Politics

New questions after Cassidy Hutchinson's Jan. 6 committee testimony

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(WASHINGTON) -- White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson's dramatic testimony this week has provided not only a new account of the actions of then-President Donald Trump and chief of staff Mark Meadows before and on Jan. 6, 2021, but it's also raised questions about where the House select committee's investigation will go next, including concerning Trump's potential legal liability.

In a nearly two-hour hearing Tuesday, Hutchinson painted a picture of Trump, who, after speaking at his "Save America" rally on the Ellipse, insisted on being taken to the Capitol as Congress met to certify electoral votes, demanding to join his supporters, she said, despite having been told some were armed with weapons.

"I was in the vicinity of a conversation where I overheard the president say something to the effect of, you know, "I don't effing care that they have weapons. They're not here to hurt me. Take the effing mags away. Let my people in," Trump said, according to Hutchinson. "They can march to the Capitol from here. Let the people in."

Trump rushed to attack her credibility -- but appeared to mostly dispute -- not whether he knew the mob attacking the Capitol was armed -- but whether, in a rage, he had grabbed the steering wheel of his presidential SUV or in anger had thrown his lunch against the White House dining room wall.

In a statement Wednesday, her lawyer said Hutchinson stands by all the testimony she gave under oath Tuesday.

The committee followed up Wednesday on Hutchinson's account of what Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone said at the time, to her and to others, with a subpoena -- and his team is negotiating the ultimate scope of the order for future testimony, sources told ABC News.

Addressing the last-minute nature of the Hutchinson hearing, Jan. 6 committee member Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., said Wednesday it was "critical" for the American public to hear her testimony "immediately," adding that threats of witness intimidation, as well as the potential for her story to inspire others to come forward, were "an important part of our calculus."

"We want to let people know that may be signaling or trying to influence witness testimony that we take that very seriously, that we will confront that, and if necessary, we will refer any kind of intimidation to the Justice Department," Schiff said on "GMA3." "We also want to be able to use this information to encourage other witnesses to come forward."

Sources tell ABC News that Hutchinson was one of the witnesses who told the Jan. 6 committee she was pressured by allies of Donald Trump to protect the former president.

The committee and Hutchinson herself have not publicly confirmed this reporting.

How will Trump counsel Cipollone testify?

Cipollone is evaluating the subpoena and his team is negotiating with the committee on the parameters surrounding an eventual closed-door deposition, sources close to him told ABC News. They say they have an expectation that he and the committee will reach an agreement on the terms by the requested deposition date of next Wednesday, July 6, though sources emphasize the fluid nature of the talks.

Committee investigators are expected to ask Cipollone will be asked about his interactions with Trump on Jan. 6, knowledge of attempts from former top DOJ official Jeffrey Clark -- whom Trump wanted to install as attorney general -- to use the powers of the Justice Department to attempt to overturn the election, and interactions with former Trump election lawyer John Eastman and members of Congress after the election.

The information shared with the committee could be impacted by a number of factors, sources familiar with the deliberations said. That includes whether Trump's presence in any of the past meetings could result in potential claims of executive privilege, or whether Cipollone could invoke attorney-client privilege on certain matters as the top lawyer in the White House.

A lawyer familiar with Cipollone's deliberations told ABC News Wednesday, in response to the committee's announcement: "Of course a subpoena was necessary before the former White House counsel could even consider transcribed testimony before the committee," and that now it will "be evaluated as to matters of privilege that might be appropriate."

Cipollone and former deputy White House counsel, Pat Philbin, who was also part of a Jan. 3, 2021, Oval Office meeting, during which Trump insisted on replacing then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Clark, sat for an informal interview with committee investigators in April -- but members are eager to speak with Cipollone again after Hutchinson described firsthand accounts of what she said were his warnings.

Hutchinson told the committee that on the morning of Jan. 6, before Trump supporters stormed the Capitol, Cipollone was adamant that Trump shouldn't go to the Capitol after his speech at the rally on the Ellipse.

"We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen," she said Cipollone warned her at the time.

She also recalled Cipollone rushing into Meadows' office in the West Wing as rioters breached the building.

"I remember Pat saying something to the effect of 'Mark, we need to do something more. They're literally calling for the vice president to be f------ hung,'" Hutchinson said in taped testimony.

She said that Meadows replied, "You heard him, Pat. He thinks Mike deserves it. He doesn't think they're doing anything wrong," to which Cipollone said, according to Hutchinson, "Mark, something needs to be done, or people are going to die and the blood's gonna be on your f------ hands."

Chairman Bennie Thompson said the committee has also requested to speak with Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, who took back her apparent offer to speak with the committee this week when her attorney sent a letter to the committee saying he wants "a better justification for why Mrs. Thomas's testimony is relevant."

Thomas urged Arizona lawmakers in emails obtained by ABC News to help reverse Biden's victory -- suggesting that the conservative activist played a larger role in pushing to overturn the election than was previously publicly known.

What happened inside Trump's SUV?

A secondhand account Hutchinson gave Tuesday was a shocking story about how Trump allegedly reached for the steering wheel in trying to get to the Capitol after his Ellipse speech -- and prompted immediate pushback.

Hutchinson recalled being told how Trump turned "irate" as he was driven away from the Ellipse after being told by his security that he could not go to the Capitol with his supporters.

Though she was not in the SUV at the time, she said she heard the account from Tony Ornato, a senior Secret Service official who was at the time White House deputy chief of staff for operations, when everyone was back at the White House. Also in the room was Bobby Engel, the head of Trump's security detail who was in the SUV with Trump and, according to Hutchinson, did not speak up to dispute any of Ornato's account.

"The president said something to the effect of, 'I'm the effing president, take me up to the Capitol now' -- to which Bobby responded, 'Sir, we have to go back to the West Wing,'" she testified she was told. "The president reached up toward the front of the vehicle to grab at the steering wheel. Mr. Engel grabbed his arm and said, 'Sir, you need to take your hand off the steering wheel. We're going back to the West Wing. We're not going to the Capitol.'

"Mr. Trump then used his free hand to lunge toward Bobby Engel and when Mr. Ornato recounted this story to me, he motioned toward his clavicles," she said.

In a rare statement after her testimony, the Secret Service reiterated that it had been cooperating with the House committee and intended to keep doing so, "including by responding on the record" to Hutchinson's testimony. The agency issued another statement Wednesday saying that agents are prepared to give sworn testimony.

