was written in the 1800s before Arizona was even a state, I might add. And in fact, she called it a “great law.” And yet, when that law proved deeply unpopular, she tried to suggest she never actually supported it.

And one more flip-flopper I have to mention is Sam Brown, who’s running for Senate in Nevada. Until very recently, he was closely involved in the Faith and Freedom Coalition, a deeply anti-abortion group. But he’s pretty much scrubbed that chapter of his political career from the internet, and he’s now claiming his role with them was focused on issues besides abortion. Isn’t that convenient?

Seeberger: Yes.

Gibbs Léger: He describes himself as pro-life and said that he’d only vote to confirm judges that support overturning Roe v. Wade, and publicly supported Texas’ abortion ban, which is one of the most extreme in the country—but now he claims he won’t support a federal ban on abortion. These MAGA Republicans are really trying to gaslight and confuse Americans on their abortion stances because they know that abortion is a losing issue for them.

Seeberger: Of course it is. I mean, this is the political party that spent quite literally decades trying to architect the fall of Roe v. Wade. They got what they wanted, but now that it’s losing them elections, many of them are trying to backpedal on their extreme stances in an effort to score points with voters and save their own political careers. But, we have to look at their actions, not listen to their words.

Case in point: [Sen.] Katie Britt (R-AL), famous from the State of the Union response this year, and the infamous [Sen.] Ted Cruz of Texas. Both claim that they’re staunch supporters of in vitro fertilization access, but they helped block a bill earlier this year that would have federally protected access to IVF and have co-sponsored legislation that actually would criminalize some forms of fertility care.

But that’s a political death knell. More than 80 percent of Americans support access to IVF, and that’s why this week, Sens. Britt and Cruz introduced their own bill they claim would “protect access to IVF,” but Democratsand leading reproductive rights groups are opposing it. Why? Because all it does is threaten to cut off Medicaid funding to states who pass IVF bans. It does nothing to address other kinds of threats to IVF access. And it threatens to put vulnerable Americans who rely on Medicaid at risk. It’s another example of MAGA Republicans trying to seem less extreme on reproductive rights while actively working to undermine them.

None of this, of course, is surprising though, because their dear leader, Donald Trump, has been nothing but disingenuous about his stances on abortion, contraception, the list goes on. On one hand, he supported a 20-week national abortion ban when he was president, and he brags about being responsible for Roe v. Wadefalling. But on the other hand, he tries to publicly distance himself from the unpopular notion of a nationwide abortion ban by saying he wants to “leave it up to the states.”

He even said he’d support restrictions on birth control on Tuesday of this week in an interview with local television in Pennsylvania, before then trying to walk back those comments just a few hours later. There’s a reason The Washington Post has dubbed him the king of the flip-flop.

Gibbs Léger: Exactly. We really can’t believe a word that these people say on reproductive rights, and they really are taking all of us for like, “Boo Boo the Fool.”

But now I want to turn to another issue where MAGA Republicans and Donald Trump are making false, disingenuous claims, and that’s their commitment to making gains for Black Americans.

Seeberger: Huh!

Gibbs Léger: Yeah. I’m sure you’ve seen all the polling and the media’s hoopla in recent weeks about whether President [Joe] Biden could hold on to the support of Black voters in 2024.

And with the four-year anniversary this week of the murder of George Floyd, which sparked a national reckoning with racial equity in policing and beyond, I want to talk about this. Here’s the deal: President Biden is delivering for Black communities in big ways, like, narrowing the racial wealth gap is a key priority in his agenda to lower costs and make life more affordable for all Americans.

Thanks to his economic policies, Black unemployment has hit record lows and Black wealth is up 60 percent. That’s a lot, relative to prepandemic levels when Trump was president. Biden has forgiven roughly $160 billion in student debt, and a disproportionate amount of that falls on Black borrowers that are targeted by the predatory practices of for-profit institutions.

His SAVE [Saving on a Valuable Education] plan also capped student loan interest, lowered monthly payments, and eliminated interest for borrowers who make their monthly payments on time. He’s evening the playing field for Black Americans in the housing market, too—which as a Black homeowner, I really appreciate. Under the Biden administration, homes and communities of color are 40 percent less likely to be undervalued, which is a huge problem. And in some states, this appraisal gap has been closed entirely, meaning finally Black Americans are able to build greater wealth from owning a home.

