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Sotomayor Asks One Damning Question in Supreme Court Homelessness Case

The Supreme Court is considering how far cities can go in banning homeless people from sleeping outside—and Justice Sonia Sotomayor simplified the entire case to a brilliant hypothetical.

People protest outside the Supreme Cour twith signs that read "Housing not handcuffs"
SAUL LOEB/AFP/Getty Images

The Supreme Court on Monday heard arguments on perhaps the most consequential case on homeless policy in decades, weighing how far cities can go in criminalizing people for sleeping outside.

And liberal Justice Sonia Sotomayor kicked things off with a particularly damning hypothetical.

Under a law punishing people for sleeping outside, would people who stargaze outside not be punished? What about people who fall asleep on the beach? Or babies in public with blankets over them?

Sotomayor’s line of questioning in City of Grants Pass, Oregon v. Johnson highlighted the obvious flaws in the 2019 law that the court is considering. The town of Grants Pass, which has no public homeless shelters, effectively banned homelessness by imposing escalating fines starting at $180 on those who sleep outside. One of the original plaintiffs in the case against the city had over $5,000 in penalties before she died.

The Supreme Court’s decision in this case will determine whether localities can criminalize homelessness by punishing those who sleep out on streets using tents, blankets, or even a piece of cardboard. The court must weigh if doing so when no beds are available violates the Eighth Amendment and constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.

And like Sotomayor, the other liberal justices weren’t so impressed.

The Grants Pass legal team tried to argue that homelessness is “conduct,” something someone does, rather than “status,” something that someone is. But justice Elena Kagan pushed back saying matter of factly “homelessness is a status, it’s a status of not having a home.”

“Sleeping is a biological necessity,” she added. “It’s sort of like breathing, you could say breathing is conduct too but presumably you would not think it’s okay to criminalize breathing in public.” For a homeless person who has no place to sleep, Kagan continued, sleeping in public is the same as breathing in public.

“It seems both cruel and unusual to punish people for acts that constitute basic human needs,” Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson told lawyer Theane Evangelis, whose previous legal work for Uber and Grubhub has been described as “keeping the wheels of the gig economy turning.”

As the hearing continued, both Sotomayor and Jackson became increasingly incensed with Evangelis, who complained about the crime and unsanitary nature of unsheltered encampments, which she called harmful and dangerous.

“Suppose the city decided that it was going to execute homeless people... It would solve the problems that you are talking about,” Jackson quipped.

“Where do we put them if every city, every village, every town lacks compassion and passes a law identical to this, where are they supposed to sleep?” asked Sotomayor. “Are they supposed to kill themselves not sleeping?”

Evangelis continued that homelessness is a difficult and complicated problem.

But as Sotomayor responded: “What’s so complicated about letting someone somewhere sleep outside with a blanket if they have nowhere to sleep?”

First Witness in Trump’s Hush Money Trial Could Wreck His Whole Case

Prosecutors called publishing executive David Pecker as their first witness.

Donald Trump sits with his eyes closed
Yuki Iwamura/Pool/Getty Images

“The people call David Pecker”—the former publisher of the National Enquirer and former CEO of its parent company, American Media Inc.

Pecker, the first witness in Donald Trump’s first criminal trial and an old friend of the former president, took the stand on Monday. In brief testimony, he started detailing a media coverage scheme handcrafted between Trump, Trump’s former fixer Michael Cohen, and himself.

In opening statements just minutes prior, Manhattan district attorney prosecutor Matthew Colangelo proclaimed that “The National Enquirer ran headline after headline that extolled the defendant’s virtues.” Colangelo noted that the Enquirer also “ran stories attacking Mr. Trump’s political opponents” such as Ben Carson and Ted Cruz.

