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State legislatures do not have unchecked power when drawing congressional districts, the Supreme Court ruled Tuesday (The Hill). The decision means state courts can intervene in cases of gerrymandered districts and review legislatures’ approaches to federal election rules.
The decision was hailed by Democrats, who argue that conservative state legislatures seek to thwart the Voting Rights Act, recast election rules and use congressional maps to try to elect Republican candidates. The court left the door open to more limited challenges that could increase its role in deciding voting disputes during the 2024 presidential election (The Associated Press).
Justices in a 6-3 decision rejected an argument by the Republican-dominated North Carolina legislature that it had the final word when drawing congressional districts. The high court dismissed the “independent state legislature” theory, which would have given state lawmakers nearly unlimited say over federal elections (The New York Times).
President Biden, speaking to a small Democratic donor audience in Maryland on Tuesday, called the high court’s election decision “great news.”
▪ The Hill: What is the “independent state legislature” theory?
John Eastman, the Republican lawyer who acted on behalf of the Trump campaign in an attempt to overturn the 2020 election, told NBC News that the court’s decision Tuesday means the legal arguments he advocated are now “murkier” in 2024 (The Hill).
Eastman embraced a theory that state legislatures have unchecked power when conducting elections. He said then-Vice President Mike Pence could refuse to certify the 2020 presidential result, although Pence disagreed with that legal advice and performed the largely ceremonial certification of the Electoral College tallies, which determined that former President Trump lost his bid for reelection.
Eastman is among lawyers who advised Trump who are of interest to Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith in the ongoing probe of alleged efforts to overturn the 2020 election. Some of his communications were seized under subpoena. Prosecutors appear to be nearing charging decisions in that investigation, which includes the former president (CNN and The Associated Press). Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensberger, who taped Trump urging him to “find 11,780 votes” to help win the state following the 2020 election, will speak today to federal prosecutors (The Associated Press).
Disciplinary attorneys for the California Bar asked a Los Angeles court this month to disbar Eastman for alleged infractions on behalf of Trump during and after the 2020 election (CNN). Eastman has argued his actions are protected by the First Amendment. The California Supreme Court makes the final decision (The Associated Press/WDBJ7).
Former President Obama, reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision in the North Carolina case, commended the rejection of what he described in a statement as an effort to “dismantle our system of checks and balances by giving state legislatures near-total control of federal election laws.”
“This ruling is a resounding rejection of the far-right theory that has been peddled by election deniers and extremists seeking to undermine our democracy. And it makes clear that courts can continue defending voters’ rights — in North Carolina and in every state,” Obama said.
The ruling in the North Carolina case followed other important rulings this term in which the court’s three liberal members were in the majority, including ones on the Voting Rights Act, immigration and tribal rights, the Times noted.
Decisions in some of the biggest cases of this term are days away, yet thus far, the court has repeatedly repudiated aggressive arguments from conservative litigants, the Times’s Adam Liptak reported.
Separately on Tuesday, the Supreme Court ruled that the conviction of a man for making online threats to a stranger, a woman, violated his First Amendment rights. In a 7-2 decision, justices ruled that prosecutors must show that a person responsible for threats understood the threatening nature of that speech (The Washington Post).
The court emphasized that true threats of violence are not protected by the First Amendment. But to guard against a chilling effect on non-threatening speech, the majority said states must prove that a criminal defendant has “disregarded a substantial risk that his communications would be viewed as threatening violence.”
Justices Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett dissented.
Billy Raymond Counterman, at the center of the threats case, was convicted under Colorado law of stalking and causing “emotional distress” to Coles Whalen, a singer-songwriter he had never met. Counterman, who had previously been convicted of making threats to others, served four years in prison in the Whalen case.
“A delusional speaker may lack awareness of the threatening nature of her speech; a devious speaker may strategically disclaim such awareness; and a lucky speaker may leave behind no evidence of mental state for the government to use against her,” Barrett wrote in her dissent. “The Court’s decision thus sweeps much further than it lets on.”
