Supreme Court to consider Trump ballot issue and U.S. kills militia commander: Morning Rundown

The Supreme Court hears Donald Trump’s argument to stay on the Colorado ballot. A failed border security bill exposes Mitch McConnell’s waning influence. And fast-food lovers bemoan steep prices for a Big Mac combo. 

 Here’s what to know today.

Supreme Court tackles complicated and consequential issues in Trump ballot bid

A long, muddled sentence in the Constitution is at the center of today’s Supreme Court fight to determine whether Donald Trump should be allowed to appear on Colorado’s Republican primary ballot. 

Oral arguments in front of the 6-3 conservative majority begin just after 10 a.m. ET and could last for several hours. 

If Trump loses, other states could also exclude his name from their ballots and place hurdles in the way of his attempt to regain the presidency. Officials in conservative-controlled states have warned that they could seek to remove President Joe Biden from the ballot in response. 

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The sentence at the center of Colorado’s argument is in Section 3 of the 14th Amendment of the Constitution, written in the aftermath of the Civil War. It says:

“No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any State, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.”

That’s a mouthful. And it’s not exactly clear how this should be interpreted, senior legal correspondent Laura Jarrett points out. For example, is the president included in this? And what counts as an insurrection? Read Jarrett’s explainer here.

The argument in Colorado’s legal challenge is that Trump “intentionally organized and incited a violent mob” on Jan. 6, 2021, resulting in an attack on the U.S. Capitol. In arguing for the suit’s dismissal, Trump’s lawyers have argued that the president is not an officer of the United States, that Trump did not engage in an insurrection and that only Congress, not the courts, can enforce Section 3. 

Supreme Court reporter Lawrence Hurley details everything else you should know heading into today’s hearing. Visit our live blog at later this morning to follow the case in real time.

As border bill collapses, so does McConnell’s influence

Within 48 hours of the release of a long-awaited immigration and foreign aid bill he had championed, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s Republican conference rejected his pitch to support it, knifing the deal and leaving it for dead. The vote pointed to a changed landscape, especially for the Kentucky Republican who has been a one-man power center for more than a decade.

Conservatives were quick to cheer the bill’s failure and jeer McConnell. Fellow Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul called McConnell’s move to reach a border and Ukraine deal a “huge mistake.” Sen. Ted Cruz openly suggested it’s time for McConnell to step down. In the House, Rep. Matt Gaetz said there was a “celebratory mood” after the vote failed. Some House Republicans had said they would reject the bill even if it passed in the Senate.

While the border deal illustrated McConnell’s diminishing sway, senior political reporter Sahil Kapur and producer Frank Thorp V note that his power has been diminishing for years — with Trump to blame.

More on the border security fight

  • What happens next? The Senate will meet again this afternoon to continue debating a pared-down foreign aid package without border security measures, but even the fate of that bill is unclear.
  • The Biden administration is considering executive action to deter illegal migration — measures that may upset some progressives but please many Democratic mayors.
  • The Tennessee man accused by the FBI of plotting a sniper attack on the border “talks a big game, but it’s all lies,” his son said.

U.S. kills militant commander in Baghdad drone strike

Iraq drone strike
Iraqis gather at the site of a burned vehicle targeted by a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.Hadi Mizban / AP

A U.S. drone attack killed a commander of the Iran-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah militia last night in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad. U.S. Central Command described Abo Baqir Al-Saadi as being directly responsible for planning and participating in attacks on American forces in the region. It is the second retaliatory strike the U.S. has carried out for the deadly attack on a base in Jordan.

Hamas officials are set to travel to Cairo today for further cease-fire talks. Their trip comes after Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu rejected proposals from the militant group to end the fighting, insisting that Israel would fight on until it secured “absolute victory.” Secretary of State Antony Blinken said a deal was still possible and will continue discussions with Israeli leaders today. Follow live updates.

More on the Israel-Hamas war: 

LAPD chief calls graffiti-tagged high-rise a ‘worldwide issue’

People are traveling to Los Angeles “in an effort to make their mark” on a downtown Los Angeles high-rise that gained international attention last week for the graffiti tags covering the building’s windows, Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore said. He warned yesterday that the property is becoming a “center of mischief and turmoil” and said the condition of the building is a “visual blight.” At least six arrests for vandalism have been made since last week, and Moore said police would do more to guard the property against trespassers.

The tagged building is in the long-stalled Oceanwide Plaza project, located near the Arena, where the Los Angeles Lakers play.  