Pecker participated in an August 2015 meeting with Cohen and Trump to arrange the Enquirer’s catch-and-kill campaign, buying potentially damaging stories about Trump and his affairs with women with the intent to never publish them. The trio also allegedly discussed adult film actress Stormy Daniels, who had an affair with Trump after meeting him at a golf tournament in 2006, shortly after Trump’s wife Melania had given birth to their son Barron. Cohen later paid Daniels $130,000, allegedly at Trump’s behest, to keep the entanglement under wraps—but it wasn’t the first time Pecker was involved in a catch-and-kill scheme.

The Enquirer had also purchased rights to the story of another one of Trump’s alleged mistresses—former Playboy model Karen McDougal—for $150,000, in order to ensure the story would never see the light of day.

Pecker’s testimony on the stand offered some initial insights into the machinations of the Enquirer, including a key detail that all big stories pertaining to celebrities had to go through him.

“We used checkbook journalism and we paid for stories,” Pecker testified. “I gave a number to the editors that they could not spend more than $10,000 to investigate, produce or publish a story.”

Pecker agreed to cooperate with prosecution back in 2018, and is expected to continue his testimony on Tuesday. And the details he provides could be damning for the former president.

Trump is accused of using Cohen to sweep an affair with Daniels under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The trial is expected to last several weeks. He faces 34 felony charges in this case for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Conservatives Quickly Turn Against “Idiot” Marjorie Taylor Greene

The Georgia Republican is fast falling out of favor for her opposition to the Ukraine aid bill.

Marjorie Taylor Greene looks to the side
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s failed fight to end aid to Ukraine, and her sort-of-serious crusade against House Speaker Mike Johnson, has cost her the support of right-wing media.

The Sunday front page of the New York Post, owned by the conservative Murdoch family, was the latest outlet to attack Greene, invoking the “Moscow Marjorie” nickname coined by former representative Ken Buck.

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Fox News, another arm of the Murdoch media empire, had already taken aim at the Georgia Republican last week, with columnist Liz Peek calling her an “idiot” and saying she needs to “turn all that bombastic self-serving showmanship and drama queen energy on Democrats.” This follows an editorial last month from The Wall Street Journal, also in the Murdoch portfolio, that called Greene “Rep. Mayhem Taylor Greene” and accused her and her allies of being “most interested in TV hits and internet donors.”

Even a non-Murdoch outlet is on the attack, as conservative Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Debra Saunders demanded to know “who put Marjorie Taylor Greene in charge?”

It was only a matter of time before Greene’s antics cost her friends in the world of conservative media. She has an old reputation for peddling crazy conspiracy theories; she’s been in a feud with fellow far-right Representative Lauren Boebert for quite a while; and she has parroted Russian talking points on Ukraine, to the point that even Russian state television is gushing over her. Over the weekend, a Russian state TV host described Greene as “a real beauty. She is a blond who wears white coats with a fur collar. She’s demonstrably heterosexual.”

Meanwhile, Johnson successfully passing aid to Ukraine shows that he is able to deflect her attacks, despite the GOP’s razor thin-majority in the House. If Greene keeps losing allies, he won’t have to worry about her at all.

Trump Suffers a Major Loss Just Minutes into Hush-Money Trial

Some of the former president’s actions are coming back to bite him.

Donald Trump looks forward
Victor J. Blue/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump won’t be getting his way in his New York hush money trial—at least, not without consequences.

Presiding Judge Juan Merchan decided Monday that prosecutors can cross-examine the former president on prior judgements and gag order violations. This is only relevant if Trump takes the stand, but given he has said he would “absolutely” testify in the trial, he seems pretty eager.

But his legal team might not allow him to, especially considering the previous times Trump took the stand in an effort to change the narrative behind prior judgments.

Last week, the district attorney’s office signaled that they would be interested in bringing up a slew of Trump’s prior lawsuits to paint a picture of an untrustworthy man. Those cases include the New York civil fraud trial in which Trump was ordered to pay nearly half a billion dollars to the state, and the defamation trials brought against him by E. Jean Carroll, who won a payout of $83.3 million.