Two sources familiar with the matter confirmed to ABC News Chief Justice Correspondent Pierre Thomas that Trump had indeed requested to go to Capitol on Jan. 6 and that the Secret Service refused due to security concerns. One of those sources said that when the former president returned to his vehicle after his speech at the Ellipse and asked Engel if he could go to the Capitol, Engel responded by saying, essentially, that it was unwise. But sources pushed back against any allegation that Trump reached for the steering wheel or assaulted an agent.

A Jan. 6 committee aide told ABC News Wednesday, "The committee welcomes anyone who wishes to provide additional information under oath."

How is Hutchinson's boss Mark Meadows responding?

Cheney also asked Hutchinson whether Meadows himself ever indicated he was interested in a pardon, after she previously ticked off several GOP lawmakers in a taped deposition who Hutchinson said were in contact with the White House about "blanket pardons" after Jan. 6.

Each lawmaker named has denied the allegation.

"Mr. Meadows did seek that pardon," she testified under Cheney's questioning.

A Meadows spokesperson said he "never sought a pardon and never planned to," but did not make clear in the short statement whether Meadows raised the possibility with colleagues or even informally entertained the idea of such an ask.

Cheney told "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl in an exclusive interview that she is "absolutely confident" in Hutchinson's testimony and credibility.

ABC News' Katherine Faulders, John Santucci and Benjamin Siegel contributed to this report.

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Supreme Court to hear redistricting case that could upend state election laws everywhere

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(WASHINGTON) - The Supreme Court announced Thursday it will hear a case this fall that could upend state election laws across the country.

Moore v. Harper focuses on a new North Carolina voting map created by court-appointed experts after earlier maps proposed by the Republican-led state legislature were struck down.

The North Carolina Supreme Court in February ruled that the maps offered by the state general assembly were partisan gerrymanders, violating free speech, free assembly and equal protection provisions of the state constitution.

But the state legislature appealed that decision to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has agreed to take up the issue of redistricting and possibly restore the Republican-drawn map.

Central to the petitioners' argument is the so-called "inde­pend­ent state legis­lature" theory -- a fringe legal concept pushed by a small group of conservative advocates that would give state legislatures broad authority to run federal elections without the traditional oversight from a state constitution or judiciary, whom these advocates argue have no right to intrude on elected representatives.

Observers say there could be major ramifications from the Supreme Court's eventual decision.

"This has the potential to change the rules of the game in far-reaching ways in time for the next presidential election," ABC News Political Director Rick Klein said. "Depending on how far the Supreme Court goes, it could virtually invite Republican-controlled legislatures to rewrite centuries-old laws ensuring that the candidate who gets the most votes in a state gets its electoral votes -- and it even could free legislatures to pick electors on their own."

"It could wind up making it far easier for a future state legislature to actually do what Trump allies so desperately wanted done in the messy aftermath of the 2020 election," Klein added.

The "inde­pend­ent state legis­lature" theory argues that under the U.S. Constitution's Elections Clause and Electors Clause, state legislators can determine how elections are conducted without checks and balances from the other governmental actors such as state constitutions, courts or gubernatorial vetoes.

The Elec­tions Clause reads, "The Times, Places and Manner of holding Elections for Senators and Representatives, shall be prescribed in each State by the Legislature thereof; but the Congress may at any time by Law make or alter such Regulations, except as to the Places of chusing [choosing] Senators."

The Elect­ors Clause states that "each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector."

The Electors Clause was central to the unsuccessful plot by former President Donald Trump and his allies to use "fake electors" to overturn his 2020 loss to President Joe Biden.

Thomas Wolf, deputy director with the Brennan Center's Democracy Program, said the theory contradicts the intent of the Constitution's framers.

"It's contrary to 200-plus years of practice, the way we actually run elections, and it's contrary to over a century's worth of Supreme Court precedent," Wolf told ABC News. "It's also just disastrous as a policy matter."

Wolf warned that the argument, if accepted by the high court, could lead to the elimination of protections against discrimination for voting and strip election administrators of their ability to efficiently run and regulate elections.

The North Carolina Supreme Court said back in February that the theory would "produce absurd and dangerous consequences."

North Carolina House Speaker Tim Moore celebrated the U.S. Supreme Court's decision to take up the case, stating on Thursday that he was "confident" the justices would agree with their view that the U.S. Constitution "explicitly gives the General Assembly authority to draw districts."

"This case is not only critical to election integrity in North Carolina, but has implications for the security of elections nationwide," Moore argued.

The Supreme Court first confronted the case in March, when North Carolina's state legislature sought emergency relief. The justices ultimately denied that request, but three conservative on the bench said they would have granted a stay of the North Carolina Supreme Court's order.

"This case presents an exceptionally important and recurring question of constitutional law, namely, the extent of a state court's authority to reject rules adopted by a state legislature for use in conducting federal elections," Justice Samuel Alito wrote in the dissent. He was joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Neil Gorsuch.

Helen White, counsel at the nonpartisan group Protect Democracy, in a press call Thursday noted the Supreme Court ruled on the matter of partisan gerrymandering just three years ago.

In Rucho v. Common Cause, the court said while it wouldn't step in to police partisan gerrymandering, state courts and constitutions were a means of regulating gerrymandering in congressional elections.

White said if the court were now to adopt the "independent state legislature" theory, it would be a "radical pivot from what they themselves have said about the issues in this case."

Moore v. Harper will be argued before the nine justices in the term beginning this October, with a decision handed down in time for the 2024 campaign.

ABC News' Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

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GOP's Ted Cruz feuds with Elmo over kids getting COVID-19 vaccines

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(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas took aim at Sesame Street's "Elmo" after the popular children's show puppet promoted COVID-19 vaccines for children on Twitter.

A minute-long clip posted on the show's Twitter page showed Elmo speaking with his loving TV puppet dad, Louie, about feeling "a little pinch" when got a shot. Louie then says he had questions about Elmo getting the vaccine, which he took to Elmo's pediatrician.

"I learned that Elmo getting vaccinated is the best way to keep himself, our friends, neighbors, and everyone else healthy and enjoying the things they love," Louie said.

"Elmo" retweeted the original tweet from the Sesame Street page, echoing that his vaccination will benefit his loved ones.

But the puppet's message didn't sit well with the junior senator from Texas.

Cruz took to Twitter where he said Elmo "aggressively" advocates for vaccinating young children without citing scientific evidence.

The senator's tweet linked to a June press release in which Cruz announced he and 17 fellow members of Congress called on the Food and Drug Administration to answer 19 questions about the COVID-19 vaccine for kids.

