More stories

  • in

    Bill Barr in ‘active discussions’ to testify before Capitol attack panel – live

    We’re still waiting for the final result from Tuesday’s Republican senate primary in Pennsylvania, in which Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate, celebrity TV doctor Mehmet Oz, and former treasury official David McCormick are separated by only a few hundred votes with 99% of the count in.But there was a clear winner in the race to become the Republican nominee for state governor in November’s midterms – Trump loyalist and big lie proponent Doug Mastriano.My colleague Sam Levine has this profile of the extremist, whom critics fear will be in charge of appointing officials to oversee the state’s elections if he wins later this year, and who will theoretically have the power to reject a result he doesn’t like:The Trump loyalist who could be a major threat to US democracyRead moreBill de Blasio, the former mayor of New York city, is running for Congress in a district that includes areas of Manhattan and his home in western Brooklyn.He made the announcement on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday, shortly before his Bill de Blasio for Congress website went live with the campaign slogan: “The only way to save our democracy is to be a part of it”. De Blasio, whose second term as NYC mayor ended last year, is seeking election in New York’s 10th congressional district, currently represented by Democrat Jerry Nadler. Redistricting under the supervision of a New York judge, which Nadler says is unconstitutional, has forced him into a race for the 12th district with another Democratic incumbent, Carolyn Maloney, opening up the 10th for de Blasio’s run.The state’s primary has been pushed back from June to 23 August following legal wrangling over the legality of New York’s maps and a court’s decision last month that Democrats’ original proposals were too heavily in their own favor.De Blasio, 61, toyed with running for governor this year, the Associated Press says, but decided not to challenge incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul. He also had a short-lived run for president in 2019. There’s more trouble at home for Joe Biden as he ends the first day of his Asian tour: his approval rating has dropped to the lowest point of his presidency.Raging inflation, soaring gas prices, the baby formula shortage and a failure to deliver on campaign promises were cited by respondents in an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research study that also reflects deepening pessimism among his own Democratic party.Only 39% of US adults approve of Biden’s performance as president, a further drop from already negative ratings a month earlier.Overall, only about two in 10 adults say the US is heading in the right direction or the economy is good, both down from about three in 10 a month earlier. Those drops were concentrated among Democrats, with just 33% within the president’s party saying the country is headed in the right direction, down from 49% in April.Of particular concern for Biden ahead of the midterm elections, his approval among Democrats stands at 73%, a substantial drop since earlier in his presidency. In AP-NORC polls conducted in 2021, Biden’s approval rating among Democrats never dropped below 82%.The findings reflect a widespread sense of exasperation in a country facing a cascade of challenges ranging from inflation, gun violence, and a sudden shortage of baby formula to a persistent pandemic.“I don’t know how much worse it can get,” Milan Ramsey, a 29-year-old high school counselor and Democrat in Santa Monica, California, told the AP. She said she and her husband had to move into her parents’ house to raise their infant son.“He hasn’t delivered on any of the promises. I think he’s tired and I don’t blame him, I’d be tired too at his age with the career he’s had.”Biden has been attempting to play up his successes at home over improved unemployment figures and his bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the White House sees his tour of Asia, including meetings with the leaders of South Korea and Japan, as an opportunity to market the US abroad.But the trip has already attracted unwelcome headlines. A member of Biden’s advance security detail was arrested for allegedly assaulting a South Korean citizen in Seoul in a dispute over a taxi, and CNN reports that two secret services agents have been sent home.It is not known if it relates to the same incident.Read more:Biden security team member arrested in Seoul over alleged drunken assaultRead moreBill Barr, the former attorney general who says he told Donald Trump his fantasy of a stolen election was “bullshit”, could soon be on the record with the 6 January House panel.Axios is reporting that Barr, who resigned in the waning days of Trump’s single term of office, is in negotiations with the committee to tell what he knows of the days surrounding the deadly insurrection, and Trump’s demand for the justice department to declare the election fraudulent.Details are scant, the committee is refusing to confirm the story, and it’s not known if Barr will be invited to take part in public hearings the panel will be holding this spring.But Axios says it has sources with knowledge of the situation who insist Barr is in “active discussions” to follow up his previous informal conversations with the committee with on-the-record testimony and transcribed interviews.The news comes at an important juncture for the bipartisan inquiry, which wants to complete its work ahead before November’s midterms, when Republicans are expected to win back control of the House and shut it down.What information Barr has to offer remains to be seen. Most of what we already know about his knowledge of Trump’s desperate efforts to stay in power comes from his book, which the Guardian reviewed in March as a “self-serving narrative that ignores tricky truths”. But the pace of the 6 January investigation is undoubtedly picking up as members scramble to complete their work.Separately on Friday, CNN reported that John Eastman, the rightwing attorney and Trump acolyte, was deeply involved in the plot to steal back the election, and has revealed in a court filing that he spoke regularly with, and had handwritten notes from the former president, concerning those efforts.The panel is chasing those documents, and on Thursday wrote to Georgia congressman Barry Loudermilk seeking information about “reconnaissance tours” of the Capitol the Republican is reported to have hosted on 5 January 2021, one day before Trump’s supporters ransacked the building in efforts to stop Congress certifying his defeat. Read more:Congress members led ‘reconnaissance tours’ of Capitol before attack, evidence suggestsRead moreGood morning blog readers, and welcome! We’ve made it to Friday, but as you know, the pace of US politics never winds down!We’re learning that Bill Barr, the former attorney general, is poised to give sworn testimony to the 6 January House committee investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat.Axios reports that Barr, who has already spoken informally to the panel, is in “active discussions” for a formal, transcribed interview. We’ll have more on that coming up, as well as the following:
    Joe Biden is in Seoul, South Korea, talking computer chips at a technology factory with ties to Texas. Meanwhile, his popularity rating back home has taken another dive.
    Vote counting from Tuesday’s Republican senate primary in Pennsylvania is limping towards the finish line, with Trump-endorsed TV doctor Mehmet Oz in a neck-and-neck race with former treasury department official David McCormick.
    Polls suggest Trump is set for a bruising in next week’s Georgia primary, where David Perdue, the former senator Trump wants to replace incumbent Republican governor Brian Kemp, has fallen further behind.
    Covid-19 cases are rising again across the US, and there’s little sign that Congress is willing to fund Biden’s requested $22.5bn relief package for vaccines, testing and therapeutics.
    A decision is expected imminently from a federal judge in Louisiana, who will decide if the Biden administration can proceed with plans to end next Monday the Trump-era Title 42 immigration policy keeping refugees at the border because of the pandemic.
    Stick with us as the days unfolds, and you can also follow developments in the Ukraine conflict in our global live news blog here. More

