The Supreme Court's decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby [PDF] isn't very popular among Democrats — or a majority of Americans, or some federal judges, for that matter. Democrats in Congress are trying to do something about it, The New York Times reports, and their legislative band-aid may even pass in the Senate. "Since the Supreme Court decided it will not protect women's access to health care, I will," said Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.), the lead author of the Senate bill.
The 5-4 Supreme Court majority ruled that the Affordable Care Act's attempt to make all companies and non-church organizations provide their female employees with birth control coverage violated the 1993 Religious Freedom Restoration Act, so the bill worked up by Senate and House Democrats essentially says: not anymore.
The Democrats' bill, introduced Tuesday, leaves the 1993 law intact, as well as the Obama administration's compromise exemption for religious nonprofits with objections to contraception, but says that despite the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, Hobby Lobby and other for-profit "employers may not discriminate against their female employees" in the coverage of preventive health services, and "shall not deny coverage of a specific health care item or service" that's required under federal law.
There's a certain air of political theater to the endeavor — "People are going to have to walk down here and vote, and if they vote with the five men on the Supreme Court, I think they're going to be treated unfavorably come November with the elections," said Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) on Tuesday, and the bill is very unlikely to pass in the House — but at least Congress is trying to reclaim some of its intended power. Peter Weber
Women who have accused former movie producer Harvey Weinstein of sexual abuse and harassment reacted strongly to his surrender to New York police on Friday. A few of the more than 50 women who have alleged misconduct took to social media to address his arrest.
Rose McGowan, who alleges that Weinstein raped her in 1997, appeared on Megyn Kelly Today and Good Morning America and described how his criminal charges made her feel. "We got you," she said in a message to Weinstein. "I have to admit I didn't think I would see the day that he would have handcuffs on him. I have a visceral need for him to have handcuffs on."
— Megyn Kelly TODAY (@MegynTODAY) May 25, 2018
Asia Argento, an actress who also alleges that Weinstein raped her in 1997, tweeted that Weinstein was taking "his first step on his inevitable descent to hell," additionally asking what took so long. In response to a photo of Weinstein smiling as he walked out of the NYPD station in handcuffs, Argento wrote "wipe that smile off your face you f--king monster."
Today Harvey Weinstein will take his first step on his inevitable descent to hell. We, the women, finally have real hope for justice. https://t.co/or8qGaNO93
— Asia Argento (@AsiaArgento) May 25, 2018
Mira Sorvino, who alleges that Weinstein sexually harassed her and tried to pressure her into sex, had a simple message for the former mogul ahead of his criminal charges: "#Justice" Summer Meza
— Mira Sorvino (@MiraSorvino) May 25, 2018
Michael Cohen met with a Kremlin-linked oligarch at Trump Tower about strengthening U.S.-Russia relations
Less than two weeks before the inauguration, President Trump's personal lawyer, Michael Cohen, met with a Russian oligarch to discuss strengthening relations between Washington and Moscow, The New York Times reports. Viktor Vekselberg, who has ties to the Kremlin, met with Cohen three separate times, including on the day of the inauguration.
Just days afterwards, the private equity firm of Andrew Intrater, who is Vekselberg's cousin and client, awarded Cohen a $1 million contract. Intrater spoke to the Times, saying he did nothing wrong and made the decision independently.
Earlier this week, it was reported that Cohen was separately paid at least $400,000 to arrange a talk between Trump and Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. Cohen also received hundreds of thousands of dollars from businesses like AT&T and Novartis to provide access and insight into the Trump administration.
The Times writes that the Vekselberg meeting "sheds additional light on the intersection between Mr. Trump's inner-circle and Russians with ties to the Kremlin." Read more about the meetings at The New York Times. Jeva Lange
President Trump's allies are claiming that the administration's decision to pull out of a historic summit with Kim Jong Un is evidence of his deal-making skills, even as critics are citing the move as proof that Trump was unprepared and in over his head. Following Trump's letter notifying Kim that he was pulling out of talks, North Korean Vice Foreign Minister Kim Kye Gwan reemphasized that Pyongyang is willing to meet "at any time."
