Damning testimony and election warnings. It’s Thursday, and this is your tip sheet.
Two Justice Department officials sat before a congressional committee yesterday and stated plainly that President Trump and his attorney general, William Barr, had interfered in criminal and antitrust cases to advance their own personal interests.
Aaron Zelinsky, a prosecutor who worked on the Russia investigation, told the House Judiciary Committee that senior officials had interfered with the prosecution of Roger Stone, a Trump ally, to seek a lighter sentence. “Roger Stone was treated differently because of politics,” Zelinsky said.
And John Elias, a senior career official in the antitrust division, said Barr had improperly sought investigations into the marijuana industry and California’s dealings with automakers. “Personal dislike of the industry is not a valid basis upon which to ground an antitrust investigation,” Elias said, referring to the cannabis cases.
Another case that has similarly raised eyebrows is that of Michael Flynn, Trump’s former national security adviser, who caught a break on Wednesday when a divided federal appeals panel ordered a lower judge to immediately dismiss the government’s charges against him.
Flynn had already twice pleaded guilty to lying to the F.B.I. when Barr’s Justice Department issued a surprise request to drop charges last month. But the presiding judge, Emmet Sullivan, refused to immediately grant the request, instead appointing a former federal jurist to argue against the government’s request.
Sullivan did not immediately dismiss the case yesterday in response to the panel’s order — which came in a rare move, known as a writ of mandamus — and it could be superseded if the full appeals court decides to take up the case.
A new poll by The New York Times and Siena College of six battleground states that clinched Trump’s 2016 victory showed that his once-commanding advantage among white voters has nearly vanished, a development that, if it holds, would all but preclude the president’s re-election. Joe Biden would win the presidency with at least 333 electoral votes if he won all six of the states surveyed and held those won by Hillary Clinton.
The poll also suggests that Trump’s deteriorating standing is posing a threat to the Republican Senate majority, endangering incumbents in two of the six battleground states — Arizona and North Carolina — and dimming Republicans’ hopes in a third, Michigan.
When it comes to who’s making judicial decisions, the buck increasingly stops with conservatives. The Senate just confirmed its 200th judge of Trump’s term. That’s the most to be appointed in a president’s first term since the Carter administration, according to one senator, and it reflects how far Republicans have pushed the federal bench rightward since 2017.
As Senate majority leader under Trump, Mitch McConnell has prioritized confirming justices over considering legislation, in large part because it can be done with a simple majority — whereas laws can be blocked without a 60-vote majority.
As the results continue to shake out from primaries in New York and a variety of southern states, it’s becoming clear that the progressive wing of the Democratic Party is accruing electoral strength, often running well-funded and strategic primary campaigns, and frequently backing relatively young candidates.
Although many absentee ballots remain uncounted throughout New York, delaying the confirmation of final results, the progressive challenger Jamaal Bowman appears to hold a wide lead over Eliot Engel, a 30-year congressman from the Bronx and Westchester County. Were Bowman to win, the resonances with Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s victory in 2018, over the powerful incumbent Joe Crowley, would be unmissable.
In a nearby district, Mondaire Jones, who like Bowman had the backing of Ocasio-Cortez and other progressive leaders, is strongly positioned to win the primary for the congressional seat being vacated by the longtime incumbent, Nita Lowey. Jones would become the first openly gay black member of Congress. First of two, that is, if Ritchie Torres, another progressive, wins his primary in the Bronx. He too is leading the pack, according to early returns.
The delay in results from Tuesday’s primaries is only a preview of what’s to come in November, national elections experts are warning. Unless the presidential race is a total blowout, a winner may not be declared on election night this year.
That’s due in part to higher-than-usual reliance on absentee ballots, pandemic-related voting regulations, and the legal squabbles that will inevitably take place.
Democratic officials announced yesterday that the party’s national convention will be a scaled-down affair. State delegations are being encouraged not to physically attend the August convention, which is being relocated to the Milwaukee convention center, instead of the 17,000-seat basketball arena that was originally set to host it.