  • in

    Conservatives want to make the US more like Hungary. A terrifying thought | Andrew Gawthorpe

    Conservatives want to make the US more like Hungary. A terrifying thoughtAndrew GawthorpeFor the US right, Orbán’s Hungary – unconstrained by an independent media, democratic institutions or racial diversity – isn’t a cautionary tale, but an aspiration Long a safe space where conservatives could say what they really thought, this year the Conservative Political Action Conference (Cpac) is hosting an event in Budapest, its first ever on the European continent. Attendees will be treated to panels about “western civilization under attack” and be addressed by American conservative luminaries including the former Trump chief of staff Mark Meadows and media figures like Tucker Carlson and Candace Owens. That Hungary has become an authoritarian state whose leader, Viktor Orbán, has deconstructed Hungarian democracy and become a close ally of Vladimir Putin doesn’t seem to faze anyone involved. In fact, it’s the whole point.Ending Roe v Wade is just the beginning | Thomas ZimmerRead moreThe embrace of Orbán as a role model by many on the right seems at first glance puzzling. After all, conservatives are not known for welcoming lessons from Europeans on how America ought to be run. But it becomes more explicable when you realize that for years, Orbán has been playing out the fantasies of Cpac’s attendees, unconstrained by the independent institutions, impartial media and racial diversity which American conservatives see as their foils at home. Where Orbán has gone, American conservatives want to follow. And increasingly, they are doing so.Central to Orbán’s appeal is that he is a fighter who has turned his country into, according to the organizers of Cpac, “one of the engines of Conservative resistance to the woke revolution”. In some ways Orbán resembles Trump, but in the eyes of many conservatives he’s better understood as the man they wished Trump would be. Where Trump was a thrice-married playboy who boasted of sleeping with porn stars and managed to lose the 2020 election, Orbán seems both genuinely committed to upholding conservative cultural values and has grimly consolidated control over his country, excluding the left from power indefinitely.Among the terrifying implications of the American right’s embrace of Orbán is that it shows that the right would be willing to dismantle American democracy in exchange for cultural and racial hegemony. Many of Orbán’s admirers come from the “post-liberal right”, a group of intellectuals and politicians who see “traditional American culture” as so far degenerated that it may be necessary to wrest power away from a corrupted people in order to make America great again. They count among Orbán’s victories his clampdown on gay and transgender rights and his refusal to allow Muslim refugees to enter Hungary. Upholding a particular set of “Christian” (actually nationalistic and bigoted) values is seen as worth the damage to democracy – the latter might even be necessary for the former.Things get even more sinister when we consider that America is a vast continent-sized country of enormous cultural and racial diversity. Imposing a conservative monoculture on such a country could only be achieved through one means – governmental coercion. The desirability of doing just that is now openly discussed on the right. Over the past several years, many have been advocating “common-good constitutionalism” – an idea put forward by the conservative legal thinker Adrian Vermeule which holds that America should embrace a new interpretation of the constitution focused on, among other things, a “respect for hierarchy” and a willingness to “legislate morality”. As surely as such ideas underpinned the Jim Crow south, such ideas mesh easily with, indeed are required by, any attempt to bring Orbánism to the United States as a whole.Far from being limited to the trolls at Cpac or obscure writers, such an approach to governing is already being implemented by conservatives up and down the country. State laws which ban teaching about race or gender issues in schools have passed in many states, and Republicans have continued their assault on businesses which speak out on these issues. In Florida, Governor Ron DeSantis has moved to use the power of the state to punish Disney for its stance on gay rights. In the face of cultural change which conservatives dislike, the principle of free speech has gone out of the window, and the heavy hand of the state is knocking at the door.The recently leaked US supreme court decision overturning Roe v Wade is perhaps the clearest indication of the danger that this trend poses. By removing a fundamental individual right and once again enabling conservatives to impose their own moral views on women’s bodies, the decision – if passed as written – will be seen on the right as a landmark in how the power of the state can be used to discipline a degenerated culture and regulate morality. Further crackdowns are sure to follow. Locked out of power on the supreme court and facing steep challenges to winning power in America’s unbalanced electoral system, defenders of liberalism will struggle to fight back.It’s no exaggeration to say that Orbánism, with its rejection of democracy and its willingness to use coercion to enforce a narrow cultural and religious agenda, defines the danger posed by modern American conservatism. The danger is greatest when the two elements come together. Unable to win the approval of the people on whom they wish to force their values, conservatives will be tempted to proceed further and further down an undemocratic path. That path has already taken them all the way to Budapest. The fear now is that they will ultimately bring Budapest back to America.
    Andrew Gawthorpe is a historian of the United States at Leiden University and the host of the podcast America Explained
    TopicsRepublicansOpinionUS politicsCPACHungaryViktor OrbánEuropecommentReuse this content More

