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SCOTUS takes on Trump immunity case; Gaza death toll surpasses 30,000

The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 14.
Bloomberg via Getty Images
The Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on Feb. 14.

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Today's top stories

The Supreme Court will hear arguments in April over whether former President Donald Trump is immune from prosecution for actions taken while in office. Their ruling — and how soon it comes — will determine whether Trump will stand trial in Washington, D.C., before this year's presidential election. Trump faces four felony charges related to his efforts to cling to power after the 2020 election.

  • "This is another big victory for Trump," NPR's Carrie Johnson tells Up First. He's been trying to delay his trial until after the November election and has made it clear he could tell the Justice Department to drop the case or pardon himself if elected president. If the justices decide the case by June with no questions for the lower court, Trump could face a D.C. jury by September. But Johnson says, "The timeline is very tight, and the clock is ticking."
  • Trump is facing several legal battles on the state and federal level. Here's where they stand now. 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell will step from his leadership position at the end of the year. He's the longest-serving U.S. Senate leader in history. In a speech on the Senate floor yesterday, McConnell said he intended to serve the rest of his Senate term, which ends in 2027.

  • McConnell leaves a lasting mark in Washington for his efforts over the decades to shape the federal judiciary, NPR's Dierdre Walsh reports. In 2016, he withheld a vote on then-President Obama's nominee to fill a Supreme Court vacancy. He then shepherded in three Trump nominees. Walsh reports we'll see the impact and consequences of the 6-3 conservative majority in the court for decades to come.
  • McConnell also announced yesterday in a joint statement with House Speaker Mike Johnson, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and House and Senate appropriations leads that Congress had reached a deal to extend current funding deadlines to avert a partial government shutdown tomorrow. 

More than 30,000 people have been killed in Gaza since the war began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. Israel launched the nearly five-month-long war after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack that killed more than 1,200 people.

  • NPR's Aya Batrawy reports that most deaths since the war began are women and children. Communications blackouts and Israeli raids on hospitals, which the ministry relies on for data, have created challenges for compiling accurate numbers. But Batrawy says the health ministry's numbers are still "widely seen as the most reliable ones available." A senior Palestinian Health Ministry official in the West Bank who works closely with the hospitals in Gaza tells her the death toll is an underestimate because there are thousands of people missing or buried under rubble. The count also doesn't include people dying of disease or lack of treatment. 

Biden and Trump are both visiting the southern U.S. border in Texas today. It's the second trip Biden has made to the border during his presidency and comes at a time when Biden is taking the offensive on an issue that has been a liability for him: immigration. A recent NPR poll showed only 29% of respondents approved of how Biden is handling immigration.

  • NPR's Franco Ordoñez reports that Trump's objective today is simple: Highlight the problems on the border, tie them to Biden's policy and present himself as the only person who can fix them. Biden, meanwhile, is likely to blame Trump for torpedoing an effort to pass bipartisan legislation that would have tightened asylum rules and expanded detention facilities. 

Deep dive

A still from the video game Life Is Strange.
/ Square Enix
Square Enix
A still from the video game Life Is Strange.

Nearly one in five American gamers identifies as LGBTQ+, according to a new study by Nielsen and the advocacy group GLAAD. But less than 2% of video games feature LGBTQ+ characters or storylines. NPR's Kaity Kline speaks with gamers, designers and researchers to break down the disparity:

  • Veronica Ripley plays video games for a living. Ripley is trans and says video games were critical to her understanding of gender.
  • People have thought for decades that the audience for video games is a small group of adolescent, cisgender, white, heterosexual men. Researcher Adriene Shaw says this hasn't been true for a long time. 
  • Contrary to what game developers may believe, LGBTQ+ representation doesn't dissuade non-LGBTQ+ gamers or affect their likelihood of playing or buying a game.
  • Michel Koch, co-creator of the game Life Is Strange, says companies are still reluctant because video games are a business, and there's a risk LGBTQ+ themes will affect how a game does overseas.

Listen to Kline's full story on Morning Edition here.

Today's listen

A screenshot from the YouTube upload of the song "Everyone Knows That (Ulterior Motives).
/ NPR/Youtube
A screenshot from the YouTube upload of the song "Everyone Knows That (Ulterior Motives).

Everyone on the internet is grabbing their sleuthing caps to solve the mystery behind a 17-second snippet of a pop song. The clip is known as "Everyone Knows That (Ulterior Motives)." It became an internet phenomenon after a user called Carl92 uploaded the clip to an online crowdsourcing site. Countless TikTok videos, conspiracy theories and an entire subreddit have been dedicated to the song, but no one has identified the artist.

  • Listen to the song here — maybe you'll be the person that solves this mystery.

3 things to know before you go

Delbert Anderson is a jazz musician from northern New Mexico.
Jeff Kearney / KSUT
Delbert Anderson is a jazz musician from northern New Mexico.

  1. Navajo jazz musician Delbert Anderson and four others recently gathered in northern New Mexico to play a single note. The next one won't be played until April. It's part of a four-and-a-half-year performance reflecting on the Long Walk of Navajo when the Dine people were forcibly removed from the area.
  2. A few years ago, Ben Gomes received a call saying his then 92-year-old grandmother, Thomasinha, had been hospitalized after being "dragged by a car." After recently celebrating her 96th birthday, he reflects on his gratitude for his grandma's unsung hero, who stopped the car.
  3. Sir, this is a Wendy's (not an Uber). The fast-food joint reassured customers it's not introducing "surge pricing" with new digital menu boards. Rather, it would be offering discounts during slower times of the day.

This newsletter was edited by Majd Al-Waheidi.

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