Charges against Donald Trump, Jan. 6 rioters at stake as U.S. Supreme Court hears debate over obstruction law

Former President Donald Trump walks out of the courtroom following the first day of jury selection at the Manhattan criminal court in New York on April 15, 2024.
| Photo Credit: Reuters

The Supreme Court on April 16 is taking up the first of two cases that could affect the criminal prosecution of former President Donald Trump for his efforts to overturn his election loss in 2020. Hundreds of charges stemming from the Capitol riot also are at stake.

The justices are hearing arguments over the charge of obstruction of an official proceeding. That charge, stemming from a law passed in the aftermath of the Enron financial scandal more than two decades ago, has been brought against 330 people, according to the Justice Department. The court will consider whether it can be used against those who disrupted Congress’ certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 presidential election victory over Mr. Trump.

The former President and presumptive nominee for the 2024 Republican nomination is facing two charges in the case brought by special counsel Jack Smith in Washington that could be knocked out with a favorable ruling from the nation’s highest court. Next week, the justices will hear arguments over whether Mr. Trump has “absolute immunity” from prosecution in the case, a proposition that has so far been rejected by two lower courts.

The first former U.S. President under indictment, Mr. Trump is on trial on hush money charges in New York and also has been charged with election interference in Georgia and with mishandling classified documents in Florida.

In Tuesday’s case, the court is hearing an appeal from Joseph Fischer, a former Pennsylvania police officer who has been indicted on seven counts, including obstruction, for his actions on Jan. 6, 2021, when a mob of Mr. Trump’s supporters stormed the Capitol in a bid to keep Mr. Biden, a Democrat, from taking the White House. Lawyers for Mr. Fischer argue that the charge doesn’t cover his conduct.

The obstruction charge, which carries up to 20 years behind bars, is among the most widely used felony charges brought in the massive federal prosecution following the deadly insurrection.

Explained | The U.S. House Select Committee report on the January 6 Capitol attack

Roughly 170 Jan. 6 defendants have been convicted of obstructing or conspiring to obstruct the Jan. 6 joint session of Congress, including the leaders of two far-right extremist groups, the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers. A number of defendants have had their sentencings delayed until after the justices rule on the matter.

Some rioters have even won early release from prison while the appeal is pending over concerns that they might end up serving longer than they should have if the Supreme Court rules against the Justice Department. That includes Kevin Seefried, a Delaware man who threatened a Black police officer with a pole attached to a Confederate battle flag as he stormed the Capitol. Seefried was sentenced last year to three years behind bars, but a judge recently ordered that he be released one year into his prison term while awaiting the Supreme Court’s ruling.

The high court case focuses on whether the anti-obstruction provision of a law that was enacted in 2002 in response to the financial scandal that brought down Enron Corp. can be used against Jan. 6 defendants.

Mr. Fischer’s lawyers argue that the provision was meant to close a loophole in criminal law and discourage the destruction of records in response to an investigation. Until the Capitol riot, they told the court, every criminal case using the provision had involved allegations of destroying or otherwise manipulating records.

But the administration says the other side is reading the law too narrowly, arguing it serves “as a catchall offense designed to ensure complete coverage of all forms of corrupt obstruction of an official proceeding,” including Mr. Fischer’s “alleged conduct in joining a violent riot to disrupt the joint session of Congress certifying the presidential election results.” Mr. Smith has argued separately in the immunity case that the obstruction charges against Mr. Trump are valid, no matter the outcome of Mr. Fischer’s case.

Most lower court judges who have weighed in have allowed the charge to stand. Among them, U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich, a Trump appointee, wrote that “statutes often reach beyond the principal evil that animated them.” But U.S. District Judge Carl Nichols, another Trump appointee, dismissed the charge against Mr. Fischer and two other defendants, writing that prosecutors went too far. A divided panel of the federal appeals court in Washington reinstated the charge before the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case.

While it’s not important to the Supreme Court case, the two sides present starkly differing accounts of Mr. Fischer’s actions on Jan. 6. Mr. Fischer’s lawyers say he “was not part of the mob” that forced lawmakers to flee the House and Senate chambers, noting that he entered the Capitol after Congress had recessed. The weight of the crowd pushed Mr. Fischer into a line of police inside, they said in a court filing.

Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas and Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio, Lauren Boebert of Colorado, Matt Gaetz of Florida and Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia are among 23 Republican members of Congress who say the administration’s use of the obstruction charge “presents an intolerable risk of politicised prosecutions. Only a clear rebuke from this Court will stop the madness.” The Justice Department says Mr. Fischer can be heard on a video yelling “Charge!” before he pushed through a crowd and “crashed into the police line.” Prosecutors also cite text messages Mr. Fischer sent before Jan. 6 saying things might turn violent and social media posts after the riot in which he wrote, “we pushed police back about 25 feet.” More than 1,350 people have been charged with Capitol riot-related federal crimes. Approximately 1,000 of them have pleaded guilty or been convicted by a jury or judge after a trial.

Source link

#Charges #Donald #Trump #Jan #rioters #stake #Supreme #Court #hears #debate #obstruction #law

Baltimore bridge collapse | U.S. President Joe Biden approves $60mn aid; Governor Wes Moore warns of ‘very long road ahead’ for recovery

The largest crane on the Eastern Seaboard was being transported to Baltimore so crews on March 29 can begin removing the wreckage of a collapsed highway bridge that has halted a search for four workers still missing days after the disaster and blocked the city’s vital port from operating.

Maryland Gov. Wes Moore said the crane, which was arriving by barge and can lift up to 1,000 tons, will be one of at least two used to clear the channel of the twisted metal and concrete remains of the Francis Scott Key Bridge, and the cargo ship that hit it this week.

“The best minds in the world” are working on the plans for removal, Moore said. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for the Baltimore District told the governor that it and the Navy were mobilizing major resources from around the country at record speed to clear the channel.

“This is not just about Maryland,” Mr. Moore said. “This is about the nation’s economy. The port handles more cars and more farm equipment than any other port in America.”

Mr. Moore warned of a “very long road ahead” to recover from the loss of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge as the Biden administration approved $60 million in immediate federal aid after the deadly collapse.

“Meanwhile the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers was moving the largest crane on the Eastern Seaboard to help remove the wreckage of the bridge,” Mr. Moore said, so work to clear the channel and reopen the key shipping route can begin. The machine, which can lift up to 1,000 tonnes, was expected to arrive on Thursday evening, and U.S. Sen. Chris Van Hollen said a second crane with a 400-tonne capacity could arrive on Saturday.

“The State is “deeply grateful” for the federal funds and support,” Mr. Moore said at an evening news conference.

Mr. Moore promised on Thursday that “the best minds in the world” were working on plans to clear the debris, move the cargo ship that rammed into the bridge from the channel, recover the bodies of the four remaining workers presumed dead and investigate what went wrong.

“Government is working hand in hand with industry to investigate the area, including the wreck, and remove the ship,” said Mr. Moore, a Democrat, who said the quick aid is needed to “lay the foundation for a rapid recovery.” President Joe Biden has pledged the federal government would pay the full cost of rebuilding the bridge.

“This work is not going to take hours. This work is not going to take days. This work is not going to take weeks,” Mr. Moore said. “We have a very long road ahead of us.”

