Daily briefing

10 things you need to know today: June 22, 2022

The Supreme Court says Maine can't ban tuition aid to religious schools, officials describe Trump pressure to Jan. 6 panel, and more

1

Supreme Court rules Maine can't ban tuition aid to religious schools

The Supreme Court ruled Tuesday that Maine can't exclude religious schools from a state program that provides tuition assistance for parents to send children to private schools. Chief Justice John Roberts, writing for the court's 6-3 conservative majority, said the state can't subsidize private schools but discriminate against those that are religious, because that "violates the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment." "That is discrimination against religion," Roberts wrote. In their dissent, the three liberal justices said this is the first time the court has approved using state funds meant to provide free public education for all to "pay for religious education." The decision is the latest by the court's conservative majority easing policies separating church and state.

2

State officials tell Jan. 6 committee about threats, Trump pressure

Officials from Arizona and Georgia testified Tuesday before the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack about how then-President Donald Trump and his allies pressured them to help overturn President Biden's 2020 electoral victory. Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel said in pre-recorded testimony that Trump had called her and asked her to help in the effort, and put conservative lawyer John Eastman on the phone to tell her it was important for the RNC to help the campaign gather "contingent electors" to replace legal ones. Four state officials from Georgia and Arizona who rebuffed the Trump team's pressure campaign testified in the panel's fourth day of public hearings that they received death threats after Trump supporters accused them of fraud.

3

Senators advance bipartisan gun safety bill

A bipartisan group of senators on Tuesday released the text of their gun safety bill, saying it would make schools and communities safer. "Our legislation will save lives and will not infringe on any law-abiding American's Second Amendment rights," lead negotiators Sens. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), John Cornyn (R-Texas), Kyrsten Sinema (D-Ariz.), and Thom Tillis (R-N.C.) said in a statement. The bill would encourage states to pass so-called red-flag laws, and close the "boyfriend loophole" by broadening restrictions on gun purchases by people who have abused romantic partners. " The bill quickly cleared its first procedural in a 64-34 vote, putting it on track for a likely floor vote later this week.

4

Garland makes surprise Ukraine visit to show support on punishing war crimes 

U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland made a surprise visit to Ukraine on Tuesday to discuss and reaffirm the United States' commitment to helping Kyiv "identify, apprehend, and prosecute individuals involved in war crimes and atrocities" in Russia's war in Ukraine, the Justice Department said. "I am here to express the unwavering support of the United States for the people of Ukraine in the midst of the unprovoked and unjust Russian invasion," Garland said. He met with his Ukrainian counterpart, Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova, and announced the launch of a War Crimes Accountability Team to investigate any war crimes in Ukraine falling under U.S. jurisdiction.

5

Texas official calls Uvalde police response 'abject failure'

The director of the Texas Department of Public Safety, Col. Steven McCraw, told the Texas Senate Special Committee to Protect All Texans on Tuesday that the law enforcement response to last month's mass shooting in Uvalde, Texas, was an "abject failure." McCraw slammed Uvalde school district police chief Pedro "Pete" Arredondo for making the call to wait 73 minutes before confronting the attacker, who had closed himself inside adjoining classrooms where he killed 19 children and two teachers. McCraw said there were enough armed officers with body armor to "isolate, distract, and neutralize" the shooter three minutes after he entered the building. "The post-Columbine doctrine is clear and compelling and unambiguous: stop the killing, stop the dying," McCraw said.

6

Supreme Court rejects appeal of $25 million Roundup judgment

The Supreme Court on Tuesday declined to hear an appeal of the $25 million verdict against the maker of Roundup weedkiller for not warning about the cancer risks associated with its active ingredient glyphosate. The decision lets stand the judgment in favor of Edwin Hardeman of California, who said he got cancer from years of using Roundup to kill poison oak and weeds. Bayer inherited responsibility for Roundup when it acquired Monsanto in 2018. The German company had been appealing the verdict, hoping to block thousands of Roundup lawsuits similar to Hardeman's, but now those cases can go forward. The Environmental Protection Agency says glyphosate isn't likely to cause cancer in humans.

7

Katie Britt beats Mo Brooks in Alabama GOP Senate primary runoff

First-time candidate Katie Britt trounced Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) in Tuesday's Republican Senate primary runoff in Alabama. Former President Donald Trump at first endorsed Brooks, then withdrew his support of the right-wing stalwart ahead of the first round of voting as he sank in the polls. Trump wound up endorsing Britt, a former chief of staff to the retiring Sen. Richard Shelby (R-Ala.). If she wins, as expected, Britt, 40, will be the youngest woman in the Senate. The Britt-vs.-Brooks contest was one of several Republican primary runoffs featuring Trump-backed candidates who have touted his baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. In Georgia, two Trump-endorsed House candidates lost their runoffs.

8

Jury finds Bill Cosby sexually assaulted 16-year-old in 1975

A California jury on Tuesday found Bill Cosby liable in a lawsuit filed by Judy Huth, who said the embattled actor and comedian sexually molested her at the Playboy Mansion in 1975, when she was 16. Huth, 64, said she and her friend Donna Samuelson met Cosby in nearby San Marino while he was filming the movie Let's Do It Again. She and Samuelson testified that Cosby invited them to his tennis club and house, then had them follow him to the Playboy Mansion. There, Huth said, Cosby forced her to perform a sex act on him, knowing that she was "15 or 16" years old. Cosby, 84, didn't testify but has denied any misconduct. His lawyers said Huth created a "complete and utter fabrication" to get money from Cosby. The jury awarded Huth $500,000 in damages.

9

Report: Biden to push for federal fuel-tax holiday

President Biden plans to call for suspending federal gasoline and diesel taxes for three months to help Americans deal with high fuel prices, The Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday, citing senior administration officials. Biden is expected to make the announcement when he addresses gas prices at 2 p.m. ET, though he won't have the last word. Congress would have to approve a holiday from the 18.4-cents-a-gallon federal gasoline tax and 24.4-cents-a-gallon diesel tax through September, and lawmakers from both parties have expressed opposition. Some Democrats fear oil companies would keep most of the savings, so motorists would get little relief. Gas prices rose last year, then jumped to nominal record highs after Russia invaded Ukraine, disrupting oil supply.

10

Deshaun Watson settles 20 of 24 sexual misconduct suits

Cleveland Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson has settled 20 of the 24 sexual misconduct lawsuits filed against him by massage therapists who accused him of inappropriate behavior during therapy sessions. Watson has denied the allegations and said he wanted to clear his name. Plaintiffs attorney Tony Buzbee announced the settlements Tuesday, and said the other cases, including the one filed by initial plaintiff Ashley Solis, could go to trial after the current season. The NFL said the settlements wouldn't affect the football league's possible suspension of Watson under its policy on personal conduct. NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said May 24 that the league had nearly completed its investigation.

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