The Florida Supreme Court heard arguments Friday on a case that will decide the future of abortion rights in the state. And there’s one very big conflict of interest: One of the justices ruling on the case is married to a Republican state representative who co-sponsored the six-week abortion ban.
Since Roe v. Wade was overturned, Florida has allowed abortion up to 15 weeks, making the state a major hub for people seeking abortions in the South. Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law in April that would ban abortion after six weeks, before most people even know they are pregnant. If the state Supreme Court upholds the 15-week ban and dismisses the legal challenge in the case it is now hearing, then the more radical six-week ban will automatically go into effect.
The seven-justice bench includes five conservatives appointed by DeSantis, who has made his opposition to abortion access clear. It also includes Charles Canady, who refuses to recuse himself from the case.
Canady is married to state Representative Jennifer Canady, who co-sponsored the six-week ban. Again, the Supreme Court’s ruling in this case will directly impact whether the six-week ban is triggered into law.
Prior to serving as a justice, Canady was a Florida representative during the 1990s. While on Capitol Hill, he sponsored multiple bills to ban “partial-birth abortion,” which is not a thing.
Unfortunately, even despite Canady’s refusal to recuse himself, the rest of the court does not offer much more hope.
Another justice, Meredith Sasso, is married to DeSantis loyalist Michael Sasso. DeSantis appointed Michael Sasso as vice chairman of the controversial Disney oversight board. Sasso resigned in May, although he did not explain why. While the Disney case has no bearing on abortion, Justice Sasso’s close link to DeSantis could indicate how she leans on reproductive rights.
Arguments did not get off to a strong start Friday when a third justice, Carlos G. Muniz, suggested that legal abortion violated fetal personhood. Anti-abortion activists argue that humanity begins at conception and thus fetuses should be afforded legal rights. But health experts warn this line of thinking could be used to criminalize doctors who provide lifesaving care.
If the 15-week ban is upheld and the six-week ban allowed to take effect, abortion access will effectively be wiped out throughout the southern United States. North Carolina Republicans recently forced through a law banning abortion at 12 weeks, and South Carolina Republicans passed a law banning the procedure at six. All three states had become abortion havens in the South after the fall of Roe.
Abortion rights advocates in Florida, though, are hopeful they can win back abortion protections. The abortion rights group Floridians Protecting Freedom is working to get an abortion rights referendum on the state’s 2024 ballot. The group says it has collected nearly three-quarters of the 900,000 verified signatures from registered voters required for the ballot initiative.
If it succeeds, then abortion protections would likely be enshrined in the state constitution, overriding any laws the legislature has passed. A February study by the Public Religion Research Institute found that 64 percent of Floridians believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases.
Justice Samuel Alito refused Friday to recuse himself from an upcoming Supreme Court case, even though one of the attorneys in the suit published fawning profiles of him in The Wall Street Journal.
The reason? Recusing from cases that involve longtime colleagues would “disrupt” the Supreme Court’s work, Alito argued.
Senate Democrats warned Chief Justice John Roberts last month that Alito had violated ethical standards by sitting for two Wall Street Journal interviews with lawyer David Rivkin, because Rivkin was also representing a couple asking the Supreme Court to review a tax case. But Alito pushed back Friday, arguing that recusing himself would actually be detrimental to the high court’s work.
“When Mr. Rivkin participated in and co-authored the articles, he did so as a journalist, not an advocate,” Alito said in a statement.
“We participate in cases in which one or more of the attorneys is a former law clerk, a former colleague, or an individual with whom we have long been acquainted. If we recused in such cases, we would regularly have less than a full bench, and the Court’s work would be substantially disrupted and distorted.”
It’s highly unusual for justices to sit for interviews. But Alito has regularly given preferential treatment to the Journal’s editorial page, which is known for its ultraconservative leaning. In one of the interviews with Rivkin and Journal editorial page features editor James Taranto, Alito argued Congress has no “authority” to require the justices to adopt a formal code of ethics. Both articles were published in the Journal’s opinion section and praised Alito’s work. In yet another op-ed, which Alito wrote himself, he tried to defend accepting luxury vacations from conservative donors.
The justices’ behavior has come under intense scrutiny following the revelations that Alito and Clarence Thomas have accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars’ worth of vacations and other gifts from Republican donors over the years. Neither justice disclosed any of the gifts.
