8 min read

Four court rulings to be aware of

Plus, the latest midterm polls and international updates from Israel, Brazil, Ukraine, and North Korea.
Four court rulings to be aware of

Good morning! It’s Wednesday, November 2, 2022. The midterm elections are 6 days away. The 2024 elections are 734 days away.

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Key court decisions on Trump investigations, voting laws

Let’s kick the morning off by taking a look at four court rulings that were handed down on Tuesday, each consequential in their own way:

Trump investigations

1. Trump’s tax returns: Chief Justice John Roberts placed a temporary hold on a lower court order that would have required six years of former President Trump’s tax returns to be handed over to the House Ways and Means Committee by Thursday.

With Roberts’ order, a years-long legal battle — dating back to 2019 — will continue even longer. The next step in the court fight is now November 10, when Roberts has asked the House committee to issue a response to Trump’s appeal.

After twisting through the judicial system for years, Roberts’ move came as House investigators are finally coming up against a likely deadline in their hunt for Trump’s taxes. In January, control of the House is expected to flip into Republican hands and the investigation will presumably dissolve; if Democrats don’t obtain the tax returns by then, they likely never will.

2. Graham’s Georgia testimony: In a separate case, however, the Supreme Court handed a victory to Trump investigators. The justices declined to block a subpoena requiring Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), a top Trump ally, to testify before a Georgia grand jury investigating the ex-president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 vote in the state.

Barring any further developments, Graham will now have to offer testimony in about two weeks — on November 17 — as demanded by prosecutors. He will still have leeway in what he talks about, though: the justices sided with lower courts in allowing Graham to challenge questions from the grand jury that relate to his official legislative duties as a senator.

Graham is seen as a key witness in the probe, having made several calls to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger after the election. Justice Clarence Thomas previously put a temporary hold on the testimony to give the justices time to consider the dispute; Tuesday’s order included no noted dissent from Thomas or any other justice.

Chief Justice John Roberts. (Carlos Vazquez / DOD)

Voting laws

1. Undated Pennsylvania ballots: The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ordered state election officials ahead of next week’s midterms to “refrain from counting any absentee and mail-in ballots” that were mailed in undated or incorrectly dated envelopes.

Pennsylvania law requires voters to sign and date the outer envelope when mailing in a ballot. The state court — which is down a member after the death of Chief Justice Max Baer — deadlocked 3-3 on whether the date requirement violates federal election law. Therefore, the provision stands.

The case is the result of a lawsuit brought by state and national Republicans, who were seeking to ensure the undated ballots would not be counted. Republican National Committee chairwoman Ronna McDaniel hailed the order as a “massive victory for Pennsylvania voters and the rule of law.”

2. Arizona drop box watchers: Federal district judge Michael Liburdi issued a temporary restraining order blocking a conservative watchdog group from standing within 75 feet of ballot drop boxes,  openly carrying firearms within 250 feet of the drop boxes, and following or speaking to voters who use the drop boxes.

The order comes after reports of the QAnon-linked group, Clean Election USA, monitoring drop boxes across Arizona, sometimes wielding weapons. The group claims to be watching for “mules” who are illegally casting multiple ballots. In a filing in the case earlier this week, the Justice Department suggested that the group’s activities might constitute illegal voter intimidation under the Voting Rights Act.

Liburdi, a Trump appointee, had previously declined to issue a restraining order, but changed course after the groups suing Clean Elections USA sought more limited relief and after hearing the testimony of voter intimidation he viewed as more compelling.

A ballot drop box in Washington, D.C. (Ted Eytan)

đź—ł A few midterm updates

➞ An array of high-quality pollsters are getting in their last surveys before Election Day, and they show almost all good news for Republicans. Here’s a sampling from the past 24 hours:

  • A Fox News poll in Arizona showed Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly’s lead over Republican Blake Masters shrinking within the margin of error (47% to 45%), while Republican Kari Lake moved into a slight lead against Democrat Katie Hobbs in the gubernatorial race (47% to 46%).
  • A Saint Anselm College poll found Republican challenger Dan Bolduc gaining on Democratic Sen. Maggie Hassan in New Hampshire. Bolduc now stands at 48% to Hassan’s 47%; in the same poll in September, Hassan was at 49% to Bolduc’s 43%.
  • An NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found a tie in the generic congressional ballot question among registered voters (46% to 46%), while a series of Republican-leaning groups recorded more enthusiasm to vote than Democratic-leaning groups.
  • A CNN poll found Republicans ahead in the generic ballot question among likely voters (51% to 47%) and effectively tied among registered voters (47% to 46%). 38% of Republican voters said they were extremely enthusiastic to vote, compared to 24% of Democratic voters.