▪ SCOTUSblog: Supreme Court upholds state corporate registration law in major personal jurisdiction case, Mallory v. Norfolk Southern.
▪ Bloomberg News: A state registration law feared by businesses was narrowly upheld by the Supreme Court in a ruling issued on Tuesday.
▪ The Intercept: The Supreme Court wants to continue the security detail augmented to protect the court, justices and their residences following the controversial 2022 ruling overturning Roe v. Wade.
LEADING THE DAY
© The Associated Press / Alex Brandon | Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) in Congress in January.
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on Tuesday said Trump, with whom he has been allied, may be vulnerable next year if he’s the GOP’s nominee. “Can he win that election? Yeah he can,” he said on CNBC’s “Squawk Box.” “The question is, is he the strongest to win the election? I don’t know that answer” (CNBC).
The Speaker appeared to clean up his comments hours later to Breitbart News, saying that Trump is “stronger today than he was in 2016” and is “Biden’s strongest political opponent,” pointing to his poll numbers (The Hill).
In Congress, McCarthy has been repeatedly forced to heed the demands of a small but pugnacious group of House hardliners, which has become a challenge for his Speakership, as well as for governance and legislating. As The Hill’s Mike Lillis reports, members of the Freedom Caucus want appropriations at levels below the Biden debt deal, propose to try to impeach Biden — even if only to send the issue to committee — and threaten to try to impeach Cabinet officials, such as Attorney General Merrick Garland and Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
The frustrated conservatives have become more aggressive, threatening to tank federal funding bills (at risk of a shutdown) while driving the House in directions that GOP leaders and Republican moderates want to avoid and worry could cost the party in next year’s elections.
🎧 The New York Times’s The Daily podcast: “Speaker McCarthy has lost control of his House,” with Michael Barbaro and congressional correspondent Annie Karni.
▪ CNBC: Bipartisan lawmakers visit Taiwan as Biden seeks to stabilize China relationship.
▪ Politico: No more sleepy Senate: Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) seeks to jump-start an agenda. After months of a molasses-slow pace in the chamber, get ready for bigger bipartisan swings on everything from rail safety to artificial intelligence.
▪ The New York Times: A new Senate report details Jan. 6, 2021, intelligence and law enforcement failures. The report by Democrats provided the most comprehensive picture to date of how federal officials missed, downplayed or failed to act on multiple threats of and plans for violence.
🎤 Tonight, Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. will take questions from a live audience at 9 p.m. EDT during a town hall at St. Anselm College in New Hampshire hosted by NewsNation, which partners with The Hill under the Nexstar umbrella. Information about how to watch is HERE.
RFK Jr.’s bid for the Democratic nomination is earning high praise — among Republicans. As The Hill’s Hanna Trudo reports, on the surface, anything that makes the nomination process harder for Biden is helpful to the GOP. The president now has a primary challenger with a following and could show up weaker next year as a result. But Kennedy’s appeal and utility to the other side is broader than just his critiques on the incumbent. He’s also amplifying policies Republicans want voters to be talking about, and many are happy to have the free publicity. Throughout his campaign messaging and on social media, Kennedy has promoted his version of a dystopian Democratic Party that has worked hard to quash alternative views on sensitive issues.
Some see his stances as a mixed bag of conspiracies — largely related to anti-vaccine rhetoric — and Trump-aligned conservatism, with a well-recognizable Democratic brand name to run on.
“He undermines the credibility of a lot of Democrats that have been almost universally in lockstep and lock arm on issues like vaccine mandates [and] Ukraine,” said John Thomas, a GOP strategist and veteran campaign operative. “He is useful because he adds legitimacy to the argument that many of the Republicans are making on those issues.”
Justices Thomas and Samuel Alito are each in their 70s, which means lawmakers are looking ahead to the 2024 election as a pivotal opportunity to shape the future of the Supreme Court with White House control and the partisan makeup of the Senate. As The Hill’s Alexander Bolton reports, a group of academic researchers predict the court may have a conservative tilt until 2065, fueling calls among liberals to look at reforms such as term limits and court expansion.
