“Allowing the administration to demand citizenship information from every household as part of the decennial census for the first time in more than half a century would dramatically depress the count in areas with significant Latino and immigrant populations and would reposition political representation toward areas more likely to elect Republicans,” Holder wrote in a Washington Post op-ed published Thursday.
The Trump administration wants to add a question about citizenship status to the 2020 US census, which will be used to divide up congressional seats and apportion millions of dollars of federal funding. The Supreme Court has picked up the case after three lower courts issued stinging rulings striking down the question.
Supreme Court conservatives appear to lean toward allowing citizenship question on census

Holder argued that including a question about citizenship status on the census would lead to a “targeted undercount” and result in political representation and federal resources shifted away from immigrant and minority communities.
The administration, however, claims that the question is necessary to better comply with federal voting rights law.
“Given the total lack of (Voting Rights Act) enforcement by the Trump administration, this is both untrue and rank hypocrisy,” Holder fired back in his op-ed.
On Tuesday, the conservative justices, who hold a majority on the high court, showed signs that they were inclined to vote in favor of allowing the question.
In his op-ed, Holder said that a 5-4 decision along ideological lines would “would further erode the public’s trust in the Supreme Court as an apolitical body” and be viewed as “evidence that partisanship and ideology have infected the nation’s highest court.”
“If there are institutionalists on the court concerned with the perception of their important body, it is time for them to act like it,” Holder wrote. “Otherwise, we are on the verge of a profound, ill-advised reshaping of our democracy that would allow a minority party to exert majority control for the next decade and beyond and would risk the reputation of one of our most sacred institutions.”

Mike Stewart/Associated Press

1. A.J. Brown, Ole Miss    
2. D.K. Metcalf, Ole Miss
3. Deebo Samuel, South Carolina
4. Parris Campbell, Ohio State
5. Hakeem Butler, Iowa State
6. Mecole Hardman, Georgia
7. Terry McLaurin, Ohio State
8. Riley Ridley, Georgia
9. Kelvin Harmon, NC State
10. J.J. Arcega-Whiteside, Stanford
11. Miles Boykin, Notre Dame
12. Emanuel Hall, Missouri
13. Jalen Hurd, Baylor
14. Preston Williams, Colorado State
15. Andy Isabella, Massachusetts 
16. KeeSean Johnson, Fresno State
17. Darius Slayton, Auburn
18. David Sills, West Virginia
19. Anthony Johnson, Buffalo
20. Hunter Renfrow, Clemson
21. Gary Jennings, West Virginia
22. Keelan Doss, UC Davis
23. Travis Fulgham, Old Dominion
24. Stanley Morgan, Nebraska
25. Dillon Mitchell, Oregon
26. Tyre Brady, Marshall
27. Greg Dortch, Wake Forest
28. Olabisi Johnson, Colorado State
29. Antoine Wesley, Texas Tech
30. Diontae Johnson, Toledo
31. Lil’Jordan Humphrey, Texas
32. Cody Thompson, Toledo
33. Ashton Dulin, Malone University
34. DaMarkus Lodge, Ole Miss
35. Olamide Zaccheaus, Virginia
36. Alex Wesley, Northern Colorado
37. Felton Davis, Michigan State
38. Johnnie Dixon, Ohio State
39. Jon’Vea Johnson, Toledo
40. Penny Hart, Georgia State
41. Terry Godwin, Georgia
42. Jaylen Smith, Louisville
43. Jamal Custis, Syracuse
44. Jazz Ferguson, Northwestern State
45. Ryan Davis, Auburn
46. John Ursua, Hawaii
47. Jakobi Meyers, NC State
48. Anthony Ratliff-Williams, North Carolina
49. Emmanuel Butler, Northern Arizona
50. Nyqwan Murray, Florida State
51. Jamarius Way, South Alabama
52. Dredrick Snelson, UCF
53. Jovon Durante, Florida Atlantic 
54. Trenton Irwin, Stanford
55. DeAndre Thompkins, Penn State
56. Brody Oliver, Colorado School of Mines

Arick Wierson

There is one move that could prove to be a complete game changer: naming Nikki Haley, the former UN ambassador and South Carolina governor, as his running mate in 2020. News of a Trump-Haley ticket would be a master stroke that would upend the 2020 election and could send Democrats into a complete tailspin.
Bucking tradition for the heck of it is a hallmark of this presidency, but if Trump were to part ways with Mike Pence it would be nothing more than raw political calculus: in one move, Trump would make history by selecting a woman of color with a deep political resumé and foreign policy gravitas — making it the most diverse ticket in the history of the GOP.
Adding Haley to the ticket would not only strengthen his position in key defensive battleground states, but possibly put several states that Hillary Clinton carried in 2016 back in play for the GOP. By tapping Haley as his running mate, the President could deliver the ultimate coup de grâce to Democrats’ hopes of retaking the White House in 2020.
Behind Nikki Haley's sudden exit

Behind Nikki Haley's sudden exit

The notion isn’t as far-fetched as one might think. In December, Gabriel Sherman, writing in Vanity Fair, reported that Trump held a 2020 re-election strategy meeting with advisers to discuss whether Mike Pence should stay on the ticket. Citing a source briefed on the meeting, Sherman wrote that Trump was presented with polling data that showed that Pence did nothing to grow Trump’s 2016 winning coalition — an election in which he won the electoral college but lost the popular count by nearly 3 million votes.
Haley, one of the very few original senior Trump appointees to leave the administration with her reputation fully intact, would be an asset to Trump as he heads into a difficult re-election. Putting her on the ticket would breathe new life into a beleaguered GOP — a party that has been playing defense throughout the first half of the Trump presidency.
Nikki Haley is writing a book about her time in the Trump administration

