Welcome back to Sneak. Tonight's edition is 893 words, a 3.5-minute read. Thanks to Kathie Bozanich for copy editing.

Situational awareness: The 12 jurors in the Trump hush-money trial deliberated for more than four hours today and will return tomorrow.

  • Late this afternoon, former President Trump once again blasted prosecutors, saying, "It seems like there's a lot of witnesses they could have called" to support his claim there was nothing illegal about a payment to former porn star Stormy Daniels before the 2016 election.

1 big thing: 🥊 Inside Rick Scott's power play

Photo: Kent Nishimura/Getty Images

Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) is betting that a backlash against the chamber's current GOP leadership will translate into a groundswell of support for his long-shot bid to be Mitch McConnell's successor.

  • In an interview with Axios, Scott said his push to become the next Senate Republican leader is centered on big changes to the GOP conference's rules.
  • "We haven't been fighting to get better stuff done. ... Republicans in D.C. don't have a plan," Scott said.
  • He's pushing six-year term limits for party leaders in the chamber and telling colleagues he'd seek to give rank-and-file members more say over what legislation reaches the floor.

That would be a dramatic contrast to McConnell (R-Ky.), 82, who's stepping aside as the GOP's powerful maestro in the Senate after more than 17 years as leader.

  • It also could separate Scott from the other two candidates in the leadership race — Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and John Cornyn (R-Texas), both viewed as McConnell allies.
  • "If you don't want big change, no one should elect me," Scott told Axios.

Scott criticized how McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) have run the chamber, pointing to the Senate's passage of foreign aid this year.

  • He claimed McConnell and Schumer had a "backroom deal" to pair support for Israel with billions in support for Ukraine. That angered many conservatives.

Read more

2. 🇮🇱 Scoop: Pro-Israel group tackles Dem anxiety

A voter holds a yellow "Leave it Blank" flyer that urges primary voters to withhold their support for pro-Israel Democrats to protest the war in Gaza. Photo: Adam Gray/Getty Images

A prominent pro-Israel group is trying to calm the nerves of Democratic officials who fear continued support for Israel will lead to disaster in November, Axios has learned.

DMFI is sending a memo to campaigns and members of Congress arguing that "support for pro-Israel policies is not damaging," according to a copy first shared with Axios.

  • The memo leans on polling that suggests voters do not rank the war in Gaza as a high priority, that it has had little impact on the presidential race and that pro-Israel Democrats generally are stronger than their pro-Palestinian colleagues.
  • "People sometimes mistake volume for percentage, and the fact that some people are very loud doesn't make them the majority ... It doesn't even make them a substantial minority," said DMFI president Mark Mellman.

Pro-Palestinian activists launched a nationwide effort during the Democratic primaries urging progressives to vote "uncommitted" to protest Biden's support for Israel.

  • 19% of Democratic primary voters in Minnesota and 13% in Michigan voted uncommitted rather than back Biden.
  • "If people don't think that will have a negative electoral effect on Biden in a tight election, they either have their heads in the sand or are deliberately misleading people," Layla Elabed, a leader of the Uncommitted National Movement, told Axios in a statement.

Read more

3. 💪 Alito stiff-arms Dems

Photo: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito shot down Democratic lawmakers' request that he recuse himself from cases involving former President Trump and Jan. 6 defendants because of the flap over flags flown at his homes.

Alito, a staunchly conservative voice on the court, has been under scrutiny after two flags that seemed to suggest sympathy with Trump's push to overturn the 2020 election results were flown at the justice's properties.

  • Democrats, led by Senate Judiciary Chair Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) and Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), called on Alito to avoid the appearance of a conflict of interest by not participating in the cases.

But in a letter to Durbin and Whitehouse today, Alito essentially told the senators to buzz off — and said the flags were the work of his wife, Martha-Ann.

  • "My wife is fond of flying flags. I am not," Alito wrote, after noting her First Amendment rights.

An upside-down U.S. flag, a symbol of the "Stop the Steal" movement, was hung outside the Alitos' Virginia home days after the Jan. 6 attack, the New York Times reported this month.

  • The Times later reported that a second "Appeal to Heaven" flag — also associated with the Jan. 6 movement — was flown at the Alitos' beach home in New Jersey as recently as 2023.

Justice Clarence Thomas also has faced calls to recuse himself from Jan. 6-related cases. His wife, Virginia "Ginni" Thomas, was involved in the protests of the 2020 election results.

  • The ethics code adopted by the Supreme Court last year says justices should "avoid impropriety and the appearance of impropriety in all activities."

Read more

4. 🗳️ Pic du jour: Biden-Harris hit Philly

Photo: Andrew Harnik/Getty Images

  • President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appeared before supporters today in Philadelphia, where they launched a nationwide campaign aimed at courting Black voters.
  • More than 90% of Black voters supported Biden in 2020, but polls indicate Trump is gaining support among them — threatening Biden's re-election.