Morning Report — High court to lean into 2024 politics   


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The Supreme Court will have an outsized role in 2024 politics, which is not a shocker, but the details are becoming clearer. 

Justices said Wednesday they will wade into whether a medication abortion pill can continue to be widely available, including by mail. The court also announced it will hear an appeal that could impact the Justice Department’s criminal trial, scheduled in March, of former President Trump on charges related to the Capitol attacks on Jan. 6. 

The Biden administration asked the court to hear arguments over the availability and safety of mifepristone, a drug used in most abortions performed in the United States. Abortion opponents want to curtail access to the drug, and advocates for abortion rights want to protect its availability. The case could also have implications for the regulatory authority of the Food and Drug Administration, which approved the pill more than two decades ago (The Washington Post). 

ABORTION PILL: The court is now in the unusual position of ruling on abortion access even after its conservative majority declared last year that it would leave that question to elected officials. Until the court issues a decision, the FDA’s approval of the drug remains in place (The New York Times). 

NBC News: Can anyone in Texas be sued if they helped Kate Cox leave the state for an abortion? Lawyers weigh in on the possibilities.  

Justices’ decision to hear an appeal brought by a man challenging a charge of obstructing an official proceeding at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, could benefit Trump, who faces similar charges. The court’s decision to take up the case, as well as the timing of its ruling, could be used by his lawyers as a way to delay his March trial amid the GOP presidential primary, in which he’s the front-runner (NBC News).  

The Hill: That trial date is written in pencil. A federal judge agreed Wednesday to pause proceedings in Trump’s election interference case while he appeals a decision rejecting his efforts to have the case dismissed. 

Meanwhile, a federal appeals court denied Trump’s presidential immunity defense in writer E. Jean Carroll’s defamation lawsuit focused on comments he made while denying her rape accusations in 2019. The court on Wednesday said Trump’s lawyers waited three years to make his argument — too long.  

“We hold that presidential immunity is waivable and that Defendant waived this defense,” the ruling stated.  

The trial, Carroll’s second against Trump, is scheduled on Jan. 16 (a day after the Iowa GOP presidential nominating caucuses) (Axios). 

During an Associated Press interview this week, Fulton County, Ga., District Attorney Fani Willis, who is prosecuting Trump on charges of trying to overturn the 2020 election in her state, said the August trial date she’s seeking for the former president and his co-defendants should be unaffected by his timetable as a political candidate. It’s a “silly notion,” she said, that Trump’s case should be placed on pause because he’s running for office. 

Trump could find himself in court in the months, weeks and even days leading up to the November general election.  


▪ The Federal Reserve on Wednesday held interest rates steady and signaled in a report that it anticipates cutting rates by about 75 basis points next year. That preview is what market investors were waiting to hear. 

▪ Tesla recalled autopilot software in nearly 2 million vehicles on the road as a precaution to respond to regulators’ concerns. 

▪ Russian President Vladimir Putin said Thursday at his year-end news conference in Moscow that his goals in Ukraine remain the same and that 244,000 Russian troops called up are on the battlefield in Ukraine.  

Former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani will testify today in a Georgia defamation suit in which the question before a jury is how much the former New York City mayor will pay two election workers in damages. Lawyers want their defamed clients to receive $43.5 million (The Hill).  


© The Associated Press / Jose Luis Magana | Hunter Biden at the Capitol on Wednesday. 


House Republicans on Thursday formalized their impeachment inquiry into Biden, culminating a yearlong probe into the president and his son, Hunter Biden, which has turned up no discernible evidence of wrongdoing. The 221-212 vote, which unfolded along party lines, approves the resolution authorizing the inquiry (The Hill). 

REPUBLICANS HOPE THE STEP will add legal weight to their demands as the probe moves into a more aggressive end stage. Earlier in the day, Hunter Biden defied a GOP subpoena to appear for a deposition. Republicans leading the probe said that his refusal “reinforces the need for a formal vote.” The younger Biden instead held a news conference at the Capitol, where he reiterated his openness to testify in a public setting — bucking investigators’ request for a closed-door deposition (The Hill). 