Van Hollen said 32 members of the Army Corps of Engineers are surveying the scene of the collapse and 38 Navy contractors are working on the salvage operation.

The devastation left behind after the powerless cargo ship struck a support pillar on Tuesday is extensive. Divers recovered the bodies of two men from a pickup truck in the Patapsco River near the bridge’s middle span on Wednesday, but officials said they have to start clearing the wreckage before anyone could reach the bodies of four other missing workers.

Crew of cargo ship that lost power and collided with bridge in Baltimore, U.S. are all Indian

State police have said that based on sonar scans, the vehicles appear to be encased in a “superstructure” of concrete and other debris.

National Transportation Safety Board officials boarded the ship, the Dali, to recover information from its electronics and paperwork and to interview the captain and crew members. Investigators shared a preliminary timeline of events before the crash, which federal and state officials have said appeared to be an accident.

“The best minds in the world are coming together to collect the information that we need to move forward with speed and safety in our response to this collapse,” Mr. Moore said on March 28.

Of the 21 crew members on the ship, 20 are from India, Randhir Jaiswal, the nation’s Foreign Ministry spokesperson, told reporters. One was slightly injured and needed stitches, but “all are in good shape and good health,” Mr. Jaiswal said.

“The victims, who were part of a construction crew fixing potholes on the bridge, were from Mexico, Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador,” he said. “At least eight people initially went into the water when the ship struck the bridge column, and two of them were rescued Tuesday,” officials said.

The crash caused the bridge to break and fall into the water within seconds. Authorities had just enough time to stop vehicle traffic, but didn’t get a chance to alert the construction crew.

During the Baltimore Orioles’ opening day game on Thursday, Sgt. Paul Pastorek, Cpl. Jeremy Herbert and Officer Garry Kirts of the Maryland Transportation Authority were honoured for their actions in halting bridge traffic and preventing further loss of life.

The three said in a statement that they were “proud to carry out our duties as officers of this state to save the lives that we could.”

The Dali, which is managed by Synergy Marine Group, was headed from Baltimore to Sri Lanka. It is owned by Grace Ocean Private Limited and was chartered by Danish shipping giant Maersk. Synergy extended sympathies to the victims’ families in a statement on Thursday.

“We deeply regret this incident and the problems it has caused for the people of Baltimore and the region’s economy that relies on this vitally important port,” Synergy said, noting that it would continue to cooperate with investigators.

Scott Cowan, president of the International Longshoremen’s Association Local 333, said the union is scrambling to help its roughly 2,400 members whose jobs are at risk of drying up until shipping can resume in the Port of Baltimore. “If there’s no ships, there’s no work,” he said. “We’re doing everything we can.”

“The huge vessel, nearly as long as the Eiffel Tower is tall, was carrying nearly 4,700 shipping containers, 56 of them with hazardous materials inside. Fourteen of those were destroyed,” officials said. However, industrial hygienists who evaluated the contents identified them as perfumes and soaps, according to the Key Bridge Joint Information Center.

“There was no immediate threat to the environment,” the centre said. About 21 gallons (80 litres) of oil from a bow thruster on the ship is believed to have caused a sheen in the waterway, Coast Guard Rear Adm. Shannon Gilreath said on Thursday.

Booms were placed to prevent any spreading, and state environmental officials were sampling the water. At the moment there are also cargo containers hanging dangerously off the side of the ship, Gilreath said, adding, “We’re trying to keep our first responders … as safe as possible.”

Divers sent to work beneath the bridge debris and container ship will encounter challenging conditions, including limited visibility and moving currents, according to officials and expert observers.

“Debris can be dangerous, especially when you can’t see what’s right in front of you,” said Donald Gibbons, an instructor with the Eastern Atlantic States Carpenters Technical Centers.

The sudden loss of a highway that carries 30,000 vehicles a day and the port disruption will affect not only thousands of dockworkers and commuters but also U.S. consumers, who are likely to feel the impact of shipping delays.

The governors of New York and New Jersey offered to take on cargo shipments that have been disrupted, to try to minimise supply chain problems.

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who met on Thursday with supply chain officials, has said the Biden administration was focussed on reopening the port and rebuilding the bridge, but he did not put a timeline on those efforts. From 1960 to 2015, there were 35 major bridge collapses worldwide due to ship or barge collisions, according to the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure.

Source link

#Baltimore #bridge #collapse #President #Joe #Biden #approves #60mn #aid #Governor #Wes #Moore #warns #long #road #ahead #recovery

US Supreme Court hears arguments in abortion pill case

U.S. Supreme Court justices on Tuesday did not appear ready to limit access to the abortion pill mifepristone, in a case that could have far-reaching implications for millions of American women and for scores of drugs regulated by the Food and Drug Administration. 

It’s the first abortion-related case the court has taken since a majority of the current justices struck down the constitutional right to abortion in 2022.

A group of anti-abortion doctors had asked the court to restrict access to mifepristone and to limit when in a pregnancy it could be used. 

Key moments from the arguments:

The FDA approved mifepristone in 2000 as a safe and effective way to end early pregnancies. Last year the pill was used in more than six in 10 of the abortions in the U.S.

The central argument of the conservative group challenging mifepristone is that the Food and Drug Administration overlooked serious problems with the drug when it eased restrictions on the drug, including making it available via mail in 2021. 

Erin Hawley, who represented the doctors suing the agency, argued the FDA “failed to consider or explain … its wholesale removal of safeguards” on the pill.

Read moreThe long and winding history of the war on abortion drugs

But the FDA has long argued its decision to drop in-person appointments to get mifepristone, among other requirements, came after 20 years of monitoring its safety. In that period the agency reviewed dozens of studies in thousands of women in which serious problems — including hospitalization — occurred less than 0.3% of the time.

Hawley pointed out that FDA’s own prescribing label mentions that 2.9% to 4.6% of women taking the drug go to the emergency room. But Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar pointed to studies showing that half of women who go to the emergency room don’t get any treatment at all.

“Many women might go because they’re experiencing heavy bleeding, which mimics a miscarriage, and they might just need to know whether or not they’re having a complication, ” Prelogar said.

Because of the highly technical nature of reviewing drug data and research, courts have long deferred to FDA’s scientific judgements on safety and effectiveness.

Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson pressed Hawley on the legal basis for second-guessing the agency’s regulators.

“So what deference do we owe them at all with respect to their assessment that these studies establish what it is that they say they do about safety and efficacy?”

Hawley ran into questions as she argued that a nationwide rule curtailing mifepristone use was needed. 

She was repeatedly interrupted by Justice Neil Gorsuch, who voiced objections to such sweeping injunctions.

The case “seems like a prime example of turning what could be a small lawsuit into a nationwide legislative assembly on an FDA rule or any other federal government action,” said Gorsuch.

Normally when a court issues an injunction about a government policy it only applies to the individuals or groups in the case. But in recent years a growing number of justices on lower courts have issued “universal injunctions,” blocking federal regulations nationwide.

Gorsuch noted that there have been roughly 60 such rulings in the last four years.

Chief Justice John Roberts also seemed skeptical that a ruling reversing the FDA’s scientific judgments was necessary.

“Why can’t the court specify that this relief runs to precisely the parties before the court as opposed to looking to the agency in general and saying, ‘Agency, you can’t do this anywhere?’”

The Biden administration argued that the plaintiffs — a group called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine — didn’t have the right to challenge the FDA’s actions on mifepristone. 

