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Supreme Court denies Flint officials’ request to block lawsuit over water crisis



WASHINGTON — Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor on Friday denied a request from four Flint, Michigan officials who asked the U.S. Supreme Court to block lower court rulings that said they could be sued over lead contamination in the water supply.

Their motion was directed to Justice Sotomayor, who handles such appeals from that region. Without explanation, as is the usual practice, she denied their request.

The officials involved in the water crisis argued that they should be immune from a liability suit brought by a Flint woman, Shari Guertin, who said she and her minor daughter suffered injuries from drinking and bathing in water contaminated with lead. After a federal judge refused to throw the lawsuit out, the officials appealed.

A three-judge panel ruled against them in January, saying the officials “created the Flint Water environmental disaster and then intentionally attempted to cover up their grievous decision.” The full Sixth Circuit declined last month to take the case, leaving the panel decision intact.

The four asked the Supreme Court Thursday to put a hold on those rulings, which would have blocked the lawsuits while they pursued a full-blown Supreme Court appeal. It is that request that Justice Sotomayor denied.

The civil lawsuit is separate from any criminal cases. On Thursday, Michigan prosecutors dropped all pending charges against a group of state and local officials accused of a variety of crimes arising from the water crisis.

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The matchups to watch at the Democratic presidential debate



WASHINGTON — The opening 2020 Democratic debate double feature is set: Elizabeth Warren vs. the field on the first night, and establishment Joe Biden vs. democratic socialist Bernie Sanders — plus two more of the top-five polling hopefuls and six undercard candidates — in the “Lord of the Flies” closer.

The two-day extravaganza in Miami, which will air live on NBC, MSNBC and Telemundo June 26-27, represents the first time a national television audience gets to see most of the contestants for the Democratic nomination compete against one another. In this case, it will be in decahedral — or ten-headed — fashion, with the group of 20 candidates who qualified split evenly between the two nights.

But in terms of marquee names, the draw ended up heavily weighted toward the second night — a dynamic that has big implications for both rounds.

Night One

In the first heat, Warren — the Massachusetts senator who currently sits third at about 12 percent in the Real Clear Politics average of national polls — is the only one of the five candidates registering above 4 percent routinely in surveys who will be on the stage.

That could be a blessing for her — a chance to dominate — but it could also be a curse if she fails to deliver.

Chris Kofinis, a Democratic strategist whose firm Park Street Strategies is releasing a poll of Democratic voters on Monday, said that the same pressure is on all the top-tier candidates regardless of which night they drew.

“None of them can afford to falter in a debate,” he said. By the same token, he said, Democratic voters are suffering from candidate overload and are ready for the field to winnow some, which puts an onus on the lesser-knowns to raise their profiles quickly.

“Either they rise to the moment, or their candidacy is done,” he said. “The margin-of-error candidates have no margin for error.”

The other nine competing with Warren, a set that includes two of her fellow senators, New York Mayor Bill De Blasio and one former Texas congressman — Beto O’Rourke — who has become more aggressive as he tries to jump-start his campaign, see an opening in avoiding a Biden-Sanders slugfest that also features Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Indiana, and Sen. Kamala Harris of California.

“This is an opportunity for us,” said an aide to Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the challenges facing other candidates. “Every story that comes out of Night Two of the debates is going to be about Biden and how he stacked up against the younger candidates given how he has been covered lately.”

Those younger candidates “are going to struggle to break out of that shadow,” the aide said.

The sleeper candidate on the first night could be Sen. Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, who has been praised in Democratic circles for her performance in high-profile congressional hearings and who gets informal advice from a set of longtime party hands familiar with the debate-prep process.

Gov. Jay Inslee of Washington, who has made climate change the center of his campaign; former Housing and Urban Development Secretary Julián Castro, who has earned plaudits from Warren for his immigration proposal; two sitting House members, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii and Tim Ryan of Ohio; and one former congressman, John Delaney of Maryland, round out the lineup for the first night.

