The Espionage Axe: Donald Trump and the War Against a Free Press

Freedom of the Press Foundation’s Trevor Timm, organizer Bill Fletcher Jr., and Dr. Krystal Redman are this week’s podcast guests.

Photo illustration: Elise Swain/The Intercept, Getty Images

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Another alleged whistleblower has been charged with espionage. This week on Intercepted: Donald Trump is set to shatter Barack Obama’s record of prosecuting journalistic sources under the 1917 Espionage Act. Trevor Timm, executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, talks about the weaponization of this law for use in stopping investigative journalism and the case of Air Force veteran Daniel Hale, who is facing 50 years in prison. Jeremy Scahill tells the story of the prosecution of Socialist leader Eugene Debs in 1918 and its echoes in the modern era. Organizer Bill Fletcher Jr. discusses the Trump administration’s intensifying military threats against Iran, the ongoing coup attempt in Venezuela, and offers strategic thoughts on how to view the 2020 Democratic primary field. The anti-choice movement is making its most intense push to abolish Roe v. Wade in years and with Trump’s new Supreme Court justices, the threat could become reality. Dr. Krystal Redman, executive director of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now in Georgia, talks about the spate of new laws being implemented in several states that seek to criminalize abortion and women’s health care providers.


Queen: I’m the Invisible Man.

“The Invisible Man” (1933): He’s invisible. That’s what’s the matter with him. If he gets the rest of them clothes off, we’ll never catch him in a thousand years.

Donald J. Trump: There was nobody that was in the history of our country more transparent than me. There has never been anybody so transparent.

“The Invisible Man” (1933): Help! Help! He’s here. It’s the Invisible Man.

DJT: I was transparent. I was totally transparent. But I’ve been the most transparent president in history.

“The Invisible Man” (1933): He’s here. The Invisible Man!

DJT: I can’t imagine being more transparent. There has never been a president that’s been more transparent than me or the Trump administration. I have been the most transparent president in the history of our country by far.

[Music interlude.]

Jeremy Scahill: This is Intercepted.

[Music interlude.]

JS: I’m Jeremy Scahill, coming to you from the offices of The Intercept in New York City. And this is episode 93 of Intercepted.

Mark Ruffalo [reading Eugene Debs’ speech]: For in every age it has been the tyrant, the oppressor and the exploiter who has wrapped himself in the cloak of patriotism or religion or both to deceive and overawe the people.

JS: On June 16, 1918, the prominent Socialist labor leader Eugene Debs delivered a speech in Canton, Ohio. In the speech, Debs argued against U.S. involvement in World War I and he praised activists who had been organizing against the military draft or had been convicted of sedition. At the time, Debs was one of the most prominent socialists in the United States and his speech came on the heels of the Russian Revolution and the rise of global socialist and communist movements. Eugene Debs had run for president four times as of the day of that speech. Here is actor Mark Ruffalo reading part of that speech.

MR [reading Eugene Debs’ speech]: The working class who fight all the battles, the working calls who make the supreme sacrifices, the working class who freely shed their blood and furnish their corpses had never yet had a voice in either declaring war or making peace. It is the ruling class that invariably does both. They alone declare war and they alone make peace. Yours not to reason why. Yours but to do and die. That is their motto.

JS: Soon after that speech, Eugene Debs was arrested and he was charged under a new law in the U.S. that had passed just a year earlier. It was called The Espionage Act. Debs and his lawyers argued that his anti-war speech was protected by the First Amendment to the Constitution. And they lost. And Debs was sentenced to ten years in prison. The case eventually went to the U.S. Supreme Court where the justices voted unanimously to uphold the conviction of Eugene Debs. “I believe in free speech, in war as well as in peace,” Debs told the jury during his trial. “If the Espionage Law stands, then the Constitution of the United States is dead.”

From his prison cell, Debs ran for a 5th time for president of the United States on the Socialist Party ticket. He got nearly a million votes, almost three and a half percent — the most ever won by a Socialist at that time. In 1921, President Warren Harding commuted Eugene Debs sentence, but he did not pardon him. Though he did invite Debs to meet him at the White House.

Congress ultimately amended parts of the Espionage Act, but the thrust of the law has remained in effect to this day. Anarchist Emma Goldman was also prosecuted under the act. Julius and Ethel Rosenberg were executed after being convicted under the law.

Newscaster: One of the greatest peace-time spy dramas in the nation’s history reaches its climax as Julius Rosenberg and Morton Sobell, convicted of revealing atomic secrets to the Russians, entered a federal building in New York to hear their doom. Another of the spy ring, Mrs. Ethel Rosenberg, who with her husband was convicted of actually transmitting the secrets to Russia through Soviet diplomatic channels.

JS: Throughout its history, the Espionage Act has been used as a weapon to attack free speech and dissent. And then decades later came the Pentagon Papers case where the U.S. government charged the whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg under the Espionage Act. He faced 115 years in prison.

Daniel Ellsberg: How can you measure the jeopardy that I’m in whether it’s 10 years, 20 years, 115 years, rather ludicrous amounts like that to the penalty that has been paid already by 50,000 American families here and hundreds of thousands of Vietnamese families. It would be absolutely presumptuous of me to pity myself in that context and I certainly don’t and I’d be ashamed of myself.

JS: The charges were all dismissed in 1973, mostly because of rampant misconduct and illegal surveillance by the Nixon administration. But it was this model, developed by Nixon’s Justice Department that would be passionately adopted decades later as the weapon of choice of President Barack Obama to wage attacks on journalistic sources and journalism.

Barack Obama: Since I’ve been in office, my attitude has been zero tolerance for these kinds of leaks and speculation.

JS: Obama’s Justice Department indicted eight journalistic sources under the Espionage Act, more than all U.S. presidents before him combined. Among these cases was U.S. Army whistleblower Chelsea Manning, former CIA officer Jeffrey Sterling,  National Security Agency whistleblower Thomas Drake, and NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. In some of these cases, people were sentenced to lengthy prison terms. In others, the government ruined the lives of the targets.

DJT: We’re going to find the leakers. We’re going to find the leakers. They’re going to pay a big price for leaking.

JS: Then Donald Trump takes power and immediately begins using the playbook refined and sharpened by his predecessor, President Obama. Donald Trump is now surpassing Obama’s eight year record in just over two years in office. The first case Trump brought was against Reality Winner, who was accused of leaking a top secret document to a news organization. That NSA document related to alleged Russian intelligence operations aimed at breaching software systems used in some U.S. voting systems. Then FBI agent Terry Allbury was indicted for allegedly leaking information about FBI surveillance and informant operations to a news organization.