And one more big win that I have to mention: For 20 years, Black people have been nearly four times more likely than their white counterparts to be arrested for marijuana related crimes, even though both use marijuana at similar rates. President Biden recently reclassified marijuana from a schedule one to a schedule three drug, a big step towards mitigating the harms of criminalization.

Seeberger: That’s a lot, Daniella. And I mean, to be honest, you really just scratched the surface there. Meanwhile, you’ve got MAGA Republicans who are failing Black Americans. For example, their extreme Project 2025 policy agenda would, among other things, crack down on diversity, equity, and inclusion [DEI] efforts.

It goes so far as to suggest prohibiting DEI programs, investments in protections in universities, private businesses, the government, as well as firing and investigating anyone in government working on any DEI effort. Once again, this is no surprise coming from a party that takes its cues from Donald Trump. He recently said he’d crush DEI if elected and instead focus on “anti-white racism” in America.

In his economic policies, though? No better. When he was president, he proposed cutting Medicaid nearly in half and cutting SNAP [Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program], the nation’s largest nutrition assistance program, by almost a third. That’s despite both of these programs being proven to actually reduce racial disparities in health care and food insecurity. If elected to a second term, his plans this cycle would continue those disastrous policies. A core part of his economic agenda is a disastrous import tax that would result in a $1,500 annual tax increase for the typical household.

That’s an especially steep burden for Black families who experience greater hardships in building wealth and economic security. So, you know, while the MAGA media might try to hoodwink folks and think Donald Trump is winning over Black Americans by launching a line of gold sneakers—

Gibbs Léger: So offensive.

Seeberger: So offensive. I think a majority of Black voters can see through that act. I mean, this is the same guy who claimed Black people loved him because he “has a mugshot.” He’s the same guy who built a significant amount of his wealth by discriminating against Black tenants. So the media can spin its wheels on trying to project the sentiments of Black voters, but what is clear is who’s showing up for Black Americans and who’s exploiting them for their votes.

Gibbs Léger: Exactly. And that’s not to mention his really scary proposals to roll back gun safety measures, Colin. We know Black communities experience disproportionate rates of gun violence. So when he says he wants to reopen the gun show loophole, get rid of new background check measures, and repeal the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act, what he’s really saying is that he doesn’t mind putting Black lives at risk so he can make his friends in the gun lobby happy.

Seeberger: One hundred percent, Daniella. And we could talk about this all day long, but unfortunately that’s all the time we have for 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.

Gibbs Léger: And stick around for my interview with Mark Joseph Stern in just a bit.

[Musical transition]

Gibbs Léger: Mark Joseph Stern is a senior writer for Slate magazine, where he’s been covering courts and the law since 2013. He’s the author of the book American Justice 2019: The Roberts Court Arrives, and has co-authored several law review articles about free speech, gay rights, and transgender equality. He received his JD from Georgetown University Law Center and is a member of the Maryland Bar.

Mark, thank you so much for joining us on “The Tent”!

Mark Joseph Stern: Of course. So happy to be here. Thank you for having me on.

Gibbs Léger: So let’s get right into it: Donald Trump’s hush money trial in Manhattan. It is dominating the headlines right now. What have we heard from the testimony in this trial? And do you have any sense of what we can expect in terms of a verdict?

Stern: So, I think we’ve heard mostly what we expected to hear. The trial was not very mysterious. This is a case that has been gestating for some time in New York and bounced around the prosecutor’s offices for quite some time before finally District Attorney Alvin Bragg said, “Let’s bring this case.” This is on solid ground. Of course, these are charges for record-keeping fraud that are elevated to a felony because they were allegedly done in connection with an attempt to interfere with the 2016 election. And I think that what the attorneys for the prosecution did most powerfully and persuasively was show to the jury: This was not just about protecting Donald Trump’s family and his reputation and his wife. This was not just about shielding the Trumps from the media scrutiny that would come from the revelation that he had an affair with Stormy Daniels, the adult film actor. That this was a deeper and broader conspiracy that was meant to essentially interfere with the 2016 election by preventing the public, the voting public, from learning that one of the two leading candidates had this very unseemly affair, and it would have rendered him in the eyes of some voters untrustworthy and perhaps not worthy of their votes.

And so I think we’ve seen the prosecution make that case over and over again. All the defense has been able to do in response is try to impeach the credibility of the witnesses, especially Michael Cohen, who was key to this whole affair and actually has already pleaded guilty to several federal felony offenses related to this scheme. And so it was the strongest case the prosecutors could have made. We’ll see what the jury thinks, but I don’t think prosecutors left anything on the field.

