Sat. May 18th, 2024

Morning Report — Trump tests legal shields in political combat

Tyler Mitchell By Tyler Mitchell May9,2024

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Former President Trump’s lawyers will argue to the Supreme Court this week that he can do just about anything he desires and be immune from prosecution, based on the perks of the high office he held and lost.

On Tuesday, Trump and his representatives suggested he has a right while on trial to counter his critics and foes on social media and to the press.

Trump is facing 34 charges in a Manhattan courtroom in a case billed by prosecutors as a criminal conspiracy to influence the 2016 election, in part by partnering with the National Enquirer to pay for and then lock up potentially salacious information that might harm Trump’s standing among voters. The former president denies wrongdoing.

Former tabloid publisher David Pecker, a subpoenaed witness and avowed friend of Trump’s, took the stand for a second day Tuesday to describe helping the 2016 campaign, The Hill’s Niall Stanage reports. An article and photograph at the time about presidential rival Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas), his father and assassin Lee Harvey Oswald was entirely invented by The National Enquirer at the behest of Trump’s team, Pecker testified.

Meanwhile, Trump wants to respond to “a barrage of political attacks,” attorney Todd Blanche told Judge Juan Merchan while defending his client earlier Tuesday against prosecutors’ complaints that he knowingly violated a gag order at least 10 times and should be fined for each instance. The judge’s decision is pending.

The Hill: Prosecutors want Trump held in contempt. What does that mean?

Trump’s appeal to the Supreme Court of absolute immunity is unlikely to hold up, some legal scholars predict. But it’s bought the presidential candidate some time, and that could be key ahead of the Nov. 5 election.

To press ahead with trial preparations, federal prosecutors want a quick decision from the high court, which is expected to rule on the immunity question in late June. It could take three months once the court acts before a federal trial begins. No president or former president has faced criminal prosecution, and Trump is juggling indictments in four jurisdictions while contesting them all.

When the Supreme Court agreed on Feb. 28 to hear the case to be argued today, the justices summed up the issue before them as “whether and if so to what extent does a former President enjoy presidential immunity from criminal prosecution for conduct alleged to involve official acts during his tenure in office.”

The former president says he never sought to subvert the 2020 election, but instead seeks to protect the election system, a strategy of recasting a negative with virtuous intent (The New York Times). Trump’s actions will be fact-checked by witnesses and other evidence while he’s a defendant. He says he’s considering taking the stand during the “hush money” trial.

“I tell the truth,” he said early this month.

3 THINGS TO KNOW TODAY

▪ Millions of salaried workers who earn $59,000 or less may be eligible to earn overtime under a new Labor Department rule.

▪ The Catholic Church should compensate hundreds of thousands of adult victims of sexual abuse in Spain perpetrated by clergy and others, according to a plan approved Tuesday in that country by the minister of the Presidency and Justice.

▪ Noncompete agreements will soon be banned, the Federal Trade Commission ruled by a vote of 3-2 Tuesday. Such written agreements prevent tens of millions of employees from working for competitors or starting a competing business after they leave a job. Businesses plan to contest the rule.

👉 The administration will argue to the Supreme Court today that a federal emergency care law supersedes state bans on abortion in nearly all cases. The Justice Department says hospitals are required under federal law to provide abortions if necessary to stabilize the health of an emergency room patient, regardless of state abortion bans. It’s the second time in as many months that challenges focused on federal law about termination of pregnancies will be heard (The Hill).

LEADING THE DAY

© The Associated Press / J. Scott Applewhite | Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) spoke with reporters Tuesday.

CONGRESS

The Senate on Tuesday passed a $95 billion emergency foreign aid package, ending months of bitter fighting over $61 billion for the war in Ukraine that had deeply divided the Republican Party. The measure passed by a vote of 79 to 18 and now goes to President Biden for his signature, which is expected today.

The package also includes $15 billion in military aid for Israel and $9 billion in humanitarian aid for Gaza and other war-torn areas, which became another flashpoint among conservative Republicans. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who worked for months to get Ukraine aid passed, hailed the vote as a landmark moment (The Hill).

“Today, the Senate sits for a test on behalf of the entire nation. It’s a test of American resolve, our readiness, and our willingness to lead. And the stakes of failure are abundantly clear,” McConnell said Tuesday ahead of the vote. “Failure to help Ukraine stand against Russian aggression now means inviting escalation against our closest treaty allies and trading partners.”

The Hill: These 10 senators helped advance Ukraine aid after voting against it.

SENATE REPUBLICANS ARE TAKING Trump’s policy directives with more than a few grains of salt, signaling they view what he says about issues as mainly for dramatic effect on the campaign trail. Despite Trump’s opposition to the reauthorization of a wireless surveillance program, and the foreign aid package that includes money for Ukraine, both are set to become law.

