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The sweeping attacks from Republican elected officials against former President Donald Trumps conviction on 34 felony counts last week send a clear signal that if he wins a second term, he will face even less internal resistance from the GOP than he did during his first four years in the White House.

Republican pushback was rare enough in his first term, against even Trumps most extreme ideas and actions, but it did exist in pockets of Congress and among appointees inside his own administration with roots in the partys prior traditions. The willingness now of so many House and Senate Republicans, across the GOPs ideological spectrum, to unreservedly echo Trumps denunciation of his conviction shows that the flickers of independence that flashed during his first term have been virtually extinguished as he approaches a possible second term.

The strong message of the near-universal Republican condemnation of the verdict is that Donald Trump owns the Republican Party, the political scientist Susan Stokes, who directs the Chicago Center on Democracy at the University of Chicago, told me. That means he can pretty much force the rest of the party leadership, if they see their future in the party, to toe the line, no matter what.

GOP elected officials are aligning obediently behind Trump even as numerous signs suggest that the Supreme Courts Republican-appointed majority, and other GOP-appointed judges in the federal courts, may be more willing than in his first term to openly defend and enable his actions. And all of these indications of Trumps tightening grip over Republicans in the electoral and legal arenas follow his description of a second-term agenda that pushes more aggressively against the limits of law and custom on presidential power.

That combination points to a possible second Trump term defined by both fewer constraints and more challenges to the traditional constitutional order. What should most alarm Americans who believe that somehow the system will hold is that for all the red hats and red ties Republican electeds don to appease their leader, they seem to have no red lines, Deana El-Mallawany, a senior counsel for the bipartisan group Protect Democracy, told me in an email. Which suggests that the most radical things Trump has hinted atbeing a dictator (for a day), tearing up the constitutionwhich seem unthinkable today could just as easily come to pass in the very near future.

David A. Graham: Guilty on all counts

Trumps most loyal defenders have vied to denounce the New York verdict most extravagantly. Senator Marco Rubio of Florida took an early lead by equating it to a show trial in communist countries. But Rubio has had plenty of competition: Senator Ted Cruz of Texas likened the trial to proceedings in banana republics. Senator Mike Lee of Utah has gotten about a dozen other GOP senators to sign a letter pledging to use procedural tools to snarl all action in the chamber to protest the verdict. House Speaker Mike Johnson has similarly promised to use everything in our arsenal against the decision; Representative Jim Jordan, the chair of the House Judiciary Committee, who has already launched investigations against all of the prosecutors who have indicted Trump, has demanded that New York prosecutors appear at a hearing on the case next week. Other Trump allies have insisted that state and local Republican attorneys general and district attorneys manufacture indictments against Democratic politicians in retaliation.

Strikingly, several of the Republicans denouncing the decision have argued that not only were Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Judge Juan Merchan biased against Trump, but the Manhattan jury of ordinary citizens was as well. The partisan slant of this jury pool shows why we ought to litigate politics at the ballot box and not in the courtroom, Senator J. D. Vance of Ohio, one of Trumps most unconditional defenders, insisted in his statement immediately after the verdict.

Juries have been sacrosanct in our democracy, and the fact that so many prominent Republicans are just prepared to treat them as Democratic operatives rather than members of a community that have judged Trump guilty of 34 felonies, Fred Wertheimer, the founder and president of Democracy 21, a government-ethics watchdog group, told me, tells us even more than what Trump himself has told us about what will happen in a Trump presidency. These elected officials are wide open to accepting an autocracy.

The breadth of the Republican rejection of the verdict has been as emphatic as its depth. The criticism has come not only from reflexive Trump defenders such as Vance and Rubio, but from others who had previously kept somewhat more distance from the former president. They include several congressional Republicans, such as Mike Lawler and Marc Molinaro, who represent House districts carried by President Joe Biden, as well as Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who voted to convict Trump after his impeachment over the January 6 riot.