Gibbs Léger: Like you mentioned, this trial is about more than just “hush money payments,” right? It’s part of a larger story about Donald Trump’s ongoing attempts to interfere with our elections and hold himself above the law.

We saw this attitude on full display when he brought the presidential immunity argument before the Supreme Court this term in an attempt to block the other criminal cases he faces for trying to overturn the 2020 election that he lost. So how do you see this case kind of playing into Trump’s larger pattern of election interference? And why is all this so dangerous?

Stern: What it really seems like is that Donald Trump thinks he’s above the law and that he doesn’t have to play by the same rules as every other candidate. And that is something that he’s been able to skate by on for many, many years, as years in public life and in public office and out of public office.

He has, as you noted, successfully pushed away the two federal prosecutions and kept the third state prosecution in Georgia on ice through endless delay tactics—many of which are patently frivolous—and yet now the U.S. Supreme Court is seriously considering one of them, which we’ll talk about. And this was, I think, one of his earlier attempts back in 2016 to stop the public from learning key information that they deserve to know by allegedly, again, committing what was essentially campaign finance fraud by funneling this money to Stormy Daniels to keep her story silent.

So I do think it plays into this broader theme that we’ve seen throughout Trump’s efforts to gain the presidency of breaking whatever rules are necessary to break and just assuming that no prosecutors will be bold enough to call him on it. And if they are, that he’ll have enough friends in high places to prevent him from seeing justice and accountability.

Gibbs Léger: So let’s talk about those friends in high places, the Supreme Court. They’ve had a tumultuous term. We’ve already gotten back a somewhat surprising decision on the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) from the court.

So, what did they rule? And can you please break down this argument that I’ve seen percolating that the Court isn’t that extreme because they may hand down one or two “decent” decisions?

Stern: So the issue here is essentially that many of the Supreme Court’s major cases this term, including the CFPB case that we’re talking about, they came out of the nuthouse asylum that we call the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. The 5th Circuit is where law goes to die. It is the federal appeals court that covers Texas, Louisiana, and Mississippi. It is dominated by Trump appointees and like-minded Republican judges who are not just jamming the Supreme Court from below by sort of overturning precedent willy-nilly and pressing the law as far to the right as possible, but also auditioning for the Supreme Court. This is a key phenomenon that we’ve seen arise as a dynamic on the lower courts. These Trump appointees really want the next Supreme Court seat to open up. And to prove that they are worthy of the nomination, they are writing these totally crazy opinions that look nothing like law and everything like raw partisan hackery.

And this is one such case. So the CFPB [was] enacted after 2008 in response to the recession. It was part of the Dodd-Frank Act. It protects consumers from predatory lending, including payday lenders who brought this particular case, because payday lenders don’t like being regulated. And they argued that the entire CFPB is unconstitutional and that everything the CFPB does has to be struck down—really, the entire agency has to be abolished because it is funded unconstitutionally.

And they said, “Look, the way the CFPB gets his money is that it draws a certain amount from the federal reserve system every year. The federal reserve itself collects money largely off interest from securities.” And so unlike some, but not all, other agencies—think the Department of Labor, the Department of Justice, whatever—it doesn’t get its money from a bill that’s stamped with the word “appropriations” every year; it gets its money from this other source of a budget that just so happens to be the federal reserve.

And the 5th Circuit said, “Well, that is unconstitutional, and we have to strike it down.” Because the 5th Circuit claimed basically any funding that the government ever provides has to be time limited and has to be provided through some kind of appropriations process that happens at least once every few years, if not every single year. That is a completely absurd theory that the Supreme Court has never come close to endorsing, quite the opposite. And so I was not surprised that the Supreme Court emphatically reversed it. I was a little bit surprised that Clarence Thomas was the one who wrote the opinion reversing it.

Gibbs Léger: Me, too. I think I put it in our team Slack channel, I was like, “Wait a minute, he did what now?”

Stern: I had a little heart attack when I saw it was Clarence Thomas who wrote the majority opinion. I was like, “Oh OK, it’s one of his rare good moments.

Gibbs Léger: Exactly. Like a broken clock. So you touch on this a bit, but can you talk about what other Supreme Court cases you’re keeping a close eye on as they hand down the remaining decisions?

Stern: I mean, so many of these cases emerge out of the 5th Circuit [Court of Appeals], right?