  • in

    Viktor Orbán tells CPAC the path to power is to ‘have your own media’

    Viktor Orbán tells CPAC the path to power is to ‘have your own media’Hungarian leader also tells Republicans at Budapest conference that shows like Tucker Carlson’s should be broadcast ‘24/7’ The Hungarian leader, Viktor Orbán, has told a conference of US conservatives that the path to power required having their own media outlets, calling for shows like Tucker Carlson’s to be broadcast “24/7”.Orbán, recently elected to a fourth term, laid out a 12-point blueprint to achieving and consolidating power to a special meeting of the US Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), under the slogan of “God, Homeland, Family”, held in Budapest.Orbán and US right to bond at Cpac in Hungary over ‘great replacement’ ideologyRead moreThe Hungarian prime minister said that with his fourth electoral victory on 3 April, Hungary had been “completely healed” of “progressive dominance”. He suggested it was time for the right to join forces.“We have to take back the institutions in Washington and Brussels. We must find allies in one another and coordinate the movements of our troops,” Orbán said.He told Republicans in the Balnaconference centre on the banks of the Danube that media influence was one of the keys to success. In Hungary, the prime minister and his allies have effective control of most media outlets in Hungary, including state TV.“Have your own media. It’s the only way to point out the insanity of the progressive left,” he said. “The problem is that the western media is adjusted to the leftist viewpoint. Those who taught reporters in universities already had progressive leftist principles.”He portrayed the US media as being dominated by Democrats, who he claimed were being “served” by CNN, the New York Times and others.“Of course, the GOP has its media allies but they can’t compete with the mainstream liberal media. My friend, Tucker Carlson is the only one who puts himself out there,” he said. “His show is the most popular. What does it mean? It means programs like his should be broadcasted day and night. Or as you say 24/7.”Carlson had been billed as a key speaker at the CPAC conference, but the Fox News talk show host sent only a 38 second video message, in which he extolled Hungary under the Orbán government as a model for the US.“I can’t believe that you’re in Budapest and I am not,” he said. “What a wonderful country. And you know why you can tell it’s a wonderful country? Because the people who turned our country into a much less good place are hysterical when you point it out.”“The last thing they want is any kind of signpost to a better way, and Hungary certainly provides that,” Carlson added. “A free and decent and beautiful country that cares about its people, their families, and the physical landscape.”Journalists from international media outlets were denied access to the event, including the New Yorker, Vox Media, Vice News, Rolling Stone, and the Associated Press, despite months of requests. The organizers either ignored their requests for accreditation or told them to “watch the event online”.Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union that runs CPAC, said the Central-European country is the right place to start a conversation about Europe.Hungary: where editors tell reporters to disregard facts before their eyesRead moreOrbán’s 12-point action plan also included points on faith, “because the absence of faith is dangerous” and the importance in countering “LGBT-propaganda” which was “still new in our country but we have already destroyed it”.The second day of the CPAC conference on Friday is billed to start with a “surprise video message” that some speculate will be from Donald Trump, who was also invited to the event. The schedule also features Candace Owens, described as “Trump’s favorite influencer’, video messages from Mark Meadows, Trump’s former White House chief of staff, Santiago Abascal, president of Spain’s Vox party, and Zsolt Bayer, a pro-Orbán pundit who formerly called Roma people “animals”, referred to Jewish people as “stinking excrement” and used racist slurs for Black people during the BLM protests.Marine Le Pen, the presidential candidate from the French far right National Rally, was announced as a speaker on Monday, but the post disappeared from the organizers’ Facebook after a couple of hours, and her name was deleted from CPAC Hungary’s website.TopicsCPACViktor OrbánHungaryUS politicsEuropeRepublicansnewsReuse this content More