A possible solution to the ER overcrowding crisis

Emergency medical care is meant to treat people quickly and send them home, or get patients admitted to the hospital for further treatment. But America’s health care system is woefully understaffed. So many patients are showing up to emergency rooms, and without anywhere else to go, they’re forced to stay in the ER. A doctor in Texas said the lack of hospital beds has gone from “typical organized chaos” to an “out-of-control crisis.”

ER overcrowding has reached such a crisis point that some hospitals have begun to invest in a promising solution: a federal program that allows people sick enough to be hospitalized but well enough to do basic daily activities to be cared for in their own homes. But funding could run out by the end of the year.

Russia bans anti-war challenger from running against Putin

Russia's Central Election Commission holds a meeting where it decides whether an opposition presidential candidate Boris Nadezhdin is qualified to run in the March election.
Boris Nadezhdin during a meeting of the Russia’s Central Election Commission in Moscow.Alexander Zemlianichenko / AP

Russian authorities have barred the only anti-war presidential campaigner from running against Vladimir Putin in next month’s election, heading off a challenge from a man who garnered surprise levels of support as he channeled simmering discontent. Boris Nadezhdin became an unexpected phenomenon in Russian politics, presenting a headache for the Kremlin as it orchestrates Putin’s fifth term in power ahead of the March 15-17 presidential election.  

His disqualification signals that the Kremlin has decided not to take the risk of allowing Nadezhdin on the ballot, even at the cost of further eroding the legitimacy of the campaign.

Today’s Talker: Fast foodies are fed up with an $18 Big Mac combo in …

McDonald's Big Mac Meal
Jakub Porzycki / NurPhoto via Getty Images file

… Connecticut. The same store was also selling Egg McMuffins for $7. In case you’ve forgotten, McDonald’s was long known for its Dollar Menu, but the company has raised prices in the face of inflation. The company that owns KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut is also feeling the economic sting, showing weaker-than-expected growth. Would-be customers are chewing on other, cheaper options, like eating at home.

Politics in Brief

2024 election: Marianne Williamson ended her long-shot bid for the Democratic presidential nomination. She finished in the low single digits in both the New Hampshire and the South Carolina primaries.

Biden’s gaffes: Biden twice referred to the late German Chancellor Helmut Kohl instead of former Chancellor Angela Merkel when detailing a 2021 conversation at campaign events. He also mistakenly brought up another dead European leader at an event earlier this week.

Trump investigations: Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene has again filed an ethics complaint against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, the prosecutor pursuing charges against Trump in the Georgia election interference case.  

Classified docs probe: Special counsel Robert Hur has concluded his investigation into classified documents that were found at Biden’s home and office. 

RNC leadership: Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said she is “still hard at work” amid reports that she may not be in her job much longer. Already, her co-chair, Drew McKissick, is jockeying for the leadership role. He’s not the only one.

E. Jean Carroll case: A federal judge rejected Trump’s motion seeking a mistrial in the E. Jean Carroll defamation case. His attorneys argued in the mistrial motion that Carroll deleted threatening messages, including death threats.

Staff Pick: Bomb threats follow social media posts

The past few years have witnessed many bomb threats against schools and hospitals, especially targeting LGBTQ teachers, and doctors who provide trans health care. People have also observed a pattern: Many threats come within days of those schools and hospitals getting attention from Libs of TikTok, a conservative social media brand with millions of followers. We set out to identify how many threats there had been, and based on various sources, we found 33 instances of threats — including 21 bomb threats. — David Ingram, tech reporter

In Case You Missed It

  • The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is investigating an outbreak on a luxury cruise ship where more than 150 people have reported gastrointestinal illnesses, including diarrhea and vomiting.
Queen Victoria Cruise Ship Returns To Its Home Port Of Southampton
Naomi Baker / Getty Images file
  • The death of a baby who was decapitated during delivery was ruled a homicide this week by a Georgia medical examiner.
  • Two men say they were each robbed of tens of thousands of dollars after they went to the same Atlanta sports bar on different nights.
  • Jennifer Crumbley’s manslaughter conviction in connection with her son’s school shooting could lead to more criminal prosecutions against parents, some legal experts argue, and not solely for mass shootings.
  • A missing helicopter carrying five U.S. Marines was found in Southern California, the U.S. Marine Corps announced. The search is still on for those who were onboard. 
  • A Palestinian American man was stabbed in the back in Texas after attending a pro-Gaza protest in what police are calling a “bias-motivated incident.”

Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

When shopping for skincare products for tweens, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredients list because chemicals such as retinols, glycolic and lactic acids and vitamin C can strip and irritate youthful skin. Dermatologists recommend their favorite cleansers, moisturizers and spot treatments. 

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