More stories

  • in

    AOC accuses Republicans of making up evidence in Biden hearing

    Questioning witnesses in the first impeachment hearing staged by House Republicans, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez prompted each to say they were not presenting “firsthand witness accounts” of crimes committed by Joe Biden.The New York Democrat also accused Republicans of fabricating supposed evidence of corruption involving the president and his surviving son, Hunter Biden.Republicans on the House oversight committee called three witnesses, Democrats one.Ocasio-Cortez questioned the Republican witnesses first.Turning to Jonathan Turley, a law professor at George Washington University and well-known conservative commentator, she said: “In your testimony today, are you presenting any firsthand witness account of crimes committed by the president of the United States?”“No, I’m not,” said Turley, who had already made headlines by saying he did “not believe that the current evidence would support articles of impeachment”.Ocasio-Cortez asked the same question of Eileen O’Connor, a former assistant attorney general in the justice department tax division who worked for Donald Trump’s transition team and is a member of the rightwing Federalist Society.“No, I’m not,” said O’Connor, who was also called out during the hearing for omitting the word “Hunter” when referring to the title of a piece she wrote for the Wall Street Journal in July, namely: “You’d go to prison for what Hunter Biden did.”Ocasio-Cortez asked the same question of Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant:“As the third and final Republican witness in this hearing, have you in your testimony presented any firsthand witness account of crimes committed by the president of the United States?”“I have not,” he said.Ocasio-Cortez said she would “assume the same” of the sole witness called by Democrats, Michael J Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor.He said: “I’m not a fact witness. Correct.”Widely known as AOC, the congresswoman has a passionate following among progressives and an equally passionate legion of haters among conservatives. Her questioning duly made a splash on social media.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionTurning to an item of actual evidence presented by Republicans, she accused them of making it up.Referring to Byron Donalds, she said: “Earlier today, one of our colleagues, the gentleman from Florida, presented up on the screen something that … appeared to be a screenshot of a text message containing or insinuating an explosive allegation.“That screenshot of what appeared to be a text message was a fabricated image.”Donalds showed text messages he claimed indicated that Hunter Biden engaged in fraud and money laundering, to the benefit of his father.“I don’t know where it came from,” Ocasio-Cortez said. “I don’t know if it was the staff of the committee, but it was not the actual direct screenshot from that phone.”She added: “What was brought out from that fabricated image excluded critical context that changed the underlying meaning and allegation that was presented up on that screen, by this committee and by members of this committee.”Ocasio-Cortez also noted that only the witnesses in the hearing were under oath and therefore bound to tell the truth. In contrast, members of Congress could say whatever they wanted. More

  • in

    Texas Democrat asks witness how many times GOP said ‘if’ in Biden allegations – video

    Texas Democrat Jasmine Crockett launched a blistering attack on the impeachment hearings against President Joe Biden on Thursday, asking key Democrat witness Michael J Gerhardt how many times GOP members of the inquiry said ‘if’ when probing allegations against the president. Crockett said: ‘Honestly, if they would continue to say “if” or “Hunter” and we were playing a drinking game, I would be drunk by now.’

    During a hearing of the House Oversight Committee, Crockett also accused GOP members of ignoring evidence against Donald Trump while continuing ‘disturbing’ efforts to impeach Biden. More