➞ The election forecasters at the Cook Political Report also moved 10 House races in the Republicans’ direction on Tuesday. Among the changes: moving rising Democratic star Rep. Katie Porter’s race from “Lean Democratic” to “Toss Up.”

Republicans have an enthusiasm edge. (Kaitlyn Radde / NPR)

➞ As these signs of a “red wave” mount, Democratic lawmakers and strategists are “openly second-guessing their party’s campaign pitch and tactics,” according to the New York Times, complaining that the party “failed to coalesce around one effective message” before Election Day.

While Republicans have consistently focused on the same issues — inflation and crime — for months, Democrats have bounced between messages, most recently moving away from abortion to try out a pitch on protecting Social Security and Medicare.

âžž Democrats gained a notable surrogate on Tuesday: Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), who headlined a campaign event for Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D-MI) and offered her endorsement of Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH) in the Ohio Senate race. Cheney, the scion of a prominent Republican family, said the Slotkin event was her first time ever campaigning for a Democrat.

More campaign headlines:

  • WaPo: “New class of combative MAGA candidates poised to roil House GOP”
  • NYT: “Biden Verbally Fumbles, Twice, During Campaign Trip in Florida”
  • AP: “Trump 2024 campaign prepares for post-midterms launch”

🌎 More news from around the globe

ISRAEL: With about 85% of the ballots from Tuesday’s elections counted, former Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu is on course for a successful comeback as his right-wing bloc appears to have won a slim majority in parliament. Read more

BRAZIL: In his first remarks since losing to the leftist Lula on Sunday, far-right Brazilian president Jair Bolsonaro declined to concede the election but signaled that he will begin the transition of power. Read more

NORTH KOREA: South Korea said this morning that North Korea launched more short-range missiles into the sea — 23 — than ever before, including one that landed off the coast of South Korea for the first time since the two countries were split in 1945. South Korea responded with three missiles of its own. Read more

UKRAINE: Russia announced this morning that it would rejoin a UN-brokered deal allowing Ukraine to export grain through the Black Sea, just four days after exiting the agreement. Russia’s suspension of the deal had caused worries of a global good crisis. Read more

đź—“ What your leaders are doing today

All times Eastern. Click on an event’s time to watch or listen to it.

Executive Branch

President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing (9 am), view workforce training demonstrations by labor unions and top companies (2:15 pm), and deliver remarks on “working to strengthen the infrastructure talent pipeline” (2:40 pm).

Federal Reserve chairman Jerome Powell will hold a press conference, during which he’s expected to announce the Fed’s fourth consecutive three-quarter-point interest rate hike (2:30 pm).

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold her daily press briefing (1:15 pm).

First Lady Biden is in Pennsylvania. She’ll deliver remarks at a DNC fundraiser in Pittsburgh (3:30 pm), an event for the state Democratic Party in Pittsburgh (4:30 pm), and an event with Reps. Susan Wild (D-PA) and Madeleine Dean (D-PA) in Allentown (7 pm).

The first lady will also attend Game Four of the 2022 World Series in Philadelphia, participating in the MLB’s annual “Stand Up To Cancer” event during the game (9:15 pm).

Legislative Branch

The House and Senate are not in session.

Judicial Branch

The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Bittner v. United States (10 am). Per SCOTUSBlog, the case asks whether a U.S. citizen who failed to report several foreign bank accounts should receive a single $10,000 fine under the Bank Secrecy Act or a fine for each account.

For Alexandru Bittner, today’s plaintiff, that constitutes the difference between a $50,000 fine (a single fine for each year of his ommissions) and one worth $2.72 million (a fine for each omission over five years).

đź‘‹ Before I go...

Here’s something cool. The actress Julia Roberts recently revealed that a surprising couple paid for the hospital bills when she was born: Martin Luther King Jr. and Coretta Scott King.

It turns out that Roberts’ parents ran the only integrated theater school in Atlanta at the time — and counted the Kings’ children as pupils. When Walter and Betty Roberts struggled to pay the bills for their daughter’s birth, the Kings stepped in to help, a favor to the couple who welcomed their children as students when no other acting school in the segregated city would.

Click here for the full story, via NPR:

Martin Luther King Jr. paid the bill for Julia Roberts’ birth. Here’s the backstory
As fans marked Julia Roberts’ birthday last week, they also uncovered a connection between her family and that of the civil rights icon. It all started when her parents opened an acting school.

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Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe