Discord over two-state solution opens rift between the US and Israel

US President Biden and Israel’s Binyamin Netanyahu held their first phone call in nearly a month on Friday following the Israeli PM’s rejection of a Washington-backed call for Palestinian sovereignty, with Biden and Netanyahu appearing to be at odds on the issue of a two-state solution to follow the war in Gaza. FRANCE 24 spoke to David Khalfa, co-director of the North Africa and Middle East Observatory at the Jean Jaurès Foundation, to shed more light on the situation. 

US President Joe Biden spoke with Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu for the first time since December 23 on Friday, a day after the Israeli PM reiterated his opposition to the idea of Palestinian statehood and a post-war future for Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank backed by the US.

Netanyahu said on Thursday that Israel “must have security control over all the territory west of the Jordan [River]”, saying he had made this clear to Israel’s “American friends”.

“This is a necessary condition, and it conflicts with the idea of [Palestinian] sovereignty,” Netanyahu said in a televised news conference.

Seeking a more permanent solution to the decades-long Israeli-Palestinian conflict that forms the backdrop of the current war between Israel and Hamas, the United States has pushed Israel for steps toward the establishment of a Palestinian state.

Read moreFrom 1947 to 2023: Retracing the complex, tragic Israeli-Palestinian conflict

US authorities have called for a reformed Palestinian Authority, which currently governs semi-autonomous zones in the Israeli-occupied West Bank, to govern Gaza after the war. The Gaza Strip is currently ruled by Hamas, which ousted the Fatah government of Palestinian Authority president Mahmoud Abbas in 2007 after a landslide victory in parliamentary elections.

Despite the Israeli premier’s open resistance, Biden said Friday after their phone call that Netanyahu might eventually agree to some form of Palestinian statehood, such as one without armed forces.

“The president still believes in the promise and the possibility of a two-state solution” for both Israelis and Palestinians, US National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters in a briefing after the call, adding that Biden “made clear his strong conviction that a two-state solution is still the right path ahead. And we’re going to continue to make that case.”

The United States does have some leverage over its main Middle East ally, given that Israel has been the main beneficiary of US foreign aid since World War II, receiving more than $260 billion in military and economic aid. Whether Netanyahu – who said this week that “a prime minister in Israel should be able to say no, even to our best friends” – can be convinced remains to be seen, however.

FRANCE 24: Are we witnessing a turning point in US-Israel relations?

David Khalfa: The US-Israeli bilateral relationship is said to be “special” because it is based on shared values and strategic interests. However, relations between America and Israel have never been idyllic.

It is an ardent relationship between two friends and allies, but one that has known periods of tension. In fact, these tensions go back a long way: we could easily see this in the presidencies of Dwight D. Eisenhower, Lyndon B. Johnson and Jimmy Carter or, more recently, Barack Obama.

Even Donald Trump, described by Netanyahu as “Israel’s best friend”, did not hesitate last October to call Israeli Defence Minister Yoav Gallant a “jerk” or to criticise the Israeli prime minister in the wake of Hamas’s October 7 massacres.

The establishment of a Palestinian state is backed by the US and Saudi Arabia, and even by some of the Israeli ruling class. Can Netanyahu continue to resist it?

In the short term, yes. Binyamin Netanyahu will do absolutely anything to stay in power, and his strategy is very clearly to wage war for as long as possible because he knows he is unpopular and facing multiple charges (for corruption, bribery and fraud). He is therefore trying to buy time, hoping to win back public support by assuming the role of warlord.

Netanyahu is a shrewd and calculating politician, but he is weakened by his Faustian alliance with the far right, which opposes any prospect of a two-state solution to the conflict.

Moreover, he is old and on borrowed time, and will sooner or later have to step down. Beyond the national unity discourse fostered by the war and the trauma of October 7, the Israeli population has largely withdrawn its support for him. Polls show his popularity plummeting, even among moderate right-wing voters.

But the Gulf states’ offers to normalise relations with Israel in return for substantial progress towards the establishment of a Palestinian state will outlast Binyamin Netanyahu (Saudi Arabia on Tuesday said it would recognise Israel if a Palestinian state is established). This is even more so as the leaders of the petrostates are young and will probably remain in charge for decades to come.

Finally, it should be noted that the Israeli political configuration will change profoundly after Netanyahu’s departure. The centre, embodied by Benny Gantz (a centre-left MP who has repeatedly challenged Netanyahu for the premiership), is likely to take over with the right and far right serving in the opposition.

By refusing Biden’s proposals, is Netanyahu betting on Trump winning the 2024 election?

Absolutely, but it’s a risky bet. After all, relations between Binyamin Netanyahu and Donald Trump, whose temperament is extremely volatile, are now very cool. The former US president feels that Netanyahu betrayed him by recognising Biden’s electoral victory in November 2020.

Next, let’s remember that the $14.5 billion in additional emergency aid promised to Israel by Joe Biden has still not been endorsed by the Senate because the Republicans are opposed to it for purely political reasons, which have nothing to do with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict but everything to do with the polarisation of US politics.

Any Democratic proposal is a pretext for systematic Republican obstruction, even if it means putting their immediate political interest ahead of the US strategic alliance with Israel. Conversely, if Trump comes to power, the Democrats are likely to adopt an identical strategy of systematic obstruction.

Could Washington’s $3 billion in annual military aid to Israel be at stake?

There is a pro-Israel tradition that goes beyond the White House to the Pentagon, where most US strategists believe that the alliance with Israel is, first and foremost, in the US interest.

But even if US aid is not called into question, the conditions under which it is granted are likely to become more complicated, as we are witnessing a politicisation of American military support for the Hebrew state, an issue which up until now had avoided any real debate in the United States.

The Republicans are turning towards isolationism and the Democrats towards progressivism: in the medium term, changes in the US political game will lead Israel to make more concessions if it intends to maintain a high level of US diplomatic and military support.

Israelis are more dependent than ever on military aid due to their recent focus on high-tech weapons, while urban fighting in Gaza demands artillery munitions of all kinds – including “low-tech” ones such as tank shells – which are not made in Israel.

This gives the United States leverage over Israel’s conduct of the war. The setting up of humanitarian corridors in Gaza, the increase in humanitarian aid and the scaling back of Israel’s offensive on the Palestinian enclave were all achieved under pressure from the US administration – contrary to what Netanyahu would have his people believe.

This article was translated from the original in French.

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Rundown: The Trump legal cases to watch in 2024

This year promises to be a busy one for the Trump legal team, with the former US president facing accusations of wrongdoing – ranging from the civil to the criminal to the unconstitutional – in multiple states and jurisdictions. Here is a look at the four criminal indictments (and others) that Donald Trump will be facing in 2024, even as he vies to retake the presidency in November. 

Donald Trump has been charged with a total of 91 felony counts in four criminal indictments, with the former president facing possible prison sentences in each case. 

  • Special Counsel Jack Smith charged Trump with four counts related to federal election interference for his attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential vote (trial set for March 4)
  • Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted Trump on 34 felony counts involving the falsification of business records to conceal hush money payments (trial set for March 25)
  • The special counsel unsealed 37 felony charges related to mishandling classified documents at Trump’s Florida estate (trial set for May 20)
  • Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis brought a total of 41 counts against Trump and 18 others related to election interference (trial requested for August 5).

As his legal team exercises its options for legal challenges, appeal and delays, trial dates are subject to change. 

Trump is also awaiting a verdict in a far-reaching civil fraud case in New York that could see the dismantlement of his business empire. Attorney General Letitia James has requested that Trump be banned from real estate dealings and from operating businesses in the state. 