The doctors who brought the suit argued that they might have to treat emergency room patients who experience serious complications after taking the drug. 

But Prelogar told the court that the doctors don’t have to prescribe mifepristone and they can abstain from treating patients who have taken the pill if they oppose abortion.

“They don’t prescribe mifepristone,” Prelogar said. “They don’t take mifepristone, obviously. The FDA is not requiring them to do or refrain from doing anything. They aren’t required to treat women who take mifepristone.”

Justice Samuel Alito, however, repeatedly pressed the government on who did have the right to sue over FDA’s decisions. 

“Is there anybody who can sue and get a judicial ruling on whether what FDA did was lawful?” Alito, who wrote the 2022 ruling that overturned Roe v. Wade, asked. 

Several justices pressed Hawley to provide real-life examples of doctors who oppose abortion being forced to treat patients who had suffered from abortion pill complications.

They also took issue with how many hypothetical problems Hawley raised in her argument against the FDA’s loosening of abortion pill restrictions.

“I don’t want to hypothesize,” Jackson said to Hawley, asking her to provide an example of a doctor who was unable to object to providing an abortion.

At one point, Justice Amy Coney Barrett also questioned an example one of the doctors provided of a colleague who had to perform a “dilation and curettage” procedure on a patient with complications. Barrett pointed out that those procedures are not just performed in cases of abortions but for miscarriages as well. 

Some of the justices also pointed out that doctors are already protected from performing abortions when they don’t want to by voicing conscience objection. 

Justice Brett Kavanaugh raised that point early on: “Under federal law, no doctors can be forced against their consciences to perform or assist in an abortion, correct?”

For more than a century, the FDA has had sole authority over assessing the safety of drugs and approving their sale in the U.S.

The agency first approved mifepristone in 2000 following a four-year review, including detailed safety studies submitted by the French manufacturer. In 2016, FDA loosened restrictions on the drug to allow it to be prescribed up to 10 weeks of pregnancy and allowed nurses and other medical professionals to prescribe it. In 2021, the agency said the drug could be sent through the mail, doing away with a longstanding requirement that women to pick the drug up in person.

Jessica Ellsworth, an attorney representing the New York-based Danco Laboratories, which makes mifepristone, asked the justices to consider how the case could upend the FDA’s decades-old system for regulating drugs, vaccines and other life-saving medicines.

“I think this court should think hard about the mischief it would invite if it allowed agencies to start taking action based on statutory responsibilities that Congress has assigned to other agencies,” she said.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk’s decision last year marked the first time a court had issued a decision to revoke approval of a drug FDA had deemed safe. An open letter signed by nearly 300 biotech and pharmaceutical company leaders last year slammed the ruling as undermining Congress’ delegated authority to the FDA to approve and regulate drugs. If justices can unilaterally overturn drug approvals, they said “any medicine is at risk.”

(AP) 

Source link

#Supreme #Court #hears #arguments #abortion #pill #case

Biden backs Schumer after U.S. Senator calls for new elections in Israel

President Joe Biden expressed support on March 15 for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer after the senator called for new elections in Israel, the latest sign that the U.S. relationship with its closest Middle East ally is careening toward fracture over the war in Gaza.

Mr Schumer, a Jewish Democrat from New York, sent tremors through both countries this week when he said Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “lost his way” and warned that “Israel cannot survive if it becomes a pariah” as the Palestinian death toll continues to grow.

“He made a good speech,” Mr. Biden said in the Oval Office during a meeting with Ireland’s prime minister. “I think he expressed serious concerns shared not only by him but by many Americans.”

The Democratic president did not repeat Mr. Schumer’s appeal for Israel to hold elections, a step that would likely end Netanyahu’s tenure because of mounting discontent with his leadership. But Biden’s comments reflect his own frustration with an Israeli prime minister who has hindered efforts to expand humanitarian assistance in Gaza and opposed the creation of an independent Palestinian state.

The latest point of friction has been Israel’s goal of pursuing Hamas into Rafah, a city in southern Gaza where 1.4 million displaced Palestinians have fled to avoid fighting in the north. Netanyahu’s office said Friday that it approved a military operation that would involve evacuating civilians, but U.S. officials are concerned about the potential for a new wave of bloodshed.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, speaking from Vienna, said, “We have to see a clear and implementable plan” to safeguard innocent people from an Israeli incursion.

“We have not seen such a plan,” he said.

However, Mr. Blinken said tough conversations between Israeli and American leaders do not mean the alliance is fraying.

“That’s actually the strength of the relationship, to be able to speak clearly, candidly and directly,” he said.

It’s possible that an attack on Rafah could be avoided. Negotiations over a cease-fire and the release of hostages are underway in Qatar, where Netanyahu agreed to send a delegation to continue talks.

White House national security spokesman John Kirby said the U.S. would not have its own team at the negotiations but will remain engaged in the process.

He also said it’s “up to the Israeli people to decide” whether there should be elections. Asked about why Biden praised Schumer’s speech, Kirby said the president appreciated the senator’s “passion.”

Biden’s rhetoric on the war has evolved since the conflict began on Oct. 7, when Hamas killed 1,200 Israelis in a surprise attack. The president immediately embraced Netanyahu and Israel while also warning against being “consumed” by rage.

Since then, Israel has killed more than 30,000 Palestinians in Gaza. And while Mr. Biden continues to back Israel’s right to defend itself, he’s increased his criticisms of Mr. Netanyahu.

After his State of the Union speech earlier this month, Mr. Biden said that he needed to have a “come to Jesus” conversation with Netanyahu. He also accused Netanyahu of “hurting Israel more than helping Israel” with his leadership of the war.

Mr. Biden is trying to navigate between a Republican Party with an “Israel right or wrong” mindset and a deeply divided Democratic Party, said Aaron David Miller, who has advised administrations from both parties on the Middle East.

He described the U.S. approach to Israel as “passive aggressive,” with escalating rhetoric but no concrete steps like withholding military assistance.

“I haven’t seen it,” Miller said. “And we’re six months into the war.”

Americans have increasingly soured on Israel’s military operation in Gaza, according to surveys from The Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research. In January, 50% of U.S. adults said the military response from Israel in the Gaza Strip had gone too far, up from 40% in November. It’s a sentiment even more common among Democrats, with about 6 in 10 saying the same thing in both surveys.

Reckoning with shifts in Israeli and American politics has been challenging for Mr. Biden. A self-described Zionist, Mr. Biden’s political career began several decades ago when Israel was led by liberal leaders and the country enjoyed broad bipartisan support in its battle for survival against its Arab neighbors.

Since then, the failure of peace talks with Palestinians and the growing power of conservative Israeli politicians has led to a growing tension.

Biden’s praise for Schumer could upset Mr. Netanyahu, who has already chafed at what he sees as American meddling in Israeli politics.

“One would expect Sen. Schumer to respect Israel’s elected government and not undermine it,” said a statement from Likud, Netanyahu’s political party. “This is always true, and even more so in wartime.”

Mr. Netanyahu has a long history of defying U.S. presidents, particularly Democratic ones. He fought President Barack Obama’s push for a nuclear deal with Iran, and he accepted a Republican invitation to address Congress to demonstrate his opposition. Before that, he clashed with President Bill Clinton over efforts to create an independent state for Palestinians, who have lived for decades under Israeli military occupation.