  • in

    Republicans struggle to provide proof of wrongdoing at Biden impeachment inquiry

    Republicans struggled to put forward any evidence of wrongdoing by Joe Biden during a hearing on Thursday that’s part of a newly launched impeachment inquiry.The hearing did not go well for Republicans, who control the US House and allege Biden was connected to his son’s business dealings that could have resulted in bribery and corruption. They have been investigating the matter for months and have yet to produce evidence linking the president to his son’s financial affairs. They failed to do so again on Thursday. Instead, the strategy appeared to be to lay the groundwork to justify a longer fishing expedition.The three Republican witnesses who testified on Thursday all conceded they did not have firsthand knowledge of any criminal activity by Biden. Two of those witnesses, Jonathan Turley, a conservative law professor, and Bruce Dubinsky, a forensic accountant, acknowledged that the information put forward so far by the committee did not amount to corruption.“I have previously stated that, while I believe that an impeachment inquiry is warranted, I do not believe that the evidence currently meets the standard of a high crime and misdemeanor needed for an article of impeachment,” Turley said in prepared testimony. Still, Turley argued that there were signs of influence-peddling and that the committee should investigate further.Republicans were reportedly caught off-guard by Turley’s conclusion and an unnamed Republican aide told CNN the hearing was an “unmitigated disaster” for the effort.“I am not here today to even suggest that there was corruption, fraud, or any wrongdoing. In my opinion, more information needs to be gathered and assessed before I would make such an assessment,” Dubinsky, the forensic accountant, said in his opening statement.Thursday’s hearing, led by the House oversight committee, is titled The Basis for an Impeachment Inquiry of President Joseph R Biden Jr. The other Republican witness was Eileen O’Connor, a former assistant attorney general in Department of Justice’s tax division, who wrote an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal criticizing the investigation into Hunter Biden’s finances. O’Connor served on Trump’s 2016 transition team for the treasury department, the Washington Post reported.The impeachment inquiry appears to be a thinly veiled effort to try to muddy the waters as Donald Trump, who leads the Republican primary field, faces four different criminal cases after being twice impeached.With little concrete evidence to work with, Republicans instead relied on Hunter Biden’s business transactions and text messages to try to cast aspersions on the president. They offered no connection to Joe Biden.“The dots are not connected. The name that’s been mentioned the most often in this hearing is Hunter Biden, not President Biden,” Michael Gerhardt, the lone Democratic witness and a law professor at the University of North Carolina, said several hours into the hearing.“The problem is when you sling mud, you have to have mud,” Representative Jared Moskowitz of Florida said at one point.The White House essentially ignored the hearing. Instead, its press office blasted out several versions of the same statement throughout the day with a countdown until the government shuts down for lack of funding.“There are 60 hours and 55 minutes until the government shuts down because of extreme House Republicans’ chaos and inability to govern. The consequences for the American people will be very damaging – from lost jobs, to troops working without pay, to jeopardizing important efforts to fight fentanyl, provide food assistance, and more. Nothing can distract from that,” one such statement read on Thursday morning.With little substance to debate, and no fact witnesses to testify, the hearing often turned theatrical. At one point, Greg Casar, a representative of Texas, asked members to raise their hands if they thought both Hunter Biden and Donald Trump should be tried, and held accountable for their actions if convicted. All of the Democrats present raised their hands, but no Republicans did.“I think it is worse than embarrassing that Republicans won’t raise their hands. They refuse to say that equal justice under the law should apply to everyone,” he said.Democrats also rebuked Republicans for moving forward with an impeachment inquiry absent a full vote from the US House authorizing it. It is not clear whether there is enough GOP support for impeachment in the House for it to survive a full vote.The New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also accused Republicans of presenting a fabricated text message between Jim and Hunter Biden – the president’s brother and son, respectively – that she pointed out omitted critical context. Representative Byron Donalds of Florida displayed a selectively edited exchange between the two in the format of iMessages, which was not how the committee originally received the communication.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionIn his opening statement, Representative James Comer, the Republican chairman of the House oversight committee, claimed the panel had obtained a “mountain of evidence” showing corruption.“He lied by telling the American people that there was an ‘absolute wall’ between his official government duties and his personal life. Let’s be clear: there was no wall. The door was wide open to those who purchased what a business associate described as ‘the Biden Brand’,” he said.But the New York representative Daniel Goldman, a Democrat, pointed to the fact that Republicans had declined to call Devon Archer, Hunter Biden’s business partner to testify. He noted that, in an interview with the committee, Archer had said Joe Biden “never discussed business with Hunter Biden and his associates, he got nothing from the businesses, and never took any official acts related to the businesses”.Republicans also rejected at least two efforts to subpoena Rudy Giuliani, a close ally of Donald Trump who was instrumental in spreading allegations of improprieties by Hunter Biden. Hunter Biden is currently suing Giuliani for the “total annihilation” of his data privacy.For years, Republicans have sought to link Hunter Biden’s business dealings with foreign companies to Joe Biden. But after reviewing thousands of pages of Hunter Biden’s financial records, they have yet to turn up any kind of substantial evidence, according to the New York Times. GOP lawmakers hope to build enough of a case of bribery and abuse of power by Biden.The hearing comes as Republicans have struggled to pass a spending plan to keep the US government open. Democrats have seized on the Thursday hearing to accuse Republicans of being unserious about passing a spending plan.Jason Smith, a Missouri Republican who chairs the House ways and means committee, also said Biden was connected to his son’s business dealings, something Republicans have been unable to prove. “Whether it was lunches, phone calls, White House meetings or official foreign trips, Hunter Biden cashed in by arranging access to Joe Biden, the family brand,” Smith said in his opening remarks.In a lengthy response, Representative Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the committee, blasted Republicans for focusing on impeachment days before the US government was set to shut down due to lack of funding.“We’re 62 hours away from shutting down the government of the United States of America and Republicans are launching an impeachment drive based on a long debunked and discredited lie,” he said. “They don’t have the votes because dozens of Republicans recognize what a futile and absurd process this is.”Republicans have said they will move forward with impeachment, even if the government shuts down. More