▪ The Hill: Here’s what 2024 GOP candidates have said so far about the Republican National Committee’s much talked-about hurdle to the debate stage in August, requiring that presidential primary candidates agree in writing to support the party’s eventual nominee.
▪ Politico: “Ego, pure delusion and fantasy”: How the 2024 GOP field got so big.
© The Associated Press / Rachel Leathe, Bozeman Daily Chronicle | Former Navy SEAL Tim Sheehy, pictured in Belgrade, Mont., in 2022, is challenging Montana Sen. Jon Tester (D), who is running for reelection.
Senate Republicans got their wish on Tuesday as businessman Tim Sheehy officially launched his bid to unseat Sen. Jon Tester (D-Mont.), The Hill’s Al Weaver reports, handing the GOP one of their top recruits as they attempt to sidestep a challenge from the right and try to take down the three-term senator who has proven to be tough to beat for the GOP. Sheehy rolled out his campaign Tuesday morning, playing up his past life as a Navy SEAL and his more recent one as a businessman, all-the-while arguing that Tester is out of touch back home. Republicans believe he is the complete package and their best shot to oust one of the foremost Democratic moderates.
“Incredible resume. Incredible bank account. And most importantly, he hasn’t run and lost before,” one national GOP operative said, laying out the pro-Sheehy case and taking a shot at Rep. Matt Rosendale (R-Mont.) in the process. “A blank canvas with a big checkbook is pretty enticing in this environment.”
Meanwhile, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) on Monday launched his official immigration and border security platform, titled “Stop the Invasion” — a term civil rights organizations associate with the Great Replacement Theory, writes The Hill’s Rafael Bernal. In the 2024 presidential race, Republican candidates are scrambling to outdo each other with statements and proposals ideologically aligned withTrump, whose once-fringe immigration proposals are now the backbone of the GOP’s immigration and border security platform.
A bill to implement a national sales tax in place of the federal income tax system has become an attack line for Trump as he aims to tear down DeSantis, The Hill’s Emily Brooks reports. But the attack line is having little effect on the policy in Congress, where Trump supporters who cosponsor the legislation mostly still support the idea. The FairTax bill is popular enough that action on the bill was a point of negotiations between conservatives who withheld support for McCarthy in January, though it is unclear if and when it might get a vote.
▪ Houston Chronicle: After Texas lawmakers failed to pass a property tax cut plan Tuesday, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott immediately called a second special session of the legislature, fulfilling his vow to keep lawmakers in Austin until a deal is hashed out.
▪ The Hill: For the United States to expand its workforce, demographers say, two things are needed: more immigrants, who inject youth into society; and much better childcare.
▪ Reuters: More than 100 U.S. leaders – lawmakers, presidents, governors and justices – have slaveholding ancestors. Few are willing to talk about their ties to America’s “original sin.”
▪ The Hill: Autistic LGBTQ people are pushing back against the invocation of autism to argue against LGBTQ rights, a talking point used by conservatives that implies autistic people are being manipulated into identifying as LGBTQ.
2024 roundup: Governors representing 22 westernmost states and territories pledged support on Monday for climate solutions aimed at protecting an increasingly vulnerable environment that shares borders (The Hill). … Trump aide Walt Nauta, who was set to appear in Miami court Tuesday over charges in the documents case, has had his hearing postponed due to flight cancellations. The delay should give Nauta some time to find a lawyer licensed to practice in south Florida (CNN). … Trump took aim at Justice Department Special Counsel Jack Smith Tuesday following the broadcast and publication on Monday of audio evidence of Trump’s 2021 comments about classified defense information on Iran (CNBC).
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
Russia moved to shore up its internal security forces as the Defense Ministry said that the Wagner paramilitary group that launched a mutiny last week was preparing to hand over its heavy weapons, an indication that it could be disbanded as an autonomous force in coming days. Wagner Group chief Yevgeny Prigozhin, meanwhile, has arrived in exile in Belarus — part of a deal brokered by Russian President Vladimir Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko that dropped the criminal charges levied against Prigozhin in the wake of the attack (The Wall Street Journal).
