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    Senators kill first article of impeachment against Alejandro Mayorkas – as it happened

    The Senate has voted to kill the first article of impeachment – “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” – against Alejandro Mayorkas.Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, voted “present”, neither for nor against, but all other senators voted along party lines, resulting in a 51-48 vote.On to the second article, “breach of public trust”.We’re closing our US live politics blog after an eventful day in both chambers of Congress. Thanks for joining us.In the Senate: The impeachment trial against Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, was crawling towards a close after Democrats killed off one of the two articles against him, and were poised to dismiss the second. A campaign of delay and obfuscation by Republican members, in the form of a succession of points of order, motions to adjourn or calling for private session, slowed proceedings to a snail’s pace. Ultimately, the second charge, that Mayorkas broke the law by enacting Joe Biden’s immigration policies, was set for a similar fate as the first: dismissal on a party-line vote.In the House: Members will vote Saturday on a package of foreign aid for Israel, Ukraine and Taiwan after Mike Johnson, the beleaguered Republican speaker, finally unveiled details of four bills he hopes will appease hard-liners in his party seeking to oust him. Three of the bills provide aid funding, while the fourth, the text of which is forthcoming, is expected to include measures to redirect seized Russian assets toward Ukraine and force the sale of TikTok.Here’s what else we were following:
    Joe Biden said he was considering tripling tariffs on Chinese steel, with indications that he wants to go to 25%. “China is cheating, not competing on steel,” the president said at an event at the United Steelworkers union headquarters in Pittsburgh.
    Republicans in Arizona again blocked an effort by Democrats to overturn an 1864 rule outlawing almost all abortions, enacted by a ruling earlier this month by the state’s supreme court. Respected pollster Larry Sabato says November’s Senate race in the key swing state now “leans Democratic” following the controversy, a change from “toss-up”.
    Republicans Ron DeSantis and Jeb Bush, current and former Florida governors, led tributes to Bob Graham, a two-term governor of the state, three-term US senator and Democratic political heavyweight who has died aged 87.
    Please join us again on Thursday.Two more Republican points of order are stalling the vote to kill the second and final article of impeachment against Alejandro Mayorkas.Rick Scott of Florida wanted an adjournment until 30 April, repeating an earlier motion that failed. It met the same fate, a 51-49 defeat.Now John Kennedy of Louisiana is back again. He wants an adjournment until 1 May. No prizes for guessing how that motion will turn out.We’ve been talking a lot about the two articles of impeachment filed against Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary, but what exactly do they charge him with?Here’s the official text from congress.gov. Both articles were introduced by Marjorie Taylor Greene, the firebrand Republican representative, in November 2023, and passed the House in February after a first vote to impeach failed.Article 1 alleges Mayorkas “willfully and systemically refused to comply with the law”. It says he ignored congressional law and that “in large part because of his unlawful conduct, millions of aliens have illegally entered the US on an annual basis with many unlawfully remaining in the US”. It tries to pin the border crisis firmly on the shoulders of the Biden administration, and Mayorkas for delivering it.Article 2 alleges “breach of public trust”. It says Mayorkas “knowingly made false statements, and knowingly obstructed lawful oversight of the department of homeland security, principally to obfuscate the results of his willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law”. One of the alleged “false statements” was telling Congress he believed the border was secure, which Greene and others insisted rose to the threshold of being a “high crime or misdemeanor”.The Senate has voted to kill the first article of impeachment – “willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law” – against Alejandro Mayorkas.Lisa Murkowski, a Republican from Alaska, voted “present”, neither for nor against, but all other senators voted along party lines, resulting in a 51-48 vote.On to the second article, “breach of public trust”.US Steel should stay a US-owned company, Joe Biden said on Wednesday during remarks to steelworkers at an event in Pittsburgh, Reuters reports.US Steel, he said at a campaign event:
    … should remain a totally American company. And that’s going to happen, I promise you.
