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Though several Republican candidates were openly running in the MAGA lane, Trump and his legacy didn’t dominate the race until the final weeks. There was a behind-the-scenes jockeying for his endorsement by allies of some leading GOP candidates, and on Monday he made his allegiance known and endorsed Wright, a clear power play that comes with some risk.

Saturday’s voting almost certainly won’t be the final word on the race — in Texas special elections, the top two vote-getters, regardless of party, advance to a runoff if no candidate wins a majority. Prior to receiving Trump’s endorsement, Wright had high name recognition but less campaign cash than her GOP opponents.

The Club for Growth lured Trump off the sidelines after spending some $150,000 on ads painting Wright’s main opponent, state Rep. Jake Ellzey, as an “anti-Trump” Republican, citing a donation from Bill Kristol, the conservative commentator and Trump critic.

“He wants to be with winners, but he also wants to show that he’s still the leader of the party,” said David McIntosh, the Club president and former Indiana congressman who encouraged Trump to back Wright. “That was our goal — to make it a race where Trump’s endorsement really mattered.”

Neither Ellzey nor Wright has discussed the former president much on the trail or made him a central theme of their campaign. Trump also bypassed endorsing another top candidate, Brian Harrison, a former health official in his administration who has constantly linked himself to the former president.

The Club for Growth said it invited tens of thousands of Republican voters in the district to the virtual event on Thursday, including “low-propensity Trump voters.”

Though Trump’s appearance on the town hall was brief, he breezed through a large number of topics, blaming Biden for everything from high gas prices to the border crisis. He also predicted Republicans would retake the House and celebrated his 2020 victory there.

“I appreciate the big win we had in Texas,” he said.

Yet Trump’s entrance onto the special election stage adds an additional wrinkle. Even before his endorsement, there was some uncertainty over how helpful a presence he would be in a district that has a fair number of Biden Republicans. Trump only won it by 3 points in 2020, even as the late Ron Wright won by 9 points.

“The reality with Trump is that Trump had tons of supporters. But he also has a lot of people that were not as heavy supporters from both parties,” Rick Barnes, the Tarrant County GOP chair who is backing Wright, said in an interview last week. “A lot of people have moved on, beyond all of that, realizing that that future may or may not include Trump. And so we can’t continue to sit around and let that be the lead conversation.”

Most polling from both parties shows a four-way race to make it into the yet-to-be-scheduled runoff with three Republicans — Wright, Ellzey and Harrison — and Democrat Jana Lynne Sanchez, who ran for the seat in 2018, all in the running.

The larger field of Republicans includes some interesting characters, including Dan Rodimer, a former pro wrestler who ran for Congress last year in Nevada; Sery Kim, a former Trump administration official whose nativist rhetoric disparaging Chinese immigrants lost her key endorsements; and Michael Wood, who is running as an explicit anti-Trump Republican with the backing of Rep. Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). But none has gained much traction.

While Wright enjoys high name ID in the district, Harrison, a former chief of staff at the Health and Human Services department, has raised the most money and is the only one running broadcast TV ads. Ellzey, meanwhile, has a strong base in Ellis County, which includes a sizable swath of GOP voters, but he has had to weather a barrage of negative ads against him. (He also has outside groups supporting him.)


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Ellzey has largely avoided mentioning Trump on the trail, instead touting a forward-looking message. He’s spending the final day of campaigning on Friday touring the district with former Gov. Rick Perry, who also served in Trump’s cabinet.

“I think he did a lot of good things for our country,” Ellzey said of Trump in an interview last month. At the time, Ellzey said he would have appreciated Trump’s endorsement, but added: “I run my own campaign, right? I am not responsible for anybody else’s words, actions or deeds.”

In much of the early campaign, Wright also treaded carefully around Trump, stressing her support for his policies and her long career in local Republican politics. Before he passed away following a battle with Covid-19, Ron Wright was a reliable Trump supporter, including voting to reject the 2020 presidential election results in Arizona and Pennsylvania.

McIntosh, who said he speaks with Trump about downballot races from time to time, encouraged him to back Wright and made him aware of their attacks to cast Ellzey as anti-Trump. It was Trump, he said, that suggested the tele-town hall.

This district, which includes the Fort Worth-centered Tarrant County and its southwest suburbs, is one of nine Republican-held seats in Texas where Trump got less than 51 percent of the vote. Because Ron Wright carried the district easily, even as Trump’s support cratered, this race could reveal more about whether surbuban voters were just souring on Trump or on the Republican Party more broadly.

Democrats in the race are hoping for the latter and are eager to make a play for traditional Republicans who punched their ballots for Biden in 2020 — but first, one of them has to advance on Saturday.

“Nothing could be a worse omen for the Democratic Party than to have a winnable district like this with two Republicans in the runoff,” Sanchez said in an interview, warning about a splintered Democratic electorate. “That would be very embarrassing and very disheartening.”