“For six years, I’ve been the target of the unrelenting Trump attack machine shouting. ‘Where’s Hunter?’” Hunter Biden said in a statement to reporters. “Well, here’s my answer: I am here.” 

The resolution makes official an inquiry into Biden that has been underway for months, after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said in September that various GOP probes into the president would be under the umbrella of impeachment — but did not hold an official vote. Republicans moved to formalize the inquiry in part because the White House responded to document requests last month with a letter that argued their inquiry was unconstitutional due to the lack of a vote, citing a Trump-era legal opinion. 

“We’re very pleased with the vote today. I think that it’s a message loud and clear to the White House. We expect you to comply,” House Oversight Committee Chair James Comer (R-Ky.), who is leading one of the arms of the probe, said after the vote. 

THE MULTI-PRONGED IMPEACHMENT INQUIRY includes deep dives into the personal and business finances of Biden family members, as well as heaping scrutiny on a Justice Department probe into the younger Biden’s failure to pay taxes. But investigators have struggled to back the most salacious allegation, which was first pushed by Trump ahead of his own impeachment: That as vice president, Biden took actions in Ukraine with the intention of benefitting his son’s business. 

Biden on Wednesday ripped into House Republicans for formalizing the inquiry, saying in a statement that GOP lawmakers are wasting time on a “baseless political stunt” rather than focusing on what matters to most Americans (The Hill).  

“I wake up every day focused on the issues facing the American people,” the president said in the statement. “Unfortunately, House Republicans are not joining me. Instead of doing anything to help make Americans’ lives better, they are focused on attacking me with lies. Instead of doing their job on the urgent work that needs to be done, they are choosing to waste time on this baseless political stunt that even Republicans in Congress admit is not supported by facts.” 

Getting the votes to launch an inquiry wasn’t easy, but it will be much tougher to impeach Biden in 2024. House conservatives, along with Trump, will press hard for impeachment. However, moderate Republicans in tough re-election races could balk at the move — setting up a major challenge for Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.) next year.  

▪ The Washington Post analysis: The GOP’s impeachment inquiry starts on shaky political ground. 

▪ Politico: Behind Hunter Biden’s unexpected Capitol Hill appearance: A surprising ally and a heads-up to his dad. 

▪ Reuters: The forebears of three members of Congress regained — and passed forward — wealth and power their families lost when slavery was abolished. Their success shows how the Southern elite exploited Black Americans in new ways. 

▪ CNN: The House on Wednesday passed a resolution condemning testimony by university presidents over antisemitism. 

▪ The Hill: The rocky relationship between Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), a rising conservative populist star, is under the spotlight after McConnell played a leading role in stripping a Hawley-sponsored amendment to the annual defense bill.  

THE SENATE PASSED AN $886 BILLION DEFENSE BILL by a vote of 87-13 on Wednesday. It seeks to set Pentagon policy and provide a 5.2 percent pay raise for military personnel, defying the demands of hard-right Republicans who had tried and failed to attach restrictions on abortion, transgender care and diversity initiatives. 

The legislation will expand the Defense Department’s ability to compete with China and Russia in hypersonic and nuclear weapons, implement components of a key Indo-Pacific security partnership with the United Kingdom and Australia — and direct hundreds of millions in military assistance to Ukraine and Israel. Those programs are separate from a $111 billion spending bill to send additional aid to both countries that is currently stalled in Congress (The Hill and The New York Times). 

A FLURRY OF ACTIVITY in the last days has injected some new hope into immigration negotiation in the Senate, NBC News reports. Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) said both Republicans and the White House have made significant movements in their positions and that the discussions have grown more “productive” because “all the players are at the same table sitting down actually talking through how to solve this.” 

“There are some hard issues that are still on the table,” Lankford said Wednesday afternoon. “But I think we’ve got serious people on all sides … trying to figure out how to resolve these.” Senators are scheduled to end the 2023 session within days. 

NBC News: “Title 42 on steroids”: Democrats consider expanding migrant detention and deportation in order to pass Ukraine aid. 