So far, Merchan has decided that he will allow questioning pertaining to Trump’s defamation of E. Jean Carroll (he did not mention the sexual assault ruling), the New York bank fraud trial, a 2018 case that led to the dissolution of the Trump Foundation over financial irregularities, and Trump’s repeat violations of the gag order issued by Judge Arthur Engoron after he refused to stop attacking the judge’s law clerk.

That last bit is noteworthy, considering that Trump has already teetered several times on violating another gag order issued in this trial, using his Truth Social account to disparage witnesses, court staff, and their family members, including Merchan’s daughter.

Merchan told the court Monday that he had “greatly curtailed” what elements of Trump’s legal history could be questioned, and warned the GOP presidential nominee that the decision was “a shield and not a sword” to which his testimony could become a “door to questioning that has otherwise been excluded,” according to The New York Times.

Read more about the district attorney's request:

Did Trump Blow Up His Hush-Money Trial Before It’s Even Begun?

There might be a fatal flaw in the former president’s defense arguments.

Donald Trump sits at a table with his hands folded
Angela Weiss/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s legal defense in his hush-money trial may be doomed before it begins.

Trump is on trial for 34 felony counts for allegedly falsifying business records after his lawyer and fixer at the time, Michael Cohen, paid $130,000 to silence adult film actress Stormy Daniels from speaking about her affair with the former president. Trump claims that those payments were simply part of Cohen’s ordinary fees.

Ex-prosecutor Andrew Weissman wrote on X (formerly Twitter) Sunday that even if Trump tries to claim that those payments were actually legal fees, there are notes made at the time that are more specific.

“Trump’s latest defense, which we will see at trial I’m sure, that the 34 business records were not false because they were legal payments (reimbursing his lawyer Cohen for making the $130,000 hush money payment) is BELIED by contemporaneous notations that the payments were for ongoing legal services rendered during a certain month,” Weissman explained. “Oops.”

But Trump’s legal team isn’t exactly on the ball, as all of their blatant attempts to delay proceedings in this trial have been shot down. One attorney, Alina Habba, has claimed that Trump’s being required to attend every day of his hush-money trial, per state law, is a violation of due process, and has tried to excuse away his dozing off in court by saying he “reads a lot.”

Presiding Judge Juan Merchan has also refused to let the team know who the prosecution’s first three witnesses are, lest Trump try to attack the witnesses on social media.

This is Trump’s first criminal trial, and he’s under a gag order that prevents him from speaking about court staff or their families. It hasn’t prevented him from attacking about Merchan’s daughter, though, and he has a contempt of court hearing this week about it.

Now, as jury selection ends and his trial begins in earnest, the proceedings aren’t going to be an easy experience for the former president. The witness list includes his former employees, his White House aide Hope Hicks, Daniels, and his former fixer Cohen. If Cohen’s words are anything to go by, Trump and his lawyers have reason to “be worried.”

Trump Issues Dangerous Warning to Followers Before Hush-Money Trial

The former president urged his supporters to protest on his behalf.

Donald Trump gestures as he speaks
Yuki Iwamura/Pool/Getty Images

Donald Trump extended a dangerous message to his Truth Social followers on Monday: descend upon U.S. courthouses.

The post, which also lambasted American university students for a wave of pro-Palestinian protests last week, came mere hours before the GOP presidential nominee was scheduled to return to his New York hush money on trial in New York, where opening statements are expected to begin.

“Why are Palestinian protesters, and even rioters, allowed to roam the Cities, scream, shout, sit, block traffic, enter buildings, not get permits, and basically do whatever they want including threatening Supreme Court Justices right in front of their homes, and yet people who truly LOVE our Country, and want to MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN, are not allowed to ‘Peacefully Protest,’ and are rudely and systematically shut down and ushered off to far away ‘holding areas,’ essentially denying them their Constitutional Rights,” Trump questioned, referring to dozens of protests during which hundreds of students were arrested and not allowed to practice their First Amendment Rights.