In fact, deprived of their chief villain, who juiced fundraising and especially turnout, Democrats are staring down the possibility of a shutout because of Texas’ top-two rule to make the runoff.

Their struggles in the district stand in stark contrast to the blockbuster special elections of the last four years, when their party’s candidates were buoyed by small-dollar donors eager to send a message to Trump. With Democrats now in control of Congress and the White House, the party’s candidates have to work harder to illustrate the stakes of electing a Republican to Congress.

“People are still trying to win using the Trump playbook,” Bean said. “And we can’t rest until we really show them that that doesn’t pay, that they’re gonna lose.”

National Republicans are eager for a Democratic shutout — though they concede that’s, ironically, less likely now that Trump has weighed in. Regardless, the GOP will be favored in a runoff against a Democrat.

And Wright’s supporters say she would enter the runoff in strong position. She hasn’t run as an unabashed MAGA supporter, but she now carries Trump’s endorsement.

“We look for candidates that are the combination of two things,” McIntosh said of the Club. “They really have a grounding and understanding of limited government principles, and can appeal to those Trump primary voters so they can unite all the different elements of the Republican Party.”



Black Lives Matter thought they had Washington’s ear. Now they feel shut out.





Now, leading Black activists say those issues aren’t getting the hearing they deserve.

“It was grassroots and base building organizations that put our issues at the forefront. That’s who delivered this win to the administration,” said Amara Enyia, policy director for the Movement for Black Lives. “At minimum, those folks should be given an audience.”

Part of the disconnect may be the cultural gap between activists — for whom justice is an absolute, but attainable ideal — and politicians, who deal with the messy realities of governing, forging compromise, and accepting incremental wins. Many BLM leaders, for instance, pushed to “defund” city police departments, only to find little appetite among lawmakers for what was widely seen as a politically suicidal position.

On Sunday, House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-S.C.) signaled that he was willing to water down qualified immunity, which currently shields officers from civil liability for misdeeds, in order to pass some sort of policing reform legislation.

“Well, I will never sacrifice good on the altar of perfect. I just won’t do that,” Clyburn told CNN. “I just won’t do that. … Sometimes you have to compromise.”

So while, at the outset of the new Congress, movement leaders stressed they wanted to play a role in enacting policy change, and insisted they weren’t interested in empty rhetoric or piecemeal reforms, they’re now reassessing that approach as frustration sets in.

Now, where there was once more momentum behind the push for sweeping systemic change, bureaucratic policy hurdles and political calculations have pushed activists with the Movement for Black Lives back to the sidelines.

While this has forced activists to refocus their efforts, they maintain that their organizing is multi-dimensional. And they’ve amassed a sizable war chest. The Black Lives Matter Global Network, armed with more than $90 million in fundraising following last summer’s protests, has channeled those funds into initiatives and campaigns. One, launched in February, targets police unions and police budgets–efforts that have the most heft at state and local levels.

They’ve also used that funding to publicize their assessment of Joe Biden’s performance as he passed the 100-day mark. A recent advertisement paid for by the Black Lives Matter Global Network, criticized the administration’s handling of police reform. The ad, which aired in Washington, D.C., for a limited time, specifically condemns what they see as Biden’s lack of action on the transfer of military equipment to law enforcement.

“We are the people who elected Biden,” the ad says. “It’s time he started acting like it.”

When asked for comment, a White House official did not specify where talks with movement leaders stand. The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly explain the administration’s stance, said there is an “open and ongoing dialogue” between senior White House officials and leaders of the movement as well as with legacy civil rights organizations.

Movement leaders also met with members of Congress early in the planning stages for the Justice in Policing Act last summer and asked for a platform to outline the BREATHE Act, several activists said. However, even those they view as allies on the Hill — including Rep. Karen Bass (D-Calif.), who is spearheading police reform discussions — were unwilling to diverge from the bill’s core tenets.

As members of Congress continue to hash out a bill to pass with enough Democrats and Republicans in the Senate, activists say they have not been included in any of those discussions.

Melina Abdullah, a co-founder of Black Lives Matter Los Angeles and one of the movement’s first lead organizers, said movement leaders have not abandoned their national advocacy work.

She pointed to a number of allies in Congress like Bass with whom she and other leaders have had “critical conversations” in the past about the movement’s role in policymaking.

“One of the things we’re looking at moving forward is having a better relationship [with lawmakers],” Abdullah said. “So rather than lawmakers making laws without the input of a movement that gives traction to them, we want to do a better job of coordinating on the front end.”


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But complicating things is the fact that movement leaders stand vehemently against the Justice in Policing Act, which Congress drafted as a response to their protests. They argue that instead of holding officers accountable, the bill — which passed the House in March — actually gives more funds to law enforcement. Moreover, activists say, police de-escalation training, universal body cameras and data to track use of force, all provisions of the Justice in Policing Act, don’t go far enough.