The Supreme Court has operated since its creation without a formal code of ethics, and largely without supervision. Congress has begun to push for legislation that would require the bench to adopt a formal code, but many of the justices—Alito in particular—have been resistant.
Senator Lindsey Graham and former Georgia Senators Kelly Loeffler and David Perdue all narrowly escaped charges for their role in trying to overturn the 2020 election, according to a new report from the Georgia grand jury.
Trump and 18 co-defendants were indicted in August for trying to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results and charged with felony racketeering. The special grand jury’s full report was released Friday, and it revealed that Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis had left several major players out of her 41-count indictment.
The grand jury had also recommended that Graham, Loeffler, and Perdue be indicted for their role in trying to overturn Georgia’s 2020 election results. Other people Willis left out include Trump’s lawyers Boris Epshteyn and Lin Wood, former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn, and Republican strategist Cleta Mitchell.
Graham, a steadfast Trump loyalist, had been summoned to testify before the grand jury over a phone call he had made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. According to Raffensperger, Graham asked whether the secretary had the power to throw out all mail-in ballots from certain counties.
Raffensperger told The Washington Post he felt Graham was asking him to illegally discount valid ballots. This phone call occurred a week before Trump’s own infamous phone call to Raffensperger, during which he begged the secretary to “find” the exact amount of votes needed to flip Georgia to Trump. Raffensperger held firm in both cases.
Loeffler and Perdue, also both vocal Trumpists, had embraced and actively pushed Trump’s false claim that the election had been rigged. A log of text messages that Loeffler had sent and received after the 2020 election was called for Biden showed her thought process behind deciding to challenge the vote results. Perdue, for his part, filed a lawsuit alleging that fraudulent or counterfeit ballots had been counted in Georgia’s most populous county.
Both senators were fighting to stay in office at the time. Loeffler and Perdue ultimately lost to Senators Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff in a runoff election, a historic upset that flipped the Senate to Democratic control. Trump’s repeated claims of election fraud are widely considered to be factors that led to Loeffler’s and Perdue’s defeat.
Republicans have lost so many elections over abortion that they’re thinking of changing up their strategy.
No, they’re not introducing better policies. They’re picking a term other than “pro-life.”
Republicans have suffered a steady stream of losses over abortion rights since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022. During a Senate Republicans closed-door meeting this week, GOP strategists said the issue was how voters react to the term “pro-life” and suggested coming up with a new label, NBC reported late Thursday.
The strategists encouraged lawmakers to be as specific as possible when they discuss their stances on abortion. Senator Todd Young came up with the brilliant phrase “pro-baby policies.”
Senator Josh Hawley summed up what he thought the problem was: “Most voters think [‘pro-life’] means you’re for no exceptions in favor of abortion ever, ever, and ‘pro-choice’ now can mean any number of things,” he told NBC. “So the conversation was mostly oriented around how voters think of those labels; that they’ve shifted. So if you’re going to talk about the issue, you need to be specific.”
“You can’t assume that everybody knows what it means,” he added. “They probably don’t.”
It actually seems pretty clear that voters do know what “pro-life” means. Since Roe was overturned, Republicans have banned abortion completely in 14 states. In many other states, Republicans have limited abortion access with cruel laws to the point that the procedure is effectively banned anyway.
Meanwhile, the vast majority of Americans—62 percent, to be exact—believe abortion should be legal in all or most cases. They have repeatedly demonstrated this at the voting booth. If a referendum to increase abortion rights is on the ballot, or if a candidate runs on a pro-abortion platform, then people always vote to protect abortion, even in traditionally Republican strongholds.
The Senate meeting is one of the first times that Republicans have openly acknowledged they are suffering losses over abortion, but they are taking the completely wrong lesson away.
“I think their messaging was not the problem,” Christina Reynolds, a spokesperson for Emily’s List, told NBC. Emily’s List is a nonprofit that promotes female-identifying candidates who support abortion rights.
“Their position is the problem, and they’re going to be stuck with those positions.”
Donald Trump’s former adviser and top loyalist Peter Navarro was convicted Thursday of criminal contempt of Congress for failing to comply with a subpoena from the congressional January 6 investigative committee.
Navarro was indicted in June 2022 for failing to provide testimony and failing to provide documents to the House select committee investigating the January 6 insurrection. He has said he didn’t comply with the subpoenas because Trump had told him to claim executive privilege—except Trump failed to tell the January 6 committee about this, nor did he submit anything to back up Navarro’s claim. The jury deliberated for just four hours before returning the guilty verdict.