"Why has the FDA recently lowered the efficacy bar for COVID vaccines for youngest children?" one question asks.

While the Sesame Street video with Elmo and Louie does not directly offer scientific evidence for the COVID-19 children's vaccine, a voice promotes asking questions about the vaccine and directs viewers to GetVaccineAnswers.org at the end of the video.

"Thanks, @sesamestreet for saying parents are allowed to have questions!" Cruz wrote, in an apparent flippant reaction.

The website mentioned in the Sesame Street video offers that research and clinical trials demonstrate the vaccine is safe and effective for children.

This is not the first time Cruz has gone after a Sesame Street character online.

In November, Elmo's fellow Sesame Street puppet, Big Bird, tweeted about getting the COVID-19 vaccine. At the time, Cruz called it "government propaganda."

Cruz's latest attack on a muppet comes less than two weeks after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the nationwide rollout of COVID-19 vaccines for children older than six months.

On Wednesday, the U.S. government bought 105 million COVID-19 shots from Pfizer for $3.2 billion with a late summer to fall delivery date.

Pfizer and Moderna produce the two vaccines approved for children under five years old.

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Law enforcement frustration along border 'earned,' Mayorkas says

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(WASHINGTON) -- In the wake of the apparent worst human smuggling tragedy in U.S. history, and amid migrants crossing the border at record levels, frustration among border patrol agents and other law enforcement on the ground is "earned," Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said.

"Our Border Patrol agents, you know, their morale is down. And I understand why," he told Fraternal Order of Police President Patrick Yoes on a podcast this week sponsored by FOP, one of the largest police unions in the country.

Migrants have been streaming across the border and getting taken into custody at record levels since the start of the year -- averaging well over 200,000 apprehensions a month.

Mayorkas touched on the catastrophe earlier this week on the outskirts of San Antonio, Texas, that left more than 50 migrants dead after being trapped in a broiling tractor-trailer -- saying it shows the danger of human smuggling organizations that charge desperate people to transport them across the border illegally.

"We have 50 people dead, some of whom are children. And that just exhibits the cruelty of the smuggling organizations and why we need an all of government and are executing an all of government attack against them," he said. "It's getting hotter. And the journeys that much more dangerous we got to that to break it up no doubt."

Two men have been charged by the Justice Department with human smuggling for their alleged role in transporting migrants who ultimately died near San Antonio.

Mayorkas has said DHS has been out front on combatting human smuggling operations, establishing a task force to aggressively combat cartel smuggling operations.

He also placed blame on other countries, saying they need to secure their borders and making the case the U.S. cannot be the first line of defense for border security. He said there's a need to limit how much time it takes to adjudicate the average asylum case, which he said now can take six to eight years under the current structure.

Along the border, he said there's been an increase in drugs being interdicted thanks to new non-invasive technology that is able to identify drugs through ports of entry.

Mayorkas also said he is "concerned" about funding streams for local law enforcement, and while directly not naming any cities, noted some have decreased their law enforcement budgets.

"We need to be resourced and local law enforcement needs to be resourced to match the level of crime that we're all encountering," he said. "We have a tough time recruiting personnel because law enforcement is under attack."

Mayorkas, a federal prosecutor before joining DHS, said he sees people "making bail" that wouldn't have otherwise made bail when he was at the Justice Department.

"An individual commits a crime with a firearm, that's a tough bail to make back in the day. And yet I you know, in speaking with police officers and deputy sheriffs in different parts of the country, I hear about people making bail pending trial. And I think that creates a danger," he said.

Mayorkas also touched on the root causes of recent mass shootings, including in Buffalo, New York, and Uvadle, Texas, and warning signs mass shooters might exhibit.

"I got to tell you that these narratives right spread so fast. Now, on social media, online platforms, you know, people are inspired by, you know, the massacre in New Zealand a number of years ago, and they learn of it on social media," he said. "Such a small percentage of people with mental health concerns actually, commit those violent acts. But those violent acts do so much damage in our country."

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Biden backs exception to Senate filibuster rule to get abortion rights codified

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(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Thursday blasted the Supreme Court decision to overturn Roe v. Wade and said he would support carving out an exception to the Senate filibuster rule to codify abortion rights and other privacy rights as well.

"One thing that has been destabilizing is the outrageous behavior of the Supreme Court of the United States and overruling not only Roe v. Wade, but essentially challenging the right to privacy," he said at a news conference in Madrid at the end of a NATO summit.

"We have to codify Roe v. Wade in the law," he said. "And the way to do that is to make sure Congress votes to do that. And if the filibuster gets in the way it's like voting rights, it should be we provide an exception for this, except the required exception to the filibuster for this action to deal with the Supreme Court decision."

Biden has previously said he would back a carveout for voting rights legislation, but Democrats lack the votes to support altering the rule, facing opposition from Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema.

Still, some progressives applauded his position Thursday, with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., tweeting in response, "Now we’re talking!"

"Time for people to see a real, forceful push for it. Use the bully pulpit. We need more," she wrote.

Ocasio-Cortez and other Democrats have called on the Biden administration to take stronger action to protect abortion access, such as declaring a public health emergency, authorizing procedures on federal lands, or enacting concrete ways to protect patients' personal health and location data -- actions the administration has, so far, declined to do.

Noting his evolution on the topic of abortion, one reporter asked Biden if he's the "best messenger" to lead the fight to codify Roe.

"Yeah, I am," he replied. "I'm the president of the United States of America. That makes me the best messenger."

On other domestic issues, he said NATO and G-7 leaders "do not think that" the United States is going in the wrong direction -- with reporters raising the Supreme Court abortion decision, continued mass shootings, including a massacre of children in Uvalde, and record-high inflation.

Addressing inflation and soaring prices across the board for goods at home, Biden said, "I can understand why the American people are frustrated because of inflation," but argued it's a world problem and not isolated to the U.S.

"The reason why gas prices are up is because of Russia, Russia, Russia," he said.

Biden spoke to close out his European trip made to meet with NATO and G-7 leaders to amid Russia's ongoing invasion of Ukraine.

In opening remarks, Biden delivered a message of NATO unity and strength in the face of new challenges, touting, above all, the addition of Finland and Sweden into the alliance.

"Putin thought you can break the Transatlantic Alliance. He tried to weaken us and expected our resolve to fracture. But he's getting exactly what he did not want," Biden said. "He wanted the federalization of NATO he got the NATO-ization of Finland."

"With the addition of Finland and Sweden will be stronger than ever," he added.