Democratic anger over Israel’s siege of Gaza has focused on Mr. Netanyahu, Israel’s longest-serving prime minister who leads a right-wing coalition that includes ultranationalist politicians. He also faces corruption charges in a long-delayed trial and declining popularity over his failure to prevent Hamas’ attack or secure the return of all Israeli hostages being held in Gaza.

Public opinion surveys suggest that, if elections were held now, Mr. Netanyahu would likely lose to Benny Gantz, a former military leader who is a centrist member of Israel’s war cabinet.

“Netanyahu has an interest in buying time,” said Gideon Rahat, a senior fellow at the Israel Democracy Institute and professor of political science at Hebrew University. “That’s always his interest, not to have elections, to stay in power.”

Rahat also said a different Israeli leader might approach the war differently, causing less strain with Washington.

“Another government would pursue not only a military but also a diplomatic and foreign affairs solution, one involving the PA,” a reference to the Palestinian Authority that operates in the West Bank, Rahat said. “Another government would give more aid to Gaza and would run the war with a better distinction between Hamas and the Palestinians.”

However, replacing Mr. Netanyahu would not necessarily end the war or stop the rightward shift that has been underway in Israel for years.

Jewish Israelis believe by a slim majority that their leaders’ judgment should be prioritized over coordinating with the U.S., according to a January poll from the Israel Democracy Institute. In addition, the Israeli Defense Forces receive wide support for their performance in Gaza.

Gantz also criticized Mr. Schumer’s remarks, although not as harshly as Likud did. He wrote on social media that the senator is “a friend of Israel” who “erred in his remarks.”

“Israel is a robust democracy, and only its citizens will decide its future and leadership,” Gantz said. “Any external interference on the matter is counter-productive and unacceptable.”

Source link

#Biden #backs #Schumer #Senator #calls #elections #Israel

Biden cajoles Netanyahu with tough talk, humanitarian concerns but Israeli PM remains dug in

U.S. President Joe Biden has stepped up public pressure on Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government, warning he’s “hurting Israel” and speaking candidly about “come to Jesus” conversations with the leader over the growing humanitarian crisis in Gaza.

Despite Mr. Biden’s increased displays of frustration, Israeli officials and Middle East analysts say no signs are emerging that Mr. Biden can push Israel, at least in the short term, to fundamentally alter how it’s prosecuting the conflict that is entering a new dangerous phase.

Read more on Israel-Palestine Conflict

“He has a right to defend Israel, a right to continue to pursue Hamas,” Mr. Biden said of Mr. Netanyahu in an MSNBC interview. “But he must, he must, he must pay more attention to the innocent lives being lost as a consequence of the actions taken. He’s hurting…in my view, he’s hurting Israel more than helping Israel.”

The U.S. President had hoped to have an extended cease-fire in place by the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan, which is set to begin Monday. Biden administration officials see a deal on a temporary truce in exchange for dozens of hostages as a crucial step toward finding an eventual permanent end to the conflict.

But with no deal emerging, Mr. Biden acknowledged last week that he has become more concerned about the prospect of violence in east Jerusalem. Clashes have erupted during Ramadan in recent years between Palestinians and Israeli security forces around Jerusalem’s Old City, home to major religious sites sacred to Jews, Christians and Muslims and the emotional epicenter of the Middle East conflict.

Mr. Biden this weekend warned Mr. Netanyahu that an attack on Rafah—where hundreds of thousands of displaced Gazans have congregated—would be a “red line” and that Israel “cannot have 30,000 more Palestinians dead.” At the same time, he said that his commitment to Israel’s defense is sacrosanct.

State of Union address

The President’s blunt comments came after he was caught on a hot mic following his State of Union address on Thursday telling a Democratic ally that he’s told Mr. Netanyahu they will have a “come to Jesus” talk about the humanitarian situation in Gaza.

The U.S. this month began airdrops and announced it will establish a temporary pier to get badly needed aid into Gaza via sea. U.N. officials have warned at least one quarter of Gaza’s 2.3 million people are one step away from famine. The extraordinary measures to get aid into Gaza have come as Israel has resisted U.S. calls to allow more in via land routes.

And in a move that irritated Mr. Netanyahu, Vice President Kamala Harris last week hosted a member of Israel’s wartime Cabinet, Benny Gantz, who came to Washington in defiance of the prime minister. U.S. officials said that Harris, and other senior advisers to Mr. Biden, were blunt with Gantz about their concerns about an expected Rafah operation.

Mr. Netanyahu on Sunday pushed back againstMr. Biden’s latest comments.

“Well, I don’t know exactly what the president meant, but if he meant…that I’m pursuing private policies against the majority, the wish of the majority of Israelis, and that this is hurting the interests of Israel, then he’s wrong on both counts,” Netanyahu said in a clip of an interview with Politico, released by the prime minister’s office on Sunday.

Mr. Biden’s stepped up criticism of the prime minister’s handling of the war has been an intentional effort to signal to Mr. Netanyahu that the U.S. president is running out of patience with the mounting death toll and lack of aid flow into Gaza, according to a U.S. official familiar with the president’s thinking. The official was not authorized to comment publicly and requested anonymity.

Elsewhere in Israel, the reaction to Mr. Biden’s public venting of frustration was mixed.

Israeli opposition leader Yair Lapid said he wasn’t surprised by Mr. Biden’s remarks. Lapid on Sunday accused Mr. Netanyahu of pandering to his base and said the prime minister had narrow political interests in mind, like placating the far-right members of his Cabinet.

The U.S. “lost faith in Mr. Netanyahu and it’s not surprising. Half of his Cabinet has lost faith in him as has the majority of Israel’s citizens,” Lapid, who briefly served as prime minister in 2022, told Israeli Army Radio. “Netanyahu must go.”

Israeli Foreign Minister Israel Katz downplayed Mr. Biden’s comments, saying the U.S. backed Israel’s war aims and that was what mattered. “We must distinguish rhetoric from the essence,” he told Israeli Army Radio.

Eytan Gilboa, an expert on U.S.-Israel relations and professor at Israel’s Bar-Ilan University, said Mr. Biden’s decision to scale up aid to Gaza and warn Israel about an incursion into Rafah undermined support for Israel’s aims of dismantling Hamas’ military and governing capabilities and freeing the hostages. He said it relieved Hamas of pressure to agree to a temporary cease-fire deal.

He said Mr. Biden’s harsher comments of late came out of a frustration with Mr. Netanyahu over his reluctance to accept the U.S. vision for a postwar Gaza. Mr. Biden has called for Middle East stakeholders to reinvigorate efforts to find a two-state solution, one in which Israel would co-exist with an independent Palestinian state, once the current war ends.

Mr. Netanyahu, however, has consistently opposed establishing a Palestinian state throughout his political career.

Gilboa said Mr. Biden’s remarks were made with an eye on his reelection and were aimed at appeasing progressive Democrats. The president is facing growing pressure from the left-wing of his party to use the United States’ considerable leverage as Israel’s chief patron to force Mr. Netanyahu toward a permanent cease-fire.

More than 100,00 Michigan Democrats cast “uncommitted” ballots in the state’s primary last month, part of a coordinated effort in the battleground state intended to show Mr. Biden that he could lose much-needed support over frustration with his administration’s approach to the Israel-Hamas war.