  • in

    US shutdown moves ever closer as McCarthy digs in over stopgap deal

    A government shutdown appeared all but inevitable as the House speaker, Kevin McCarthy, dug in on Thursday, vowing he will not take up Senate legislation designed to keep the federal government fully running despite House Republicans’ struggle to unite around an alternative.Congress is at an impasse just days before a disruptive federal shutdown that would halt paychecks for many of the federal government’s roughly 2 million employees, as well as 2 million active-duty military troops and reservists, furlough many of those workers and curtail government services.But the House and Senate are pursuing different paths to avert those consequences, even though time is running out before government funding expires after midnight on Saturday.The Senate is working toward passage of a bipartisan measure that would fund the government until 17 November as longer-term negotiations continue, while also providing $6bn for Ukraine and $6bn for US disaster relief.The House, meanwhile, has teed up votes on four of the dozen annual spending bills that fund various agencies in hopes that would cajole enough Republicans to support a House-crafted continuing resolution that temporarily funds the government and boosts security at the US border with Mexico. It’s a long shot, but McCarthy predicted a deal.“Put your money on me; we’re going to get this done,” he said in a CNBC interview. “I think we can work through the weekend. I think we can figure this out.”Lawmakers were already weary from days of late-night negotiating. The strain was evident at McCarthy’s closed-door meeting with Republicans on Thursday morning, which was marked by a tense exchange between the speaker and Florida congressman Matt Gaetz, according to those in the room.Gaetz, who has taunted McCarthy for weeks with threats to oust him from his post, confronted the speaker about conservative online influencers being paid to post negative things about him. McCarthy shot back that he wouldn’t waste his time on something like that, Gaetz told reporters as he exited the meeting.McCarthy’s allies left the meeting fuming about Gaetz’s tactics.With his majority splintering, McCarthy is scrambling to come up with a plan for preventing a shutdown and win Republican support. The speaker told Republicans he would reveal a Republican stopgap plan, known as a continuing resolution, or CR, on Friday, according to those in the room, while also trying to force Senate Democrats into giving some concessions.But with time running out, many GOP lawmakers were withholding support for a temporary measure until they had a chance to see it. Others are considering joining Democrats, without McCarthy’s support, to bring forward a bill that would prevent a shutdown.With his ability to align his conference in doubt, McCarthy has little standing to negotiate with Senate Democrats. He has also attempted to draw Joe Biden into negotiations, but the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, said Congress and the White House had already worked out top-line spending levels for next year with an agreement this summer that allowed the government to continue borrowing to pay its bills.McCarthy was deviating from that deal and courting a shutdown by catering to Republicans who said it didn’t do enough to cut spending, he said.“By focusing on the views of the radical few instead of the many, speaker McCarthy has made a shutdown far more likely,” Schumer said.Biden also sought to apply more pressure on McCarthy, urging him to compromise with Democrats even though that could threaten his job.“I think that the speaker is making a choice between his speakership and American interests,” Biden said.The White House, as well as the Department of Homeland Security, notified staff on Thursday to prepare for a shutdown, according to emails obtained by the Associated Press. Employees who are furloughed would have four hours on Monday to prepare their offices for the shutdown. More

