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How a Supreme Court Leak Helped Conservative Justices Unite to Overturn Roe

A new report details how a leak of the Dobbs decision shut down disagreement among the court’s conservative justices—and destroyed the right to an abortion.

Samuel Alito
Alex Wong/Getty Images

The leak of Justice Samuel Alito’s draft decision in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Clinic actually solidified the court’s opinion amid a flurry of behind-the-scenes negotiations, a new report indicates.

An investigation by The New York Times illustrates that the premature opinion, distributed to Politico by an unknown source two months before the court revealed it had ruled to overturn abortion access at a national level, thwarted efforts by Chief Justice John Roberts and liberal Justice Steven Breyer to find a middle ground.

The majority of Supreme Court justices did not want the court to take up Dobbs, according to the Times, including Justice Amy Coney Barrett, who Trump explicitly appointed to the bench to clinch the abortion decision as a longtime goal of the religious right. A fragile minority of the court, four male justices, decided to move forward without her.

But the court waited months to announce that they had decided to weigh in on the seismic case, hoping to distance the whiplash decision from the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, a longtime champion of abortion as a bastion for gender equality, the Times noted.

Roberts and Breyer actively worked to curtail the Supreme Court’s landmark decision, attempting to limit the outcome of Alito’s opinion and, by Breyer’s hand, even eroding it entirely in an effort to save most of Roe. But the leak ended that whole compromise effort, helping Alito.

The report also depicts an effort by Alito to force the other conservative justices to help him overturn Roe after Ginsburg passed—including by secretly sharing a draft opinion with conservative allies.

Once Alito circulated his draft opinion among the members of the bench in February 2022, opinions rolled in almost immediately. Within minutes, Justice Neil Gorsuch said he would sign on to the opinion with zero changes. The next morning, Justice Clarence Thomas said the same. Then came ​​Justice Amy Coney Barrett and Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, all, unusually, with no alterations in mind.

In Dobbs, the court tested the boundaries of how that case, and subsequently all future ones, would be decided. Apart from the shocking leak, the justices also allowed Mississippi to expand its focus in the case, switching its stance from a narrower attempt to curtail abortion access to an outright assault on Roe, the Times wrote.

On Wednesday, the court picked up its next high-stakes abortion access case: a challenge to the 2000 Food and Drug Administration approval of a drug called mifepristone that comprises one-half of what’s more commonly known as the “abortion pill.” Since abortion has become a losing issue for Republicans across the country since the high court’s decision to overturn Roe, several GOP officials have come out publicly slamming the court’s decision to weigh in, predicting a prohibitive outcome.

By and large, most Americans support abortion access. In a 2023 Gallup poll, just 13 percent of surveyed Americans said that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. Meanwhile, 34 percent said it should be legal under any circumstances, and an additional 13 percent said it should be legal in most circumstances.

Read more at The New York Times.

Broke Giuliani Must Pay Up $148 Million for Defaming Georgia Election

A jury has decided the former Trump lawyer must make serious amends after ruining the lives of two Georgia election workers.

Rudy Giuliani
Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani was ordered to pay nearly $150 million in damages on Friday to a pair of Georgia poll workers he defamed.

America’s mayor had already been found liable in August for defaming election workers Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, after he accused the duo of manipulating ballots—claims that transformed into months of harassment, death threats, and protesters at their doorsteps.

The pair originally sought $24 million each in damages. Instead, the jury decided they deserve far more.

In total, the mother-daughter duo received $16 million each in damages for defamation, $20 million each for emotional distress, and another $75 million in punitive damages.

This week’s court appearances saw a flurry of drama after Giuliani continued to repeat election lies that he had previously admitted were untrue, resulting in a wrist slap by U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell, who noted that it could result in more defamation charges for the broke fixer. Giuliani also refused to take the stand in his own defense after spending weeks claiming that his testimony would make “definitively clear” that what he said about the pair of workers was true.

The judgment adds to a seismic fall from grace for the once beloved New York mayor, who is staring down a storm of legal and financial woes for shopping Trump’s 2020 election conspiracy theories, landing him several charges that have all but bankrupted him.

After this expensive trial, Giuliani will be one of 19 co-defendants in the Fulton County election interference case, in which he stands accused of orchestrating a “criminal enterprise” in Georgia that pressured state officials to reverse Trump’s election loss.