    US Steel Corp has agreed to be bought by Japan’s Nippon Steel for $14.9bn.Republican tactics to handle the Mayorkas impeachment trial in the Senate this afternoon are becoming clear: delay proceedings as much as they can.Each motion, or point of order, a Republican makes must be subjected to a roll call of all 100 members. Ted Cruz, the Texas senator, made a motion to debate the articles of impeachment in closed session. Senators voted along party lines and the motion failed 49-51.Next up, John Kennedy of Louisiana made a point of order to adjourn the hearing until 30 April. One more roll call later, it also fell.Now Mitch McConnell, the Kentucky Senate minority leader, has tabled a point of order to try to block a first vote to dismiss the first article of impeachment. The roll call on that is under way.It too will fail on straight party lines, but each of these Republican efforts soaks up more and more time.Biden just drew laughs from the steel union members watching his campaign event in Pittsburgh, when he made several mentions of “my predecessor” Donald Trump, saying he “is busy right now”.He was referring to the fact that his rival is standing trial in New York, the first-ever criminal trial of a former US president.Joe Biden just confirmed what had been flagged before his trip – that he is considering tripling tariffs on Chinese steel, with indications that he wants to go to 25%.“China is cheating, not competing on steel,” the US president said, at an event at the United Steelworkers union headquarters in Pittsburgh.He protested that “for too long, the Chinese state has poured money into their steel industry” and that it was not fair competition.He also said that Donald Trump “and the Maga” Republicans want to impose tariffs across the board on all imports, which the president said will hurt American consumers. He referred to the Make America Great Again slogan of Trump’s election campaign, which has come to signify the hard right of the Republican party.“Trump simply does not get it,” he said.Joe Biden is now speaking at the steelworkers’ union headquarters in Pittsburgh.The US president is 45 minutes behind schedule. Pro-Palestinian protesters are demonstrating outside the event.Biden is on a three-day swing through the vital battleground state of Pennsylvania.He was in his home town of Scranton yesterday, where he contrasted how his roots have kept him humble while presidential rival Donald Trump trades on his rich man’s persona.Tomorrow, Biden will visit Philadelphia again; it has been a frequent stop on the campaign trail.Biden just raised cheers and claps from the gathered union members when he said: “I’m president because of you guys.”Chuck Schumer has now made a motion to dismiss the first article of impeachment on the grounds it “does not allege conduct that rises to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor”.A formal vote will follow shortly, unless there are any efforts or motions to delay it.It could be at least an hour or two before any vote to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary. Or it could all be over very quickly.Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, has just told the chamber he wants to allow up to 60 minutes of debate on each article before he calls a vote to dismiss.Republican senator Eric Schmitt of Missouri isn’t happy. He says Schumer’s efforts to kill the impeachment are unprecedented:
    Never before in the history of our republic has the Senate dismissed or tabled articles of impeachment when the impeached individual was alive and did not resign.
    I will not assist Senator Schumer in setting our constitution ablaze, bulldozing 200 years of precedent.
    There’s now a debate about whether the articles of impeachment actually meet the high bar of “high crimes and misdemeanors” required, which would make them invalid if it’s found they don’t.If it is determined the articles are unconstitutional, then the vote to kill will likely follow in short order, and without the need for more debate.Watch this space …Senators are lining up to sign the oath book in the chamber, the opening formalities of the impeachment trial that’s just got under way against Alejandro Mayorkas, the homeland security secretary.It’s a slow process, as each of the 100 members must sign individually. But things are expected to pick up pretty quickly at its conclusion, with opening statements.It’s unclear at what point Chuck Schumer, the Democratic Senate majority leader, will call a vote to dismiss the two articles of impeachment received from the Republican-controlled House yesterday.But Schumer says he will do so after “a period of debate”. Such a vote will effectively kill the impeachment outright.There is no chance of Mayorkas being convicted, even if the trial were allowed to conclude. Prosecutors would need 60 votes in a chamber controlled by Democrats, and several Republicans have already indicated they would acquit him.Florida governor Ron DeSantis has signed a bill mandating that kindergartners in the state learn “the truths about the evils of communism”.The hard-right Republican, who frequently touts an agenda promoting “freedom” in education, and giving parents rights over choices for their children’s curriculum, has made it compulsory for students up to 12th grade to attend the “history of communism” class, beginning in the 2026 school year.Lessons must be “age appropriate and developmentally appropriate”, according to the bill. The state’s board of education will draw up academic standards for the lessons.Florida high schoolers are already required to attend a 45-minute instruction class about “Victims of Communism Day” before they can graduate.Wednesday’s bill-signing took place at the Assault Brigade 2506 museum in Hialeah Gardens, near Miami. DeSantis was flanked by former Cuban rebels who took part in the failed 1961 Bay of Pigs invasion, which took place 63 years ago today against the island’s communist dictator, Fidel Castro.The voting-equipment company Smartmatic has agreed to settle a defamation