The House meets at 10 a.m. 

The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. 

The president will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10 a.m. Biden will depart the White House for the National Institutes of Health in nearby Maryland where he will speak at 3:15 p.m. about lowering the cost of prescription drugs. He will return to the White House. 

Vice President Harris will host a holiday reception at the Naval Observatory at 10:30 a.m. with husband Doug Emhoff. Later, Harris will record an interview with iHeartRadio’s D.L. Hughley.  

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen at 4:15 p.m. will lead an open meeting of the Financial Stability Oversight Council at the Treasury Department. Here’s the live webcast. 

Economic indicator: The Labor Department at 8:30 a.m. will report on claims for unemployment benefits filed in the week ending Dec. 9.  

The White House daily press briefing is scheduled at 1 p.m. 


© The Associated Press / Wilfredo Lee | Republican presidential candidates will have the opportunity to debate two more times in early 2024. 


THE DEBATE STAGE: Republican presidential candidates are facing three debates in January, each just days ahead of critical elections in the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary. It’s unclear at this point which of the White House hopefuls will take the stages and take part in the programs hosted by CNN and ABC — and how the events could sway voters before they cast their ballots in the early states. CNN has said that candidates must poll at 10 percent in approved national and early-state surveys. ABC News last week had yet to announce benchmarks. 

New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) endorsed former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for the Republican presidential nomination Tuesday, casting her as a fresh face for the party who could move the nation past the “nonsense and drama” of Trump. “We are all in for Nikki Haley,” Sununu said to loud cheers at a ski area in Manchester, adding that her momentum was “real” and “tangible” and that her poll numbers and ground game have been “absolutely unbelievable.” 

The endorsement is a significant victory for Haley, who is trying to establish herself over Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) as the main alternative to Trump and has gained ground in New Hampshire polling in the past month (The New York Times). 


© The Associated Press / Ronen Zvulun, Reuters pool | Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu in Jerusalem on Sunday. 


Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Wednesday that Israel would forge ahead to eradicate Hamas “until the end,” rejecting international demands for a cease-fire, plus calls for diplomacy and more clarity about what happens in Gaza after the war ends. Rising Israeli military casualties and global protests about Palestinian civilian carnage leave the right flank of Israel’s government unfazed, but among segments of the populace beyond Netanyahu’s base, surveys indicate he is distrusted and unpopular. 

By rejecting the U.S.-backed goal of a two-state solution, Netanyahu is challenging Israel’s most important ally with a transparent bid for political survival, reports The Wall Street Journal. 

White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan arrived in Israel today and will meet with Netanyahu (Al Jazeera). Sullivan was in Saudi Arabia on Wednesday where he met with Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to discuss the war in Gaza (Axios). 

The fighting in Gaza’s dense urban environment left nine Israeli soldiers dead Wednesday after what the military said was an ambush, marking one of the deadliest single attacks that Palestinian militants have carried out since the ground invasion of Gaza began. Such casualties were among warnings Netanyahu and Israeli officials received from the Pentagon during lessons-learned advisory briefings about the deadly challenges of urban warfare. The attack took place following repeated recent claims by the Israeli military that it had broken Hamas’s command structure in northern Gaza (The Associated Press).  

Israel says 116 of its soldiers have been killed since Oct. 7 in addition to 1,200 civilians. The death toll among Palestinians is 18,608, according to the Health Ministry in Gaza. Even without an independent way to verify the statistics, international aid organizations, the World Health Organization and hospitals in Gaza have attested to the high rate of casualties and trauma, even among humanitarian aid workers. 

The Associated Press: Amid outcry over Gaza tactics, videos of Israeli soldiers acting maliciously, such as rummaging through private homes and attempting to burn food and water supplies on the back of an abandoned truck, create new headaches for Israel.  

Netanyahu used a quickly produced video to respond to Biden’s warning Tuesday that “indiscriminate bombing” by Israel was eroding support in the U.S. and Europe (The Washington Post). He expressly rejected Biden’s proposal that the West Bank’s Palestinian Authority be revitalized to govern Gaza after Hamas is crushed and the war ends. The prime minister recently signaled he wants to keep Israeli troops in Gaza indefinitely. 

