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Photo: Getty Images

A short-handed Supreme Court begins its new term on Monday with eight justices rather than the usual nine amid a battle to confirm President Trump's nominee Brett Kavanaugh as he faces sexual assault allegations.

The details: The court — ideologically deadlocked with four conservatives and four liberals — has not yet added any blockbuster cases to its nine-month calendar. But the 43 pending cases do have major ramifications, and a confirmation of Trump’s nominee would solidify a conservative majority and ultimately hand Republicans major wins.

The state of play: The first case up for argument Monday morning is a property rights case about protected habitat for the dusky gopher frog, an endangered amphibian. The case pits environmentalists against property-rights advocates.

  • Other disputes in the docket involve the execution of a convicted murderer who forgot his crime after suffering several strokes and an antitrust case alleging that Apple created a monopoly with its App Store.
  • One challenge would ultimately affect Trump's ability to pardon people like his former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was convicted of fraud in federal court in August. The case seeks to determine whether prosecuting someone twice — by a state and a federal court for the same crime — violates the Constitution's protection against double jeopardy. The president cannot pardon state crimes.

What's next: A slew of hot-button disputes are working their way up from lower courts and could very well reach the justices this term, Solicitor General Noel Francisco said recently at a Federalist Society event. These include:

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Biden holds first phone call with Putin, raises Navalny arrest

Putin takes a call in 2017. Photo: Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty

President Biden on Tuesday held his first call since taking office with Vladimir Putin, pressing the Russian president on the arrest of opposition leader Alexey Navalny and the Russia-linked hack on U.S. government agencies, AP reports.

The state of play: Biden also planned to raise arms control, bounties allegedly placed on U.S. troops in Afghanistan and the war in Ukraine, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki, who said the call took place while she was delivering a press briefing. Psaki added that a full readout will be provided later Tuesday.

Biden signs racial equity executive orders

Joe Biden prays at Grace Lutheran Church in Kenosha, Wisconsin, on September 3, 2020, in the aftermath of the police shooting of Jacob Blake. PHOTO: Jim Watson/AFP via Getty Images

President Joe Biden on Tuesday signed executive orders on housing and ending the Justice Department's use of private prisons as part of what the White House is calling his “racial equity agenda.”

The big picture: Biden needs the support of Congress to push through police reform or new voting rights legislation. The executive orders serve as his down payment to immediately address systemic racism while he focuses on the pandemic.