Latest Headlines: What We’ve Been Watching

November 1, 2022

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In case you missed ’em—here are some of the stories making headlines this week.

Supreme Court Rejects Graham’s Request to Be Shielded from Testifying

The Supreme Court on Tuesday denied a request by Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) to shield him from having to testify before a Georgia grand jury about his phone calls with that state’s election officials after the 2020 election.

An unsigned Court order released Tuesday afternoon removed an October 24 temporary stay by Justice Thomas, giving Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis the go-ahead to continue her investigation into efforts by former President Trump and his allies to subvert Georgia’s election results.

Joe Biden won the state by nearly 12,000 votes. Shortly after the 2020 election, Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a Republican, told the Washington Post that Graham had tried to pressure him over the phone into throwing out legal ballots.

The grand jury is scheduled for November 17 and is set to expire in April. Willis had written in her filing to the court that “the delay resulting from a stay would be unavoidably harmful to the administration of its investigation.”

Netanyahu on Track to Return to Israeli Leadership

Israelis voted for the fifth time since 2019 on Tuesday, hoping to break a three-and-a-half-year political deadlock, and with nearly 80% of the votes counted as of Wednesday morning, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was on track to lead the most right-leaning government in the country’s history, with a projected 65 seats in the 120-seat Knesset, or Israeli parliament.

The foremost issue as voters posted ballots had been Netanyahu’s fitness to serve while weighed down by corruption charges. His main rival was the centrist caretaker Prime Minister Yair Lapid, who helped oust Netanyahu last year.

Among the other top issues: a surging cost of living and the perceived threat to Israel from Iran.

Chief Justice Temporarily Blocks House’s Access to Trump’s Taxes

U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts on Tuesday temporarily blocked a Democrat-led House committee from obtaining former President Trump’s tax returns by the IRS while he appeals a circuit court decision permitting their release.

The tax returns had been set to be turned over to the House Ways and Means Committee later this week.

A separate case concerning the House Oversight Committee’s pursuit of Trump tax information ended in a settlement earlier this year, after it was brought before the Supreme Court in 2020. In bringing the Ways and Means committee dispute to the Supreme Court, Trump argued that lower courts ran afoul of that 2020 case.

Justice Roberts has asked for a response by November 10.

Biden to Turn to Congress if Big Oil Doesn’t Lower Prices

President Biden on Monday called on oil and gas companies to invest some of their record profits in lowering costs for American families—or face higher taxes and other restrictions.

Calling record-high profits this year a “windfall of war” prompted by Western sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine, Biden said, “It’s time for these companies to stop their war profiteering.”

Shell made $9.5 billion in profits in the third quarter, almost double what it made in the same period last year, Biden added.

Any new taxes would need Congressional approval. While Democrats currently hold both Houses by slim majorities, and progressives like Senators Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) have both floated taxing Big Oil in the past, Republicans are hopeful of majority victories in next week’s midterm elections.

The American Petroleum Institute, an oil and natural gas trade association, did not immediately comment on Biden’s remarks.

Federal Judge Rejects Meadows January 6 Subpoena Challenge

A federal judge in DC on Monday dismissed former Trump White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’ lawsuit challenging a subpoena from the House January 6 Select Committee investigating the attack on the U.S. Capitol.

U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols wrote that the Constitution’s Speech or Debate clause, which shields legislators from being targeted by certain legal actions in circumstances tied to their legislative duties, shielded the Committee from Meadows’ lawsuit.

Nichols wrote that Meadows was a “proper subject” for investigation because the Committee “had evidence that Meadows was in contact with President Trump on January 6th and participated in efforts to challenge the election results.”

Trump’s Company Slams Former CFO at Trial

Attorneys for the former President’s Trump Corporation argued Monday in the company’s tax fraud case that its former CFO Allen Weisselberg was not acting on the company’s behalf.

“Weisselberg did it for Weisselberg,” Michael van der Veen, a lawyer for the Trump Payroll Corporation, said in his opening statement. “Greed made him cheat on his taxes, hide his deeds from his employer, and betray the trust built over nearly 50 years.”

Prosecutor Susan Hoffinger of the Manhattan District Attorney’s office, who asserted in her opening statement that the former President’s real estate company had cheated tax authorities for 15 years, acknowledged that Weisselberg was “a prime beneficiary” of the scheme, but that he acted as an executive of the Trump Organization.

If convicted, the Trump Organization could face $1.6 million in fines.

Former President Trump has not been charged in the case.

Supreme Court Rejects Challenge to PA Electoral Map

The U.S. Supreme Court turned down a challenge to Pennsylvania’s state legislative district maps on Monday, after the Republican state House majority leader claimed the maps gave too much weight to racial criteria when drawing districts.

The Justices declined to hear an appeal following a ruling by Pennsylvania’s top court, which endorsed a map backed by a group of Democratic voters. That court’s endorsement came after Democratic Governor Tom Wolf’s veto of a plan passed by the majority-Republican state legislature.

Pennsylvania has 17 House districts, having lost one following the 2020 census.

“True the Vote” Leaders Jailed

Two leaders of a Texas nonprofit with a history of spreading false claims about voter fraud were jailed on Monday for contempt.

U.S. District Judge Kenneth Hoyt ordered “True the Vote” leaders Gregg Phillips and Catherine Englebrecht to identify the person they claimed was behind a conspiracy they say involved transferring poll workers’ sensitive information from Michigan to China.

When the pair declined to name the man, the were detained by U.S. Marshals “for one-day and further until they fully comply with the Court’s Order,” according to a notice from the federal court in Houston.

Report: Russia Recruiting U.S.-trained Afghans to Fight

Afghan military sources tell the Associated Press (AP) that the Russian military is actively recruiting Afghan special forces soldiers who fought alongside American troops and then fled to Iran after last year’s U.S. withdrawal.

Three Afghan generals said Russia hopes to attract thousands of former elite Afghan commandos into a “foreign legion” with offers of $1,500-a-month payments and promises of safe havens for themselves and their families.

“They don’t want to go fight—but they have no choice,” said one general. “They ask me, ‘Give me a solution. What should we do? If we go back to Afghanistan, the Taliban will kill us.’”

Neither Russia’s Defense Ministry nor the Pentagon responded to the AP’s requests for comment. However, a senior U.S. military official did suggest to AP that the recruitment would not be surprising since a Russian mercenary force has been trying to sign up soldiers in several other countries.

Read more exclusive news from Political IQ.

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