In it, but not of it. TPM DC

If an unexpected order the Supreme Court issued in an Obamacare case could be seen as a last ditch effort to avoid a four-four split, the challengers in the case do not look too eager to play along.

Both the U.S. government and the religious organizations suing it weighed in on what seemed to be a compromise proposal by the Court in the case -- in which religious organizations are objecting to the accommodation offered to them as a part of Obamacare's contraceptive mandate -- and neither side was too happy with it.

But, while government begrudgingly signaled it would accept the tweaks to the current workaround that the Supreme Court floated, the challengers in the case doubled down on their arguments that female employees should do the extra work to get birth control coverage if their employers object to it and that coverage must come through a separate "contraceptive-only" plan. Their posturing isn't going to make life easy for the eight-justice Supreme Court to avoid a tie vote, which threatens a patchwork system where some employees' access to contraceptive coverage could depend on where they live.

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Death threats -- including threats that describe death by hanging.

References to where you live.

Not-so-subtle allusions to your family.

Warnings that your personal information will soon become public -- or perhaps it has already.

These are just some of the reports coming in from low-level GOP officials around the country about the threats they claim to have received from pro-Trump forces. As Trump accuses other politicians and the party at large of denying him delegates, ominous messages believed to be coming from freelance Trump backers -- usually hiding behind anonymity -- have injected fear and anxiety into the usually low-stakes delegate selection process at the local and state level.

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The Republican conventions of years past have been a kind of political summer vacation for its delegates. For many party regulars, becoming a delegate is an opportunity to hobnob with your state's political power brokers, be bussed from one catered meal to the next, stay in nice hotels and cheer on the nominee at the convention from the best seats in the house during primetime.

But, this year, the Republican Party's delegates could have to work overtime, and many are in over their heads as they prepare for what could be the biggest Republican melee in decades, a potentially contested convention.

"I don’t know what to totally expect," said Mary Beth Dougherty, who is a spokeswoman for a state lawmaker and is running to be an uncommitted delegate from Pennsylvania. "I am anticipating very high profile coverage all week long. Down time is not happening."

Delegates who have been attending the convention for decades, recognize the 2016 Republican Convention is going to be an entirely new ballgame.

"We are in all new unchartered grounds," said Holland Redfield, a delegate from the U.S. Virgin Islands who has attended the convention as a delegate multiple times beginning in the 1980s.

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Two GOP factions in the U.S. Virgin Islands are clashing over who should attend what most expect to be the most contentious Republican convention in decades. The intra-party charade is playing out in a dramatic way in a year when a little-recognized U.S. territory could have an outsize role in a contested convention.

The warring factions in the deeply divided U.S. Virgin Islands Republican Party have each put forth their own slate of delegates the convention in Cleveland.

The latest move in the month's old fight came Monday in the form of a press release from Republican National Committeeman Holland Redfield. He claimed that the delegation from the Virgin Islands has been selected and included nine people including six who received the most votes in a party contest in March. The delegates announced Monday, however, were not the same as those announced by U.S. Virgin Islands Republican Party Chairman John Canegata last month.

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The signs that the Supreme Court is grappling with a depleted bench are starting to show. But what has been a trickle of tie-votes, bizarre orders and slowed activity could turn into a series of orders with contradictory effects as the court is confronted with an onslaught of election-related litigation in the lead-up to Nov. 8.

As the last stop for lawsuits challenging voting restrictions and administrative practices, the Supreme Court would normally see an increase in those cases as the 2016 election draws closer. But the ideologically split court will be facing more than the usual uptick in requests for the justices to intervene in legal battles over voting laws. The 2016 election marks the first presidential election since the Supreme Court crippled the Voting Rights Act and ushered in a wave of voting restrictions now tied up in lawsuits.

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The challengers in a Supreme Court case that sought -- and failed -- to cripple public unions are asking the high court to rehear the case once it has a ninth justice, after the court's 4-4 tie in March meant a lower court ruling against them would stand.

The lawyers representing teachers and the religious teachers' organization in Friedrichs v. California Teacher’s Association filed the long-shot petition Friday.

"The current vacancy will inevitably be filled, and once it is, the tie will be broken. It makes sense to hold the case for resolution until the Court is capable of resolving it," the petition said.

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The Chicago Tribune reported Thursday, citing anonymous law enforcement sources, that there are at least four people who've accused former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) of sexual abuse and who authorities deem credible.

The newspaper confirmed the identities of three male victims, one of whom had died and whose name previously had been reported. The Tribune didn't name the other two individuals, citing its policy on not disclosing the names of sexual abuse victims without their consent, while it was unable to confirm the identity of a fourth alleged victim.

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Democrats are gaining ground in six Senate races, and it has everything to do with it becoming increasingly clear that Donald Trump or Ted Cruz will be the Republican Party's presidential nominee.

According to a newly released analysis by the University of Virginia's Center for Politics, senate races in Iowa, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Missouri and North Carolina are looking to be more favorable for Democrats than previously predicted as moderate and independent voters grow disillusioned with the GOP.

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Former House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) said in a court filing Wednesday that he was "deeply sorry" for decades-old misconduct and "prepared to accept responsibility" for his actions.

A sentencing memo filed by Hastert's lawyers, in which they asked for probation, did not specify the "unfortunate and harmful incidents he caused decades ago."

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