1/ Special counsel Jack Smith urged the Supreme Court to immediately step in and decide whether Trump is immune from criminal prosecution for charges related to his efforts to subvert the 2020 election. In order to keep Trump’s trial on track, scheduled to begin March 4, Smith asked the Supreme Court take up the matter directly and skip over the appeals court process that could take months to resolve. “The United States recognizes that this is an extraordinary request,” Smith wrote. “This is an extraordinary case.” Smith added: “This case presents a fundamental question at the heart of our democracy: whether a former president is absolutely immune from federal prosecution for crimes committed while in office or is constitutionally protected from federal prosecution when he has been impeached but not convicted before the criminal proceedings begin.” Trump has argued that he is “absolutely immune” from the criminal charges and that his actions were “official acts” as president. Earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan denied Trump’s motion to dismiss his indictment on presidential immunity and constitutional grounds, prompting Trump to appeal and ask for the case to be put on hold. The Supreme Court is not required to take up the case. If it does, any decision would be the first time in American history that the Supreme Court will have ruled on whether a former president can be prosecuted for actions taken while in office. (New York Times / Washington Post / Associated Press / NBC News / CNN / Politico / Axios / CNBC / ABC News)
Jack Smith reveals sweeping scope of bid to debunk Trump election machine claims. “In a 45-page filing, Smith’s team describes interviewing more than a dozen of the top intelligence officials in Trump’s administration — from his director of national intelligence to the administrator of the NSA to Trump’s personal intelligence briefer — about any evidence that foreign governments had penetrated systems that counted votes in 2020.” (Politico)
Trump won’t testify as planned in the civil trial over allegations that he lied about his wealth. In a statement, New York Attorney General Letitia James said that regardless of whether Trump testifies again, “we have already proven that he committed years of financial fraud and unjustly enriched himself.” The $250 million case — which is in its final stages — is putting his net worth on trial and threatening to block him from doing business in his native state. (Axios / NPR / NBC News)
2/ The U.S. vetoed a U.N. Security Council resolution demanding an immediate ceasefire in Gaza. It’s the second time the U.S. was the only opposing vote on a ceasefire resolution. The vote in the 15-member council was 13-1, with the U.K. abstaining. “We do not support calls for an immediate cease-fire,” Deputy U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Robert Wood said. “This would only plant the seeds for the next war, because Hamas has no desire to see a durable peace, to see a two-state solution.” Wood added that the resolution was “imbalanced and detached from reality.” Instead, the Biden administration urged Israel to do more to limit civilian casualties and to allow humanitarian aid into Gaza. The Oct. 7 Hamas terror attack killed about 1,200 people in Israel. In response, Israel’s military campaign has since killed at least 17,000 people in Gaza — 70% of them women and children — wounded more than 46,000, and nearly 85% of the 2.3 million people living in Gaza have been displaced, with nowhere safe to go. (New York Times / Associated Press / Politico / Axios)
U.S. still unclear on what happens when the fighting between Israel and Hamas ends. “These are decisions for Israel to make,” Antony Blinken said. (Politico)
Former U.S. ambassador to Israel says Netanyahu is a “clear and present danger” to Israel. “Netanyahu and other Israeli officials allowed the money to flow into Gaza in the hope that it would help maintain peace and stability in the region, and in the belief that Hamas had neither the desire nor the capacity to launch a large-scale attack.” (Politico)
Israel used U.S.-supplied white phosphorus in Lebanon attack. “Lot production codes found on the shells match the nomenclature used by the U.S. military to categorize domestically produced munitions, which show they were made by ammunition depots in Louisiana and Arkansas in 1989 and 1992. The light green color and other markings — like ‘WP’ printed on one of the remnants — are consistent with white phosphorous rounds, according to arms experts.” (Washington Post)
