The Supreme Court and its nascent conservative majority largely stayed out of the political fray during the last term absent a few key cases involving issues like political gerrymandering. But with the new term beginning Monday, the justices are poised to tackle thornier, partisan subjects with the potential to change the direction of the court in the midst of the 2020 election cycle.
Over the next eight months, the high court will weigh issues that animate both liberals and conservatives with high-profile cases on abortion, gun rights, LGBTQ workplace discrimination and the fate of an Obama-era program that has shielded young immigrants brought to the country illegally as children from deportation. The new court session is likely to leave some kind of mark on the 2020 elections like it has in past cycles.
Beyond the politics and partisanship of the moment, President Donald Trump and majority Democrats in the House of Representatives are colliding in the most extraordinary test of the Constitution’s separation of powers in many years.
“We are heading rapidly towards a constitutional crisis,” David Rothkopf, a political scientist and specialist in international relations, told MSNBC.
This is because Trump doesn’t accept the legitimacy of Congress’s bid to impeach him as sought by House Democrats, and the House under those Democrats won’t back away from efforts to punish him for what critics call abuses of power.
The Ukraine-born businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested late Wednesday at Dulles International Airport with one-way international tickets.
Parnas and Fruman, who are both U.S. citizens, are accused of orchestrating a straw donor scheme to circumvent campaign finance laws, partly by funneling $325,000 to a pro-Trump super PAC using a fake energy company they created.
Federal prosecutors also indicted American businessman David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, who was arrested in California. Correia has not been arrested.
Democrats hoping to thwart his bid for a second term say, however, that Trump’s economy has only benefited the rich while leaving behind the working class. Many are proposing broad changes such as a rollback of Trump’s tax cuts and free college tuition.
One sign of how broad the appetite for change is among Democrats: All but one of the dozen candidates who qualified for the Oct. 15 Democratic debate want to more than double the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour from $7.25.
The one who did not support such an increase, businessman Andrew Yang, instead wants to pay every American adult $1,000 per month.
The United States Senate released the second volume of its report on Russian interference in the 2016 election, this time focusing on online influence campaigns carried out by the Internet Research Agency and Russian intelligence agencies.
The committee’s report endorses more transparency around online advertising, but its own investigation found that such ad buys were so minor they paled in comparison to the free exposure operators were able to get from simply using the platforms themselves to spread content.
“Paid advertisements were not key to the IRA’s activity, and moreover, are not alone an accurate measure of the IRA’s operational scope, scale, or objectives, despite this aspect of social-media being a focus of early press reporting and public awareness,” the committee wrote.
The Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives was set on Wednesday to push forward with its impeachment investigation of President Donald Trump over his dealings with Ukraine, a day after the White House declared its refusal to cooperate with the probe.
The three congressional committees leading the inquiry were working on final arrangements to interview a U.S. intelligence officer who filed the whistleblower complaint that triggered the probe, a day after the State Department abruptly blocked the U.S. ambassador to the European Union from speaking to them.
Over the past two weeks, a CIA whistleblower’s complaint, a White House record of a July 25 telephone conversation between President Donald Trump and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy, and texts exchanged by American diplomats have dominated the news and raised questions about the president’s handling of policy toward Ukraine. Here are five observations:
First, President Trump was not doing the nation’s business on July 25. Trump has described the call as “perfect,” but the memorandum of conversation shows that he did not seek to advance U.S. interests.
He did not ask Zelenskiy about progress in ending Russia’s war against Ukraine. He did not propose steps to facilitate more American trade. He did not raise how U.S. liquified natural gas might strengthen Ukraine’s energy security (something of interest to Secretary of Energy Rick Perry, whom Trump now says instigated a call that he did not want to make).
Italy’s parliament has voted to cut the number of representatives in both houses by more than a third.
The lower house approved a law to reduce the number of MPs from 630 to 400 and senators from 315 to 200.
The reform was a manifesto promise of the populist Five Star Movement, the main party in Italy’s governing coalition.
They say it will streamline parliament and save hundreds of millions of euros in salaries and expenses.
However, critics say the move will weaken democracy and increase the influence of lobbyists. The new law is potentially subject to a confirmatory referendum as it makes changes to the Italian constitution.
Support among Democrats for opening impeachment proceedings against Trump has been building for months for a litany of reasons, not the least being the findings of the Mueller Report.
This push gained momentum with last week’s news that the administration had refused to send Congress a complaint from an unnamed whistleblower in the intelligence community, something it is required by law to do. Then the news broke that at least part of the whistleblower’s complaint involved Trump’s efforts to press Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to dig up dirt on former Vice President Joseph Biden and his son Hunter.
That prompted seven freshman Democrats, all from so-called swing districts and all veterans of the U.S. military or the intelligence community, to write an op-ed in the Washington Post.
They urged the House to investigate what they called “unprecedented allegations” that the president “used his position to pressure a foreign country into investigating a political opponent, and he sought to use U.S. taxpayer dollars as leverage to do it.” With moderate voices now joining more liberal ones, Pelosi moved with the backing of most of her caucus.