Sunday's politics & policy stories

May 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Federal judge strikes down Florida law requiring felons to pay fines before voting

Gov. Ron DeSantis. Photo: oe Raedle/Getty Images

A federal judge on Sunday ruled that a Florida law requiring convicted felons to pay all court fines and fees before registering to vote is unconstitutional.

Why it matters: The ruling, which will likely be appealed by state Republicans, would clear the way for hundreds of thousands of ex-felons in Florida to register to vote ahead of November's election.

Trumpworld's plan to brand Biden

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios. Photos: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images, Mandel Ngan/AFP

Trump's advisers relish the contrast between his public appearances and Joe Biden's lack thereof. The former vice president, following the guidance of public experts, has eschewed public events and stayed home for months now. Trump, meanwhile, is out and about — masks be damned.

What we're hearing: Watch for plenty more mask-free outings from Trump, hyping the reopening of the economy and avoiding discussions of social distancing and death counts.

Scoop: Inside the secret talks to overhaul the GOP platform

Jared Kushner. Photo: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images

For the past six months, top Trump campaign officials, reporting to Jared Kushner, have been working on a radical overhaul of the Republican Party platform.

Driving the news: The Trump campaign's Bill Stepien has been leading the process, working with campaign colleagues and the Republican National Committee. As with all significant campaign matters, they've been reporting back to Kushner.

Val Demings rips Trump for having the "gall" to use Biden remarks in campaign

Rep. Val Demings (D-Fla.) responded on CNN's "State of the Union" Sunday to comments Joe Biden made about black voters on the radio show "The Breakfast Club" last week, arguing that Biden "shouldn't have said it" but that he's apologized and "engaged in a conversation" about race — unlike President Trump.

Why it matters: Demings is one of the candidates being vetted as a potential running mate for Biden, the presumptive Democratic nominee. She condemned Trump for using Biden's comments in his reelection campaign, claiming that "since day one" the president has done everything in his power "to divide this country, particularly along racial lines."

Ohio governor condemns politics in face mask debate

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) denounced the partisanship that has infiltrated the debate over face masks in the U.S., telling NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday: "This is not about politics. ... It's about helping other people."

Why it matters: Face masks have become a political symbol for some Americans in the brewing culture war over containing the coronavirus, AP reports. 76% of Democrats say they wear a mask when leaving home, compared to 59% of Republicans, according to a poll by the AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research.

Tom Bossert swipes at Trump for refusing to wear mask in public

Former homeland security adviser Tom Bossert responded on ABC News' "This Week" to President Trump's refusal to wear a face mask in public, saying, "Do as I say, not as I do isn't very useful" for reinforcing what the president's own public health officials have stressed.

Driving the news: Trump on Thursday said he removed his face mask during a tour of a Ford plant in Michigan because he "didn’t want to give the press the pleasure" of seeing him with one on. The Michigan attorney general warned Trump that it was “the law of this state" to wear a mask while touring plants.

May 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

New Jersey governor says relief for states is about keeping front-line jobs

New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy (D) slammed Republicans on CNN's "State of the Union" for hitting the pause button on more federal coronavirus relief for states, arguing that it's "not just blue states" that are facing massive budget shortfalls as a result of the pandemic.

What he's saying: "We announced a budget on Friday for the next four months and we had to cut or defer over $5 billion of expenditures," Murphy said. "This includes potentially laying off educators, firefighters, police, EMS, health care workers. This is not abstract. This is real. It's not a blue state issue. It's an American issue."

May 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Trump tweets baseless conspiracy theory accusing Joe Scarborough of murder

Photos: Right: Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images; Left: Bryan Bedder/Getty Images for Americares

President Trump again baselessly accused MSNBC host Joe Scarborough of murdering his intern in 2001 in a tweet Saturday, calling on his followers to "keep digging" and to "use forensic geniuses" to find out more about a death that occurred at Scarborough’s Florida office when he was a member of Congress.

Why it matters: Trump has had a lengthy feud with Scarborough and his wife Mika Brzezinski, who host "Morning Joe" and are often critical of the president and his administration. Brzezinski demanded last week that Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey stop allowing Trump to “abuse” the platform by spreading conspiracy theories.

Trump to Sessions: You ruined many lives over Russia probe recusal

Jeff Sessions. Photo: Zach Gibson/Getty Image

President Trump accused his former Attorney General Jeff Sessions Saturday evening of lacking courage when he recused himself from the Russia investigation.

Driving the news: Trump made the comment in a retweet of the former AG's Twitter post defending himself the previous evening following the president's endorsement of Sessions' rival for the Alabama Senate seat.

May 24, 2020 - Politics & Policy

John Roberts: Pandemic provides a lesson in humility and compassion

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts during President Donald Trump's State of the Union in Congress in January. Photo: Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call

Supreme Court Chief Justice John Roberts made the coronavirus crisis a central focus of his video address to graduating seniors at his son's high school Saturday, noting the pandemic "has pierced our illusion of certainty and control."

Details: Roberts said in the video, posted on the website of Westminster School in Simsbury, Connecticut, where his son is a senior, that the virus "has or will affect practically everyone in the world in one way or another." He urged students to show "compassion" to others "who may bear scars" from the outbreak.