Saying that the U.S. will support Ukraine "for as long as it takes," Biden also said the U.S. will soon announce $800 million in new military aid to Ukraine including air defense systems and offensive weapons.

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Making history, Ketanji Brown Jackson sworn in as Supreme Court justice

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(WASHINGTON) -- Ketanji Brown Jackson marked a milestone in American representation on Thursday when she was sworn in as the first Black woman in history to sit on the nation's highest court -- officially taking on the title of justice.

Chief Justice John Roberts, in a brief ceremony at the Supreme Court, administered the constitutional oath to Jackson, and retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, who Jackson clerked for some 20 years ago, administered the judicial oath.

Her husband, Dr. Patrick Jackson, held two Bibles -- a family Bible and the Harlan Bible, a King James Bible donated to the Supreme Court in 1906 -- as Jackson smiled broadly and finished repeating the oaths.

"On behalf of all the members of the court, I'm pleased to welcome Justice Jackson to the court and to our common calling," Roberts said as the other seven other sitting justices attending applauded while Jackson beamed.

Breyer shook her hand and whispered, "Congrats," before patting her on the back.

"With a full heart, I accept the solemn responsibility of supporting and defending the Constitution of the United States and administering justice without fear or favor, so help me God," Jackson said in a written statement. "I am truly grateful to be part of the promise of our great Nation."

She thanked her new colleagues "for their warm and gracious welcome," and said she is "especially grateful for the time and attention given to me by the Chief Justice and by Justice Breyer."

"Justice Breyer has been a personal friend and mentor of mine for the past two decades, in addition to being part of today's official act," she wrote. "In the wake of his exemplary service, with the support of my family and friends, and ever mindful of the duty to promote the Rule of Law, I am well-positioned to serve the American people."

Breyer, in his own statement, said he's "glad today" -- for "Ketanji," "for my fellow Justices," and "for America."

"Her hard work, integrity, and intelligence have earned her a place on this Court," he said. "They gain a colleague who is empathetic, thoughtful, and collegial... Ketanji will interpret the law wisely and fairly, helping that law to work better for the American people, whom it serves."

Roberts said at the ceremony there will be a formal investiture in the fall but the oaths Thursday will allow Jackson to undertake her duties, "and she's been anxious to get to them without any further delay."

Jackson said at the White House after her Senate confirmation, "It has taken 232 years and 115 prior appointments, but we've made it."

"And our children are telling me that they see now, more than ever, that here in America, anything is possible," she said.

Her joining the court also makes it the first time four women will sit on the high court bench at the same time.

President Joe Biden announced in January that Breyer would retire at the end of the term after 27 years on the court, fulfilling the wishes of progressives wary of waiting, and setting off what would become a month-long process to name Jackson and another 42 days for her confirmation.

Three Republicans ultimately joined Senate Democrats in confirming her, marking a significant political win for Biden's long-term legacy -- and his short-term efforts to energize Democrats.

Biden said, when he was considering nominees, that he was looking for someone with Breyer's judicial philosophy and "a pragmatic understanding that the law must work for the American people." And with Jackson's nomination, he delivered on a key promise from the 2020 campaign trail, before the all-important South Carolina primary, that he would nominate the court's first Black woman.

"This is going to let so much sun shine on so many young women, so many young Black women," Biden said in April, alongside Jackson and Vice President Kamala Harris, the nation's first female and first Black vice president. "We're going to look back and see this as a moment of real change in American history."

Jackson, 51, born in Washington D.C., comes off the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, considered the most important federal court next to the Supreme Court. She has more than eight years of experience on the federal bench, following a path through the judiciary traveled by many nominees before her.

Like other associate justices, she is a graduate of Harvard Law School, but she marks her place in history in multiple ways, as also the first former public defender and first Florida-raised judge to sit on the Supreme Court. She'll also be the first justice since Thurgood Marshall to have criminal defense experience.

Asked what her message to young Americans would be during her Senate confirmations, she recalled to the Senate Judiciary Committee feeling out of place at Harvard in her first semester -- when a stranger provided a remarkable lesson in resilience.

"I was walking through the yard in the evening and a Black woman I did not know was passing me on the sidewalk, and she looked at me, and I guess she knew how I was feeling. And she leaned over as we crossed and said 'persevere,'" Jackson said. "I would tell them to persevere."

She has also spoken with emotion about descending from slaves and her parents growing up in Jim Crow South.

"In my family, it took just one generation to go from segregation to the Supreme Court of the United States," Jackson said at the White House after she was confirmed. "And it is an honor, the honor of a lifetime, for me to have this chance to join the court, to promote the rule of law at the highest level, and to do my part to carry our shared project of democracy and equal justice under law forward into the future."

Her two daughters, Talia, 21, and Leila, 17, were also present for the brief but historic swearing-in.

ABC News Senior Washington Reporter Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

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Who is Ketanji Brown Jackson, the incoming Supreme Court justice? And the inside story behind her name

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(WASHINGTON) -- When word came that Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer was retiring, the spotlight immediately shifted to who might replace him with most attention focused on Ketanji Brown Jackson, who clerked for Breyer about 20 years ago.

That spotlight grew even brighter when it was revealed that President Joe Biden would nominate her as the first Black woman to sit on the nation's high court.

Biden introduced Jackson to the American public back in February as "an exceptionally qualified and historic nominee."

A Harvard Law School graduate who rose to become a federal appeals court judge, Jackson, despite her professional and academic accolades, has said she considers simply working hard throughout her life to be a main reason she's gotten to where she is today.

She was born 51 years ago, in 1970, in Washington, D.C. Her parents, both public school teachers, had moved to Washington from Miami in the post-civil rights era.

She has recounted in a 2017 speech that her parents, wanting to show pride in their African ancestry, asked her aunt, who was then in the Peace Corps in Africa, for a list of African girl names.

Taking one of her suggestions, Jackson's parents named her Ketanji Onyika, which she said they were told translates to "lovely one."

In 2017, Jackson, in a lecture at the University of Georgia School of Law, revealed more of her personal side, reflecting not just on her legal career -- but on dealing with motherhood at the same time.

"Right now, in fact, I'm in that peculiar stage of life when I experience near-daily whiplash from the jarring juxtaposition of my two most significant roles: U.S. district judge on the one hand and mother of teenage daughters on the other," she said.

Jackson and her husband Patrick, a doctor, have two daughters, Talia who was 16 and Leila who was 12 years old at the time she told that story. During that same talk, Jackson said her family values include respecting everyone and making your best effort in everything you do.