lawsuit with the far-right One America News Network (OAN) over lies broadcast on the network about the 2020 election.Erik Connolly, a lawyer for Smartmatic, confirmed the case had been settled, but said the details were confidential. Attorneys for Smartmatic and OAN notified a federal judge in Washington on Tuesday that they were agreeing to dismiss the case, which Smartmatic filed in 2021.Smartmatic sued OAN in November 2021, saying the relatively small company was a victim of OAN’s “decision to increase its viewership and influence by spreading disinformation”.Smartmatic was only involved in the 2020 election in a single US county, Los Angeles, but OAN repeatedly broadcast false claims that its equipment had flipped the election for Joe Biden.Donald Trump allies Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell played a key role in advancing the outlandish claims.Read the full story:The extent of the opposition by hardline Republicans to speaker Mike Johnson’s foreign aid bills unveiled Wednesday is becoming clear, with some promising to block their passage.“The Republican Speaker of the House is seeking a rule to pass almost $100bn in foreign aid – while unquestionably, dangerous criminals, terrorists, & fentanyl pour across our border,” Chip Roy, the Texas representative, tweeted.“The border ‘vote’ in this package is a watered-down dangerous cover vote. I will oppose.”Roy is among those refusing to consider US aid for Israel, and particularly Ukraine, without massive investments in border security, which he and others say isn’t included in Johnson’s just-released package.Marjorie Taylor Greene, the extremist Georgia representative who has threatened to call a vote to oust Johnson, is also furious.“You are seriously out of step with Republicans by continuing to pass bills dependent on Democrats. Everyone sees through this,” she wrote, also on X.Johnson says the House will vote on the bills on Saturday night. There’s no guarantee he will still be speaker at that point if Greene, or others, deliver on their threat to call a “motion to vacate” vote.It’s been a busy morning in US politics on several fronts. An impeachment trial in the Senate is about to get under way for homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, and there have been developments in efforts to progress funding for Israel and Ukraine.Here’s what we’ve been following:
    Democratic Senate majority leader Chuck Schumer is preparing to hold a vote that could dismiss the two articles of impeachment filed by House Republicans on Tuesday alleging that Mayorkas broke the law in enacting Joe Biden’s immigration policies. Schumer called the charges an “illegitimate and profane abuse of the US Constitution” and said the votes would come after a brief “period of debate”.
    Embattled speaker Mike Johnson said the House would vote Saturday evening on three foreign aid bills, including money for Ukraine and Israel. The Louisiana Republican has been walking a fine line trying to find a solution that will appease rightwingers seeking to oust him, while standing a chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate.
    Democrats in Arizona are resurrecting an effort to overturn an 1864 rule outlawing almost all abortions, enacted by a ruling earlier this month by the state’s supreme court. Respected pollster Larry Sabato says November’s Senate race in the key swing state now “leans Democratic” following the controversy, a change from “toss-up”.
    Republicans Ron DeSantis and Jeb Bush, current and former Florida governors, led tributes to Bob Graham, a two-term governor of the state, three-term US senator and Democratic political heavyweight who has died aged 87.
    And still to come this afternoon:
    Joe Biden meets with steelworkers in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, as he touts his fair tax plan for workers and high earners. The president is due to deliver remarks at 1.45pm ET.
    In response, Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, is not happy that the impeachment trial is about to be tanked.He’s accusing Democrats of failing to live up to their obligations to assess the evidence and render a verdict, and taking potshots at Joe Biden’s border policies:
    Today it falls to the Senate to determine whether and to what extent Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas enabled and inflamed this crisis. Under the Constitution and the rules of impeachment, it is the job of this body to consider the articles of impeachment brought before us and to render judgment.
    The question right now should be how best to ensure that the charges on the table receive thorough consideration. But instead, the more pressing question is whether our Democratic colleagues intend to let the Senate work its will, at all.
    Tabling articles of impeachment would be unprecedented in the history of the Senate. Tabling would mean declining to discharge our duties as jurors.
    It would mean running both from our fundamental responsibility and from the glaring truth of the record-breaking crisis at our southern border.
    Absent from McConnell’s statement blaming Democrats for the border crisis is any mention that his own Republican senators negotiated, then sank, bipartisan legislation to address it.The about-face came apparently at the urging of Donald Trump, Biden’s presumptive opponent in November, who did not want Republicans to hand the president a pre-election victory on a campaign issue. More