Night Two

All eyes will be on Biden and Sanders, who represent the poles of the Democratic primary contest — a centrist who has “evolved” as the party has moved leftward on social policy over his decades in the spotlight, and an iconoclastic progressive who has run as an independent for the House and Senate and recently gave a speech laying out his philosophy of democratic socialism.

They also happen to be the candidates with the highest name-recognition and the leaders in most national polls, as well as the small set of surveys that have been taken in the first four states on the Democratic primary calendar.

Sanders will welcome the opportunity for a direct contrast, as he has been the candidate most open to taking on Biden, the popular former vice president, directly. But he’ll have competition on the stage in the form of Buttigieg and Harris, who will have to weigh whether they are more concerned with introducing themselves to the many voters who still don’t know them or taking the risk of going after the front-runners to cut into their support.

For voters, the stage will offer a full study in comparisons between Biden and the rest of the pack.

“He’s going to have a lot of sharp contrasts, because you’re going to have Bernie Sanders, who is much more progressive than he is, and Pete Buttigieg, who is much younger than he is, and Kamala Harris, who is a woman of color,” said Patti Solis Doyle, who was campaign manager for Hillary Clinton’s first bid for president. “There’s just going to be a lot of visual contrasts there between the front-runner and the other candidates.”

That could cut two ways for Biden: It could be that the panoply of Democratic rivals drown one another out or that he comes off as unrepresentative of the party.

“I don’t know if it’s good or bad,” Solis Doyle said. “But for the first time in this race, you’re going to see what the choices are.”

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Ivanka Trump made almost $4 million from Trump Washington hotel last year



Ivanka Trump pulled in almost $4 million in revenue last year from her stake in the family hotel near the White House, documents released by the White House on Friday show.

Trump took in $3,952,480 in revenue from the Trump Old Post Office LLC in 2018, up slightly from the amount she reported in 2017, her financial disclosure form shows.

The Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C., which is located in the Old Post Office building and opened during the 2016 campaign, has been good for her father’s wallet as well. His disclosure form, which was made public last month, showed the Republican, lobbyist and diplomat hot spot generated revenue of more than $40.8 million, up from $40.4 million in 2017.

The hotel has been a focus of lawsuits against the president charging that Trump is violating the Constitution’s emoluments clause by profiting from his office as diplomats and foreign dignitaries spend big money there.

Ivanka Trump’s interest in the hotel is valued at between $5 million and $25 million.

The financial news wasn’t all good for the first daughter — her fashion line, which she announced she was closing down last year, took in at least $1 million in revenue, down from at least $5 million in her previous annual disclosure, theAssociated Press reported.

The bulk of her assets — valued at more than $50 million — are in a trust that holds her business and corporations, her previous disclosures have shown.

Her husband and fellow unpaid White House adviser, Jared Kushner, continued to take in millions of dollars from his holdings in real estate, the disclosure form shows.

Kushner’s holdings of apartment buildings through his family real estate firm, Kushner Cos., was the source of much of his income. Westminster Management, the family business overseeing its rental buildings, generated $1.5 million.

The form reported Kushner’s stake in his real estate company Cadre was worth at least $25 million, the same amount he reported last year. He also appears to have cut his debt. He had loans and lines of credit worth at least $27 million at the end of 2018, down from a minimum value of $40 million the previous year, the AP reported.

The ethics form disclosures include very broad ranges, making it impossible to determine the exact value of their assets or income. An analysis of their disclosure forms by Bloomberg put their joint 2018 income at anywhere between $28.8 million and $135.1 million.

The forms still have to be reviewed by the White House Counsel’s Office and the Office of Government Ethics.

CORRECTION: (June 15, 2019, 1:37 p.m. ET): A previous version of this article misstated the year in which Ivanka Trump received $2,036,538 in salary and severance from Trump Payroll Corp. It was 2017, not 2018. Trump is not listed as receiving any payment from Trump Payroll Corp. in 2018.

Associated Press contributed.

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