“America Loving Protesters should be allowed to protest at the front steps of Courthouses, all over the Country, just like it is allowed for those who are destroying our Country on the Radical Left, a two tiered system of justice,” Trump continued. “Free Speech and Assembly has been ‘CHILLED’ for USA SUPPORTERS. GO OUT AND PEACEFULLY PROTEST. RALLY BEHIND MAGA. SAVE OUR COUNTRY! ‘THE ONLY THING YOU HAVE TO FEAR IS FEAR ITSELF.’”

Trump’s comments are eerily similar to those that prompted many of his supporters to descend on Washington, D.C., in January 2021. That rally eventually turned into the January 6 insurrection. Fortunately, turnout has been much lower this time around.

Trump is accused of using former fixer Michael Cohen to sweep an affair with adult film actress Stormy Daniels under the rug ahead of the 2016 presidential election. The trial is expected to last several weeks. He faces 34 felony charges in this case for allegedly falsifying business records with the intent to further an underlying crime. Trump has pleaded not guilty on all counts.

Judge Issues Chilling Warning About a Second January 6 Attack

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan noted that another insurrection is completely possible.

Donald Trump supporters enter the Capitol during the January 6 attack
Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images

A Washington, D.C., judge issued a dire warning Friday about the effects of the January 6 attack.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan sentenced Scott Miller, a former Proud Boys leader  who fought with multiple police officers while trying to storm the Capitol building, to 66 months in prison. This is one of the longest sentences that Chutkan has given. She cited Miller’s actions at the Capitol, as well as evidence that he held Nazi beliefs and thought that Washington, D.C., residents should be executed. 

Previously, the longest sentences Chutkan had handed down related to the insurrection were 63 months long, given to two other violent offenders at the Capitol. Chutkan described the storming of the Capitol as “close to as serious a crisis as this nation has ever faced.” 

“It can happen again,” Chutkan, who is expected to preside over Donald Trump’s criminal trial for trying to overturn the 2020 election, said Friday. “Extremism is alive and well in this country. Threats of violence continue unabated.”

Those threats have become normalized in Republican discourse, with right-wing figures across the country invoking violence and urging their supporters to arm themselves. The man behind it all, Donald Trump, has yet to face any consequences thanks to the Supreme Court holding up his case over questions of presidential immunity. 

Since the January 6 attack, Trump has not toned down his own rhetoric, saying that 2024 could be the “last election we ever have”—and his far-right supporters could try to make that a reality. Not to mention that many Republicans still believe in conspiracies about the Capitol riot, a sign that the right isn’t concerned about inciting political violence, let alone the violence itself. 

In short, Miller’s sentence shows that the consequences for political violence in the U.S. right now only come after the fact, and do not deal with those who incite it beforehand. This does not bode well for the aftermath of the 2024 elections, no matter how they go.

Guess Where Marjorie Taylor Greene Has Suddenly Gotten Popular?

The Georgia Republican has amassed a fan base in Russia.

Marjorie Taylor Greene speaks to reporters
Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene’s conspiracy theories, vitriolic language, and xenophobia have made her a darling of the right and a pariah on the left—and now, she’s gained admiration from Russian state television.

Greene’s attempts to block aid to Ukraine, her criticisms of NATO, and her beliefs that the United States should withdraw from the alliance have drawn plaudits from TV hosts in Russia, The Daily Beast reported Friday.

“She believes that Americans should help Putin win. Yes, you heard that right. To help him win in Ukraine,” says host Evgeny Popov in one clip.

It’s a new development for Greene, who previously was mocked in the country for confusing gazpacho with Gestapo and claiming that Jewish space lasers caused the California wildfires. Russian TV even said her words were proof of “mental debilitation” in Western politics. But Greene may be happy to know that her echoing of Russian propaganda in the House of Representatives has paid off, despite the fact that the issue of aid to Ukraine has divided the Republican Party. It looks like former Representative Ken Buck was right on the money when he called her “Moscow Marjorie.”