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    Columbia president assailed at highly charged antisemitism Congress hearing

    The head of a prestigious US university clashed with members of Congress today in highly charged hearings over a reported upsurge in antisemitism on campus in the wake of Israel’s war in Gaza.Minouche Shafik, the president of Columbia University, appeared beleaguered and uncertain as one Congress member after another assailed her over her institution’s supposed inaction to stop it becoming what one called “a hotbed of antisemitism and hatred”.Wednesday’s hearing follows months of rising tensions between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian demonstrators on the Columbia campus, amid disputes over what constitutes antisemitism and controversy about whether it should encompass anti-Zionism and opposition to Israel as a Jewish state.The hearing of the House of Representatives’ education and workforce committee is being staged under the emotive title of “Columbia in Crisis: Columbia University’s Response to Anti-Semitism.” A group of Jewish academics at the university have denounced the hearing in advance as heralding “a new McCarthyism”.At the hearing Shafik was repeatedly asked to explain the continued presence of one faculty member, Joseph Massad, after he had reportedly praised Hamas’s attack last October that left around 1,200 Israelis dead.In one particularly aggressive line of questioning, Elise Stefanik pushed Shafik to commit to removing Massad as chair of an academic review committee.Stefanik also pressed a harried Shafik, who became Columbia’s president last July, into changing her testimony after she earlier told the Democratic representative Ilhan Omar that she was not aware of any anti-Jewish demonstrations at the university.Pressing relentlessly, Stefanik effectively drove a wedge between Shafik and her three fellow senior Columbia colleagues, David Schizer, Claire Shipman, and David Greenwald – all members of the university’s antisemitism taskforce – by leading them to testify that there had in fact been aggressive and threatening antisemitic statements in campus demonstrations.Earlier, Shafik – trying to straddle between condemning antisemitism and permitting statements that some defined as free speech – struggled when confronted by Lisa McClain, the Republican representative from Michigan over the slogan “from the river to the sea” and support for a Palestinian intifada (uprising).“Are mobs shouting from the River to the Sea Palestine will be free or long live the infitada [sic] …antisemitic comments?” McClain asked.“When I hear those terms, I find them very upsetting,” Shafik responded.“That’s a great answer to a question I didn’t ask, so let me repeat the question,” McClain persisted. Shafik answered: “I hear them as such. Some people don’t.”“Why is it so tough?” McClain pressed. In answer, Shafik said: “Because it’s a difficult issue because some hear it as antisemitic others do not.”She eventually appeared to fold under pressure, answering “yes” and laughing nervously after McClain posed the same question to the president’s fellow Columbia staff, all of whom agreed that it was antisemitic.The hearing was something of a reprise of the committee’s previous cross-examination of the heads of three other elite universities, Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, last December.That hearing led to the resignation of the University of Pennsylvania’s president, Elizabeth Magill, after she gave what were deemed to be over-legalistic answers to pointed questions from Stefanik over whether her institution’s rules on free speech permitted slogans that supporters of Israel interpret as calling for genocide.It also intensified the pressure on Harvard’s then president, Claudine Gay, whose responses to Stefanik were similarly criticised. Gay survived the immediate outcry over the hearing but stepped down weeks later over plagiarism allegations.Columbia has set up a taskforce on antisemitism but its members have declined to establish a firm definition.Rightwingers have painted the university as a hotbed of antisemitism, while opponents have accused the institution’s authorities of disproportionately punishing pro-Palestinian students who criticise Israel. The university last year suspended two groups, Students for Justice in Palestine and Jewish Voice for Peace, over their protest activities.Shafik – an Egyptian-born, British-American economist and former deputy governor of the Bank of England – had reportedly prepared assiduously for Wednesday’s event in an effort to avoid the pitfalls of her fellow university heads.Writing in the Wall Street Journal on the eve of the hearing, Shafik said legitimate expression should occur “within specific parameters”.“Most of the people protesting do so from a place of genuine political disagreement, not from personal hatred or bias or support for terrorism,” she wrote.“Their passion, as long as it doesn’t cross the line into threats, discrimination or harassment, should be protected speech on our campus.“Calling for the genocide of a people – whether they are Israelis or Palestinians, Jews, Muslims or anyone else – has no place in a university community. Such words are outside the bounds of legitimate debate and unimaginably harmful,” the op-ed continued.Her remarks appeared aimed at avoiding the criticism drawn by Magill and Gay over their appearance before the committee, when both responded to Stefanik’s questions about theoretical calls for genocide by referring to context.In an effort to bolster Shafik, 23 Jewish faculty members wrote an open letter published in the campus newspaper, the Columbia Spectator, criticising the premise of the hearing.“Based on the committee’s previous hearings, we are gravely concerned about the false narratives that frame these proceedings to entrap witnesses,” they wrote. “We urge you, as the university president, to defend our shared commitment to universities as sites of learning, critical thinking, and knowledge production against this new McCarthyism.”The academics also questioned the credentials of Stefanik – an outspoken supporter of Donald Trump – on antisemitism, saying she had a history of “espousing white nationalist policies”.As Shafik and her colleagues testified, the unrest that has characterized university life over the past six months was on display on Columbia’s campus, where students set up approximately 60 tents on the campus’s south lawn in the early hours of Wednesday. The tents, many of which were covered in signs that read “Liberated Zone” and “Israel bombs, Columbia pays”, were set up to urge the university to divest its ties from Israel.The university perimeters were lined with metal barricades and a heavy police presence, and the campus, which is usually accessible to the public, was restricted to Columbia ID holders.Members of the media were prohibited from entering the university, instead restricted to a barricaded pen near a bus stop outside the campus as student chants could be heard from inside the grounds. “Say it loud, say it clear, we don’t want no Zionists here,” some students chanted, according to the Columbia Spectator. A handful of protesters also crowded around the university’s main gates, with many shouting: “We say no to genocide!”
    This article was amended on 17 April 2024 to correctly identify the school where Elizabeth Magill resigned as president last year. The school was the University of Pennsylvania, not Pennsylvania University. More

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    Mike Johnson moves ahead with foreign aid bills despite threats to oust him

