More stories

  • in

    Republican Herschel Walker pledges to sue over report he paid for abortion – as it happened

    Herschel Walker, the controversial Republican candidate in Georgia for a vital US Senate seat, is attempting to weather the latest tempest that has tossed his midterm election campaign from turbulent into full-blown crisis.The news broke last night that the former NFL football player turned political candidate, who is campaigning on a hard anti-abortion line, had paid for an abortion for a former girlfriend in 2009, according to a report by the Daily Beast.As the Beast puts it in the strap below the headline to its report: “The woman has receipts – and a ‘get well’ card she says the football star, now a Senate candidate, sent her.”Walker blasted out a top-line denial via Twitter, calling the story overall a flat-out lie, also calling it a “Democrat attack”, while the Beast insists its article is backed up to the hilt. Walker says he’ll sue the Beast today.Regarding the latest Democrat attack: pic.twitter.com/OjrDcGak95— Herschel Walker (@HerschelWalker) October 3, 2022
    He also appeared on Fox News to blame politics, saying: “Now everyone knows how important this seat is and they [Democrats] will do anything to win this seat. They wanted to make it about anything except inflation, crime and the border being wide open.”But Walker’s son, 23-year-old Christian Walker, then responded on Twitter. Yikes.I know my mom and I would really appreciate if my father Herschel Walker stopped lying and making a mockery of us. You’re not a “family man” when you left us to bang a bunch of women, threatened to kill us, and had us move over 6 times in 6 months running from your violence.— Christian Walker (@ChristianWalk1r) October 4, 2022
    And:I don’t care about someone who has a bad past and takes accountability. But how DARE YOU LIE and act as though you’re some “moral, Christian, upright man.” You’ve lived a life of DESTROYING other peoples lives. How dare you.— Christian Walker (@ChristianWalk1r) October 4, 2022
    The sitting Senator from Georgia whom Herschel Walker is challenging, Democrat Raphael Warnock, is striving to stay above the fray – maybe hoping the former running back will be hoisted by his own petard?US politics live blog readers, it’s been a vigorous day of news. There will be more from us tomorrow, following events as they happen. Joe Biden is going to Florida to review the aftermath of Hurricane Ian. He’ll meet with the state’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, during the visit.For now, we’re closing this blog. There is a great selection of news and other stories on our front page and our blog of the war in Ukraine is here.Here’s how the day went:
    Lawyers for DonaldTrump have asked the US supreme court today to step into the legal fight over the classified documents seized during an FBI search of his Florida estate.
    Kamala Harris condemned the June decision by the rightdominated US supreme court to overturn Roe v Wade, as part of the pivotal Mississippi case Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization, and tear up half a century of constitutional abortion rights in the US. “The Dobbs decision created a healthcare crisis in America,” she said at a White House event 100 days after the ruling.
    National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Rick Scott and other prominent Republicans are still behind Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker amid the scandal that’s blown his already-rocky midterm election campaign sideways.
    Joe Biden told the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, earlier today that Washington will provide Kyiv with $625m in new security assistance, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, the White House said.
    Giant tents for temporarily housing asylum seekers arriving in New York City after crossing the US-Mexico border are being moved to an island off Manhattan from a remote corner of the Bronx, after storms raised concerns over flooding at the original site.
    There is no sign of a lawsuit (yet) from Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker against the Daily Beast following the latest chapter of Walker’s tumultuous campaign for the Senate unfolded last night.
    US climate envoy John Kerry said today some western government ministers avoided a so-called “family photo” of participants at climate talks in Kinshasa because they were uncomfortable with the presence of Russia’s representative.
    Lawyers for former president DonaldTrump asked the US supreme court today to step into the legal fight over the classified documents seized during an FBI search of his Florida estate.The Trump team asked the court to overturn a lower court ruling and permit an independent arbiter, or special master, to review the roughly 100 documents with classified markings that were taken in the 8 August search at his Mar-a-Lago private club, resort and residence in Palm Beach, Florida, The Associated Press reports.A three-judge panel last month limited the special master’s review to the much larger tranche of non-classified documents.Kamala Harris and Joe Biden are convening the second meeting at the White House of the administration’s Task Force on Reproductive Healthcare Access.The vice-president condemned the June decision by the right-dominated US Supreme Court to overturn Roe v Wade, as part of the pivotal Mississippi case Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health Organization and tear up half a century of constitutional abortion rights across the US.