It’s not as if Republicans are ignoring Trump, writes The Hill’s Alexander Bolton, who notes more House Republicans voted against money for Ukraine than for it. But the 0-2 record on Congress’s big policy bills shows GOP leaders who differ with Trump on policy, notably McConnell, can still wield influence. And Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), while aligned with Trump, has not been afraid to put measures on the House floor that the former president disagrees with.

The Speaker today plans to visit New York’s Columbia University, site of campus pro-Palestinian demonstrations he has called “un-American” (The Hill). Tensions overnight grew at Columbia as a deadline came and went for protesters to dismantle their encampments. West Coast campus protests about the war in Gaza have included arrests and attracted police in riot gear, The Associated Press reports this morning.

▪ Politico magazine: How Johnson shifted from opposing aid for Ukraine to working with Democrats to pass it.

▪ The Hill: McConnell blasted conservative commentator Tucker Carlson on Tuesday for playing a leading role in demonizing the idea of sending military aid to Ukraine.

▪ The Hill: Here’s what’s in the bill that could ban TikTok in the U.S.

WHERE AND WHEN

The House will meet at 9:30 a.m. Friday.

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. Friday.

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will speak at 12:30 a.m. after receiving the endorsement of the North America Building Trades Union at its national legislative conference in Washington. The president will return to the White House following the political event at a nearby Washington hotel.

Vice President Harris will travel to New York City to record an interview at 3 p.m. for the syndicated “The Drew Barrymore Show,” to air on Monday. Harris will return to Washington tonight.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in China through Friday.

Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines (at 11:30 a.m.) and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Charles Q. Brown (at 1 p.m.)are scheduled to discuss global security during a forum hosted by CSIS, the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m.

ZOOM IN

© The Associated Press / Manuel Balce Ceneta | Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) accompanied President Biden Monday to an Earth Day event in Virginia.

POLITICS

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) is emerging as a key surrogate for Biden’s reelection campaign as it targets young people and progressives, pushing his climate agenda as a win for that critical voting bloc. But The Hill’s Alex Gangitano reports Ocasio-Cortez’s surrogacy comes with parameters. She has said she supports Biden’s reelection bid and will stand by him during a climate event, but she has also put pressure on him as an outspoken critic of the administration’s handling of Israel’s war against Hamas. Still, the progressive lawmaker’s support could be critical for Biden, who faces an uphill battle in winning over young voters and getting them to the polls.

“AOC has immense and sustained visibility with young voters and progressives of all ages,” said former Rep. Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), who chaired the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee. “She can play a very impactful role in helping to unite them to stop Donald Trump. She can remind them about Biden’s success in funding climate initiatives, reducing student debt, and more.”

THE BATTLE BETWEEN Rep. Tony Gonzales (R-Texas) and the GOP’s right flank is heating up, writes The Hill’s Mychael Schnell, with hardline conservatives throwing their support behind his primary opponent after the moderate Republican called two of them “scumbags” on national television.

Gonzales kicked the hornet’s nest over the weekend when, during an interview on CNN, he went after Reps. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and Bob Good (R-Va.) in an expletive-laced tirade — “it’s my absolute honor to be in Congress, but I serve with some real scumbags” — before launching personal attacks on his two conservative colleagues. Gaetz and Good — flanked by other hard-liners — shot right back at Gonzales, criticizing his voting record, slamming him as a “Republican in name only” and throwing their support behind his primary opponent, Brandon Herrera, a social media influencer and self-proclaimed Second Amendment activist who has worked to plant himself to the right of Gonzales.

2024 ROUNDUP:

▪ Pennsylvania primary results: Democratic Sen. Bob Casey and Republican Dave McCormick are officially set to face off in a high-stakes Senate battle this fall after winning their uncontested primaries on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Rep. Summer Lee, a first-term progressive Democrat, won her primary, fending off a moderate challenger in a race that centered on her stance on the war in Gaza.

▪ Biden’s campaign has pulled ahead of Trump’s operation in attracting small-dollar donations.

▪ Biden’s recent polling bump in key battleground states has mostly evaporated amid a deep current of pessimism about the trajectory of the economy, according to a new Bloomberg News/Morning Consult poll. Biden is ahead in just one of the seven states most likely to determine the outcome of his matchup with Trump.

▪ Reuters rounded up foreign policy proposals Trump has pledged to institute if he’s elected in November.

▪ Reacting to Trump’s vow to order the Justice Department to investigate his political opponents, FBI Director Christopher Wray said he would not allow his agents to conduct any investigation that doesn’t comply with “our rules, our procedures, our best practices, our core values.”

▪ Former Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who was ousted from the House last year, dropped his bid Tuesday as an independent House candidate.

▪ As Trump mulls his VP pick, abortion-rights group EMILY’s List is warning about “extremist” candidates. The group’s president says voters are living in a “state of chaos and cruelty” because of Trump’s record on reproductive rights.

▪ A federal judge on Monday struck down a North Carolina law that criminalized voting by people with felony convictions.

