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Week in politics: Congress clash over military promotions, Trump's legal troubles

SCOTT SIMON, HOST:

Turn our attention now to the U.S. Navy, 'cause that's where we begin with NPR senior Washington editor and correspondent Ron Elving. Ron, thanks for being with us.

RON ELVING, BYLINE: Good to be aboard, Scott.

SIMON: (Laughter) I just got that. President Biden wants Admiral Lisa Franchetti, the current vice chief of naval operations, to be the next chief. This may not sound like a "House Of Cards" episode, but it does set up some drama, doesn't it?

ELVING: Indeed it does. Now, this would normally be routine business. The Senate confirms hundreds of military promotions a year, and they do them in batches. But right now, one senator, first-term Republican Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, has blocked all the Pentagon's confirmations since February. We're approaching 300 of them now. That includes this historic appointment of Admiral Franchetti, the first woman to be named to the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who are, of course, the top uniformed officers in our military. Tuberville is staging this blockade because he wants the Pentagon to stop granting paid leave and travel expenses for women in the military who must go out of the state they're based in for an abortion because of state laws. He says that amounts to taxpayers paying for abortions.

SIMON: And lawmakers entertained a code of conduct for U.S. judges this week. Sounds promising - where's it going?

ELVING: It was approved by the Senate Judiciary Committee on a straight party-line vote, and it may well get a vote on the Senate floor where it could prevail on a straight party-line vote. This is in response, of course, to the reporting on lavish gifts to some of the justices and also misuse of court staff by some of the justices. There is not much hope for this legislation in the current House, but at least it shows the senators most responsible for overseeing the court are on the case.

SIMON: Fair amount of movement in former President Trump's various legal cases. Let me just tee up some names - Aileen Cannon, Michael Cohen, Jack Smith.

ELVING: Yes, it seems the former president needs to be thinking about lawyers all the time. Aileen Cannon is the judge in the Mar-a-Lago documents case. Yesterday, she set a trial date for next May. Trump's lawyers had asked for it to be put off until after the 2024 election. Jack Smith is the special prosecutor in that case and also in the case of the January 6 riot at the Capitol. He's expected to indict Trump in that case as well, and that could come any day now. And Michael Cohen is, of course, the former attorney who formerly worked for the former president. This week, he settled a million-dollar claim against the Trump Organization for unpaid legal fees, but he is still expected to testify in upcoming cases against Trump. And Trump is also suing Cohen for hundreds of millions of dollars for his statements and actions against Trump.

SIMON: Oh, and Ron, you and I share a love for the art of the late Tony Bennett, who left us this week.

ELVING: I didn't have the personal connection to him you've had, Scott, but I did love his music and the way he reached out to other musicians, recording with them, promoting them. The night before this news came, my wife and I had been listening to an album just by coincidence that Tony made with the jazz pianist Bill Evans...

SIMON: Yeah.

ELVING: ...On Thursday night. And then we clicked over to a YouTube playlist of his material, listened for a long time, so we were able to leave our hearts with him once more while he was still with us.

SIMON: Yeah. Yeah, we'll speak of that now. NPR's Ron Elving. Thanks so much.

ELVING: Thank you, Scott. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Scott Simon is one of America's most admired writers and broadcasters. He is the host of Weekend Edition Saturday and is one of the hosts of NPR's morning news podcast Up First. He has reported from all fifty states, five continents, and ten wars, from El Salvador to Sarajevo to Afghanistan and Iraq. His books have chronicled character and characters, in war and peace, sports and art, tragedy and comedy.
Ron Elving is Senior Editor and Correspondent on the Washington Desk for NPR News, where he is frequently heard as a news analyst and writes regularly for NPR.org.

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