Ketanji Brown Jackson steps into the biggest week of her career
It’s day one of the Supreme Court nominee’s historic confirmation hearings.
Ketanji Brown Jackson this morning begins the next phase in her history-making journey during the day one of her Senate confirmation hearings to become the first Black woman to serve on the Supreme Court.
Jackson will give an opening statement after she’s introduced by two people familiar with her: A retired DC Circuit judge who served with her on the bench and a former college roommate at Harvard. The 22 members of the Senate Judiciary Committee will also deliver remarks.
“These televised judiciary hearings will give millions of Americans a chance to hear from the judge directly for the first time since her nomination,” Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer said last Thursday during a floor speech. “These hearings matter: Americans deserve to hear for themselves from Judge Jackson, whose, decisions will echo across American law for a long, long time.”
The historic nature of Jackson’s nomination has been well-documented. But unless you’re a political obsessive with free time to spare, it’s unlikely these hearings will generate a lot of major news.
And that’s by design: Jackson has been coached to avoid controversial questions and withhold any details about how she would rule if confirmed to the bench. She’s also already been confirmed to the Senate three times before so that experience should come in handy.
The White House said Jackson has been working with a team of internal and external advisors to prepare for the hearings.
And while she’s been studying and practicing since she was nominated on Feb. 25, the intensity of her preparation has picked up over the last couple of days.
Jackson also completed 44 one-on-one introductory meetings with senators from both parties, including every member of the Judiciary Committee.
“These have been engaging and respectful discussions that showcase here extraordinary qualifications, experience, intellect and character,” former Democratic Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama and the top advisor guiding Jackson through the confirmation process, said last week.
The administration declined to disclose if any of her prep work included conversations with President Joe Biden, who was the top Democrat of the Senate Judiciary Committee for 17 years, or if he would be watching the hearings today.
“He’s not participating in the mock preps, no,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said last Friday. “But he is certainly excited about her hearings next week and [Jackson] being confirmed to serve on the bench.”
The current Judiciary chairman, Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, is thought to have both the demeanor and experience to ensure members have an opportunity to explore Jackson’s record while also nipping any planned Republican ambushes in the bud.
Senate Republicans for their part have promised a fair and respectful week of hearings. But broadsides from members in recent days have suggested otherwise.
Sen. Josh Hawley of Missouri last Wednesday posted a Twitter thread that made up in length what it lacked in context as it mischaracterized Jackson’s record in child abuse cases.
The White House said that Hawley attributed words to Jackson that were of a witness in order to ask a question about their testimony.
“What’s important here are facts,” Psaki said during a briefing last Friday. “And the facts are that in the vast majority of cases involving child sex crimes broadly, the sentences Judge Jackson imposed were consistent with or above what the government or US probation recommended.
Durbin added on ABC’s This Week on Sunday that Hawley was inaccurate and unfair in his analysis.
“He’s part of the fringe within the Republican Party,” Durbin said of his colleague. “This was a man who was fist-bumping the murderous mob that descended on the Capitol on January 6th of the last year. He doesn't have the credibility he thinks he does.”
But it’s not just Sen. Hawley though.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who has burnished his legacy by employing ruthless tactics to reshape the federal judiciary in his image, called Jackson a part of President Biden’s scheme to make the courts softer on crime.
This comes after McConnell previously called Jackson “the favored choice of far-left dark-money groups that have spent years attacking the legitimacy and structure of the court itself.
“He also said he expected her to get confirmed with some Republican votes,” Psaki said last week. “And attempts to smear or discredit her history and her work are not borne out in facts.”
These attacks feel all the more partisan and weak under the weight of countless endorsements from the International Association of Chiefs of Police to the NAACP, a group of two dozen former Supreme Court clerks, including for conservative justices, and dozens of progressive groups who appreciate Jackson’s background working as a public defender.
And if that’s not enough: The American Bar Association unanimously rated Jackson “well qualified” to serve on the Supreme Court — the ABA’s highest possible rating.
The hearings will continue on Tuesday with Jackson answering questions from committee members. In addition to more questioning on Wednesday, the committee will meet on Wednesday in a closed session to discuss Jackson’s FBI background check. And the committee on Thursday will hear testimony from the American Bar Association and additional witnesses.
Democrats plan to advance Jackson out of committee and confirm her in the full Senate by April 8 before the chamber breaks for a two-week recess. If confirmed, Jackson would be sworn in after Justice Stephen Breyer retires in June.
“Justice Breyer, the members of the Senate will decide if I fill your seat,” Jackson said of the man she formerly clerked for and counts as a mentor after she was nominated last month. “But please know that I could never fill your shoes.”
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Today in Politics
President Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing then host a secure call with President Emmanuel Macron of France, Chancellor Olaf Scholz of Germany, Prime Minister Mario Draghi of Italy Prime Minister Boris Johnson of the United Kingdom on the war in Ukraine. The president will also join a business roundtable with CEOs this evening to discuss the US’s response to Russia and his economic agenda.