  • in

    Court rejects Trump effort to delay New York civil trial days after fraud ruling

    An appeals court on Thursday rejected Donald Trump’s attempt to delay a civil trial in a lawsuit brought by New York’s attorney general, allowing the case to proceed days after a judge ruled the former president committed years of fraud and stripped him of some companies as punishment.The decision, by the state’s intermediate appellate court, clears the way for Judge Arthur Engoron to preside over a non-jury trial starting 2 October in Manhattan in the civil lawsuit brought by the New York attorney general, Letitia James.Trump is listed among dozens of possible witnesses, setting up a potential courtroom showdown with the judge. The fraud ruling on Tuesday threatens to upend his real estate empire and force him to give up prized New York properties such as Trump Tower, a Wall Street office building, golf courses and a suburban estate.Trump has denied wrongdoing, arguing that some of his assets are worth far more than what is listed on annual financial statements that Engoron said he used to secure loans and make deals. Trump has argued that the statements have disclaimers that absolve him of liability. His lawyers have said they would appeal.Messages seeking comment were left on Thursday with Trump’s lawyers and James’s office.In New York “these cases take many years to get to trial”, Trump wrote on Wednesday in a post on his Truth Social platform that appeared to conflate several of his legal foes. “My Political Witch Hunt case is actually scheduled to start on Monday. Nobody can believe it? This is a ‘Railroading’ job, pushed hard by the Radical Left DOJ for purposing Election Interference. A very SAD time for New York State, and America!”Trump’s lawyers had sought the trial delay before Engoron’s ruling, alleging the judge abused his authority and hindered their preparations by failing to comply with a June appeals court order that he narrow the scope of the trial based on the statute of limitations.They filed a lawsuit against Engoron on 14 September under a provision of state law known as Article 78, which allows people to challenge some judicial authority, and asked that the trial be postponed until that matter was resolved.An appeals court judge, David Friedman, granted an interim stay of the trial while the full appeals court considered the lawsuit on an expedited basis. Thursday’s ruling lifted the stay, allowing the trial to proceed as scheduled.Engoron ruled on Tuesday that Trump and his company, the Trump Organization, defrauded banks, insurers and others with annual financial statements that massively overvalued his assets and exaggerated his wealth. Engoron ordered some of Trump’s companies removed from his control and dissolved. James alleges Trump boosted his net worth by as much as $3.6bn.After the ruling, Trump’s lawyers again urged the appeals court to delay the trial.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionThey argued in court papers that Engoron showed in his 35-page decision that he was intent on defying the appeals court by ignoring the statute of limitations issue. Engoron refused to dismiss any claims and based his fraud ruling partly on stale allegations that should have been thrown out, the Trump lawyer Clifford Robert said.Engoron’s fraud ruling, in a phase of the case known as summary judgment, resolved the key claim in James’s lawsuit, but six others remain. They include allegations of conspiracy, falsifying business records and insurance fraud. The judge will also decide on James’s request for $250m in penalties.James’s office argued Trump’s lawsuit against Engoron was a “brazen and meritless attempt” to usurp his authority and that any delay “would likely wreak havoc on the trial schedule” and could cause conflicts with Trump’s four pending criminal cases.The civil trial is the culmination of a years-long investigation by James’s office that saw Trump questioned under oath and millions of pages of documents change hands. Engoron has said it could take three months. More