    The House speaker, Mike Johnson, is pushing ahead with his plan to hold votes on four separate foreign aid bills this week, despite threats from two fellow Republicans to oust him if he advances a Ukraine funding proposal.Shortly after noon on Wednesday, the rules committee posted text for three bills that would provide funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan. The text of a fourth bill, which is expected to include measures to redirect seized Russian assets toward Ukraine and force the sale of TikTok, will be released later on Wednesday, Johnson said in a note to members.The legislation would provide $26bn in aid for Israel, $61bn for Ukraine and $8bn for US allies in the Indo-Pacific. The Israel bill also appeared to include more than $9bn in humanitarian assistance, which Democrats had demanded to assist civilians in war zones like Gaza.Johnson indicated final votes on the bills were expected on Saturday evening, interfering with the House’s scheduled recess that was supposed to begin on Friday. If the House passes the bills, they will then be combined and sent to the Senate to simplify the upper chamber’s voting process.In February, the Senate approved a $95bn foreign aid package that included many of the same provisions outlined in the four House bills, and the upper chamber will need to reapprove the House package before it can go to Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.In a statement, Biden called on the House to quickly approve Johnson’s proposal, saying, “The House must pass the package this week and the Senate should quickly follow. I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: we stand with our friends, and we won’t let Iran or Russia succeed.”Johnson will almost certainly have to rely on Democratic votes to get the bills approved, as House Republicans’ majority has narrowed to just two members after a series of resignations. Mike Gallagher, a Republican representative of Wisconsin, had planned to resign on Friday, but his spokesperson told Politico that he “has the flexibility to stay and support the aid package on Saturday”.Some prominent Democrats were already signaling their support for the package on Wednesday, increasing the likelihood of its passage.“After House Republicans dragged their feet for months, we finally have a path forward to provide support for our allies and desperately needed humanitarian aid,” said Rose DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House appropriations committee. “We cannot retreat from the world stage under the guise of putting ‘America First’.”In a concession to hard-right Republicans, Johnson said in his note to members that the House would also vote on Saturday on a border security bill. The text of the legislation will be posted late Wednesday, Johnson said, and it will include many of the policies outlined in HR 2, a Republican bill with many hardline immigration measures.The House already passed HR 2 last year, but it was never taken up by the Senate. The Democrats who control the Senate remain adamantly opposed to the bill, so a similar proposal faces little hope of passage in the upper chamber.Despite that concession, hard-right Republicans were already expressing displeasure with Johnson’s plan on Wednesday, arguing that any Ukraine aid must be directly linked with stricter border policies.“Anything less than tying Ukraine aid to real border security fails to live up to [Johnson’s] own words just several weeks ago,” Congressman Scott Perry, a hard-right Republican of Pennsylvania, wrote on X. “Our constituents demand – and deserve – more from us.”Congressman Chip Roy, a Republican of Texas and frequent Johnson critic, announced he would oppose the rule, a procedural motion, that will set up a final vote on the foreign aid bills.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotion“The Republican Speaker of the House is seeking a rule to pass almost $100 billion in foreign aid – while unquestionably, dangerous criminals, terrorists [and] fentanyl pour across our border,” Roy wrote on X. “The border ‘vote’ in this package is a watered-down dangerous cover vote. I will oppose.”The release of the bills comes as Johnson faces a threat from two House Republicans, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Congressman Thomas Massie of Kentucky, to oust him over his approach to government funding and Ukraine aid. On Tuesday, Massie announced he would co-sponsor Greene’s resolution to remove the speaker. Given Republicans’ narrow majority, Johnson will need help from Democrats to keep his job.Undaunted by the threat, Johnson has rejected calls for his resignation and accused Greene and Massie of undermining House Republicans’ legislative priorities.“I am not resigning, and it is, in my view, an absurd notion that someone would bring a vacate motion when we are simply here trying to do our jobs,” Johnson said on Tuesday. “It is not helpful to the cause. It is not helpful to the country. It does not help the House Republicans advance our agenda.”In a floor speech on Wednesday, the Senate majority leader, Democrat Chuck Schumer, again implored House Republicans to pass a foreign aid package. The stakes – for Ukraine and US allies around the world – could not be higher, he reminded them.“One way or another, I hope – I fervently hope – that we can finally finish the job in the next couple of days, but that is not certain and will depend a lot on what the House does,” Schumer said. “The entire world is waiting to see what House Republicans will do.” More

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    US supreme court backs police officer in workplace sex discrimination lawsuit