When former Maryland Governor Larry Hogan, now the GOPs Senate nominee in the state, declared last week that Americans should respect the results of the legal process, Trumps daughter-in-law Lara Trump, newly installed as the co-chair of the Republican National Committee, and the Trump campaign strategist Chris LaCivita both immediately portrayed Hogan as an apostate who should be shunned. Hogan doesnt deserve the respect of anyone in the Republican Party at this point, and quite frankly, anybody in America, Lara Trump declared on CNN on Sunday.

To former Republican Representative Charlie Dent, now the executive director and vice president of the congressional program at the Aspen Institute, such attacks on Hoganand the paucity of Republicans defending himare the most ominous aspects of the party backlash. Hogan, Dent points out, is seeking a Senate seat in a strongly Democratic-leaning state where an undeniable political imperative to establish his independence from Trump applies. That GOP leaders are willing to assail Hogan for creating any distance from Trump even in such a race, Dent told me, shows that personal fealty has eclipsed all other party prioritiesincluding winning elections and majorities.

What Lara Trump is essentially saying is its really only about her father-in-law, he told me. Its about pledging a loyalty oath to one man regardless of the electoral outcome.

Dent views the GOP response to the verdict as an early warning that the pressure for lockstep congressional loyalty will be even more intense in a second Trump term than his first. Whatever the issue is, if they are in the majority, he is going to expect all of them just to carry his water, no matter how dirty it is, said Dent, who also serves as a senior adviser to Our Republican Legacy, a group recently launched by several former GOP senators critical of Trump. The truth is, if there is a Republican [House] majority after this election, it will be a very slim one. So he wont permit any deviation on virtually anything.

Leslie Dach, a senior adviser to the liberal-leaning Congressional Integrity Project, points out that virtually all of the congressional Republicans who resisted Trump during his first termincluding Liz Cheney and Mitt Romneyeither have left or are leaving Congress. Though much less outspoken, Senator Mitch McConnell and former Speaker Paul Ryan, who led the Republican congressional majorities when Trump was first elected in 2017, were also cool to him in their own ways. With Johnson established as speaker and McConnell stepping down as Senate minority leader, both the congressional GOPs rank and file and its leadership are certain to be more deferential to a reelected Trump. Theres an arms race among these Republicans to be the leader of the Trump pack, Dach told me.

The prospect that the GOP Congress would be more subservient to Trump in a second term could be especially consequential because he is proposing so many policies that will push against legal and political boundaries. Trump has pledged to use the Justice Deartment to pursue retribution against his political opponents and has not ruled out firing U.S. attorneys who refuse his orders to pursue specific prosecutions; repeatedly promised a mass deportation effort against undocumented migrants that could involve deploying the National Guard from red states to blue cities; threatened to deploy the National Guard in Democratic-run cities to fight crime, even over the objections of state and municipal officials; promised unilateral military action inside Mexico against drug cartels, with or without permission from its government; repeatedly suggested he would restore his policy of separating migrant children from their parents at the border; and indicated that he will step back from Americas traditional alliances, by distancing the U.S. from NATO as well as by pressuring Ukraine to quickly accept a settlement with Russia. He has even dangled the possibility of seeking a third presidential term, which the Constitution explicitly prohibits.

Juliette Kayyem: Trump stumped

After the GOP s latest demonstration of loyalty to Trump, what, if anything, on that list might generate meaningful resistance from congressional Republicans is unclear, especially if they control both legislative chambers after Novembers election, which is a real possibility if Trump wins. Dent told me that pressuring Ukraine into an early settlement, which would almost certainly involve leaving Russia in control of large swaths of the country, might spur resistance from many congressional Republicans. Some, he predicts, might also resist if a reelected Trump pursued his promise to again seek a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. But mostly, Dent said, the more pragmatic members in those marginal districts will be seen as the heretics if they dont toe the line. They will not be permitted the luxury of dissent. All these members are going to be under terrible pressure to vote for every bad idea Trump has.