“The Dobbs decision created a healthcare crisis in America,” Harris said.She added: “A woman should have the freedom to make decisions about her own body. The government should not be making these decisions for the women of America.”Harris noted that if the US Congress could codify the right to abortion previously afforded under Roe, rightwing leaders “could not ban abortion and they could not criminalize providers, so it’s important for everyone to know what’s at stake. To stop these attacks on women, we need to pass this law,” she said.The vice-president also reminded people that ultra-conservative supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, at the time of the June ruling, appeared to offer a preview of the court’s potential future rulings, and that they may return to the issues of curtailing contraception access and marriage equality, threatening LGBTQ+ rights, on the basis of constitutional privacy rights such as those just ripped up in the overturning of Roe v Wade.At the same event, the president said that he created the task force in the aftermath of the Scotus decision “which most people would acknowledge is a pretty extreme decision,” in order to take a “whole of government approach” to addressing “the damage” of that ruling.“The court got Roe right nerarly 50 years ago. Congress should codify the protections of Roe and do it once and for all. But right now we are short a handful of votes, so the only way it’s going to happen is if the American people make it happen.“Meanwhile, congressional Republicans are doubling down on their extreme position with the proposal for a national ban. Let me be clear what that means. It means that even if you live in a state where extremist Republican officials aren’t running the show, your right to choose will still be at risk.”National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman Rick Scott is still behind Georgia Senate candidate Herschel Walker amid the scandal that’s blown a new hole in his midterm election campaign.NRSC Chairman Rick Scott sticks by Herschel Walker:”When the Democrats are losing, as they are right now, they lie and cheat and smear their opponents. That’s what’s happening right now.” pic.twitter.com/fC59lVFzen— Julie Tsirkin (@JulieNBCNews) October 4, 2022
    Missouri Senator Josh Hawley, last noticed by national and international audiences when the House January 6 committee showed the tape of him fleeing the Trumpist insurrectionists that he had previously publicly egged on, is also still walking the Walker walk. “You have done enough, have you no sense of decency?” @HawleyMO Hawley affirms support for Herschel Walker after report Georgia Republican paid for abortionhttps://t.co/zu8zWKvO0v pic.twitter.com/9V2WJd6oVM— Jewel Kelly For Missouri (@JewelCommittee) October 4, 2022
    The mother of the late congresswoman Jackie Walorski told Joe Biden that her daughter was in “heaven with Jesus” after the president apologized for mistakenly calling for Walorski during public remarks last week, despite her death in August.During a private meeting in the Oval Office with the Walorski family on Friday, Biden apologized, the New York Post first reported, for a gaffe he made during a summit on food insecurity on 28 September, when he called into the audience to see if Walorski was in attendance, as the Republican representative from Indiana had served as co-chairperson of the House Hunger Caucus.“Jackie, are you here? Where’s Jackie? She must not be here,” Biden said, seeming to forget, or be unaware, that Walorski had died. The congresswoman was killed in an August car accident in Indiana.When asked about Biden’s confusion, the White House press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, downplayed the president’s mistake, calling his comments “not all that unusual”.Jean-Pierre added that Biden was acknowledging the congresswoman’s work and keeping her “top of mind” because he would be meeting with her family later that week.While speaking to the president, the late congresswoman’s mother, Martha “Mert” Walorski, told Biden that her daughter was in heaven when he asked for her.Jackie’s father Keith Walorski said Biden and his staff were “very, very good” to his family but they do not plan on voting for him in 2024 because they strongly disagree with his policy.“Most of the Biden agenda is not what you would call a conservative Christian agenda,” Keith Walorski said. “That’s who we are.” The rest of that article is here.At an Oval Office meeting in July 2020, Donald Trump asked aides if Ghislaine Maxwell, the former girlfriend of the financier and sex offender Jeffrey Epstein who had been arrested on sex trafficking charges, had named him among influential contacts she might count upon to protect her.According to a new book by Maggie Haberman of the New York Times, Trump asked “campaign advisers … ‘You see that article in the [New York] Post today that mentioned me?’“He kept going, to silence. ‘She say anything about me?’”Epstein was convicted and sentenced in Florida in 2008, on state prostitution charges. He was arrested again in July 2019, on sex-trafficking charges. He killed himself in prison in New York a month later.Links between Epstein, Maxwell and prominent associates including Trump and Prince Andrew have stoked press speculation ever since.Maxwell, the daughter of the British press baron Robert Maxwell, was arrested in New Hampshire on 2 July 2020.The story which seemed to worry Trump, according to Haberman, appeared in the celebrity-focused Page Six section of the New York tabloid on 4 July 2020.It quoted Steve Hoffenberg, an Epstein associate, as saying: “Ghislaine thought she was untouchable – that she’d be protected by the intelligence communities she and Jeffrey helped with information: the Israeli intelligence services, and Les Wexner, who has given millions to Israel; by Prince Andrew, President Clinton and even by President Trump, who was well-known to be an acquaintance of her and Epstein’s.”Maxwell was ultimately convicted in New York in December 2021, on five of six charges relating to the sex-trafficking of minors. In July 2022, she was sentenced to 20 years in prison.Haberman’s eagerly awaited book, Confidence Man: The Making of Donald Trump and the Breaking of America, is published in the US on Tuesday. Check out the whole report here.In February this year, Prince Andrew settled a civil case brought by an Epstein victim who alleged she was forced to have sex with the royal. Andrew vehemently denies wrongdoing but has suffered a collapse of his standing in public and private.White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is emphasizing how much Joe Biden and Kamala Harris want the US Congress to enshrine the right to an abortion in the US into national legislation.It’s 100 days today since the