The government did not name the news organization in these cases, but other media outlets attributed the reporting to The Intercept. And then, last week, came the arrest of another alleged whistleblower, Daniel Everett Hale. The Justice Department is accusing Hale of leaking documents on the global assassination program and drone programs run by the Obama administration. This indictment also does not name a news organization but Trump administration officials — in leaks to news organizations — have claimed that it’s The Intercept.

I want to be clear here: Nothing I say here should be understood as discussing the specifics of the Hale case. And The Intercept does not discuss alleged confidential sources whoever they are. But I do want to state the following: Whoever provided documents for The Intercept’s reporting on U.S. assassination operations should be viewed as a hero who did a major public service at immense personal risk. This whistleblower provided the most detailed account ever published of what amounts to a secret legal system wherein the president of the United States and his advisors make lists of people to kill, including U.S. citizens who have not been charged with crimes.

The documents published by The Intercept showed that at times as many as 9 out of 10 people that the U.S. killed in its so-called targeted assassinations were not the intended target. These documents revealed how the watchlisting system has spiraled out of control and how U.S. citizens have no right to know if or why they are on watch lists or kill lists. This was an extremely important and brave moment in the history of the post-9/11 secrecy and mass killing operations and the fight against them. Back in 2015, I discussed this on Democracy Now!.

JS [on Democracy Now!]: Our source is an incredibly principled brave individual and you know, I worry because the government is, this government has been relentless in its pursuit of people of conscience who blow the whistle and has characterized them as traitors and spies and in the process has criminalized the ability to do independent journalism that is meant to hold them accountable, the government accountable without fear that your sources, or in some cases the journalists themselves are going to be put in the cross hairs of the so-called justice system.

JS: We are at an extremely dangerous moment in the history of this country. Donald Trump is using the same rhetoric used by Nazi officials in the 1930s and 40s to attack the press. He has said that he wants to jail journalists who publish stories he doesn’t like. And he is wielding the Espionage Act like a chainsaw against journalistic sources. What makes it all so much worse is that it was the Constitutional law scholar and Trump predecessor Barack Obama who teed Trump up, who laid the groundwork, who blazed the trail for this extremely deranged and dangerous man currently occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

But look at the way these stories are covered in the broader media. With a few notable exceptions, the lack of solidarity or just basic understanding of how dangerous these cases are is just largely absent. Instead there are attacks on the news organizations or the reporters. And for all of the talk of how dangerous Trump is to a free press, why hasn’t the Reality Winner case been covered more extensively? Why is a CNN reporter who lost his credentials a national scandal and threatening alleged whistleblowers with 50 years in prison is a non-story? My colleague James Risen knows a lot about the Espionage Act. When he was a reporter at the New York Times, he fought the Bush and Obama administrations for some 7 odd years when they tried to force Jim to testify against an alleged source of his being prosecuted under the Espionage Act. Last week, Jim Risen discussed how many media organizations are covering these cases when he talked to Amy Goodman on Democracy Now!

James Risen [on Democracy Now!]: It’s as if they’re joining in with the Justice Department and the prosecutor in hunting down a bank robber or something. And so I think that’s a fundamental flaw in the way the press covers these things is that they look at it as a crime rather than as an attack by the Justice Department on the press in the United States which is what this is.

JS: Daniel Everett Hale is facing a half a century in prison for his alleged crime of blowing the whistle on a secret assassination program that regularly resulted in the killing of civilians, including an American teenager. None of this is about espionage. And it should be clear to every journalist in this country, to every person of conscience that what this prosecution is about is threatening anyone who even thinks of leaking, say, a Trump tax return. This is about criminalizing journalism. It is about increasing the secrecy and decreasing the transparency. It is an assault on the very idea of a democratic society. At these moments, silence is complicity. Everyone should care about what happened to Reality Winner and what’s happening again to Chelsea Manning and what has happened to Edward Snowden and, yes, Julian Assange. And we should all care what happens to Daniel Everett Hale.

This is a precedent setting moment, not just legally, but morally. Because this is not the end. This is the beginning and they will eventually come for other news organizations. Or they will scare news outlets from doing high stakes national security reporting. It doesn’t matter what you think of any of these individual whistleblowers. It doesn’t matter what you think of The Intercept. But it does matter that we all recognize that this is an attack on our basic rights to information about what the U.S. government does in our names and with our tax dollars. It matters that people who blow the whistle on crimes and war crimes be defended and not abandoned or portrayed as violent criminals or traitors. All of us must ask ourselves where we stand. History will remember our answers.

Trevor Timm, Executive Director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation, Talks About the Weaponization of the Espionage Act

JS: Joining me now is Trevor Timm. He is the executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. Trevor, welcome to Intercepted.

Trevor Timm: Thanks for having me.

JS: Let’s just start, your general thoughts about the latest indictment, the indictment of Daniel Everett Hale.

TT: Well, first of all, this is the seventh prosecution of a source of a journalist in just a little over two years in the Trump administration. The Trump administration right now, is on pace to shatter the Obama administration’s records for prosecution of journalists’ sources. This is a huge threat to press freedom. Even if journalists themselves aren’t getting prosecuted, this creates a massive chilling effect across the government bureaucracy when journalism in many cases has never been more important in holding our government to account. The fact that the Trump administration is targeting sources who have allegedly provided journalists with really important documents and stories that have been cited dozens of times by other news organizations, which have forced both the Obama and Trump administration to be more transparent about issues of foreign policy and national security.

The American public should be quite disturbed that they are taking it to this level and you can almost guarantee that this is not the last leak investigation or the last leak indictment. The Trump administration has talked about how they have dozens of other cases opened and virtually every major news organization in this country likely has sources that are under investigation now and it’s possible that surveillance is being done on both the sources and the journalists. And this has far-reaching implications for press freedom in the United States. And I think it should worry everybody.

JS:  The charges against Daniel Hale could bring up to 50 years in prison.

TT: Yeah, the Espionage Act is this Draconian statute from literally World War I. So, it’s over a hundred years old. It was originally passed by Congress to go after spies and saboteurs.

Newscaster: The Wilson administration under criticism as soft on pro-Germans, seeks and gets tough new laws suppressing freedom of speech and opinion.

TT: And yet in the past few decades has been morphed and warped into this statute that ends up going after the sources of journalists. It was never used for this purpose in its first 50 or 60 years. In fact, the first Espionage Act case was Pentagon Papers whistleblower Daniel Ellsberg who faced over 100 years in jail.

Reporter: The latest indictment says, 115-year prison term and a $120,000 fine, the maximum. Are your thoughts still the same that you’re willing to accept any consequences?