It’s not clear how Giuliani will pay off this new judgment or any others in the future—the former attorney is almost certainly penniless.

In September, the criminal defendant was sued by his own legal representation for failing to pay his bills, allegedly only dishing out $214,000 of nearly $1.6 million in legal expenses, after he claimed he was stiffed by his favorite client, Trump, to the tune of millions of dollars.

That resulted in an embarrassing show in which Giuliani had no other option than to beg Trump for help settling his seven-figure legal fees, to which the stingy developer refused but offered to throw a couple of fundraisers for him instead.

Now Giuliani faces a weighty nine-figure legal consequence. At this rate, there may be many more fundraisers down the line.

This story has been updated.

A Shocking Number of Republicans Are Signing Florida’s Abortion Petition

Republican voters are helping Florida put abortion on the ballot next year.

A woman outside holds a sign reading "BANS OFF OUR BODIES"
Chandan Khanna/AFP/Getty Images

Even many Republicans in Florida don’t want the state’s restrictive abortion ban, with thousands of conservative voters signing on in support of a constitutional amendment that would enshrine the right to abortion in the Sunshine State.

The petition proposes ensuring abortion access until the point of viability—roughly 24 weeks into pregnancy. That’s four and a half months longer than the state’s impending six-week abortion ban. So far, the petition has garnered 753,305 valid signatures, according to the Florida Division of Elections website, up from 687,000 last week. And more than 150,000 of those signatures come from Republicans.

The measure must receive at least 891,523 valid signatures within the state before a February 1 deadline to get on the November 2024 ballot.

“The vast majority of Floridians don’t support an abortion ban,” Anna Hochkammer, executive director of the bipartisan Florida Women’s Freedom Coalition, told The Guardian. “In the past, we’ve been protected by the explicit right to privacy contained in the state constitution, but we want specific language in the constitution that prohibits government interference with access to abortion.”

The Amendment to Limit Government Interference With Abortion reads, in part, that “no law shall prohibit, penalize, delay, or restrict abortion before viability or when necessary to protect the patient’s health, as determined by the patient’s healthcare provider.”

“How can my party be so vigorous in its defense of the right to bear arms yet not defend a woman’s right to make decisions about her own health care?” one Florida Republican, Carlos Lacasa, told the outlet. “I believe in small government, and morality cannot be legislated without an overwhelming consensus of the governed—and there is no such consensus on this issue.”

It’s another sign that Republican officials are out of touch with their bases. On Thursday, several Republican legislators slammed the Supreme Court for picking up a case threatening access to a drug called mifepristone, which comprises one-half of the abortion pill, fearing that a prohibitive ruling could put them at risk in the next election.

John Fetterman Finally Announces He’s Not the Progressive He Pretended to Be

The Pennsylvania senator spent years claiming to be building a progressive movement. Now he’s taking it all back.

John Fetterman
Nathan Howard/Getty Images

From the perspective of his supporters, Pennsylvania Senator John Fetterman entered Congress as a staunch progressive. He curried the endorsement of one of the leaders of the contemporary progressive movement, Senator Bernie Sanders, and stacked his own staff with former Bernie aides. Fetterman also championed progressive causes, including shifts toward renewable energy, implementing wealth taxes, single-payer health care, and raising the federal minimum wage.

But on Friday, Fetterman officially divorced himself from the progressive movement.

“I’m not a progressive,” Fetterman told NBC News. “I just think I’m a Democrat that is very committed to choice and other things. But with Israel, I’m going to be on the right side of that. And immigration is something near and dear to me, and I think we do have to effectively address it as well.”

The announcement comes after weeks spent disagreeing with other congressional progressives like the Squad over his unwavering support for Israel in its conflict with Hamas and his calls for tougher immigration laws.

But if you asked Fetterman during the campaign season where he stood, his words were more than a little different.

After losing his first Senate run in 2016, Fetterman touted that he had started a progressive movement in the Coal State.

“It’s not going away. We’re not going away. This isn’t over. This is not how our story ends,” he added in an additional post.

Two years later, Fetterman was still using the label to ask for donations during his run for lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania.

