August 26, 2020

Have members of President Trump's administration been violating the Hatch Act at the Republican National Convention? His chief of staff argues no — and that most people don't really care, anyway.

White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows spoke to Politico on Wednesday after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo received heavy criticism for speaking at the Republican convention from Jerusalem, with critics saying he and other officials were violating the Hatch Act, which restricts federal employees' ability to engage in political activities in their official capacity.

Meadows pushed back on this criticism, asserting that Pompeo was acting in his personal capacity and saying he has a "different philosophy" on the Hatch Act than others, arguing that it's intended to ensure government officials don't "use their political position to try to convince" other federal employees to vote or campaign a certain way.

Aside from this, though, Meadows echoed an argument controversially laid out in Politico's Playbook that most people aren't concerned about this.

"Nobody outside of the Beltway really cares," Meadows said. "They expect that Donald Trump is going to promote Republican values, and they would expect that Barack Obama, when he was in office, that he would do the same for Democrats. And so, listen, this is a lot of hoopla that is being made about things mainly because the convention has been so unbelievably successful."

Earlier in the conversation, Meadows told Politico he would be talking in his "personal capacity" and putting on his "political hat" during the interview, hoping to avoid "everybody tweeting at me that I'm violating the Hatch Act." Given that his comments quickly drew criticism while the phrase "Hatch Act" trended on Twitter, that mission may not have been a success. Brendan Morrow

5:17 p.m.

President Trump has reportedly settled on a Supreme Court nominee.

Trump plans to nominate Amy Coney Barrett to replace Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg on the court, senior Republican sources tell CNN and and multiple sources involved in or familiar with the selection process tell CBS News. Trump may still change his mind, but as of Friday evening, he's expected to announce Barrett as his pick on Saturday afternoon.

Barrett is a Notre Dame Law School professor and a judge for the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals. She formerly clerked for the late Justice Antonin Scalia, and her judicial style has been likened to the conservative originalist. Her confirmation would give the conservative wing of the court a solid 6-3 majority.

Ginsburg died last week at age 87, after decades fighting for gender equality and leading the court's liberal wing. Democrats are expected to oppose Barrett's nomination, largely because Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) avoided hearing from former President Barack Obama's nominee in the last year of his presidency. Nearly all Republican senators have indicated they will support a vote on Trump's nominee, making it extremely likely that if Barrett is nominated, she will be confirmed. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:34 p.m.

Ben Carson has some problems with the White House.

The secretary of housing and urban development spoke Friday in Atlanta ahead of President Trump's speech outlining his platform for Black Americans. But it's what Carson didn't say that stole the show: A bulleted list of talking points and complaints he seemingly wanted to bring up with Trump.

In a photo captured by Bloomberg's Justin Sink, words on a paper in front of Carson at the event clearly showed Carson has some problems with the White House Office of Presidential Personnel and its director John McEntee. "I am very loyal to you and after you win I hope to stay in your administration," the first bullet reads. "I am not happy with the way PPO is handling my agency," the next bullet says. The final line reads "I like John and respect what he is doing, however I am sensing a severe [illegible] of trust," with the illegible word blocked by a microphone stand.

Carson didn't say any of those things during the speech. The White House declined to comment to Bloomberg, and Carson's team did not immediately respond to a request for comment. Kathryn Krawczyk

4:19 p.m.

There was an idea ... to bring Samuel L. Jackson's Nick Fury to Disney+.

Jackson will once again play Fury, his character from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in a new Marvel series on Disney+, Variety reported on Friday.

Details about the plot of the series weren't available, but this is another Disney+ show Marvel has in the works based on its characters from the films, in addition to the upcoming WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Loki, and Hawkeye. Moon Knight, Ms. Marvel, and She-Hulk are also Marvel shows in development at Disney+. Marvel for years has had television shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D running simultaneous to the films, but these upcoming Disney+ projects are expected to be more directly connected to the continuity of the movies.

As Variety notes, this new Marvel Disney+ series would be Jackson's first regular television role ever.

Jackson memorably debuted as the director of S.H.I.E.L.D. during the end credits of 2008's Iron Man, the Marvel Cinematic Universe's first film, and he has played the character all the way up to last year's Spider-Man: Far From Home. A post-credits scene of that 2019 film revealed Fury to be on a spaceship, possibly working on a galactic version of S.H.I.E.L.D., where he stumbled about asking where his shoes were. Might we see Fury among the stars in the Disney+ show? And will he ever find his shoes? Either way, this is one series that may be worth keeping an eye on. Brendan Morrow

3:08 p.m.

Former Rep. Ron Paul says he's "doing fine" after being hospitalized in Texas.

After alarming video emerged on Friday showing Paul starting to slur his words as he spoke during a livestream, Fox News reported that the former congressman was hospitalized for "precautionary" reasons. Fox News' Harris Faulkner also reported that Paul is "lucid and optimistic" at the hospital, according to the Washington Examiner.