now firmly right-leaning US Supreme Court in late June overturned Roe v Wade and ripped up half a century of a constitutional, federal rights to seek an abortion in the US.Jean-Pierre said the court “took away nearly 50 years of protections and we have seen women respond and Americans respond…they have made their voices loud and clear and I expect we will continue to see that type of reaction.”She added, of services such as abortion and contraception: “These are difficult decisions that women should be making for themselves with their health care provider, no-one else should be making that decision for them, not Republican officials…”Reuters adds in this report that 13 US states have begun enforcing abortion bans since the court decision, a swift and dramatic change after nearly 50 years of federal abortion protections.White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has begun today’s media briefing and is reminding everyone that Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden are going to Fort Myers, Florida, tomorrow, in the aftermath of the devastating Hurricane Ian.Yesterday, the US president and first lady were in Puerto Rico to announce funding in the wake of Hurricane Fiona that smashed into the island territory last month just before Ian howled in from the Atlantic.Biden admitted that aid and assistance to Puerto Rico in the five years since Hurricane Maria hit there and now Hurricane Fiona has not been timely or sufficient.Jean-Pierre says Biden will meet Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis while he’s in the state tomorrow.Here’s our colleague Martin Pengelly on the governor last week:Ron DeSantis changes with the wind as Hurricane Ian prompts flip-flop on aidRead moreIt has been called a textbook example of discrimination against Black voters in the US. And a ruling on it from the supreme court is expected any day.It isn’t the kind of explicit voting discrimination, like poll taxes and literacy tests, that kept voters from the polls in the south during the Jim Crow era. Instead, it is more subtle.Let us walk you through the case with our visual explainer.The case focuses on Alabama, where the Republican-controlled legislature, like states across the US, recently completed the once-a-decade process of redrawing the boundaries of congressional maps. If partisan politicians exert too much control over the redistricting process, they can effectively engineer their own victories, or blunt the advantages of the other side, by allocating voters of particular political persuasions and backgrounds to particular districts.Under the new districts, Black people make up 25% of the Alabama’s population, but comprise a majority in just one of the state’s seven districts.In late January, a panel of three federal judges issued a 225-page opinion explaining how the state was discriminating against Black voters.“Black voters have less opportunity than other Alabamians to elect candidates of their choice to Congress,” the panel wrote. The judges gave Alabama 14 days to come up with a new plan and said the state had to draw two districts where Black voters comprise a majority.Check out the whole terrific interactive here, from Guardian US colleagues Sam Levine and Andrew Witherspoon.The US supreme court today has been hearing a hugely important case that could ultimately gut one of the most powerful remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act, the 1965 law that is one of America’s most powerful anti-discrimination measures.The case deals with the seven new congressional districts that Alabama adopted last year. Six of those districts are represented by a Republican in Congress and one is represented by a Democrat. That Democratic district is 55% Black, the only Black majority district in the state.The plaintiffs in the case argue that Alabama Republicans who control the state legislature packed as many Black voters as possible into the one Democratic district to weaken the influence of Black voters overall in the state. Black people make up about a quarter of Alabama’s population, but only are a majority in one district. The central question in the case is how much mapmakers are required to take race into account when drawing districts. The plaintiffs argue that the Voting Rights Act requires Alabama to draw a second district where Black people make up a majority.But Alabama argues that doing so would require the state to sort voters based on race, which is unconstitutional.If the court, which has been extremely hostile to voting rights and the Voting Rights Act in particular, were to embrace that latter view, it would make it enormously difficult to challenge districts in the future.A three judge panel agreed with the plaintiffs and ordered the state to redraw the map. But the US supreme court stepped in earlier this year and halted that order. Hello US politics live blog readers, it’s a lively day for news and there’s much more to come in the next few hours, but here’s where things stand right now:
    Joe Biden told Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelenskiy earlier today that Washington will provide Kyiv with $625 million in new security assistance, including High Mobility Artillery Rocket System (HIMARS) launchers, the White House said.
    Giant tents for temporarily housing asylum seekers arriving in New York City after crossing the US-Mexico border are being moved to an island off Manhattan from a remote corner of the Bronx, after storms raised concerns over flooding at the original site.
    There is no sign of a lawsuit (yet) from Georgia Republican Senate candidate Herschel Walker against the Daily Beast following the latest chapter of Walker’s tumultuous campaign for the Senate unfolded last night.
    US climate envoy John Kerry said today some western government ministers avoided a so-called “family photo” of participants at climate talks in Kinshasa because they were uncomfortable with the presence of Russia’s representative.
    Herschel Walker’s Senate campaign is in crisis in Georgia after the latest twist in the abortion row became very personal and turns the heat up further in the furious midterms battle for control of the US Senate. More

