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The Excerpt podcast: Sandra Day O'Connor dies at 93, Santos expelled from Congress

On Saturday's episode of The Excerpt podcast: Former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has died. Rep. George Santos has been expelled from Congress. USA TODAY Justice Department Correspondent Bart Jansen breaks down the impact of Donald Trump's gag orders. Israel resumes airstrikes in Gaza. The 'Golden Bachelor' sits down with USA TODAY.

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Hit play on the player above to hear the podcast and follow along with the transcript below. This transcript was automatically generated, and then edited for clarity in its current form. There may be some differences between the audio and the text.

Taylor Wilson:

Good morning. I'm Taylor Wilson, and today is Saturday, December 2nd, 2023. This is The Excerpt.

Today, remembering former Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, plus George Santos has been expelled from Congress, and we hear from the Golden Bachelor.

Retired Supreme Court Justice Sandra Day O'Connor has died. She was the first woman to serve on the nation's highest court and was a crucial swing vote during her nearly 25 year tenure. She was President Ronald Reagan's first nominee to the Supreme Court, joining in 1981 after previously serving as majority leader in Arizona State Senate. Also, the first woman to hold that title in the nation.

During her time on the Supreme Court, O'Connor was often a pivotal vote in blockbuster cases. That includes helping to craft a 1992 opinion and Planned Parenthood versus Casey, which upheld a woman's right to an abortion, but allowed states to impose additional restrictions. That decision along with the 1973 ruling in Roe versus Wade was overruled by the court's conservative majority last year.

O'Connor also cast decisive swing votes in landmark cases involving affirmative action, environmental protection, and religious freedom. Raised on an Arizona cattle ranch, she called herself the first cowgirl to serve on the Supreme Court. She stepped down from the court in 2006 to care for her husband, John Jay O'Connor, who had advanced Alzheimer's and died in 2009.

After an active post court career, including serving as Chancellor of the College of William and Mary, O'Connor largely remained out of public view following her dementia diagnosis in 2018. Sandra Day O'Connor was 93.

Embattled Republican Congressman George Santos has been expelled from Congress. The House voted yesterday to boot him from the chamber by a bipartisan vote of 311 to 114. An expulsion vote requires a two-thirds vote to pass, a heavy lift in the divided house. The vote came after a scathing house ethics committee report found substantial evidence that Santos misused campaign funds for his own personal benefit and committed federal crimes.

Lawmakers who voted against Santos's expulsion did not try to defend his alleged misconduct, but they expressed concerns over setting a new precedent in Congress. Only two House members have been expelled in modern times and both were convicted of crimes before their expulsions. Those who pushed for Santos to be expelled took a victory lap, but also were frustrated he hadn't stepped down in the first place.

Former President Donald Trump faces gag orders or restricted speech in three of his ongoing legal sagas. He says they interfere with his 2024 presidential campaign, while judges are trying to protect staffers and witnesses. I spoke with USA Today Justice Department correspondent Bart Jansen for more.

Bart, thanks for hopping on.

Bart Jansen:

Thanks for having me.

Taylor Wilson:

Bart, I want to just walk through these gag orders Trump currently faces. We've talked about what's happened in the New York civil fraud trial a bit here on the show. Can you refresh our listeners how this gag order came to be?

Bart Jansen:

The New York case is a civil fraud case. We're still in the middle of it. It's going to run till toward the end of the year. Trump has been critical of the clerk who assists the judge in that case. He thinks she's partisan, he thinks she's got too much influence over the judge, and so the judge issued an order saying, "You can't talk about my court staff." Then, through two violations of that order, Trump has been fined $15,000. He appealed the order and we just got a decision on Thursday from an appellate court saying the order would stand for now. The appeals panel is still considering the entire case, but at this point the gag order is on in the New York case.

Taylor Wilson:

Trump also faces a gag order in the federal election conspiracy case. What's that issue here, Bart?

Bart Jansen:

That trial is scheduled for March 4th, and in that the federal judge issued a gag order saying no talking about prosecutors, court staff, or potential witnesses in the case. It's a little bit broader. Her goal is to ensure a fair trial. Doesn't want too much information out tainting whatever witnesses might have to say in that case. Trump has also appealed that order, and we just had oral arguments at the DC Circuit Court of Appeals on November 20th. We're waiting for a decision from that court, and that's maybe the bigger deal because it would be a Federal Circuit for an entire region and potentially affect how these orders are viewed in a broader way, potentially nationwide. How much can you say about a criminal case while it's still pending? How do you balance First Amendment rights of the speaker against the Fifth Amendment rights of a fair trial?

Taylor Wilson:

Trump's bond agreement in the Georgia election racketeering case has some pretty specific requirements about who he can speak with. What are the conditions in this case?

Bart Jansen:

In that case, his bond agreement required that he not contact witnesses in that case and not threaten or intimidate them. It's similar to a gag order, but it was part of the bond agreement. Of course, he has not challenged that. That was something he had to sign just to get released as the charges were filed. Those are the three major restrictions on his speech in those cases that are pending against him.

Taylor Wilson:

Bart, trying to get to the heart of the impact of these restrictions. Could Trump see jail time for violating any of these?