"In our family, we have a mantra that emphasizes prioritization on work over play as one of our first principles," Jackson said. "As the girls would testify, 'do what you need to do before what you want to do' is a constant refrain in our house."

Jackson has served on the Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, considered the most important federal court next to the Supreme Court. It has jurisdiction over cases involving Congress and the executive branch agencies.

During her confirmation hearing for that position, Republican senators grilled her on whether she thought race would play a factor in her decision-making.

Jackson said when she considers cases, she is looking at the facts and the law.

"I'm methodically and intentionally setting aside personal views, any other inappropriate considerations," she said. "I would think that race would be the kind of thing that would be inappropriate to inject in an evaluation of a case."


The Senate eventually made her the first Black woman confirmed to an appellate court in a decade. After her confirmation, there were only six Black women serving as judges on federal appeals courts.

She has noted she is "fairly certain" her ancestors were slaves on both sides of her family.

"It is the beauty and the majesty of this country, that someone who comes from a background like mine could find herself in this position," Jackson said during her Senate confirmation hearing last year. "I'm just enormously grateful to have this opportunity to be a part of the law in this way, and I'm truly thankful for the president giving me the honor of this nomination."

Former President Barack Obama interviewed Jackson in 2016 for the Supreme Court to fill Justice Antonin Scalia's seat after his death.

Before that, Jackson said during her speech at the University of Georgia, her youngest daughter, Leila, came to her and her husband and asked if they knew Justice Scalia had died, leading to a vacancy on the nation's highest court. Jackson said Leila's middle school friends decided she should apply.

"Getting to be on the Supreme Court isn't really a job you apply for," Jackson said she explained to Leila. "You just have to be lucky enough to have the president find you among the thousands of people who might want to do that job."

Jackson then shared how her daughter decided to write President Obama, telling him to consider her mom for the Supreme Court.

She said her daughter's handwritten note read, "she is determined, honest and never breaks a promise to anyone, even if there are other things she'd rather do. She can demonstrate commitment and is loyal and never brags."

ABC News' Devin Dwyer contributed to this report.

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Supreme Court limits EPA's ability to reduce emissions

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday limited the Environmental Protection Agency's power to fight climate change.

The case involved how far the federal government could go in regulating greenhouse gas emissions from power plants.

The court held that Congress did not grant EPA in Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act the authority to devise emissions caps based on the generation shifting approach the Agency took in the Clean Power Plan with Chief Justice John Roberts writing for the 6-3 conservative majority.

The three liberal justices dissented.

The court's decision in West Virginia v. EPA comes as global climate change exacts an increasingly dire human and economic toll on communities worldwide.

The landmark Clean Air Act of 1970 charged EPA with protecting human health from dangerous airborne contaminants, which the Supreme Court has twice affirmed to include greenhouse gasses.

The law currently lets the agency craft pollution limits based on the "best system of emission reduction" available, but there is disagreement over whether the law prohibits consideration of measures "outside the fence line" of a particular plant, such as shifting to alternative sources of power generation or emission trading programs.

The Biden administration, environmental advocates and public health groups have said EPA's ability to robustly regulate U.S. power plant emissions is one of the most significant tools available for cutting earth-warming pollution and blunting the impacts of rising temperatures.

The U.S. power sector is the nation's second-largest source of greenhouse gas emissions with more than 3,300 fossil fuel-fired power plants, including 284 coal-fired facilities, according to the Energy Information Agency.

"If we do not have the full extent of these tools, we will need all of the other tools in the toolbox," said Vickie Patton, general counsel of the Environmental Defense Fund. "And those tools may not be as effective and they might cost more."

The plaintiffs in the case -- a coalition of Republican-led states and coal and mining companies -- argued that overly-aggressive EPA regulation threatens to "reshape the power grids and seize control over electricity production nationwide," imperiling thousands of American jobs.

An estimated 1.7 million Americans work in fossil fuel industries, from mining to pipeline construction to electricity generation.

"If there are enormous decisions that have vast political and economic significance, Congress -- if they want an agency to deal with it -- should speak clearly to that issue," said Jeff Holmstead, a former EPA official who served during the George W. Bush administration and has represented clients challenging recent EPA emissions regulations.

The Supreme Court decided the case even though EPA does not currently have a power plant carbon dioxide regulation in force.

The Obama administration's Clean Power Plan, which first prompted the lawsuit in 2015, was temporarily blocked by the Court at the time and never took effect. The Trump administration subsequently proposed an alternative plan, but that was rescinded by President Biden. In the meantime, a lower court ruled the Clean Power Plan could be enforceable – even though Biden said he would not adopt it.

The EPA has said it expects to release Biden's plan for regulating power plant CO2 emissions shortly after the Supreme Court decision.

The White House has set a goal of cutting U.S. carbon pollution in half over the next decade and shift entirely to clean energy sources by 2035.

This is developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Supreme Court allows President Biden to end Trump's 'Remain in Mexico' policy for asylum seekers

Robert Alexander/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The Supreme Court on Thursday said the Biden administration can end a Trump-era immigration policy known as “Remain in Mexico” that had forced thousands of asylum seekers to wait south of the border while their claims were adjudicated.

The court ruled 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the three liberal juustices in the majority.

Officially termed the "Migrant Protection Protocols" -- or MPP -- the policy was created in 2019 to send unauthorized immigrants, including asylum seekers, back to Mexico while their cases are processed in immigration court.

Trump administration officials intended the policy to serve as a deterrent against flows of migrants along the southwest border. Human rights observers and immigrant advocacy organizations said the policy contravened international law, putting vulnerable people at risk of higher documented rates of kidnapping, extortion and violence in the areas they were forced to wait.

President Biden attempted to formally end the MPP last year but was sued by Republican-led states Texas and Missouri, which alleged the Immigration and Naturalization Act required the administration to continue the program. A federal court ordered the policy to continue as legal challenges played out.

The INA says that the Department of Homeland Security "shall" detain unauthorized noncitizens pending immigration proceedings, but it also allows for their parole inside the country on a case-by-case basis if it’s determined to be for “public benefit.”

Congress has never allocated sufficient resources to fulfill the law’s requirement of detaining all migrants and asylum seekers pending an immigration hearing; every administration has had to exercise some level of discretion in enforcement.

The Biden administration argued that the MPP required costly and complicated negotiations with Mexico and that foreign policy authority rests solely with the president -- not the states or federal courts.