    The US supreme court on Wednesday gave a boost to a St Louis police officer who sued after claiming she was transferred to an undesirable new job because of her sex, in a case testing the scope of federal workplace protections.The 9-0 ruling by the justices threw out a decision by a lower court to dismiss the lawsuit brought by the officer, Jatonya Muldrow, and directed it to reconsider the matter.At issue in the case is whether federal law banning workplace bias requires employees to prove that discrimination caused them tangible harm such as a pay cut, demotion or loss of job.Muldrow has claimed she was transferred out of a police intelligence unit by a new supervisor who wanted a male officer in the position.The city of St Louis, Missouri, has said officers are routinely transferred and that Muldrow’s supervisor transferred more than 20 officers when he took over the intelligence unit.Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 bars discrimination based on sex, race, religion and other characteristics “with regard to any term, condition, or privilege of employment”.Muldrow was backed by the Biden administration, which had urged the supreme court to endorse a broad application of Title VII. The justice department said that discriminatory transfers always violate the law because they necessarily involve a change in working conditions.Lower courts were divided over whether any workplace bias violates Title VII, or if companies violate the law only when discrimination influences major employment decisions.In Muldrow’s case, the St Louis-based eighth US circuit court of appeals in 2022 decided that her transfer had not negatively affected her working conditions, agreeing with a federal judge’s earlier ruling. The supreme court heard arguments in the case in December. More

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    Voting equipment company Smartmatic settles defamation lawsuit with far-right network

    The voting equipment company Smartmatic has agreed to settle a defamation lawsuit with the far-right One America News Network (OAN) over lies broadcast on the network about the 2020 election.Erik Connolly, a lawyer for Smartmatic, confirmed the case had been settled, but said the details were confidential. Attorneys for Smartmatic and OAN notified a federal judge in Washington on Tuesday that they were agreeing to dismiss the case, which Smartmatic filed in 2021.Smartmatic sued OAN in November 2021, saying the relatively small company was a victim of OAN’s “decision to increase its viewership and influence by spreading disinformation”. Smartmatic was only involved in the 2020 election in a single US county, Los Angeles, but OAN repeatedly broadcast false claims that its equipment had flipped the election for Biden. Trump allies Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell played a key role in advancing the outlandish claims.Defamation cases are difficult to win in the US, with plaintiffs having to clear a high bar of showing that defendants knew the information was false and published it anyway. The settlement comes months after OAN lawyers apparently accidentally turned over documents showing that the network had obtained a spreadsheet with Smartmatic employees’ passwords. It’s not clear if the passwords were authentic, but Smartmatic lawyers said in court filings that the network may have committed a crime.The settlement also means that internal documents from OAN showing how the network weighed and evaluated claims about the 2020 election will not become public. Before the voting equipment company Dominion reached a $787.5m settlement with Fox last year, those kinds of internal documents offered smoking gun evidence that key personnel at Fox knew election claims were false.The settlement is the latest development in a series of defamation cases that have sought to hold media outlets accountable for spreading false information about the 2020 election. In 2022, OAN settled a defamation case brought by Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, two Atlanta election workers it falsely claimed were involved in stealing the election. The network issued an on-air report saying there was “no widespread voter fraud” by Georgia election officials and clarifying that Freeman and Moss “did not engage in ballot fraud or criminal misconduct”.Smartmatic still has a pending $2.7bn defamation lawsuit against Fox.Earlier this month, a Delaware judge set a September trial date for Smartmatic’s defamation case against Newsmax. Both Smartmatic and Dominion also have ongoing defamation cases against Powell, Giuliani and Mike Lindell.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionLegal scholars are carefully watching the cases to see whether defamation law can be an effective tool in curbing misinformation. More

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    As a Palestinian-American, I can’t vote for Joe Biden any more. And I am not alone | Ahmed Moor