  • in

    US supreme court hears case that could gut voting rights for minority groups

    US supreme court hears case that could gut voting rights for minority groupsIn Merrill v Milligan, the court will decide whether Alabama’s new congressional map violates the Voting Rights Act The supreme court’s conservative majority appeared unsettled on Tuesday on whether it would gut one of the most powerful remaining provisions of the Voting Rights Act in a case that has profound implications for the representation of Black Americans and other minority groups.The case, Merrill v Milligan, centers on how much those who draw electoral districts should be required to consider race. It involves a dispute over the seven congressional districts Alabama drew last year. Only one of those districts has a majority-Black population, even though Black people make up a quarter of Alabama’s population. Earlier this year, a three-judge panel unanimously ruled that the configuration was illegal under section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, which guarantees minority groups equal opportunity to participate in the electoral process. It ordered Alabama to draw a second district with a minority population. The supreme court stepped in earlier this year and halted that order while the case proceeded.A court caught Republicans discriminating against Black voters – here’s howRead moreThe state’s solicitor general, Edmund LaCour, argued on Tuesday that the lower court’s ruling was incorrect because it required Alabama to consider race above traditional, race-neutral criteria. In order to require Alabama draw a second majority-minority district, he said, the plaintiffs should have first had to prove that such a map could exist without taking race into account at all. He argued that computer simulations programmed with race-neutral criteria never produced a map with a second majority-Black district.Justice Samuel Alito, one of the court’s most conservative jurists, seized on that point repeatedly in support of Alabama’s argument. “How can it be reasonably configured if you can’t get that map with a computer simulation that takes into account all of the traditional race-neutral factors?” he said.But even Alito acknowledged that some of the arguments Alabama made were “far-reaching”. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, another conservative justice, said at one point she would be “struggling in the same way others have about narrowing down exactly what your argument is”.Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Ketanji Brown Jackson all seemed deeply skeptical about all of Alabama’s arguments. Embracing the state’s approach would upend how the court has long approached section 2 redistricting cases. Kagan said the case was a “slam dunk” case under the court’s existing precedent before laying out how she believed the lower court had correctly evaluated the facts. “It seems to me you’re coming here … and saying change the way we look at section 2 and its application,” she said.The supreme court has long allowed for the use of race and required those who challenge maps to meet a difficult three-part test to challenge the map. The first part of that test requires plaintiffs to show that the minority population is sufficiently large and compact enough to comprise a majority in a reasonably configured single-member district.Democracy, poisoned: America’s elections are being attacked at every levelRead moreAlabama’s congressional map easily meets the conditions needed to bring a section 2 challenge, experts have said. There is clear evidence Black and white voters prefer different candidates and mapmakers were easily able to draw a second majority-Black congressional district that comported with the traditional criteria Alabama uses.“There is nothing race-neutral about Alabama’s map,” Deuel Ross, a lawyer who represented some of the plaintiffs, told the justices. “Section 2 is not an intent test or about putting on racial blinders.”Requiring plaintiffs to draw that map without considering race at all would have profound consequences for Black representation across the US. It would make it much harder for plaintiffs to bring challenges to maps, essentially requiring them to show that discrimination is occurring without looking at race.“Alabama isn’t asking the court to apply section 2 as it’s been applied for the last 40 years,” said Elizabeth Prelogar, the United States solicitor general, which backed the plaintiffs in the case. “Instead, Alabama is asking the court to radically change the law by inserting this concept of race neutrality and effectively limiting section 2 to intentional discrimination.”A ruling in favor of Alabama could also produce a “broad upheaval” in the law and clear a pathway for Alabama and other states to get rid of existing majority-minority districts. “Make no mistake, every majority-minority district would become a litigation target,” said Abha Khanna, a lawyer for one of the groups of plaintiffs.The case marks the latest occasion in which the court has considered the Voting Rights Act, a crowning achievement of the civil rights era. In 2013, the court gutted a provision in the law that required states and other jurisdictions with a history of discrimination to get federal approval before enacting changes. In 2020, the justices made it harder to use section 2 to bring challenges to voting laws outside of redistricting.Kagan acknowledged that history of chipping away at the law on Tuesday. After calling the Voting Rights Act “one of the great achievements of American democracy”, she said: “In recent years, this statute has fared not well in this court.”“You’re asking us, essentially, to cut back substantially on our 40 years of precedent and to make this too extremely difficult to prevail on. So what’s left?” she said in a comment that appeared to be directed more at her colleagues on the bench than any of the lawyers.US supreme court to decide cases with ‘monumental’ impact on democracyRead moreSome of the most pointed and extensive questioning on Tuesday came from Jackson, the newest member of the court, who was participating in just her second day of oral arguments. She directly challenged LaCour’s argument that the prohibition against racial discrimination in the constitution’s 14th amendment does not allow mapmakers to consider race in redistricting.But Jackson questioned how that could be the case when history shows that the 14th amendment was adopted as part of a race-conscious effort to guarantee equal rights for Black Americans in the 19th century. “I don’t think that the historical record establishes that the founders believed race neutrality or race blindness was required,” she said, in what seemed to be an appeal to conservative originalists on the court. “It was drafted to give a foundational, a constitutional foundation for a piece of legislation that was designed to make people who had less opportunity and less rights equal to white citizens.“I’m trying to understand why that violates the 14th amendment given the history and background of the 14th amendment.”TopicsAlabamaThe fight for democracyUS politicsUS supreme courtLaw (US)US voting rightsnewsReuse this content More