Adding to his legal woes are individual challenges filed in more than a dozen states alleging that Trump is ineligible to run for president under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment, which disqualifies anyone who has “engaged in insurrection” against the United States after having sworn an oath to support the Constitution as “an officer of the United States”. Trump’s legal defense has argued that a president is not “an officer of the United States” and so the 14th Amendment clause does not apply to him. After the Colorado Supreme Court disqualified him from the 2024 state ballot in December, Trump asked the US Supreme Court to reverse the decision; if the high court agrees to hear the case, its ruling would affect all such outstanding cases at the state level. 

Trump denies wrongdoing in all of the charges he faces.  

Federal election interference: four counts

Special Counsel Jack Smith unveiled four felony counts against Trump related to his attempts to overturn the results of the presidential election, including his actions during the January 6, 2021, assault on the US Capitol: 

  • conspiracy “to defraud the United States by using dishonesty” to obstruct the work of the federal government in certifying the results of the presidential election;
  • conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, i.e., “the certification of the electoral vote”;
  • obstruction of an official proceeding regarding same; and
  • conspiracy to prevent others from exercising their constitutional right to vote and to have their votes counted.

Smith’s August 2023 indictment focuses on the attempt to substitute fake electors and pressure then vice president Mike Pence not to certify the results of the 2020 election. The indictment also recounts Trump’s infamous call with Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in which Trump asked him to “find 11,780 votes” that would win Trump the state.

The indictment notably avoided charging Trump with inciting an insurrection or “seditious conspiracy”, thereby sidestepping what could have been a First Amendment free-speech defense. It accuses Trump instead of fraudulently pushing claims he knew to be untrue after numerous members of his entourage told him the 2020 election was legitimate.

Trump and his legal team argue the case is politically motivated, an attempt to undermine his 2024 bid for the presidency. His lawyers have also argued that Trump is immune from prosecution because his actions that day were taken as part of his official role as president – the now infamouspresidential immunity” argument. 

Judge Tanya S. Chutkan, who is presiding over the case, has rejected that argument, saying the office of the president “does not confer a lifelong ‘get-out-of-jail-free’ pass”. Chutkan “has consistently taken the hardest line against Jan. 6 defendants of any judge serving on Washington’s federal trial court”, according to the AP.

The most serious of the four charges carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison but is subject to a judge’s discretion.

Read the full indictment here.

Falsifying business records in New York: 34 felony counts

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg brought 34 felony counts against Trump in April 2023 for falsifying business records “to conceal criminal conduct” from voters in the runup to the 2016 election. The falsified records “mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature” of payments made to tabloids to suppress damaging information about Trump as well as hush money paid to conceal his extramarital affairs.

While falsifying business records is a misdemeanor under NY law, it becomes a felony if the records were falsified as part of committing separate crimes, in this case violations of NY election laws, exceeding caps on campaign contributions or making false statements to tax authorities. The indictment alleges that Trump representatives organised a “catch and kill” scheme to pay off tabloids that were preparing to run stories damaging to Trump. Trump “then went to great lengths to hide this conduct, causing dozens of false entries in business records to conceal criminal activity, including attempts to violate state and federal election laws”, Bragg’s statement said.

This indictment marked the first time a former US president has ever been charged with a crime.

Longtime Trump attorney Michael Cohen pleaded guilty to campaign finance violations in 2018 – among them a $130,000 payment he made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels through a shell corporation – and served a three-year prison sentence, most of it under house arrest. Bragg’s indictment also alleges that Trump asked Cohen to try to delay the payment to Daniels until after the 2016 election, saying that “at that point it would not matter if the story became public”.

Cohen has since testified against Trump in a separate civil fraud case filed by NY Attorney General Letitia James (see below).

Trump faces up to four years in prison for each count if convicted on fraudulent bookkeeping charges, but a judge could impose these sentences to be served consecutively.

Read the full indictment here.

Mishandling classified documents: 37 felony counts 

Trump was indicted in June 2023 on 37 felony charges related to the removal and retention of classified documents, including 31 violations of the Espionage Act. The documents were stored haphazardly in unsecured areas of Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and residence, including in a ballroom, a bathroom, his bedroom and a storage room. On at least two occasions, Trump shared some of these documents – including a “plan of attack” and a “classified map related to a military operation” – with individuals who did not possess a security clearance.

The FBI opened a criminal investigation into the unlawful retention of classified material at Mar-a-Lago in March 2022 and a grand jury subpoena ordered Trump to return all documents with classified markings. According to the indictment, Trump then “endeavored to obstruct the FBI and grand jury investigations and conceal his continued retention of classified documents” by, among other things, suggesting his attorney hide or destroy the requested documents and instructing others to conceal them. 

“Our laws that protect national defense information are critical to the safety and security of the United States, and they must be enforced,” said Special Counsel Jack Smith, who led the investigation. “Violations of those laws put our country at risk.”

Trump faces up to 10 years in prison for each count of “willfully” retaining national defense documents under US espionage provisions and up to 20 years for each count of obstructing justice for refusing to turn over the documents.

Read the full indictment here.

Election interference in Georgia: the most complex case

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis charged Trump and 18 others – including Trump’s former attorney Rudy Giuliani and White House chief of staff Mark Meadows – with 41 counts related to conspiring to overturn the 2020 presidential election, including impersonating a public official, forgery and pressuring public officials to violate their oaths.  

The charges, 13 of which are against Trump, include violations of Georgia’s Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations (RICO) law, often used to target organised crime. The use of the RICO act was an unusual move that alleges the defendants were part of a “criminal enterprise” focused on keeping Trump in office and allows each defendant’s statements to be used against the other accused.

The Georgia indictment is arguably the most complicated of the criminal cases Trump is facing: it details 161 separate acts across seven states that were allegedly part of a sweeping conspiracy to overturn the election. Some of the defendants, which include fake GOP electors, are accused of illegally accessing voter data, sharing that stolen data with other states, and of breaching voting machines.

Some of Trump’s co-accused have already pleaded guilty, agreed to testify and promised to cooperate with the prosecution. Perhaps even more ominously for Trump, a RICO conviction in Georgia carries a mandatory minimum sentence of five years.

Read the full indictment here


In addition to the charges outlined above, Trump is facing both civil and criminal cases related to his business dealings as well as allegations of sexual abuse.

  • Trump Organization found liable for fraud; trial verdict expected

New York Attorney General Letitia James filed suit against Trump, the Trump Organization and his three adult children for fraud in September 2022 alleging that Trump systematically inflated his assets and net worth to reap tax benefits and persuade banks to offer Trump entities better terms. James’s office documented more than 200 examples of misleading valuations, among them 23 assets whose values were “grossly and fraudulently inflated”.

In a pretrial summary judgment in September 2023, Justice Arthur Engoron found that Trump and his sons Donald Jr. and Eric inflated the value of Trump assets by between $812 million and $2.2 billion. The overvaluations included Trump’s Florida property at Mar-a-Lago, his penthouse apartment in Trump Tower as well as various golf courses and commercial buildings.

Trump inflated the value of Mar-a-Lago by more than 22 times, according to some estimates, placing its worth between $420 million and $1.5 billion. One independent assessor found its market value to be closer to $27 million while some Palm Beach realtors say it could be worth hundreds of millions of dollars. James has argued Trump’s valuation of the property does not take into account the restrictions on its deed, including the stipulation that it cannot be sold or used as a private residence. 

Justice Engoron reportedly took particular exception to the overvaluation of the former president’s Trump Tower penthouse by as much as $207 million, based on the claim that it is almost three times larger than it actually is. “A discrepancy of this order of magnitude by a real estate developer sizing up his own living space of decades can only be considered fraud,” Engoron wrote.

The judge rejected Trump’s argument that his real estate holdings are not overvalued because he could always find a “buyer from Saudi Arabia” to pay the inflated prices.