That was seemingly proof enough for Donald Trump Jr.:
The Art of The Deal baby!!! https://t.co/fCrQVWc4Vy
— Donald Trump Jr. (@DonaldJTrumpJr) May 25, 2018
But Junior might have jumped the gun. Notably, nothing has changed: No deal has been made, and Pyongyang has not said anything they haven't said before. Most significantly, North Korea has made no indication that it is now willing to denuclearize, the objection that led to the dissolution of the summit in the first place.
President Trump apparently blindsided U.S. allies when he announced in an open letter Thursday that he would not be attending his scheduled June 12 summit in Singapore with North Korean Leader Kim Jong Un. "Sadly, based on the tremendous anger and open hostility displayed in your most recent statement, I feel it is inappropriate, at this time, to have this long-planned meeting," Trump wrote.
Less than 24 hours later, Trump is now saying the June 12 meeting might go forward after all. "We will see what happens," Trump said Friday. "We're talking to them now."
"We're talking to them now. It was a very nice statement they put out. We'll see what happens," President Trump says of North Korea after cancelling summit. "It could even be the 12th." pic.twitter.com/NQZ7LhiSc7
— NBC News (@NBCNews) May 25, 2018
ABC's Jonathan Karl asked Trump if "the North Koreans are playing games with him — skipping planned meetings and then saying they will meet anytime," to which Trump replied, "Jon, everybody plays games." Kim had told Trump that pulling out of the summit wasn't "the world's desire." Jeva Lange
Former RNC chairman incredulously slams GOP for allowing Trump's behavior: 'Republicans are complicit in this crazy'
Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, was not pleased to find out that President Trump's attorney in the Russia investigation attended classified intelligence briefings on Thursday.
"What the president's team did yesterday is something no other citizen in this country would be permitted to do," said Steele, during a Friday appearance on MSNBC's Morning Joe. Attorney Emmet Flood sat in on meetings with Justice Department officials regarding an FBI informant who spoke with Trump campaign staffers about Russia's interference in the 2016 election. Lawmakers called the move "completely inappropriate."
Steele found it inappropriate as well, and called out Republicans for being "complicit in this crazy."
"They're sitting here now and dumbing down the system, they're disintegrating the very pillars of justice in this country. A., by going after those institutions like the FBI and the DOJ, but then permitting the president to behave in a way in which no other American citizen — and they know damn well that this is true — would be able to behave." Watch Steele's comments below, via MSNBC. Summer Meza
Trump allegedly made up Hispanic names for hypothetical rapists and murderers. Jared Kushner and Stephen Miller laughed.
When Donald Trump announced he was running for president in 2015, he also set the tone for how he would speak about immigration. "When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best," he told the crowd, going on to describe immigrants as criminals and "rapists," although "some, I assume, are good people." Recently Trump has come under fire again for his language, calling MS-13 gang members "animals."
The Washington Post on Thursday published a new revealing anecdote about how Trump joked in private about immigrants to his staff last year:
The night before Trump delivered his first speech to Congress in February 2017, he huddled with Jared Kushner and [Stephen] Miller in the Oval Office to talk immigration. The president reluctantly agreed with suggestions he strike a gentler tone on immigration in the speech.
Trump reminded them the crowds loved his rhetoric on immigrants along the campaign trail. Acting as if he was at a rally, he then read aloud a few made up Hispanic names and described potential crimes they could have committed, like rape or murder. Then, he said, the crowds would roar when the criminals were thrown out of the country — as they did when he highlighted crimes by illegal immigrants at his rallies, according to a person present for the exchange and another briefed on it later. Miller and Kushner laughed. [The Washington Post]
A third official disputed the story, telling the Post that Trump never made up Hispanic names to make a point about "crowd enthusiasm for crackdowns on criminal aliens." Read more about Trump's approach to immigration at The Washington Post. Jeva Lange
Disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein turned himself in to police Friday morning. "Today, at the NYPD's 1st Precinct, Harvey Weinstein was arrested, processed, and charged with rape, criminal sex act, sex abuse, and sexual misconduct for incidents involving two separate women," the New York Police Department said. Federal prosecutors in Manhattan are in the final stages of an investigation into allegations of sexual assault from actresses Paz de la Huerta and Lucia Evans. Weinstein, accused of wide-ranging abuse by more than 50 women, has denied all wrongdoing. After being booked and charged, NBC News reports, Weinstein is expected to be moved to New York County Criminal Court, then likely released on $1 million bail and fitted with an ankle monitor. Peter Weber