What surprised experts about Trump’s SCOTUS arguments

Gun Rights

A historic argument

This week, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments regarding Donald Trump’s claims of presidential immunity in his election interference case. The justices interrogated lawyers on both sides, leaving legal experts to try to read the tea leaves. Will they embrace any of team Trump’s legal theories? We won’t hear the final decision until late June or early July. With so much at stake, we asked Supreme Court expert Neal Katyal for his insights into potential outcomes and how the ruling may affect the timeline of Jack Smith’s case.

Trump’s lawyers are arguing that the president is effectively immune from things like directing a military coup. What do you make of their view of the presidency?

I think Trump’s lawyer was so bombastic in making these claims that it skewed a lot of the media coverage. Justice Sonia Sotomayor early in the argument gave him a chance to walk back these extravagant arguments (like that the president could order Navy SEAL Team 6 to go assassinate his political rival), and the lawyer did not. While that may have been where Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Samuel Alito were, it was pointedly not where it seemed like others on the court (and in particular Justices Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, Ketanji Brown Jackson, but also Amy Coney Barrett) were. This will likely come down to the chief justice and what he wants to do in terms of the court’s role in all of this.

Obviously SCOTUS thinks there’s at least some merit to Trump’s argument, otherwise they would not have taken up this appeal. What surprised you most about Thursday’s hearing?

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I’ve seen over 400 oral arguments at the Supreme Court, and have personally argued 51 cases there. Most of the time, I can walk out of the courtroom with a good sense of what the justices are going to do. This was not one of those times. I don’t think either attorney walked out feeling like a clear winner today — and that’s both a real surprise and a real concern. I still don’t think the court is even remotely prepared to embrace the idea of absolute immunity put forth by Trump. But they might give him something — and that’s a big problem in my mind. If you give Trump an inch, he’ll take a mile, and this is a case where they shouldn’t give him anything at all.


A story you should be following: Tennessee’s push to arm teachers

On Tuesday, Tennessee House Republicans passed a bill allowing teachers and other school staff to be armed in public schools. This comes a little over a year after a lone shooter killed three children and three adults at a private school in Nashville, the state’s deadliest mass shooting ever.

As legislators passed the bill in a 68-28 vote, protesters in the chamber chanted “blood on your hands.”

Gov. Bill Lee is expected to sign the bill, which would allow staff members to carry a concealed handgun after obtaining an enhanced carry permit, permission from school administrators and law enforcement, 40 hours of training, a background check and a psychological exam.

The bill also includes a confidentiality clause, meaning that parents and students would not be notified about which teachers are carrying guns — a bizarre element that Republican lawmakers claim is essential to “the element of surprise.”

Clearly, the tragedy last year, and the activism of parents and legislators, has not changed the trajectory of gun access in Tennessee. And it appears the NRA is still standing in the way of sanity and sensible gun safety measures.


Some people you should know: The reporters covering Trump’s hush money trial

Trump’s ongoing criminal trial in New York — one of the biggest court cases in U.S. history — is now officially in progress. But very few of us will ever get a glimpse into that historic courtroom.

Because video and audio recording is prohibited during the proceedings, the American people are relying on the journalists who are covering the trial to relay every key detail back to the public in real time.

There are dozens of talented reporters on the case, but a few that I’ll be following for their insights from inside the courtroom are Lisa Rubin, Adam Klasfeld, Olivia Nuzzi, Susanne Craig and Katie Phang.


Jon Favreau’s Weekend Routine

Jon Favreau is a former speechwriter for President Barack Obama and currently a co-host of “Pod Save America.” He is also a co-author of the new book “Democracy or Else: How to Save America in 10 Easy Steps.” Stay tuned for our conversation with Favreau and his colleague Jon Lovett on “Inside with Jen Psaki” this Sunday at 12 p.m.

What show are you bingeing right now?

“Octonauts,” because we have a toddler who rules all screens like a (mostly) benevolent dictator.

What’s the last book you read?

“Yellowface” by R.F. Kuang and my upcoming book “Democracy or Else: How to Save America in 10 Easy Steps,” since Jon Lovett, Tommy Vietor and I had to go through the editing process for it.

What time do you wake up on the weekends?

5:30 a.m. (see first answer).

How do you take your coffee?

With an embarrassing amount of Splenda, sugar-free vanilla syrup and milk. Dunkin’ if it’s available, Starbucks if it’s not.

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