  • in

    Will Republicans drop the Great Replacement Theory? Politics Weekly America – podcast

    In a week when a teenager shot dead 10 Black people in Buffalo New York, apparently motivated by the ‘great replacement’ theory, Jonathan Freedland speaks to Michael Harriot and Anne Applebaum about why this racist ideology has become mainstream in rightwing circles in the US, and why we shouldn’t be surprised

    How to listen to podcasts: everything you need to know

    Archive: Fox News, ABC News, CNN Follow The Guardian’s reporting of the shooting in Buffalo Listen to the first episode of the third series of Comfort Eating with Grace Dent Send your questions and feedback to podcasts@theguardian.com. Help support the Guardian by going to gu.com/supportpodcasts. More

  • in

    Oklahoma Republican-led legislature passes nation’s strictest abortion ban

    Oklahoma Republican-led legislature passes nation’s strictest abortion ban Bill bans abortion at conception and if signed into law it would allow citizens to sue anyone who ‘aids or abets’ a patient Oklahoma’s Republican-led legislature passed the nation’s strictest abortion ban on Thursday. The bill, if signed into law, would allows citizens to sue anyone, anywhere who “aids or abets” a patient in terminating a pregnancy.The bill bans abortion from conception, even before an egg implants in the uterus, and would go into effect immediately if signed by Republican governor Kevin Stitt. Abortion providers expect he will do so before the coming week.Like a six-week abortion ban in Texas, Oklahoma’s bill would be enforced by citizens. It would allow anyone, anywhere to sue for $10,000 and “emotional distress”, even if they do not have a relationship to the patient in question.Oklahoma’s bill, “is not one more ban, it is not another ban – it is a first,” said Emily Wales, interim president and CEO of President of Planned Parenthood Great Plains, which serves patients in Arkansas, Kansas, Missouri and Oklahoma. The law, “encourages bounty hunters to sue their neighbors”, and is a “reversal of history happening before our eyes”.UN official on Roe v Wade: reversal would ‘give legitimacy to growing anti-women’s rights’ Read moreThe bill is part of an aggressive push in Republican-led states across the country to scale back abortion rights.“It’s outrageous, and it’s just the latest in a series of extreme laws from around the country,” Vice-President Kamala Harris said in reaction to the law. She said the new bans were designed to “punish and control women”.It comes on the heels of an unprecedented leaked draft opinion from the supreme court, which suggested a majority of conservative justices support a total reversal of Roe v Wade. The landmark decision legalized abortion nearly 50 years ago and invalidated dozens of state abortion bans.A final ruling in a key case from Mississippi, called Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, is expected next month.If the final decision does not change substantially from the leaked draft, the court would effectively return the issue of legal abortion to the state. At least 26 states would be certain or likely to ban abortion. The leaked opinion sparked uproar from Americans who support abortion access, a roughly two-thirds majority according to polls, and human rights leaders.The Oklahoma bill by Collinsville Republican representative Wendi Stearman would prohibit all abortions in the state, except to save the life of a pregnant woman or if the pregnancy is the result of rape or incest that has been reported to law enforcement.“Is our goal to defend the right to life or isn’t it?” Stearman asked her colleagues before the bill passed on a 73-16 vote mostly along party lines. At least one lawmaker suggested the bill did not go far enough, and suggested also banning treatment for ectopic pregnancies, a life-threatening medical condition in which an embryo implants inside the fallopian tubes. An ectopic pregnancy is never viable.“These people have no idea what they’re talking about, and they are making laws controlling our medical practice and people’s basic rights,” said Dr Iman Alsaden, medical director of Planned Parenthood Great Plains.The bill is one of at least three abortion bans sent to Stitt this year. The other laws include a six-week abortion ban and a criminal abortion ban, though the way the laws will interact is not yet known. The criminal abortion ban, set to take effect this summer if Roe falls, would make it a felony to perform an abortion punishable by up to 10 years in prison, with no exceptions for rape or incest.‘This is real’: in Oklahoma, a post-Roe world has arrivedRead moreThe lead attorney on challenges to Oklahoma’s various abortion bans, Rabia Muqaddam from the Center for Reproductive Rights, called the legislature “extraordinarily sloppy”.“My understanding is the most restrictive law that take effect latest controls, but it is extraordinarily bizarre,” said Muqaddam. “We’re challenging everything as it comes.”The laws passed by Oklahoma also have an outsized effect on women in Texas, the state which pioneered civil enforcement of abortion bans. Oklahoma was briefly a haven state for Texan patients, after the supreme court allowed Texas to ban abortion at six weeks in 2021 September.“At this point, we are preparing for the most restrictive environment politicians can create: a complete ban on abortion with likely no exceptions,” said Wales. “It’s the worst-case scenario for abortion care in the state of Oklahoma,” she added.TopicsOklahomaAbortionRepublicansUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