The bill “requires that police be the fixers of their own problems,” said Karissa Lewis, national field director for the Movement for Black Lives. “And we know that that just has not been a successful strategy.”

Still, the Movement for Black Lives has come out in favor of some national policies that have implications for the work they do on the state level. Activists point to both the For the People Act and John Lewis Voting Rights Act as critical to their work. If passed, the bills would curb a number of the provisions in state laws that limit access to the ballot.

Organizers said they were happy to hear Senate Majority Leader ´ say that he would like to pass a major voting rights bill by August, though it’s not clear how he would do so without reforming Senate rules.

And there are activists who are continuing their work locally. A national platform, they say, was never one of their chief goals. Following an unsuccessful effort to reallocate police funds in Minneapolis last summer, activists there say they’re doubling down on their push for more comprehensive public safety plans that give community members more power.

“We know the history of the failure, where we’re expecting [police] to reform themselves,” said D.A. Bullock, a lead organizer with the Minneapolis-based group Reclaim the Block. “We know that’s not possible. We’re looking to a more fundamental change in the way we do public safety.”

Nor do they see Derek Chauvin’s conviction as the final chapter following last year’s organizing against police violence and systemic racism under the umbrella of a “racial reckoning.”

“People are still asking this question of, ‘is anything coming?’ Yes, it’s coming. It’s happening on the local and state level,” said Maurice Mitchell, national director of the Working Families Party and lead organizer with the Movement for Black Lives.

Still, Mitchell added that he and other lead organizers feel they are “duty bound to ensure that [police reform] happens on the federal level.”

Mitchell called for Biden to issue more executive orders and make full use of the bully pulpit to pressure Congress to act quickly on criminal justice reform as discussions around the Justice in Policing Act seem unlikely to conclude in time for Biden’s May 25 consensus deadline.

Federal legislation, activists argue, should address the root causes of the issue: A system of law enforcement that disproportionately harms communities of color. And that means they’ll continue to push for a public safety overhaul — and lobby those members of Congress willing to hear them out.

“We’re not interested in easy solutions, and we’re not interested in nibbling around the edges,” Mitchell said. “This is an urgent and real crisis for us.”

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Palestinians, Israel trade new rocket fire and airstrikes





In recent weeks, tension has been soaring in Jerusalem, marked by clashes between Palestinian protesters and Israeli police in the walled Old City, located in east Jerusalem which Israel captured and annexed in the 1967 war.

One of the flashpoints in the Old City has been the Al-Aqsa Mosque compound, the third holiest site of Islam and the holiest site of Judaism. Another driver of Palestinian anger has been the threatened eviction of Palestinian families from homes in an east Jerusalem neighborhood by Israeli settlers.

Monday was a long day of anger and deadly violence, laying bare Jerusalem’s deep divisions, even as Israel tried to celebrate its capture of the city’s eastern sector and its sensitive holy sites more than half a century ago. With dozens of rockets flying into Israel throughout the night, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu met with top security officials and warned that the fighting could drag on, despite calls for calm from the U.S., Europe and elsewhere.

Hamas, the militant group ruling the Gaza Strip, fired dozens of rockets Monday evening, setting off air raid sirens as far as Jerusalem. The barrage came after Hamas had given Israel a deadline to withdraw forces from the Al-Aqsa compound.

By Tuesday morning, Hamas and other Gaza militants had fired more than 200 rockets. That included a barrage of six rockets that targeted Jerusalem, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) away. It set off air raid sirens throughout Jerusalem, and explosions could be heard in what was believed to be the first time the city had been targeted since a 2014 war.

There appeared to be some first signs of de-escalation in Jerusalem early Tuesday. Palestinian worshippers performed the dawn prayer at the mosque without confrontations as Israel apparently limited the presence of its police officers around the compound. Amateur videos showed dozens of faithful marching to the mosque and chanting “we sacrifice our blood, soul for Al-Aqsa.”

In Gaza, an Israeli drone strike killed a man in the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis early Tuesday, according to local media reports. In another strike, a woman and two men were killed when a missile struck the upper floors of an apartment building in the Shati refugee camp on the edge of Gaza City, according to Gaza Health Ministry and rescue services.

Hamas’ armed wing said it intensified the rocket barrages following the airstrike on the house.

The Israeli military said it had carried out dozens of airstrikes across Gaza overnight, targeting what it said were Hamas military installations and operatives. It said a Hamas tunnel, rocket launchers and at least eight militants had been hit.