“Chip in whatever you can to help us take this progressive momentum all the way to the ballot box on May 15,” Fetterman posted.

“Progressive. Simple. Sacred. The union way of life,” Fetterman said in another.

“Progressive values have been the heart of my campaign,” Fetterman wrote in a 2018 post aligning himself with Sanders.

And despite emerging rhetoric from the senator claiming that the United States needs harsher immigration reform, one of Fetterman’s recurring campaign mantras on the issue circles back to his wife, who lived in the U.S. “undocumented for years” after escaping violence in Brazil. Time and time again, Fetterman has insisted that “immigration makes America, America.”

A Binder on Highly Classified Russian Intel Went Missing Under Trump

Intelligence officials are sounding the alarms about the unredacted missing documents.

Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

A 10-inch-thick binder of highly classified raw data regarding Russian election interference went missing in the final days of the Trump administration, a new report reveals.

The loss of the massive binder, which has yet to be found two years after it was first reported missing, included details on Russian agents that informed the government’s assessment that Russian President Vladimir Putin had worked to help Trump win the 2016 election, according to a sprawling CNN investigation.

The information inside was so sensitive that lawmakers and congressional aides looking to review the materials had to do so under top secret security clearances and only inside a locked safe at CIA headquarters.

The binder included a GOP report on Russian intelligence, foreign intelligence surveillance warrants on a Trump campaign adviser from 2017, interview notes with Trump-Russia dossier author Christopher Steele, internal FBI and DOJ communications, and FBI reports from a confidential source related to FBI’s “Crossfire Hurricane” investigation, among other documents, according to the outlet.

It was last seen at the White House.

In the waning hours of the administration, Trump ordered a host of documents, including the binder, to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue for mass declassification in a scheme to prove that the FBI’s Trump-Russia investigation into his 2016 campaign ties was a hoax.

Republican aides spent days scrubbing the binder, redacting the most sensitive details so that an abridged version could be released to the public, even against the behest of other top Trump administration officials who repeatedly attempted to block the former president from releasing its contents, according to the outlet.

A day before his term was set to end, Trump issued an order to preemptively declassify most of the binder’s contents well before it was ready and regardless of some of the redactions. Multiple copies of the redacted version had been created inside the White House, with plans to hand them off to Republicans and right-wing journalists. But that’s not what happened. Instead, White House lawyers scrambled, forcing an immediate retrieval of some documents that had already been sent off, and demanding that the documents be stripped down more.

“The Crossfire Hurricane binders are a complete disaster. They’re still full of classified information,” White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson recalled a White House counsel, Pat Cipollone, telling her. “Those binders need to come back to the White House. Like, now.”

With minutes to spare before Joe Biden’s inauguration, Trump’s White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows hand-delivered a redacted copy of the binder to the Justice Department for a final review.

“I personally went through every page, to make sure that the President’s declassification would not inadvertently disclose sources and methods,” he wrote in his book detailing his time as Trump’s chief.

Meanwhile, the original, unredacted version had gone missing.

But Hutchinson believed she had a clue as to its location. In a closed-door testimony before the January 6 committee, Hutchinson pointed a finger directly at her old boss in relation to the possible whereabouts of the original binder.

“I am almost positive it went home with Mr. Meadows,” Hutchinson said, according to transcripts.

Meadows’s legal team has vehemently denied that he mishandled any classified or sensitive documents.

Apart from Meadows, there seem to be no obvious leads for the location of the binder, which could expose some of America’s most closely guarded national security secrets. Somehow, it was not one of the 11,000 documents discovered at Trump’s Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago.

Trump Co-Defendants Offer One-Line Apology for Trying to Overthrow Election

The apology letters from the former Trump lawyers were so short they barely made any mention of the crimes at all.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images

Donald Trump’s former lawyers and co-defendants in the Fulton County, Georgia, case wrote single-sentence letters apologizing to Georgia voters for their role in trying to overthrow the 2020 election.

As part of their plea agreements in the 2020 election interference case, bail bondsman Scott Hall as well as ex-Trump lawyers Kenneth Chesebro and Sidney Powell were required to write letters, as Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis demanded that “there needs to be real contrition.”

