“The Supreme Court on Friday ruled for the Biden administration in an important immigration case, saying Texas and Louisiana lacked the legal standing to challenge the executive branch’s priorities on who should be deported,” the Washington Post reports.
“At issue is a Biden administration policy that says the Department of Homeland Security should focus on arresting recent border crossers and immigrants who pose a threat to public safety, rather than the millions of other noncitizens who have lived here for years.”
At the risk of participating in the overuse of Michael Kinsley’s rule of scandals – “The scandal isn’t what’s illegal, the scandal is what’s legal.” – let’s take another look at the way the Supreme Court’s influence-peddling scandal is being portrayed.
The ostensible sin of Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito is failure to report gifts and freebies from wealthy GOP donors. That leads to a entirely unhelpful debate mired in semantics, legal technicalities, and line-drawing over disclosure requirements. It’s not that the the reporting requirements are meaningless or useless or of no value (though probably less value than you think), it’s that they’re tripwires at best, an alert system.
Put it this way: If Thomas and Alito had disclosed these gifts, it would not have been okay! Or rather, in the norms of DC it would have been okay, but definitely should not have been okay.
A vast, lavishly funded, four-decade campaign to stack the federal judiciary and especially the Supreme Court with reliably indeed inalterably conservative judges is the real corruption here. Sure, more is needed on the ethics front and compliance with ethics rules should not be optional. But it’s like taking a knife to a gunfight.
The flip side of the coin is also true though: The reporting so far isn’t revealing sketchy quid pro quos. The justices aren’t for sale. They’re not crafting opinions based on these freebies. It’s a lot more foundational, insidious, and corrupt than that.
The issue is Leonard Leo and the Federalist Society and a couple of generations of leading lawyers on the right exerting enormous influence over the composition of the judiciary. You don’t fix that or reform the judiciary with nickel-and-dime financial disclosure rules alone.
Be clear about what the problem is.
“President Joe Biden on Friday will sign an executive order designed to protect and expand access to contraception, after a Supreme Court ruling last year overturning the constitutional right to abortion raised fears that birth control could also face restrictions,” Reuters reports.
With red states increasingly eyeing contraception crackdowns as part of their anti-abortion regimes, President Biden will sign an executive order today to protect access to contraception.
Jen Klein, assistant to the President and director of the Gender Policy Council, named a couple of examples on a Thursday call with reporters.
“One is Texas not paying for any form of emergency contraception for low-income women and girls in their state family planning program,” she said. “In Iowa, the Attorney General has suspended payments for emergency contraception for survivors of sexual assault.”
The order comes on the heels of a couple other administration executive orders on reproductive healthcare, similarly limited in scope. President Joe Biden has repeatedly called on Congress to codify abortion protections — a nonstarter with a Republican House — given what he says is his minimal arsenal.
Klein added that on this weekend marking the one-year-anniversary of Dobbs, Friday’s executive order is “the only policy action that you should expect.”
“Abortion pills will remain legal in Wyoming for now, after a judge ruled Thursday that the state’s first-in-the-nation law to ban them won’t take effect July 1 as planned while a lawsuit proceeds,” the AP reports.
Politico: “There is no set time when the Florida Supreme Court will act, but abortion-rights advocates are anticipating the court will allow recently passed restrictions to remain in place.”
The Republican Study Committee is pushing House GOP leadership for a vote on the No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion and Abortion Insurance Full Disclosure Act, Axios reports.
Moderates and some members of GOP leadership are worried the bill could hurt members in swing districts.
At Bedminster last night, Donald Trump said some of the best lawyers and law firms in the country contacted him offering their help but he told them he didn’t need it.
“The former deputy director of Election Day operations for Donald Trump’s 2020 campaign appeared before a federal grand jury Thursday as part of special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into Jan. 6 and efforts to interfere with the lawful transfer of presidential power,” NBC News reports.
“Gary Michael Brown, who has been accused of being involved in the so-called fake electors scheme after the 2020 election, was seen headed into the third-floor grand jury space at a courthouse in Washington, D.C., where a grand jury has been hearing testimony about efforts to stop the transfer of power to President Joe Biden.”
“While Donald Trump was ‘fixated,’ fired up and outraged in the wake of Hunter Biden getting a ‘slap on the wrist’ after being charged with tax and firearm offenses — insiders told us yesterday that the vibe has shifted in the candidate’s inner sanctum,” the New York Post reports.
Said an insider: “It is so quiet over there… The mood has been a bit sour lately.”
Donald Trump’s inner circle suspects that former chief of staff Mark Meadows is cooperating with federal investigators in the various cases against Trump, Rolling Stone reports. Meadows himself has stayed mostly silent, cutting off contact with the former president after initially sticking by him following his 2020 election loss.
“Several members of Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s (R-KY) leadership team on Thursday expressed reluctance about potentially being drawn into an impeachment trial,” Axios reports.
“The upper chamber skepticism cuts against growing energy in the House GOP towards impeaching either President Biden or one of his officials.”
Washington Post: “The last two weeks of the House Republican agenda have largely been directed by far-right lawmakers who have pushed forward, in some cases quickly, proposals addressing issues that will fire up their staunchly conservative base. And on substance, many of their Republican colleagues support them.”
“But simmering tensions about how the House functions have bubbled up into open hostility in recent days. A majority of the Republican conference is growing concerned that the far-right flank will push the boundaries of governing and continue to force votes on red-meat issues that distract from Republicans’ goal of maintaining a unified front while trying to keep the majority in 2024.”
“The secret identities of Republican Rep. George Santos’ bail backers in his federal criminal case were revealed Thursday to be his father and his aunt,” NBC News reports.
