DOJ says privileged documents among Mar-a-Lago records, Serena Williams wins: 5 Things podcast

On today’s episode of the 5 Things podcast: DOJ says some privileged documents identified in Mar-a-Lago records

Hear the latest aftermath from the unprecedented search. Plus, education reporters Alia Wong and Kayla Jimenez look at a teacher shortage, NASA’s Artemis 1 launch is temporarily scrapped, political reporter Ken Tran explains how local election officials are being pushed to the limit and the final U.S. Open of Serena Williams’ career continues

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I’m Taylor Wilson and this is 5 Things you need to know Tuesday, the 30th of August, 2022. Today, the DOJ identifies privileged documents in Mar-a-Lago records. Plus a nationwide teacher shortage and more.

Here are some of the top headlines:

  1. Supporters of an influential Iraqi Shi’ite cleric fired rocket-propelled grenades and machine guns into Iraq’s Green Zone today, and security forces returned fire. It’s the latest escalation of a months-long political crisis in the country. At least 30 people have died after two days of unrest.
  2. The World Health Organization’s top director in the Western Pacific, Dr. Takeshi Kasai, has been removed from his post. That’s after an AP investigation found that dozens of staffers accused him of racist, abusive, and unethical behavior.
  3. And a prosecutor yesterday announced a widespread indictment, targeting members of what she called, “a violent street gang,” that’s been targeting the Atlanta area homes of famous athletes and entertainers. The indictment says Mariah Carey, wide receiver Calvin Ridley, and others, had their homes broken into.

The Justice Department notified a federal judge yesterday that authorities had identified a limited set of materials seized from Mar-a-Lago this month that may contain information protected by attorney-client privilege. The Justice Department filing comes after a US district judge signaled her intent to appoint a special third-party master to screen documents taken from former President Donald Trump’s Florida residence. But the new Justice filing seems to show that federal authorities had already assigned a so-called privileged review team. Trump lawyers had requested that a third party sort and review material that may not be relevant, or information that may be designated as privileged. AP reporter Eric Tucker explains.

Eric Tucker:

We are learning new details about the FBI investigation into the presence of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago. The Justice Department submitted a brief court filing today in which it said it had already completed its review of potentially privileged documents recovered from Mar-a-Lago earlier this month. It said it had retrieved and located a subset of potentially privileged documents related to the attorney-client privilege. They submitted this filing because the Trump legal team has requested the appointment of a special master to do its own review of potentially privileged documents recovered from Donald Trump’s estate.

The Justice Department, in saying that it has already completed its review of the documents, is effectively suggesting that the appointment of a special master is no longer necessary or important, because it is saying that it has effectively already done the work that a special master would be tasked with doing.

Thursday, we’re going to hear arguments in a court in Florida, in West Palm Beach, about the Trump legal team’s request for a special master. The Justice Department filing today suggests the department views that request as effectively moot because it’s already finished its review. But we’re anticipating that the Trump legal team is going to continue to push forward for the appointment of the special master to review documents for potential privilege concerns. And the judge on Saturday, Judge Aileen Cannon, who’s overseeing the case, signaled that she was sympathetic to the Trump legal team. And she said that her preliminary intent was indeed to appoint a special master. We have not heard from her since the filing to know whether or not she’s been affected or swayed by what the Justice Department said today.

Taylor Wilson:

The legal dispute is playing out as a separate court in Florida authorized the release of the redacted affidavit used to support an unprecedented search at Trump’s property. It indicates that possible evidence of obstruction could be found at Trump’s home. In the affidavit, federal investigators also revealed that an initial collection of 15 boxes of documents, transferred from Mar-a-Lago to the National Archives in January, had 184 classified documents. That’s prompted a separate assessment of whether the unsecured documents pose any new threat to national security. In its new filing yesterday, the Justice Department said that US intelligence officials are in the process of that assessment.

Students across the country are heading back to school over the next few weeks. But will there be enough teachers to meet them there? Producer PJ Elliott spoke with education reporters Alia Wong and Kayla Jimenez to find out.

Alia Wong:

So the reasons aren’t all that surprising, it’s a really difficult political climate that has led to a lot of distrust in teachers and a lot of resistance to them. So it’s just, frankly, not an appealing time to be an educator.

Pay has remained relatively stagnant. There have been a few districts that have moved to raise salaries, but overall there’s really sort of low public investment in this profession. And all of this has led to record low morale.

Fewer than half of all teachers agree that the “stress and disappointments” of their jobs are worth it. And that has been a significant decline from the three-fourths of teachers who said the same thing before the pandemic.

PJ Elliott:

So Kayla, I’m going to toss it to you here now. What are the schools doing to fill these positions and replace these teachers that are leaving?

Kayla Jimenez:

And I go back to the note from the president of the NCTQ and she said that schools are lowering their barriers for entry. And so there are schools in 12 states, I believe, since last year alone, have lowered those barriers. And so we’re seeing that some others are offering really high sign-on bonuses and others are asking teachers to fill in for other teachers. And we saw that, too, there’s a substitute shortage as well.

One of the teachers that I spoke to, Hong Anh Hong, from San Jose, California, when I walked in to interview her, she told me that she was exhausted because she had filled in for her colleagues’ prep periods for the past five days. So she didn’t have a break and she was supervising school lunches and breaks. So that, too, schools are grappling with that substitute and staff. Also there’s staffing shortages, which maybe Alia, you want to touch on.

