Happy Monday! There’s never a great time to see your name alongside “profanity-laced rant at staffer” in the Houston Chronicle, but the recording—allegedly of Democratic U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee—is particularly problematic if you’re … running to be the mayor of Houston. For all our readers in Houston and Harris County, early voting starts today!
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Clashes continued along the Israel-Lebanon border over the weekend, with the Times of Israel reporting that “six Israeli soldiers, 19 Hezbollah terrorists, and six Palestinian terrorists” have been killed in the exchanges of missiles and artillery fire in recent weeks. Sheikh Naim Qassem, Hezbollah’s deputy leader, said Saturday that the group will escalate its attacks whenever Israel begins a ground operation into Gaza, while Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu warned Lebanon against further attacks. “If Hezbollah decides to enter the war, it will miss the Second Lebanon War,” he said. “We will cripple it with a force it cannot even imagine, and the consequences for it and the Lebanese state are devastating.”
- United States military officials moved to strengthen American forces in the Middle East over the weekend, shifting an additional carrier strike group—the USS Dwight D. Eisenhower—into the region and deploying additional missile and air defense systems. The Eisenhower was originally set to join the USS Gerald R. Ford carrier strike group in the eastern Mediterranean, but will now be deployed to the Central Command area of responsibility, which includes the Persian Gulf and the Red Sea. “These steps will bolster regional deterrence efforts, increase force protection for U.S. forces in the region, and assist in the defense of Israel,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a press release on Saturday.
- Hamas on Friday released two U.S. citizens—a mother and her 17-year-old daughter—who were being held hostage in Gaza. The release came amid negotiations between Hamas and Qatar—a nation that maintains both friendly relations with the U.S. and lines of communication with the terror group’s leaders. Israel declared it will destroy Hamas regardless of the hostage situation as the IDF readies a potential ground offensive, but progress in negotiations could delay the start of that operation.
- Rep. Jim Jordan ended his bid to become speaker of the House on Friday after he lost a third consecutive vote on the House floor and a subsequent secret-ballot vote within the GOP conference on whether to keep him as the party’s nominee for the post. Nine candidates announced bids for the position before the conference deadline yesterday, including House Majority Whip Tom Emmer, Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida, Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, and Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana. Former Speaker Kevin McCarthy threw his support behind Emmer, the Minnesota Republican, but didn’t rule out his own return to the speaker’s chair. “I’m supporting Tom Emmer,” he said, “but I’m going to tell you: I’m still a member of Congress, and I’m going to lead in any capacity to protect America.” The Republican conference will hold a candidate forum tonight at 6:30 p.m. ahead of an expected conference vote tomorrow.
- The Supreme Court on Friday temporarily blocked a lower court’s preliminary injunction that restricted the Biden administration from communicating with social media companies to remove what it considers misinformation from platforms. The court’s ruling temporarily granted the administration’s appeal for a stay, and the court agreed to hear the case in its current term.
- Kenneth Chesebro, a former lawyer for former President Donald Trump’s campaign, pleaded guilty on Friday in the Georgia election interference case concerning his role in creating alternate slates of fake electors. Chesebro cooperated with prosecutors and pleaded guilty to one felony count of conspiracy to file false documents. As part of the plea deal, Chesebro received up to five years of probation and a $5,000 fine, and agreed to testify against his fellow co-defendants in the case, including Trump. Chesebro is the third of nineteen co-defendants to accept a plea deal requiring future testimony—Sidney Powell, a former Trump attorney, made a similar plea deal with prosecutors on Thursday.
- The judge overseeing Trump’s civil fraud case in New York fined the former president $5,000 for flouting a gag order preventing public comments about the court’s staff. Earlier this month, Trump singled out one of Judge Arthur Engoron’s law clerks, Allison Greenfield, posting a picture of her with Sen. Chuck Schumer to his Truth Social account, describing her as “Schumer’s girlfriend.” A spokesperson for Schumer said he does not know Greenfield and takes photos with thousands of constituents. Engoron asked Trump to take the post down—which he did—but the post remained on a Trump campaign website until the court flagged it on Thursday night. Trump’s lawyers said the website posting was an oversight, but Engoron warned that further violations could result in steeper penalties, including holding Trump in contempt of court.
Historic Election in Poland
Polish citizens voted in droves last Sunday, prompting many polling locations to remain open long after their intended closing time. The result was the largest turnout in a Polish election since the end of communist rule in 1989, and a defeat for the Law and Justice party, which had been in power since 2015.
Last week’s election marked a landmark moment for Poland—and indeed much of Europe—as Poles hit the reset button on a populist government that had grown more isolated in Europe and less democratic in nature. As a centrist coalition—led by former Polish Prime Minister and European Council President Donald Tusk—moves to create a functioning government, Poland could serve as a model for other populist-curious European nations looking for an off-ramp.
The Law and Justice party (or PiS, as they’re known in Poland), won the most votes in last Sunday’s election—but not nearly enough to form a majority in the nation’s parliament. According to official numbers released by the country’s National Electoral Commission on Tuesday, PiS took 35.4 percent of the votes, while Tusk’s Civic Coalition won 30.7 percent. Third Way, a center-right party, and the Left, won 14.4 percent and 8.6 percent, respectively, and the far-right party Confederation captured 7.2 percent of the vote. Civic Coalition, Third Way, and the Left have agreed to form a coalition party to secure a majority in the Polish parliament.