  • in

    Trump lawyer refused to report all Mar-a-Lago records had been turned in

    Trump lawyer refused to report all Mar-a-Lago records had been turned inTrump told lawyer to report to National Archives that he had given them all the documents, but lawyer was ‘not sure’ that was true A lawyer for Donald Trump refused to report to the National Archives that the former president had turned over all Oval Office documents as required out of concern that the claim was a lie.Earlier this year, Trump returned 15 boxes of federal government records from his Mar-a-Lago resort home to the National Archives, and he directed one of his lawyers, Alex Cannon, to inform the agency that the boxes contained all the documents taken from his time in office.Cannon, who was facilitating the records’ return, refused Trump’s request because he “told others he was not sure if other documents were still at the [Florida resort] and would be uncomfortable making such a claim”, The Washington Post reported.Faced with Cannon’s refusal, Trump later directed a statement in February to aides saying that all his documents from his time in office had been returned to the National Archives and Records Administration. But federal agents later learned Trump still had government documents at Mar-a-Lago, including some records marked with the highest level of classification.The FBI seized those documents during its 8 August search of Mar-a-Lago.On Monday, the National Archives released a letter that revealed they had alerted lawyers for Trump in May 2021 that the former president’s correspondence with Kim Jong-un, North Korea’s leader, were missing along with two dozen boxes of other records.The US justice department has been investigating whether Trump’s unauthorized retention of such government secrets violated multiple laws, including the Espionage Act.Trump’s aides turned over a set of documents in June to the justice department. The August search of Mar-a-Lago produced the seizure of thousands of documents, among them dozens of classified records.When archives officials opened the initial 15 boxes they recovered in January, they found a large volume of documents with classified markings and notified the justice department, which set off the chain of events leading the criminal investigation into Trump.Legal wrangling between the justice department and Trump’s lawyers has slowed that investigation down.Trump has claimed, without evidence, that the FBI planted evidence during its search of Mar-a-Lago residence. The federal judge presiding over those claims, Aileen Cannon, granted Trump’s request for an independent official known as a “special master” to review the seized documents before the case proceeded further.That review process is expected to last until between the end of November and the middle of December.TopicsDonald TrumpMar-a-LagoUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

  • in

    Senate rival accuses Dr Oz of killing over 300 dogs as medical researcher

    Senate rival accuses Dr Oz of killing over 300 dogs as medical researcherRepublican condemned by John Fetterman as ‘puppy killer’ after reports allege Oz oversaw animal deaths between 1989 and 2010 An already over-the-top and acrimonious US Senate race in Pennsylvania has escalated after John Fetterman – the Democratic candidate – accused his Republican opponent, the celebrity physician Dr Oz, of having killed more than 300 dogs.Biden apologizes after mistakenly calling on late congresswomanRead moreCalling his rival “sick” and a “puppy killer”, Fetterman cited reporting published on Monday alleging that Mehmet Oz oversaw numerous animal deaths while conducting medical research at Columbia University.“[A] review of 75 studies published by Mehmet Oz between 1989 and 2010 reveals the Republican Senate candidate’s research killed over 300 dogs and inflicted significant suffering on them and the other animals used in experiments,” Jezebel, the publication that broke the story, wrote.The research also harmed pigs, rabbits and small rodents, according to Jezebel.Oz’s political staff have denied the allegation. When asked about it by Newsweek, a spokesperson for the Oz campaign said: “Only the idiots at Newsweek believe what they read at Jezebel.”A veterinarian who worked with Columbia, Catherine Dell’Orto, previously accused Oz’s research team of violating the Animal Welfare Act. Among other allegations, she said that the team was euthanizing dogs without sedation using expired drugs and, in other cases, failing to euthanize dogs who were suffering.Dell’Orto said that Oz did not personally euthanize the dogs but that his research methods contributed to their mistreatment and benefited from their exploitation.Oz and Fetterman have been locked in a highly negative and unusually personal political race marked by frequent Twitter sparring and meme warfare. Fetterman, the lieutenant governor, has painted Oz as a rich and out-of-touch non-Pennsylvanian, while Oz has accused Fetterman – who had a stroke earlier this year and reportedly has trouble talking – of hiding from public appearances.Earlier in his campaign, Fetterman had a strong edge over Oz, but polls have shown that advantage shrinking, according to the Philadelphia Inquirer. The race is now tight, and Fetterman’s campaign has wasted no time in making hay with the latest Oz controversy.“BREAKING: Dr Oz is a puppy killer,” Fetterman tweeted on Monday. Later he posted a picture with his two dogs and wrote: “Hugging them extra tight tonight.”TopicsUS politicsPennsylvaniaRepublicansDemocratsUS SenatenewsReuse this content More