Biden’s week ahead:
Wednesday: The president will travel to Brussels, Belgium.
Thursday: Biden will attend a NATO summit, G7 meeting and European Council summit to discuss the crisis in Ukraine.
Friday: The president will travel to Warsaw, Poland.
Saturday: Biden will meet with President Andrzej Duda of Poland before returning to Washington, DC.
Vice President Kamala Harris this morning will travel to Sunset, Louisiana this morning to tour a community library and meet with local residents to discuss the value of high-speed internet. The vice president will also speak about the administration’s investments in universal broadband. She will return to DC this afternoon.
The House is out.
The Senate is in and will continue debate on a bill to increase US competitiveness with China.
In the Know
Breaking: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas was admitted to the hospital on Friday night with an infection after experiencing flu-like symptoms. He is resting comfortably and expected to be released in a day or two.
6.5 million people have been displaced inside Ukraine due to the war, which amounts to a quarter of the country’s population. Another 3.2 million civilians have already fled the country. [Jamey Keaten / AP News]
Russia bombed an art school sheltering 400 people in Mariupol, a city in southeastern Ukraine, according to Ukrainian officials. It is believed to be the second time in less than a week that city officials reported an attack on a public building where residents had taken shelter: Last Wednesday, a bomb hit a Mariupol theater with reportedly more than 1,300 people inside. [CBS News]
Four US service members were killed when the aircraft they were traveling in crashed during NATO training exercises in Norway. The US Marine Corps said the incident is currently under investigation by both Norwegian and US organizations. [Jonny Hallam and Barbara Starr / CNN]
China reported its first COVID deaths in over a year, as the country grapples with a major surge. Before Saturday, the country had not reported a Covid-19 death since January 2021 but experts suspect that some deaths may have gone unreported and that case numbers, in general, may have been understated by officials. [Amy Chang Chien / NYT]
Related: The US could be facing another wave. Our surges usually lag Western Europe’s and a number of countries including Britain, France and Germany, have seen case numbers climb as BA.2, a new Omicron subvariant, takes hold. [Benjamin Mueller / NYT]
Related: Black adults were hospitalized almost four times more than white adults during the peak of the winter Omicron wave, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The hospitalization rate for Black adults was “the highest rate observed among any racial and ethnic groups during the pandemic. And after Indigenous Americans, Black Americans have the second-highest death rate related to COVID-19 infections.
Republican Rep. Don Young of Alaska died last Friday while traveling home. Young was the dean of the House, a symbolic position reserved for the longest-serving member of the chamber, and Alaska’s only representative in Congress. [Annie Grayer, Kristin Wilson and Shawna Mizelle / CNN]
Democratic Sen. Jon Ossoff and Rep. Hank Johnson of Georgia introduced a bill to ensure all US judicial districts have a federal public defender office or community defender organization for defendants who cannot afford their own attorney. The Southern District of Georgia is one of just three federal districts that does not offer a Federal defender to Americans who need one.
Democratic Reps. Mondaire Jones of New York and Ted Deutch of Florida sent a letter calling on the Biden administration to protect the safety of religious minorities and LGBTQ people in Ukraine. Jones and Deutch represent two of the largest Jewish communities in the country and Jones is the first openly gay Black member of Congress.
The Education Department announced an initiative that allows people with disabilities to successfully secure jobs working alongside their non-disabled peers while earning the same pay. The jobs will be in critical need areas, including home and community-based services, the arts, transportation and related industries.
The number of alcohol-related deaths in the US spiked 25.5 percent between 2019 and 2020, the first year of the pandemic, according to the American Medical Association. This represents 11 times the annual percent increase in deaths between 1999 and 2017.