  • in

    US Senate passes $40bn aid package for Ukraine – as it happened

    The US Senate has approved Joe Biden’s massive new military and humanitarian aid bill for Ukraine, with a huge bipartisan vote in favor of the package as allies boost the fight back against Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor.The final vote moments ago was 86 in favor, 11 against. The vote had been expected last week until Kentucky rightwinger Rand Paul blocked it.All 50 Democrats in the Senate and all but 11 Republicans supported the bill, which was larger than the original $33bn one first requested by Biden last month.The US president is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as possible. Russia invaded Ukraine three months ago.“Help is on the way, really significant help. Help that could make sure that the Ukrainians are victorious,” Senate majority leader and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer said.That’s a wrap for Thursday’s US politics blog, but our global live blog of the Ukraine conflict continues here.Here’s what we followed today:
    The US Senate has (finally) passed a $40bn package of military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine.
    Joe Biden says he’s “proud” to support applications by Finland and Sweden to join Nato, after meeting the countries’ leaders at the White House, saying their addition will strengthen the defense alliance. But Turkey says it can’t support the move.
    Oklahoma has passed the nation’s most restrictive abortion law, a total ban beginning at conception which allows citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a woman in terminating a pregnancy.
    The 6 January House panel wants to hear from Republican congressman Barry Loudermilk about a “tour” he allegedly hosted at the Capitol building the day before it was overrun by a mob of Donald Trump supporters.
    The homeland security department has suspended the government’s troubled new disinformation board after the resignation of its director and a wave of Republican criticism.
    Biden is on his way to Alaska, the staging post for his onward journey on Air Force One to Seoul and Tokyo and meetings with the leaders of South Korea and Japan in the coming days.
    The alleged white supremacist behind Saturday’s grocery store massacre in Buffalo, New York, made a brief court appearance this morning. House lawmakers sent the domestic terrorism bill to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate.
    National security adviser Jake Sullivan has been giving a preview of Joe Biden’s trip to South Korea aboard Air Force One as the president and his entourage travel on the first leg towards their staging post in Alaska.The audio feed from 38,000 feet is, how shall we say, patchy. But it seems Sullivan was asked about the likelihood of North Korea launching some kind of deliberate action or challenge to the US while Biden is in Asia to meet the leaders of South Korea and Japan:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Our analysis [is] that there is a genuine possibility, a real risk of some kind of provocation while we’re in the region, whether in South Korea or in Japan, that could take the form of a nuclear test, the seventh nuclear test that North Korea has conducted.
    It could take the form of a missile test. There have been a number of missile tests this year. And of course, North Korea has a long history going back decades of missile tests, both to advance their capabilities and to cause provocations.
    We are prepared for those eventualities, we are coordinated closely with both the ROK [Republic of South Korea] and Japan, we know what we will do to respond to that.
    One of the main messages we are sending on this trip is that the United States is here for our allies and partners. We are here to help provide deterrence and defense for the ROK and Japan. Our cooperation will only strengthen in the face of any further provocations by North Korea.Vladimir Putin “had to keep explaining things” to Donald Trump when Trump was US president, the former White House aide Fiona Hill said. “Putin doesn’t like to do that,” Hill told the Chicago Council on Global Affairs.“You could see that he got frustrated many times with President Trump. Even though he loves to be able to spin his own version of events, he wants to have predictability in the person that he’s engaging with.”Under Trump, Hill was senior director for European and Russian affairs on the national security council. She is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution in Washington.The British-born adviser come to prominence when she testified in Trump’s first impeachment for withholding military aid to Ukraine in an attempt to extract political dirt on opponents including Joe Biden.Putin ordered the Russian invasion of Ukraine in February. Bloody fighting continues. Biden has committed to supporting Ukraine.At the Chicago event, Hill said Putin “thought that somebody like Biden, who’s a trans-Atlanticist, who knows all about Nato, who actually knows where Ukraine is, and actually knows something about the history, and is very steeped in international affairs, would be the right person to engage with as opposed to somebody that you have to explain everything to all the time, honestly”.The Russian president, Hill said, might still be “waiting for us to sue for peace, [to] negotiate away Ukraine”.Trump and Republicans claim Putin would not have invaded if Trump was in power.The Trump administration was dogged by investigations of Russian election interference and links between Trump and Moscow.Read more:Putin ‘had to keep explaining things to Trump’, ex-White House aide saysRead moreThe 6 January House panel wants to hear from a Republican congressman about a “tour” he allegedly hosted at the Capitol building the day before it was overrun by a mob of Donald Trump supporters.The committee has written to Georgia representative Barry Loudermilk asking for his voluntary cooperation.According to a publicly released letter, panel chair and Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson wrote:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}Based on our review of evidence in the select committee’s possession, we believe you have information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on January 5, 2021.