  • in

    How whiteness poses the greatest threat to US democracy | Steve Phillips

    How whiteness poses the greatest threat to US democracySteve PhillipsPeople forget that championing whiteness is what makes Trump powerful A growing chorus of voices is warning that our democracy is in grave danger, but there is much less discussion of the exact nature of the threat. Recently, President Biden emphasized the severity of the threat by going to the place where the constitution was signed to give what the White House described as “a speech on the continued battle for the soul of the nation”.Biden specifically named “Donald Trump and the Maga Republicans” as the ones carrying out the attacks, and that is accurate, on the surface. The deeper, more longstanding threat, however, was articulated by historian Taylor Branch in a 2018 conversation with author Isabel Wilkerson recounted in Wilkerson’s book Caste. As they discussed how the rise of white domestic terrorism under Trump was part of the backlash to the country’s growing racial diversity, Branch noted that, “people said they wouldn’t stand for being a minority in their own country”. He went on to add, “the real question would be if people were given the choice between democracy and whiteness, how many would choose whiteness?”Whiteness is the deeper threat because championing whiteness is what makes Trump powerful. People forget that Trump was not particularly well-regarded before he started attacking Mexican immigrants and signaling to white people that he would be the defender of their way of life. In the months before he launched his campaign, he was polling at just 4% in the May 2015 ABC/Washington Post poll. After stirring the racial resentment pot, his popularity took off, growing exponentially in a matter of weeks and propelling him to the front of the pack by mid-July 2015 when he commanded support of 24% of voters, far ahead of all the other Republican candidates.As his support grew with each racially infused statement – such as banning Muslims from entering the US – Trump marveled at the unshakable passion of his followers, observing quite presciently that, “I could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and I wouldn’t lose any voters … It’s like, incredible.”Trump’s 2015 discovery of the power of whiteness is the same lesson that Alabama’s segregationist governor George Wallace internalized in the crucible of southern politics during the civil rights movement in the 1950s. “I started off talking about schools and highways and prisons and taxes – and I couldn’t make them listen,” Wallace said, adding, “Then I began talking about n—–s – and they stomped the floor.” After Trump began talking about Mexicans, and then Muslims, many white people from coast to coast stomped the floor and even stormed the Capitol to keep him in power, seeking to destroy the democratic tradition of a peaceful transfer of power.As Wallace’s words show, Trump is not the first leader of a movement to make America white again, and for more than a century we have consistently underestimated the political power of whiteness.The clearest example is the start of the civil war itself. A hundred and sixty years before the January 6, 2021 insurrection, the legislatures in one-third of the states passed laws rejecting the outcome of a presidential election and then issued a literal call to arms where hundreds of thousands of people picked up their guns and, in the name of defending whiteness, proceeded to shoot and kill hundreds of thousands of their fellow Americans.In 1968, Alabama’s Wallace saw that the audience for white nationalism reached far beyond his state’s borders and mounted a presidential campaign that secured 13.5% of all votes cast. The strength of Wallace’s showing influenced Richard Nixon’s presidential administration to the extent that historian Dan Carter wrote: “When George Wallace had played his fiddle, the President of the United States had danced Jim Crow.”In 1990, an actual Klansman, former Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke, mounted a bid for the US Senate and was initially dismissed as unable to win because of his unapologetic white supremacist views. Duke shocked the establishment by attracting the support of 44% of Louisiana’s voters.The good news is that the proponents of whiteness do not command majority support. The original Confederates themselves were in the minority and represented just 11% of the country’s white population. People who enjoy majority support have no need to unleash fusillades of voter suppression legislation in the states with the largest numbers of people of color. Yet, from the grandfather clauses of the 1800s to the restrictive voting laws passed last year in the south and south-west, we are seeing an unrelenting practice of trying to depress and destroy democracy by engaging in what the writer Ron Brownstein has described as, “stacking sandbags against a rising tide of demographic change”.Just as the enemies of democracy know that they must destroy democracy in order to prevail, the clearest way to defeat them is to aggressively expand democratic participation. Mathematically there is a clear New American Majority made up of the vast majority of people of color in alliance with the meaningful minority of white people who want to live in a multiracial nation. With the sole exception of the 2004 election, that coalition has won the popular vote in every presidential election since 1992.In order to defend democracy and win the fight for the soul of the nation, two things must happen. One is to make massive investments in the people and organizations working to expand voting and civic participation. Coalitions like America Votes Georgia and Arizona Wins played critical roles in bringing hundreds of thousands of people of color into the electorate, helping to transform those former Confederate bastions.The second step is to directly challenge the nation to choose democracy over whiteness. When Taylor Branch posed his provocative question in 2018, it was in the wake of tragedies such as the killing of Heather Heyer, a white woman protesting the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia, march of white nationalists incensed at plans to remove Confederate statues. Trump’s response to Heyer’s killing – she was intentionally struck by a car driven by a white supremacist – was to shrug and note that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the march.When he launched his presidential campaign in 2019, Biden explicitly invoked Trump’s post-Charlottesville embrace of whiteness, saying “We have a problem with this rising tide of white supremacy in America,” and went on to oust a defender of white nationalism from America’s White House. Far from being chastened, however, the enemies of democracy have only intensified their efforts. To ultimately prevail in this defense of our democracy, we must clearly understand the underlying forces imperiling the nation, name the nature of the opposition, and summon the majority of Americans to unapologetically affirm that this is a multi-racial country.
    Steve Phillips is the founder of Democracy in Color and is a Guardian US columnist. His book How We Win the Civil War: Securing a Multiracial Democracy and Ending White Supremacy for Good will be published October 18th
    TopicsUS politicsOpinionDonald TrumpRacecommentReuse this content More