Under President Donald Trump, roughly 70,000 migrants were enrolled in the program and sent back to Mexico to await immigration hearings in the U.S. So far, the Biden administration has enrolled 5,000 migrants in the program. Just 2.4% have been granted relief after their claims were heard, one recent study found.

The court’s decision comes as the flow of migrants to the southwest border continues to strain law enforcement and humanitarian resources. Customs and Border Protection reported 239,416 encounters with migrants in May, a two percent increase compared to April; a quarter of those were repeat offenders.

A separate Trump-era border enforcement policy known as Title 42 -- activated during the pandemic to rapidly expel migrants due to COVID -- remains in effect and unaffected by the court ruling. Biden has also tried to rescind Title 42, but lower courts have ordered it continued as legal challenges proceed.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Republicans must choose Trump or the Constitution, Liz Cheney warns, describing 'threat' like no other

Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- There was only one path forward for her fellow conservatives, Wyoming Rep. Liz Cheney said in a speech on Wednesday night: either follow the Constitution or former President Donald Trump, whose conduct around last year's pro-Trump insurrection is the focus of the congressional committee Cheney helps oversee.

"It is undeniable -- the Republican Party cannot be both loyal to Donald Trump and loyal to the Constitution. We must choose," Cheney told a crowd at the Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California.

"We must not elect people who are more loyal to power or to themselves than they are to our Constitution," Cheney went on to say.

She appeared at the library as part of a larger speaker series on the future of the GOP, which previously spotlighted Republicans from several segments of the party, including Sens. Tom Cotton and Ben Sasse, South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem and more.

Cheney has emerged as one of the Republican Party's most vocal and most famous Trump critics, alternately esteemed for her candor and criticized by Trump and other conservatives for what they call her betrayal. Indeed, as she was being introduced on Wednesday, a library official briefly noted and then dismissed concerns they received that Cheney might be heckled in the audience.

She and nine other GOP members of the House voted to impeach Trump last year in the wake of the Jan. 6 rioting at the U.S. Capitol -- a decision that ultimately led Cheney to lose her position in the House's Republican leadership -- and she is one of only two Republicans on the House Jan. 6 committee, alongside Illinois Rep. Adam Kinzinger.

Unlike Kinzinger, who is stepping down from office, Cheney is seeking reelection in November.

Trump has repeatedly assailed Cheney -- for her criticism of him as well as, he says, for her foreign policy views, calling her a hawk -- and he endorsed a primary challenger against her, Harriet Hageman, with their race set for Aug. 16.

At Wednesday's speech, Cheney took pains before addressing Trump and the Jan. 6 committee to reiterate that she holds deeply felt conservative policy beliefs and has long been connected to the party, in part through her father, Dick Cheney, a former secretary of defense and vice president. She also took time to criticize Democratic President Joe Biden's handling of inflation and the southern border.

"But at this moment, we are confronting a domestic threat we have never faced before -- a former president who is attempting to unravel the foundations of our constitutional republic. And he is aided by Republican leaders and elected officials who have made themselves willing hostages to this dangerous and irrational man," she said.

She made something of a broader pitch to her party -- and perhaps her constituencies -- about the kind of candidates who should, ideally, thrive on a Republican ballot: leaders who are "serious" and "substantive," who "defend principle" and "abide by their oaths of office."

Leaders unlike the last Republican president, she felt.

"As the full picture is coming into view through our work on the Jan. 6 committee, it has become clear that the efforts Donald Trump oversaw and engaged in were even more chilling and threatening than we imagined," she said.

She applauded Cassidy Hutchinson, a 26-year-old former Trump White House aide who delivered revelation after revelation at Tuesday's surprise Jan. 6 hearing.

"I have been incredibly moved by the young women, some of whom worked on the Trump campaign, some in the Trump White House, some as staffers on the Hill, who knew immediately that what happened on Jan. 6 must never happen again. America met one of these young women yesterday: Ms. Cassidy Hutchinson," Cheney said.

"Her superiors -- men many years older -- are hiding behind executive privilege, anonymity and intimidation. Her bravery and patriotism were awesome to behold. Little girls all across this great nation are seeing what it really means to love this country, what it really means to be a patriot," she continued.

Cheney's appeal for the future? Create a party that fosters disagreements and one that steels itself against Trump's rancor.

"We should work to build a future where we remember that, despite our differences, we are all Americans. Where our political battles and disagreements are intense, but where we do our best not to descend into vitriolic partisan attack," Cheney said.

"But this time, this moment in our history, demands more. We cannot let ourselves be torn apart. That is what our enemies hope for," she said.

"We stand at the edge of an abyss, and we must pull back," she said. "We must pull back."

She ended, in part, with this: "In our great nation, one individual can make all the difference and each individual must try. There is no bystander in a constitutional republic."

"We must love our country so much," she said, "that we will never yield in her defense."

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Rep. Liz Cheney 'confident' in Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony

Demetrius Freeman/The Washington Post via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Republican Rep. Liz Cheney told This Week co-anchor Jonathan Karl in an exclusive interview that she has full faith and confidence in the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, the 26-year-old former Trump White House aide who delivered explosive testimony about the Capitol riot during a highly publicized hearing this week.

"As you know, there's an active campaign underway to destroy her credibility. Do you have any doubt at all in anything that she said to you?" Karl asked Cheney.

"I am absolutely confident in her credibility. I'm confident in her testimony," Cheney told Karl in a wide-ranging interview set to air in full on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos on Sunday.

"I think that what Cassidy Hutchinson did was an unbelievable example of bravery and of courage and patriotism in the face of real pressure," said Cheney, who is vice chair of the Jan. 6 committee.

The witness, Hutchinson, a former top adviser to then-President Donald Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows, spent some two hours divulging extraordinary details about what she said went on behind the scenes leading up to, during and after the attack.

Hutchinson sat for multiple closed-door transcribed interviews with the committee during its year-long inquiry but on Tuesday, she spoke publicly for the first time during the committee's sixth publicized hearing.

She described in detail how she was told about Trump's desire to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6 after he spoke at a rally near the White House -- and how Trump became furious when he was told it wasn't safe or advisable for him to be there.

Republicans loyal to Trump, including Trump himself, immediately sought to discredit her testimony.

Trump on Tuesday dismissed Hutchinson's testimony, posting on social media that "I hardly know who this person ... is, other than I heard very negative things about her (a total phony and 'leaker')."

"She is bad news!" he added.

"We have real confidence as a committee that she testified honestly, and in her credibility, and I think the world saw that -- she testified under oath, and her credibility is there for the world to judge," Cheney said in her interview with Karl.