Nikki Haley is writing a book about her time in the Trump administration

With all the talk of Republican women appalled by Trump’s first two years in office, Nikki Haley would give many of them a reason to stay with the GOP.
In an administration in which almost everything gets adjectivized by the press as unprecedented, Trump dumping Pence wouldn’t be as rare a move as it might seem; an incumbent US president running for re-election has swapped his vice president in favor of a more electable running mate over a dozen times in American history. But would Haley want to join a ticket with a President who is under multiple investigations and a White House well known as a cauldron of chaos? The answer is yes, if you believe former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, who once described Haley by saying, “I think she is incredibly politically ambitious.”
If Haley were to join Trump and lose in 2020, she would immediately be cast as the GOP front-runner in 2024. She would walk away battle-tested and well-armed with coveted GOP donor lists. If she and Trump were to win, she would become the highest-ranking woman ever in federal government — itself a historic feat. And as vice president, she would be right there to step in, should Trump’s political fortunes go south.
It’s not a foregone conclusion that a Trump-Haley ticket would guarantee a second term for the President. But if Democrats have learned anything over the past several years, watching Trump as a candidate and now as commander in chief, they should expect the unexpected and be prepared for the ultimate Trump card, Nikki Haley.
One professor is building tools to detect faked videos of major political figures such as Donald Trump, Theresa May and Justin Trudeau, as well as the US presidential candidates. It could help fight off the next generation of misinformation, where artificial intelligence is likely to play an increasingly prominent role in engineering deceptive media.
Deepfakes — a combination of the terms “deep learning” and “fake” — are persuasive-looking but false video and audio files. Made using cutting-edge and relatively accessible AI technology, they purport to show a real person doing or saying something they did not.
Lawmakers warn of 'deepfake' videos ahead of 2020 election

They’ve already been used to embarrass celebrities and politicians, and the videos are easier and cheaper than ever to produce — and look increasingly realistic. The seemingly endless real footage of politicians speaking on YouTube, including US presidential candidates, is a gold mine for anyone considering using this type of AI for election meddling.
Deepfakes are not yet pervasive, but the US government is concerned that foreign adversaries could use them in attempts to interfere with the 2020 election. In a worldwide threat assessment in January, Dan Coats, US Director of National Intelligence, warned that deepfakes or similar tech-driven fake media will probably be among the tactics used by people who want to disrupt the election.

Telling the real from the deepfaked

In hopes of stopping deepfake-related misinformation from circulating, Hany Farid, a professor and image-forensics expert at Dartmouth College, is building software that can spot political deepfakes, and perhaps authenticate genuine videos called out as fakes as well.
With this new breed of falsified videos, it’s more difficult than ever to trust that what we see is real. Farid told CNN Business he is concerned that such videos could cause harm to citizens or democracies.
“The stakes have gotten really high all of a sudden,” he said.
20190426-deepfakes-presidential-election

20190426-deepfakes-presidential-election

Farid and a graduate student, Shruti Agarwal, are building what they call a “soft biometric” — a way to distinguish one person from a fake version of themselves.
The researchers are figuring this out by using automated tools to pore over hours of authentic YouTube videos of people like President Trump and former President Barack Obama, looking for relationships between head movements, speech patterns, and facial expressions.
For instance, Farid said, when Obama delivers bad news, he frowns and tends to tilt his head down; he tends to tilt his head up when giving happy news.
These correlations are used to build a model for an individual — such as Obama — so that when a new video is spotted the model can be used to determine if the Obama pictured in it has the speech patterns, head movements, and facial expressions that correspond to the former president.
Watch out, Alexa. Artificial voices are starting to sound just like humans

Watch out, Alexa. Artificial voices are starting to sound just like humans

Farid points out that in a deepfake, such as this one that features actor and comedian Jordan Peele putting words in Obama’s mouth, the former president’s head and eyes are moving relative to what he was saying in one video. His mouth, meanwhile, is moving relative to what Peele is having him say.
“It’s not obvious to you and me,” Farid said. “Maybe it’s obvious to Michelle Obama.”
Farid told CNN Business that he hopes to roll his tools out to journalists in December, via a website where they can check the authenticity of a video. So far, he said, he’s made models that can detect deepfakes of people including Trump, Obama, Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.
“If you’re a reporter and you see a video, surely before you report on it you should have a mechanism to vet it,” he said.

The fight to stay one step ahead

Farid has been studying image forensics since the late 1990s, back when digital cameras were in their infancy and film still reigned supreme. He’s long been concerned about digital photo hoaxes, especially since cellphone cameras became common in the mid-2000s.
Until recently, video hoaxes were relatively rare since they are harder to pull off, but this is changing rapidly thanks to the rise of an AI technique called GANs, or generative adversarial networks. GANs can use data (such as pictures of human faces) to produce new things (such as impressively realistic images of ersatz human faces). The technique is also used for making deepfakes.
Farid won’t say exactly how his software will work, because he knows any information he reveals could be used to engineer even better deepfakes. However, it’s likely that motivated deepfake makers will eventually find their way around what he’s building anyway.
A professor at Dartmouth is building a tool to detect deepfakes of major political figures like Donald Trump, Theresa May and Justin Trudeau.

A professor at Dartmouth is building a tool to detect deepfakes of major political figures like Donald Trump, Theresa May and Justin Trudeau.