So there’s this other case in which the 5th Circuit held that people under a restraining order for domestic violence have a Second Amendment right to keep their guns, a case called [United States v.] Rahimi. The Supreme Court’s due for a decision in that any day. There’s another case out of the 5th Circuit where the 5th Circuit held that the abortion pill mifepristone, which has been legal and widely available since 2000, has to be severely rolled back and made largely unavailable to countless patients—including in blue states, this would be a 50-state ruling. There is a major racial gerrymandering case out of South Carolina. There is a major environmental case challenging ozone regulations that I think the Supreme Court’s likely to lift and allow the destruction of the ozone layer to continue.

I mean, I could keep going on, but I think what everybody really wants to hear about too are the abortion cases, in addition to the mifepristone case. There’s a case about whether a federal law protects a woman’s right to get an emergency abortion at the emergency room before she is literally dying. Basically, how many organs a woman has to lose before she can lawfully terminate her pregnancy. Because there are states like Idaho where you cannot get an emergency abortion until you are actively dying, and the Biden administration argues that federal law prohibits that.

And then there’s the Trump immunity case which is, of course, just a huge deal. And it shouldn’t be, because it’s a totally frivolous argument at the heart of it. But Trump is arguing that he has absolute presidential immunity from prosecution and that he gets to do whatever he wants while he’s in office, and that there’s simply nothing that prosecutors can ever do to enforce the criminal law against him so long as he did it while he was still the president of the United States.

Gibbs Léger: Which is absolutely absurd. And I want to ask you another question about that particular case, because I feel like I read somewhere where the Supreme Court could not say that presidents are completely immune from prosecution because that’s absurd, but somehow they would make a carve-out that he would be immune. I didn’t understand how that would work. Have you heard that?

Stern: Yes. Well, so there are a lot of different ways that you could slice this particular orange. But the argument here—I mean, the chief argument is that he gets this kind of protection because everything he did in 2020 was part of his official duties—including interfering with the election count, attempting to stop the count in various swing states, attempting to nullify ballots—and that no other president has ever faced an issue like this because they haven’t faced an election that’s as contested as this one, which is not actually true.

And it’s very tangled, but they say if he had been impeached and convicted in the Senate, then he could be prosecuted. But because he wasn’t convicted, he’s forever immune from prosecution. So they argue, “Well a future president,”—these are Trump’s lawyers—they say, “A future president could be prosecuted if they are impeached and convicted”—which we all know will never happen because 67 senators will never vote to convict a president. But if it somehow happened, then after that it’s open season and they can be prosecuted. But if not, then they can’t be. And it’s just very difficult to read that in the Constitution, which says nothing of the sort.

Gibbs Léger: OK. Thank you for that explanation. It’s wild. In recent months, it’s become increasingly clear that the Supreme Court is facing some ethics challenges, including Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito both accepting lavish gifts from conservative donors. And now Justice Alito is back in the spotlight after a photo surfaced of an upside-down American flag hanging outside his home around the time of the 2020 election. For folks who don’t know, it’s a symbol used by Trump supporters who rejected the election results and fed into the big lie.

Why is this so concerning? And what do you think needs to be done to promote ethics reforms for the Supreme Court?

Stern: Well, I think that to describe the situation is to see why it is so concerning, right? I mean you have a Supreme Court justice’s household flying a flag that at the time, as you say, was universally understood to be a symbol of “Stop the Steal.” Of course at the same time, Sam Alito himself was weighing in in election cases and consistently siding with Trump and Republicans, calling into question the integrity of the 2020 election, calling for the mass nullification of ballots. Clearly, if he had had the votes to do so, I think he would have thrown out the results of that free and fair election. Now he’s throwing his wife under the bus and blaming her. And yet his excuse is still sort of baffling, that there was some kind of conflict between his household and some neighbors, and that it escalated to the point that to own the libs, his wife had to raise this flag. He hasn’t apologized for it. He hasn’t tried to explain exactly why this particular symbol is the reason for the wife’s decision to own the libs.

But more broadly, I think the issue here is there should be some mechanism by which a justice is forced to recuse from a case. I mean, at the bare minimum, if Alito is not going to be investigated, if he’s not going to be impeached or removed—which it seems like he’s not going to be—then at least there should be some system by which a group of the other justices or perhaps chief judges of the lower courts can come together and say, “This guy should not be hearing these cases,” including the presidential immunity case we’ve been discussing. And that just doesn’t happen. Every justice is the arbiter of their own case.