Trumps success at rallying congressional Republicans behind his claim that his trial was rigged already suggests that large numbers of them may support him if he loses in November but claims that this years election, too, was stolen from him. Several senior Republicans have pointedly refused to commit to accepting the result, and Johnsonwho led an effort to enlist congressional Republicans in backing a lawsuit to overturn the 2020 electionhas joined Trump in amplifying groundless claims that large numbers of noncitizens could taint the November result.

In 2022, the House and Senate approved, and Biden signed, revisions to the 19th-century Electoral Count Act that make it more difficult for Congress to object to the certification of the presidential election. That followed the effort of nearly two-thirds of House Republicans to throw out the 2020 election results from several swing states that voted for Biden. Among other things, the new law requires more House members to sign on to a challenge to a state certification before it can be considered, while also requiring a majority in both legislative chambers to approve any challenge.

But even these safeguards leave open a straightforward path for Trumps congressional allies. In the entirely plausible scenario that Republicans win both chambers in November, while Trump loses to Biden, the GOP could still reject the election results by a simple majority vote in both the House and Senate. At some point, the rule of law depends on key institutional actors being willing to follow it, Jessica Marsden, who oversees Protect Democracys work on elections, told me, and the reaction to the Trump verdict shows a real willingness among the current Republican Party to throw the rule of law under the bus.

Any challenge from Trump or his allies to this years election results will provide another test for the federal courts. Along with the Supreme Court, lower courts sweepingly rejected the attempts by Trump and his associates to overturn the 2020 election results. That followed a Trump first term in which the Supreme Court often sided with Trump but at times rebuffed him (for instance, by ruling on procedural grounds against his attempt to require a citizenship question on the census).

But almost all of those Supreme Court decisions were rendered while Republican appointees held a narrower, 54 majority. The GOP-appointed majority expanded to 63 when Amy Coney Barrett succeeded the late Ruth Bader Ginsburg just before the 2020 election, and court watchers point to signs that this bigger Republican majority may be more inclined to rule in Trumps favor.

Most telling has been the Courts slow timeline for deciding on Trumps claim of absolute presidential immunity, which has virtually eliminated the possibility that he will face a trial before the next election on the charge that he attempted to subvert the last one. And when the matter is finally decided, a ruling even partially upholding Trumps claim could embolden him to stretch the bounds of executive authority in a second term.

Compounding concerns about the Courts slow pace in the immunity case have been the allegations of bias on the issue swirling around Justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas, as well as Chief Justice John Robertss categorical dismissal of demands for the justices to recuse themselves from the proceedings. All of this has occurred as Aileen Cannon, a Trump appointee, has stalled the Justice Departments classified-documents case against Trump.

The conventional wisdom after 2020 was the courts held, and thats true, Stokes, at the Chicago Center on Democracy, told me. On the other hand, as with Judge Cannon in Florida, we are seeing the effect of the Trump federal-court appointees kicking in, and with the Supreme Court participating in the slow-walking [of the immunity case], I dont think we can count on the courts in the same way.

Stokes said that efforts by autocratic leaders to diminish the power of the nations highest court are typical in countries experiencing an erosion of democracy. The U.S. is experiencing a distinct variation on that model, with everything indicating that the highest court itself, she said, has become more partisan and more aligned with Trumps movement. If Trump wins and pursues even a portion of the agenda he has outlined, she told me, were facing the scenario where we cant count on the legislative branch and we cant count on the courts to defend constitutional principles.

McKay Coppins: The most consequential TV show in history

Maybe the most revealing moment in the entire GOP eruption against the Trump verdict came last week, when Johnson reassured his Fox News hosts during an interview that he expected the Supreme Court to eventually overturn the conviction. I think that the justices on the CourtI know many of them personallyI think they are deeply concerned about that, as we are, the House speaker said. So I think theyll set this straight.