    Public reporting and witness accounts indicate some individuals and groups engaged in efforts to gather information about the layout of the US Capitol, as well as the House and Senate office buildings, in advance of January 6, 2021.Loudermilk did not immediately reply to a request for comment.The House committee is looking into Trump’s attempts to overturn his election defeat by Joe Biden and the deadly riot at the Capitol by his supporters on the day Congress was certifying the result.Today’s move suggests the panel has evidence pointing to certain “reconnaissance tours” taking place in the days before 6 January, potentially providing some rioters with a layout of the complex, the Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports.Read more:January 6 panel evidence suggests Congress members led ‘reconnaissance tours’ of the Capitol before attackRead moreThe words “Donald Trump” and “risk averse” rarely appear in the same sentence, but after the former president suffered mixed fortunes in some Republican primary race endorsements, and a bloodied nose in others, he’s rethinking his strategy of prolifically backing candidates, according to CNN.The network says candidate in upcoming elections are likely to have a harder time winning Trump’s coveted endorsements.An adviser tells CNN that Trump is “agitated” by the inability of his pick Mehmet Oz, the celebrity TV doctor-turned-politician, to score a decisive victory over David McCormick in the Pennsylvania senate primary. The race is heading for an automatic recount with just a few hundred votes from Tuesday’s primary separating them.“This is not how he expected this to go,” the adviser tells CNN.“If Oz loses, it puts [Trump] in an awkward spot because he absolutely trashed David McCormick at his rally and pissed off quite a few allies who never thought he should have endorsed Oz.” While Trump has scored some wins, for example a convincing victory by Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania’s gubernatorial primary, other endorsements have fallen flat. The scandal-plagued North Carolina congressman Madison Cawthorn lost his seat despite Trump’s (admittedly late-in-the-game) backing, and former senator David Perdue looks headed for a thumping loss to incumbent Brian Kemp in Georgia’s governor primary next Tuesday, according to Huffpost.A newly cautious approach to upcoming primaries by Trump would underscore his belief that in order to maintain influence inside the Republican party, his endorsement must remain powerful, CNN says.Oklahoma’s Republican-led legislature just passed the nation’s strictest abortion ban, which allows citizens to sue anyone who “aids or abets” a woman in terminating a pregnancy. The ban begins at conception.The law would take effect immediately if Republican governor Kevin Stitt signs the bill, which he is expected to do. It would allow litigants to sue for $10,000 and “emotional distress”. If the law goes into effect, it will make Oklahoma “the first state to successfully outlaw abortion and eliminate access while Roe v Wade is still standing,” according to a spokesperson for Planned Parenthood, and have profound effects for women in Texas. Oklahoma’s total abortion ban is modeled after a six-week abortion ban first passed by Texas. There, the state passed a law to allow anyone, anywhere to sue those who “aid and abet” an abortion. Texas’s law banned abortion at six weeks, which is before most women know they are pregnant. Consequently, thousands of Texan patients headed to Oklahoma seeking to terminate pregnancies. Oklahoma then passed a similar six-week abortion ban. The bill being considered by Stitt would outlaw abortion from the moment an egg is fertilized, even before it implants in the uterus. The right to obtain an abortion was established in the landmark 1973 supreme court decision Roe v Wade. The case provided a constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy up to the point a fetus can survive outside the womb. In early May, a leaked draft opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito Jr, one of the court’s conservatives, showed a majority of justices considered reversing Roe v Wade outright. If they followed through with that draft decision, at least 26 US states would be certain or likely to ban abortion. Thousands of patients in the Midwest and South would then be forced to seek care across state lines, sometimes traveling hundreds of miles. Perhaps as many as one-in-five, according to the estimates of one economist, would be forced to carry a pregnancy to term.Here’s a heartwarming image that encapsulates the US Senate’s celebrated spirits of bipartisanship, camaraderie and mutual friendship: Democratic and Republican senators prepare to take lunch with Sweden’s prime minister Magdalena Andersson and Finland’s president Sauli Niinistö on Capitol Hill today.The leaders held a closed-door meeting with the senators after their earlier summit with Joe Biden at the White House to discuss the Nordic nations’ historic application to join Nato.Time to take stock of developments so far today:
    The US Senate has (finally) passed a $40bn package of military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine. Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelenskiy, says thank you, and predicts it will spur his country to victory.
    Joe Biden says he’s “proud” to support applications by Finland and Sweden to join Nato, after meeting the countries’ leaders at the White House, saying their addition will strengthen the defense alliance. But Turkey says it can’t support the move.
    The homeland security department has suspended the government’s troubled new disinformation board after the resignation of its director and a wave of Republican criticism.
    Biden is on his way to Alaska, the staging post for his onward journey on Air Force One to Seoul and meetings with the leaders of South Korea and Japan in the coming days. We’ll hear from White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre and national security adviser Jake Sullivan aboard the flight a little later.
    The alleged white supremacist behind Saturday’s grocery store massacre in Buffalo, New York, made a brief court appearance this morning. House lawmakers have sent the domestic terrorism bill to the Senate, where it faces an uncertain fate.
    A top aide to Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy has thanked the US Senate after it approved nearly $40 billion in aid, saying this would help ensure the defeat of Russia, Reuters writes.Andriy Yermak, chief of staff to Zelenskiy, posted praise online.“Together we’ll win,” he tweeted.Thanks US Senate for the historic decision to provide $40 billion aid package to 🇺🇦. Together, we’ll win.— Andriy Yermak (@AndriyYermak) May 19, 2022
