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February 24, 2016

Senate Republicans took the pretty brazen step on Tuesday of officially declaring they won't even hold hearings on President Obama's coming nominee to replace late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia. "We believe the American people need to decide who is going to make this appointment rather than a lame-duck president," said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn (Texas). But Republicans have also been citing precedent. On Monday, Senate Judiciary Chairman Charles Grassley (Iowa) said that not confirming justices during an election year was simply following "the Biden rules," referring to a recently unearthed clip of Vice President Joe Biden in June 1992.

At the time, Biden was Senate judiciary chairman, and his speech reiterates the so-called Thurmond Rule (which, incidentally, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said "doesn't exist" in 2008). In Biden's speech, highlights of which you can watch below, Biden urged then-President George H.W. Bush not to nominate a Supreme Court justice if a member of the court resigned in the summer or late fall, saying that if he did, "the Senate Judiciary Committee should seriously consider not scheduling confirmation hearings on the nomination until after the political campaign season is over."

On its surface, that's pretty good gotcha politics. But the liberal site ThinkProgress went back and looked at the rest of the speech, and it turns out that 10 minutes after the part of the speech highlighted by conservatives, Biden called for a compromise candidate: "If the president consults and cooperates with the Senate or moderates his selections absent consultation, then his nominees may enjoy my support as did Justices [Anthony] Kennedy and [David] Souter." There were no Supreme Court vacancies that year, but Biden's committee approved 11 federal appellate judges in 1992.

Members of both parties have flip-flopped pretty shamelessly on Supreme Court nominations during election years, but as Jonathan Chait notes at New York, the GOP argument that they are "merely following historical precedent... is demonstrably false." And Biden's 1992 floor speech doesn't change that. Peter Weber

8:47 p.m. ET
Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

On Monday, a group of well-known Supreme Court litigators, constitutional scholars, and former White House ethics lawyers will file a lawsuit claiming that by letting his hotels and business operations accept payments from foreign governments, President Trump is violating the Constitution, The New York Times reports.

The team will argue that the Emoluments Clause in the Constitution bans payments from foreign entities to Trump's companies, including those from guests at Trump's hotels and golf courses and loans for his buildings from banks controlled by foreign governments. "The framers of the Constitution were students of history," Deepak Gupta, one of the lawyers behind the suit, told the Times. "And they understood that one way a republic could fail is if foreign powers could corrupt our elected leaders." The suit is not seeking any monetary damages, but rather that Trump stop taking foreign payments. Trump's lawyers have said the provision does not apply to fair-market payments, like a standard hotel room bill. Catherine Garcia

12:24 p.m. ET
Tiziana Fabi/Getty Images

Pope Francis said in an interview Sunday it would be unwise to judge President Trump so soon after his inauguration, declining to offer an assessment of the new U.S. administration until more time has passed. "I think that we must wait and see. I don't like to get ahead of myself nor judge people prematurely," Francis said. "We will see how he acts, what he does, and then I will have an opinion. But being afraid or rejoicing beforehand because of something that might happen is, in my view, quite unwise."

The pope also issued a warning against turning to magnetic, populist "saviors" in times of fear. "Crises provoke fear, alarm," he mused. "In my opinion, the most obvious example of European populism is Germany in 1933. ... A people that was immersed in a crisis, that looked for its identity, until this charismatic leader came and promised to give their identity back, and he gave them a distorted identity, and we all know what happened." Bonnie Kristian

12:12 p.m. ET

Kansas City Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura and former Atlanta Braves, Cleveland Indians, and Arizona Diamondbacks infielder Andy Marte both died in separate car crashes in the Dominican Republic on Sunday.

Just 25, Ventura signed with the Royals in 2008 and finished sixth in the American League Rookie of the Year Award voting in 2014. Marte, 33, was reportedly driving alone when he crashed around 3 a.m. He played seven Major League Baseball seasons, mostly with Cleveland. Bonnie Kristian

11:42 a.m. ET

When President Obama arrived in Washington as a freshman senator from Illinois in 2005, he left an annual income of less than $100,000 from his work in the state Senate and as a professor at the University of Chicago Law School. Over the course of his 12 years in the District — four in the Senate and eight in the White House — Obama earned about $20 million, mostly from book deals and his government salary. Here's the breakdown from Forbes:


(Forbes)

Michelle Obama, who worked as a lawyer and in Chicago's City Hall before becoming first lady, is herself worth an estimated $11 million, the bulk of which also comes from a trio of lucrative book deals. Bonnie Kristian

11:13 a.m. ET

Kellyanne Conway, counselor to President Trump, said Sunday that White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer did not lie when he claimed Saturday that Trump's inauguration boasted "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period," despite evidence to the contrary.

As Meet the Press host Chuck Todd repeatedly demanded that she explain why Trump would ask Spicer to tell a falsehood, Conway brushed aside his concern. "You're saying it's a falsehood," she said, but actually Spicer simply "gave alternative facts."

"Wait, 'alternative facts'?" Todd sputtered in disbelief. "Look, alternative facts are not facts. They're falsehoods." From there, Conway shifted the discussion to a list of statistics about the state of the nation before suggesting there is no way to really know the truth about the size of the inaugural crowd because "we all know" that type of math is impossible. Watch her comments in context below. Bonnie Kristian

10:46 a.m. ET

The new White House press secretary, Sean Spicer, insisted Saturday that Friday's inauguration hosted "the largest audience to ever witness an inauguration, period," accusing the media of "intentionally" framing photos to make the crowd look smaller. President Trump made the same accusation during his speech at CIA headquarters Saturday, claiming the press reported 250,000 people attended rather than the "million and a half" he personally observed.

On Sunday, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus argued that to focus on White House complaints about media reports on the size of the crowd is to miss the point. "President Trump said in his inaugural address that every decision he makes will be to benefit American families. How does arguing about crowd size do that?" asked Fox News Sunday host Chris Wallace. "Because it's really not about crowd size," Priebus answered. "It's about honesty in the media ... [which] from Day One has been talking about delegitimizing the election, talking about the Russians, talking about everything you can imagine except the fact that we need to move this country forward."

Despite his own protests, Priebus soon brought up aerial comparisons of the crowds at President Trump's inauguration and President Obama's event in 2009. "Well, there's another issue here, though, Reince, and that is the president's honesty," Wallace said, pulling up the side-by-side pictures, "because two things that he said yesterday were just flat wrong" — namely his discussion of crowd size and the acrimony between Trump and the intelligence community that Trump now says is a media invention. Watch Priebus' reply, and their full conversation, below. Bonnie Kristian

10:05 a.m. ET

President Trump responded Sunday morning to the hundreds of Women's Marches held Saturday in cities across the country and around the globe to protest his election. He began by suggesting the protesters should have simply voted against him and then accepted the election results.

An hour and a half later, Trump added a second post with a more conciliatory tone:

Interspersed between those two tweets, Trump said he had a "great meeting at CIA Headquarters" Saturday with "long standing ovations" and noted that his inauguration drew 11 million more television viewers than President Obama's 2013 event. Trump did not mention that Obama's 2009 viewership outpaced his own. Bonnie Kristian

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