Dozens of rockets were intercepted by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system. But one landed near a home on the outskirts of Jerusalem, causing light damage to the structure and sparking a brush fire nearby. In southern Israel, an Israeli man was lightly wounded after a missile struck a vehicle.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said that “terrorist organizations in Gaza have crossed a red line and attacked us with missiles in the outskirts of Jerusalem.”

He said fighting could continue for some time and that “”whoever attacks us will pay a heavy price,” he said, warning that the fighting could “continue for some time.”

Gaza health officials gave no further breakdowns on the casualties. At least 15 of the 22 deaths in Gaza were attributed to the airstrikes. Seven of the deaths were members of a single family, including three children, who died in a mysterious explosion in the northern Gaza town of Beit Hanoun. It was not clear if the blast was caused by an Israeli airstrike or errant rocket. More than 100 Gazans were wounded in the airstrikes, the Health Ministry said.


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In a statement issued early Tuesday, Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh said the rocket attacks would continue until Israel stops “all scenes of terrorism and aggression in Jerusalem and Al-Aqsa mosque.”

Tensions at the site, known to Muslims as the Noble Sanctuary and to Jews as the Temple Mount, have triggered repeated bouts of violence in the past.

In Monday’s unrest, Israeli police fired tear gas, stun grenades and rubber bullets in clashes with stone-throwing Palestinians at the compound.

More than a dozen tear gas canisters and stun grenades landed in the mosque as police and protesters faced off inside the walled compound that surrounds it, said an Associated Press photographer at the scene. Smoke rose in front of the mosque and the golden-domed shrine on the site, and rocks littered the nearby plaza. Inside one area of the compound, shoes and debris lay scattered over ornate carpets.

Over 600 Palestinians were hurt in Jerusalem alone, including more than 400 who required care at hospitals and clinics, according to the Palestinian Red Crescent.

Palestinians and police reported renewed clashes late Monday. Israeli police also reported unrest in northern Israel, where Arab protesters burned tires and threw stones and fireworks at security forces. Police said 46 people were arrested.

Monday’s confrontations came after weeks of almost nightly clashes between Palestinians and Israeli police in the Old City of Jerusalem during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The month tends to be a time of heightened religious sensitivities.

Most recently, the tensions have been fueled by the planned eviction of dozens of Palestinians from the Sheikh Jarrah neighborhood of east Jerusalem, where Israeli settlers have waged a lengthy legal battle to take over properties.

Israel’s Supreme Court postponed a key ruling Monday in the case, citing the “circumstances.”

In Washington, State Department spokesman Ned Price condemned “in the strongest terms” the rocket fire on Israel and called on all sides to calm the situation.

“More broadly, we’re deeply concerned about the situation in Israel, the West Bank and the Gaza Strip, including violent confrontations in Jerusalem,” he said. He said the U.S. would remain “fully engaged” and praised steps by Israel to cool things down, including the court delay in the eviction case.

In an apparent attempt to avoid further confrontation, Israeli authorities changed the planned route of a march by thousands of flag-waving nationalist Jews through the Muslim Quarter of the Old City to mark Jerusalem Day.

The annual festival is meant to celebrate Israel’s capture of east Jerusalem in the 1967 Mideast war. But it is widely seen as a provocation because the route goes through the heart of Palestinian areas.

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Vatican warns U.S. bishops about rebuking Biden, other Catholic pols





Ladaria, in his letter, said any new policy “requires that dialogue occurs in two stages: first among the bishops themselves, and then between bishops and Catholic pro-choice politicians within their jurisdictions.”

Even then, Ladaria advised, the bishops should seek unanimous support within their ranks for any national policy, lest it become “a source of discord rather than unity within the episcopate and the larger church in the United States.”

Ladaria made several other points that could complicate the plans of bishops pressing for tough action:

— He said any new statement should not be limited to Catholic political leaders but broadened to encompass all churchgoing Catholics in regard to their worthiness to receive Communion.

— He questioned the USCCB policy identifying abortion as “the preeminent” moral issue, saying it would be misleading if any new document “were to give the impression that abortion and euthanasia alone constitute the only grave matters of Catholic moral and social teaching that demand the fullest accountability on the part of Catholics.”

— He said that if the U.S. bishops pursue a new policy, they should confer with bishops’ conferences in other countries “both to learn from one another and to preserve unity in the universal church.”


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— He said any new policy could not override the authority of individual bishops to make decisions on who can receive Communion in their dioceses. Cardinal Wilton Gregory, the archbishop of Washington, D.C., has made clear that Biden is welcome to receive Communion at churches in the archdiocese.

Among the leaders of the campaign to rebuke Biden is Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco, who recently issued a pastoral letter arguing that Catholic politicians who support abortion rights should not receive Communion. A few days later, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego published an essay saying such an initiative “will bring tremendously destructive consequences.”

Ladaria’s letter was dated May 7. It was first reported Monday by Catholic News Service and the Jesuit magazine America.

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