In it, but not of it. TPM DC

Count Wednesday’s hearing on a challenge to the Obamacare contraceptive mandate among the cases where the stakes have been somewhat defused by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death. The religious non-profits bringing the case face an uphill battle with their arguments that the accommodation granted to them to opt out of the birth control coverage mandate is still a burden on their religious beliefs.

Even before Scalia’s unexpected passing last February, the case was already considered somewhat of an overreach by the conservative forces pushing the court to take up the challenge. But without Scalia’s fifth vote, the challengers will need to sway the vote of one of the court’s four liberals -- who all signed on to most of Justice Ruth Ginsburg’s scathing dissent defending Obamacare in Hobby Lobby -- or hope for a 4-4 split decision that punts the case until Scalia’s seat is filled.

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They are some of the most conservative members on Capitol Hill, a group of lawmakers whose opposition to and tenuous relationship with former House Speaker John Boehner is often cited as the reason Boehner finally turned in his speaker's gavel.

From one perspective, the Freedom Caucus – with its rabble-rousing, no-compromising brand of conservatism–could be seen as opening the door for Donald Trump's rise. The few dozen Freedom Caucus members in the House wrote the book on opposing the establishment, on everything from the debt ceiling to funding bills. One of their members, Dave Brat (R-VA) stunned the political world in 2014 when he took out a sitting Majority Leader Eric Cantor in a primary. This month, the Freedom Caucus voted against supporting their own party's budget plan, putting House Speaker Paul Ryan, a former budget committee chairman, in a bind.

The Freedom Caucus' own rhetoric, including its promises to repeal Obamacare (even though Obama is in office), has fueled some of the anger and resentment against Washington that Trump has benefited from. But while the Freedom Caucus and Trump both love raging against the so-called Washington establishment, there are a lot of Freedom Caucus members who wish they could put Trump back in the bottle.

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President Obama’s choice of Merrick Garland to succeed justice Scalia on the Supreme Court was not the nominee progressives were dreaming of a month ago, when Scalia’s unexpected death opened up a once-in-a-generation opportunity to transform the Supreme Court.

But Garland was almost certainly not who Senate Republicans were expecting when they drew the hard line soon after Scalia’s death that no Obama nominee would be considered. Just last week, Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) -- a member of the Judiciary Committee -- said he didn’t “believe” Obama’s assurances to him that he would nominate a “moderate.”

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The leaders of the conservative legal groups that will lead the charge against the Senate consideration of Merrick Garland downplayed early hints Wednesday that Senate Republicans might be giving ground in their absolute opposition to anyone President Obama would have nominated.

Soon after President Obama's announced that Garland was his Supreme Court nominee to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia, a smattering of Senate Republicans expressed publicly a willingness to meet with him, and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) suggested an openness to confirming Garland in a lame duck session after the November election if a Democrat wins the White House.

Did those shifting political dynamics with the nomination of a 63-year-old, well-regarded moderate worry outside conservative groups?

"Senators hold all sorts of meetings with all sorts of people," Ed Whelan, president of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, said on a press call Wednesday afternoon. "I don't think that the fact that some senators are willing to meet with Merrick Garland means anything. The key is for the senators to hold the line on no hearing or no floor vote."

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Updated at 12:20 p.m. ET

President Obama announced his nomination Wednesday of Merrick Garland to succeed the late Justice Antonin Scalia. Garland is the chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The announcement comes a little more than a month after Scalia died unexpectedly while staying at a resort in Texas in February.

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As stopping Donald Trump from winning the GOP nomination becomes more of a long shot, the choice facing anti-Trump Republicans becomes more complicated. They despise Trump. But do they despise him enough to vote for Hillary Clinton, a figure that attracts a singular brand of hatred and opposition from the Republican Party?

That is the reality the GOP’s Trump foes are increasingly being forced to grapple with. For Republicans worried a Trump nomination could forever rupture their party, saying they would support Clinton instead is a particularly bitter pill.

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It was a dangerous week to be at a Donald Trump event.

First, Trump campaign manager Corey Lewandowski allegedly roughly grabbed Breitbart reporter Michelle Fields Tuesday after a press conference in Florida. She had asked Trump about affirmative action. After an eyewitness report surfaced and a transcript of the incident emerged, Trump's team continued to deny it.

Then, 78-year-old John McGraw, a white man, was criminally charged for allegedly hitting a black protester right in the face Wednesday as the man was being led out of a Donald Trump rally. On Sunday, Trump said he was looking into paying the man's legal fees.

"Maybe he doesn't like seeing what's happening to the country," Trump said on NBC's Meet the Press.

But the violence between those at the Trump rallies and those protesting them took a turn over the weekend. On Friday, a Trump rally was canceled in Chicago after clashes between Trump supporters and protestors erupted. On Saturday, the Kansas City Police Department unleashed pepper spray on protesters outside of a Trump rally, according to CNN.

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When a political consultant from Michigan who has written a book about contested political conventions pops up in the Virgin Islands making a bid to become a delegate to the Republican convention -- along with his wife and two of their pals -- well, it gets your attention.

John Yob, the owner of Michigan-based consulting firm Strategic National and the former national political director for one-time Republican presidential candidate Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY), was on the ballot Thursday in the GOP caucus to be a delegate to the 2016 Republican convention from the U.S. Virgin Islands.

Yob, who gained campaign experience working for Paul, John McCain and Rick Santorum, made headlines last September after he was allegedly punched at a Michigan bar by a Marco Rubio staffer.

But, in his peculiar quest to become a Virgin Islands delegate to the Republican convention, Yob and three others hit a roadblock, which has led to a bizarre and messy fight against the supervisor of the U.S. Virgin Island's Election Board.

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