    He also said:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;} We are moving towards victory confidently and strategically. We thank our allies.”In addition, Group of Seven (G7) financial leaders have agreed on $18.4bn (£14.7bn) to help Ukraine and said they were ready to stand by Kyiv and “do more as needed”, according to a draft communique seen by Reuters.Finance ministers and central bank governors of the US, Japan, Canada, Britain, Germany, France and Italy are holding talks as Ukraine is running out of cash.G7 countries have “mobilised $18.4 billion of budget support, including $9.2 billion of recent commitments” in 2022, the draft said.You can read more about this and all the news from the ground and Europe on the war in Ukraine in our global live blog on the crisis, here.The Senate passing the $40bn aid bill for Ukraine with a richly bipartisan vote was a glaring exception to the partisan divisions that have hindered work on other issues under Biden.They promise to become only less bridgeable as November’s elections for control of Congress draw closer, the Associated Press reports.That includes Republicans blocking Democrats from including billions to combat the relentless pandemic in the measure, leaving their efforts to battle Covid-19 in limbo.Last week the House approved the Ukraine bill 368-57, with all of those opposed Republicans. Though support in both chambers was unmistakably bipartisan, the GOP defections were noteworthy after Trump, still a potent force in the party, complained that such sums should first be targeted at domestic problems.Senate Majority leader and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer said there could be yet more aid packages for Ukraine from the US..css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}They’re doing the fighting, they’re the ones getting killed, they’re the ones struggling and suffering. The least we can do is give them the weaponry they need,” he said. Schumer called it “beyond troubling” that Republicans were opposing the Ukraine assistance..css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}It appears more and more that MAGA Republicans are on the same soft-on-Putin playbook that we saw used by former President Trump,” said Schumer, using the Make America Great Again acronym Democrats have been using to cast those Republicans as extremists.Senate Minority leader and Kentucky Republican Mitch McConnell, a strong backer of the measure, addressed concerns by his GOP colleagues, saying Ukraine’s defeat would jeopardize America’s European trading partners, increase US security costs there and embolden autocrats in China and elsewhere to grab territory in their regions..css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}The most expensive and painful thing America could possibly do in the long run would be to stop investing in sovereignty, stability and deterrence before it’s too late,” McConnell said. The US Senate has approved Joe Biden’s massive new military and humanitarian aid bill for Ukraine, with a huge bipartisan vote in favor of the package as allies boost the fight back against Russia’s invasion of its smaller neighbor.The final vote moments ago was 86 in favor, 11 against. The vote had been expected last week until Kentucky rightwinger Rand Paul blocked it.All 50 Democrats in the Senate and all but 11 Republicans supported the bill, which was larger than the original $33bn one first requested by Biden last month.The US president is expected to sign the bill into law as soon as possible. Russia invaded Ukraine three months ago.“Help is on the way, really significant help. Help that could make sure that the Ukrainians are victorious,” Senate majority leader and New York Democrat Chuck Schumer said.The Buffalo massacre will be “a catalyst” for legislation to combat hate crime against Blacks, according to the prominent civil rights attorney Ben Crump, who is representing the families of several of the 10 victims.Crump says he’s also working with the Brady Center to achieve a reduction in gun violence in the US.His office released a statement this morning announcing Crump will be representing the families of Buffalo victims Andre Mackneil and Geraldine Talley. He was already acting for the family of victim Ruth Whitfield.Mackneil was killed as he was buying a cake for his son, whose third birthday was the day of the massacre. Talley was buying iced tea.All three families will join Crump and veteran civil rights activist Al Sharpton at a press conference in Buffalo on Thursday afternoon.Crump said:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}I am honored to stand with these families in the face of such horror and hatred as we investigate and call for meaningful change to ensure no family has to feel such pain ever again.
    I hope that one day soon these families will know their loved ones’ deaths were a catalyst for long overdue Black anti-hate crime legislation – and for that we demand swift action from our elected officials.Gun reform legislation has stalled in the Senate amid opposition from Republicans. On Wednesday, the House passed the domestic terrorism bill including some gun reforms and new categories of offenses for some hate crimes. It, too, faces substantial headwinds in the Senate.Information is coming in that the government’s new disinformation board is out.The homeland security department has paused the work of the troubled panel and accepted the resignation of its director Nina Jankowicz.She told the Associated Press hours after resigning on Wednesday that a wave of attacks and violent threats she has fielded since the board’s launch will not stop her from speaking out about disinformation campaigns pulsing through the social media feeds of Americans:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}We need to have a grownup conversation about how to deal with threats to our national security and that’s not what happened here. I’m not going to be silenced.It remains to be seen how the board’s disastrous rollout and ensuing criticism around it will damage ongoing US efforts to counter disinformation used as a weapon by Russia and other adversaries.The homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, acknowledged the board’s controversy had become a distraction to the department’s other work, which includes safeguarding US elections, two officials familiar with his decision said.While the board has not formally been closed down, it will be reviewed by members of a DHS advisory council that is expected to make recommendations in 75 days. The Washington Post first reported the board’s pause.The department announced the formation of the Disinformation Governance Board on 27 April with the stated goal to “coordinate countering misinformation related to homeland security.” Read more:US homeland security pauses new disinformation board amid criticismRead more More