“Netanyahu earned that criticism, but on the other hand when (Biden) criticizes Mr. Netanyahu personally, he thinks he improves his standing among progressives,” Gilboa said.

But Aaron David Miller, a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, said that pointed criticism of the Netanyahu government has limited value for Mr. Biden politically.

“Words without deeds are not going to bring those voters back,” Miller said. “The hemorrhaging is going to continue as long as the pictures in Gaza don’t change.”

Gilboa said that even if a different government were running Israel, such as a more moderate figure like Gantz, Mr. Biden would still find a leadership intent on entering Rafah and defeating Hamas.

“They wouldn’t do things significantly different,” he said. “Is there anyone of sound mind here who is willing to leave Hamas in Gaza? That won’t happen.”

Biden administration officials pushed back against the idea that the president has become more outspoken in his criticism of Mr. Netanyahu with an eye on his 2024 prospects.

It’s not lost on Mr. Biden that Israelis across the political spectrum remain as hawkish as Mr. Netanyahu about eliminating Hamas. Still, Mr. Biden believes that by speaking out more forcefully he can sway the Israelis to do more to reduce the death toll and alleviate suffering of innocent Palestinians as Israel carries out its operations, according to the U.S. official.

Mr. Biden, who last traveled to Israel soon after Hamas’ launched its Oct. 7 attack on Israel, said in the MSNBC interview that he was open to travelling to Israel again to speak directly to the Knesset.

Privately, M. Biden has expressed a desire to aides to make another trip to Israel to try to circumvent Mr. Netanyahu and take his message directly to the people. One possibility discussed internally for a presidential trip is if a temporary cease-fire agreement is reached. Mr. Biden could use the moment to press the case directly to Israelis for humanitarian assistance in Gaza and begin outlining a path toward a permanent end to the fighting, officials said.

Source link

#Biden #cajoles #Netanyahu #tough #talk #humanitarian #concerns #Israeli #remains #dug

Biden warns ‘freedom and democracy under assault’ in State of the Union addresss

President Joe Biden declared democracy under threat at home and abroad and called former President Donald Trump’s position on NATO unacceptable on Thursday in a State of the Union speech designed to contrast visions with his 2024 Republican opponent.

Biden, speaking before a joint session of the House of Representatives and the Senate, opened his remarks with a direct criticism of Trump for comments inviting Russian President Vladimir Putin to invade other NATO nations if they did not spend more on defense.

“Now my predecessor, a former Republican president, tells Putin, quote, ‘Do whatever you want,'” Biden said. “I think it’s outrageous, it’s dangerous and it’s unacceptable.”

Biden, who has been pushing Congress to provide additional funding to Ukraine for its war with Russia, also had a message for Putin: “We will not walk away,” he said.

The president drew a contrast with Trump, his Republican challenger in the Nov 5 election, over democracy, abortion rights and the economy during a speech that Democrats see as a high profile chance for Biden to press his case for a second term in front of a rare TV audience of millions of Americans.

Biden, suffering from low approval ratings, faces discontent among progressives in his party about his support for Israel in its war against Hamas and from Republicans over his stance on immigration.

Some lawmakers wore ceasefire pins to signal their protest, but many chanted, “Four more years!” as he entered the chamber.

Multiple women lawmakers in the audience wore white to promote reproductive rights.

Biden highlighted the threats to democracy he argues Trump poses as the former president repeats false claims about his 2020 election loss and proposes jailing political enemies.

“My lifetime has taught me to embrace freedom and democracy. A future based on the core values that have defined America: honesty, decency, dignity, equality,” Biden will say, according to speech excerpts released ahead of time. “Now some other people my age see a different story: an American story of resentment, revenge, and retribution. That’s not me.”

Trump, who is facing multiple criminal charges as he fights for re-election, says he plans to punish political foes and deport millions of migrants if he wins a second White House term. Representative Troy Nehls, a Republican, wore a shirt with Trump’s face and the words “Never surrender” on it.

Age, economy at issue 

Opinion polls show Biden, 81, and Trump, 77, closely matched in the race. Most American voters are unenthusiastic about the rematch after Biden defeated Trump four years ago.

The president’s reference to “other people my age” is an attempt to underscore that the two men are both old. Biden, who has faced concerns about his mental acuity, was not expected to mention Trump, who also makes regular gaffes and verbal slip-ups, by name.

The speech may be the Democratic president’s biggest stage to reach voters weighing whether to vote for him, choose Trump, or sit out the election. Nikki Haley, Trump’s last remaining rival for his party’s presidential nomination, dropped out on Wednesday.

Biden sought to burnish his reputation with Americans about the strength of the US economy and renew his quest to make wealthy Americans and corporations pay more in taxes, unveiling proposals including higher minimum taxes for companies and Americans with wealth over $100 million.

Any such tax reform is unlikely to pass unless Democrats win strong majorities in both houses of Congress in the November vote, which is not forecast.

Biden also proposed new measures to lower housing costs, including a $10,000 tax credit for first-time homebuyers – an acknowledgement of consumers’ distress over high mortgage interest rates – while boasting of U.S economic progress under his tenure.

“I came to office determined to get us through one of the toughest periods in our nation’s history. And we have. It doesn’t make the news, but in thousands of cities and towns the American people are writing the greatest comeback story never told,” Biden will say of his economic record since 2021, according to excerpts.

The US economy is performing better than most high-income countries, with continued job growth and consumer spending.

However, Republican voters tell pollsters they are deeply dissatisfied with the economy, and Americans overall give Trump better marks in polls for economic issues.

“Joe Biden is on the run from his record … to escape accountability for the horrific devastation he and his party have created,” Trump posted before the speech on his Truth Social platform.

Gaza port, Ukraine funds 

Biden was expected to try to cool anger among many Democrats over his support for Israel’s offensive in Gaza following the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks. He will announce during the speech that the US military will build a port on Gaza’s Mediterranean coast to receive humanitarian assistance by sea, US officials told reporters.

Biden used the speech to push, again, for a $95 billion aid package for weapons to Ukraine and aid to Israel that has been blocked by Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson.

The president’s wife’s guests for the speech include Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson, who was in Washington as Sweden formally joins NATO on Thursday, two years after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – indicating Biden will speak on his support for the security alliance, another contrast with Trump.

Other White House guests included people affected by in vitro fertilisation or abortion restrictions, a veteran of the 1965 Bloody Sunday attack on Black marchers in Selma, Alabama, United Auto Workers President Shawn Fain and others.

U.S. Senator Katie Britt of Alabama, who will deliver Republicans’ formal response to Biden’s speech, planned to attack him over immigration and the economy.

“The true, unvarnished State of our Union begins and ends with this: Our families are hurting. Our country can do better,” she will say, according to excerpts. “President Biden’s border crisis is a disgrace. It’s despicable. And it’s almost entirely preventable.”

(FRANCE 24 with Reuters)

Source link

#Biden #warns #freedom #democracy #assault #State #Union #addresss

Trump’s last Republican rival Nikki Haley ends US presidential election campaign

Nikki Haley ended her long-shot challenge to Republican presidential frontrunner Donald Trump on Wednesday, ensuring the former president will be the party’s candidate in a rematch with Democratic President Joe Biden in November’s election. 