“That man thinks he’s above the law,” prosecutor John Crabb said during closing arguments. “In this country, nobody is above the law.”
Each of the two counts against Navarro carries a maximum one-year prison sentence, as well as a maximum $100,000 fine. Navarro is the second Trump ally to be found guilty of defying a subpoena related to January 6. Former Trump adviser Steve Bannon was similarly found guilty of contempt of Congress last year for refusing to comply with a January 6 committee subpoena. He was sentenced to just four months in prison and a $6,500 fine. Bannon appealed his case and has yet to serve his sentence.
Navarro had tried to claim executive privilege before the trial too. He argued that Trump had directed him to assert privilege so he could avoid the charges. Presiding Judge Amit Mehta rejected Navarro’s request last week.
Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy desperately tried to tweet a CNN town hall into existence.
Ramaswamy announced in a post on X, formerly known as Twitter, last week that he would be appearing in a CNN town hall in New York on September 12. But sources familiar with the matter told Semafor that the event was never actually confirmed.
One source said that Ramaswamy wrote the tweet after CNN told his campaign that the event would not take place on that day, and that it was an attempt to “will it into existence.” Apparently Ramaswamy’s team was so sure that the town hall would happen that some of them bought tickets to the U.S. Open because they planned to be in New York that week.
In a statement, a CNN spokesperson said that CNN does not currently have an event scheduled with Ramaswamy. “The information in Mr. Ramaswamy’s post is incorrect and there is not a CNN Town Hall currently planned for September 12th,” the spokesperson told Semafor.
When shown the statement from CNN, Tricia McLaughlin, a spokesperson for Ramaswamy’s campaign, said that they had confirmed the September 12 slot and even selected a moderator.
Lying on Twitter is just another page Ramaswamy seems to be taking out of the Trump playbook, but too bad for him he doesn’t have the power of manifestation to back it up.
Elon Musk personally foiled a Ukrainian attack on Russia last year when he cut off Starlink internet service near the Crimean coast, according to excerpts from a new biography of the Tesla founder.
Musk became involved with the war shortly after Russia invaded in February 2022, when he agreed to set up a nationwide network of satellite internet terminals, called Starlink, throughout Ukraine. This would help protect against Russian cyberattacks and allow the Ukrainian military to maintain constant contact while on the battlefield. An August profile of Musk in The New Yorker by Ronan Farrow revealed that Musk repeatedly threatened to cut off Ukraine’s access to Starlink, which has become crucial to the country’s military success.
In Walter Isaacson’s new biography, Elon Musk, which will be released next week, he reveals that in one incident last year, Musk ordered his engineers to turn off the Starlink communications satellites just as explosives-laden Ukrainian submarine drones approached a Russian naval fleet. The submarines “lost connectivity and washed ashore harmlessly,” Isaacson wrote.
Musk apparently was worried the attack would spark a “mini-Pearl Harbor” should Russia respond with nuclear weapons—based on conversations he was having with Russian officials. So his solution was to insert himself into a conflict in which he has no business meddling nor experience in solving.
Ukrainian soldiers have also lost internet connection on the front lines in other regions, forcing battalions to retreat or commanders to drive into battle just to be in radio range. U.S. and Ukrainian officials told The New Yorker they believed SpaceX, which manages Starlink, had cut off the internet terminals in certain areas, including major battlefields—including Zaporizhzhia, Kharkiv, and Donetsk.
Musk has said he takes issue with Starlink being used for warfare and has previously advocated for a peaceful end to the Ukraine war. Except, his ideas for peace involve talking to Russian President Vladimir Putin and coming up with a “peace plan” that involves ceding swathes of Ukraine to Russian control.
Musk keeps saying his ultimate goal is to “de-escalate” the war and achieve peace. But all of his actions seem more geared toward making him the center of attention, no matter what.
The special counsel investigating Hunter Biden plans to indict the first son on a gun charge. The only problem is that the conservative Supreme Court may have already overturned the law Biden allegedly violated.
Biden had initially agreed to a deal in which he would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanor charges of tax evasion and participated in a pretrial program for a gun offense, allowing him to avoid jail time. When that deal fell apart in July, the Justice Department appointed David Weiss as a special counsel to investigate Biden further.
Weiss announced his plan Wednesday to indict Biden on just the gun charge by the end of the month. The charge is over Biden answering “no” on a federal form he filled out while buying a handgun when asked if he was an “unlawful user” of drugs. Biden has struggled with crack cocaine addiction and was having trouble staying sober at the time.