Although much about his stay remains unclear, Prigozhin’s arrival in Belarus Tuesday is a stark reminder that Moscow’s chaos is unlikely to stay in Russia and could seep westward, creating instability, new challenges for Ukraine and questions for the rest of Europe — just as many warned (The Washington Post). Internally, Prigozhin’s aborted putsch has demonstrated the fragility of Putin’s grip on power, or as Russian opposition leader Mikhail Khodorkovsky puts it, “Now the country and the world know it’s possible to rebel against Putin” (Politico EU).
A senior Russian general had advance knowledge of Prigozhin’s plans, U.S. officials briefed on the matter told The New York Times, which has prompted questions about what support the mercenary leader had inside the top ranks. Meanwhile, Lukashenko asserts he had to persuade Putin not to “wipe out” Prigozhin in response to what the Kremlin cast as a mutiny that pushed Russia towards civil war (Reuters).
▪ The Atlantic: The three logics of the Prigozhin putsch.
▪ Politico EU: Putin remains strong despite Wagner rebellion, Hungary’s Viktor Orbán says.
▪ The Washington Post: Why Russia’s Wagner Group has been involved in Ukraine, Africa and the Mideast.
▪ The New York Times: Leaders from Iran, Qatar and Saudi Arabia, among others, expressed support for Putin in the face of the Wagner uprising. But concerns may linger, analysts say.
▪ Reuters: Wagner mutiny exposes risks for China’s deep Russian ties.
▪ The Daily Beast: U.S.-based Russian diplomats whisked home after the Wagner uprising.
The U.S. plans to send up to $500 million additional military aid to Ukraine, keeping up Washington’s resolve to help Kyiv against Russia as Moscow deals with a mutiny by some of its soldiers. The package will include ground vehicles as Ukraine presses its counteroffensive, U.S. officials told Reuters.
U.S. officials also unveiled new sanctions against companies and an individual tied to the Wagner Group, focusing their attention on the mercenary group’s African connections in the wake of its botched mutiny over the weekend (Politico).
▪ The Washington Post: Ukraine faces mines and manpower challenges in offensive’s early weeks.
▪ The Associated Press: Nine killed, including three children, as Russian missile slams into pizza restaurant in east Ukraine city.
■ The Supreme Court’s elections muddle: In Moore v. Harper, the justices invite many more legal challenges to state ballot laws, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board.
■ Have millennials moved right, or has Gen Z pushed Democrats off a leftward cliff? by Elizabeth Grace Matthew, opinion contributor, The Hill.
WHERE AND WHEN
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The House will meet on Friday at 2 p.m. for a pro forma session; lawmakers return July 11 to the Capitol.
The Senate will convene on Thursday at 10 a.m. for a pro forma session. Members return to Washington on July 10.
The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 8 a.m. Biden will travel to Chicago to deliver a speech about “Bidenomics” at noon CDT in the Old Post Office. He will address a campaign fundraiser at 1:15 p.m. CDT, then depart the Windy City at 4:50 p.m. CDT to arrive back at the White House tonight.
Vice President Harris is in Washington and has no public events today.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in New York City for a Council on Foreign Relations moderated conversation at 10:30 a.m. about foreign policy. He will attend a luncheon at 11:30 a.m. with foreign policy experts, hosted by the Council on Foreign Relations. The secretary at 2:05 p.m. will meet with staff from the New York Passport Agency in New York City.
© The Associated Press / Susan Walsh | President Biden will deliver a speech and hold a fundraiser in Chicago today. He is pictured with Illinois Gov. J.B. Pritzker (D) in the Windy City in 2021.
➤ HEALTH & WELLBEING
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued a warning after five cases of malaria were identified in Florida and Texas in people who had not recently traveled overseas, sparking concerns about local transmission and a risk of increased “imported malaria cases.”
The Washington Post breaks down what to know about the risk of malaria and what to do if you become ill.
▪ The New Yorker, by Elizabeth Kolbert: How plastics are poisoning us. Will we ever be rid of them?