  • in

    Herschel Walker: anti-abortion Senate nominee denies media report he paid for abortion in 2009

    Herschel Walker: anti-abortion Senate nominee denies media report he paid for abortion in 2009Republican candidate for US Senate in Georgia who has vehemently opposed abortion rights denies a media report he paid for an abortion for an anonymous former girlfriend in 2009, describing it as ‘a flat out lie’ A Republican nominee for the US Senate, who strongly opposes abortion rights, has denied a Daily Beast report that he paid for an abortion for a former girlfriend in 2009. Herschel Walker, a former American football player who is running for the US Senate in Georgia, called the accusation a “flat-out lie” and says he will sue the news outlet for defamation.The Daily Beast published claims from a woman who says Walker paid for her abortion when they were dating. The woman, who was not named, claimed the allegation was supported by a receipt showing a $575 payment for the procedure, along with a get-well card, purportedly from Walker.According to The Daily Beast, her bank deposit records show the image of a $700 personal check, purportedly from Walker, dated five days after the abortion receipt.The woman claimed in The Daily Beast report that Walker encouraged her to end the pregnancy, saying that the time wasn’t right for a baby.In a statement, Walker said he would file a lawsuit against the news outlet.“This is a flat-out lie and I deny this in the strongest terms possible,” he wrote.Matt Fuller, the politics editor for The Daily Beast, tweeted in response: “I can tell you we stand behind every word and feel very solid about the story.”The allegation against Walker is the latest in a series of stories about the former football star’s past that have rocked the first-time candidate’s campaign in one of the most competitive Senate races in the country. Earlier this year, Walker acknowledged reports that he had three children that he had not previously talked about publicly.As a Senate hopeful, Walker has supported a national ban on abortions with no exceptions for cases involving rape, incest or a woman’s health being at risk.“I’m for life,” Walker has said repeatedly as he campaigns. When asked about whether he’d allow for any exceptions, he has said there are “no excuses” for the procedure.Walker has sidestepped many questions about his earlier support for a national abortion ban, instead trying to turn the issue against his Democratic rival, Senator Raphael Warnock, who supports abortion rights. Walker often characterises abortion as “a woman killing her baby” and says he doesn’t understand how Warnock, a Baptist pastor, can support the procedure being legal.Senator Warnock was dismissive when told of The Daily Beast story and when asked whether it might affect the outcome in Georgia. “I’ll let the pundits decide,” he said.On Monday night, Walker appeared on Fox News where he was asked if he recalled sending a $700 check to a girlfriend.“Well, I sent money to a lot of people,” he said. “I give money to people all the time because I’m always helping people. I believe in being generous. God has blessed me. I want to bless others.”TopicsUS midterm elections 2022Roe v WadeGeorgiaAbortionUS politicsRepublicansnewsReuse this content More