Haley, the former South Carolina governor and Trump‘s ambassador to the United Nations when he was president, made the announcement in a speech in Charleston a day after Super Tuesday, when Trump beat her soundly in 14 of 15 Republican nominating contests.

“The time has now come to suspend my campaign,” Haley said. “I have no regrets.”

Haley lasted longer than any other Republican challenger to Trump but never posed a serious threat to the former president, whose iron grip on the party’s base remains firm despite multiple criminal indictments.

The rematch between Trump, 77, and Biden, 81 – the first repeat U.S. presidential contest since 1956 – is one that few Americans want. Opinion polls show both Biden and Trump have low approval ratings among voters.

The election promises to be deeply divisive in a country already riven by political polarization. Biden has cast Trump as an existential danger to democratic principles, while Trump has sought to re-litigate his false claims that he won in 2020.

Haley, 52, drew support from deep-pocketed donors intent on stopping Trump from winning a third consecutive Republican presidential nomination, particularly after she notched a series of strong performances at debates that Trump opted to skip.

She ultimately failed to pry loose enough conservative voters in the face of Trump’s dominance. But her stronger showing among moderate Republicans and independents highlighted how Trump’s scorched-earth style of politics could make him vulnerable in the Nov. 5 election against Biden.

Haley put emphasis on foreign policy

Drawing on her foreign-policy experience as U.N. ambassador, Haley said throughout her campaign that the United States must help Ukraine defend itself against Russian aggression, a position at odds with Trump.

There was no indication Trump would moderate his message. “He’ll continue to focus on the issues that matter: immigration, economy, foreign policy,” Karoline Leavitt, press secretary for the Trump campaign, said late on Tuesday.

Biden has his own baggage, including widespread concern about his age. Three-quarters of respondents in a February Reuters/Ipsos poll said he was too old to work in government, after already serving as the oldest U.S. president in history. About half of respondents said the same about Trump.

Key issues

As in 2020, the race is likely to come down to a handful of swing states, thanks to the winner-take-all, state-by-state Electoral College system that determines the presidential election. Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are all expected to be closely contested in November.

The central issues of the campaign have already come into focus. Despite low unemployment, a red-hot stock market and easing inflation, voters have voiced dissatisfaction with Biden’s economic performance.

Biden’s other major weakness is the state of the U.S.-Mexico border, where a surge of migrants overwhelmed the system after Biden eased some Trump-era policies. Trump’s hawkish stance on immigration – including a promise to initiate the largest deportation effort in history – is at the core of his campaign, just as it was in 2016.

Voters expect Trump would do a better job on both the economy and immigration, according to opinion polls. Republican lawmakers, egged on by Trump, rejected a bipartisan immigration enforcement bill in February, giving Biden an opportunity to argue that Republicans are more interested in preserving the southern border as a problem rather than finding a solution.

Democrats are also optimistic that voter sentiment on the economy will shift in Biden’s favor if economic trends go on rising throughout 2024.

Trump may be dogged by criminal charges throughout the year, though the schedule of his trials remains unclear. The federal case charging him with trying to overturn the 2020 election, perhaps the weightiest he faces, has been paused while Trump pursues a long-shot argument that he is immune from prosecution.

While most Republicans view his indictments as politically motivated, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling, about a quarter of Republicans and half of independents say they won’t support him if he is convicted of a crime before the election. Biden has said Trump poses a threat to democracy, citing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by a mob of Trump supporters seeking to reverse Biden’s 2020 victory.

Abortion, too, will play a crucial role after the nine-member U.S. Supreme Court, buoyed by three Trump appointees, eliminated a nationwide right to terminate pregnancies in 2022. The subject has become a political liability for Republicans, helping Democrats over-perform expectations in the 2022 midterm elections.

Abortion rights advocates have launched efforts to put the issue before voters in several states, including the battleground of Arizona.

Haley thwarted

Haley had been among the first Republican contenders to enter the race in February 2023, but she was largely an afterthought until garnering attention for her standout debate performances later in the year.

Through it all, she was reluctant to completely disavow her former boss, having served as his U.N. ambassador. Trump showed no such reticence, frequently insulting her intelligence and Indian heritage.

Only in the last months of her campaign did Haley begin to forcefully hit back at Trump, questioning his mental acuity, calling him a liar and saying he was too afraid to debate her.

In the final weeks of the campaign, she became the standard-bearer for the anti-Trump wing of the party, a dramatic evolution for someone who just months earlier praised the former president in her stump speeches.

Still, she said that as president she would pardon Trump if he were convicted in any of the criminal cases he faces, a position she has never abandoned.

(REUTERS)

Source link

#Trumps #Republican #rival #Nikki #Haley #ends #presidential #election #campaign

Super Tuesday’s key takeaways: A Biden-Trump rematch and warnings for both

Super Tuesday yielded no surprises, with US President Joe Biden and former president Donald Trump emerging the biggest winners in the biggest single day of voting in the US primaries. But there were cautionary signals for both candidates as the 2024 campaign season heads for a battering phase in the leadup to November’s presidential election.


Hours after the polls closed in California on Super Tuesday, the two candidates heading for a foreseen presidential rematch set the tone of their campaigns ahead of the November vote.

It was predictable and dismaying for the electors who matter most in the 2024 US presidential election: undecided voters in key swing states.

The Democrat incumbent, President Joe Biden, warned of an “existential” national threat and “darkness” if his Republican rival wins the White House race.

“Four years ago, I ran because of the existential threat Donald Trump posed to the America we all believe in,” Biden wrote in a statement. “Tonight’s results leave the American people with a clear choice: Are we going to keep moving forward or will we allow Donald Trump to drag us backwards into the chaos, division, and darkness that defined his term in office?”


The Republican Party’s quasi-nominee, who is now all but certain to face the man who ousted him from the White House four years ago, delivered a characteristic victory speech at his Mar-a-Lago beach club in Florida.

In a rambling address to cheering supporters, Trump aired his belief that the US is a “third world country” when it comes to elections and called Biden “the worst president in the history of our country”.


The scripted speeches, predicted headlines and low voter turnout made the biggest day in the 2024 US primary elections a “Stupor Tuesday”. The overriding message after a day that saw 15 states and one US territory select their candidates was clear: many Americans are not enthused by the rematch.

But not everything was predicted and predictable on Super Tuesday. Behind the inexorable Biden v. Trump face-off were key takeaways that will be examined in the lead-up to the November election. 

What’s next for Nikki Haley and her supporters 

Nikki Haley, Trump’s only Republican rival, did not win enough delegates on Super Tuesday to take her anywhere close to the 1,215 needed to secure her party’s presidential nomination.

The 52-year-old former UN ambassador did however snap Vermont, her lone state victory after last week’s Washington DC primary win.

But while her performance was not substantial enough to deny Trump the Republican nomination, it was significant enough to deny him a clean sweep of states.

That’s where the demographics of Haley’s supporters matter, and it’s an electorate that will be much discussed in the months leading up to the November election.

“Her entire campaign centred around those more urban areas where there is a higher concentration of college-educated, university-educated people,” explained FRANCE 24’s Fraser Jackson, reporting from Washington.

Trump’s triumphant showing on Super Tuesday underscored a development that has been in the making over the past few years: the Grand Old Party (GOP) has been taken over by his culturally conservative, blue-collar, non-urban supporters.

But that still leaves a very important demographic up for grabs in the November vote.