Except Weiss may not actually be able to bring the charge. Last year, the Supreme Court significantly loosened gun control laws when the conservative majority ruled that Americans have a general right to arm themselves in public. Biden’s lawyers have already argued that the ruling makes trying to prosecute the first son on gun charges pointless.
The Supreme Court ruling has already been cited in another, much lower-profile case. The Fifth Circuit appeals court ruled in August that drug users shouldn’t be automatically banned from owning guns. The court overturned the conviction of a Mississippi man who had two guns in his car during a 2022 traffic stop and admitted to regular marijuana use, although he was not driving under the influence at the time.
“Our history and tradition may support some limits on an intoxicated person’s right to carry a weapon, but it does not justify disarming a sober citizen based exclusively on his past drug usage,” the three-judge panel said in the ruling.
Republicans have complained that Biden got a “sweetheart” plea deal and that the Justice Department has treated him with kid gloves. But it might be a little harder to take issue with Biden being exonerated by a ruling from the Supreme Court, which was stacked with conservatives by GOP leader Donald Trump.
Donald Trump is planning a “family-style” candlelight dinner with his two adult sons at Mar-a-Lago to help pay the legal bills of his co-defendants and witnesses, according to The Messenger.
While the details of the event are still being worked out, it is expected to raise somewhere between $500,000 and $1 million for the Patriot Legal Defense Fund, a fund set up to pay the legal bills of others implicated across Trump’s four indictments.
Similar to previous fundraisers at Mar-a-Lago, the dinner will be held in one of the resort’s private dining rooms where the table can seat about two dozen attendees. “It’s a family-style dinner, very intimate and exclusive,” said one Trump official.
The Patriot Legal Defense Fund was created by a group of Trump allies led by Michael Glassner, a longtime Trump adviser. Before that, the Save America super PAC was primarily footing the legal expenses of the former president and his allies caught up in the indictments. Sources told The Messenger that Save America will primarily cover Trump’s legal expenses and work in tandem with the Patriot Legal Defense Fund.
While the Patriot Legal Defense Fund is technically separate from both Save America and Trump’s 2024 campaign, allowing it to sidestep the Federal Election Committee’s campaign finance rules, there are some ethical questions remaining. The fund’s website originally redirected clicks to “Donate Now” to Trump’s campaign website, according to The Daily Beast.
Trump is already hosting a $100,000-per-plate fundraiser on Thursday night for Rudy Giuliani, who has been embroiled in an expensive series of lawsuits that have left the former mayor broke and begging for financial assistance.
As the legal bills continue to pile up, these fundraisers will only become more frequent, and it’s possible that the number of people willing to shell out for an expensive dinner with the Trumps will wane. Either way, there is no way that $100K chicken tastes that good.
Vivek Ramaswamy is so committed to sucking up to Donald Trump that he won’t even explain his own past criticism of the former president.
Trump was banned from Twitter and Facebook days after the January 6 riot for inciting violence on the platforms. Ramaswamy criticized the tech giants’ move in a Wall Street Journal opinion piece as a violation of free speech, but he also had some choice words for Trump himself. Ramaswamy described the riot as “disgraceful” and called Trump’s actions “egregious” and “downright abhorrent” on Twitter.
But now that he is running against Trump for president, Ramaswamy is confusingly and aggressively refusing to address his comments. When MSNBC’s Mehdi Hasan pressed him about the criticisms Wednesday night, Ramaswamy did everything he could to avoid actually answering the question.
“What did Donald Trump do, in your view, that was ‘downright abhorrent’? Second time I’ve asked that question,” Hasan said.
“The thing that I would have done differently if I were in his shoes, is I would have declared reelection on January 7,” Ramaswamy replied.
Hasan asked Ramaswamy to explain his comments several more times, but Ramaswamy never gave a straight answer. Instead, he kept saying what he would have done on January 6.
The interview is a clear example of how most Republican candidates are too scared to criticize Trump—even though they are running against him. Trump is the front-runner by a wide margin, and the other presidential hopefuls can’t afford to alienate his supporters if they want to peel any away from him.
Ramaswamy has also taken several pages from Trump’s playbook. The biotech entrepreneur has openly embraced making Eminem angry, pushing conspiracy theories, caving to autocratic leaders, and using his campaign to evade lawsuits.