And so I really feel like it’s a sign of how broken our system is that this justice who so clearly had his brain pickled in the brine of Fox News for years, who is engaged in this feelings ball, grass lawn, turf warfare with neighbors over “Stop the Steal”—that he still exercises absolute and unlimited power and can do whatever he wants, and that none of his colleagues on the Supreme Court seem to think it’s bad enough that they’re going to risk anything by speaking up about it and condemning it.

Gibbs Léger: Yeah, it is truly terrifying. And if I’m his wife—well, I won’t even get into that. So with Trump’s trial taking up so much airtime, and big Supreme Court decisions coming up, there’s a lot of legal jargon flying around. So before we go, I want to ask you, what are three legal terms you think our listeners should be most aware of as they follow these cases?

Stern: So I think the first one—and we touched on this, but I think a lot of people’s eyes glaze over—when you hear the word “agency” or “federal agency” or, connected to that, “Chevron deference,” you tend to sort of tune out, I think most people don’t care that much. But you should care! Because the way that our government works is that Congress enacts a law instructing an agency like the CFPB, like the EPA [Environmental Protection Agency], like the [U.S.] Department of Labor—whatever, we could go down the line—to enforce it. And what the Supreme Court has been doing lately is gutting the ability of agencies to enforce these laws, effectively sort of disabling the government’s core function.

And one of the cases I didn’t talk about but that’s going to be really important this term is a case called Loper Bright [v. Raimondothat involves Chevron deference, which is—it sounds weird. Is it about a car? No, it’s actually just the principle that courts should generally defer to federal agencies when they are interpreting the law, particularly when the law is ambiguous.

By the way, there are a lot of ambiguous laws. Congress passes laws in a rush. It makes compromises. It uses broad language. It says things like “reasonable” and “adequate” and sort of leaves it up to these agencies to decide what counts. That all, for decades, since the 1980s, that’s been in the hands of agencies. And courts are not interfering with experts’ decisions. How much mercury should be allowed in our fish? I would rather the EPA decide that than federal judges who know nothing about mercury or fish.

Gibbs Léger: Yes.

Stern: And yet the Supreme Court looks very likely to gut Chevron deference and overturn this deference to these agencies. And that will have, I think, a paralyzing effect on the government. So those terms “precedent” and “Chevron deference” are really important.

The last one I’ll use—and I think listeners will know this one more—but “originalism.” It’s this term that the Supreme Court uses. It purports to be an originalist court that applies the original public meaning of the Constitution, what it meant in 1789 when it was ratified. But in truth, what we’ve seen is that the court is really bad at doing history: It makes up history. It makes up law. It makes up facts. It cherry-picks evidence from the historical record. It ignores other evidence and just puts together a bunch of partisan pseudo-history to reach whatever result it wants. That was the story of the gun cases, [District of Columbia v.] Heller and [New York State Rifle & Pistol Association Inc. v.] Bruin especially. And it was frankly also the story of Dobbs [v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization]. When the Supreme Court overruled Roe v. Wade, it relied on some very bad, bogus history to get there.

So I want people to be aware of this term “originalism” and not to give it some kind of undue respect and view it with awe as this totally legitimate thing that’s the authoritative way of doing constitutional law. It’s new. The term was made up in the early 1980s. It rests on a very unstable footing, and I don’t think that people should generally credit it as a legitimate way of doing law.

Gibbs Léger: So you’re saying we shouldn’t give deference to it?

Stern: Yes, exactly.

Gibbs Léger: Look, I made a law joke. Well, Mark Joseph Stern, I want to thank you so much for all the great reporting you do and for coming on “The Tent.”

Stern: Thank you so much for having me on. I really appreciate it.

[Musical transition]

Gibbs Léger: As always, thanks for listening. Be sure to go back and check out previous episodes. Colin, before we go, I have to talk about the possible demise of something that means a lot to me.

Seeberger: Oh no, what, Daniella?

Gibbs Léger: Red Lobster.

Seeberger: RIP the cheddar biscuits.

Gibbs Léger: Oh my gosh, cheddar biscuits forever. So, there was a Red Lobster near the town that I grew up in New Jersey.

Seeberger: OK.

Gibbs Léger: And my dad, my brother and I—our birthdays were within five days of each other. And every year my mom would be like, “What do you guys want to do for your birthday?” And I was like, “Red Lobster.”