  • in

    Prosecutors accuse Trump of new effort to delay classified documents trial

    Special counsel prosecutors accused Donald Trump of trying to delay the classified documents case to within three months of the 2024 election in a court filing late on Wednesday, suggesting his lawyers had attempted to weaponize the complex government secrecy rules to upend the trial schedule.The alleged delay effort from Trump – whose overarching legal strategy is to push back his criminal cases, potentially until after the election because he could have them dropped were he to win – centers on a proposal from his legal team to extend pre-trial deadlines.The Department of Justice prosecutors said in their filing that they were prepared to accept a short extension in the case after the presiding US district judge, Aileen Cannon, allowed Trump to ask for more time to prepare his next legal briefs following earlier delays in the pre-trial process.But they sharply objected to a proposal from Trump to delay not just one deadline but the entire pre-trial schedule, saying it amounted to a veiled attempt to re-litigate the trial date set for May 2023.“The Court invited the defendants to file a ‘motion to extend deadlines’,” the 15-page filing said. “Instead, defendant Donald J. Trump, joined by his co-defendants, filed a motion that threatens to upend the entire schedule established by the Court.”At issue is the complex nature of the US government’s own rules for using classified documents at trial, known as Cipa, short for the Classified Information Procedures Act that governs how the materials can be introduced in national security cases.Trump was charged with retaining national defense information – including US nuclear secrets and plans for US military retaliation in the event of an attack – and obstructing the government’s efforts to retrieve them, which is why the case is being governed by Cipa rules.The complaint from prosecutors in the office of Jack Smith, the special counsel, is that Trump’s lawyers are attempting to weaponize Cipa section 4, where the judge has to decide whether to allow the government to redact the classified documents that need to be turned over in discovery.Trump’s lawyers know the judge has to rule on the proposed redactions or substitutions before those classified documents can be turned over to them, prosecutors contended, and appeared to be trying to delay that entire process in order to push back the trial date further.The complaint sets up another significant early test for Cannon, a Trump appointee who came under widespread criticism last year during the criminal investigation after she issued a series of favorable decisions to the former president before her rulings were struck down on appeal.A spokesperson for the special counsel declined to comment. A Trump spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment.At its core, prosecutors objected to Trump lawyers’ claim they could not start Cipa section 4 before they had reviewed all of the discovery, and their attempt to create a new Cipa section 4 process that involved sequential court filings from both sides instead of doing it simultaneously.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotion“The defendants provide no examples of where a Court has handled Section 4 briefing on a responsive briefing schedule as defendants propose – and the Government is aware of none,” the filing said of the proposal.Prosecutors argued that Trump only had a number of potential defenses to the charge that he retained national defense information, and his lawyers did not need to go through all of the discovery to come up with their broad defense arguments for the purpose of filing a section 4 brief.The defenses would come down to a handful of options, prosecutors argued: Trump was authorized to posses those documents, the documents did not contain national security information, the documents were not “closely held”, or that Trump did not wilfully retain them.“The nature of the material the Government will propose substituting and the limited redactions it will propose are unlikely to require finely detailed defense theories in order for the Court to determine the helpfulness of the material or the adequacy of a substitution,” the filing said.Prosecutors added that even if Trump did need to review more discovery than usual, most of the unclassified discovery had already been produced, including more than 200 witness interview transcripts as well as all of the surveillance footage at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago club.The production of the classified discovery was also almost complete, the prosecutors said, and the only materials not turned over were five classified documents that were so highly sensitive that they could not be stored with the rest of the materials in a secure facility in Florida. More

  • in

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez says Republicans fabricated evidence in Biden impeachment inquiry – video

    Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez accused Republicans of fabricating evidence in the first hearing of Biden’s impeachment inquiry on Thursday. Ocasio-Cortez said: ‘Earlier today, one of our colleagues, the gentleman from Florida, presented up on the screen something that looked, appeared, to be a screenshot of a text message containing or insinuating an explosive allegation. That screenshot of what appeared to be a text message was a fabricated image’