Bart Jansen:

Yeah. The penalties open to the judges is basically for contempt of court. There's a whole bunch of ways that you can show your contempt for a judge, but in this case, the gag orders or the bond agreement would be punished initially by fines, usually. So he has already been fined in the New York case. That would be the threat in the DC case if her order is upheld, and if there are repeated violations with escalating fines, legal experts tell me it could sooner or later come to a threat of imprisonment. That would be a big step even if he weren't a former president of the United States, and legal experts are telling me it would depend on what the violation was, how much it had been repeated. So I don't think anything like that would be imminent. He also appears to have been very careful about how he comments while the orders are in place. But yes, potentially imprisonment is one of the sanctions on the table if a judge felt like he went too far.

Taylor Wilson:

Bart, what impact could all these gag orders have on Trump's presidential campaign?

Bart Jansen:

Well, that's the big thrust about why he's trying to get the orders lifted. He's appealed both orders. The New York case is in the midst of being tried. He is appealing. The federal cases are pending and months away. It's in the middle of the primary season where he is the leading Republican candidate for the nomination for president in 2024. He's trying to win back the White House, and the major focus of all of his appeals is that his First Amendment right to political speech should allow him to say what he wants about these cases. He's trying to defend himself in the court of public opinion in addition to the trial court.

Taylor Wilson:

Bart Jansen covers the Justice Department for USA Today. Thanks as always, Bart.

Bart Jansen:

Thanks for having me.

Taylor Wilson:

Israel has resumed its airstrikes on Gaza after a week long truce expired. Israel pounded targets in Southern Gaza earlier today, and at least 200 Palestinians have been killed since fighting resumed yesterday morning according to Gaza's health ministry. Israel initially halted the flow of humanitarian aid entering Gaza after resuming airstrikes yesterday, but later allowed a few dozen aid trucks to enter at the request of the Biden administration.

Secretary of State, Antony Blinken, yesterday wrapped up his third Middle East tour since the war broke out. The US says it's pushing for another pause in fighting and for remaining hostages held by Hamas to be released.

If you haven't caught up yet with the Golden Bachelor on your DVR, here's a spoiler warning, but the world learned Thursday night that Gary Turner, the 72-year-old star of the season, is engaged to contestant Theresa Nist, who herself is 70. The couple sat down with USA Today's Brian Alexander to discuss the hit show and what's next for them.

Theresa Nist:

That was crazy.

Gary:

It was. That's unnatural.

Theresa Nist:

Yes.

Gary:

To have that big a secret and have to keep it for that long.

Theresa Nist:

I was able to go home and just scream to the rooftops with my daughter and her husband, and actually the three little boys kept this secret this entire time.

Bryan Alexander:

I know.

Theresa Nist:

But I kept it from the rest of the world and my two sisters who drove me crazy every day. "Theresa, tell me. Tell me. Tell me."

Bryan Alexander:

Theresa knew they had a spark, but was surprised when Gary chose her.

Theresa Nist:

Oh, so surprised. I mean, really. When I was walking down to see whether... It was in my mind. A million things were going through my mind. Is he going to ask me to marry him? Is he going to ask Leslie? Will he ask no one? It was nerve wracking walking down to him to find out, and very, yeah, how surprised, because after he told me, he started out pretty poorly making it sound like he was saying goodbye to me, and my heart pretty much stopped and I said, "Oh, he's saying goodbye. I can't believe this. Oh my gosh. Oh my gosh. Someone come and take me away." I really felt that for I don't know how long, and then he quickly recovered. It was amazing when he actually asked me. So, yeah.

Bryan Alexander:

As to what it was like watching Gary court other women at the same time?

Theresa Nist:

You know what? We had discussed the entire whole journey, so I really knew, but to see it on TV, it was a little more impactful. But we had discussed everything, and so I just had to absorb it after I actually saw it. But I knew the process. I knew that this was a journey that he had to take and that he had to fully explore it with every woman, or he would've done himself a disservice.

Gary:

That's very much indicative of something I was going to say too. Theresa deserves so much credit for being unselfish and open-minded and not jealous about things that occurred, because I really did have concerns, that if she's watching this, I would feel awful, and I thought she would feel awful about certain things. She did not and it is so, so big-

Theresa Nist:

Yeah, thank you.

Gary:

... that she was able to keep that frame of mind.

Theresa Nist:

I think I felt so secure in our love that I was able to deal with that.

Bryan Alexander:

Both say they're now in it for the long haul.

Gary:

I committed to Theresa that I would not ask her to marry me if I wasn't 1,000% committed to it, and I am now as I was at that moment, 1,000%. When you're older, the clock ticks a little faster, so you realize that, hey, like Theresa said, if you love someone, say it.

Taylor Wilson:

You can find more of their conversation with a link in today's show notes.

Thanks for listening to The Excerpt. You can get the podcast wherever you get your audio. If you use a smart speaker, just ask for The Excerpt. You can hear Dana Taylor in for the Sunday edition tomorrow, and I'll be back Monday with more of The Excerpt from USA Today.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: The Excerpt podcast: Sandra Day O'Connor dies at 93