Alia Wong:

Yeah. So schools are also struggling with shortages in a lot of these support roles, not only paraprofessionals, but also school bus drivers, custodians, the kind of staff that, frankly, we don’t give a lot of attention to normally. Without these other personnel who really contribute to the school ecosystem, students will really struggle to have the engaging experiences they need at a time when the stakes arguably haven’t been higher. This is the fourth school year that will have been somehow affected by COVID. The onus is really on schools now to catch up students to where they need to be had a pandemic not occurred. And that’s particularly true for the students of color, this low income students, whose progress fell furthest behind due to remote learning.

Taylor Wilson:

NASA’s Artemis 1 mission, which was scheduled to launch yesterday, was scrubbed. Official cited an engine cooling issue and other concerns that came during final preparations. The mission was set to bring three test dummies to the moon and back. And the next flight window is now Friday at the earliest. NASA Administrator Bill Nelson.

Bill Nelson:

I am very proud of this launch team. They have solved several problems along the way, and they got to one that needed time to be solved. This is a brand new rocket. It’s not going to fly until it’s ready. There are millions of components of this rocket and its systems, and needless to say, the complexity is daunting when you bring it all into the focus of a countdown.

Taylor Wilson:

This will be the first flight in NASA’s Artemis project. It aims to put astronauts back on the moon for the first time since the Apollo mission ended 50 years ago.

America’s local election officials are being pushed to their limits. A lack of enough funding, staff shortages, and abusive phone calls are just some of the problems they face, as political reporter Ken Tran tells PJ Elliott ahead of this fall’s midterms.

Ken Tran:

They’re feeling sort of prospective. They’ve always done a lot of work that goes unnoticed by a lot of voters. For example, when you go to a polling place, you go in and you vote and that’s it. But election officials have always dealt with lack of funding, staffing shortages. Now, after the 2020 election, harassment and threats.

So going into the midterm elections now, it’s sort of all ramping up and coming together to sort of… It’s become the final nail in the coffin for a lot of officials. And they’re starting to get worried that a lot of them are leaving and it doesn’t bode well for either the midterms or 2024.

PJ Elliott:

Ken, let’s go more into that. You just said the consequences for 2024 in future elections. What do you mean by that exactly?

Ken Tran:

So one thing I heard a lot from officials, that there’s a lot of institutional knowledge that’s really hard to replicate. And a lot of these officials have been in the job for decades, 10, 20, 30 years. But since a lot of them are leaving, there are a lot more younger officials now to fill in those shoes. But again, they don’t possess that institutional knowledge that these older directors had. And in North Carolina, for example, their election law book, according to one official, was three and a half to four inches thick. That’s something you can’t really teach a new official in advance of an election and in maybe a year or two years. It takes a really long time to learn all that and be able to address any sort of mishaps that might happen in running an election.

PJ Elliott:

In your article, you wrote about the logistical nightmare that these local election officials have to face. Can you talk more about that?

Ken Tran:

So one thing that an official described as a logistical nightmare has been a new problem of just mountains and mountains of public records requests from Donald Trump’s false claims of election fraud in the 2020 election. Their elections have faced a lot more scrutiny now and more people, just ordinary voters, are sending in public records requests to sort of see what’s going on.

One, now retired, official, told me that the ratio compared to 2018, of records requests, is now five to one. And these requests sometimes are the exact same. People will send five of the same requests and it has this exact same wording and they’re requesting the exact same things. And also they request documents sometimes going back to really old elections, like 2000. And election office don’t hold documents that far back, so they have to figure out a way to get them to fill those requests, because they’re legally obligated to.

And also some of these requests ask for, to look at signatures or maybe date of births to verify ballots, for example. But that’s something that they can’t provide. So they have to redact all these minute things for each request and they can’t just say, “No, we can’t do that.” Because they’re legally obligated to.

Taylor Wilson:

You can find Ken’s full story with a link in today’s episode description.

It’s the final US Open of Serena Williams’ historic career. She’s won the tournament six times, and began her final run with a win last night, in straight sets, over Danka Kovenić. A slew of celebrities were in attendance at her match, ranging from former President Bill Clinton to Mike Tyson. And her super fans from across the country and the world have flocked to New York this week to celebrate the 40 year old’s legendary career as one of the greatest athletes of all time. Fan Paula Hughes is one of them.

Paula Hughes:

We saw her as a young child being able to navigate these predominantly white spaces and the fact that she didn’t have to downplay herself. And she could wear her hair with beads at the end I have today, or she could be as loud or fun and crazy and vibrant as her personality in every single form as it came. And she never had to water herself down to be able to excel in these places. It’s really so touching, and that’s a story that resonates with all of us.

Taylor Wilson:

Serena will next play No. 2 seed Annett Kontaveit in the second round tomorrow. Meanwhile, on the men’s side, top seed Daniil Medvedev began his tournament with a win yesterday, while No. 2 Rafael Nadal will kick things off tonight. You can tune in on the ESPN networks.

Taylor Wilson:

And you can find 5 Things every morning, right here, wherever you’re listening right now. Thanks to PJ Elliott for his great work on the show, and I’m back tomorrow with more of 5 Things from USA TODAY.