And on a completely unrelated note, Chag Pesach Sameach to all who have begun celebrating Passover.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen met with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy and a bipartisan group of lawmakers on Wednesday at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library outside Los Angeles—despite China’s warnings the summit would draw unspecified consequences. McCarthy is the highest-ranking official to meet with Taiwan’s leader on American soil since the United States established formal diplomatic ties with China in 1979, and he declared the U.S.-Taiwan bond “stronger now than at any time.” The speaker called for more arms sales to—and economic cooperation with—the island democracy.
- A spokesman for Mike Pence said yesterday the former vice president will not appeal a court ruling ordering him to testify before the grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Pence had argued his role as president of the Senate during the January 6 attack on the Capitol exempted him from testimony under Congress’ “speech or debate” clause, but Chief U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg ruled Pence couldn’t be exempted from testifying—though his position does limit what questions investigators will be allowed to ask.
- The Justice Department announced Wednesday it reached a tentative $144.5 million settlement with the 22 people wounded and families of 26 people killed in a 2017 shooting at First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The plaintiffs had alleged the government was negligent, since the Air Force failed to update records—including a domestic violence condition in military court—that would have prevented the shooter from obtaining a gun.
- Maryland State Attorney General Anthony Brown released a 463-page report on Wednesday accusing Catholic Church officials in Baltimore of concealing for decades the abuse of 600 children—though he claimed the true number of victims is “likely far higher.” The report—published after a four-year investigation—named 156 alleged abusers, and said certain parishes were known to house more than one predator at a time.
- Republican Indiana Gov. Eric Holcomb signed a measure into law on Wednesday banning treatments like hormone therapy, puberty blockers, and gender transition surgeries for minors—joining at least a dozen other states that have implemented similar restrictions. The law is set to take effect July 1 and will require transgender minors currently taking transition medication to stop by the end of the year. The American Civil Liberties Union has already filed a challenge.
- Anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. filed paperwork on Wednesday to launch a long-shot presidential bid. He will join self-help author Marianne Williamson in challenging President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination in 2024.
- A pre-dawn tornado killed at least five people in southeastern Missouri on Wednesday and injured five others, State Highway Patrol Superintendent Eric Olson said—the third such major storm to hit the Midwest over the last two weeks.
Let’s Go Brandon … Johnson
From Eric Adams in New York City to Brooke Jenkins in San Francisco, a number of big-city Democrats have been swept into office in recent years by promising to reverse their predecessors’ antagonism of the police and focus on reversing rising crime rates. They haven’t all been successful, of course, but Paul Vallas—a conservative Democrat and former Chicago Public Schools chief—was hoping to follow in their footsteps Tuesday and become the 57th mayor of the Windy City. He did not.
Instead, the surprise victor was Brandon Johnson, a progressive Cook County Board commissioner and former teacher’s union organizer. Vallas had secured plurality support in the first round of voting last month—33 percent to Johnson’s 22 percent—but Johnson more than closed the gap in this week’s runoff, leading Vallas 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent as of Wednesday night. The results are a boon for the political left and the city’s many public-sector unions, but Johnson now faces the difficult task of turning around a number of the city’s intractable problems, particularly crime.