DE: I have two thoughts about that. I go back to my earlier answer. How can you measure the jeopardy that I’m in whether it’s 10 years, 20 years, 115 years, rather ludicrous —

TT: But it’s really just been in the past decade or so, which it started with the Bush administration then expanded to the Obama administration and now is really being used as a regular weapon by the Trump administration to go after whistleblowers who come forward to the press. The real disturbing aspect of this law is that it virtually offers no defenses to the alleged sources who are prosecuted.

JS: What do you mean by that?

TT: If you are a source and bring something to a journalist, maybe you think it is showing government corruption or illegality and the U.S. government considers it classified, it may be your only option to go to the press to get some accountability. Yet, when these sources go to trial they’re not allowed to talk about the public benefits to these leaks. They’re not allowed to argue that actually, this leak did not harm national security at all and it was a huge benefit for the public to know this information. They aren’t allowed to talk about their motives for leaking. So you can imagine a whistleblower going to a journalist because they feel the American public wants to know this information. That is far far different than a government official selling information to a foreign adversary for profit yet these things are treated one in the same by the Justice Department. There’s a famous story of Daniel Ellsberg when he gets on the stand during the Pentagon papers case, you know him and his lawyer had prepared for months to tell the jury exactly why he came forward with the Pentagon Papers and all the lies he had been seeing from the Nixon and Johnson administration.

DE: Nixon is trying to throw the book at us. He continues to lie. The three areas in which he’s lying today, this very day: Number one, he says the war is winding down. He says he hasn’t bombed the dikes. That’s a blatant lie. The Vietnamese dikes have been bombed.

TT: And his lawyer asked why did you do this? The prosecution objects. The judge quickly sustains the objection and Daniel Ellsberg is sitting there speechless thinking I’m not allowed to tell the jury why I did this and so, this is what has happened with every leak case since. These sources and whistleblowers are not allowed to tell their story to the jury. The only thing that matters is did you have access to information and did you give it to a journalist? And if that’s the case, you face decades in jail for some of these charges. And so, it’s impossible for these people to get a fair trial. So, what happens is now almost all of these cases in the Trump administration end in plea deals because they basically have their hands tied behind their back. And so this process keeps repeating over and over again where the Trump administration can bring more and more of these cases.

JS: One pattern that I’ve noticed emerging is that there is virtual silence from many important news organizations on these prosecutions. When Chelsea Manning was put on trial in front of a military court, The New York Times and CNN basically had to be shamed into coming to cover the trial by independent journalists like Alexa O’Brien, Kevin Gosztola, other people who were covering it. And The New York Times was one of the major publishers of Chelsea Manning’s leaks through all phases of it: the diplomatic cables, the war logs, etcetera, and they had to sort of be shamed into even covering her trial. And then you have these cases where Reality Winner or Terry Albury or now Daniel Hale and you have this lionization of the Pentagon papers leak now, but those same publications who are happy to engage in the kind of historical celebration of their bravery seem to be completely missing what I think clearly is an absolute assault on journalistic sources and ultimately, journalism.

TT: You’re exactly right and it’s infuriating and depressing, both the same time. Press freedom, in some cases, this is a good thing, has been in the public eye more than ever in the last two years because Trump is constantly going out there disparaging journalists and talking about how they’re the enemy of the people. And while you know taking Trump’s tweets and statements all together is a bit alarming this has much more dire consequences for journalists than anything Trump can tweet. He is using the awesome power of the Justice Department to go after journalists sources, to get their communications, in some cases, directly spy on journalists, and it gets barely a mention from a lot of journalists who often claim to care about these issues of press freedom.

JS: It’s so transparent and clear that with William Barr as attorney general, the Trump administration has a strategy now that seems aimed at blocking any attempt to leak about this administration. They don’t want his tax returns leaked. They want nothing leaked. So, they dig up this case, they dig up from five years ago and clearly the Obama administration had decided not to prosecute it. It’s not even that they care so much about what let’s say, Daniel Hale did specifically, it does seem to be a weaponization of the Justice Department and these prosecutions aimed at stopping anyone else from leaking because hey, we’re going to throw the book at you. You get 50 years in prison if you leak about Trump.

TT: Right, exactly. I mean, you really only have to listen to what Trump says. I mean, you know, everybody is furious when Trump starts tweeting about journalists as enemy of the people. But look what he says around that. He talks about how he is furious with leakers. The FBI and [the] Justice Department have figured out that they can use technology to basically track everything that every government employee does. You know, we talk a lot about surveillance of the American people which is incredibly important, but the government is actually surveilling its own employees much more than anybody else.

And when you know, you see these indictments and how they are able to track somebody’s every move, what they looked at, what they printed, cameras following them around. It’s quite scary, especially when we’re dealing with a president as unhinged as Trump. You know, we want journalists talking to these people and journalists are talking to them all the time. So the idea that we should just you know, kind of poo-poo these indictments and use them to kind of take shots at the news organizations or journalists who are involved in them, it’s just quite depressing because you know, we’re not seeing the forest and the trees here. This is a direct attack on press freedom. We should be up in arms about it.

JS: You read the indictment of Daniel Hale, I assume?

TT: Yes.

JS: Seventeen-page indictment. There have been media organizations that have reported that I am the reporter in question. And that The Intercept is the publication in question. And of course, we’re not going to make any comment whatsoever about anything specific regarding this case and it’s our general policy to not talk about any confidential or anonymous sources, but based on what the government is alleging in the indictment, what was it exactly that Daniel Hale did or that the government is accusing him of having leaked? What kinds of documents?

TT: So it looks like from the indictment that they are accusing Daniel Hale of leaking to an unnamed news organization and reporter which seems to be The Intercept.

Amy Goodman: In 2015, The Intercept published a special report called The Drone Papers exposing the inner workings of the U.S. military’s assassination program in Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia. The publication’s findings were later turned into a book called “The Assassination Complex: Inside the Government’s Secret Drone Warfare Program.”

TT: And also the investigation into the government’s terrorist watch list, which has caused all sorts of controversy over the past 15 or 20 years since 9/11, which has led to dozens of lawsuits where the ACLU in many cases has represented people who have been wrongly put on this list, whether it’s the no-fly list or other terrorist watch lists where there is virtually no due process. Everything is kept secret and the people who are affected are kept in the absolute dark. And both of these investigations were incredibly important to understand the vast secretive national security apparatus of the United States and how it is ripping due process rights away from both Americans and people abroad. You know, nobody is arguing that this stuff shouldn’t be public and that the government isn’t over-classifying information and this isn’t information that the American public should have access to.

