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10 Things in Politics: Breyer’s clerks fear RBG repeat

I hope you all had a great weekend! Welcome back to 10 Things in Politics. Sign up here to receive this newsletter. Send tips to [email protected] or tweet me at @BrentGriffiths.

Here’s what we’re talking about:

What to look out for today: Vice President Kamala Harris travels to Detroit for a voting-rights listening session.


Stephen Breyer.

Supreme Court Associate Justice Stephen Breyer in 2014.


Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images



1. IS THIS SEAT TAKEN?: Justice Stephen Breyer’s former clerks are anxious, fearing his reluctance to retire from the Supreme Court may cloud his legacy. Their worries are compounded by the hard feelings surrounding Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s refusal to bow out during the Obama administration. The vacancy opened by her death last year led conservatives to cement a 6-3 majority that could rewrite historic precedents like Roe v. Wade as soon as next year.

  • Biden’s pledge to make a historic pick weighs on them too: “We have a real shot of getting the first Black woman on the Supreme Court,” a former Breyer clerk told Insider. “If someone in the Senate gets sick or, because of some scandal, Democrats lose the majority, who knows when a Black woman will be appointed to the court?” (Legal insiders think Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, who also happens to be a former Breyer clerk, is likely to be President Joe Biden’s pick.)

My colleague spoke with former Breyer clerks about the biggest cliffhanger in Biden’s Washington.

Here’s a peek at what they said:

Breyer’s decision to stay put doesn’t surprise some of them: They say in recent years he’s privately and publicly bemoaned the frequency of closely divided rulings and the increasing politicization of the court.

  • Some also say the public pressure campaign on Breyer could easily backfire: “To the extent that the public pressure on him to step down has any effect, my best guess is it would have the opposite effect, not because he’s the sort of person to say, ‘Don’t tell me what to do,’ but it contributes to the politicization of the situation,” said Carolyn Shapiro, a professor at the Chicago-Kent College of Law who clerked for Breyer in the 1996-1997 Supreme Court term.

The larger Breyer universe said questions around him would only grow: “There was no expectation he would leave before June, but most of us thought it was more likely than not that he would retire this year,” one former clerk said. In another possible sign of his plans, Breyer has hired four new clerks for the court’s next term.

The window could close soon: Senate Democrats are one heartbeat away from losing the chamber even before next year’s midterms.

More on the people who will be in the room when Breyer makes his decision.


2. Haiti says it has arrested the leading suspect in its president’s assassination: Haitian authorities say Christian Emmanuel Sanon, a Haitian-born doctor based in Florida, played a leading role in the killing and recruited others involved in the assassination, The Washington Post reports. Attackers fatally shot Moïse on Wednesday at his home in the Haitian capital, Port-au-Prince. In the aftermath, Haiti is suffering from a power vacuum.


The VSS Unity space plane heading toward space.

VSS Unity firing its engines to soar to the edge of space on Sunday.

Virgin Galactic


3. A new kind of space race: Virgin Galactic successfully launched its billionaire founder, Richard Branson, and three other employees to the edge of space. The flight lasted just one hour. A slew of billionaires are seeking to push the envelope on the final frontier. With the flight, Branson beat Amazon’s founder, Jeff Bezos, who plans to go to space next week.


4. Pelosi’s husband just invested millions in two tech companies: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband, Paul, bought up to $5 million in shares in Google’s parent company, Alphabet, and in Nvidia Corporation. Paul Pelosi’s purchase of Alphabet shares came just days before the House Judiciary Committee voted on key tech legislation. The House speaker’s office said she had no involvement with the trades.

See which other stocks lawmakers are trading, including their investments in cryptocurrencies.


5. Fauci wants to see more local vaccine mandates: “We’re talking about life-and-death situation. We’ve lost 600,000 Americans already, and we’re still losing more people,” Dr. Anthony Fauci said on CNN’s “State of the Union.” Fauci said it was “horrifying” to see attendees of a conservative political conference applaud the US for failing to meet the White House’s vaccination goal.


A man is arrested during a protest against the Cuban government

A man being arrested during a protest against the Cuban government in Havana on Sunday.

Yamil Lage/AFP/Getty Images


6. Cubans protested in the largest numbers seen in decades: Thousands took to the streets across the country chanting “freedom” and “yes, we can” in a major challenge to the entrenched Communist government, The Washington Post reports. President Miguel Díaz-Canel, Cuba’s first post-Castro leader, accused the US of stoking tensions. More on the discontent that has been brewing there.


7. Photos show shirtless Democratic congressmen riding camels on a trip paid for by a special-interest group: Reps. Eric Swalwell and Ruben Gallego, shirtless and smiling with their wives astride, sat atop camels in March as the Persian Gulf shimmered behind them, photos obtained by Insider show. The photos suggest the lawmakers strayed from their official duties during a trip to Qatar. More on the trip, one of several by lawmakers that private interests have paid for this year.


8. Trump praised Ashli Babbitt: Former President Donald Trump lauded the woman fatally shot by a police officer while participating in the January 6 Capitol riot and suggested, without citing evidence, that a high-level Democrat might have been involved. Trump described Babbitt as “an innocent, wonderful, incredible woman, a military woman?” The Justice Department has cleared the officer who shot her as she was trying to enter the Speaker’s Lobby, just yards from where lawmakers were fleeing. More on his comments here.


9. Economists say don’t buy a house before next year: Prices are climbing at their fastest pace in more than three decades, and homes are frequently selling above their list price, according to the National Association of Realtors. Unless construction picks up, the near-term outlook for prices isn’t promising. Here’s how the scars of the previous housing crisis are making it harder this time.


10. The Carters had quite the bash for their 75th wedding anniversary: The country-music star Garth Brooks; CNN’s founder, Ted Turner; Nancy Pelosi; Bill and Hillary Clinton; and scores of other people from all walks of life gathered at the Plains, Georgia, high school that Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter attended 80 years ago, The Post reports. More on the longest marriage between any presidential couple.


Today’s trivia question: Wally Funk, 82, is set to be on Bezos’ spaceflight. Funk began her quest for space travel as part of a group of female test pilots in the 1960s. What did they become known as?

Email your guess and a suggested question to me at [email protected].


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