Siwei Lyu, director of the computer vision and machine learning lab at University at Albany, SUNY, said his research group is helping Farid by generating and sharing deepfakes — including some of Obama — with him for his project.
Lyu, who was advised by Farid while completing his graduate studies at Dartmouth, has seen firsthand how quickly people making deepfake videos can improve them to remove telltale cues that they aren’t the real deal. Last year, he developed a way to spot deepfake videos by tracking inconsistencies in the way the person in the video blinked; less than a month later, someone generated a deepfake with realistic blinking, he said.
Yet while he thinks Farid’s approach is unique and could be useful for spotting deepfakes of celebrities including politicians — of whom there is ample online footage — he’s concerned about whether it can be generalized to help a larger group of people.
As of April, Farid said that his tool is 95% accurate in identifying deepfake videos of famous people it’s been trained on. It can confirm about 95% of genuine videos as the real deal. He thinks he can get to 99% accuracy within the next six months, which would be just in time for a handful of primary debates.
During the official working visit, Trump and Abe will hold a series of bilateral meetings, which will include national security and foreign policy advisers, as well as key economic and trade officials, a senior administration official briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity said Thursday.
On Friday evening, Trump and Abe will have a private dinner alongside first lady Melania Trump and Akie Abe, first lady of Japan, which, the official noted “coincides with the first lady’s birthday.” Melania Trump turns 49 on Friday and while they will have a celebratory dinner, there is no formal party in the works for the first lady.
Can Trump and Abe keep a critical alliance afloat?

The purpose of the trip, per the senior official, is “deepening our global partnership with Japan,” as well as building on “our alliance, our partnership and the President’s personal friendship with Prime Minister Abe.”
The two leaders have been in close contact, holding “dozens of phone calls or meetings,” since Trump took office more than two years ago. Abe has met with Trump at the White House twice — weeks after Trump’s inauguration in February 2017 and a second time last June — and he has traveled to the President’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, twice, as well. The leaders developed a bond and have spent time on golf courses in both the US and Japan.
On Saturday, while the President and Prime Minister are rumored to be planning a golf outing, the first lady and Akie Abe are expected to participate in events outside the White House.
The Japanese Prime Minister has resolved to become Trump’s closest foreign friend, gifting him with gold-handled golf clubs and custom ball caps embroidered with the phrase “Donald and Abe: Make Alliance Even Greater” in a bid to cultivate the US leader during his November 2017 trip to Tokyo. In Trump’s telling, Abe even nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize following his diplomatic gambit with North Korea, an effort that Abe has privately viewed skeptically.
Trump to visit Japan twice in months after North Korea summit

Trump to visit Japan twice in months after North Korea summit

During the visit, Trump and Abe will “exchange views on recent developments with North Korea” and “coordinate future actions,” according to the senior official, who added that those future actions “would include consultations” with South Korea that will be “aimed at achieving the final, fully-verified denuclearization of North Korea.”
They will also discuss opportunities for cooperation on energy, digital connectivity, and infrastructure investment, as well as how the countries “can enhance trade and investment ties,” the official stressing that a strong relationship between the US and Japan is “key for global peace, stability, and prosperity.”
Trump and Abe will also likely discuss priorities for the forthcoming G20 meeting, which will be in Osaka in late June, as well as the President and first lady’s trip to Japan in late May.
During the two-day visit, Abe is expected to formally invite the Trumps to be the first foreign dignitaries to meet the new emperor Naruhito, after he ascends to the Chrysanthemum throne May 1. Abe, like many of his foreign counterparts, hopes the visits can keep his country in Trump’s good graces.

(CNN) — With no cars or mobile phone signal available, Eastern Greenland is about as far from civilization as gets.

The town of Ittoqqortoormiit, positioned on the edge of the frozen sea, is the only inhabited piece of land on this desolately beautiful coastline south of Greenland National Park.

At the center of this tiny village sits a bright orange guest house, which residents are hoping will spark a fragile tourism industry in an isolated corner of the emptiest country on Earth.

Greenland’s population density is an unfathomable 0.0 people per-square-kilometer and three-quarters of the 57,000 citizens live in Nuuk, the capital, which lies on the west coast.

As a result, there’s barely any human habitation for a 1,000-kilometer radius around Ittoqqortoormiit, which is filled with cheerfully painted houses.

That likely makes this well heated, wooden-floored guest house, with its well-stocked fridge and stack of nineties DVDs, the most remote hotel in the world, a crown it has plucked easily from other contenders in Australia, Chile and Mongolia.

The residents of Ittoqqortoormiit — all of whom are of Inuit descent — live lives that neatly fuse two eras.

They have electricity and central heating and Wi-Fi in the local recreation center, and order parcels from Amazon that arrive by charter plane once every two months from Iceland.

But they eat food they have hunted on the tundra or in the sea — whelk, reindeer and Arctic char — for dinner each night and dress in polar bear fur coats and seal skin gloves.

Desolate location

 Ittoqqortoormiit, eastern greenland

While Ittoqqortoormiit has electricity and central heating, residents have to hunt for food.

Courtesy Hotels.com

In their spare time, they go dog sledding along the snowy ravines and later feed their animals with seals harpooned from the icy rocks.

Their children are warned never to take their toboggans far from the main roads in case they come face to face with one of the polar bears that prowl the area.

They were self-sufficient for decades, making money from polar bear and whale hunting.

But UN quotas and fear of extinction have put an end to that, prompting them to open up their home to foreigners with a taste for adventure.

Waterfalls, remote hiking and panoramic views inspire some to call Greenland’s Disko Island the Grand Canyon of the Arctic.

And adventurous it is.