These are really important stories. And this is actually, this is what all national security reporters do. They uncover things that the government is doing behind closed doors the American public deserves to know about. I mean, when we think about the classification system virtually everything that the U.S. government does in both the realm of foreign policy and national security, they consider secret. They consider classified and so they can use this Espionage Act as a weapon to wield. Then there’s a leak that they don’t like, they can go after that source, and then they can feel free to leak information that they so choose that is also considered classified to basically shape the narrative for how people see what the U.S. government is doing. And it’s you know, not only just grossly unfair and even un-American to the sources that are affected but it really negatively affects, you know, the hundreds of millions of people in the American public who have no idea what their government is doing.

JS: You know, I also think it’s important to remind people how powerful leakers or powerful people who are sloppy with their “operational security” are treated. I’m thinking specifically of General David Petraeus who as far as we know was showing sensitive and classified material to someone he was having an affair with and, you know, he got off with barely even a slap on the on the wrist and it hasn’t affected his livelihood. Hillary Clinton had a private email server where she had thousands of emails, some of which the government said should have been classified. Nothing, nothing ever happens as a result of that criminally, whatsoever. And then you have Reality Winner doing five years in prison for allegedly leaking one piece of paper about the 2016 elections and attempts by the Russian GRU to probe or cyberattack software systems being used in some states for elections. You have Daniel Hale facing half a century in prison for allegedly blowing the whistle on a global assassination program that existed with a parallel justice system where the president decided who could be killed or who lived on any given day. But that juxtaposition between official leakers, powerful people who do this kind of stuff and then whistleblowers of conscience.

TT: Well, that’s why these cases are such a total farce. I mean, think back to the Obama administration. They were claiming up until the very end that large portions of the drone strike program were totally classified, that they would barely talk about it on the record —

JS: Obama’s first mention was joking that he was going to send a drone to kill one of the Jonas Brothers if they came near his daughters.

BO: Boys, don’t get any ideas. I have two words for you: predator drones. You will never see it coming.

[Crowd laughs.]

TT: Right, they can joke about it but then when there’s a lawsuit against them, they claim it’s a state secret. Yet we read dozens and dozens of articles at the time about the drone strike program, which a lot of that information, the Obama administration wanted out and so they leaked it to the New York Times. They leaked it to the Washington Post or the Wall Street Journal. These classified leaks are in the newspaper all the time. Same thing goes in the Trump administration. There are hundreds and hundreds of stories in every single major paper that contain classified information. At the same time, it is both incredibly important that newspapers can report on this stuff but it allows the government to essentially use the Espionage Act as this weapon as they see fit. They will let the leaks go that they want out there and then they will attack and prosecute the leakers who leaked things that they didn’t want leak, that puts them in a bad light, that shows how they may be potentially killing civilians or engaging in illegal profiling. You can go on and on down the list.

JS: What can ordinary people do and what should journalists be doing in response to the weaponization of the Espionage Act and this assault on journalistic sources in journalism?

TT: As we’ve seen over the past two years, journalists in some cases have brought this issue of press freedom to the front pages of newspapers. Unfortunately, it has largely been about Trump’s rhetoric which again, can be dangerous especially when you take it all together when seeing that he for months and months and months, every day attacking journalists. Yet, you know, we have to understand that this is just rhetoric at the same time. These actions that he is pressuring the Justice Department to take in again, in his public tweets, he is talking about how the Justice Department needs to go after leakers. So we know he wants this. But the second thing the public can do more broadly is talk about the Espionage Act with your member of Congress.

So far, even though we have known that this has been a huge issue for 10 years now virtually no member of Congress is willing to go after the Espionage Act partly because it’s called the Espionage Act. They don’t want to touch it with a ten-foot pole. But this law is being used against sources of journalists far more than its being used against actual spies and it is in dire need of reform or repeal. So if there are a brave member or two of Congress out there who can introduce a law that actually separates out the actual spies from these patriotic whistleblowers who are coming forward to inform the American people, it is of dire importance. Because if it keeps going this way, you know, you can imagine a situation as the government surveillance capabilities keep growing that it may be virtually impossible for any journalist to talk to a source without them being immediately outed.

JS: What are some organizations that people could contribute to that support whistleblowers and the defense of whistleblowers?

TT: Well, I’m a little biased but I would encourage everybody to check out Freedom of the Press Foundation where I’m executive director. Our URL is We work on these issues day-to-day. We build technology for journalists to communicate more securely with sources. So, for example Secure Drop which is our whistleblower submission system that we have helped over 70 news organizations install and is in use all the time even here at The Intercept. We also give digital security trainings to journalists so that they can have the tools that they need to figure out how they can communicate more closely with journalists. Because when you look at all these indictments, you can see that the government can paint this incredibly detailed picture of everything a government employee does because they have so many avenues to surveil them.

So, it’s more important than ever. There are several other organizations that support whistleblowers that I would encourage everybody to check out. There’s a new one called The Signal Networks, actually, that is looking to not only provide advocacy for whistleblowers, but actually the personal support that they need whether it’s legal support, financial support or mental health support. You have to understand that even when these people don’t go to jail, you know, there are dozens of investigations that don’t go to indictment but these people often are bankrupted by legal fees. They are blacklisted from jobs and their lives can be ruined even if they don’t go to jail because the government decided to target them for the crime of informing the American public about an important issue.

JS: Trevor Timm, thanks so much for being with us.

TT: Thanks for having me.

JS: Trevor Timm is executive director of the Freedom of the Press Foundation. I should note that FPF has at times received funding from our parent company First Look Media. You can find Trevor on twitter at Trevor Timm. That has two “M’s.”

Organizer Bill Fletcher Jr. Discusses the Trump Administration’s Intensifying Military Threats Against Iran and the Ongoing Coup Attempt in Venezuela

JS: For more than a month, activists have been camped out inside the Venezuelan embassy in Washington D.C. They’ve called themselves “embassy protectors” and they are there in an effort to try to stop the Trump administration from illegally invading what is Venezuelan soil, territory under international law.

Medea Benjamin of Code Pink and other activists from Popular Resistance and ANSWER Coalition are leading the demonstration. Outside the embassy, there have been supporters of self-declared U.S.-backed “president” Juan Guaido engaged in a counter-protest.

Brian Becker: The Trump administration acting on behalf of the most aggressive element like John Bolton and Mike Pompeo is engaged in brazen —


Unknown speaker: So as you can see what’s going on is the pro-Maduro side tried to hold a press conference since the pro-Guaido people are here to use sound makers, bang on pots and pans and things to basically try to de-platform them so they can’t hold their press conference.