"She's an incredibly brave young woman," Cheney added. "The committee is not going to stand by and watch her character be assassinated by anonymous sources and by men who are claiming executive privilege."

On Wednesday, Hutchinson's lawyers released a new statement amid pushback on her testimony.

"Ms. Hutchinson stands by all of the testimony she provided yesterday, under oath, to the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol," Hutchinson's counsel, Jody Hunt and William Jordan, said in the statement to ABC News.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Former Trump White House counsel Pat Cipollone subpoenaed by Jan. 6 committee

Erin Schaff-Pool/Getty Images, FILE

(WASHINGTON) -- Donald Trump's former White House counsel Pat Cipollone was subpoenaed Wednesday for a deposition by the House's Jan. 6 committee -- and his team is now engaging on the ultimate scope of the order for future testimony, sources say.

"The Select Committee's investigation has revealed evidence that Mr. Cipollone repeatedly raised legal and other concerns about President Trump's activities on January 6th and in the days that preceded," the Jan. 6 committee's chair and vice-chair, Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson and Wyoming Republican Liz Cheney, said in a statement.

Cipollone is evaluating the subpoena and his team is involved with the committee on the parameters surrounding an eventual closed-door deposition, sources close to him told ABC News.

There is an expectation that he and the committee will reach an agreement on the terms by the requested deposition date of July 6, though sources emphasize the fluid nature of the talks.

Sources said that among the topics for testimony about which Cipollone and the committee are negotiating: the actions taken by former top Department of Justice official Jeffrey Clark to use the powers of the DOJ to attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election; what Cipollone did the day of Jan. 6, 2021, excluding conversations he had directly with former President Trump; interactions he was present for or had with former Trump lawyer John Eastman; and interactions he was present for or had with members of Congress post-2020 election.

The information shared with the committee could be impacted by a number of factors, sources familiar with the deliberations said. That includes whether Trump's presence in any of the past meetings could result in potential claims of executive privilege.

Cipollone and former deputy White House counsel Pat Philbin met with committee investigators for an informal interview in April. Cipollone and Philbin engaged on these topics during that previous meeting with committee investigators.

The new subpoena comes one day after Cipollone was repeatedly mentioned during the testimony of Cassidy Hutchinson, who was a top aide to Trump's chief of staff Mark Meadows before and during the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol.

Hutchinson told the committee during a Tuesday hearing that on the morning of Jan. 6, Cipollone was adamant that Trump shouldn't accompany his supporters to the Capitol after addressing them at the Ellipse near the White House earlier that day.

"We're going to get charged with every crime imaginable if we make that movement happen," she recalled Cipollone telling her at the time.

A lawyer familiar with Cipollone's deliberations told ABC News earlier Wednesday, in response to the committee's announcement: "Of course a subpoena was necessary before the former White House counsel could even consider transcribed testimony before the committee."

"Now that a subpoena has been issued, it'll be evaluated as to matters of privilege that might be appropriate," the lawyer said.

The committee wrote in a letter to Cipollone along with his subpoena that they "continued to obtain evidence about which you are uniquely positioned to testify; however, you have declined to cooperate with us further."

Cipollone was one of the few aides who was with then-President Trump in the West Wing on Jan. 6. ABC News has reported that in the days following the attack on the Capitol, Cipollone advised Trump that Trump could potentially face civil liability in connection with his role encouraging supporters to march on the Capitol.

Both Cipollone and Philbin, his deputy, were part of a Jan. 3, 2021, Oval Office meeting where Trump insisted on replacing then-acting Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen with Clark, a Trump loyalist who had vowed to use the DOJ to investigate the election.

Cipollone and Philbin made it clear to Trump that they would resign if Clark were installed, according to a Senate committee report released last year that detailed instances where Trump and his allies sought to use the DOJ to overturn the election.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


New York governor to unveil new gun legislation in response to Supreme Court ruling

Spencer Platt/Getty Images, FILE

(ALBANY, N.Y.) -- New York Gov. Kathy Hochul on Wednesday detailed what is in gun safety legislation she will propose during a special state legislative session scheduled for Thursday.Hochul is set to propose a slew of ideas in response to last week's Supreme Court decision to strike down a state law that had limited the concealed carry of handguns in public to people who had "proper cause."

"There's more to do, this is a nationwide crisis. Too many lives are being lost here in New York, but I will not rest, as the governor of this state, until we have done everything in our power to end this gun epidemic once and for all," Hochul said.

The legislation will define a number of "sensitive locations" where people will not be allowed to carry concealed guns, Hochul said.

Those locations include: federal, state, local government buildings; health and medical facilities; places where children gather like daycares, parks, zoos and playgrounds; public transportation like subways and buses; polling places; and educational institutions, Hochul said.

If the proposed bill is signed into law, all private businesses will be classified as "no open carry" areas by default, unless business owners post signage indicating that people are allowed to carry concealed weapons, Hochul said.

Hochul's proposed legislation will also strengthen the list of disqualifying criteria, banning those with a history of dangerous behavior from being able to get a permit.

The laws will also add a vehicle requirement to existing safe storage laws, requiring gun owners to lock up their guns when they are traveling to cut down on gun thefts from cars.

Gun owners with children in their homes aged 18 or younger will have to get safe storage for their guns, keeping them locked up.

The laws will improve information sharing for state police background checks, Hochul said.

Gun owners will also be required to get over 15 hours of in-person training to receive a concealed carry permit, Hochul said.

Hochul said the laws will require a background check for all purchases of ammunition for guns that need a permit. Gun owners will have to show their permit at the time of purchase.

The special legislative session comes over a month after a gunman killed 10 Black people at a supermarket in Buffalo, New York, in an allegedly racially motivated attack.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Most who supported bipartisan Jan. 6 commission best Trump in Tuesday's GOP primaries, runoffs

Jon Hicks/Getty Images, FILE

(WASHINGTON) -- Former Trump White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson's testimony before the House Jan. 6 committee Tuesday added a new layer of political consequences for Donald Trump after she detailed a defiant president she said wanted to lead supporters from his rally on the Ellipse to the Capitol even after being warned they were armed.

There are political ramifications as well for several vulnerable members of Congress, notably five of the 35 GOP members of the House of Representatives who voted in May 2021 in favor of a bipartisan commission to probe what surrounded the attack on U.S. Capitol and who faced a primary or runoff contest Tuesday night.

Of the group of five, four survived, with one loss.