Johnson later clarified that he had not personally spoken with any of the justices about the Trump verdict, but that only magnified the import of his initial wordsrevealing the extent to which he considered the GOP-appointed justices part of the Republican team, receptive to the leaderships signals about the actions it expects. Right now, the clearest signal is that the leadership expects all Republicans to lock arms around Trump, no matter what he has done in the past or plans for the future. The guardrails, said Dach of the Congressional Integrity Project, are gone.

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Justin Timberlake addresses ‘tough week’ at first concert since drink-driving arrest

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Justin Timberlake addresses 'tough week' at first concert since drink-driving arrest

Justin Timberlake has performed his first gig since his arrest for alleged drink-driving, telling the crowd it had been a “tough week”. 

The US star is currently on his The Forget Tomorrow World Tour and performed in Chicago on Friday night after being arrested earlier this week.

He told the screaming crowd: “We’ve been together through ups and downs, lefts and rights.

“It’s been a tough week, but you’re here and I’m here, and nothing can change this moment right now.”

The singer appeared emotional as he added: “I know sometimes I’m hard to love but you keep on loving me and I love you right back.”

Timberlake was in Long Island in New York state – having reportedly had dinner with friends – when he was pulled over by police in the early hours of Tuesday.

Officers said the 43-year-old had failed to pause at a stop sign and was seen not being able to stay in his lane.

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Timberlake’s car caught on CCTV

Timberlake was held overnight and formally charged with a DWI (driving while intoxicated) misdemeanour at Sag Harbor Village Justice Court on Tuesday morning before being released.

According to a source talking to Page Six, the officer who pulled Timberlake over “was so young that he didn’t even know” who the star was.

A second source told the celebrity news outlet that during the arrest, Timberlake said: “This is going to ruin the tour.”

Justin Timberlake.
Pic: Sag Harbor/Reuters
Image:
Timberlake’s mugshot after his arrest. Pic: Sag Harbor/Reuters

Timberlake, who rose to fame with boyband NSYNC before finding huge success as a solo artist with hits including Like I Love You, Cry Me A River, SexyBack and Mirrors, is due to perform in Chicago again on Saturday night.

Further shows are scheduled across the US, Canada and Europe between June and December.

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According to court documents filed about the star’s arrest, there was “a strong odour of an alcoholic beverage… emanating from his breath, he was unable to divide attention, he had slowed speech, he was unsteady afoot and he performed poorly on all standardised field sobriety tests”.

Timberlake also told officers he had one martini and was following some friends home, and refused to take a breath test.

His lawyer has said he is “looking forward to vigorously defending” the singer.

Timberlake’s next court date is scheduled for 26 July.

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Justin Timberlake addresses ‘tough week’ at first concert since drink-driving arrest

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By

Justin Timberlake addresses 'tough week' at first concert since drink-driving arrest

Justin Timberlake has performed his first gig since his arrest for alleged drink-driving, telling the crowd it had been a “tough week”. 

The US star is currently on his The Forget Tomorrow World Tour and performed in Chicago on Friday night after being arrested earlier this week.

He told the screaming crowd: “We’ve been together through ups and downs, lefts and rights.

“It’s been a tough week, but you’re here and I’m here, and nothing can change this moment right now.”

The singer appeared emotional as he added: “I know sometimes I’m hard to love but you keep on loving me and I love you right back.”

Timberlake was in Long Island in New York state – having reportedly had dinner with friends – when he was pulled over by police in the early hours of Tuesday.

Officers said the 43-year-old had failed to pause at a stop sign and was seen not being able to stay in his lane.

Please use Chrome browser for a more accessible video player

Timberlake’s car caught on CCTV

Timberlake was held overnight and formally charged with a DWI (driving while intoxicated) misdemeanour at Sag Harbor Village Justice Court on Tuesday morning before being released.

According to a source talking to Page Six, the officer who pulled Timberlake over “was so young that he didn’t even know” who the star was.

A second source told the celebrity news outlet that during the arrest, Timberlake said: “This is going to ruin the tour.”