▪ In North Carolina, Planned Parenthood’s political arm plans to spend $10 million for voter engagement efforts to elect candidates who support abortion rights.

ELSEWHERE

© The Associated Press / Abdel Kareem Hana | Israel’s airstrike in Deir al Balah in Gaza Tuesday darkened the sky.

INTERNATIONAL

ISRAELI STRIKES INTENSIFIED across Gaza on Tuesday, bringing some of the heaviest shelling in weeks as the army ordered fresh evacuations in the north of the strip, warning civilians they were in a “dangerous combat zone.” The renewed shelling and bombing of northern Gaza comes almost four months after the Israeli army announced it was drawing down its troops there, saying Hamas no longer controlled those areas (Reuters).

The Biden administration on Tuesday said Israel has taken “significant steps” to improve the flow of aid to Gaza over the last three weeks but stressed more work needs to be done (Axios). Meanwhile, Israel has procured tens of thousands of tents for Palestinian civilians it intends to evacuate from Rafah in southern Gaza in the coming weeks ahead a promised assault on the city it sees as the last bastion of Hamas (Reuters).

▪ The New York Times: The United Nations’ human rights office on Tuesday called for an independent investigation into two mass graves found after Israeli forces withdrew from hospitals in Gaza.

▪ ABC News: Israel is threatening to strike Iran directly if Iran launches an attack from its territory.

▪ The Hill: Former Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu should resign and is an “obstacle” to a U.S.-endorsed two-state solution between Israel and Gaza.

SOLDIERS ON THE FRONT LINES in Ukraine say the final approval of the U.S.’s aid package will serve as a big morale boost as Russia looks to step up its attacks on the country. For months, Ukrainian soldiers on the front lines have spoken of being badly outgunned by Russian forces, and President Volodymyr Zelensky recently said the ratio was 10-to-1 in Russia’s favor.

While American officials will not say so openly, a source told CNN that much of the military aid is already pre-positioned in storage facilities in Germany and Poland, speeding up deliveries into Ukraine. Pentagon spokesperson Maj. Gen. Pat Ryder said last week that the Department of Defense was “poised to respond quickly,” once any order was given.

“As you know, we have a very robust logistics network that enables us to move materiel very quickly,” he said. “As we’ve done in the past, we can move within days.”

The congressional aid package will provide Ukraine with much-needed relief to stabilize the front lines, The Hill’s Brad Dress reports, but Kyiv still faces an uphill battle this year to achieve critical war aims. Among the first weapons to be sent are likely artillery and air defenses, a critical piece of Kyiv’s defense that has dwindled with the delay of more aid. But more ambitious goals, such as retaking more territory in a renewed counteroffensive, may not happen this year, analysts say.

▪ The New York Times: In Ukraine, new American technology won the day — until it was overwhelmed. Project Maven was meant to revolutionize modern warfare. But the conflict in Ukraine has underscored how difficult it is to get 21st-century data into 19th-century trenches.

▪ Reuters: As Ukraine’s efforts to conscript enough men to fight Russia are stymied by public skepticism, defense officials and military units are embarking on a multi-pronged charm offensive to recruit a citizens’ army to resist the invasion.

OPINION

■ I thought the Bragg case against Trump was a legal embarrassment. Now I think it’s a historic mistake, by Jed Handelsman Shugerman, opinion contributor, The New York Times.

■ Why American students need to get back to China, by Bailey Johnson, Daria Kurushina, Lea Thome and Chengkai Xie, opinion contributors, The Hill. 

THE CLOSER

© The Associated Press / Mary Altaffer | New research shows Americans, especially young people, have become more compassionate in recent years.

And finally … 🫂 Despite political division, global conflict and a near-constant news cycle, Americans are more compassionate, not less, according to updated research.

Empathy had been plummeting over decades, according to a landmark study of college students released in 2011 by researcher Sara Konrath. A few months ago, Konrath and her colleagues published an update, finding that empathy among young Americans is rebounding to levels indistinguishable from the highs seen in 1970s research.

It’s not entirely clear what caused the rebound, but recently, researchers chronicled a “pandemic of kindness,” as charity donations and volunteering increased during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is empathy and do you have it? Take a quiz HERE.

Tyler Mitchell

By Tyler Mitchell

Tyler is a renowned journalist with years of experience covering a wide range of topics including politics, entertainment, and technology. His insightful analysis and compelling storytelling have made him a trusted source for breaking news and expert commentary.

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2 thoughts on “Morning Report — Trump tests legal shields in political combat”
  1. It’s concerning that Trump’s legal team is trying to push the boundaries of immunity from prosecution. The idea that a former president can do anything without consequences sets a dangerous precedent for the rule of law.

  2. As a legal expert, I find it concerning that Trump’s legal team is attempting to push the boundaries of executive privilege to shield him from prosecution. It sets a dangerous precedent if a former president can evade accountability for alleged criminal actions. The Supreme Court’s decision on this matter will have significant implications for the rule of law in the U.S.

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