    America is big, diverse and polarized. Yet, when it comes to the war in Gaza, opinions here are converging. A Gallup poll in March found 55% of respondents “disapprove of Israel’s actions”, up from 45% in November. Among registered Democrats, the figure is 75%. As the number of citizens voting “uncommitted” in Democratic primaries makes plain, President Biden’s unqualified support for Israel is a problem. Beyond the human carnage – 32,000 Palestinians, including over 14,000 children, have been killed by Israel in Gaza – Biden’s Israel policy could cost him the election.“We have given Biden and his administration and the party a gift,” said Layla Elabed, organizer of the Listen to Michigan campaign, where 100,000 voters marked the “uncommitted” box in February. The vote in Michigan, a battleground state where Biden beat Trump by a little more than 154,000 votes in 2020, has triggered a cascade of protest votes in primaries across the country. At least 25 uncommitted delegates will be sent to the Democratic national convention in August.Elabed explained to me that these protest votes in swing states are meant to warn Biden that it’s time to restrict US military aid to Israel and call for a permanent ceasefire in Gaza. “Listen to your constituency and take action now,” she said, “or you’re going to have trouble in November.” Notably, Elabed and the campaign she leads hope that the president may correct course and earn their vote, thereby preventing a second Trump term.Prominent Democrats, Governor Gretchen Whitmer among them, have failed to engage with the substance of the argument and with the campaign’s stated goals.“It’s important not to lose sight of the fact that any vote that’s not cast for Joe Biden supports a second Trump term,” Whitmer announced ahead of the Michigan primary vote.Whitmer’s argument that critics of the president’s policy in Palestine, in effect, offer support to former president Trump seems designed to encourage voters to fall in line. Yet, as Judith Max Palmer, a Philadelphia voter and registered Democrat, said to me: “The Democrats think they can scare us into submission and people are tired of it.”The intraparty fight has taken Representative Rashida Tlaib of Michigan as its totem. As the only Palestinian American in Congress, she has used her sizable public platform to decry the “level of support for Netanyahu’s war crimes by the Biden administration” in commission of Israel’s “genocide in Gaza”. She also advised her constituents and others who are dismayed by the Biden policy to vote uncommitted in the primary. In doing so, she earned the opprobrium of other Democrats.Don Calloway, a Democratic strategist, railed against Tlaib.“When Jalen Rose Leadership Academy and Wayne State and Cass Tech don’t get the proper appropriations from the Democratic administration … remember it’s because your Democratic congresswoman told them to not vote for the Democratic president in the primary,” he said.Calloway’s argument, which seems to prize party discipline over individual choice, is basically at odds with the tenets of participatory democracy. Voters are not beholden to a party – rather, the candidate is charged with crafting policies that appeal to an electorate to win votes. If voters in Biden’s coalition are now advocating for a change in policy, that – as the protesters say – is what democracy looks like. The candidate, and not the voters, is to blame if he fails to win in November, a point the Democrats appear to have struggled to comprehend in the wake of Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump in 2016.“The cruelty [of Israel’s campaign in Gaza] is beyond my worst imagination. It changes the calculus,” said Rabbi Alissa Wise, another Philadelphia voter and one of the founders of Rabbis for a Ceasefire. She admitted to me that she worries Donald Trump “would be even more horrific” as president, but she wants to concentrate on the value of a protest vote now: “My hope is that the uncommitted campaign could really scare [policymakers] into a conscience.”View image in fullscreenUnlike Elabed and others I interviewed for this story, I have a different perspective.I am a Palestinian American in Pennsylvania, a contested state. I plan to write in “uncommitted” in the Democratic primary on 23 April and in November, I will vote for a third-party candidate.Like many Democrats, I was underwhelmed by the prospect of another Biden term, but I was prepared to move past my concerns about the president’s age and cognitive fitness to support the broader agenda on climate, among other things. I reasoned that Biden is supported by a cadre of experts, and that his job is mostly to set priorities and enlist the best and brightest to fill in the gaps. Now I am no longer able to rationalize support for this administration; the president’s moral failure in Gaza has taken on historic proportions, like Lyndon Johnson’s in Vietnam before him.Nor am I alone. “There’s no way I can see myself supporting Biden in the next election,” Will Youmans, associate professor of media and public affairs at George Washington University, told me. “Supporting a genocide is the reddest of lines,” he explained. In November, Youmans plans to vote for down-ballot Democrats, but he will write in a protest vote for president.For Palestinians, the prospect of a second Trump administration is distressing, even if Representative Debbie Dingell’s statement that Trump, were he president, might have “nuked Gaza” seems a little overheated. Jared Kushner, who advised Trump in his last administration, openly opined about “very valuable … waterfront property” in Gaza as he described a vision of ethnic cleansing in the Strip.Yet it’s not clear that Trump’s putative policies will be worse than Biden’s current policies are. In reality, if Benjamin Netanyahu decides to invite Kushner and others to develop Jewish settlements in Gaza, there is no reason to believe Biden will stop him from doing so. The president, after all, has only mouthed his discontent with Israel’s actions. That’s even as he has actively armed the Israelis, who seem able to do whatever they please. Actions – for better or worse – speak more loudly than words do.Nor is the question of who may be worse – measured against the lesser evil – sufficient to drive voter behavior on this issue. For many, myself included, a vote for Biden is simply impermissible – the extent of the moral calamity is so great as to render a vote for Biden a vote for complicity.Our values in this country – freedom of speech, enterprise, equality before the law – are unique among countries and are worth fighting for. In the best expression of America, our values are regarded as inviolable, and they provide a roadmap for our activism. This country is bigger than Trump or Biden and while elections matter, they only gain meaning as a way of expressing our values. We cannot be the source of arms that destroy the lives of millions of people. We cannot abet a famine.The uncommitted campaign – citizens banding together to petition democratically, in good faith, for a change in government policy – is the greatest expression of what it means to live in a democracy. Tlaib, Elabed, Wise and other engaged Americans who have worked to move the president to adopt a humane policy in Palestine embody our best values. As the president of the Center City mosque in Philadelphia, Mohammed Shariff, said to me: “My vote is the purest form of expression and speech.” President Biden ignores our voices at his own peril, and ours.
    Ahmed Moor is a writer, activist, and co-editor of After Zionism: One State for Israel and Palestine (Saqi Books 2024). More