Justin Timberlake.
Pic: Sag Harbor/Reuters
Image:
Timberlake’s mugshot after his arrest. Pic: Sag Harbor/Reuters

Timberlake, who rose to fame with boyband NSYNC before finding huge success as a solo artist with hits including Like I Love You, Cry Me A River, SexyBack and Mirrors, is due to perform in Chicago again on Saturday night.

Further shows are scheduled across the US, Canada and Europe between June and December.

Follow Sky News on WhatsApp
Follow Sky News on WhatsApp

Keep up with all the latest news from the UK and around the world by following Sky News

Tap here

According to court documents filed about the star’s arrest, there was “a strong odour of an alcoholic beverage… emanating from his breath, he was unable to divide attention, he had slowed speech, he was unsteady afoot and he performed poorly on all standardised field sobriety tests”.

Timberlake also told officers he had one martini and was following some friends home, and refused to take a breath test.

His lawyer has said he is “looking forward to vigorously defending” the singer.

Timberlake’s next court date is scheduled for 26 July.

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Arkansas supermarket shooting leaves three dead and 10 wounded as gunman arrested

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Arkansas supermarket shooting leaves three dead and 10 wounded as gunman arrested

A supermarket shooting in Arkansas, US, has left three people dead and 10 others wounded.

Parked cars and shop windows were left riddled with bullet holes after a gunman opened fire on Friday, forcing bystanders to dive for cover.

Among the injured were two police officers who shot back at the gunman – before he was arrested.

The incident took place around 11.30am local time at the Mad Butcher supermarket in Fordyce – a city of just over 3,000 people located 65 miles south of Little Rock.

Colonel Mike Hagar, director of Arkansas State Police, told reporters: “It’s tragic, our hearts are broken”.

The gunman was identified by police as 44-year-old Travis Eugene Posey.

Posey was taken to jail and charged with three counts of murder.

Other charges are still pending and no court date has been set, according to the inmate roster.

Pic: AP
Image:
Police on the scene of the attack in the aftermath of the shooting. Pic: AP

Neither Posey’s, nor the officers’ injuries were life threatening, but among the others the injuries ranged from “not life-threatening to extremely critical”, Col Hagar said.

It wasn’t immediately clear what the motive for the shooting was, nor if it took place predominantly inside or outside the shop.

Roderick Rogers, a member of the city council, witnessed the attack.

He said he saw people fleeing for cover in all directions and added: “People were just jumping into cars to get to safety.”

Law enforcement officers work the scene of the shooting. Pic: AP
Image:
Law enforcement officers work the scene of the shooting. Pic: AP

Amiya Doherty said she was in her mum’s car in the car park of the shop when she heard what she thought were fireworks.

But she then saw a man holding a gun and firing and said she ducked out of view.

“I held my sister’s hand and I told her I love her,” Ms Doherty told Little Rock television station KATV.

Images from the scene showed a slew of bullet holes in the grocery store’s window, and spent shell casings strewn throughout the parking lot.

The shooting took place at the Mad Butcher grocery store in Fordyce, Arkansas. Pic: AP
Image:
The shooting took place at the Mad Butcher grocery store in Fordyce, Arkansas. Pic: AP

Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders said she had been briefed on the shooting.

In a post on social media she added: “I am thankful to law enforcement and first responders for their quick and heroic action to save lives.

“My prayers are with the victims and all those impacted by this.”

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Shocking moment drunk driver ploughs into cyclists
Republican ‘sorry’ for repeatedly pouring water in colleague’s bag

The White House said President Joe Biden has been briefed on the shooting and his team will continue to keep him updated.

David Rodriguez, 58, had stopped at his local petrol station in the town when he heard what he thought were fireworks.

But he too saw people fleeing from the shop and one person lying on the ground.

“The police started to show up, and then there was massive gunfire and ambulances pulling up,” he said.

“The bullets were just flying.”

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