JS: The anti-coup activists have remained in the embassy, even after electricity was cut off last week, water was shut down, and activists have been arrested throughout this action for trying to throw food and supplies to those inside. The very few remaining activists say they have enough supplies to continue their action.

On Monday, law enforcement began a more overt crackdown to remove the activists. A trespassing notice was posted by the D.C. police, and the chains that kept the doors locked shut were removed. Police came in, and a two-hour standoff ensued. The result was that the activists are, essentially, being allowed to stay. Now zip-ties remain on the doors, and threats from the U.S. government and Guaido-appointed “ambassador” to the United States, Carlos Vecchio, are mounting. The remaining days for this protest appear to be numbered, as the activists expect an official U.S. Government order for their eviction to be coming imminently. Earlier this week, the activists released a video message from inside the embassy.

Activist: We are expecting the police to come in and violate the Vienna Convention with their fictional government, their non-government claiming that we should leave. It’s an unlawful order and it will be found that way in the future. But we have no choice but to obey an unlawful order and so we are going to be prepared to be arrested. We’re not going to leave voluntarily. We came here to protect the embassy. We’ve been here for 34 days. We would stay longer, if necessary. We hope that this still results in an agreement between Venezuela and the United States to protect this embassy from the fake government, the fake coup, non-government that the U.S. is pushing forward.

JS: As the attempted coup in Venezuela continues to unfold, the Trump administration is further intensifying its military threats against Iran. This is a policy being largely spearheaded by National Security Advisor John Bolton, who spent his career advocating war and regime change in Iran. The New York Times reporting this week that the career Boeing executive— currently acting as the defense secretary — Patrick Shanahan presented plans last week for sending 120,000 U.S. troops to the region “should Iran attack American forces or accelerate work on nuclear weapons.” On May 5, Bolton announced that the USS Abraham Lincoln and a bomber task force were being deployed near Iran. The administration claims that it has information “that Iran was building up its proxy forces’ readiness to fight and was preparing them to attack American forces in the region.” That’s according to The New York Times.

Now, in addition to all this, Trump is playing an extremely dangerous economic game with China and with the economic health of the United States and its people, workers, families. But the Boeing executive acting as Trump’s defense secretary also suggested this week in an interview with Fox News aboard a plane that he views China as a potential military threat.

Brian Kilmeade: It’s hard to avoid China, what they’re doing in terms of a military build up. Do you look at China as a threat?

Patrick Shanahan: I don’t think we can ignore China any longer.

JS: Joining me now to discuss all of this as well as the fight for the Democratic nomination for president is Bill Fletcher Jr. He is the former president of TransAfrica Forum; a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies; editorial board member of; and Bill has worked in union and labor organizing for many years. Bill, thanks for joining me on Intercepted.

Bill Fletcher Jr.: Jeremy, it’s great to be back online with you.

JS: How do you see this moment that we’re in right now in this country?

BFJ: Many progressive people in the United States misestimated Trump and there were even people that described Trump as a closet peace candidate because they took his isolationist rhetoric too seriously. And what we didn’t appreciate was that isolationism is not necessarily progressive and behind isolationism can often hide very nefarious right-wing objectives and that’s what I think we’re seeing playing out. We’re seeing Trump playing to his xenophobic base. When they think make America great again, well, part of that is make America white again, but we have to really understand it is make America “Leave it to Beaver” again. That is make it back in the 1950s with the predominance of U.S. power.

So, these threats are not only dangerous, they’re completely irrational. The other part though, Jeremy is that dealing with someone like this, it’s frequently hard to determine to what extent they’re engaged in bluffing. Because when you look at this man’s career in business, it has been a series of bluffing and bullying but this time it may go too far. There could be, let’s call it an accident, in the Persian Arabian Gulf. There could be an accident in the Formosa Straits, there could be an accident near Korea that will unleash immense terror.

JS: Who’s driving this ship right now?

BFJ: I think on foreign policy, Pompeo and Bolton absolutely. What Pompeo and Bolton, I think appreciate, and I use that word carefully is that they need to play into Trump’s macho, his self-image. I don’t know that Trump actually wants a war but I think that one of the things that he is set on is readjusting the table. So that’s what I think we see in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that he’s basically made a decision that he will in essence change the situation so that there is no going back. There is no real possibility for two-state solution because he will put things in place that at least in his mind are irreversible and for Bolton, there’s never been a war that Bolton hasn’t been ready to start. He doesn’t seem to appreciate the consequences and frankly, I think the administration totally mis-analyzes Iran. But I also think that they mis-analyze Venezuela.

JS: Of course, we now have seen this week that the people calling themselves the Embassy Protectors, peace activists, anti-war activists and some journalists were inside of the Venezuelan Embassy.

[Protestors chanting.]

JS: They were largely ejected from the embassy and it seems like the Trump administration is trying to essentially take over what is sovereign territory of Venezuela and hand it to their selected leader, the self-declared president of Venezuela Juan Guaido. What’s your analysis of this situation right now with Venezuela and the symbolism of what the administration is doing at the Venezuelan Embassy in Washington D.C.?

BFJ: Well, what they’re doing is patently illegal according to international law. They have no right to enter into sovereign territory. But what’s important, Jeremy, for the listeners to appreciate is that this is an administration that could care less about international law. They are operating in the mode of The Dirty Harry characters of the 1970s and 80s that Clint Eastwood played. The Dirty Harry character, Harry Callahan would point a .44 magnum at someone and say —

Clint Eastwood [as Harry Callahan]: You’re thinking did he fire six shots or only five? Now, to tell you the truth, I forgot myself in all this excitement. But being this is a .44 magnum, the most powerful handgun in the world and will blow your head clean off, you could ask yourself the question do I feel lucky?

BFJ: And essentially what Trump has been doing is pointing that .44 magnum at the people of the world and asking at different points do they feel lucky? Their pointing it at Iran. Their pointing it at Venezuela. One of the things that we have in our favor is that within the political class in the United States there is absolutely no consensus in favor of a war with Iran. None. This is not like the lead-up to Iraq. And in this situation, this is when mass movements and pressure on elected officials really can make a difference and it’s not just about hitting the send button on our emails. It’s about people being in the streets. It’s about people doing the kind of work that was done as you mentioned with the Venezuelan Embassy. People showing up to make their presence known and to defend Venezuelan sovereignty. We need to be doing that on a much larger scale.

JS: When you have a situation where a criminal like Bashar al-Assad is in power in Syria and is engaged in mass killing and you also have the United States, Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, Emirates, all playing violent at times mass murderous roles, how as an anti-imperialist, do you approach what the best strategic but also moral position is on conflicts where intellectually and in a real sense, we recognize these aren’t good people in charge of that country, but at the same time, our hands are not clean? We are not the legitimate brokers of who should be in power around the world in part based on our long bloody track record of interventions for conquest rather than liberation.