Speeding back across the tundra in a snowstorm, I feel an overwhelming sense of exhilaration — the kind that is always smudged with fear.

By 2 p.m., it’s a pitch black minus 25 Celsius (minus 13 F) outside.

Walking into the warm guest house for a cup of hot chocolate gives me the kind of rush I haven’t experienced since the music festivals of my early 20s.

Just a few hours earlier, the weak rays of sunshine that flickered over the edge of the horizon at noon had already retreated, turning the snowy ravine into something more menacing.

When you’re standing in an abandoned town on the fingertip of an Arctic fjord, the safety net of the modern world feels very far below you.

The only sign of life is a howling wind that sounds eerily like the wolves that I’m told sleep in packs nearby.

Big city life makes us crave the remote, but I felt a chill of fear.

The temperature was minus 20 Celsius, if the snowmobile stalled or the storm proved too difficult to navigate back to the guest house, how would we survive?

We had arrived under clear, freezing skies, but as we wandered through the desolate snowed in huts, the wind picked up and a storm rolled in, bringing fat flurries that made it impossible to see more than a meter in the distance.

My guide, Manu, had laughed off my anxiety, assuring me we would make it home.

On another morning we sledded for hours through the tundra — the blank silence of the Arctic broken by the pants and barks of the Greenlandic dogs that were pulling us, their narrow eyes, deep howls and thick fur all more wolf than dog.

After two hours of total emptiness, we stopped for tea and KitKats, so the dogs could rest.

While our local guides seemed unbothered by the late November weather, informing me that it never gets unmanageably cold until January.

My double gloved hands were too frozen to function, and unwrapping the chocolate bar took an effort that was beyond me.

Climate change effects

 Ittoqqortoormiit, eastern greenland

Ittoqqortoormiit is a 15-minute helicopter ride from Constable Point in Greenland.

Courtesy Hotels.com

Once the sea is a blanket of ice, you can go fishing — cut a neat hole in the surface and wait for your dinner alongside the seals.

This is also the time when the polar bears emerge from Greenland National Park, the biggest reserve on Earth and a freezing wilderness that hits minus 60 Celsius in winter.

Although the effects of climate change are already making their mark. Polar bears traditionally steered clear of the town.

But as the ice they hunt on disappears, the animals are being forced to start scavenging.

This frightening phenomenon is happening across the Arctic — last month a video was released on Instagram of hundreds of polar bears invading a Russian village — raising the question of how long man and man-eating animals can live in such close quarters.

“When I was young, the sea froze over in September,” says Mette Barselajsen, who manages the guest house. Now in her forties, she notes it only freezes two months later.

“Our relationship with polar bears has changed a lot. When I was a girl, you would trek out into the tundra to find them.

“Now, we carry guns with us throughout the winter, as they so often come into the town. It is particularly frightening for those of us with children — I am always worried.”

All before us is ice. Stretching out for miles there’s nothing but a vast barrier of white. A frozen sea, more than 30 stories tall, as menacing as it is beautiful.

I didn’t see a polar bear during my few days in Greenland, and nor did I see the region’s famous Northern Lights as it snowed every night I was there.

But while both would have been wonderful, missing out on them never felt like a huge loss, as the simple fact of waking up in this desolately beautiful all white world felt like enough.

It’s the light in particular that is so extraordinary. On clear days, the sun peeked over the horizon for the last time until February, and its weak rays cast a mauve-pink light over the mountains and sea.

On the helicopter ride home, I pressed my nose against the window to drink in the view of the pastel colored tundra that stretched out towards the North Pole without a single sign of human, animal or plant life.

All that nothingness was, without exaggeration, the most beautiful thing I had ever seen.

How to get there:

Fly to Akureyri, the whale-watching hub of Iceland, directly from certain European capitals, or via Reykjavik. Then fly from Akureyri to Constable Point in Greenland. The flight takes 90 minutes and is scheduled twice a week with Air Iceland. After that, it’s a 15-minute helicopter ride to Ittoqqortoormiit on a flight operated by Air Greenland.

Where to stay:

Rooms at Ittoqqortoormiit Guest House start from $90 a night. The accommodation is sparse but comfortable and very warm, and bathrooms are shared. There’s a communal sitting room, with a television and DVDs, and kitchen. While there are no restaurants in the town, but there is a well-stocked — if expensive — supermarket. Alternatively, guests can request more traditional meals (think whelk or Arctic char).

When to go:

This depends what you want to see. The sun never rises in December and January, which means the Northern Lights are at their best, but daytime views are obscured. Polar bears are easiest to spot in late winter, and snow doesn’t melt until the end of May, making spring — and its longer days — a particularly lovely time of year

The nine justices hear arguments and issue signed rulings in about 70 cases each annual term. But that constitutes only part of their work. In an oak-paneled conference room just off the chambers of Chief Justice John Roberts, they cull through an estimated 7,000 petitions annually from people who have lost cases in lower courts. They also rule on motions to intervene in lower court proceedings, most consequentially related to scheduled executions.
In deciding what to decide, through internal rules not made public but described here, they can often influence the nation’s law as much as any signed opinion.
Clashes among the justices over some of these orders, and the internal rules that guide them, have spilled out into the public sphere. Earlier this month, Justice Stephen Breyer, in a dissenting statement signed by his three fellow liberal justices, suggested that the court majority is arbitrarily applying its rules, at least in death penalty cases.
University of Chicago law professor William Baude, who has chronicled the court’s “shadow docket” over the years, said Breyer’s complaint underscored that when justices offer scant explanations, it is difficult to know whether they are operating fairly or unfairly.
'The Chief': John Roberts' journey from 'sober puss' to the pinnacle of American law