“She [Haley] has been polling about 20 to 40 percent of the GOP voters in this primary. That is still a significant chunk of people,” explained Jackson. “That’s a significant chunk of people who say that they don’t want Donald Trump.”

The results in Vermont, a state represented in the Senate by icon of the US left Bernie Sanders, showed that there exists a stubborn chunk of Republican voters who are not as enthusiastic about Trump as expected.

“It’s going to be in those margins that Joe Biden and Donald Trump have to vie for those Nikki Haley voters, to try to pull them to their side,” said Jackson. “And that’s what we’re going to be watching for the next couple of months.”

The question, though, is not just about Haley’s plans after her Super Tuesday drubbing, with pundits debating whether she will endorse Trump.

It’s a matter of whether her supporters are enthused enough about the Democratic candidate to cross party lines.

Biden’s Gaza problem

The Democratic incumbent may have won the Super Tuesday primaries, but that’s because he hardly faced any competition with just a handful of long-shot candidates on the ballots.

In a telling surprise, it was a long-shot candidate that provided some spark in an overwhelmingly dull primaries night. That’s when Baltimore businessman Jason Palmer won the US territory of American Samoa, denying Biden a lone Democratic contest on Super Tuesday.

Residents of American Samoa, as in other US territories, vote in primaries. They do not however have representation in the electoral college, a critical factor in America’s aged, creaky democratic system.

Biden’s biggest problem came from his party’s left, with a protest vote against the US president’s support for Israel drawing the attention of the establishment party’s advisers and strategists.



Exactly a week before Super Tuesday, voters in the Michigan primary delivered a warning shot to Biden, when more than 100,000 people, or 13 percent of all voters, marked their ballots “uncommitted” to show their opposition to the president’s position on the Gaza war. 

A week later, the uncommitted figures were also noteworthy. In Minnesota, with almost 90 percent of the expected votes counted, 19 percent of Democrats marked their ballots “uncommitted” to show their opposition to Biden’s perceived disregard for the Palestinians in Israel’s war against Hamas

The “uncommitted” vote was on the Democratic ballot in six other Super Tuesday states – Alabama, Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Support in those states ranged from 3.9 percent in Iowa to 12.7 percent in North Carolina, with more than 85 percent of the votes counted in each of those states, according to Edison Research.

The nearly 13 percent mark in North Carolina was significant, noted Jackson. “That is something to watch, because North Carolina is a state that the Democrats are hoping to flip this election,” he explained. “It could be a real battleground state.”

Georgia on their minds

With Biden and Trump sweeping Super Tuesday, the next stop to watch is Georgia, with both candidates heading to the Peach State over the weekend.

While the southeastern US state holds its presidential primaries on March 12 – their official reason for having duelling events there – in reality Georgia is on their minds because of its importance in November’s general election.

On Saturday, Biden plans a visit to the Atlanta area, a rich source of Democratic votes, while Trump will be in the Georgia city of Rome. The events will be their first general election split-screen moment in a key battleground state.

In the 2020 election, Biden beat Trump in Georgia by a miniscule 0.23 percent of the vote and Trump’s efforts to overturn Biden’s win there has since led to the former president’s indictment by the Fulton County district attorney for election interference.

Georgia will again be a critical swing state in the expected rematch between Biden and Trump in November, and so Saturday’s visits by both men will likely be the first of many between now and the general election.

(With Reuters)



Source link

#Super #Tuesdays #key #takeaways #BidenTrump #rematch #warnings

Coast-to-coast Super Tuesday elections set to kick off Biden and Trump rematch

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are poised to move much closer to winning their party’s nominations during the biggest day of the primary campaign on Tuesday, setting up a historic rematch that many voters would rather not endure.

Super Tuesday elections are being held in 16 states and one territory — from Alaska and California to Vermont and Virginia. Hundreds of delegates are at stake, the biggest haul for either party on any single day.

While much of the focus is on the presidential race, there are also important down-ballot contests. California voters will choose candidates who will compete to fill the Senate seat long held by Dianne Feinstein. The governor’s race will take shape in North Carolina, a state that both parties are fiercely contesting ahead of November. And in Los Angeles, a progressive prosecutor is attempting to fend off an intense reelection challenge in a race that could serve as a barometer of the politics of crime.

But the premier races center on Biden and Trump. And in a dramatic departure from past Super Tuesdays, both the Democratic and Republican contests are effectively sealed this year.

The two men have easily repelled challengers in the opening rounds of the campaign and are in full command of their bids — despite polls making it clear that voters don’t want this year’s general election to be identical to the 2020 race. A new AP-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll finds a majority of Americans don’t think either Biden or Trump has the necessary mental acuity for the job.

“Both of them failed, in my opinion, to unify this country,” said Brian Hadley, 66, of Raleigh, North Carolina.

Neither Trump nor Biden will be able to formally clinch their party’s nominations on Super Tuesday. The earliest either can become his party’s presumptive nominee is March 12 for Trump and March 19 for Biden.

The final days before Tuesday demonstrated the unique nature of this year’s campaign. Rather than barnstorming the states holding primaries, Biden and Trump held rival events last week along the U.S.-Mexico border, each seeking to gain an advantage in the increasingly fraught immigration debate.

After the Supreme Court ruled 9-0 on Monday to restore Trump to primary ballots following attempts to ban him for his role in helping spark the Capitol riot, Trump pointed to the 91 criminal counts against him to accuse Biden of weaponizing the courts. 

“Fight your fight yourself,” Trump said. “Don’t use prosecutors and judges to go after your opponent.” 

State of the Union speech

Biden delivers the State of the Union address on Thursday, then will campaign in the key swing states of Pennsylvania and Georgia.

The president will defend policies responsible for “record job creation, the strongest economy in the world, increased wages and household wealth, and lower prescription drug and energy costs,” White House communications director Ben LaBolt said in a statement. 

That’s in contrast, LaBolt continued, to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement, which consists of “rewarding billionaires and corporations with tax breaks, taking away rights and freedoms, and undermining our democracy.”

Biden’s campaign called extra attention to Trump’s most provocative utterances on the campaign trail, like when he evoked Adolf Hitler in suggesting that immigrants were “poisoning the blood” of the U.S. and said he’d seek to serve as a dictator during his first day back in the White House. 

Trump recently told a gala for Black conservatives that he believed African Americans empathized with his four criminal indictments, drawing a sharp rebuke from the Biden campaign and top Democrats around the country for comparing personal legal struggles to the historical injustices Black people have faced in the U.S.

Trump has nonetheless already vanquished more than a dozen major Republican challengers and now has only one left: Nikki Haley, the former president’s onetime U.N. ambassador who was also twice elected governor of her home state of South Carolina. 

Haley has hopscotched across the country, visiting at least one Super Tuesday state almost daily for more than a week and arguing that her base of support — while far smaller than Trump’s — suggests the former president will lose to Biden.

“We can do better than two 80-year-old candidates for president,” Haley said at a rally Monday in the Houston suburbs.

Haley has maintained strong fundraising and notched her first primary victory over the weekend in Washington, D.C., a Democrat-run city with few registered Republicans. Trump tried to turn that victory into a loss for the overall campaign, scoffing that she had been “crowned queen of the swamp.” 