3/ The Texas Supreme Court temporarily blocked a pregnant woman from obtaining an emergency abortion. The court froze a lower court’s ruling that would have allowed Kate Cox, who is 20 weeks pregnant, to obtain the procedure despite the state’s strict abortion ban. Her unborn baby was diagnosed with a fatal genetic condition and carrying the pregnancy to term could jeopardize her health and future fertility (her fetus had Trisomy 18, also called Edwards syndrome, and almost all such pregnancies end in miscarriage or stillbirth). As a result, a district court judge granted a temporary restraining order last week allowing Cox to terminate her nonviable pregnancy under the narrow exceptions to the state’s ban. But Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton petitioned the court and urged it to block Cox from obtaining an abortion, saying that if an abortion was allowed, “Nothing can restore the unborn child’s life that will be lost as a result.” Paxton also threatened prosecution against anyone, including hospital and doctors, who help facilitate the abortion. The Center for Reproductive Rights called Paxton’s court filing “stunning in its disregard for Ms. Cox’s life, fertility, and the rule of law.” The Texas Supreme Court, which is comprised of all Republicans, said that “without regard to the merits” of the arguments on either side, it had issued an administrative stay to give itself time to issue a final ruling. The case is the first to seek a court-ordered exception since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade las year. Cox, meanwhile, left the state for the procedure instead of waiting for the court to issue a ruling. (Texas Tribune / Washington Post / New York Times / CNN / NBC News / Associated Press)
- Supreme Courts in 3 states will hear cases about abortion access this week. “Supreme court justices in Arizona, New Mexico, and Wyoming will hear arguments in cases that will impact abortion access across the Mountain West.” (NPR)
4/ The Supreme Court declined to hear a case challenging a ban on “conversion therapy” designed to protect LGBTQ youths. The court’s decision leaves Washington state’s law intact, as well as similar restrictions in 20 other states, which have banned the practice of attempting to change an LGBTQ child’s sexual orientation or gender identity through mental health counseling. A Christian marriage and family counselor, and advocate for conversion therapy, had challenged the law, claiming it violates his First Amendment right to free speech by censoring his conversations with clients. The 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the ban, arguing the state has the power to regulate the safety of medical treatments. (Washington Post / NPR / Associated Press / Bloomberg)
5/ A federal judge banned the federal government from separating families at the U.S. southern border for eight years, calling the separation of thousands of families “represents one of the most shameful chapters in the history of our country.” The decision came as part of a settlement between families who were separated under the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy and the Justice Department. From 2017 to 2018, the Trump administration separated more than 5,000 children from parents, with no plan for reuniting families. An estimated 1,000 children remain separated from their families. (NPR / Axios / Associated Press / CBS News)
6/ The head of the OPEC oil cartel directed the group’s members to “reject any text or formula that targets” the continued production and sales of oil, gas, and coal “rather than emissions.” The secretary general of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries warned members ahead of the United Nations climate summit, known as COP 28, that there are “politically motivated campaigns” against oil-rich nations that put “our people’s prosperity and future at risk,” and that “pressure against fossil fuels may reach a tipping point with irreversible consequences.” More than 100 countries came to COP 28 supporting a call to phase out fossil fuels. However, countries like Saudi Arabia, the world’s leading exporter of oil, have rejected any climate deal that even mentions fossil fuels. Any agreement accepted at the climate summit must be unanimously endorsed by the 198 governments participating. Meanwhile, Sultan Al Jaber, the CEO of the United Arab Emirates’s national oil company, who is also leading the COP28 negotiations, released the draft agreement. The proposal removed language to phase out fossil fuels, and instead used watered-down language that suggested countries “could” reduce their use of consumption and production of oil, coal, and gas – the main drivers of the climate crisis. Al Gore said the U.N. climate summit is “on the verge of complete failure,” adding “the world desperately needs to phase out fossil fuels as quickly as possible, but this obsequious draft reads as if OPEC dictated it word for word. It is even worse than many had feared.” (CNN / Politico / New York Times / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / Axios)
Rising sea levels threaten hazardous waste facilities along U.S. coast. “1.6 million tons of hazardous waste are stored at facilities that would be put at risk if sea levels rose by five or more feet compared to 2000 levels.” (Axios)
A group of California children sued the EPA, alleging it has harmed children’s health and welfare over decades. “The case, Genesis B. v. United States Environmental Protection Agency, alleges the EPA ‘intentionally allows’ planet warming pollution to come from the sources it regulates, such as vehicles and heavy-duty trucks, power plants, and oil and gas wells. It follows the first constitutional climate case in the US, which youth plaintiffs successfully tried in Montana earlier this year.” (CNN)
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