“You reach a point when members of the court start exposing internal procedural complaints because they’re so frustrated with where the court is going,” Baude observed. “That can undermine the court as court of law.”
At a time when the Supreme Court is under greater scrutiny for potential partisanship, and Roberts has fought back against President Donald Trump’s attacks on the judiciary, it remains difficult for the public to assess much of the court’s work.
The mysteries are large and small, from ambiguous signals in capital cases to undisclosed rules governing the screening of petitions. The court declines to reveal, for example, how many votes are needed when someone who has lost in a trial court seeks to bypass the usual appeals court review and go right to the justices.
Former court insiders have told CNN it takes five votes for such extraordinary review, rather than the usual four that the court states are required to grant a regular petition and hear oral arguments.
The Trump administration has sought such action in a series of cases, including in the dispute over a proposed citizenship question on the 2020 census, which the justices accepted and heard on Tuesday.
Other unknowns surround pending cases. For months the justices declined to act in any public way on appeals over state abortion regulations and claims of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status. On Monday, they suddenly announced in a brief order that they would hear, next session, a trio of long-pending LGBTQ cases. They took no action on the abortion controversy.
The overall secrecy of the institution is reinforced by its declining to allow cameras of any type in the courtroom or to permit daily release of audiotapes from oral arguments on cases. Roberts turned down a request for same-day audio in Tuesday’s major census case from members of the US House of Representatives and media entities such as CNN.

The room where it happens

Very little is made public about how the justices screen appeals, beyond the general rule that it takes the votes of four of the nine justices to accept a petition and schedule it for oral arguments. Insiders say that if only six or seven of the nine justices are participating because some have recused themselves from a case, three votes are enough to grant a petition.
When they decide which cases to accept or reject, the justices meet alone, with no law clerks or administrative aides.
The nine sit in black leather chairs, neatly spaced around a rectangular table. The private conference room is distinguished by a black marble fireplace and a portrait of the great Chief Justice John Marshall.
Individual justices keep track of votes and the discussion, but the real note-taking task falls to the newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh. The junior justice is responsible for providing information to the clerk of the court for the orders’ list.
Sotomayor takes liberal lead in challenging admin on census

Sotomayor takes liberal lead in challenging admin on census

Votes on whether to accept or reject a case are not made public. Rather, the clerk of the court compiles for public view a long list of the rejected petitions and a short one of those to be scheduled for oral argument. Dozens of cases each session, however, fall into a limbo of sorts, with action delayed for months. Some are quietly held for resolution in potentially related disputes already accepted for court review.
Insiders say it takes four votes to hold such cases. No public notice is made regarding those actions. However, if the court postpones a vote on a petition while the justices ask for a recommendation from the US solicitor general, the government’s top lawyer before the court, that order — which also takes four votes — will appear on the public docket.
Roberts sets the agenda and begins the discussion. The other justices then speak in order of seniority. For most cases, the justices’ first impression is set by a memo produced by a pool of law clerks. Seven justices have their clerks join forces to screen the “petitions for certiorari,” as appeals are formally called, to determine which ones should be accepted for oral argument and full review.
Clerks to Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch do not participate in the so-called “cert pool” and separately cull the petitions to flag cases that the larger group might have rejected but would be of particular interest to them.
The justices have nearly complete discretion over which petitions they hear, and most are rejected outright. Before these weekly meetings, Roberts circulates a list of the handful of cases that he believes merit discussion.
These tend to be disputes involving a split in lower court opinions, causing inconsistencies across the country, or legal issues of clear national importance. The other justices may add items to the “discuss” list. Any petition that is not designated for discussion is automatically denied.
Where John Roberts is unlikely to compromise

Where John Roberts is unlikely to compromise

It is difficult to determine how many cases are discussed in the justices’ cloistered confines. When questioned about various rules, the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office referred to a book, “Supreme Court Practice,” written by private appellate lawyers and published by Bloomberg BNA (list price: $525), that estimates about 90% of the cases fail to make the discuss list and are rejected outright.
Occasionally, the justices grant a petition and later realize the legal issue is not sufficiently ready for resolution. That happened this week when the court abruptly dismissed a case brought by Emulex Corp., a subsidiary of chipmaker Broadcom, testing whether investors can sue for negligent misstatements or omissions in connection with a tender offer.
The case, which had drawn dueling high-priced lawyers and nine “friend of the court” briefs, including from the Department of Justice and US Chamber of Commerce, had been argued just a week earlier, on April 15.
Yet after all the attention put to it, the court ended it all with a one-sentence order, saying that the case had been “improvidently granted.” There was no explanation or recorded vote. Dismissal, according to insiders, required agreement among at least five justices.
Overall, as the justices decide which cases to take up, their votes may sometimes be more strategic than straightforward. Because it takes four votes to accept a case but five to resolve it, some justices will not risk hearing a controversial matter if they cannot count on a fifth justice on their side.
Individual justices might choose to avoid a case they may not win or that seems ill-timed based on other considerations. Rarely do such calculations burst into public view. But earlier in the current 2018-19 session, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested his colleagues had spurned an appeal because it involved Planned Parenthood and “a politically fraught issue.”
The dispute was not related to abortion rights. Rather, it centered on Republican-led state efforts to deny Medicaid money for Planned Parenthood services to poor patients. Lower courts judges have issued conflicting rulings on whether patients may sue states under federal law for cutting off Medicaid providers.
When the Supreme Court majority rejected a petition by Louisiana officials, Thomas, joined by Alito and Gorsuch, dissented. The trio needed only one more vote to accept the dispute and schedule oral arguments. Perhaps at a different time they would have found the fourth in Kavanaugh or even Roberts. But in this highly polarized atmosphere, the chief justice appears to be trying to avoid ideological litmus tests at the court.
“Some tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue does not justify abdicating our judicial duty,” Thomas wrote. “If anything, neutrally applying the law is all the more important when political issues are in the background. … We are responsible for the confusion among the lower courts, and it is our job to fix it.”