Vulnerabilities

Though Trump has dominated the early Republican primary calendar, his victories have shown vulnerabilities with some influential voter blocs, especially in college towns like Hanover, New Hampshire, home to Dartmouth College, or Ann Arbor, where the University of Michigan is located, as well as in some areas with high concentrations of independents.

Still, Haley winning any of Super Tuesday’s contests would take an upset. And a Trump sweep would only intensify pressure on her to leave the race.

Biden has his own problems, including low approval ratings and polls suggesting that many Americans, even a majority of Democrats, don’t want to see the 81-year-old running again. The president’s easy Michigan primary win last week was spoiled slightly by an “uncommitted” campaign organized by activists who disapprove of the president’s handling of Israel’s war in Gaza.

Allies of the “uncommitted” vote are pushing similar protest votes elsewhere. One to watch is Minnesota, which has a significant population of Muslims, including in its Somali American community, and liberals disaffected with Biden. Gov. Tim Walz, a Biden ally, told The Associated Press last week that he expected some votes for “uncommitted” on Tuesday.

While Biden is the oldest president in U.S. history, his reelection campaign argues that skeptics will come around once it is clear it’ll be him or Trump in November. Trump is 77 and faces his own questions about age that have been exacerbated by flubs like over the weekend when he mistakenly suggested he was running against Barack Obama.

That hasn’t shaken Trump’s ardent supporters’ faith in him.

“Trump would eat him up,” Ken Ballos, a retired police officer who attended a weekend Trump rally in Virginia, said of a November rematch, adding that Biden “would look like a fool up there.”

(AP)

Source link

#Coasttocoast #Super #Tuesday #elections #set #kick #Biden #Trump #rematch

Miles apart, Biden and Trump tour U.S.-Mexico border highlighting immigration as an election issue

U.S. President Joe Biden and likely Republican challenger Donald Trump walked the U.S.-Mexico border in Texas on February 29, duelling trips underscoring how important immigration has become for the 2024 election and how much each man wants to use it to his advantage.

Each chose an optimal location to make his points, and their schedules were remarkably similar. They each got a briefing on operations and issues, walked along the border and gave remarks that overlapped. But that’s where the comparisons ended.

Blame game

Mr. Biden, who sought to spotlight how Republicans tanked a bipartisan border security deal on Mr. Trump’s orders, went to the Rio Grande Valley city of Brownsville. For nine years, this was the busiest corridor for illegal crossings, but they have dropped sharply in recent months.

President Joe Biden talks with the U.S. Border Patrol, as he looks over the southern border on Feb. 29, 2024, in Brownsville, Texas, along the Rio Grande.
| Photo Credit:
AP

The president walked a quiet stretch of the border along the Rio Grande, and received a lengthy operations briefing from Homeland Security agents who talked to him bluntly about what more they needed.

“I want the American people to know what we’re trying to get done,” he said to officials there. “We can’t afford not to do this.”

Mr. Trump, meanwhile, continued his dialled-up attacks on migrants arriving at the border, deriding them as “terrorists” and criminals. “This is a Joe Biden invasion,” he said.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures to people across the Rio Grande in Mexico at Shelby Park during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border on Feb. 29, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas.

Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump gestures to people across the Rio Grande in Mexico at Shelby Park during a visit to the U.S.-Mexico border on Feb. 29, 2024, in Eagle Pass, Texas.
| Photo Credit:
AP

Mr. Trump was in Eagle Pass, roughly 325 miles (523 km) northwest of Brownsville, in the corridor that’s currently seeing the largest number of crossings. He went to a local park that has become a Republican symbol of defiance against the federal immigration enforcement practices it mocks.

Gov. Greg Abbott and Texas National Guard soldiers gave him a tour, showing off razor wire they put up on Mr. Abbott’s orders and in defiance of a U.S. Supreme Court order. “This is like a war,” Mr. Trump said.

Politics over illegal migrants

The number of people who are illegally crossing the U.S. border has been rising for years for complicated reasons that include climate change, war and unrest in other nations, the economy, and cartels that see migration as a cash cow.

The administration’s approach has been to pair crackdowns at the border with increasing legal pathways for migrants designed to steer people into arriving by plane with sponsors, not illegally on foot to the border.

Arrests for illegal crossings fell by half in January, but there were record highs in December. The numbers of migrants flowing across the U.S-Mexico border have far outpaced the capacity of an immigration system that has not been substantially updated in decades. Mr. Trump and Republicans claim Mr. Biden is refusing to act, but absent law change from Congress, any major policies are likely to be challenged or held up in court.

Among those voters, worries about the nation’s broken immigration system are rising on both sides of the political divide, which could be especially problematic for Biden.

According to an AP-NORC poll in January, the share of voters concerned about immigration rose to 35% from 27% last year. 55% of Republicans say the government needs to focus on immigration in 2024, while 22% of Democrats listed immigration as a priority. That’s up from 45% and 14%, respectively, from December 2022.

Mr. Trump landed to cheers from a crowd gathered at the small airport who held signs that read: “Trump 2024.” Some yelled, “Way to go, Trump.” He chatted with supporters for a few minutes before getting into his waiting SUV.

From Air Force One, Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas dismissed claims the president’s visit was political, and noted how badly his department that manages the U.S.-Mexico border needed extra funding that would have been contained in the collapsed bill.

“This visit is focused on the work that we do, not the rhetoric of others,” he said. “This is focused on operational needs, operational challenges and the significant impact that legislation would have in enhancing our border security.”

In a symbol of the political divide, the Republican-controlled House voted to impeach Mr. Mayorkas over the Biden administration’s handling of the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats say the charges amount to a policy dispute, not the “high crimes and misdemeanours” laid out as a bar for impeachment in the Constitution.

Since the president was last at the border a year ago, the debate over immigration in Washington has shifted further to the right. Democrats have become increasingly eager to embrace border restrictions now that migrants are sleeping in police stations and airplane hangars in major cities.

During bipartisan talks on an immigration deal that would have toughened access for migrants, Mr. Biden himself said he’d be willing to “shut down the border” right now, should the deal pass.

The talks looked promising for a while. But Mr. Trump, who didn’t want to give Mr. Biden a political win on one of his signature campaign issues, persuaded Republicans to kill the deal. House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., declared it dead on arrival.

Mr. Biden vowed to make sure everyone knew why. “Every day, between now and November, the American people are gonna know that the only reason the border is not secure is Donald Trump and his MAGA Republican friends,” he said this month, referring to the former president’s Make America Great Again slogan.

Trump was also to be interviewed by Fox News’ Sean Hannity from Shelby Park, an expanse along the Rio Grande owned by the city of Eagle Pass.

Trump has laid out updated immigration proposals that would mark a dramatic escalation of the approach he used in office and that drew alarms from civil rights activists and numerous court challenges.

Some of those include reviving and expanding his controversial travel ban, imposing “ideological screening” for migrants, terminating all work permits and cutting off funding for shelter and transportation for people who are in the country illegally. He also is likely to bring up the killing of a 22-year-old nursing student in Georgia. The suspect is a Venezuelan migrant.

“Biden is preposterously trying to blame me and Congressional Republicans for the national security and public safety disaster he has created,” Mr. Trump wrote in an op-ed in the British newspaper The Daily Mail. “He created this catastrophe. “

Source link

#Miles #Biden #Trump #tour #USMexico #border #highlighting #immigration #election #issue