Engoron also ordered the cancellation of certificates allowing some Trump entities, notably the Trump Organization, to do business in New York and ordered a receiver to be appointed who will manage the dissolution of Trump companies. James has requested that the former president and his sons be removed from managing the Trump Organization.

Former Trump attorney Michael Cohen testified against his former boss in late 2023, saying he and others were specifically told to overvalue Trump’s assets.

“I was tasked by Mr. Trump to increase the total assets, based upon a number that he arbitrarily elected,” Cohen told the court, saying he and former Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg would “reverse-engineer the various different asset classes” to increase the value of those assets to “whatever number Trump told us to”. 

The case went to trial in October and closing statements were delivered in January 2024. James was seeking $370 million in penalties and asking that Trump be banned from any real estate dealings and from operating businesses in the state of New York.

Read the full lawsuit here.

  • Trump found liable for sex abuse, defamation of E. Jean Carroll

A jury unanimously found Trump liable in May 2023 for sexually abusing and defaming prominent columnist E. Jean Carroll in the late 1990s, awarding her $5 million in damages in a civil case. The federal trial included testimony from two other women who also say Trump sexually assaulted them. 

A second defamation trial, in which Carroll is seeking $10 million in damages, began in mid-January.

  • Trump Organization convicted of criminal tax fraud 

The Trump Corporation and Trump Payroll Corp., both sub-entities of the Trump Organization, were convicted in December 2022 on all 17 counts for tax crimes including conspiracy and falsifying business records. The Trump Organization was eventually fined the maximum penalty of $1.6 million; the company has said it will appeal. 

The Trump Organization, which is now run by Trump sons Donald Jr and Eric, was accused of hiding much of the compensation it paid executives between 2005 and 2021. Longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg lived rent-free in a Trump building in Manhattan while he and his wife drove Mercedes-Benz leased by the Trump Organization. Weisselberg admitted to not paying taxes on $1.7 million in remuneration during his testimony, adding that he and others also conspired to falsify W-2 tax forms. Weisselberg was sentenced to five months in prison in January 2023 and agreed to pay $2 million in fines.

Following the verdict, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said he didn’t think the $1.6 million fine went far enough. “Our laws in this state need to change in order to capture this type of decade-plus systemic and egregious fraud,” he said outside the courtroom.

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Former United States Secretary of State Henry Kissinger dies at 100

Henry Kissinger, a controversial Nobel Peace Prize winner and diplomatic powerhouse whose service under two presidents left an indelible mark on US foreign policy, died on Wednesday at age 100, Kissinger Associates Inc said in a statement. He died at his home in Connecticut.

Kissinger had been active past his centenary, attending meetings in the White House, publishing a book on leadership styles, and testifying before a Senate committee about the nuclear threat posed by North Korea. In July 2023 he made a surprise visit to Beijing to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping.

In the 1970s, he had a hand in many of the epoch-changing global events of the decade while serving as secretary of state under Republican President Richard Nixon. The German-born Jewish refugee’s efforts led to the diplomatic opening of China, landmark US-Soviet arms control talks, expanded ties between Israel and its Arab neighbours, and the Paris Peace Accords with North Vietnam.

Kissinger’s reign as the prime architect of US foreign policy waned with Nixon’s resignation in 1974. Still, he continued to be a diplomatic force under President Gerald Ford and to offer strong opinions throughout the rest of his life.

While many hailed Kissinger for his brilliance and broad experience, others branded him a war criminal for his support for anti-communist dictatorships, especially in Latin America. In his latter years, his travels were circumscribed by efforts by other nations to arrest or question him about past US foreign policy.

His 1973 Peace Prize – awarded jointly to North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho, who would decline it – was one of the most controversial ever. Two members of the Nobel committee resigned over the selection and questions arose about the US secret bombing of Cambodia.

Ford called Kissinger a “super secretary of state” but also noted his prickliness and self assurance, which critics were more likely to call paranoia and egotism. Even Ford said, “Henry in his mind never made a mistake.”

“He had the thinnest skin of any public figure I ever knew,” Ford said in an interview shortly before his death in 2006.

With his dour expression and gravelly, German-accented voice, Kissinger was hardly a rock star but had an image as a ladies’ man, squiring starlets around Washington and New York in his bachelor days. Power, he said, was the ultimate aphrodisiac.

Voluble on policy, Kissinger was reticent on personal matters, although he once told a journalist he saw himself as a cowboy hero, riding off alone.

Harvard faculty

Heinz Alfred Kissinger was born in Furth, Germany, on May 27, 1923, and moved to the United States with his family in 1938 before the Nazi campaign to exterminate European Jews.

Anglicising his name to Henry, Kissinger became a naturalised US citizen in 1943, served in the Army in Europe in World War Two, and went to Harvard University on scholarship, earning a master’s degree in 1952 and a doctorate in 1954. He was on Harvard’s faculty for the next 17 years.

During much of that time, Kissinger served as a consultant to government agencies, including in 1967 when he acted as an intermediary for the State Department in Vietnam. He used his connections with President Lyndon Johnson’s administration to pass on information about peace negotiations to the Nixon camp.

When Nixon’s pledge to end the Vietnam War won him the 1968 presidential election, he brought Kissinger to the White House as national security adviser.

But the process of “Vietnamization” – shifting the burden of the war from the half-million US forces to the South Vietnamese – was long and bloody, punctuated by massive US bombing of North Vietnam, the mining of the North’s harbors, and the bombing of Cambodia.

Kissinger declared in 1972 that “peace is at hand” in Vietnam but the Paris Peace Accords reached in January 1973 were little more than a prelude to the final Communist takeover of the South two years later.

In 1973, in addition to his role as national security adviser, Kissinger was named secretary of state – giving him unchallenged authority in foreign affairs.

An intensifying Arab-Israeli conflict launched Kissinger on his first so-called “shuttle” mission, a brand of highly personal, high-pressure diplomacy for which he became famous.

Thirty-two days spent shuttling between Jerusalem and Damascus helped Kissinger forge a long-lasting disengagement agreement between Israel and Syria in the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights.

In an effort to diminish Soviet influence, Kissinger reached out to its chief communist rival, China, and made two trips there, including a secret one to meet with Premier Zhou Enlai. The result was Nixon’s historic summit in Beijing with Chairman Mao Zedong and the eventual formalisation of relations between the two countries.

Strategic arms accord 

The Watergate scandal that forced Nixon to resign barely grazed Kissinger, who was not connected to the cover-up and continued as secretary of state when Ford took office in the summer of 1974. But Ford did replace him as national security adviser in an effort to hear more voices on foreign policy.

Later that year Kissinger went with Ford to Vladivostok in the Soviet Union, where the president met Soviet leader Leonid Brezhnev and agreed to a basic framework for a strategic arms pact. The agreement capped Kissinger’s pioneering efforts at detente that led to a relaxing of US-Soviet tensions.

But Kissinger’s diplomatic skills had their limits. In 1975, he was faulted for failing to persuade Israel and Egypt to agree to a second-stage disengagement in the Sinai.

And in the India-Pakistan War of 1971, Nixon and Kissinger were heavily criticized for tilting toward Pakistan. Kissinger was heard calling the Indians “bastards” – a remark he later said he regretted.

Like Nixon, he feared the spread of left-wing ideas in the Western hemisphere, and his actions in response were to cause deep suspicion of Washington from many Latin Americans for years to come.

In 1970 he plotted with the CIA on how best to destabilize and overthrow the Marxist but democratically elected Chilean President Salvador Allende, while he said in a memo in the wake of Argentina’s bloody coup in 1976 that the military dictators should be encouraged.