BFJ: So, I think in order to answer the question you first have to start with that one of the problems on the left in the United States and in the west as a whole is that after the end of the Cold War we did not have a paradigm or an analysis to properly deal with a very different global situation. In the absence of that paradigm, what was easiest to do for many people was to retreat into the earlier analysis, to act in essence as if nothing really had changed, that instead of recognizing that we were in a multipolar world with various actors, there was a continued belief in many segments of the left that that wasn’t the case, that the U.S. was the only player.

The second thing was a U.S.-centered or centric view that essentially looked at anywhere that the United States showed up, it obviously had to be the main enemy. And this was the failure to do a real analysis. And that’s one of the things that we saw play out in Syria that instead of understanding the growth of a popular democratic movement against Assad and the crushing of that movement that was done by Assad in alliance with Iran, with Russia and Hezbollah, there were too many of us that were searching for what’s the United States role in that and assuming that the United States was the major player. And I think that that was a misanalysis.

The second thing is to understand in looking at a situation, you got to figure out who is the principal enemy? That’s not a matter of principle. In other words, it’s not that one enemy is always the enemy. If that was the case during World War II, there would have been no united front against Nazi Germany, fascist Italy and fascist Japan. It wouldn’t have been possible because clearly you were dealing with powers on the west that had not been very positive, that had played a terrible role in the colonial world, but under specific circumstances, alliances change.

The third thing is that there’s been a reorganization of global capitalism. It’s fundamentally different. That we’ve seen since the 1970s the rise of this sort of transnational capitalist class where the interconnections of capitalists through production and finances is unprecedented and this leads to contradictions that exist within that class and between that class and different nation-state actors. Let’s take Venezuela for a second. I’ve had arguments with people on the left who are suggesting that the criticisms of the Maduro administration, many of which I would argue are quite justifiable, for heavy-handedness, for retreating on many of the promises of the Chavez era, for corruption, etcetera, that these criticisms justify some sort of support for the opposition. And that sort of analysis ignores history. It ignores the historic role of the United States in Latin America. It ignores the issue of basic sovereignty.

Every situation needs to be understood within this post-Cold War global context. And the second piece, is that we have to look at each situation and understand who are the internal and external players and what role is it? Now, this gets complicated, obviously. Let’s just look at Iran for a second. The Iran theocracy is the farthest thing one could imagine from democracy. It is not a democratic administration at all. It is highly repressive, repressive of domestic minority groups, of labor, of women, etcetera. It played a terrible role in Syria. And a very complicated but not very good role in Iraq. Now, in that situation the Trump administration is threatening Iran. Now, do we sit back and say because of these reactionary features in the policy of Iran that we either take a pass on the U.S. threatening of Iran or support it as some people actually did in the lead up to the Iraq War? I’d say no, we have to understand the broader feature here. That one can be adamantly opposed to the Iranian regime while not supporting the jingoistic policies of the United States, the provocative policies to the United States.

JS: Hmm, you know, this is something that I think is also being debated in this Trump moment where you have many of the leading Democrats portraying Trump as the greatest threat to American democratic principles that has ever resided in the White House and, you know, on some issues there, I think it’s very clearly true. And then on the other hand, you’ll have some Democrats supporting Trump getting sweeping executive powers to spy, record-shattering military budgets, support for the Trump-Bolton position on Venezuela coming from none other than Nancy Pelosi. And I think that there is a concern among people who don’t believe that the United States government should be the top of the world that the establishment of both political parties that there is nothing that Trump could do that would be too extreme that would take away support for the solid imperial agenda of the United States. It’s crazy making sometimes when you say well what, where is the opposition party?

BFJ: One is that we have to see the consistencies in what Trump is doing with prior administrations and one of those things is treating Latin America and the Caribbean as the sphere of influence of the United States. That is a consistent policy through every administration and so, Trump is going forward with that. I think that we can see since the 1970s in the western world, the decreasing parameters for democracy. The rise of anti-terrorism legislation and restrictions, restrictions on freedom of speech, etcetera. So as neoliberal globalization consolidated, we saw an accompanying growth of authoritarianism across the world.

So when we look at what’s happening now and what you’re pointing out that at first glance appears to be this inconsistency of Democrats both embracing and attacking Trump, I think we have to understand the consistency since this rise of neoliberal globalization as a whole but also with regard to U.S. policy in Latin America. Having said that, Trump does represent, in my humble opinion, the greatest threat to constitutional democracy we’ve faced since Nixon. It’s not just him and his administration, but it’s the support, encouragement that he’s giving to a right-wing populist movement that is becoming better organized and in some cases armed.

The question that exists within the political class and within the economic elites is at what moment do you put the brakes on this guy? For the Republicans, the answer is pretty simple. You don’t. That Trump is a blunt force object that they’re using to move a broader agenda. For the Democrats, it ends up being more complicated because many of these Democrats remained silent during the Obama administration, during the Clinton administration’s when there were undemocratic moves afoot, at a minimum tolerated and in other cases, actively supported. So there is both this consistency, but there are also these contradictions and it’s important for us to play on those contradictions.

JS: Lay out how you think progressives, leftists should be thinking about the upcoming election and the Democratic primary.

BFJ: First thing is that we have to understand that what’s at stake in 2020 is not just the presidency. I think we have to look at the entire down-ballot situation. The second thing is that Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the most progressive and that one of the things that I love about this moment is that this is a great moment for debate. So, this is a time when it’s important for progressives to get in and to be actively involved in helping to shape the discussion. We’ve got to get Trump out in 2020, but there have to be also the building of independent political organizations that are progressive, that are operating both inside and outside of the Democratic party in order to influence all of these elections, Jeremy.

For a number of years, a segment of the Republican party has been moving a very quiet agenda to advance us to a constitutional convention. That is where the U.S. Constitution can in effect be re-written. Now, once upon a time, many progressives thought that this was just simply a conspiracy fantasy, but it’s not. Who controls state legislatures is essential for blocking that. So, we on the left side of the aisle have to be looking at all of these elections and in the primary period, what’s great about it is where you really can advance a more progressive agenda that talks about vision, talks about where we need to be going and that’s what we need to be doing and it necessitates organization. And we have to figure out how to identify and train the kinds of candidates that really represent the will of working people so that we’re not simply encumbered by whoever the Democratic party establishment puts before us.