However, the one-line apology letters failed to walk back any of the baseless conspiracies spouted and did not include any acknowledgment of President Biden’s win in the state. In fact, they barely mentioned the crimes they were charged with at all.

“I apologize to the citizens of the State of Georgia and of Fulton County for my involvement in Count 15 of the indictment,” was all Chesebro wrote in his apology letter, obtained by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Sidney Powell also kept it insanely brief. “I apologize for my actions in connection with the events in Coffee County,” she wrote in her October 19 letter.

Hall, the bail bondsman, issued the longest apology of the three—and still, it was only eight sentences.

While Willis said the apology would not have to be long, she expects some level of sincerity.

“It doesn’t have to be pages and pages,” she told the Constitution earlier this week. “Sometimes you just need ‘I’m sorry.’ And if you get ‘I’m sorry,’ then we can move on and move past (it) if it’s a sincere apology.”

Republicans Have a Replacement for George Santos—and She’s a Doozy

Republicans have rallied behind Mazi Melesa Pilip, a local legislator who previously served in the Israeli Defense Forces.

Screenshot CBS New York/YouTube

Republicans believe that their pick to replace recently expelled Representative George Santos could be a rising star on the national stage, despite her thin political résumé.

Mazi Melesa Pilip, a local legislator who was born in Ethiopia and served in the Israel Defense Forces, was tapped in a secret meeting on Thursday to run as the Republican candidate for New York’s 3rd congressional district. So far, she’s curried the favor of the traditionally white Long Island Republican caucus and the endorsement of another former Long Island representative and 2016 GOP presidential candidate who once claimed there were “too many mosques in this country”—Peter King.

“She is the American success story,” King told The New York Times. “Some people have superstar capacity. She walks into the room, people notice her, they listen to her.”

In many ways, Pilip is an unlikely candidate for the Long Island seat. She is a 44-year-old mother of seven who first ran for office just two years ago. According to the Times, she has almost no experience raising money and has yet to foster relationships with the national party. She also lacks a strong platform, having yet to weigh in on issues that have decided other races, including abortion rights, gun laws, and Donald Trump’s numerous criminal trials.

This all makes Pilip a pretty bold pick, given that Democrats already have a very good chance of retaking the House seat. Santos was one of 18 Republicans representing districts that voted for Joe Biden in 2020.

It remains to be seen if voters in the Queens-Nassau County district have been turned off the GOP. After all, it’s thanks to the local Republican officials that Santos was pushed through inauguration, even after several bombshell reports revealed that the fabulist congressman had lied about everything from his résumé to his lineage, resulting in the third expulsion in U.S. history in the post–Civil War period.

She’ll be pitted against the Democrats’ pick, former Representative Tom Suozzi, in a special election scheduled to take place February 13.

We Now Have Even More Details About James Comer’s Shady Shell Company

A new report exposes how the Republican lawmaker leading the probe into the Biden family has some questionable business of his own.

Representative James Comer
Al Drago/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The man leading the Biden impeachment inquiry has apparently engaged in nearly identical behavior that he has hounded the president over.

In a scathing new report, the Associated Press found that a shell company held by the chair of the House Oversight Committee James Comer functioned “in a similarly opaque way” as the Biden family’s own companies.

For months, Comer has harangued the Biden family for leveraging their name to conduct business deals and for using shell companies to cloud their transactions with foreign parties and shady figures, indicting the president’s son Hunter Biden on nine tax charges related to the shell companies.

But a series of interviews and records searches conducted by the AP showed that the Kentucky Republican did something remarkably similar, transferring a six-acre parcel of land co-owned with one of his major campaign donors, Darren Cleary, to a shell company he created in 2017 with his wife.

The property has grown in value since its original purchase, jumping from a valuation of between $50,000 and $100,000 at the time of purchase to between $500,001 and $1 million, according to Comer’s financial statements obtained by the outlet. That flies in the face of not only Comer’s self-purported squeaky-clean reputation but also House rules, which require members of Congress to disclose all assets held by companies worth more than $1,000.

“This is actually a real problem that anti-corruption activists would love to get legislative reform on,” Kathleen Clark, a law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, told the AP. “It is hard to trace assets held in shell companies. His is a good example.”