When Ford lost to Jimmy Carter, a Democrat, in 1976, Kissinger’s days in the suites of government power were largely over. The next Republican in the White House, Ronald Reagan, distanced himself from Kissinger, who he viewed as out of step with his conservative constituency.

After leaving government, Kissinger set up a high-priced, high-powered consulting firm in New York, which offered advice to the world’s corporate elite. He served on company boards and various foreign policy and security forums, wrote books, and became a regular media commentator on international affairs.

After the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, President George W. Bush picked Kissinger to head an investigative committee. But outcry from Democrats who saw a conflict of interest with many of his consulting firm’s clients forced Kissinger to step down from the post.

Divorced from his first wife, Ann Fleischer, in 1964, he married Nancy Maginnes, an aide to New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, in 1974. He had two children by his first wife.

(REUTERS)

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Kevin McCarthy becomes the first Speaker ever to be ousted from the job in a U.S. House vote

Speaker Kevin McCarthy was voted out of the job on October 3 in an extraordinary showdown, a first in U.S. history that was forced by a contingent of hard-right conservatives and threw the House and its Republican leadership into chaos.

Mr. McCarthy’s chief rival, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, forced the vote on the “motion to vacate,” drawing together more than a handful of conservative Republican critics of the speaker and many Democrats who say he is unworthy of leadership.

Next steps are uncertain, but there is no obvious successor to lead the House Republican majority.

Stillness fell as the presiding officer gavelled the vote closed, 216-210, saying the office of the Speaker “is hereby declared vacant.”

Moments later, a top McCarthy ally, Rep. Patrick McHenry, R-N.C., took the gavel and, according to House rules, was named Speaker pro tempore, to serve in the office until a new Speaker is chosen.

The House then briskly recessed so lawmakers could meet and discuss the path forward.

It was a stunning moment for the battle-tested Mr. McCarthy, a punishment fuelled by growing grievances but sparked by his weekend decision to work with Democrats to keep the federal government open rather than risk a shutdown.

An earlier vote was 218-208 against tabling the motion, with 11 Republicans allowing it to advance.

The House then opened a floor debate, unseen in modern times, ahead of the next round of voting.

Mr. McCarthy, of California, insisted he would not cut a deal with Democrats to remain in power — not that he could have relied on their help even if he had asked.

Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries said in a letter to colleagues that he wants to work with Republicans, but he was unwilling to provide the votes needed to save Mr. McCarthy.

“It is now the responsibility of the GOP members to end the House Republican Civil War,” Mr. Jeffries said, announcing the Democratic leadership would vote for the motion to oust the Speaker.

As the House fell silent, Gaetz, a top ally of Donald Trump, rose to offer his motion. Gaetz is a leader of the hard-right Republicans who fought in January against Mr. McCarthy in his prolonged battle to gain the gavel.

“It’s a sad day,” Republican Rep. Tom Cole of Oklahoma said as debate got underway, urging his colleagues not to plunge the House Republican majority “into chaos.”

But Gaetz shot back during the debate, “Chaos is Speaker McCarthy.”

Mr. McCarthy’s fate was deeply uncertain as the fiery debate unfolded, with much of the complaints against the Speaker revolving around his truthfulness and his ability to keep the promises he has made since January to win the gavel.

But a long line of Mr. McCarthy supporters, including Rep. Jim Jordan, R-Ohio, a founding leader of the conservative Freedom Caucus, stood up for him: “I think he has kept his word.” And some did so passionately. Rep. Garret Graves, R-La., waved his cellphone, saying it was “disgusting” that hard-right colleagues were fundraising off the move in text messages seeking donations.

At the Capitol, both Republicans and Democrats met privately ahead of the historic afternoon vote.

Behind closed doors, Mr. McCarthy told fellow Republicans: Let’s get on with it.

“If I counted how many times someone wanted to knock me out, I would have been gone a long time ago,” Mr. McCarthy said at the Capitol after the morning meeting.

Mr. McCarthy insisted he had not reached across the aisle to the Democratic leader Jeffries for help with votes to stay in the job, nor had they demanded anything in return.

During the hourlong meeting in the Capitol basement, Mr. McCarthy invoked Republican Speaker Joseph Cannon, who more than 100 years ago confronted his critics head-on by calling their bluff and setting the vote himself on his ouster. Cannon survived that takedown attempt, which was the first time the House had actually voted to consider removing its speaker. A more recent threat, in 2015, didn’t make it to a vote.

Mr. McCarthy received three standing ovations during the private meeting — one when he came to the microphone to speak, again during his remarks and finally when he was done, according a Republican at the meeting who was granted anonymity to discuss it.

At one point, there was a show of hands in support of Mr. McCarthy and it was “overwhelming,” said Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., a member of the House Freedom Caucus.

Gaetz was in attendance, but he did not address the room.

Across the way in the Capitol, Democrats lined up for a long discussion and unified around one common point: Mr. McCarthy cannot be trusted, several lawmakers in the room said.

“I think it’s safe to say there’s not a lot of good will in that room for Kevin McCarthy,” said Rep. Richard Neal, D-Mass.

“At the end of the day, the country needs a speaker that can be relied upon,” said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif. “We don’t trust him. Their members don’t trust him. And you need a certain degree of trust to be the speaker.”

Removing the speaker launches the House Republicans into chaos, as they try to find a new leader. It took Mr. McCarthy himself 15 rounds in January over multiple days of voting before he secured the support from his colleagues to gain the gavel. There is no obvious GOP successor.

Mr. Trump, the former President who is the Republican front-runner in the 2024 race to challenge Mr. Biden, weighed in to complain about the chaos. “Why is it that Republicans are always fighting among themselves,” he asked on social media.

One key Mr. McCarthy ally, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., took to social media urging support for “our speaker” and an end to the chaos that has roiled the Republican majority.

Republicans were upset that Mr. McCarthy relied on Democratic votes on Saturday to approve the temporary measure to keep the government running until Nov. 17. Some would have preferred a government shutdown as they fight for deeper spending cuts.

But Democrats were also upset with Mr. McCarthy for walking away from the debt deal that he made with Mr. Biden earlier this year that already set federal spending levels, as he emboldened his right flank to push for steep spending reductions.

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US Congress passes last-minute bill to avert shutdown

The threat of a federal government shutdown suddenly lifted late Saturday as President Joe Biden signed a temporary funding bill to keep agencies open with little time to spare after Congress rushed to approve the bipartisan deal.

The package drops aid to Ukraine, a White House priority opposed by a growing number of GOP lawmakers, but increases federal disaster assistance by $16 billion, meeting Biden’s full request. The bill funds government until Nov. 17.

After chaotic days of turmoil in the House, Speaker Kevin McCarthy abruptly abandoned demands for steep spending cuts from his right flank and instead relied on Democrats to pass the bill, at risk to his own job. The Senate followed with final passage closing a whirlwind day at the Capitol.

“This is good news for the American people,” Biden said in a statement. 

He also said the United States “cannot under any circumstances allow American support for Ukraine to be interrupted” and expected McCarthy “will keep his commitment to the people of Ukraine and secure passage of the support needed to help Ukraine at this critical moment.”


It’s been a sudden head-spinning turn of events in Congress ahead of the midnight funding deadline after grueling days in the House pushed the government to the brink of a disruptive federal shutdown.

The outcome ends, for now, the threat of a shutdown, but the reprieve may be short-lived. Congress will again need to fund the government in coming weeks risking a crisis as views are hardening, particularly among the right-flank lawmakers whose demands were ultimately swept aside this time in favor of a more bipartisan approach. 

“We’re going to do our job,” McCarthy, R-Calif., said before the House vote. “We’re going to be adults in the room. And we’re going to keep government open.”

If no deal was in place before Sunday, federal workers would have faced furloughs, more than 2 million active-duty and reserve military troops would have had to work without pay and programs and services that Americans rely on from coast to coast would have begun to face shutdown disruptions.