    In a blistering attack on the GOP-led inquiry Ocasio-Cortez continued: ‘This is an embarrassment. An embarrassment to the time and people of this country’ More

  • in

    Trainers are now allowed in the US Senate – so why on earth can’t I wear them to a party? | Emma Brockes

    It was John Fetterman, the Democratic senator for Pennsylvania with a penchant for “unapologetically wearing shorts” while on duty in the Senate, who seems to have broken the system. Last week, when the majority leader, Chuck Schumer, announced a relaxing of the dress code on the Senate floor, he didn’t mention Fetterman. But nobody was fooled. For weeks, Fetterman has been attracting attention in his baggy shorts, shapeless hoodie and massive, scruffy trainers – and now look what he’s done. Stepping up to provide journalists with the mandatory quote on these sorts of occasions, Republican senator Roger Marshall observed gravely that it was “a sad day in the Senate”.When questioned on the matter, Fetterman remarked that the clothes, which he started wearing after a spell in hospital for depression earlier this year, made him more comfortable. There’s probably a pandemic hangover at work here, too – and possibly, given the state of the world, some fiddling-while-Rome-burns displacement. Traditionally, the Senate’s sergeant-at-arms would pull up male senators for appearing tieless on the floor, and out of respect they would vote from the doorways. The understanding is that, from now on, they may be emboldened to take their place alongside colleagues in something more casual.All of which falls into the familiar and pleasing category of the slipping-standards-it-wasn’t-like-that-in-my-day outrage, other iterations of which include people wearing jeans to the theatre, going hatless at weddings and running multibillion-dollar companies from inside an oversized hoodie. If there is a single, pivotal influence at work it is the last one: the uniform of the tech industry, where suits have come to be associated with small-minded, non-disruptive thinking, while dorm room sweats and sneakers, or at the very most jeans and a white shirt, signify the visionary.I find it hard to pick a side in this debate, operating as I am from the disadvantage of working in an industry where formal attire means finding a T-shirt that doesn’t have a stain down the front. And I’ve shifted positions over the years. For example, having once been strongly in favour of school uniforms, the experience of having kids in a US school – one of them sits all day wearing a baseball cap backwards and the other, occasionally, shows up in pyjama bottoms – has conditioned me out of it. British uniform requirements that legislate down to the socks and hair accessories look prissy and pointless in comparison.I also find myself thinking that definitions of what constitutes formal attire need to change. I have to go to dinner on a fancy ship soon and the dress code stipulates no jeans or sneakers. I’m willing to argue the toss on jeans. But sneakers, come on. This overlooks the sheer breadth of the trainer spectrum, which ranges from Fetterman’s sloppy workout shoes to Virgil Abloh’s Off-White for Nike sneakers that are more expensive and greater works of art, if you want to look at it that way, than what would be considered the more appropriate attire of (in my opinion) dumbass Manolos and their brethren.Anyway, what a time to be alive in the Senate. Colleagues of Fetterman’s fell into line for or against him largely along partisan lines, although that division wasn’t entirely uniform. It was noted that Josh Hawley, Republican senator for Missouri, rocked up in jeans, boots and no tie last week, an outfit he says he normally wears at the start of the week when he flies in from his home state and was reportedly very happy not to have to change out of.Republican senator Susan Collins of Maine, meanwhile, joked: “I plan to wear a bikini tomorrow to the Senate floor,” prompting various unsisterly thoughts that had to be immediately quashed. As one of a minority of women in the Senate, there’s a decent feminist point Collins might have made about all this, although, of course, she didn’t; no one looks to Collins – who voted to confirm Brett Kavanaugh to the supreme court because he gave her his word he wouldn’t challenge Roe v Wade – to defend the interests of women. The fact remains: had either she or one of her 24 female colleagues pulled a number like Fetterman and turned up, as he himself characterised it, looking like “a slob”, I have a hunch the response might not have been so indulgent and jovial.
    Emma Brockes is a Guardian columnist More