Dark of night

Tensions were even higher more recently in a series of orders related to prisoners seeking to elude scheduled executions.
As a preliminary matter, death penalty cases present distinct complications because the votes of four justices are enough to accept a petition related to a legal issue but five votes are needed to block an execution. In theory — and sometimes in reality — the court may muster the votes to review a prisoner’s legal question but not to prevent his execution before a hearing.
The court’s private rules say that if five justices vote to deny a stay of execution and four justices want to grant it and believe the petition has merit and should be heard, one of the justices who would let the execution proceed “may” change his or her vote for the requisite five.
As cases have demonstrated in recent years, however, such “courtesy” votes, as the practice has been called, have not been consistently cast.
The more recent string of contentious capital disputes began with a February 7 case from Alabama. A five-justice majority led by Roberts rejected a Muslim prisoner’s request to have an imam with him in the death chamber. (Christian prisoners scheduled to die were allowed Christian ministers.)
The justices in the majority issued a simple two-sentence order letting the execution of Domineque Ray go forward without an imam at his side.
In a three-page statement on behalf of dissenters, Justice Elena Kagan wrote, “Here, Ray has put forward a powerful claim that his religious rights will be violated at the moment the state puts him to death. The Eleventh Circuit [appeals court] wanted to hear that claim in full. Instead, this court short-circuits that ordinary process — and itself rejects the claim with little briefing and no argument — just so the state can meet its preferred execution date.”
A separate Alabama case provoked even more dissension, with an order coming just before 3 a.m. on April 12 and lifting a stay of execution on an Alabama murder convict. The case again pitted the court’s five conservatives against the four liberals.
The conservative majority said that the prisoner, Christopher Lee Price, failed to meet a deadline for challenging the three-drug lethal injection that Price argued would cause him severe pain and suffering.
Breyer, joined by the three other justices on the left, wrote that the court was needlessly overriding lower court judges’ views that the execution should be postponed and instead allowing “arbitrary” implementation of the death penalty. He also chastised his colleagues for declining to wait just a matter of hours for a regularly scheduled meeting in their conference room that Friday morning, April 12.
Sandra Day O'Connor reflects on life before, during and after the Supreme Court

Sandra Day O'Connor reflects on life before, during and after the Supreme Court

“To proceed in this way calls into question the basic principle of fairness that should underlie our criminal justice system,” Breyer wrote. “To proceed in this matter in the middle of the night without giving all members of the court the opportunity for discussion tomorrow morning is, I believe, unfortunate.”
Beyond his complaint about court process, Breyer asserted, “What is at stake in this case is the right of a condemned inmate not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.” He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Kagan.
In the majority were Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. The majority emphasized in their unsigned opinion the “last-minute” nature of Price’s claim and the missed deadline.
They said nothing of Breyer’s complaint regarding the absence of discussion. At least nothing that emerged in public view.
During the official working visit, Trump and Abe will hold a series of bilateral meetings, which will include national security and foreign policy advisers, as well as key economic and trade officials, a senior administration official briefing reporters on the condition of anonymity said Thursday.
On Friday evening, Trump and Abe will have a private dinner alongside first lady Melania Trump and Akie Abe, first lady of Japan, which, the official noted “coincides with the first lady’s birthday.” Melania Trump turns 49 on Friday and while they will have a celebratory dinner, there is no formal party in the works for the first lady.
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The purpose of the trip, per the senior official, is “deepening our global partnership with Japan,” as well as building on “our alliance, our partnership and the President’s personal friendship with Prime Minister Abe.”
The two leaders have been in close contact, holding “dozens of phone calls or meetings,” since Trump took office more than two years ago. Abe has met with Trump at the White House twice — weeks after Trump’s inauguration in February 2017 and a second time last June — and he has traveled to the President’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, twice, as well. The leaders developed a bond and have spent time on golf courses in both the US and Japan.
On Saturday, while the President and Prime Minister are rumored to be planning a golf outing, the first lady and Akie Abe are expected to participate in events outside the White House.
The Japanese Prime Minister has resolved to become Trump’s closest foreign friend, gifting him with gold-handled golf clubs and custom ball caps embroidered with the phrase “Donald and Abe: Make Alliance Even Greater” in a bid to cultivate the US leader during his November 2017 trip to Tokyo. In Trump’s telling, Abe even nominated him for a Nobel Peace Prize following his diplomatic gambit with North Korea, an effort that Abe has privately viewed skeptically.
Trump to visit Japan twice in months after North Korea summit