“It has been a day full of twists and turns, but the American people can breathe a sigh of relief: There will be no government shutdown,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.

The package funds government at current 2023 levels until mid-November, and also extends other provisions, including for the Federal Aviation Administration. The package was approved by the House 335-91, with most Republicans and almost all Democrats supporting. Senate passage came by an 88-9 vote. 

But the loss of Ukraine aid was devastating for lawmakers of both parties vowing to support President Volodymyr Zelenskyy after his recent Washington visit. The Senate bill included $6 billion for Ukraine, and both chambers came to a standstill Saturday as lawmakers assessed their options.

“The American people deserve better,” said House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries of New York, warning in a lengthy floor speech that “extreme” Republicans were risking a shutdown. 

For the House package to be approved, McCarthy was forced to rely on Democrats because the speaker’s hard-right flank has said it will oppose any short-term funding measure, denying him the votes needed from his slim majority. It’s a move that is sure to intensify calls for his ouster. 

After leaving the conservative holdouts behind, McCarthy is almost certain to be facing a motion to try to remove him from office, though it is not at all certain there would be enough votes to topple the speaker. Most Republicans voted for the package Saturday while 90 opposed.

“If somebody wants to remove me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy said of the threat to oust him. “But I think this country is too important.”

The White House was tracking the developments on Capitol Hill and aides were briefing the president, who was spending the weekend in Washington.

Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who has championed Ukraine aid despite resistance from his own ranks, is expected to keep pursuing U.S. support for Kyiv in the fight against Russia.

“I have agreed to keep fighting for more economic and security aid for Ukraine,” McConnell, R-Ky., said before the vote.

Late at night, the Senate stalled when Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., held up the vote, seeking assurances Ukraine funds would be reconsidered.

“I know important moments are like this, for the United States, to lead the rest of the world,” Bennet said, noting his mother was born in Poland in 1938 and survived the Holocaust. “We can’t fail.”

The House’s quick pivot comes after the collapse Friday of McCarthy’s earlier plan to pass a Republican-only bill with steep spending cuts up to 30% to most government agencies and strict border provisions that the White House and Democrats rejected as too extreme. A faction of 21 hard-right Republican holdouts opposed it.

“Our options are slipping away every minute,” said one senior Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida.

The federal government had been heading straight into a shutdown that posed grave uncertainty for federal workers in states all across America and the people who depend on them — from troops to border control agents to office workers, scientists and others.

Families that rely on Head Start for children, food benefits and countless other programs large and small were confronting potential interruptions or outright closures. At the airports, Transportation Security Administration officers and air traffic controllers had been expected to work without pay, but travelers could have faced delays in updating their U.S. passports or other travel documents. 

The White House has brushed aside McCarthy’s overtures to meet with Biden after the speaker walked away from the debt deal they brokered earlier this year that set budget levels.

Catering to his hard-right flank, McCarthy had made multiple concessions including returning to the spending limits the conservatives demanded back in January as part of the deal-making to help him become the House speaker. 

But it was not enough as the conservatives insisted the House follow regular rules, and debate and approve each of the 12 separate spending bills needed to fund the government agencies, typically a months-long process. In the Senate, all the no votes against the package came from Republicans.

McCarthy’s chief Republican critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, has warned he will file a motion calling a vote to oust the speaker. 

Some of the Republican holdouts, including Gaetz, are allies of former President Donald Trump, who is Biden’s chief rival in the 2024 race. Trump has been encouraging the Republicans to fight hard for their priorities and even to “shut it down.” 

At an early closed-door meeting at the Capitol, several House Republicans, particularly those facing tough reelections next year, urged their colleagues to find a way to prevent a shutdown.

“All of us have a responsibility to lead and to govern,” said Republican Rep. Mike Lawler of New York.

The lone House Democrat to vote against the package, Rep. Mike Quigley of Illinois, the co-chair of the Congressional Ukraine Caucus, said, “Protecting Ukraine is in our national interest.”

(AP)



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Trump indicted for efforts to overturn results of 2020 presidential election

Donald Trump was charged Tuesday in a Justice Department investigation into his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the run-up to the violent riot by his supporters at the US Capitol.

The charges include conspiracy to defraud the United States government and witness tampering.

The indictment, the third criminal case brought against the former president as he seeks to reclaim the White House in 2024, follows a long-running federal investigation into schemes by Trump and his allies to subvert the peaceful transfer of power and keep him in office despite a decisive loss to Joe Biden.

Even in a year of rapid-succession legal reckonings for Trump, Tuesday’s criminal case was especially stunning in its allegations that a former president assaulted the underpinnings of democracy in a frantic and ultimately failed effort to cling to power.

Federal prosecutors say Donald Trump was “determined to remain in power” in conspiracies that targeted a “bedrock function of the United States federal government: the nation’s process of collecting, counting and certifying the results of the presidential election.” Trump is due in court on Thursday before US District Judge Tanya Chutkan.

The criminal case comes while Trump leads the field of Republicans vying to capture their party’s presidential nomination. It is sure to be dismissed by the former president and his supporters – and even some of his rivals – as just another politically motivated prosecution. Yet the charges stem from one of the most serious threats to American democracy in modern history.

Refusal to accept loss

They focus on the turbulent two months after the November 2020 election in which Trump refused to accept his loss and spread lies that victory was stolen from him. The turmoil resulted in the US Capitol riot on Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump loyalists violently broke into the building, attacked police officers and disrupted the congressional counting of electoral votes.

In between the election and the riot, Trump urged local election officials to undo voting results in their states, pressured former Vice President Mike Pence to halt the certification of electoral votes and falsely claimed that the election had been stolen – a notion repeatedly rejected by judges.

The indictment had been expected since Trump said in mid-July that the Justice Department informed him he was a target of its long-running Jan. 6 investigation. A bipartisan House committee that spent months investigating the run-up to the Capitol riot also recommended prosecuting Trump on charges, including aiding an insurrection and obstructing an official proceeding.

The mounting criminal cases against Trump – not to mention multiple civil cases – are unfolding in the heat of the 2024 race. A conviction in this case, or any other, would not prevent Trump from pursuing the White House or serving as president.

In New York, state prosecutors have charged Trump with falsifying business records about a hush money payoff to a porn actor before the 2016 election. The trial begins in late March.

In Florida, the Justice Department has brought more than three dozen felony counts against Trump accusing him of illegally possessing classified documents after leaving the White House and concealing them from the government. The trial begins in late May.

Trial to be held in Washington

The latest federal indictment against Trump focuses heavily on actions taken in Washington, and the trial will be held there, in a courthouse located between the White House he once occupied and the Capitol his supporters once stormed. No trial date has been set.

Prosecutors in Georgia are investigating efforts by Trump and his allies to reverse his election loss to Biden there in 2020. The district attorney of Fulton County is expected to announce a decision on whether to indict the former president in early August.

The investigation of Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election was led by Justice Department special counsel Jack Smith. His team of prosecutors has questioned senior Trump administration officials before a grand jury in Washington, including Pence and top lawyers from the Trump White House.

Rudy Giuliani, a Trump lawyer who pursued post-election legal challenges, spoke voluntarily to prosecutors as part of a proffer agreement, in which a person’s statements can’t be used against them in any future criminal case that is brought.

Prosecutors also interviewed election officials in Georgia, Wisconsin, Michigan and elsewhere who came under pressure from Trump and his associates to change voting results in states won by Biden, a Democrat.

Focal points of the Justice Department’s election meddling investigation included the role played by some of Trump’s lawyers, post-election fundraising, a chaotic December 2020 meeting at the White House in which some Trump aides discussed the possibility of seizing voting machines and the enlistment of fake electors to submit certificates to the National Archives and Congress falsely asserting that Trump, not Biden, had won their states’ votes.