  • in

    Oath Keepers founder accused of ‘armed rebellion’ on January 6 at trial

    Oath Keepers founder accused of ‘armed rebellion’ on January 6 at trialStewart Rhodes and four associates face the rare civil war-era charge of seditious conspiracy for attacking the US Capitol The founder of the Oath Keepers extremist group and four associates planned an “armed rebellion” to keep Donald Trump in power after he lost the election, a federal prosecutor contended on Monday as the most serious case yet went to trial involving the attack on the US Capitol on 6 January 2021.Stewart Rhodes and his band of far-right militants were prepared to go to war to stop Joe Biden from becoming president, assistant US attorney Jeffrey Nestler told jurors.The group celebrated the Capitol attack as a battle they had won and continued their plot even after Biden’s November 2020 electoral victory was certified by Congress in the early hours of 7 January, Nestler alleged.Capitol attack officer Fanone hits out at ‘weasel’ McCarthy in startling interviewRead more“Their goal was to stop, by whatever means necessary, the lawful transfer of presidential power, including by taking up arms against the United States government,” the prosecutor said during his opening statement. “They concocted a plan for armed rebellion to shatter a bedrock of American democracy.”Rhodes and the four others are the first January 6 defendants to stand trial on the charge of seditious conspiracy, a rare civil war-era charge that calls for up to 20 years behind bars, which they deny. The stakes are high for the US Department of Justice (DoJ), which last secured a seditious conspiracy conviction at trial nearly 30 years ago.Rhodes’ attorney painted a far different picture, describing the Oath Keepers as a “peacekeeping” force. He accused prosecutors of building their case on cherry-picked evidence from messages and videos and told jurors that the “true picture” would show that the Oath Keepers had merely been preparing for presidential orders they expected from Trump but never came.“Stewart Rhodes meant no harm to the Capitol that day. Stewart Rhodes did not have any violent intent that day,” Rhodes’ attorney, Phillip Linder, said. “The story the government is trying to tell you today is completely wrong.”On trial with Rhodes, of Granbury, Texas, are Kelly Meggs, leader of the Florida chapter of the Oath Keepers, Kenneth Harrelson, another Florida member of the group, Thomas Caldwell, a retired US navy intelligence officer from Virginia, and Jessica Watkins, who led an Ohio militia group. They face several other charges as well.About 900 people have been charged and hundreds convicted in the Capitol attack. Rioters stormed police barriers, fought with officers, smashed windows and temporarily halted the certification of Biden’s electoral victory.Prosecutors told jurors the insurrection was no spontaneous outpouring of election-fueled rage but part of a detailed, drawn-out plot to stop Biden from entering the White House.Rhodes began plotting to overturn Biden’s victory right after the election, Nestler said.He told his followers during the planning stage that “it will be torches and pitchforks time if they (Congress) don’t do the right thing”, according to an encrypted Signal message he sent to his followers that was shown to the jury by prosecutors.During a December media interview, Rhodes called senators “traitors” and warned that the Oath Keepers would have to “overthrow, abort or abolish Congress”.Before coming to Washington, they set up “quick reaction force” teams with “weapons of war” stashed at a Virginia hotel, the prosecutor said.As Oath Keepers stormed the Capitol, Rhodes stayed outside, like “a general surveying his troops on a battlefield”, Nestler said. After the attack, the Oath Keepers were “elated”, Nestler said.“These defendants were fighting a war and they won a battle on January 6 … but they planned to continue waging that war to stop the transfer of power prior to Inauguration Day. Thankfully their plans were foiled,” Nestler said.Defense attorneys say the Oath Keepers came to Washington only to provide security at events for figures such as Trump ally Roger Stone before the president’s big outdoor rally behind the White House. Rhodes has said there was no plan to attack the Capitol and that the members who did acted on their own.Rhodes’ lawyer told jurors that his client will take the stand to argue that he believed Trump was going to invoke the Insurrection Act and call up a militia. TopicsUS Capitol attackDonald TrumpJoe BidenUS politicsLaw (US)newsReuse this content More

  • in

    Rex Tillerson, former secretary of state, testifies at corruption trial of Trump ally

    Rex Tillerson, former secretary of state, testifies at corruption trial of Trump allyTillerson says he barely knew defendant Tom Barrack, who is accused of leaking intelligence to the United Arab Emirates Rex Tillerson, who served a turbulent term as secretary of state under former US president Donald Trump, was called as a government witness Monday at the trial of a Trump ally accused of leaking intelligence to the United Arab Emirates (UAE).Tillerson testified that he barely knew the defendant, Tom Barrack, once the chairman of Trump’s inaugural committee, or anything about his relationship with the UAE.US supreme court rejects MyPillow chief’s bid to dodge $1.3bn lawsuitRead moreInstead, he spelled out how he would meet with Trump on a regular basis to discuss foreign policy, emphasizing that the sensitive conversations were supposed to stay confidential.“You really don’t want outside parties to have access to that information and use it to their advantage,” Tillerson told a jury in New York.Prosecutors have alleged Barrack provided inside information on how Trump administration officials viewed a UAE-led blockade of neighboring Qatar.Tillerson testified he had advised Trump not to engage with the UAE on the issue, saying, “We needed to let them sort that out on their own.”Tillerson also described one encounter with Barrack where he “called over to my office and expressed an interest in an ambassadorship”, he said. But Trump didn’t embrace the idea “so that was the end of it”, he said.On cross-examination, Tillerson acknowledged having disagreements with Trump, but stayed clear of criticizing the former president.He said they sometimes played “good cop-bad cop” in their public statements about adversaries such as North Korea.The former Exxon Mobil chief executive is the highest-profile witness so far at the federal trial of Barrack, a billionaire private equity manager and Trump confidant who’s accused of secretly working as a foreign agent for the UAE.Barrack, 75, has pleaded not guilty to that charge, along with obstruction of justice and false statements counts.In 2018, Trump dumped Tillerson via Twitter, abruptly ending the service of a Cabinet secretary who had reportedly called the Republican president a “moron” but refused to step down, deepening disarray within the Trump administration.Trump and Tillerson clashed on several foreign policy issues.Barrack used “unique access” to Trump to manipulate him to advance the interests of the UAE, prosecutors claim, including helping to arrange a 2017 Oval Office meeting between Trump and Abu Dhabi’s Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan.UAE officials allegedly were simultaneously consorting with Barrack, rewarding him by pouring millions of dollars into his business ventures. TopicsRex TillersonUS politicsDonald TrumpnewsReuse this content More