- The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider a challenge to a Mississippi law in the first abortion case the court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority has taken up.
- The 2018 law, which banned almost all abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, could roll back key protections and gut Roe v. Wade.
- Abortion rights groups claim the law is unconstitutional under decades of SCOTUS decisions which have reaffirmed that states cannot outlaw abortion before a fetus can live outside the womb at around 24 to 28 weeks.
- In their decision to take up the challenge, the justices said they would examine whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
SCOTUS Takes Up Mississippi Law
The U.S. Supreme Court announced Monday that it will consider a pivotal challenge that could potentially gut Roe v. Wade, marking the first abortion case the court’s 6-to-3 conservative majority will hear.
The case in question centers around a 2018 law passed by Mississippi’s conservative legislature that banned most abortions after 15 weeks of pregnancy, with exceptions for “severe fetal abnormality,” but not for rape and incest.
Mississippi’s only abortion clinic sued, arguing that the law was unconstitutional under Roe as well as the 1992 decision Planned Parenthood v. Casey, where the court ruled and subsequently reaffirmed that states could not ban abortion before the fetus can live outside the womb, which is generally around 24 to 28 weeks.
Both a district judge and a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit agreed and struck down the case. The state appealed to SCOTUS, arguing that the sole clinic only provided abortions at up to 16 weeks, so few women were affected.
While that may be true in Mississippi, this case goes way beyond just one state. Mississippi is one of nearly a dozen states that have approved laws in violation of past SCOTUS rulings on fetal viability since 2019. All have been blocked or struck down by courts, so none have gone into effect.
In its decision to take up the challenge, the Supreme Court explicitly said that it would examine whether “all pre-viability prohibitions on elective abortions are unconstitutional.”
Potential National Impact
If the high court rules in favor of Mississippi, it could pave the way for more states to pass laws that significantly limit when people can get abortions without the risk of those laws being blocked in court.
Many critics have said this is exactly what Mississippi and abortion opponents wanted all along: for a law like this, that fundamentally challenges major elements of Roe, to go in front of the conservative Supreme Court.
Judge Carlton W. Reeves, who first ruled on the case, even flagged this in his decision outlining why he had blocked the law.
“The state chose to pass a law it knew was unconstitutional to endorse a decades-long campaign, fueled by national interest groups, to ask the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade,” he wrote.
As a result, many experts have said that the SCOTUS decision to take up this case represents the most significant ruling on the topic since Planned Parenthood v. Casey nearly three decades ago.
“This will be, by far, the most important abortion case the Court will have heard since the Casey decision in 1992,” said Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and professor at the University of Texas School of Law.
“If states are allowed to effectively ban abortions after the 15th week of pregnancy, as the Mississippi law in this case does, then pregnant women would have a far shorter window in which they could lawfully obtain an abortion than what Roe and Casey currently require.”
It will take a while before any ruling is handed down. The Supreme Court will likely hear the case this fall, and then issue a decision next summer during the campaigns for congressional midterms, effectively setting up abortion as a key issue for the 2022 elections.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (NPR) (CNN)
Supreme Court Allows Release of Jan. 6 Documents in Major Loss for Trump
The high court’s decision initiates the release of White House documents that the former president had attempted to block the Jan. 6 investigation committee from viewing.
The Supreme Court on Wednesday rejected former President Donald Trump’s efforts to block the White House from handing over records to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection.
Trump filed a lawsuit against the panel and the National Archives to prevent the committee from seeing key documents, testimonies, and other evidence lawmakers had requested.
In the suit, he argued that the records were protected by executive privilege, which he said still applied to him even though he’s not president anymore, and despite the fact that President Joe Biden decided not to exercise his executive privilege over the documents.
Trump also claimed that the information has “no reasonable connection to the events of that day” or “any conceivable legislative purpose.”
In an 8-1 decision with Justice Clarence Thomas dissenting, the Supreme Court rejected the effort to block the records from the committee until the issue is resolved by the courts — a process that could take months if not years.
In their ruling, the justices wrote that there are “serious and substantial concerns” regarding whether a former president can obtain a court order to prevent the disclosure of records, especially when the incumbent president waived their right to exercise executive privilege over said documents.
However, they still agreed with the determination by an appeals court that Trump’s claim of privilege over the documents would fail “even if he were the incumbent.”
Records Handed Over to Committee
According to reports, within just hours of the ruling, the National Archives began sending the roughly 800 pages of documents to the Jan. 6 committee.
The documents have not been made public, and it remains unclear if and when they will be.
What is known is the nature of the content that the committee has requested, including records detailing all of Trump’s movements and meetings on Jan. 6.
Notably, the lawmakers also requested information about plans by the administration to undermine Congress’s confirmation of the electoral college vote and Trump’s pressure campaign to overturn the results of the elections.
Also unknown is what the panel will do with the documents if it finds damning evidence. While the committee’s powers are limited in scope, it could make a criminal referral to the Justice Department, which has its own ongoing probe into the insurrection and the events that preceded it.
See what others are saying: (The New York Times) (The Associated Press) (The Washington Post)
NY Attorney General Says Investigation of Trump Business Found “Significant Evidence” of Fraud
The state attorney general’s office accused the former president and his family business of falsely inflating the value of assets and personal worth to lenders, the IRS, and insurance brokers.
New York Attorney General’s Filing
New York Attorney General Letitia James announced late Tuesday she had “significant evidence” that former President Donald Trump and the Trump Organization “falsely and fraudulently” misrepresented the value of assets “to financial institutions for economic benefit.”