  • in

    Congress members led ‘reconnaissance tours’ of Capitol before attack, evidence suggests

    Congress members led ‘reconnaissance tours’ of Capitol before attack, evidence suggestsThe revelation resurrects a line of inquiry into the involvement of House Republicans in the insurrection The House select committee investigating the Capitol attack revealed on Thursday that it had evidence to suggest certain “reconnaissance tours” took place in the days before 6 January, potentially providing some rioters with a layout of the complex.The panel said in a letter requesting cooperation from Georgia Republican congressman Barry Loudermilk that he gave a tour the day before the Capitol attack. The startling disclosure resurrects a contentious line of inquiry that connects House Republicans to the insurrection.“Based on our review of evidence in the select committee’s possession, we believe you have information regarding a tour you led through parts of the Capitol complex on Jan 5, 2021,” said a letter from Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the select committee, and the vice chair Liz Cheney.House panel not planning to seek Trump’s testimony on Capitol attackRead moreThe select committee noted in the letter to Loudermilk that Republicans on the House administration committee that reviewed security camera footage of the Capitol before January 6 recently claimed there were no tours or large groups or anyone wearing Maga caps.“However, the select committee’s review of evidence directly contradicts that denial,” Thompson and Cheney wrote.The request for voluntary cooperation from Loudermilk indicates the panel has been quietly focused on one of the unexplained mysteries of 6 January: how certain supporters of Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol appeared to know in advance the layout of the Capitol complex.Some of the offices and ceremonial spaces in the Capitol – such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office – are marked and easy to locate. But Democrats raised concerns after 6 January that some rioters were able to locate hideaway offices and the underground tunnel network.The concerns led to 34 House Democrats seeking an investigation into the alleged reconnaissance tours that took place on 5 January 2021, which prompted a review of security camera footage by the House administration committee, according to two sources familiar with the matter.Democrats on the House administration committee turned over some of that footage to the US attorney for the District of Columbia, which is prosecuting January 6 seditious conspiracy and obstruction of Congress cases, the sources said.But the top Republican on that committee said in February that some of his members had reviewed the footage and said in a separate letter that “it does not support these repeated Democrat accusations about so-called ‘reconnaissance’ tours”.In a twist, Loudermilk filed an ethics complaint last May against Democratic congresswoman Mikie Sherrill and other Democrats who alleged GOP members had given such tours.“No Republican member of Congress led any kind of ‘reconnaissance’ tours through the Capitol, proven by security footage captured by the US Capitol police,” Loudermilk said as part of his complaint that urged the House ethics committee to investigate Sherrill.The select committee investigating 6 January events reached a different conclusion, Thompson and Cheney wrote, and identified Loudermilk as among the members who provided tours the day before the Capitol attack – at a time when congressional Covid-19 rules prohibited such tours.TopicsUS Capitol attackHouse of RepresentativesRepublicansUS CongressUS politicsnewsReuse this content More