Leading the week
With the January 15 Iowa Republican caucuses a week away on Monday (January 8), the GOP primary is likely to dominate much of the political agenda next week, though for frontrunner Donald Trump the campaign diary is also interspersed with legal dates. Tuesday (January 9) sees oral arguments in the DC Court of Appeals, where Trump is challenging the dismissal of his claim of immunity from election interference charges. Last month, the Supreme Court rejected Special Counsel Jack Smith’s effort to have it fast-track consideration of Trump’s claim to prevent a delay to the trial, which remains scheduled for early March though postponement looks increasingly likely.
Trump is then scheduled to be in Des Moines, Iowa, on Wednesday (January 10) – though not for the CNN debate with Ron DeSantis and Nikki Haley, who are also due to attend separate Fox town halls on Monday and Tuesday. Instead, Trump is scheduled to counterprogram the event with a live Fox News town hall, a tactic he has consistently employed during the campaign. On Thursday (January 11), Trump may be back in New York for closing arguments in his civil fraud trial, in which Judge Arthur Engoron has said he plans to issue a written decision on damages by the end of January. Trump is then due back in Iowa for events on Saturday and Sunday (January 13-14) ahead of Monday’s caucuses.
President Joe Biden, meanwhile, is visiting South Carolina on Monday (January 8) and is due to address the Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, where white supremacist Dylann Roof murdered nine Black congregants in 2015. Biden’s visit to the Palmetto State, which will follow a trip at the weekend by Vice President Kamala Harris, is being viewed as part of an effort to shore up support among Black voters whose support could prove decisive come November. But Biden’s argument that Trump represents lawlessness may be somewhat undermined when his son Hunter is arraigned on federal tax charges in California on Thursday (January 11). The arraignment is sure to be referenced by House Republicans who return to DC on Tuesday (January 9) having voted to formally authorize the impeachment inquiry into President Biden just before leaving for the holidays.
Following an eventful start to the year in the Middle East, Secretary of State Antony Blinken will be in the region next week, having departed DC overnight on a trip that includes stops in Turkey, Greece, Jordan, Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Israel and the West Bank, and Egypt.
Meanwhile, with no let-up in Israel’s campaign in Gaza over the Christmas period, South Africa announced on December 29 that it had filed a case at the International Court of Justice (ICJ), accusing Israel of committing genocide against Palestinians in Gaza. After Israel confirmed it would challenge the accusations, the ICJ announced that initial hearings will take place next week, starting on Thursday (January 11) with arguments from South Africa before Israel makes its case on Friday (January 12).
Next week’s hearings concern a request for what are known as provisional measures, in this instance seeking an order for Israel to immediately suspend its operations in Gaza while the case, which is expected to last years, proceeds. While ICJ rulings are considered legally binding, there is no guarantee that Israel, which has vehemently rejected South Africa’s claims, would follow any order.
Closely-watched presidential and legislative elections take place in Taiwan on Sunday (January 13) with incumbent President Tsai Ing-wen of the Democratic Progressive Party term-limited. The party’s candidate this time around is Lai Ching-te, also known as William Lai, who currently serves as Tsai’s vice president. His campaign received a boost when efforts by his leading pro-Beijing challengers, Hou You-yi from the Nationalist Party (KMT) and Ko Wen-je from the Taiwan People’s Party, failed to agree on running on a joint ticket, having initially announced plans to do so. The vote follows Chinese President Xi Jinping’s recent comments on the ‘historical inevitability’ of Taiwan’s ‘reunification’ with China, which claims sovereignty over the territory, and the result could have wider implications amid rising tensions between Beijing and Washington. The new president takes office on May 20.