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Supreme Court to deliver rulings on presidential power, abortion, social media

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The Supreme Court is set to issue rulings on several high-profile cases. And the closed-door trial for a Wall Street Journal reporter begins in Russia. These stories and more highlight The Morning Rundown for Wednesday, June 26, 2024.

SCOTUS to deliver rulings on presidential power, abortion, social media

It’s decision time at the Supreme Court. Over the next three days, the high court is set to deliver rulings on 14 argued cases — including high-profile ones on subjects like presidential power, abortion care and social media. 

As President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump prepare for the first presidential debate on Thursday, June 27, the court is poised to deliver a ruling on Trump’s claims of “absolute immunity” from criminal prosecution. With Trump facing federal charges accusing of him of attempts to overturn the 2020 election, the court will decide if a former president can be prosecuted for “official acts” taken while in the White House. 

During oral arguments in April, the justices seemed open to the idea of some immunity for presidents when conducting official acts, while questioning what exactly falls under that category. 

The Supreme Court will also tackle the legality of a felony obstruction charge used by the Justice Department against 300 people who stormed the capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. A former Pennsylvania police officer has challenged that charge — stemming from a law to prevent the destruction of evidence during financial crimes — which originated during the Enron accounting scandal. 

The obstruction charge is one of four former President Trump faces in his federal election subversion case. 

Then, for the first time since Roe v. Wade was overturned, the court will issue a ruling on state-level abortion restrictions. The question before the justices is whether doctors can perform abortions in medical emergencies despite a state’s strict near-total abortion ban.  

The topic of social media is also on the docket. First, the Supreme Court will determine whether state laws restricting how social media platforms moderate content violate the First Amendment. In another case, the justices will decide whether the Biden administration violated the Constitution in its communication with social media companies to remove misinformation on COVID-19 and the 2020 election. 

While the Supreme Court justices usually look to complete their work by the end of June, there is a possibility the opinions may continue to early July. 

Wall Street Journal reporter’s espionage trial starts in Russia

The espionage trial of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is now underway in Russia behind closed doors. Gershkovich appeared in a courtroom the morning of Wednesday, June 26, inside a glass cage before the proceedings began. 

He is the first western journalist to be arrested on espionage in post-Soviet Russia.  

Gershkovich was arrested while reporting for the Wall Street Journal in March 2023, just weeks before Russia launched its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, accused of spying for the CIA. 

The U.S. government, Wall Street Journal and Gershkovich himself all deny the allegations. The State Department has declared him “wrongfully detained.” 

His trial is expected to last months. If convicted, Gershkovich faces up to 20 years in prison. 

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange free after guilty plea

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange returned to his home country of Australia on Wednesday, June 26, a free man. He was released from U.S. custody after pleading guilty to violating espionage law. 

As part of the deal with the Justice Department, Assange will get no more prison time since he already spent the last five years in a London prison fighting extradition to the U.S. 

He had originally been facing 18 criminal charges relating to WikiLeaks’ release of sensitive information into the public domain, but only had to plead guilty to one charge as part of the agreement. 

Judge partially lifts Trump gag order from New York criminal trial

The judge in former President Donald Trump’s New York criminal case has partially lifted a gag order put in place during the trial. 

For the entire trial, Trump was barred from talking about potential witnesses, jurors, or court staff and their families. Now, the former president is allowed to comment publicly about witnesses and jurors. 

The judge also left a separate order in place prohibiting Trump and his lawyers from disclosing the identities of jurors or their addresses. 

In May, Trump became the first president to be convicted of a felony when the jury found him guilty of 34 felony counts of falsified business records. He’s set to be sentenced July 11. 

House committee to vote on holding Biden’s ghostwriter in contempt

The House Judiciary Committee plans to vote on a measure to hold President Biden’s ghostwriter, Mark Zwonitzer, in contempt of Congress. The vote stems from Zwonitzer refusing to hand over documents and other materials tied to his work on the president’s memoirs. 

The vote is set for Thursday morning, just hours before Biden and Trump’s debate. 

The resolution to hold Zwonitzer in contempt is expected to advance on party lines. 

The White House on Tuesday called the vote an attempt “to harass and intimidate a private citizen.” 

Results for New York, Colorado, Utah primary elections

Results are in for several states that held primary elections on Tuesday, June 25. In the most expensive congressional primary in history, incumbent Democratic Congressman Jamaal Bowman lost to George Latimer in New York’s 16th district.  

Bowman became the first member of the progressive group in the House known as “the squad” to lose in the primaries this year. During the race, a pro-Israeli lobbying group spent nearly $15 million in efforts to stop Bowman, who had been critical of Israel’s operations in Gaza. 

In Colorado, after switching districts, Republican Congresswoman Lauren Boebert won the House primary in the state’s 4th district. Boebert has previously received the endorsement of former President Donald Trump. 

And in Utah, Rep. John Curtis, R-Utah, won the GOP primary to fill Mitt Romney’s open Senate seat. Curtis is favored to win in November since Utah has not elected a Democrat to the Senate since 1970. 

