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Slovak assassination attempt and Harrison Butker speech backlash: Morning Rundown

And House Speaker Mike Johnson talks Trump, the recent threat to oust him and more in an exclusive interview.
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House Speaker Mike Johnson defends his appearance at Donald Trump’s hush money trial. A floating dock critical to delivering more aid to Gaza is installed. And an NFL kicker’s commencement speech is hit with backlash over his message to women.

Here’s what to know today.

Trump, the trial and a second term: The view from Speaker Mike Johnson’s desk

House Speaker Mike Johnson’s appearance at former President Donald Trump’s hush money trial Tuesday was meant to send a message. The trip was, as he described, “spontaneous,” but “I went to New York to call out what I believe is a true threat to our system of justice,” he said. It was “the right thing to do,” he added.

Mike Johnson answers a question
House Speaker Mike Johnson during an interview with NBC News on Wednesday.Frank Thorp V / NBC News

In an exclusive interview, Johnson also described the car ride he took with the former president that morning from Trump Tower to the Manhattan courthouse. Trump vented about how the trial is keeping him off the campaign trail, which Johnson said is “just wrong in every way.”

Johnson was one of several allies — and potential vice presidential picks — to show up at Trump’s trial this week. Once a low-tier, little-known member of Congress, Johnson was suddenly thrust into power last fall after a three-week battle to replace ousted Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

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Since then, Johnson has faced many of the same problems McCarthy did but with an even smaller Republican majority. Last week, he survived a threat to his leadership from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. “I don’t expect we will do that again,” he said, of the odds of another vote this year to remove him as speaker.

Johnson’s wide-ranging interview also touched on his philosophy as a “New Testament guy” and what he would tell Trump if he wins the presidential election in November. Read the full story here.

More Trump trial coverage:  

  • Former Trump lawyer Michael Cohen returns to the witness stand to resume facing off against Trump’s defense team. The defense is expected to focus on Cohen’s repeated lies about events from 2016 and 2017.
  • Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, a vocal critic of Trump, said President Joe Biden should have pardoned Trump in his federal cases and pressured New York prosecutors not to pursue the hush money trial.
  • Rep. Jim Jordan has demanded documents related to the hiring of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, a lead prosecutor in Trump’s hush money trial and accused Bragg of having a Trump “obsession.”

Europe reels after attempted assassination of Slovakian prime minister

Prime Minister Robert Fico was shot and injured after the away-from-home government meeting in Handlova, according to information confirmed by Parliamentary Vice-Chair Lubos Blaha, who suspended the House session.
Slovakia's Prime Minister Robert Fico prior to being attacked in the town of Handlova on May, 15, 2024. Radovan Stoklasa / AP

Slovakia’s populist prime minister was in “very serious” condition after being shot multiple times in an attempted assassination that sent shock waves across the small central European country and the broader continent. But while Robert Fico’s condition had stabilized, the incident left Europe to confront what appeared to be a rare outbreak of political violence in a region increasingly polarized by intense divisions.

Fico was rushed to a hospital and was “fighting for his life” yesterday after he was shot multiple times in what his party said was an “attempted assassination,” with a suspect detained at the scene where the prime minister had been greeting members of the public.

Fico has long been a divisive but dominant figure in Slovakia, serving as prime minister — after being elected on a pro-Russia and anti-America platform — for longer than any other leader in the country. His government has drawn criticism from within the European Union, of which he is a staunch critic, for his stance on the war in Ukraine. And at home, opposition parties have led mass protests over issues including corruption and plans to take control of the media. Despite Fico’s controversial status, leaders across Europe condemned the attack as officials and analysts voiced concern that deepening political divides might be leading the continent down a dangerous path.

Floating dock arrives off Gaza Strip

Construction of the floating JLOTS pier in the Mediterranean is underway
CENTCOM via Getty Images

The United States has successfully towed a floating dock system for the delivery of critical humanitarian aid to the shore of the Gaza Strip. “As part of this effort, no U.S. troops entered Gaza,” CENTCOM said in a post on X, adding that trucks carrying humanitarian assistance were expected to begin moving ashore “in the coming days,” with the United Nations expected to receive the aid and coordinate its distribution.