▪ The Washington Post: Fake food, real risk: Why many ultra-processed foods are unhealthy and can impact appetite, hormones, weight gain and the likelihood of developing obesity and chronic diseases.
▪ NPR: Dieting: Intermittent fasting is as effective as counting calories, a new study finds.
▪ ABC News: Nearly 36 million people in Europe may have experienced long COVID-19.
▪ The Atlantic: Anti cholesterol statins, America’s most popular drug, produce a puzzling side effect. We finally know why.
Transgender people in Denmark have a significantly higher risk of suicide than other groups, according to a comprehensive analysis of records from nearly 7 million people over the last 40 years, the first time in the world national suicide data has been analyzed for this group. In Denmark, transgender people had 7.7 times the rate of suicide attempts and 3.5 times the rate of suicide deaths compared with the rest of the population, and transgender people in Denmark died — by suicide or other causes — at younger ages than others.
The findings, published on Tuesday, come at a charged political moment in the United States, where Republican lawmakers across the country have enacted laws targeting sexuality and gender identity. While studies of LGBTQ people in the United States have shown that they have high rates of suicidal thoughts and attempts, there is with scant data on actual deaths, and suicide risk has become a matter of heated speculation and debate (The New York Times).
“This offers a stark rebuttal to some of those political arguments suggesting suicide risk in these groups are exaggerated,” Ann Haas, an emeritus professor at the City University of New York who has studied suicide risks among LGBTQ people for two decades, told the Times.
➤ BORROWERS, WORKERS
As a three-year pandemic pause in student loan payments comes to a close in September, borrowers are scrambling to assess their debts and economic choices, write The Hill’s Tobias Barnes and Lexi Lonas. Interest will accrue for all 40 million student loan borrowers and payments will be expected as October begins.
▪ Fortune: Much of the $1.8 trillion in student debt won’t ever be repaid, a nonpartisan research organization says: “The government is poised to take a bath on its student loan portfolio.”
▪ MarketWatch: With student-loan payments resuming, these retailers could be affected the most as customers feel the squeeze.
▪ Yahoo Finance: The restart of student loan payments is going to pressure the strong U.S. consumer, as 34 percent of borrowers say they’ll be unable to make payments.
For the thousands of workers who’d never experienced upheaval in the tech sector, the recent mass layoffs came as a shock, but now they are being courted by long-established employers whose names aren’t typically synonymous with tech work, including hotel chains, retailers, investment firms, railroad companies and even the Internal Revenue Service. It’s a chance for them to level the playing field against tech giants that have long had their pick of the top talent (The Associated Press).
▪ Vox: America’s upper middle-class gets an economic reality check.
▪ Bloomberg News: Recession fears are kept at bay by surprisingly strong U.S. economic data.
© The Associated Press / Yuki Iwamura | Pickleball courts in Central Park in New York City in April.
And finally … 🏓 Pickleball, America’s fastest growing sport, lures millions of people of all ages and fitness levels to venture to parks and playgrounds to whack (loudly) at a small, perforated plastic ball in a game that’s become a mania.
Yippee that 22.3 million people are getting off the sofa, but injuries abound and those are costly, according to insurance companies.
Investment bank UBS estimated that pickleball-related injuries could result in health insurance costs (i.e. Medicare) ranging from $250 million to $500 million in 2023. Health insurance company UnitedHealth Group recently reported a higher-than-expected frequency of hip replacements, knee surgeries and other elective procedures, which it pegs, in part, to pickleball (The Daily Mail, Bloomberg News, Financial Times).
The sport, with elaborate rules and described as a mashup of badminton, ping-pong and tennis (with some squash-like lunges tossed in), has seen a 159 percent surge in the number of players over a span of three years, according to the Sports and Fitness Industry Association.
Why is it called pickleball? A family dog reportedly provided some inspiration, but there’s another explanation about borrowing the shorthand from crews in rowing. The sport was invented during the summer of 1965 on Bainbridge Island, Wash., by three fathers who sought to entertain their children in a preelectronics era.
NPR: Pickleball has a noise problem. Former engineer Bob Unetich is trying to fix it.