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Trump loses on abortion in Supreme Court, wins on the death penalty

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday. Credit: AP / Patrick Semansky


The power of a president to nominate top judges means a lot in a national election. So it became an especially big deal Monday when the first major abortion case of President Donald Trump's term went against the conservative side.

Trump's appointees, Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Neil Gorsuch, delivered no disappointments. Both reliably dissented in the 5-4 Supreme Court ruling Monday that struck down a Louisiana law requiring that doctors performing abortions have admitting privileges at nearby hospitals. But Chief Justice John Roberts, an earlier GOP appointee, became the swing vote and sided with liberals on the court.

Roberts' legal rationale was simple. He refused to go against the court's ruling in an almost-identical 2016 case involving a Texas law. White House spokeswoman Kayleigh McEnany lamented that "unelected justices" were imposing their "policy preference" over state-government health decisions.

But the day wasn't a total loss for Trump. The high court upheld two of his disputed White House policies. In one, it declined to review new federal death penalty protocols proposed by the Justice Department, which means the government may soon resume executions for the first time since 2003.

In the other case, the court curbed the independence of a watchdog agency created to combat unfair and deceptive practices against consumers. The ruling put the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's directorship under the clear control of the president.

Right-wingers now have other issues with Roberts. Two weeks ago, the court ruled 6-3, with Gorsuch in the majority, to give gay, lesbian and transgender workers protection under a 1964 federal law banning employment discrimination. The judges also kept Trump from ending the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which protects from deportation hundreds of thousands of immigrants brought to the U.S. as children.

So despite Trump claiming a sweeping impact from his judicial appointments, Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) expressed dismay at recent decisions — and said grassroots religious conservatives should be more involved in discussions of high-court nominations.

Twitch and spout

Twitch and Reddit Inc. banned content linked to Trump for violating their rules against encouraging hate. Twitch is a video livestreaming service of Inc., owned by Jeff Bezos — himself a favorite target of the president's acid social-media messages.

The temporary ban by Twitch was imposed after the president's account reposted a speech from his first election campaign in which he famously called Mexicans rapists. Also, at his recent sparsely attended rally in Tulsa, he bellowed about “a very tough hombre” breaking into a sleeping woman’s house at night.

“Hateful conduct is not allowed on Twitch,” the company said in a statement. “In line with our policies, President Trump’s channel has been issued a temporary suspension from Twitch for comments made on stream, and the offending content has been removed.”

The ban comes as Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg draws heat and rebellion from employees and advertisers over that company's tolerance of incendiary Trump content.

Russian redux

The latest Trump-Russia scandal on Monday featured a familiar drama. Both parties in Congress publicly demanded answers over the suspected Russian plot to pay bounties to Taliban-linked militants to kill American troops in Afghanistan. By early evening, the White House briefed House Republicans, with Democrats to get their turn Tuesday morning.

Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), chairman of his chamber's Armed Services Committee, said: “We’ve known for a long time that [Russia President Vladimir] Putin is a thug and a murderer, and if these allegations are true, I will work with President Trump on a strong response. My No. 1 priority is the safety of our troops. Right now, though, we need answers.” 

Blown calls?

There were phone calls between Putin and Trump about Trump's desire to end the American military presence in Afghanistan — but apparently no discussion of the purported Taliban bounties, according to CNN.

Trump's communications with leaders such as Putin and Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, however, did alarm top officials who were privy to the talks — to the point where they worried the president himself posed a danger to national security, the network reported. So did his bullying and demeaning of two female U.S. allies, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and former British Prime Minister Theresa May.

Trump trashed-talked fellow Americans, including his abuse of past presidents as "the imbeciles who came before him," and boasted at great length about his own wealth and accomplishments, said the CNN report Monday from veteran reporter Carl Bernstein. Putin "outplays" him, and Erdogan has been a frequent caller to Trump, Bernstein wrote.

Running for cover

The Trump campaign has booked more than $16 million worth of television ads to run in several swing states in the final months of his race against presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden. The president's sagging support in Michigan, Georgia and North Carolina register as a big concern, despite earlier expectations that he'd surely prevail there, according to CNBC.

Part of the problem in battleground states is the administration's balky response to the coronavirus crisis and subsequent economic collapse. Total U.S. deaths from COVID-19 have reached 126,369, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Former close adviser Chris Christie, the ex-New Jersey governor, told ABC News over the weekend: “He is losing, and if he doesn’t change course, both in terms of the substance of what he is discussing and the way that he approaches the American people, then he will lose." Trump also has ramped up Facebook ad spending.

Roger loses again

Former Trump political adviser Roger Stone once again proved unconvincing.

Stone was convicted in November of repeatedly lying to House investigators pursuing evidence of Trump campaign contacts with Russians in the 2016 election. He also threatened a witness, Randy Credico. Now U.S. District Judge Amy Berman Jackson has rejected his appeal for another delay of his prison term based on health.

Jackson said in a newly unsealed opinion that Stone's health issues are "medically controlled" and that he will be sent to a prison with no documented COVID-19 cases.

More coronavirus news

See a roundup of the latest pandemic developments from Long Island and beyond by Newsday's reporting staff, written by Bart Jones. For a full list of Newsday's coronavirus stories, click here.

What else is happening:

  • The GOP-controlled Senate may be heading for a showdown with Trump over his refusal to rename military bases honoring Confederate generals.
  • Trump criticized Princeton University for removing the name of former President Woodrow Wilson from its public policy school.
  • Eric Trump is on the hot seat handling the family business amid COVID-19 and other troubles.
  • The city of Jacksonville, Florida, which is hosting Trump's nomination acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, has enacted a mandatory mask requirement.
  • Trump still hasn't condemned his deleted tweet of a video in which a supporter in a golf cart blurts out, "White power!" 
  • The U.S. will halt its exports of defense equipment to Hong Kong.

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