Last month, Democrats railed on the Kentucky Republican following a Daily Beast report that revealed the first inklings that Comer had engaged in his own shell company, involving intra-family business dealings. At the time, Commer snapped back that it was the kind of thing “only dumb, financially illiterate people pick up on.”

Ted Cruz Really, Really Does Not Want to Talk About That Texas Abortion Case

The Republican senator is ignoring press inquiries about what’s happening in his home state.

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Texas Senator Ted Cruz appears to be avoiding talking about the controversial abortion case in his state—by any means necessary.

The day after Kate Cox, a 31-year-old mother of two with a fatal fetus diagnosis, was forced to leave the state to access abortion care, Cruz cruised past and skirted reporters, refusing to comment on the situation.

“Just call our press office,” Cruz told several reporters.

“I have, and I actually haven’t received an answer. So, is there anything that you’d like to say right now on this?” asked NBC News’s Kate Santaliz.

“Call our press office,” Cruz repeated.

Cruz has never been shy to hop into the abortion conversation before. After the Supreme Court ruled in Dobbs v. Jackson, Cruz described the decision as a “momentous moment” and a “vindication for the rule of law.” His silence now could be a sign that the ruling might impact his chance of reelection next November.

He wouldn’t be the only Republican afraid of the political blowback. On Thursday, a slew of vulnerable House Republicans made their own stances on abortion bans abundantly clear in an apparent effort to save their own election chances in Biden-won districts, snubbing the Supreme Court’s decision to take up a case that could prohibit the abortion pill, which accounts for more than half of all abortions in the U.S., as “tone deaf.”

Cox has been at the center of the nation’s first major post-Roe lawsuit, riding out a legal challenge to the state’s near-total abortion ban after learning that her fetus had a fatal genetic condition that could jeopardize her health and future fertility if carried to term while being personally and repeatedly targeted by Attorney General Ken Paxton.

Last week saw a whiplash series of back-to-back decisions in the case, with a Travis County district judge ruling on Thursday that Cox could receive an abortion under the state’s medical emergency clause. But hours after the ruling, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton asked the state’s Supreme Court to intervene and issued a statement promising to prosecute doctors performing the procedure with felony charges, even if a court permitted the procedure. On Friday night, the state’s Supreme Court blocked the lower court’s order and once again put Cox’s health in jeopardy.

Vulnerable Republicans Are Nervous About the Supreme Court’s New Abortion Case

House Republicans in swing districts are nervous about what the “tone deaf” Supreme Court will do next.

Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc/Getty Images
Representative Marc Molinaro

Some Republicans are coming down hard on the Supreme Court for taking up a case on Wednesday that would challenge the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the abortion pill, fearing that a ban could create another vulnerability in GOP-held swing districts.

At stake is access to a drug called mifepristone, which, along with misoprostol, comprises one-half of a two-pill prescription jointly referred to as “the abortion pill.” Together, they account for more than half of all the abortions in the United States, according to a 2022 report by the Guttmacher Institute.

“I suspect they’ll rule in favor of prohibitions which is a mistake,” one vulnerable, unnamed House Republican told Axios. “The Court is tone deaf.”

New York Representative Mike Lawler, a Republican representing a district that President Joe Biden won in 2020, told the outlet that he didn’t support a national abortion ban, and that the court should stay out of issues better handled by states and the FDA.

“The Supreme Court needs to stand down,” Lawler said. “If it’s legal in a certain state, they shouldn’t be saying you can’t utilize that type of medicine.”

Other Republicans specified that they were concerned about the political blowback such a decision could have on upcoming elections.

“Quite frankly I would be concerned that the courts overly impose their will,” New York Representative Marc Molinaro told Axios.

The Supreme Court’s decision to overturn abortion access at a national level proved disastrous for Republicans last November, resulting in major losses in districts where abortion was a key issue. Postelection, those raw numbers turned into some stunning platform reversals for the conservative party, with GOP consultants referring to the turning tide on the issue as a “major wake-up call.”

By and large, most Americans support abortion access. In a 2023 Gallup poll, just 13 percent of surveyed Americans said that abortion should be illegal in all circumstances. Meanwhile, 34 percent said it should be legal under any circumstances, and an additional 13 percent said it should be legal in most circumstances.

A decision in the abortion pill case is expected by summer.