10 things you need to know today: June 24, 2022
The Supreme Court overturns N.Y. law restricting concealed weapons, the Senate passes the 1st bipartisan gun legislation in decades, and more
Supreme Court says N.Y. law on concealed weapons is unconstitutional
The Supreme Court's conservative majority on Thursday struck down a New York law that restricted the right to carry concealed weapons in public for self-defense. The decision marked a significant expansion of gun rights that could topple other gun laws and result in more armed people in U.S. cities. Justice Clarence Thomas wrote for the majority that the Second Amendment protects "an individual's right to carry a handgun for self-defense outside the home," The New York Times reports. President Biden said the 6-3 ruling "contradicts both common sense and the Constitution, and should deeply trouble us all." The decision came as Congress speeds toward passing bipartisan gun legislation following last month's Texas school shooting, which left 19 children and two teachers dead.
Senate approves bipartisan gun bill
The Senate voted 65-33 Thursday to pass the first major bipartisan legislation to address gun violence in nearly three decades. The House plans to vote Friday — a month after the Uvalde, Texas, school massacre — and send the bill to President Biden for his signature. The $13 billion Bipartisan Safer Communities Act seeks "enhanced" background checks on gun buyers ages 18 to 21 and closes the "boyfriend loophole" to bar gun purchases by people convicted of domestic violence against a romantic partner. It also encourages states to use "red flag" laws to seize guns from people deemed a threat to themselves or others, and provides funding for community mental health programs and school security, among other provisions.
European Union grants Ukraine candidate status
European leaders on Thursday approved formally designating Ukraine as a candidate to join the European Union, a big early step in a years-long process toward admitting the country into the 27-nation trading bloc. Ukraine has called for quick action on its application as it struggles to defend itself against a Russian invasion that has battered its military, its population, and its economy. Moldova's candidacy was also approved. The backing of EU leaders "is a signal to Moscow that Ukraine, and also other countries from the former Soviet Union, cannot belong to the Russian spheres of influence," Ukraine's ambassador to the EU, Vsevolod Chentsov, told Reuters.
Ex-DOJ officials tell Jan. 6 committee about pressure by Trump
The House Jan. 6 committee heard live testimony Thursday describing then-President Donald Trump's push for the Justice Department to investigate his false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from him. Three Trump administration Justice Department officials said they faced relentless pressure to pursue baseless vote-fraud allegations. Committee members displayed a note by Richard Donoghue, the acting No. 2 official in the Trump DOJ, recording what Trump told him in a December 2020 phone call: "Just say the election was corrupt + leave the rest to me and the R. Congressmen." Donaghue said Trump proposed making a mid-level official, Jeffrey Clark, acting attorney general to push his claims. He said he warned Trump that DOJ officials would resign in droves if he did so.
Federal agents search Trump DOJ official's home
Federal investigators this week searched the Virginia home of former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark. Former President Donald Trump wanted to name Clark acting attorney general at the end of his term because Clark was the highest-ranking DOJ official willing to push Trump's false claim the 2020 election was stolen from him. The search occurred Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal reports. A lawyer for Clark, who ran DOJ's environmental division during the Trump administration and is now a fellow at the Center for Renewing America, did not immediately reply to the Journal's request for comment. Russ Vought, a Trump White House official who now leads the center, said the investigators took Clark's electronic devices during the pre-dawn raid.
Taliban appeals for international aid to respond to earthquake
Afghanistan's Taliban government on Thursday appealed for international aid to help it address the needs of survivors of a massive earthquake that killed at least 1,150 people and injured at least 1,600 others in a remote part of eastern Afghanistan this week. The Taliban, which have received little help or official recognition since returning to power in August after 20 years of war, also renewed calls for the Biden administration to release Afghan assets held in U.S. banks due to sanctions on the Islamist group. The shallow, 5.9-magnitude earthquake leveled entire villages, killing entire families in some cases. "My family is here," said Rahmatullah Rahimi, whose wife and six children died when his house collapsed. "We buried them all at once."
GOP Rep. Mo Brooks suggests he'll testify to Jan. 6 panel after Trump break
Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) this week sent a letter to the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, saying that if certain conditions are met, he will testify before the panel. Brooks participated in the "Stop the Steal" rally on Jan. 6, 2021, that took place immediately before the Capitol attack by supporters of then-President Donald Trump. Several witnesses have told the Jan. 6 committee that before former President Donald Trump left office, Brooks asked for a presidential pardon. Earlier this week, Brooks lost Alabama's Republican Senate primary, after Trump rescinded his endorsement and switched his allegiance to Katie Britt, a first-time candidate.
Ukrainian defenders withdrawing from Sievierodonetsk
Ukrainian troops will withdraw from the key eastern city of Sievierodonetsk, which Russia has been shelling "almost every day for four months," regional governor Serhiy Haidai said Friday. "We can easily win back Sievierodonetsk, we can win it back in a week — but at what price?" Haidai said. Russian troops were also pushing closer to neighboring Lysychansk, where many civilians fled as Ukrainian forces defended Sievierodonetsk, one of the last cities Ukraine still controlled as Russia neared its goal of taking over the entire Luhansk region. The loss of the city isn't disastrous for Ukraine, said the Institute for the Study of War (ISW), a Washington-based think tank, because "Ukrainian forces have fundamentally accomplished their objective in the battle by slowing down and degrading Russian forces."
Supreme Court says N.C. Republicans can defend voter ID law
The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that North Carolina's Republican-controlled legislature can defend their voter ID law in court. The state's legislative leaders argue the state's Democratic attorney general isn't doing enough to defend the law. The state law requires voters to present a photo ID. If they don't have one, they can cast a provisional ballot and show up later to present an ID to elections officials. Anyone claiming a "reasonable impediment" to getting an ID also would be allowed to cast a ballot. The state's Democratic governor, Roy Cooper, vetoed the bill, but the GOP-controlled legislature overrode him. Writing for the 8-1 majority, Justice Neil Gorsuch said legislative leaders, who represent the people, are authorized "to defend duly enacted statutes against constitutional challenge."
FDA orders Juul to pull e-cigarettes from U.S. market
The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday ordered Juul Labs to stop selling e-cigarettes in the United States, part of an ongoing effort to reduce nicotine-related deaths from smoking and vaping. Most of Juul's sales are in the U.S., so the decision could be devastating for the company. Juul said it disagreed with the ruling and would seek a stay. "We remain committed to doing all in our power to continue serving the millions of American adult smokers who have successfully used our products to transition away from combustible cigarettes," the company said. The once booming company had already stopped selling sweet and fruity flavored e-cigarettes in the U.S. market, and limited its marketing after being accused of driving a youth vaping crisis.