​​“I won’t allow, after the immense sacrifice made by our citizens and fighters, for us to put in Gaza people who teach terrorism, support terrorism, finance terrorism,” he said. 

▪ Politico: Vice President Harris is pushing the White House to be more sympathetic toward Palestinians. Her response to the Israel-Hamas underscores how Democrats are walking a fine line between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian constituencies. 

▪ The Wall Street Journal: The administration blocked a shipment of 27,000 U.S.-made rifles to the Israeli national police because of concerns the weapons could wind up in the hands of extremist Israeli settlers in the West Bank. 

▪ The Times of Israel: Britain announced a ban on travel into the U.K. by Israeli settlers from the West Bank who are responsible for violence against Palestinians. British Foreign Minister David Cameron, responding to demands from 56 members of parliament on Wednesday, said on social media that “extremist settlers, by targeting and killing Palestinian civilians, are undermining security and stability for both Israelis and Palestinians. Israel must take stronger action to stop settler violence and hold the perpetrators accountable.” 

On Wednesday, Biden met for an hour with families of Americans being held hostage in Gaza (The Hill). 

“We’ve seen that the U.S. administration, from the previous round of negotiations and hostage releases … is completely committed to getting the hostages out — the eight Americans who remain there and the other nearly 130,” Jonathan Dekel-Chen, whose 35-year-old son was kidnapped from his kibbutz, told reporters. 


The roller coaster of this year’s COP28 United Nations Climate Conference ended with a historic new agreement: For the first time, world governments have declared countries should transition away from fossil fuels. The deal follows days of tense negotiations, especially over the fossil fuel language, which caused the Dubai conference to stretch into overtime. Climate advocates have praised it as a step forward, but also raised concerns about potential loopholes in its language and criticized it for not going still further as the climate crisis deepens — and fossil fuel production continues to increase. 

The Hill’s Saul Elbein and Rachel Frazin have five takeaways from the decision. 

▪ The Associated Press analysis: At COP28, Sultan al-Jaber got what the UAE wanted. Others leave it wanting much more. 

▪ Vox: Three wins and three losses at the biggest climate conference ever. 

▪ The Hill: What does the groundbreaking COP28 agreement mean for the U.S.? 


■ This is the world if Ukraine loses, by Victor Pinchuk, contributor, Politico. 

■ 48 million Americans live with addiction. Here’s how to get them help that works, by Jeneen Interlandi, member, The New York Times editorial board. 


© The Associated Press / Carolyn Kaster | The White House gingerbread house in 2015. 

Take Our Morning Report Quiz 

And finally … 🎄It’s Thursday, which means it’s time for this week’s Morning Report Quiz! Inspired by food and drink at Christmas, we’re eager for some smart guesses drawn from obscure history

Be sure to email your responses to [email protected] and [email protected] — please add “Quiz” to your subject line. Winners who submit correct answers will enjoy some richly deserved newsletter fame on Friday.  

Which former first lady is credited with initiating the inclusion of a gingerbread house among holiday displays at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave.? (Hint: It was a 40-pound German A-frame creation said to have been baked by an assistant executive chef named “Hans.”) 

  1. Mary Todd Lincoln 
  1. Pat Nixon 
  1. Betty Ford 
  1. Michelle Obama 

In early American history, what inspired cooks to add oysters to stuffing? 

  1. Ubiquitous 
  1. Cheap 
  1. A practice common in England and found in recipes dating from the 1600s 
  1. All of the above 

In 1775, George Washington served what beverage to guests during the Christmas holidays at Mount Vernon? 

  1. Oreo punch 
  1. Lemon granita 
  1. Eggnog 
  1. Gin Fizz 

Which president celebrated Christmas at the White House without a tree (although his children came up with a surprise that became a family tradition)? 

  1. James Buchanan 
  1. Chester Arthur 
  1. Theodore Roosevelt 
  1. Calvin Coolidge 

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