Older people around the world felt a greater sense of calmness in 2020 compared with younger people, which may have had a positive effect on the older generation's overall wellbeing. And strong majorities in all regions and across all age groups say they would prefer a calm life to an exciting life. [Tim Lomas and Steve Crabtree / Gallup]
Phased retirement programs are growing in popularity. The arrangements allow workers nearing retirement age to cut back on their hours — and help train workers who will eventually take their place — while keeping some pay and benefits. [Anne Tergesen and Lauren Weber / WSJ]
The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders added prolonged grief as a diagnosis for a small group of people who are incapacitated a year after loss and unable to return to previous activities. It allows clinicians to now bill insurance companies for treating people for the condition. [Ellen Barry / NYT]
Dollar stores are betting that high gas prices will attract customers who are looking to drive less and shop closer to home. “Tougher times for the consumer normally means that she needs us more,” Dollar General CEO Todd Vasos said last week on a call with analysts. [Nathaniel Meyersohn / CNN Business]
Three in four Twitter “lurkers,” US adults who have posted an average of fewer than five tweets per month since they first opened their account, say they’re more likely to use the platform to hear other points of view than express their own opinions. Replies to other users are the most common type of tweet by infrequent tweeters. They account for 51 percent of lurkers’ tweets, compared with 30 percent of those from more frequent tweeters. [Meltem Odabaş / Pew Research Center]
Apple will no longer require customers to provide carrier info when they purchase the company’s new iPhone SE. Now shoppers will be able to enter that data and connect to their carrier when they power on the device for the first time. The move gives the tech giant even more control of the buying process while also removing a potential barrier to closing a sale. [Mark Gurman / Bloomberg]
Read All About It
This hoodie’s life span should have been unremarkable, like millions of others worn by young men — ballgames, concerts, parties then, maybe, an old-clothes donation box. Instead, it set on a meandering path one night in 2012, as it seeped blood from the body of a kid named Trayvon Martin, who’d had a hankering for some Skittles and a can of watermelon fruit juice. In the decade since, on its way to becoming the first iconic artifact of the current surge of civil rights activism, the hoodie has changed hands, quietly traversed thousands of miles, been packed and unpacked, framed and unframed.
Min Jin Lee on why Asian-Americans have always lived with fear:
Ever since Asians began arriving in the United States, they have been met with hostility and rejection, often sanctioned by state and federal legislation. The sad part is that so little has changed.
Back in the ’70s and ’80s, the West feared the growth of Japan; as China became a superpower, Sinophobia rose, too. Since 9/11, Islamophobia and attacks against Sikhs and Hindus have been unrelenting. Now the Covid pandemic and demagogy have brought more waves of hatred.
Asians and Asian Americans pay the price of nativist fear. As income inequality grows and social services are cut, the vulnerable among us are left untreated and unhoused. Meanwhile, the number of attacks in the United States against Asians and Asian Americans grows. Ordinary nativists and the disenfranchised attack people who look like me and far too many others. The assailants may also believe that we are weak physically and politically, unwilling to organize, react or speak up.
Jeremy Orosz on how Dua Lipa’s “Levitating” plagiarism lawsuit could change music forever:
When push comes to shove, do I think that Dua Lipa and her team are guilty of copyright infringement? Not at all. But do I think that a jury could be convinced that passages of “Levitating” were plagiarized? Absolutely. If an expert witness focused on the notated courtroom exhibits and only played short segments of each song, a jury could easily be swayed. And besides, everyone loves a David and Goliath story: Given the success that “Levitating” has found, it’s easy to get swept up in the (likely false) narrative of a struggling artist toiling away in obscurity, only for famous pop star to make a smash hit by stealing their work.
Aaron Blake on why Biden and the White House keep talking about World War III:
From the beginning of Russia’s war in Ukraine, President Biden and the White House have taken great care to say that U.S. military action is off the table. They’ve said so more firmly, in fact, than presidents usually do.
But while firmer than most, such pronouncements have a way of being tested and sometimes succumbing to circumstance. What happens if Russia uses chemical weapons, for instance? (The White House equivocated on this a bit.) What’s more, despite the lack of virtually any American politician calling for it, support for sending troops is at not-insignificant levels: 41 percent in one poll this week, and 35 percent in another — even as that latter poll noted this would risk nuclear war. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky keeps pleading for a no-fly zone, which would require U.S. and NATO military might to enforce, and possibly more.
In other words, this subject isn’t going away. And increasingly, the White House is dealing with it in a very specific way: invoking World War III.
Kyle Chayka on iPhone cameras:
With the latest iPhone models, though, Apple is attempting to make its minuscule phone cameras perform as much like traditional cameras as possible, and to make every photo they take look like the work of a seasoned professional. (Hence the names 12 and 13 “Pro,” which are distinguished from the earlier iPhone 12 and 13 models mainly by their fancier cameras.) The iPhone 13 Pro takes twelve-megapixel images, includes three separate lenses, and uses machine learning to automatically adjust lighting and focus. Yet, for some users, all of those optimizing features have had an unwanted effect. Halide, a developer of camera apps, recently published a careful examination of the 13 Pro that noted visual glitches caused by the device’s intelligent photography, including the erasure of bridge cables in a landscape shot. “Its complex, interwoven set of ‘smart’ software components don’t fit together quite right,” the report stated.
I always saw Quincy and Monica’s breakup as one that happened because Quincy’s ego was too fragile, his selfishness too blinding, for him to respect Monica’s dreams of going pro. It didn’t occur to me until a couple years ago that there were people that interpreted the fight differently, who thought Monica was wrong for not staying out past curfew when Quincy really needed her. I had honestly never before considered that Quincy might have a point — wasn’t he just a self-centered man who didn’t believe in a woman’s ability to play basketball as seriously as men? While I can see the other side now, I’m glad that it took so long for me to understand Quincy’s side. Because it let me believe that women could put our ambitions first — that we should.
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