New York City
Rep. Joseph Crowley, the No. 4 Democrat in the House, suffered a stunning primary defeat this week to a political newcomer, 28-year-old activist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The blowout loss for Crowley, who’s held his seat since 1999 and was on the short list to replace Nancy Pelosi as Democratic leader, sent shock waves through a party looking to retake the House in November. Ocasio-Cortez, a former organizer for Bernie Sanders and a member of the Democratic Socialists of America, ran an unapologetically progressive campaign. Despite being dramatically outspent, she campaigned aggressively in her solid-blue, minority-majority district—which includes parts of Queens and the Bronx—advocating Medicare for all, free public college education, gun control, and an end to corporate money in politics. She spent the last few days before the primary in Texas at the U.S.-Mexico border, calling for the abolition of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Her victory is considered the biggest Democratic primary upset in at least a decade.
Walgreens faced angry calls for a boycott this week after an Arizona pharmacist refused to fill a prescription for medication that would induce a miscarriage for a woman with an unviable pregnancy. Nicole Arteaga had been saddened to learn from her doctor that her 9-week-old fetus’ heart had stopped beating. She opted to take misoprostol, a medication used to end a failed pregnancy. But the pharmacist at the local Walgreens refused to fill the order on ethical grounds, ignoring Arteaga’s tearful and careful pleas while her 7-year-old son was in earshot. “What [the pharmacist] failed to understand is this is something I have zero control over,” said Arteaga, 35, in a Facebook post; she later obtained the medication at another Walgreens. Refusing to fill prescriptions is expressly permitted under Arizona law and Walgreens policy.
The Supreme Court delivered a series of bitterly divided 5-4 rulings in highly anticipated cases this week, highlighting the lasting consequences of the nomination of conservative Justice Neil Gorsuch by President Trump after Republicans refused to grant Merrick Garland a hearing under President Obama. In addition to upholding President Trump’s travel ban, the court’s conservative majority dealt a massive blow to public-sector unions, ruling that it is unconstitutional for public employee unions to require fees from workers who choose not to join. Overturning a 40-year-old precedent, the court found that compelling fees violates workers’ right to free speech, because the money may go toward political causes the workers oppose. Union leaders had argued that there’d be no incentive for workers to pay for collective-bargaining representation if they could receive those benefits for free.
In another First Amendment case, the court’s conservative bloc struck down a California law requiring “crisis pregnancy centers” to give women information about ways to end their pregnancies. These centers oppose abortion on religious grounds and urge women to pursue parenthood or adoption instead. Writing for the majority, Justice Clarence Thomas said that while California could promote the availability of abortions through advertising, for example, the state “cannot co-opt the licensed facilities to deliver its message for it.” And in a case accusing Texas of drawing congressional and legislative districts that disadvantage Hispanic voters, the court held that all but one of the districts in question were legitimate. The conservative justices said a unanimous ruling by a three-judge district court “erred” in finding that several of these districts were gerrymandered to preserve racial discrimination. Justice Sonia Sotomayor authored a scathing, 46-page dissent, saying that the court was going “out of its way” to permit Texas to use racially discriminatory election maps.
Leak guilty plea
Reality Winner, a 26-year-old decorated former Air Force linguist, pleaded guilty in a federal court in Georgia this week to leaking a top-secret National Security Agency report about Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Winner, whose plea agreement calls for her to serve 63 months in prison, was the first person prosecuted by the Trump administration for leaking classified information. She has spent the past year in jail, without bond, contesting the government’s case. Winner stood accused of leaking an NSA report on cyberattacks by the Russian military against more than 100 American election officials, as well as against a voting-software company. The report was published by the news site The Intercept, and clues on the printout led government investigators to Winner, who was charged under the Espionage Act, a World War I–era law aimed at spies.
Kennedy to retire
Justice Anthony Kennedy, who often served as the decisive swing vote in 5-4 decisions, announced his retirement from the Supreme Court this week, giving President Trump a chance to entrench the court’s conservative majority for decades. The vacancy is sure to precipitate a furious political showdown, with Republicans eager to decisively shift the direction of the court and reverse some of its most contentious decisions on issues such as abortion, gun rights, and affirmative action. Kennedy, 81, was nominated by Ronald Reagan in 1988, and proved to be a moderately conservative justice, casting decisive votes in cases that loosened campaign finance restrictions and upheld individual gun rights. But he also sided with the court’s liberal bloc in numerous landmark decisions, including those that limited the death penalty and defended the right to abortion. He also wrote the 2015 majority opinion in Obergefell v. Hodges, which established the constitutional right for gay people to marry.