Toys ‘R’ Us uses OpenAI’s Sora to create brand film

Toys”R”Us is known for the slogan “I don’t want to grow up,” but now the toy brand is growing with the times. It used AI to make its latest promotional video

The retail toy company used OpenAI’s text to video tool called Sora to create the video

Toys”R”Us released the video at an advertising event in France, saying it is the first ever brand film created by the technology. While Sora is not yet publicly available, the toy chain partnered with an agency that is an early tester of the AI model. 

You can watch the full video here.

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[KARAH RUCKER]

IT’S DECISION TIME AT THE SUPREME COURT. OVER THE NEXT THREE DAYS THE HIGH COURT IS SET TO DELIVER RULINGS ON 14 ARGUED CASES INCLUDING HIGH-PROFILE ONES ON SUBJECTS LIKE PRESIDENTIAL POWER — ABORTION CARE — AND SOCIAL MEDIA. 

AS PRESIDENT JOE BIDEN AND FORMER PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP PREPARE FOR THURSDAY’S FIRST PRESIDENTIAL DEBATE – THE COURT IS POISED TO DELIVER A RULING ON TRUMP’S CLAIMS OF “ABSOLUTE IMMUNITY” FROM CRIMINAL PROSECUTION. 

WITH TRUMP FACING FEDERAL CHARGES ACCUSING OF HIM OF ATTEMPTS TO OVERTURN THE 2020 ELECTION – THE COURT WILL DECIDE IF A FORMER PRESIDENT CAN BE PROSECUTED FOR “OFFICIAL ACTS” TAKEN WHILE IN THE WHITE HOUSE. 

DURING ORAL ARGUMENTS IN APRIL – THE JUSTICE SEEMED OPEN TO THE IDEA OF SOME IMMUNITY FOR PRESIDENTS WHEN CONDUCTING OFFICIAL ACTS – WHILE QUESTIONING WHAT EXACTLY FALLS UNDER THAT CATEGORY. 

THE SUPREME COURT WILL ALSO TACKLE THE LEGALITY OF A FELONY OBSTRUCTION CHARGE USED BY THE JUSTICE DEPARTMENT AGAINST 300 PEOPLE WHO STORMED THE CAPITOL ON JANUARY 6, 2021. 

A FORMER PENNSYLVANIA POLICE OFFICER HAS CHALLENGED THAT CHARGE – STEMMING FROM A LAW TO PREVENT THE DESTRUCTION OF EVIDENCE DURING FINANCIAL CRIMES – WHICH ORIGINATED DURING THE ENRON ACCOUNTING SCANDAL. 

THE OBSTRUCTION CHARGE IS ONE OF FOUR FORMER PRESIDENT TRUMP FACES IN HIS FEDERAL ELECTION SUBVERSION CASE. 

THEN — FOR THE FIRST TIME SINCE ROE V. WADE WAS OVERTURNED — THE COURT WILL ISSUE A RULING ON STATE-LEVEL ABORTION RESTRICTIONS. 

THE QUESTION BEFORE THE JUSTICES IS IF DOCTORS CAN PERFORM ABORTIONS IN MEDICAL EMERGENCIES DESPITE A STATE’S STRICT ABORTION NEAR-TOTAL BAN.  

AND THE TOPIC OF SOCIAL MEDIA IS ALSO ON THE DOCKET: FIRST — THE SUPREME COURT IS DETERMING WHETHER STATE LAWS TO RESTRICT HOW SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS MODERATE CONTENT VIOLATE THE FIRST AMENDMENT. AND IN ANOTHER CASE – THE JUSTICES WILL DECIDE WHETHER THE BIDEN ADMINISTRATION VIOLATED THE CONSTITUTION IN ITS COMMUNICATION WITH SOCIAL MEDIA COMPANIES TO REMOVE MISINFORMATION ON COVID-19 AND THE 2020 ELECTION.   

WHILE THE SUPREME COURT JUSTICES USUALLY LOOK TO COMPLETE THEIR WORK BY THE END OF JUNE – THERE IS A POSSIBILITY THE OPINIONS MAY CONTINUE TO EARLY NEXT WEEK. 

THE ESPIONAGE TRIAL OF WALL STREET JOURNAL REPORTER EVAN GERSHKOVICH IS NOW UNDERWAY IN RUSSIA — BEHIND CLOSED DOORS. 

GERSHKOVICH APPEARING IN A COURTROOM WEDNESDAY MORNING INSIDE A GLASS CAGE BEFORE THE PROCEEDINGS BEGAN.  

HE IS THE FIRST WESTERN JOURNALIST TO BE ARRESTED ON ESPIONAGE IN POST-SOVIET RUSSIA.  

GERSHKOVICH WAS ARRESTED WHILE REPORTING FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL IN MARCH 20-23 — JUST WEEKS BEFORE RUSSIA LAUNCHED ITS FULL-SCALE INVASION OF UKRAINE — ACCUSED OF SPYING FOR THE C-I-A. 

THE U.S. GOVERNMENT, WALL STREET JOURNAL, AND GERSHKOVICH HIMSELF ALL DENY THE ALLEGATIONS 

WITH THE STATE DEPARTMENT DECLARING HIM “WRONGFULLY DETAINED.” 

HIS TRIAL IS EXPECTED TO LAST MONTHS. 

IF CONVICTED — GERSHKOVICH FACES UP TO 20 YEARS IN PRISON.