Trump to visit Japan twice in months after North Korea summit

During the visit, Trump and Abe will “exchange views on recent developments with North Korea” and “coordinate future actions,” according to the senior official, who added that those future actions “would include consultations” with South Korea that will be “aimed at achieving the final, fully-verified denuclearization of North Korea.”
They will also discuss opportunities for cooperation on energy, digital connectivity, and infrastructure investment, as well as how the countries “can enhance trade and investment ties,” the official stressing that a strong relationship between the US and Japan is “key for global peace, stability, and prosperity.”
Trump and Abe will also likely discuss priorities for the forthcoming G20 meeting, which will be in Osaka in late June, as well as the President and first lady’s trip to Japan in late May.
During the two-day visit, Abe is expected to formally invite the Trumps to be the first foreign dignitaries to meet the new emperor Naruhito, after he ascends to the Chrysanthemum throne May 1. Abe, like many of his foreign counterparts, hopes the visits can keep his country in Trump’s good graces.
The CIA officially joined Instagram with the handle @CIA on Thursday, expanding its presence on the internet.
The agency’s first post was simple, yet cheeky.
“I spy with my little eye…,” the caption read.
The post challenges its more than 6,000 followers to spot items on the desk that are significant to the CIA.
The somewhat cluttered desk includes a few maps, some bamboo and a bag labeled “TOP SECRET PULP.” There are also some items that may seem familiar, such as a CIA badge that appears to belong to CIA Director Gina Haspel and a clock set to 8:46 a.m., which is the time the North Tower of the World Trade Center was hit on 9/11.
The nine justices hear arguments and issue signed rulings in about 70 cases each annual term. But that constitutes only part of their work. In an oak-paneled conference room just off the chambers of Chief Justice John Roberts, they cull through an estimated 7,000 petitions annually from people who have lost cases in lower courts. They also rule on motions to intervene in lower court proceedings, most consequentially related to scheduled executions.
In deciding what to decide, through internal rules not made public but described here, they can often influence the nation’s law as much as any signed opinion.
Clashes among the justices over some of these orders, and the internal rules that guide them, have spilled out into the public sphere. Earlier this month, Justice Stephen Breyer, in a dissenting statement signed by his three fellow liberal justices, suggested that the court majority is arbitrarily applying its rules, at least in death penalty cases.
University of Chicago law professor William Baude, who has chronicled the court’s “shadow docket” over the years, said Breyer’s complaint underscored that when justices offer scant explanations, it is difficult to know whether they are operating fairly or unfairly.
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“You reach a point when members of the court start exposing internal procedural complaints because they’re so frustrated with where the court is going,” Baude observed. “That can undermine the court as court of law.”
At a time when the Supreme Court is under greater scrutiny for potential partisanship, and Roberts has fought back against President Donald Trump’s attacks on the judiciary, it remains difficult for the public to assess much of the court’s work.
The mysteries are large and small, from ambiguous signals in capital cases to undisclosed rules governing the screening of petitions. The court declines to reveal, for example, how many votes are needed when someone who has lost in a trial court seeks to bypass the usual appeals court review and go right to the justices.
Former court insiders have told CNN it takes five votes for such extraordinary review, rather than the usual four that the court states are required to grant a regular petition and hear oral arguments.
The Trump administration has sought such action in a series of cases, including in the dispute over a proposed citizenship question on the 2020 census, which the justices accepted and heard on Tuesday.
Other unknowns surround pending cases. For months the justices declined to act in any public way on appeals over state abortion regulations and claims of workplace discrimination based on sexual orientation or transgender status. On Monday, they suddenly announced in a brief order that they would hear, next session, a trio of long-pending LGBTQ cases. They took no action on the abortion controversy.
The overall secrecy of the institution is reinforced by its declining to allow cameras of any type in the courtroom or to permit daily release of audiotapes from oral arguments on cases. Roberts turned down a request for same-day audio in Tuesday’s major census case from members of the US House of Representatives and media entities such as CNN.

The room where it happens

Very little is made public about how the justices screen appeals, beyond the general rule that it takes the votes of four of the nine justices to accept a petition and schedule it for oral arguments. Insiders say that if only six or seven of the nine justices are participating because some have recused themselves from a case, three votes are enough to grant a petition.
When they decide which cases to accept or reject, the justices meet alone, with no law clerks or administrative aides.
The nine sit in black leather chairs, neatly spaced around a rectangular table. The private conference room is distinguished by a black marble fireplace and a portrait of the great Chief Justice John Marshall.
Individual justices keep track of votes and the discussion, but the real note-taking task falls to the newest justice, Brett Kavanaugh. The junior justice is responsible for providing information to the clerk of the court for the orders’ list.
Sotomayor takes liberal lead in challenging admin on census

Sotomayor takes liberal lead in challenging admin on census

Votes on whether to accept or reject a case are not made public. Rather, the clerk of the court compiles for public view a long list of the rejected petitions and a short one of those to be scheduled for oral argument. Dozens of cases each session, however, fall into a limbo of sorts, with action delayed for months. Some are quietly held for resolution in potentially related disputes already accepted for court review.
Insiders say it takes four votes to hold such cases. No public notice is made regarding those actions. However, if the court postpones a vote on a petition while the justices ask for a recommendation from the US solicitor general, the government’s top lawyer before the court, that order — which also takes four votes — will appear on the public docket.
Roberts sets the agenda and begins the discussion. The other justices then speak in order of seniority. For most cases, the justices’ first impression is set by a memo produced by a pool of law clerks. Seven justices have their clerks join forces to screen the “petitions for certiorari,” as appeals are formally called, to determine which ones should be accepted for oral argument and full review.
Clerks to Justices Samuel Alito and Neil Gorsuch do not participate in the so-called “cert pool” and separately cull the petitions to flag cases that the larger group might have rejected but would be of particular interest to them.
The justices have nearly complete discretion over which petitions they hear, and most are rejected outright. Before these weekly meetings, Roberts circulates a list of the handful of cases that he believes merit discussion.
These tend to be disputes involving a split in lower court opinions, causing inconsistencies across the country, or legal issues of clear national importance. The other justices may add items to the “discuss” list. Any petition that is not designated for discussion is automatically denied.
Where John Roberts is unlikely to compromise