Some experts have even suggested that Russia is buying off American politicians just like they do in Europe. Greene wouldn’t be the only Republican to spew Kremlin talking points, but she seems to be the most popular so far. As the new darling of Russian state TV, she’s filling a void left by Speaker Mike Johnson, who in recent days has come out in support of aid in Ukraine after months of blocking it. Johnson was so beloved on Russian television for blocking aid to Ukraine that one TV host called him “Our Johnson.”

Green also appears to have usurped erstwhile Fox News host Tucker Carlson, whose February interview with Putin fell flat, ending Russian TV’s love affair with him.

Russia’s praise of Greene, and other conservative personalities before her, is just further proof that post–Donald Trump, a large part of the Republican Party has pledged its allegiance to Vladimir Putin.

Read more about Russia's influence in the U.S.:

Trump May Need to Find a Less Shady Backer for His Fraud Bond

New York Attorney General Letitia James does not believe Knight Specialty Insurance is up to the task.

Letitia James speaks
Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

New York state Attorney General Letitia James on Friday asked the judge presiding over Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial to reject the former president’s bond, which has been dogged by reports of the insolvency of the company backing it.

Earlier this month, James gave Trump and Knight Specialty Insurance, the insurance company that underwrote his civil fraud case bond, 10 days to guarantee that the $175 million surety could be justified. Those 10 days are now up.

Trump and Knight Specialty Insurance, which is not licensed as a surety in New York state, could not prove the surety “meets the requirements of trustworthiness and competence,” according to a memo from James’s office,  and thus failed to demonstrate that they would be good for the $175 million. 

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It’s not exactly a surprise, given that the bond would account for more than a third of Knight Specialty’s assets and more than its surplus funds. The company may also have not actually legally agreed to pay the bond for Trump. Trump has struggled to come up with the money to pay the various legal fees against him on his own; he enlisted the insurer Chubb to loan him the $91 million needed for the E. Jean Carroll defamation judgment.

As a result, James wants to give Trump a week to post another bond, this one backed by someone more trustworthy than the “king of subprime car loans.” If he cannot, James may begin seizing his assets to cover the judgment against him. 

Judge Arthur Engoron is set to hear arguments on the surety’s validity on Monday. Trump, meanwhile, won’t be far: His criminal hush-money trial, which now has a full jury, is set to proceed in New York the same day.

Read about the shady businessman backing Trump's bond:

New Evidence Shows Matt Gaetz Might Be Skeezier Than We Thought

The House Ethics Committee has received a new statement in its investigation into the Florida representative.

Matt Gaetz looks down
Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

Matt Gaetz isn’t having a great week. It just got worse.

The House Ethics Committee, which is investigating Gaetz for illegal drug use as a member of Congress, received a sworn statement alleging that Gaetz attended a 2017 party in Florida where cocaine and MDMA use occurred, ABC News reported Friday. The statement also alleges that the girl at the center of a Department of Justice investigation into Gaetz attended the party and was seen naked.

The Justice Department began investigating Gaetz in 2020 over allegations that the Florida representative had paid a convicted sex trafficker to have sex with the girl, who was 17 at the time. It concluded the probe in 2023 and declined to charge Gaetz.

Gaetz has denied using drugs as a member of Congress. But, according to Oklahoma Senator Markwayne Mullin, he has bragged to co-workers about taking erectile dysfunction medicine–energy cocktails to “go all night.” He also allegedly, while standing on the House floor, showed colleagues nude photos and videos of women he had slept with.

The Florida Republican made headlines earlier this week after he and Wisconsin Representative Derrick Van Orden traded insults amid House GOP chaos over foreign aid packages. He also drew the ire of another colleague, New York Representative Mike Lawler, who on Thursday charged him and his “seven useful idiots” with sowing division in the Republican caucus by moving to oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

McCarthy, for his part, has pointed to his refusal to shut down the ethics investigation into Gaetz as the motivation behind Gaetz’s October motion to vacate. Gaetz has admitted as much privately.

Whatever the ethics probe turns up, it’s clear that his colleagues in the House are sick of him.