The allegations mark the first time James has made specific accusations against Trump and his business. They come as part of a nearly 160-page filing asking a judge to order the former president — along with Ivanka Trump and Donald Trump Jr. — to comply with subpoenas for the investigation after the family sued James to block her from questioning them.
The filing claims that Trump and the company inflated the value of six properties, including several golf courses and Trump’s own penthouse in Trump Tower, on financial statements to obtain favorable loans, tax deductions, and insurance coverage.
The document adds that many of the financial statements were “generally inflated as part of a pattern to suggest that Mr. Trump’s net worth was higher than it otherwise would have appeared.”
James outlined several specific examples, such as a financial statement where the value of Trump’s Seven Springs estate in Westchester was boosted because it listed seven mansions on the property worth $61 million that did not actually exist.
That resulted in Trump receiving millions of dollars in tax deductions on that property, as well as another in Los Angeles.
In another notable instance, the attorney general’s office said that the $327 million value of Trump’s penthouse in Trump Tower was calculated off a financial statement that falsely reported his home was nearly triple its actual size.
While the statement claimed the apartment was 30,000 square feet, Trump had signed documents stating it was actually 10,996 square feet.
Alleged Direct Involvement
The allegation regarding the apartment is especially significant because it directly ties Trump himself to the accusations of financial wrongdoing. It is also not the only instance where Trump was implicated.
The filing additionally asserts that Trump Organization chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg — who was indicted last summer on multiple criminal charges relating to the business’ tax dealings — implied the former president was involved in finalizing the false valuations.
According to the documents, Weisselberg “testified that it was ‘certainly possible’ Mr. Trump discussed valuations with him and that it was ‘certainly possible’ Mr. Trump reviewed the Statement of Financial Condition for a particular year before it was finalized.”
Another top Trump Organization executive also testified that he was under the impression Trump reviewed the statements before they were finalized.
While the filing provides less direct links to Trump’s children, it does detail their involvement. Specifically, it alleges that Ivanka Trump rented an apartment at Trump Park Avenue and was given an option to buy it for $8.5 million, despite the fact that the property was valued at $25 million.
It also connected Donald Trump Jr. to some of the properties flagged by claiming investigators found evidence he “was consulted” on the Statements of Financial Condition.
Citing these connections, James argued in a series of tweets Tuesday that it is necessary for her inquiry to question Trump and his two children on their alleged involvement.
“We are taking legal action to force Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump to comply with our investigation into the Trump Organization’s financial dealings,” she wrote. “No one in this country can pick and choose if and how the law applies to them.”
The former president has not yet addressed the matter, but a Trump Organization attorney representing Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump responded by arguing the subpoenas violate the constitutional rights of the family and that the filing “never addresses the fundamental contentions of our motion to quash or stay the subpoenas.”
In a statement Wednesday, the Trump Organization denied James’ allegations as “baseless” and accused her of trying to “mislead the public yet again.”
As far as what happens next, James’ office has said it “has not yet reached a final decision regarding whether this evidence merits legal action.”
Because James’s investigation is civil, she can sue Trump, his company, and his children, but she cannot file criminal charges. However, her probe is running parallel to a criminal investigation into the same conduct led by the Manhattan district attorney, who does have that power.
See what others are saying: (The Washington Post) (The New York Times) (The Wall Street Journal)
Judges Uphold North Carolina’s Congressional Map in Major GOP Win
The judges agreed that the congressional map was “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting” but said they did not have the power to intervene in legislative matters.
New Maps Upheld
A three-judge panel in North Carolina upheld the state’s new congressional and legislative maps on Tuesday, deciding it did not have the power to respond to arguments that Republicans had illegally gerrymandered it to benefit them.
Voting rights groups and Democrats sued over the new maps, which were drawn by the state’s Republican legislature following the 2020 census.
The maps left Democrats with just three of North Carolina’s 14 congressional seats in a battleground state that is more evenly split between Republicans and Democrats. Previously, Democrats held five of the 13 districts the state had before the last census, during which North Carolina was allocated an additional seat.
The challengers argued that the blatantly partisan maps had been drawn in a way that went against longstanding rules, violated the state’s Constitution, and intentionally disenfranchised Black voters.
In their unanimous ruling, the panel — composed of one Democrat and two Republicans — agreed that both the legislative and congressional maps were “a result of intentional, pro-Republican partisan redistricting.”
The judges added that they had “disdain for having to deal with issues that potentially lead to results incompatible with democratic principles and subject our state to ridicule.”
Despite their beliefs, the panel said they did not have a legal basis for intervening in political matters and constraining the legislature. They additionally ruled that the challengers did not prove their claims that the maps were discriminatory based on race.
Notably, the judges also stated that partisan gerrymandering does not actually violate the state’s Constitution.
The Path Ahead
While the decision marks a setback to the plaintiffs, the groups have already said they will appeal the decision to the North Carolina Supreme Court.
The state’s highest court has a slim Democratic majority and has already signaled they may be open to tossing the map.
There are also past precedents for voting maps to be thrown out in North Carolina. The state has an extensive history of legal battles over gerrymandering, and Republican leaders have been forced to redraw maps twice in recent years.
A forthcoming decision is highly anticipated, as North Carolina’s congressional map could play a major role in the control of the House in the 2022 midterm elections if they are as close as expected.