For Trump, this is a witch hunt

Trump has been trying to use the mounting legal troubles to his political advantage, claiming without evidence on social media and at public events that the cases are being driven by Democratic prosecutors out to hurt his 2024 election campaign.

The indictments have helped his campaign raise millions of dollars from supporters, though he raised less after the second than the first, raising questions about whether subsequent charges will have the same impact.

A fundraising committee backing Trump’s candidacy began soliciting contributions just hours after the ex-president revealed he was the focus of the Justice Department’s Jan. 6 investigation, casting it as “just another vicious act of Election Interference on behalf of the Deep State to try and stop the Silent Majority from having a voice in your own country.”

Attorney General Merrick Garland last year appointed Smith, an international war crimes prosecutor who also led the Justice Department’s public corruption section, as special counsel to investigate efforts to undo the 2020 election and Trump’s retention of hundreds of classified documents at his Palm Beach, Florida, home, Mar-a-Lago. Although Trump has derided him as “deranged” and suggested that he is politically motivated, Smith’s past experience includes overseeing significant prosecutions against high-profile Democrats.

The Justice Department’s investigation into the efforts to overturn the 2020 election began well before Smith’s appointment, proceeding alongside separate criminal probes into the Jan. 6 rioters themselves.

More than 1,000 people have been charged in connection with the insurrection, including some with seditious conspiracy.

(AP)

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Trump’s target letter suggests probe into 2020 election is zeroing in

A target letter sent to Donald Trump suggests that a sprawling Justice Department investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election is zeroing in on him after more than a year of interviews with top aides to the former president and state officials from across the country.

 Former President Donald Trump said Tuesday he had received a letter informing him that he is a target of the Justice Department’s investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, an indication he could soon be charged by U.S. prosecutors.

New federal charges, on top of existing state and federal counts in New York and Florida and a separate election-interference investigation nearing conclusion in Georgia, would add to the list of legal problems for Trump as he pursues the 2024 Republican presidential nomination.

Trump disclosed the existence of a target letter in a post on his Truth Social platform, saying he received it Sunday night and he anticipates being indicted. Such a letter often precedes an indictment and is used to advise individuals under investigation that prosecutors have gathered evidence linking them to a crime. Trump himself received one soon before being charged last month in a separate investigation into the illegal retention of classified documents.

A spokesman for special counsel Jack Smith, whose office is leading the investigation, declined to comment.

Legal experts have said potential charges could include conspiracy to defraud the United States and obstruction of an official proceeding, in this case, Congress’ certification of President Joe Biden’s electoral victory.

Smith’s team has cast a broad net in its investigation into attempts by Trump and his allies to block the transfer of power to Biden in the days leading up to the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, when Trump loyalists stormed the building in a bid to disrupt the certification of state electoral votes in Congress. More than 1,000 people accused of participating in the riot have been charged.

Smith’s probe has centred on a broad range of efforts by Trump and allies to keep him in office, including the role played by lawyers in pressing for the overturning of results as well as plans for slates of fake electors in multiple battleground states won by Biden to submit false electoral certificates to Congress.

Prosecutors have questioned multiple Trump administration officials before a grand jury in Washington, including former Vice President Mike Pence, who Trump repeatedly pressured to ignore his constitutional duty and block the counting in Congress of electoral votes on 6 January.

They’ve also interviewed other Trump advisers, including former Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, as well as local election officials in states including Michigan and New Mexico who were targets of a pressure campaign from the then-president to overturn election results in their states. A lawyer for Giuliani, who participated in a voluntary interview, said Tuesday that he did not receive a target letter.

In a related case, Michigan’s attorney general filed felony charges Tuesday against 16 Republicans who acted as fake electors for Trump in 2020. They were accused of submitting false certificates confirming they were legitimate electors despite Joe Biden’s victory in the state.

Trump has consistently denied wrongdoing and did so again in his Tuesday post, writing, “Under the United States Constitution, I have the right to protest an Election that I am fully convinced was Rigged and Stolen, just as the Democrats have done against me in 2016, and many others have done over the ages.”

Trump remains the Republican party’s dominant frontrunner in the 2024 presidential race, despite indictments in New York and in Florida, which appear to have had little impact on his standing in the crowded GOP field. The indictments also have helped his campaign raise millions of dollars from supporters, though he raised less after the second than the first, raising questions about whether subsequent charges will have the same impact.

A fundraising committee backing Trump’s candidacy began soliciting contributions just hours after he revealed the new letter, casting the investigation as “just another vicious act of Election Interference on behalf of the Deep State to try and stop the Silent Majority from having a voice in your own country.”

Meanwhile, Trump continued to campaign as usual. He travelled Tuesday to Iowa, where he criticized investigators and tried to make light of his mounting legal woes as he spoke at a local GOP meeting and taped a town hall with Fox News host Sean Hannity.

The Trump indictments have proven politically challenging for some of Trump’s rivals, who must be mindful of his deep support among many of the party’s primary voters as well as their distrust of federal law enforcement.

Asked about the letter during a press conference in South Carolina, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, Trump’s most serious challenger, said he hadn’t seen it but delivered his most forceful critique of Trump’s inaction on 6 January.

“I think it was shown how he was in the White House and didn’t do anything while things were going on. He should have come out more forcefully,” DeSantis said. However, he added, “But to try to criminalize that, that’s a different issue entirely.”

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who had previously criticised Trump for his actions that day, accused Democrats of trying to “weaponize government to go after their number one opponent.”

Trump, since leaving office, has increasingly downplayed the events of 6 January, describing the rally he held that day as a “lovefest” and “a beautiful thing.” He has also embraced defendants jailed for their alleged roles in the insurrection, including promising to pardon a “large portion” and to issue an official apology to them if he is reelected.

In June, he spoke at a fundraiser for the defendants and earlier this year collaborated on a song called “Justice for All,” a version of the Star-Spangled Banner sung by a choir of 6 January defendants and recorded over a prison phone line that is overlaid with Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance.

Some Trump campaign officials and allies argue the country has largely moved on from 6 January and see the latest investigation as similar to others, believing it will have little impact.

One purpose of a target letter is to advise a potential defendant that he or she has a right to appear before the grand jury. Trump said in his post that he has been given “a very short four days to report to the Grand Jury, which almost always means an Arrest and indictment.” Aides did not immediately respond to questions seeking further information.

Prosecutors in Georgia are conducting a separate investigation into efforts by Trump to reverse his election loss in that state, with the top prosecutor in Fulton County signalling that she expects to announce charging decisions next month.

In his post on Tuesday, Trump wrote that “they have now effectively indicted me three times … with a probably fourth coming from Atlanta.” He added in capital letters, “This witch hunt is all about election interference and a complete and total political weaponization of law enforcement.”

Trump was indicted last month on 37 federal felony counts in relation to accusations of illegally retaining hundreds of classified documents at his Florida estate, Mar-a-Lago. He has pleaded not guilty. A pretrial conference, in that case, was held Tuesday in Fort Pierce, Florida, where a judge said she expected to soon decide on a trial date.

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Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower who exposed Vietnam War secrets, dies at 92

Daniel Ellsberg, the U.S. military analyst whose change of heart on the Vietnam War led him to leak the classified “Pentagon Papers,” revealing U.S. government deception about the war and setting off a major freedom-of-the-press battle, died on Friday at the age of 92, his family said in a statement.

Issued on: Modified:

Ellsberg, who had been diagnosed with inoperable pancreatic cancer in February, died at his home in Kensington, California, the family said.