Now, you know, I will say, Jeremy, that in November 2020, I’m prepared to vote for almost whoever on the Democratic side is running against Trump. Four more years will undoubtedly mean at least two more openings for Trump to appoint people to the Supreme Court. And as it is with the majority, the conservative majority of the Supreme Court, we may be talking what 20-30 years in order to reverse that. So, the presidential elections are going to be critically important and sitting back or voting third party, I would argue is simply not an option at this point. It’s not about rational arguments with Trump supporters. Rational arguments are going to make no difference. This is a fight about power. On the Democratic side, it’s much more complicated. And although both parties are led by pro-capitalist forces, within the Democratic party, the constituency base is completely different from that of the Republicans.

The problem though is that the progressive forces are insufficiently organized on the Democratic side and frequently are reluctant or unable to make challenges for power. Episodically, yes, but not in a consistent way and that’s what makes it so important that at the level of strategy, we’re fighting and building independent political organizations in the states where we’re actually making challenges. Joe Biden at the level of the presidential primaries should not get a pass any more than Hillary Clinton should have. We should shy away from this issue of electability and recognize that Trump wasn’t supposed to be electable. That electability is something about the nature of the moment, the mass following, how energized people are and levels of organization.

So, now is not the time for premature compromises and going for the okey-doke. Now is the time to build up our forces in order to advance the progressive agenda and to situate progressives were either it is our candidate that ends up at the top of the ticket and our candidates on the down ballot tickets or that we are in significantly influential roles to help to determine the outcome.

JS: I want to thank you very much, Bill for all the work you’ve done over the course of your life and also for joining us here on Intercepted.

BFJ: This is a pleasure, Jeremy. Thanks so much for asking me.

JS: Bill Fletcher Jr. is the former president of TransAfrica Forum, a senior scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies, long time labor organizer and activist. He is on Twitter at @BillFletcherJr.

Dr. Krystal Redman, Executive Director of Spark Reproductive Justice Now in Georgia, Talks About the Spate of New Laws Being Implemented in Several States That Seek to Criminalize Abortion and Women’s Health Care Providers

Sarah Weddington: Mr. Chief Justice, and may it please the court, the instant case is a direct appeal from a decision of the United States District Court for the Northern District of Texas. The court declared the Texas abortion law to be unconstitutional for two reasons. First, that the law was impermissibly vague and second, that it violated a woman’s right to determine to continue or terminate a pregnancy.

NBC News: …is the decision of the United State Supreme Court, it handed down a historic decision about abortion. The court said in a 7-2 decision that in the first three months of pregnancy, only the woman and her physician may decide whether she may have an abortion.

JS: Attempts to erode and eliminate abortion protections have been unrelenting since the 1973 Supreme Court decision protecting a woman’s right to terminate a pregnancy. In the last decade though, about 400 abortion restrictions have been enacted, representing more than a third of all enacted since Roe v. Wade. While many more states are taking steps to protect abortion access, a number of states are passing extreme abortion bans.

Alabama lawmakers would ban the procedure outright. Abortion providers could face felony charges and up to 99 years in prison. Last week, Georgia passed a similar bill banning abortions as early as six weeks, before many women even know they’re pregnant.

Joining me to discuss the implications of the Georgia abortion ban is public health doctor Krystal Redman. She is the executive director of SPARK Reproductive Justice Now an organization defending the full range of family planning options for Georgians.

Krystal Redman, welcome to Intercepted.

Krystal Redman: Absolutely. Thank you for having me.

JS: So last Tuesday, Georgia became the latest state to enact one of these incredibly restrictive abortion laws. Start first by telling us about this bill that passed last week and the implications.

KR: The legislators that pushed this bill were trying to really identify a point of viability which is something that medical professionals do and basically stating that at the point of a heartbeat, that’s when a person can no longer receive or seek abortion care services.

Mark Strassmann: Georgia’s new law shreds the standard set in the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. The U.S. Supreme Court established a woman’s right to an abortion until the fetus is viable outside the womb roughly 24 weeks into a pregnancy.

KR: Their definition of when a heartbeat is detected is up to about six weeks when we know at that point, there’s no heart. What we’re hearing in ultrasound is rhythmic fetal tissue, but it’s not a developed heart. So there’s all these potential medical concerns when you’re speaking specifically about science. Outside of that, other potential implications are the criminalization of not just the person who is pregnant, but also the medical provider. It does not really clarify the difference between a medical abortion and miscarriage meaning if a person was to then have or suffer from a miscarriage is that person now subject to criminalization under the law?

They made an exception for incest and rape victims. So in that case, if a person suffers through the traumatic experience of their body being violated, now, we’re requiring them to report the harm done to their body. We’ve asked in hearings so if a law enforcement person does not believe this person’s story which we know is very common or refuses to report it or what have you because they may accuse this person of just perhaps wanting an abortion. So, like there’s all these other types of criminalization that’s going to be done to Georgians here that folks are not considering especially in relation to our maternal, child health outcomes as they stand.

JS: Can you describe the existing landscape in Georgia when it comes to access to abortion and reproductive health care in general?

KR: We already have restrictive laws as it pertains to just services in general. But with abortion care services, we have a Woman’s Right to Know Act. So, there’s already bans put in place that delays a person’s ability to access those services as it stands. In addition to the pop up these we call them, crisis pregnancy centers, but they are also known as fake clinics that say that they’re here to provide reproductive health services, but they’re really put in place to try to deter someone from making that decision about their bodies if it even includes having an abortion. They have no medical license staff. So, there’s all these different avenues that are regulating bodies here in Georgia and the government has inserted itself to play in the making of a decision about our own personal bodies and lives.

JS: Is this a backdoor attempt to kind of goad people like you or other supporters of women’s reproductive choice into suing so that it goes to an extremely right-wing Supreme Court with the endgame being abolition of Roe v. Wade?

KR: It would be naive of me to think that that’s not a strategy. But what we do know is that for every state that has attempted this, they have been sued and has been stopped in the local courts.

Doug Richards: Georgia is one of six states that have passed heartbeat bills. Courts have already struck down two of them. Lawsuits are pending in three more.

KR: Based on what has happened historically with other states that Georgia is any different, I think we will be able to stop this. Of course, we didn’t foresee this, what we’re going through right now, but I don’t think this is a situation where this can carry on to a larger corridor or really just shift the decision of the Supreme Court Roe v. Wade. But our state is very conservative in its policies and its laws so, the hope and the pulse on the ground is that we believe that we’ll follow suit after the other states and be able to stop this currently. But again, we are still on the ground. We are still strategizing about other ways to dismantle this, if in fact we’re not able to stop it in courts.