The aid delivery system is complicated, with civilian aid ships, a dock, trucks, smaller U.S. Army boats and a causeway all involved in moving supplies from the dock to the beach, without U.S. troops entering the enclave. But once operational, it can provide dramatically more aid than airdrops

The U.S. efforts to deliver aid to Gaza comes as the Biden administration plans to advance a potential $1 billion weapons sale to Israel. If the sale is approved by the State Department, the weapons transfer wouldn’t happen for several years. Still, it’s the latest indication that the administration is continuing its military support for Israel despite its ongoing operations in Rafah, the city in southern Gaza where more than 1 million people are sheltering.

Chiefs kicker’s commencement speech draws viral backlash

Kansas City Chiefs kicker Harrison Butker ignited fury among many who took issue with his recent commencement speech at Benedictine College, during which he said that one of the “most important” titles a woman can hold is that of homemaker. The speech is now the latest incident to add fuel to the flames of an increasingly vocal cultural battle. While many prominent right-wing men have voiced such beliefs about women before, they’re usually confined to smaller online communities in which those ideologies thrive. Butker also hit out at abortion, Pride month and Covid-19 lockdown measures

Addressing female graduates specifically, Butker said that while some women may go on to have successful careers, “I would venture to guess that the majority of you are most excited about your marriage and the children you will bring into this world.” He also referenced a Taylor Swift lyric, drawing murmurs from the crowd. Amid the backlash, some conservative personalities have come to his defense.

How cities are preparing for a scorching summer

Last year’s summer heat was one for the record books — and the months ahead are expected to be just as hot, if not hotter. NBC News climate reporter Denise Chow shares three numbers that illustrate just how unbelievably hot the last few summers have been:

🥵 11: The number of consecutive months since June 2023 with record-breaking global temperatures, according to the European Union’s climate change service. This worrisome streak could continue as the Northern Hemisphere gears up for what are typically the hottest months of the year.

🔥 150,000+: The number of deaths across 43 countries tied to extreme heat each year from 1990 to 2019, a new study found. In the U.S., heat kills more people than any other extreme weather event. 

🌎 2,000: The number of consecutive years with cooler summers than last year’s record season, according to new research. Scientists had known that June to August 2023 was the warmest summer since record-keeping began, but these findings offer an even more dramatic reminder of how unusually hot the planet was last year.

Officials in cities across the South and the Southwest are working on projects aimed at shielding people from the scorching heat. In Phoenix, for example, where at least 645 people in Maricopa County died from heat-related causes in 2023, officials are creating “cool corridors” — think more trees and resurfaced pavement to reduce urban heat. Here are other ways cities plan to keep residents safe.

Politics in Brief

Debate dates: President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump agreed to participate in two general election debates, one on June 27 and the other on Sept. 10. Here’s how the deal came together.

Menendez trial: Opening statements in Sen. Bob Menendez’s bribery trial saw federal prosecutors accuse Menendez of abusing his position as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to “put greed first.” Menendez’s attorney said the accusations were “outrageously false.”

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Staff Pick: Blinken’s guitar diplomacy strikes the wrong chord in Ukraine

The United States will back Ukraine until the country's security is "guaranteed," US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a speech in Kyiv on May 14, 2024.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken performs with members of The 1999 in Ukraine on Tuesday.Brendan Smialowski / AFP - Getty Images

When rocking out goes wrong it’s usually an issue with tuning or lyrics. But Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s attempt to rouse Ukrainian spirits with a performance of ‘Rockin’ in the Free World’ was met with criticism in the country, with some feeling the performance was out of sync with their mood as Russia advances on the battlefield.

Max Burman, deputy world editor

In Case You Missed It

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  • A new study suggests why migraines are increasing in frequency and intensity among Americans.
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Select: Online Shopping, Simplified

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