“Santos, the scandal-plagued freshman congressman from New York, was arrested last month and charged with numerous crimes including money laundering and wire fraud. After pleading not guilty to all 13 counts against him, Santos was released on a $500,000 bond backed by multiple guarantors, whose names were kept hidden from the public.”
“The House Ethics Committee released an extraordinary statement today regarding embattled Rep. George Santos (R-NY),” Punchbowl News reports.
“The Ethics Committee announced it was looking into Santos’ behavior back in early March, and it has continued with its investigation despite the fact that the Justice Department and other law-enforcement agencies were conducting criminal probes. Usually, Ethics will defer while a criminal probe is underway. But not in this case.”
“This once again demonstrates how badly Republicans want to move against Santos. There’s no effort inside the Ethics Committee to protect him, or there doesn’t appear to be. As much as the panel tries to avoid partisanship, it’s often a huge factor in what happens internally at the Ethics Committee. Not here.”
Financial Times: “Biden’s top national security aide will fly to Denmark this weekend for an unannounced meeting with representatives from India, Brazil and other countries that have not condemned Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a bid to boost support for Kyiv. Officials from South Africa, Turkey and possibly China are expected to attend.”
New York Times: “Schools give patriotic lessons and teach students how to assemble rifles, while textbooks have been rewritten to favor Russia’s view of history. Factories produce uniforms for soldiers fighting Ukraine. Summer camps run by state-owned conglomerates host children from occupied Ukrainian territory.”
“These by-now familiar scenes would hardly bear mention in wartime Russia, except that these were drawn recently from Belarus, an autocratic country of 9.4 million neighboring Russia, Ukraine and the NATO members Poland, Lithuania and Latvia. Long uneasily in the orbit of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, Belarus is increasingly doing his bidding, socially, militarily and economically.”
Time: “Not only in Russia, but across the occupied regions of eastern and southern Ukraine, millions of people absorb the Kremlin line about Ukraine through Russian television. Its central message, like a genocidal fever dream mixed in among gardening shows and soap operas, depicts Ukraine’s existence as a historical mistake, its government a cabal of satanists and neo-Nazis intent on Russia’s destruction.”
“Zelensky, as the main villain in these narratives, does not believe their lack of subtlety makes them any less effective, and he has made it his mission not only to free Ukrainian land from Russian occupation but also to liberate Ukrainians from what he calls the ‘Russian information space.’”
Maricopa County Recorder Stephen Richer is suing former Republican gubernatorial candidate Kari Lake for defamation, the Arizona Republic reports.
“India is set to buy state-of-the-art U.S. drones and jointly produce jet-fighter engines in a multibillion-dollar deal designed to wean New Delhi off arms purchases from Russia,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The deal is expected to be unveiled Thursday in Washington as Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi joined President Biden at the White House on a high-profile visit that includes a formal state dinner. New Delhi had long sought some of the U.S.’s most advanced weaponry and equipment, but Washington was reluctant until now to share such sensitive technology because of India’s past, and continuing, purchases of Russian military gear.”
“John Durham—the special counsel who was appointed by then-Attorney General Bill Barr to investigate the FBI’s investigation of the Trump-Russia scandal and who utterly failed to produce evidence it was a hoax—testified before the House Judiciary Committee on Wednesday,” Mother Jones reports.
“In doing so, he made false statements to Congress. He might even have lied.”
“When Durham came before the committee, House Republicans eagerly picked over the scraps in his final report, which has been much criticized, and they treated him as a hero. But under questioning from Democratic and Republican members, Durham misrepresented key aspects of the Russia scandal, suggesting he was either unfamiliar with basic facts or was purposefully trying to mislead the committee and the American public.”
“An IRS agent who supervised the investigation into President Biden’s son Hunter told lawmakers that Justice Department officials slowed and stymied the investigation, whittling away the most serious evidence of alleged tax crimes,” the Washington Post reports.
“The agent, Gary Shapley, offered a detailed and potentially damning account of prosecutors who were either timid or disinterested when it came to examining the financial misdeeds of Hunter Biden, which Shapley said included instances in which the president’s son treated prostitutes and their travel costs as his business expenses.”
Wall Street Journal: “In contrast to years past when the U.S. Chamber of Commerce drove the pro-business agenda in Washington, some House Republican leaders now prefer to meet directly with state affiliates. The Arizona and Texas state chambers of commerce have met with Speaker Kevin McCarthy of California and Majority Leader Steve Scalise of Louisiana about border security, immigration, trade and regulation.”
“The shift is the latest sign of how the main voice for corporate America has lost influence with Republican decision makers.”
“Vice President Harris now has the second-highest number of tiebreaking votes in the history of the Senate after she voted on a judicial nominee Wednesday,” The Hill reports.
“Harris cast the tiebreaking vote to invoke cloture and end debate on the nomination of Natasha Merle to become a U.S. district judge for the Eastern District of New York. Merle was confirmed by the Senate in a subsequent vote that did not require Harris to break a tie.”
The median age in the United States reached a record high of 38.9 in 2022, the New York Times reports. “The new data adds to the evidence that, like many European and Asian nations, the United States is graying, posing challenges for the work force, the economy and social programs.”
“Low birthrates are the main driver of the nation’s rising median age, experts said.”
The Texas Tribune reports Texas is now 40.2% Hispanic and 39.8% non-Hispanic white.
“Since the late 1930s, sperm counts around the world appear to have dropped significantly. While the decline was initially observed in western countries, there is evidence of the same phenomenon in the developing world, and it seems to be accelerating,” the Financial Times reports.
Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) turned 90 years old today, the Boston Globe reports.
“Many of her fellow women senators have offered the most spirited defense of Feinstein, taking the calls for her to resign as an almost personal offense and furious with what they see as sexism and a double standard in a political system still dominated by men.”