JS: And you yourself are a public health doctor and in response to Georgia Governor Brian Kemp signing this bill, you wrote the following: “It is a forced pregnancy bill that denies a person their right to self-determination and bodily autonomy. This is a critical public health issue and if this ban is put in place, it will become an injurious public health crisis for this state.” What are the public health implications of this bill?

KR: Well, I would like to give a scenario. So, in Georgia, we have the worst in our nation maternal health outcomes including morbidity outcomes. So, in terms of obesity, in terms of high blood pressure, in terms of birthing outcomes, when carrying a child to term, in terms of all of these different medical implications that a person has just by nature of living in the state of Georgia, it’s all high risk. One, we’re a state that did not expand Medicaid. So we have folks that fall into the Medicaid gap meaning they don’t have any coverage. We have a multitude of different counties here in Georgia that do not have gynecological services and do not have medical services. Some counties that have to travel up to a hundred miles just to receive emergency care services.

So in addition to that, you have a person that may be underinsured or not insured, who may already have pre-existing medical conditions that they may or may not be aware of because of their limited access to care, who then becomes pregnant and may want to decide an abortion but because of this law — if enacted in January at the top of 2020 — being in place now is being forced into a pregnancy that can cause additional harm to their body and potentially risk their life. This bill does not have any clause to discuss that true living example of a Georgian that what happens to that person then if they choose to decide to have an abortion, what happens to their health care then? So, that’s just one scenario of potential health outcomes. But when you think about the landscape of Georgia, we have to think about all of the health outcomes of our state.

JS: Now prior to working at your current organization SPARK, you were at the Georgia Department of Public Health and there you worked on creating a greater health care access for women around the state of Georgia. And ten years ago, Amnesty International, the human rights organization declared a “maternal health care crisis in the U.S.” and indicated, Amnesty International did, that Georgia was facing the highest maternal death rate. More recent reports suggest that that rate has not improved and that black women in particular, face alarming rates of maternal mortality and pregnancy complications. What do we know about why maternal mortality rates have risen in general in the U.S. and why these disparities in basic reproductive health care or basic health care for women of color, particularly black women are persisting?

KR: We have to think about the demographics and just the data related to black person’s in Georgia. And I won’t just say black women because in this legislature, we have made this issue a very cis-centered issue when we know that queer folks, non-binary folks, intersex folks, trans folks also have abortions. Black folks living in Georgia have historically had poorer health care outcomes just because of the nature of their living conditions. You know, we think about social determinants of health and socioeconomic status and how these things directly affect a person’s ability to live holistically and have full whole health. You also have to think about systemic ways of oppression that bears down on clearly, like black and brown folks specifically in the southeast.

So, I think those variables directly play a huge role in health care outcomes in Georgia. As I said before, because all those different dynamics, there’s inequitable access to health care as well as inequitable access to health insurance. Now if you don’t have access to coverage, how do you get coverage? Like how are you able to take care of your body? How are you able to get the diagnosis that you need to understand what’s going on in your body as well as the medication or the treatment necessary for potentially pre-existing medical conditions?

So, for folks that don’t have this access or have limited access to coverage to where they may have an element of coverage but it’s too expensive for them to actually go to the doctor because their copay is too much or to actually pick up their prescription because a prescription is $100 plus when they only make $200 to $300 a week and have to live. So those are the dynamics of Georgians, of black Georgians here in the south. And I don’t think it’s just directly related to just black cis-women having poor health care outcomes. I think you have to look at the whole scale of what’s going on in black and brown communities.

JS: What strikes you about the way that abortion and reproductive justice or reproductive health issues are discussed in the broader media, debated in these state legislatures? What and who is missing from the conversation in your view?

KR: I think the people who are centered in this legislation is missing. I think that we have a lot of cis, middle-aged white men having conversations and trying to make decisions about bodies that they are not familiar with, that, you know, they would never be able to carry a child in their body and deliver or become pregnant. But they are leading this narrative and conversation around protecting the lives of children and women in our nation and specifically, in Georgia.

State Sen. PK Martin IV: Arguments about the rights and freedoms of women are compelling and they’re not without merit. But they are incomplete and result in injustice and the oppression of the weakest people.

State Rep. Ed Setzler: We’ve established the child, in utero that has a beating heart is a living distinct person that gets full legal rights under Georgia law.

Gov. Brian Kemp: We must protect life at all stages.

KR: The narrative that’s missing too is when we’re speaking about children, when we’re speaking about women, when we’re speaking about people in Georgia, we’re not thinking about all these other health outcomes that I mentioned before. We’re not thinking about children who are in foster care systems that are being abused and under-resourced. When we’re speaking about women, we’re not speaking about incarcerated women. We’re not speaking about how we can implement comprehensive health services behind bars.

We’re not speaking about a multitude of different populations within Georgia. This issue specifically in the south disproportionately affects black folks. I don’t see any black folks having these conversations or being brought into the conversation like folks on the ground, folks who have had abortions, folks that are a part of the reproductive health rights and justice movement. This conversation is centered on legislators. It’s centered on folks who are creating these policies and laws who never, their lives never intersect here, which is very problematic.

JS: Finally, Dr. Krystal Redman, what can or should people be doing to defend reproductive health care and abortion access and abortion rights? What should people be doing around this country right now?

KR: I urge people to truly get involved at whatever capacity that they have. So, if it’s being involved in different direct actions, reaching out to, you know, their local legislators, reaching out to their governor, whatever it may be. Making calls, sending emails, getting other folks galvanized is very important and truly re-engage back into the community so folks can really reactivate that kind of community-built power. Getting connected with advocacy groups such as our group or other groups that are more local to an individual. If you have the means to give financially to organizations that are doing this work on the ground too, as well because of course, with resources builds capacity which builds exposure which builds collective movement and power. So I think those are kind of like the marching orders for folks who may be listening.

JS: Dr. Redman. Thank you very much for joining us.

KR: Thank you for having me.

JS: Dr. Krystal Redman is the executive director of the Georgia-based SPARK Reproductive Justice Now. Find them on Twitter @SPARKRJNOW.

[Music interlude.]

And that does it for this week’s show. You can follow us on Twitter. Our handle is @intercepted. If you like what we do, you can support this show by going to and become a sustaining member. Intercepted is a production of First Look Media and The Intercept. Our lead producer is Jack D’Isidoro, our producer is Laura Flynn. Elise Swain is our associate producer and graphic designer. Our executive producer is Leital Molad. Betsy Reed is editor in chief of The Intercept. Rick Kwan mixed the show. Transcription for this program is done by Nuria Marquez Martinez. Our music, as always, was composed by DJ Spooky. Until next week, I’m Jeremy Scahill.


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