Seeberger: Red Lobster.

Gibbs Léger: That’s it. I don’t care that their seafood is frozen. I don’t care. It’s a core childhood memory, and those biscuits cannot be beat.

Seeberger: No, they cannot. And I am sorry that it seems to be, based on some of the reporting I’ve read this week, that we’re seeing the consequences of vulture private equity at play here. Golden Gate Capital, the private equity firm that bought Red Lobster years and years ago—it sounds like they sold off all the real estate that Red Lobster had previously owned and then ended up charging the company for even higher levels of real estate payments than they were previously being charged, basically forcing them to take on $1.5 billion in additional property expenses.

Gibbs Léger: That’s nuts.

Seeberger: That’s crazy. These restaurants kind of operate on smaller bottom lines and whatnot, right? Just trying to get by. I’m like, in what world are you thinking that that’s going to be sustainable?

Gibbs Léger: Right. In no world. And that’s really disappointing. And you’re right, it’s an example of vulture capitalism. That’s a term for a reason.

Seeberger: Yup.

Gibbs Léger: And it’s really not great for all the thousands of workers who potentially might lose their jobs now.

Seeberger: For sure. For sure.

Gibbs Léger: And the millions of people who won’t get to enjoy those cheddar biscuits.

Seeberger: Yes, the cheddar biscuits, the jobs, the popcorn shrimp.

Gibbs Léger: Popcorn shrimp. So good. So good.

Seeberger: Yes.

Gibbs Léger: All right, let’s turn to—for you, anyway—some better news in sports.

Seeberger: Yes. Let’s do it. Well, I’m happy to announce that my Dallas Mavericks and the Dallas Stars have both progressed to the Western Conference Finals—

Gibbs Léger: Congratulations.

Seeberger: —in basketball and hockey. Very, very excited. I’m feeling pretty good for the Stars. I think the Mavericks really surprised people in making it through the last round. We’ll see how they end up stacking up against the Timberwolves. I think it’s going to be competitive, but I feel pretty good, cautiously optimistic, about the Stars’ chances.

Gibbs Léger: All right, well that’s good for you. I’m happy. The Knicks are not doing anything.

Seeberger: Yes.

Gibbs Léger: I literally was watching the Pacers-Celtics game the other day, and I was staring at the TV, like, how is it possible to hate two teams so much?

Seeberger: This is where things ended up.

Gibbs Léger: I hate them both. And I’m like, who do I want to win? Neither of them. But if I had to pick, do I pick Boston because Indiana is the team that crushed our dreams? But I can never root for Boston, out of principle.

Seeberger: Yeah.

Gibbs Léger: So literally, I don’t know what to do.

Seeberger: You’re in a bind.

Gibbs Léger: I’m in a bind.

Seeberger: Well, Daniella, I think you then need to spend your sports-watching time focused on the New York Rangers who progressed to the Eastern Conference Finals in our house. My husband’s a huge New York Rangers fan. We literally have a pet named after the New York Rangers.

Gibbs Léger: Wait, what’s your pet’s name?

Seeberger: Ranger.

Gibbs Léger: Ranger? OK. I was like, Mark Messier? OK.

Seeberger: But I’m really excited about the possibility that the Stars and the Rangers could both end up in the Stanley Cup, which like—

Gibbs Léger: That’s going to be great.

Seeberger: —would be raucous in our house. But also at the same time, very exciting to know that one of our teams would ultimately end up winning the Stanley Cup.

Gibbs Léger: See, now, this is a healthy way to approach a possible sports meeting.

Seeberger: Yes, yes.

Gibbs Léger: As opposed to in my household, which is like this—oh my goodness.

Seeberger: Knock them down.

Gibbs Léger: Yeah, exactly, exactly. Poor Max gets caught in the middle. And he’s like, “I want both Mommy and Daddy to be happy.” I was like, “It doesn’t work that way. You’ve got to pick.”

Seeberger: They trained you right in New Jersey.

Gibbs Léger: I know. Anyway, that’s going to do it for us today. Take care of yourselves out there, and we’ll talk to you next week.

Seeberger: See you next week.

Gibbs Léger: “The Tent” is a podcast from the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It’s hosted by me, Daniella Gibbs Léger and cohosted by Colin Seeberger. Erin Phillips is our lead producer, 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.


This site is protected by reCAPTCHA and the Google Privacy Policy and Terms of Service apply.