A picture that was soon posted to Paul's Twitter account showed him giving a thumbs up at the hospital, while a message from the former congressman said, "I am doing fine. Thank you for your concern." His son, Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.), also tweeted, "Thank God, Dad is doing well. Thank you for all your prayers today."

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) was among those who had quickly wished Paul well on Twitter following the livestream, tweeting, "For many decades, he has been an extraordinary warrior for liberty. May God's healing hand be upon Dr. Paul, and may God's peace and grace be upon the entire family." Brendan Morrow

Opinion
3:06 p.m.

President Trump's Wednesday refusal to commit to a peaceful transition of power should he lose the election has exacerbated all the worries raised by his trolling about serving an unconstitutional third term. No American president should dally with declining to cede power rightfully lost, and anger over the president's comments is justified. But panic, fortunately, is not.

I understand fears about dissolution of democratic norms and the apparently nonexistent floor in the cravenness of Republican officials in Trump's thrall. But Trump lacks two necessary things for the coup attempt some of his critics anticipate, and those deficiencies reassure me greatly.

The first is competence. As my colleague Damon Linker has ably argued, the president is very good at exercising rhetorical power, but he is very bad at actually doing things, because he is deeply incompetent. He cannot plan. He certainly cannot keep a secret or keep his story straight.

The second is the absolute loyalty of the military Trump would need to retain the physical seat of power. If he had strong support among active-duty service members, it would still be quite a leap to say they'd help make him a dictator. But Trump doesn't even net a positive approval rating from U.S. forces anymore. An August survey by Military Times found half of active-duty troops disapprove of Trump, while just 38 percent support him. A plurality of current service members said they plan to vote for Democratic nominee Joe Biden, a marked divergence from military voting habits in elections past.

For all he speaks of "my generals," Trump is even less popular among the officer corps, whom he'd need to organize the military behind his cause. Indeed, as The New York Times reported Friday, Pentagon leaders have already publicly and privately considered the prospect of Trump attempting to involve them deciding the election. "In the event of a dispute over some aspect of the elections, by law, U.S. courts and the U.S. Congress are required to resolve any disputes, not the U.S. military," Gen. Mark Milley, chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said last month. "I foresee no role for the U.S. armed forces in this process."

Trump is, in short, no Napoleon, and the American military is not going to give him a coup. Bonnie Kristian

2:44 p.m.

A handful of Democrats are trying to fix America's increasingly polarizing Supreme Court nomination process.

On Friday, Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.) released a draft bill introducing a number of reforms to the Supreme Court, including term limits for justices and changes to how presidents appoint them. Reps. Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Don Beyer (D-Va.) are expected to sponsor the bill along with Khanna, the chair of the House Progressive Caucus, when they formally introduce it next week.

Among Khanna's proposals is an 18-year term limit for justices on the Supreme Court. Current justices wouldn't have to step down, but each president would get two appointments to the bench per term regardless of how many justices there already are. Presidents would make their nominations during the first and third years of their terms, and the Senate would have to approve them as always. But if the Senate doesn't consider a nominee within 120 days, like what happened with former President Barack Obama's nominee Merrick Garland, they'd automatically join the court.

Khanna's proposal doesn't actually suggest pushing the court beyond nine justices. If a president's time to nominate comes up and the court is full, the longest-serving justice would become a "senior justice" with limited duties. They would also be rotated into service in lower courts and could rejoin the Supreme Court if a vacancy unexpectedly arises.

The bill will likely face a good deal of opposition, including from those who say term limits can't be implemented without a constitutional amendment. That's part of the reason why current justices won't be subject to many of the proposed new rules. Kathryn Krawczyk

1:51 p.m.

Florida's coronavirus recovery isn't going so well. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) apparently didn't notice.

DeSantis announced Friday the whole state would move to the third and final phase of its reopening plan. That means businesses, including bars and restaurants, will be allowed to operate at full capacity even as the state continues to see thousands of new COVID-19 cases each day.

Until DeSantis' announcement at a press conference, bar and restaurant capacity was limited to 50 percent throughout the state. Local municipalities can still limit capacity between 50 and 100 percent, but will have to clear those restrictions with the state, DeSantis said.

DeSantis credited a drop in daily coronavirus infections and deaths for the decision, and it's true that Florida's coronavirus outlook has improved since a huge spike in July. But it still is seeing thousands of new cases and deaths each day; Florida reported 162 deaths since Thursday, the highest count of any state. Coronavirus hospitalizations have also stopped dropping steadily like they had been since the summer, and instead seem to have flattened, the Tampa Bay Times reports. Reopening restaurants and bars — places the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have indicated are exceptionally risky during the pandemic — won't help Florida's coronavirus fight. Kathryn Krawczyk

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