Long before Edward Snowden and Wikileaks were revealing government secrets in the name of transparency, Ellsberg let Americans know that their government was capable of misleading and even lying to them. In his later years Ellsberg would become an advocate for whistleblowers and leakers and his “Pentagon Papers” leak was portrayed in the 2017 movie “The Post.”

Ellsberg secretly went to the media in 1971 in hopes of expediting the end of the Vietnam War. It made him the target of a smear campaign by the Nixon White House. Henry Kissinger, who was then the president’s national security adviser, referred to him as “the most dangerous man in America who must be stopped at all costs.”

When he went to Saigon for the State Department in the mid-1960s, Ellsberg had an impressive resume. He had earned three degrees from Harvard, served in the Marine Corps and worked at the Pentagon and the RAND Corporation, the influential policy research think tank.

He was a dedicated Cold War warrior and hawk on Vietnam at the time. But Ellsberg, in his 2003 book, “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers,” said he was only one week into a two-year tour of duty in Saigon when he realized the United States was in a war it would not win.

Meanwhile at the behest of Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, Pentagon officials had secretly been putting together a 7,000-page report covering U.S. involvement in Vietnam from 1945 through 1967. When it was finished in 1969, two of the 15 published copies went to the RAND Corporation, where Ellsberg was once again working.

Anti-war rallies

With his new perspective on the war, Ellsberg started attending peace rallies. He said he was inspired to copy the “Pentagon Papers” after hearing an anti-war protester say he was looking forward to going to prison for resisting the draft.

Ellsberg began sneaking the top-secret study out of the RAND office and copying it at night on a rented Xerox machine – using his 13-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter as helpers. He took the documents with him when he moved to Boston for a job at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and ended up sitting on them for a year and a half before passing pages to the New York Times.

The Times ran its first installment of the “Pentagon Papers” on June 13, 1971, and the administration of President Richard Nixon moved quickly to get a judge to stop further publication.

Nixon’s claim of executive authority and invocation of the Espionage Act set off a freedom-of-the-press fight over the extreme censorship of prior restraint.

Ellsberg’s next move was to give the “Pentagon Papers” to the Washington Post and more than a dozen other newspapers. In New York Times v. U.S., the Supreme Court ruled less than three weeks after first publication that the press had the right to publish the papers, and the Times resumed doing so.

The study said the U.S. officials had concluded that the war probably could not be won and that President John F. Kennedy approved of plans for a coup to overthrow the South Vietnamese leader. It also said Kennedy’s successor, Lyndon Johnson, had plans to expand the war, including bombing in North Vietnam, despite saying during the 1964 campaign that he would not. The papers also revealed the secret U.S. bombing in Cambodia and Laos and that casualty figures were higher than reported.

On the run

The Times never said who leaked the papers but the FBI quickly figured it out. Ellsberg remained underground for about two weeks before surrendering in Boston.

“I felt that as an American citizen, as a responsible citizen, I could no longer cooperate in concealing this information from the American public,” Ellsberg said at the time. “I did this clearly at my own jeopardy and I am prepared to answer to all the consequences of this decision.”

He would say that he regretted not leaking the papers sooner.

Even though the “Pentagon Papers” did not cover Nixon’s handling of Vietnam, the White House’s “plumbers” unit, which would later pull off the Watergate break-in that led to Nixon’s downfall, was ordered to stop further leaks and discredit Ellsberg.

Two and a half months after first publication, two men who later figured prominently in Watergate – G. Gordon Liddy and E. Howard Hunt – broke into the office of Ellsberg’s psychiatrist to search for incriminating evidence.

Ellsberg and a RAND colleague were eventually charged with espionage, theft and conspiracy. But at their 1973 trial, the case was dismissed on the grounds of government misconduct when the break-in was revealed.

In his later years, Ellsberg, who was born April 7, 1931 in Chicago, Illinois, became a writer and lecturer in the campaign for government transparency and against the proliferation of nuclear weapons.

He said Snowden, a contractor for the National Security Agency who gave journalists thousands of classified documents on government information-gathering before fleeing the country, had done nothing wrong. He also said he considered Army Private Chelsea Manning a hero for turning over a trove of government files to WikiLeaks.


His books include “The Doomsday Machine: Confessions of a Nuclear War Planner” in 2017 and “Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers” in 2002.

The once-top-secret papers that Ellsberg shepherded into the mainstream can be read online at http://www.archives.gov/research/pentagon-papers/.

Ellsberg had been married twice, first to Carol Cummings, with whom he had two children. That marriage ended in divorce.

His second marriage was to Patricia Marx, with whom he a son.

(Reuters)



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Trump challenger DeSantis to enter 2024 race in Twitter event with Musk

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, whose impassioned battles over pandemic lockdowns and divisive cultural issues have endeared him to conservatives, will announce on Wednesday he is seeking the Republican presidential nomination, placing him on a collision course with former President Donald Trump.

DeSantis will make the announcement on Twitter during a discussion with Twitter CEO Elon Musk, DeSantis’ political team confirmed. At the same time, he will file a document with the Federal Election Commission declaring his candidacy.

NBC first reported the planned announcement.

Musk confirmed his appearance on a webcast during a conference hosted by the Wall Street Journal, saying he was not endorsing DeSantis.

“I’m not at this time planning to endorse any particular candidate, but I am interested in Twitter being somewhat of a town square,” Musk said.

DeSantis was re-elected handily to a second term in November. His rising profile among Republicans and fundraising prowess likely make him the biggest threat to Trump’s hopes of becoming the Republican nominee for the White House again.

The two men were close allies during Trump’s four years in the White House – Trump endorsed him during his first campaign for governor – but DeSantis has since forged his own political identity. At 44 he may represent the future of the party more than does the 76-year-old Trump.

“Announcing on Twitter is perfect for Ron DeSantis. This way he doesn’t have to interact with people and the media can’t ask him any questions,” said a Trump adviser who asked not to be identified.

DeSantis will convene a meeting in Miami of his top donors, who will immediately launch his presidential fundraising efforts.

During the coronavirus pandemic, DeSantis became the national face of resistance to mask and vaccine mandates and has been a virulent critic of Dr. Anthony Fauci, who headed the government’s COVID-19 response in both the Trump and Biden administrations.

In stump speeches, he has argued his policies made possible Florida’s economic recovery from the pandemic, turning the state into a magnet for hundreds of thousands of new residents. Florida has consistently outpaced the country in job growth over the last two years.

“His pandemic response effectively made him the governor of Red State America,” said Justin Sayfie, a Florida lobbyist and a former aide to former Florida Governor Jeb Bush.

In the months leading up to his presidential bid, DeSantis has toured the country, visiting states like Iowa and New Hampshire that will hold early presidential nominating contests next year and talking up his accomplishments in Florida.

But his decision to wait until now to join the fray has allowed Trump to batter DeSantis with a fusillade of attacks, costing him standing in national polls.

Aggressive agenda 

DeSantis has rebuffed critics, pushed his priorities through the legislature and punished his enemies. His Democratic opponent in his 2022 re-election campaign, Charlie Crist, called DeSantis a “wannabe dictator.”

When Walt Disney Co DIS.N, one of Florida’s biggest employers, opposed the so-called “Don’t Say Gay” law that limited discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools, DeSantis moved to strip the company of its self-governing status.

Disney has since filed a federal lawsuit against the governor, accusing him of weaponizing state government to retaliate against the company.

When an elected Democratic state attorney said he would not prosecute anyone for defying DeSantis-backed limits on abortion, DeSantis removed him from his position.

He has made crusading against what Republicans call “woke” education policies a centerpiece of his politics while supporting conservative candidates for local school boards.

He backed a legislative measure that prohibits the teaching of “Critical Race Theory” – an academic doctrine that views US history through the lens of oppression – in state public schools despite little evidence it was being taught.

