The Supreme Court restored its conservative majority with the swearing-in of Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch on Monday.
At a swearing-in ceremony at the White House Rose Garden, President Donald Trump’s appointee to the nation’s highest bench promised to “do all my powers permit to be a faithful servant of the Constitution and laws of this great nation.”
Gorsuch breaks the 4-4 ideological split the court has faced since the passing last February of conservative stalwart Justice Antonin Scalia. Legal observers tell NBC News the newest justice could play a decisive role in an April 19 case that seeks to overturn a Missouri law that blocks public funding for religious institutions.
As a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, Gorsuch issued rulings that sided with those complaining their religious values had been violated. He ruled in favor of a private company and an order of Catholic nuns who argued in two separate cases they should not have to provide contraceptive insurance coverage for their employees — despite it being required under the Affordable Care Act — because doing so would violate their religious beliefs.
The Supreme Court is slated to hear 13 cases in the last two weeks of April. Gorsuch will not be able to vote on cases that were argued before he arrived on the bench, but if the court is tied on any of those cases, the justices could order the cases be reargued, giving him the opportunity to serve as a tiebreaker.
Eyes on April 29
Trump not only praised Gorsuch, but gave himself some kudos during the White House swearing-in ceremony.
“I got it done in the first 100 days...You think that’s easy?” Trump said.
The quip drew laughs from an audience of about 200 people gathered at the Rose Garden for the ceremony, but inside the White House, the approaching April 29 date marking Trump’s first 100 days in office is anything but a laughing matter, according to Politico.
White House aides have been “on edge,” strategizing how to brand the president’s first 100 days in office amid a series of bruising failures and blunders, including the inability to secure enough GOP support to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.
“One hundred days is the marker, and we’ve got essentially 2 1/2 weeks to turn everything around,” one White House official told the outlet. “This is going to be a monumental task.”
‘America First’ Doctrine
Trump’s “America first” doctrine holds true in the wake of the U.S. missile strike in retaliation for the deadly chemical attack on Syrian civilians, White House spokesman Sean Spicer said Monday.
“Our national security is the first and foremost reason that we have to act,” the press secretary said, adding that the spread of chemical weapons is a “clear danger to our country.”
Trump is prepared to take further military action against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government for its use of poison gas as well as more conventional barrel bombing, Spicer said.
Newsday’s Emily Ngo reports that Spicer was asked about Trump’s foreign policy stance in the context of tweets the president sent as a private citizen urging then-President Barack Obama to stay out of Syria and remarks Trump made as a candidate saying he won’t be “president of the world” and Americans won’t be “policemen of the world.”
Spicer responded: “We have to have a clear and defined national interest wherever we act.”
Rex is Russia Bound
Secretary of State Rex Tillerson heads to Moscow on Tuesday amid increasing tension between Russia and the U.S. over the U.S. airstrike.
Tillerson, who is not slated to meet with Russian leader Vladimir Putin, is said to be looking for common ground with the Russians on ending the civil war in Syria, but reaching an agreement poses its challenges, given Putin’s support for the regime of Syrian President Bashar Assad since 2015, reports USA Today.
It will “be an awkward visit, but a very revealing visit,” Frederic Hof, director of Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East at the Atlantic Council and a former State Department Syria expert, told the outlet.
What else is happening
- As Trump prepares to push for an overhaul of the tax code, the New York Times reports that some congressional Democrats are planning on using his effort to highlight his unwillingness to disclose his tax returns.
- The Palm Beach County Commission is considering a measure that would turn Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort into a special taxing district to help the county recover some of the costs of providing security to the site frequented by the President.
- The Trump administration plans on selling 12 military fighter jets to Nigeria for nearly $600 million, as part of a Nigerian effort to fight the Boko Haram terrorist group, reports the AP.
A federal lawsuit filed in New York by a coalition of government watchdog groups is demanding the Trump administration release visitor logs for the White House and Trump’s homes in Florida and New York.
David Fahrenthold, the Washington Post reporter who investigated Trump’s charitable giving, and who was the first to report on a 2005 tape that captured Trump speaking crudely about women, won the Pulitzer Prize for National Reporting.