Of the total group, 16 of the 35 have advanced from their early contests, three have lost, while nine others resigned or retired.

Inconsistent results in these primaries show Republican voters' political fealty is unclear: Are they steadfastly loyal to Trump or are they satisfied with elements of Trumpism paired with more home-grown politics? The answer to that question is a sword of Damocles for many of these candidates -- having to assess whether breaking party ranks will come back to bite them.

It's critical to note that support of a bipartisan probe has not equated to full-throated endorsement of the current House bipartisan Jan. 6 committee.

In fact, one of the commission supporters, Rep. Stephanie Bice of Oklahoma, who won Tuesday night, recently called the public hearings a "dangerous, political stunt," similar to what Trump himself has said. (Such line-toeing rhetoric can be a firewall against attacks from a Trump-endorsed challenger -- or accusations of being a RINO (Republican In Name Only).

Similar tactics likely aided Rep. Michael Guest, R-Miss., fend off a challenge from Navy pilot Michael Cassidy in his runoff election as well as Utah's Rep. Blake Moore, who claimed his vote was to back the commission investigating Capitol security decisions made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Sometimes, even not criticizing the Jan. 6 committee didn't hurt. Rep. John Curtis, of Utah, said of Hutchinson's testimony: "It was an extremely credible witness, but you always want to hear from other side."

At the time of his vote on the commission, Curtis, who won his primary Tuesday night, called the original measure to create one "imperfect."

Not all firewalls were as strong, though, as was the case with Illinois Rep. Rodney Davis who was bested by Trump-backed Rep. Mary Miller, who attacked Davis for stabbing "Trump in the back by voting for the sham January 6th commission." Ironically enough, Davis congratulated Trump and Miller in his concession speech.

These Republicans losing their races Tuesday may not be entirely sad news for Democrats, regardless if they've nationally stood with any anti-Trump sentiment on principle.

Several deep-pocketed left-wing donors, with the help of national groups, have bolstered election-denying right-wing candidates, seemingly in the hope of a more decisive general election victory against an easier-to-beat foe come November.

In Illinois' gubernatorial race, for example, incumbent Gov. J.B. Pritzker and the Democratic Governors Association spent $30 million in ads attacking moderate Republican challenger Richard Irvin, in turn raising the profile of Trump-endorsed candidate state Sen. Darren Bailey.

The Democrats' ploy worked out in their favor -- Bailey bested Irvin in the primary. But such political puppeteering is dangerous and can easily backfire with an electorate that is seeing historically high numbers of Republican voter registrants coupled with historically low approval numbers for President Joe Biden across a flurry of sectors.

Consequences are just as stark across the aisle.

The 80% survival rate of these Republicans is an early smoke signal in GOP races with even higher political stakes: the August primaries of Washington House Reps. Dan Newhouse and Jaime Hererra Beutler, alongside Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer, and Wyoming Liz Cheney – four of the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach Trump.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Justice Stephen Breyer to officially retire Thursday at noon, swear in Ketanji Brown Jackson

Saul Loeb - Pool/Getty Images, FILE

(WASHINGTON) -- Supreme Court Justice Stephen Breyer, the most senior member of the U.S. Supreme Court's liberal wing, said he will officially step down from the bench at noon on Thursday, and the court announced he will then swear in his former law clerk -- Ketanji Brown Jackson -- to take his place on the bench, becoming the nation's first Black female justice.

"It has been my great honor to participate as a judge in the effort to maintain our Constitution and the Rule of Law," Breyer wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden dated Wednesday.

Breyer's retirement fulfills the wish of Democrats who lobbied for his exit to make way for Biden's first nominee to the court.

Jackson will take both her oaths at noon -- Chief Justice John Roberts administering the Constitutional Oath and Justice Breyer delivering the Judicial Oath. Her presence will mark the first time four women will be on the Supreme Court at the same time.

Progressive activists had imposed unprecedented public pressure on Breyer, who was nominated in 1994 by President Bill Clinton, to retire. Breyer was first appointed to the federal bench in 1980 by President Jimmy Carter, going on to serve 13 years as an appellate judge until Clinton elevated him to replace Justice Harry Blackmun on the Supreme Court in 1994. The Senate confirmed him 87-9.

Last term, Breyer authored major opinions upholding the Affordable Care Act, affirming free speech rights of students off-campus and resolving a multi-billion dollar copyright dispute between two titans of American technology, Google and Oracle.

His retirement relatively early in the Biden presidency, while Democrats retain a razor-thin majority in the U.S. Senate, helped to ensure his seat would be filled with someone who shares his judicial philosophy.

Breyer has described differences among the justices as contrasts in "philosophical outlook" rather than differences of politics and chaffed at the labeling of justices as "liberal" or "conservative."

"Politics to me is who's got the votes. Are you Republican or Democrat? I don't find any of that here," he told ABC News Chief Washington Correspondent Jonathan Karl in 2015.

While he never enjoyed the rock-star status held by Ginsburg, Breyer has long been revered and celebrated as a consensus-seeker and happy warrior throughout his 27 years on the court. He has also been one of the few justices to be a regular attendee at State of the Union addresses before a joint session of Congress.

Asked in 2017 how he would like to be remembered, Breyer told an interviewer: "You play the hand you're dealt. You're dealt one. And you do the best with what you have. If people say yes, he did, he tried, he did his best and was a decent person, good."

Ketanji Brown Jackson to fill Breyer's seat

Jackson, 51, who currently sits on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, will fill Justice Breyer's seat, and become the first Black woman to sit on the nation's highest court. With Jackson's ascension to the bench, for the first time, white men will not represent the majority of justices on the Supreme Court.

President Joe Biden formally announced Jackson's nomination earlier this year and fulfilled a campaign promise made ahead of the South Carolina primary when he relied heavily on support from the state's Black voters and Rep. Jim Clyburn.

"For too long our government, our courts haven't looked like America," Biden said in February from the White House. "And I believe it is time that we have a court that reflects the full talents and greatness of our nation with a nominee of extraordinary qualifications."

Jackson, who will also be the nation's first former public defender to sit on the high court, served as a clerk for Breyer from 1999 to 2000 and called it "extremely humbling to be considered" for his seat.

"I know that I could never fill his shoes, but if confirmed, I would hope to carry on his spirit," she said.

Three Republicans -- Sens. Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Mitt Romney -- joined Senate Democrats in voting to confirm Jackson in April, marking a solid, bipartisan win for the Biden White House.

Copyright © 2022, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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