Where John Roberts is unlikely to compromise

It is difficult to determine how many cases are discussed in the justices’ cloistered confines. When questioned about various rules, the Supreme Court’s Public Information Office referred to a book, “Supreme Court Practice,” written by private appellate lawyers and published by Bloomberg BNA (list price: $525), that estimates about 90% of the cases fail to make the discuss list and are rejected outright.
Occasionally, the justices grant a petition and later realize the legal issue is not sufficiently ready for resolution. That happened this week when the court abruptly dismissed a case brought by Emulex Corp., a subsidiary of chipmaker Broadcom, testing whether investors can sue for negligent misstatements or omissions in connection with a tender offer.
The case, which had drawn dueling high-priced lawyers and nine “friend of the court” briefs, including from the Department of Justice and US Chamber of Commerce, had been argued just a week earlier, on April 15.
Yet after all the attention put to it, the court ended it all with a one-sentence order, saying that the case had been “improvidently granted.” There was no explanation or recorded vote. Dismissal, according to insiders, required agreement among at least five justices.
Overall, as the justices decide which cases to take up, their votes may sometimes be more strategic than straightforward. Because it takes four votes to accept a case but five to resolve it, some justices will not risk hearing a controversial matter if they cannot count on a fifth justice on their side.
Individual justices might choose to avoid a case they may not win or that seems ill-timed based on other considerations. Rarely do such calculations burst into public view. But earlier in the current 2018-19 session, Justice Clarence Thomas suggested his colleagues had spurned an appeal because it involved Planned Parenthood and “a politically fraught issue.”
The dispute was not related to abortion rights. Rather, it centered on Republican-led state efforts to deny Medicaid money for Planned Parenthood services to poor patients. Lower courts judges have issued conflicting rulings on whether patients may sue states under federal law for cutting off Medicaid providers.
When the Supreme Court majority rejected a petition by Louisiana officials, Thomas, joined by Alito and Gorsuch, dissented. The trio needed only one more vote to accept the dispute and schedule oral arguments. Perhaps at a different time they would have found the fourth in Kavanaugh or even Roberts. But in this highly polarized atmosphere, the chief justice appears to be trying to avoid ideological litmus tests at the court.
“Some tenuous connection to a politically fraught issue does not justify abdicating our judicial duty,” Thomas wrote. “If anything, neutrally applying the law is all the more important when political issues are in the background. … We are responsible for the confusion among the lower courts, and it is our job to fix it.”

Dark of night

Tensions were even higher more recently in a series of orders related to prisoners seeking to elude scheduled executions.
As a preliminary matter, death penalty cases present distinct complications because the votes of four justices are enough to accept a petition related to a legal issue but five votes are needed to block an execution. In theory — and sometimes in reality — the court may muster the votes to review a prisoner’s legal question but not to prevent his execution before a hearing.
The court’s private rules say that if five justices vote to deny a stay of execution and four justices want to grant it and believe the petition has merit and should be heard, one of the justices who would let the execution proceed “may” change his or her vote for the requisite five.
As cases have demonstrated in recent years, however, such “courtesy” votes, as the practice has been called, have not been consistently cast.
The more recent string of contentious capital disputes began with a February 7 case from Alabama. A five-justice majority led by Roberts rejected a Muslim prisoner’s request to have an imam with him in the death chamber. (Christian prisoners scheduled to die were allowed Christian ministers.)
The justices in the majority issued a simple two-sentence order letting the execution of Domineque Ray go forward without an imam at his side.
In a three-page statement on behalf of dissenters, Justice Elena Kagan wrote, “Here, Ray has put forward a powerful claim that his religious rights will be violated at the moment the state puts him to death. The Eleventh Circuit [appeals court] wanted to hear that claim in full. Instead, this court short-circuits that ordinary process — and itself rejects the claim with little briefing and no argument — just so the state can meet its preferred execution date.”
A separate Alabama case provoked even more dissension, with an order coming just before 3 a.m. on April 12 and lifting a stay of execution on an Alabama murder convict. The case again pitted the court’s five conservatives against the four liberals.
The conservative majority said that the prisoner, Christopher Lee Price, failed to meet a deadline for challenging the three-drug lethal injection that Price argued would cause him severe pain and suffering.
Breyer, joined by the three other justices on the left, wrote that the court was needlessly overriding lower court judges’ views that the execution should be postponed and instead allowing “arbitrary” implementation of the death penalty. He also chastised his colleagues for declining to wait just a matter of hours for a regularly scheduled meeting in their conference room that Friday morning, April 12.
Sandra Day O'Connor reflects on life before, during and after the Supreme Court

Sandra Day O'Connor reflects on life before, during and after the Supreme Court

“To proceed in this way calls into question the basic principle of fairness that should underlie our criminal justice system,” Breyer wrote. “To proceed in this matter in the middle of the night without giving all members of the court the opportunity for discussion tomorrow morning is, I believe, unfortunate.”
Beyond his complaint about court process, Breyer asserted, “What is at stake in this case is the right of a condemned inmate not to be subjected to cruel and unusual punishment in violation of the Eighth Amendment.” He was joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Sonia Sotomayor and Kagan.
In the majority were Roberts, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch and Kavanaugh. The majority emphasized in their unsigned opinion the “last-minute” nature of Price’s claim and the missed deadline.
They said nothing of Breyer’s complaint regarding the absence of discussion. At least nothing that emerged in public view.