Republican lawmakers in Florida handed DeSantis a bevy of conservative victories in its recent session: They expanded the state’s school voucher program, prohibited the use of public money in sustainable investing, scrapped diversity programs at public universities, allowed for permitless carry of concealed weapons and, perhaps most notably, banned almost all abortions in the state.

The widespread abortion ban may help DeSantis appeal to the party’s evangelicals, but may damage him significantly in the November 2024 general election should he make it that far. Pro-business Republicans have also been critical of his feud with Disney, arguing that it is at odds with the party’s traditional hands-off approach to regulation.

Republicans nationwide have taken notice of his aggressive approach to governing. DeSantis and his affiliated political action committee raised more than $200 million in support of his gubernatorial re-election bid.

Also watching has been Trump, who has taken to deriding his one-time protégé at rallies, nicknaming him “DeSanctimonious” and claiming credit for making DeSantis the political rising star he is today.

On the stump, DeSantis has a wholly different style than the bombastic Trump: low-key, buttoned-down and prone to favoring policy over personal attacks. His campaign speeches can sometimes feel like PowerPoint presentations.

A key question going forward will be how DeSantis responds to what will certainly be a nearly endless stream of insults and insinuations from Trump. So far, he has attempted to dismiss them as “noise” and said he is focused on “delivering results.”

It may not be in DeSantis’ interest to fire back. He needs to win over some portion of Trump’s supporters. Instead, he likely will try to walk a careful line between not denigrating Trump while making clear he favours many of the same policies with perhaps a steadier hand on the tiller.

Prior to his election as governor in 2018, DeSantis served as a US congressman for three terms. His wife, Casey DeSantis, is considered his closest political adviser. The couple has three children.

(REUTERS)

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Tennessee’s House expels 2 Democrats over gun protest, VP Harris travels to meet them

In an extraordinary act of political retaliation, Tennessee Republicans on Thursday expelled two Democratic lawmakers from the state Legislature for their role in a protest calling for more gun control in the aftermath of a deadly school shooting in Nashville. A third Democrat was narrowly spared by a one-vote margin.

The split votes drew accusations of racism, with lawmakers ousting Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, who are both Black, while Rep. Gloria Johnson, who is white, survived the vote on her expulsion. Republican leadership denied that race was a factor, however.

The White House on Friday announced Vice President Kamala Harris would make a last-minute trip to Tennessee to meet with lawmakers and hold a private meeting with Jones, Pearson and Johnson. She is also set to meet with young people advocating for tougher gun control laws.

The visitors’ gallery exploded in screams and boos following Thursday’s vote on the expulsion. After sitting quietly for hours and hushing anyone who cried out during the proceedings, people broke into chants of “Shame!” and “Fascists!”

Banishment is a move the chamber has used only a handful times since the Civil War. Most state legislatures have the power to expel members, but it is generally reserved as a punishment for lawmakers accused of serious misconduct, not used as a weapon against political opponents.

GOP leaders said Thursday’s actions were necessary to avoid setting a precedent that lawmakers’ disruptions of House proceedings through protest would be tolerated.

Republican Rep. Gino Bulso said the three Democrats had “effectively conducted a mutiny.”

‘We’re fighting for kids who are dying’

At an evening rally, Jones and Pearson pledged to be back at the Capitol next week advocating for change.

“Rather than pass laws that will address red flags and banning assault weapons and universal background checks, they passed resolutions to expel their colleagues,” Jones said. “And they think that the issue is over. We’ll see you on Monday.”

Jones, Pearson and Johnson joined in protesting last week as hundreds of demonstrators packed the Capitol to call for passage of gun-control measures. As the protesters filled galleries, the three approached the front of the House chamber with a bullhorn and participated in a chant. The scene unfolded days after the shooting at the Covenant School, a private Christian school where six people were killed, including three children.

Pearson told reporters Thursday that in carrying out the protest, the three had broken “a House rule because we’re fighting for kids who are dying from gun violence and people in our communities who want to see an end to the proliferation of weaponry in our communities.”

Johnson, a retired teacher, said her concern about school shootings was personal, recalling a day in 2008 when students came running toward her out of a cafeteria because a student had just been shot and killed.

“The trauma on those faces, you will never, ever forget,” she said.

Hand in hand

Thousands of people flocked to the Capitol to support Jones, Pearson and Johnson on Thursday, cheering and chanting outside the House chamber loudly enough to drown out the proceedings.

The trio held hands as they walked onto the floor and Pearson raised a fist during the Pledge of Allegiance.

Offered a chance to defend himself before the vote, Jones said the GOP responded to the shooting with a different kind of attack.

“We called for you all to ban assault weapons, and you respond with an assault on democracy,” he said.

Jones vowed that even if expelled, he would continue pressing for action on guns.

“I’ll be out there with the people every week, demanding that you act,” he said.

Bulso accused Jones of acting with “disrespect” and showing “no remorse.”

“He does not even recognise that what he did was wrong,” Bulso said. “So not to expel him would simply invite him and his colleagues to engage in mutiny on the House floor.”

The two expelled lawmakers may not be gone for long. County commissions in their districts get to pick replacements to serve until a special election can be scheduled and they could opt to choose Jones and Pearson. The two also would be eligible to run in those races.

Under the Tennessee Constitution, lawmakers cannot be expelled for the same offense twice.

During discussion, Republican Rep. Sabi Kumar advised Jones to be more collegial and less focused on race.

“You have a lot to offer, but offer it in a vein where people are accepting of your ideas,” Kumar said.

Jones said he did not intend to assimilate in order to be accepted. “I’m not here to make friends. I’m here to make a change for my community,” he replied.

‘Racism on display’

Fielding questions from lawmakers, Johnson reminded them that she did not raise her voice nor did she use the bullhorn — as did the other two, both of whom are new lawmakers and among the youngest members in the chamber.

But Johnson also suggested race was likely a factor on why Jones and Pearson were ousted but not her, telling reporters it “might have to do with the colour of our skin.”

That notion was echoed by state Sen. London Lamar, a Democrat representing Memphis.

Lawmakers “expelled the two black men and kept the white woman,” Lamar, a Black woman, said via Twitter. “The racism that is on display today! Wow!”

However, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, a Republican who voted to expel all three, denied that race was at play and said Johnson’s arguments might have swayed other members.

“Our members literally didn’t look at the ethnicity of the members up for expulsion,” Majority Leader William Lamberth added. He alleged Jones and Pearson were trying to incite a riot last week, while Johnson was more subdued.

Biden in shock

In Washington, President Joe Biden also was critical of the expulsions, calling them “shocking, undemocratic, and without precedent.”

“Rather than debating the merits of the issue (of gun control), these Republican lawmakers have chosen to punish, silence, and expel duly-elected representatives of the people of Tennessee,” Biden said in a statement.

Before the expulsion votes, House members debated more than 20 bills, including a school safety proposal requiring public and private schools to submit building safety plans to the state. The bill did not address gun control, sparking criticism from some Democrats that it only addresses a symptom and not the cause of school shootings.

Past expulsion votes have taken place under distinctly different circumstances.

In 2019, lawmakers faced pressure to expel former Republican Rep. David Byrd over accusations of sexual misconduct dating to when he was a high school basketball coach three decades earlier. Republicans declined to take action, pointing out that he was reelected as the allegations surfaced. Byrd retired las year.

Last year, the state Senate expelled Democrat Katrina Robinson after she was convicted of using about $3,400 in federal grant money on wedding expenses instead of her nursing school.

Before that, state lawmakers last ousted a House member in 2016 when the chamber voted 70-2 to remove Republican Rep. Jeremy Durham over allegations of improper sexual contact with at least 22 women during his four years in office.

 (FRANCE 24 with AP, Reuters)

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