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    Kharkiv at risk of becoming ‘second Aleppo’ without US aid, mayor says

    Kharkiv is at risk of becoming “a second Aleppo” unless US politicians vote for fresh military aid to help Ukraine obtain the air defences needed to prevent long-range Russian attacks, the city’s mayor has warned.Ihor Terekhov said Russia had switched tactics to try to destroy the city’s power supply and terrorise its 1.3 million residents by firing into residential areas, with people experiencing unscheduled power cuts for hours at a time.The mayor of Ukraine’s second city said the $60bn US military aid package, currently stalled in Congress, was of “critical importance for us” and urged the west to refocus on the two-year-old war.“We need that support to prevent Kharkiv being a second Aleppo,” Terekhov said, referring to the Syrian city heavily bombed by Russian and Syrian government forces at the height of the country’s civil war a decade ago.View image in fullscreenOn 22 March, Russian attacks destroyed a power station on the eastern edge of the city as well all its substations; a week later officials acknowledged a second plant, 30 miles south-east of the city, had been eliminated in the same attack.Power in the city, about 30 miles from the Russian border, was interrupted after another bombing raid this week, causing the metro to be halted briefly. Residents said there was usually a few hours’ supply a day in the city centre, although in the outskirts the situation was said to be better.Children are educated either online or in underground schools, for their own safety. The water supply remains on, but Terekhov said there were concerns the Russian military may switch to targeting gas distribution, after storage facilities in the west were attacked last week.Ukrainian leaders have begun asking western nations to donate Patriot air defence systems, requests for help that were thrown into sharper relief by the US and UK military support for Israel over the weekend when it neutralised an air attack from Iran.President Volodymyr Zelenskiy said the allies’ defensive action “demonstrated how truly effective unity in defending against terror can be when it is based on sufficient political will” – before making a comparison to Ukraine.Iranian-designed Shahed drones used by Russia “sound identical to those over the Middle East”, he said. “The impact of ballistic missiles, if they are not intercepted, is the same everywhere.”The Ukrainian leader concluded: “European skies could have received the same level of protection long ago if Ukraine had received similar full support from its partners in intercepting drones and missiles.”Seven people were killed in Kharkiv when two rockets struck near an unused shopping mall on the ring road north of the city shortly after midnight on 6 April, leaving behind 4-metre-deep craters and military debris near a residential area.Nina Mykhailivna, 72, who lives nearby, said the shock from the strike “lifted her bed in the air” and was followed by about 90 minutes of secondary explosions, the most serious she had experienced during the war.Few residents have left the city since Russia increased its bombing campaign around the turn of the year, and Kharkiv remains a lively metropolis with busy restaurants and cafes, and some businesses thriving despite the threat.View image in fullscreenOleksii Yevsiukov, 39, and Viktoriia Varenikova, 30, run the Avex clothing factory in a residential district and have installed $20,000 worth of solar panels on the roof since the start of the conflict. The additions provide enough electricity to power the sewing machines for the 10 employees working below in the Soviet-era building, which is undergoing a total refurbishment.“We anticipated there might be power cuts from energy infrastructure attacks this winter,” Yevsiukov said. “We looked at solutions and decided a diesel generator was not suitable, expensive and not very eco friendly, so we ordered the solar panels last year.”A newly installed power bank stores enough electricity for two days’ use if the panels are unable to generate it, and a geothermal pump keeps the building warm, avoiding the need for gas. As such, the factory is self-sufficient, which could become necessary as the owners anticipate at least two more years of war.View image in fullscreenTheir company makes women’s swim and fitness wear for branded companies in Ukraine, and, the couple say, sales have grown even though the goods might be considered luxuries during wartime. With the factory refurbishment nearly complete, Yevsiukov said they planned to roughly double the workforce.Soon after the war began, Varenikova found out she was pregnant. Their son Max is now one, and she expresses the hope that war might be over by the time he is ready for school. “I want him to go to a normal school, not an underground school, not a school in the metro, not an online school.”However, not everybody is so optimistic. One of the firm’s employees, Liubov, said she was planning to leave her home in Kharkiv and move to central Ukraine for at least a month to provide a calmer environment for her two daughters, who can continue to take classes remotely.Russian bombing had become “much more frequent, much more often”, Liubov said. The comprehensive attack on 22 March was “very, very scary and loud” and “attacks could come at daytime or night-time, in any part of the city”.Liubov did not want to be photographed or give a surname, reflecting perhaps a concern about not wanting to be identified as someone leaving the city. “We’ve had to get used to everything, I wish we didn’t have to. We have power banks, we have storage of food, but we want this to be over soon. We simply want to live.” More

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    Alabama chooses candidates for new Black congressional district

    Shomari Figures, an attorney and Obama White House executive from a politically-prominent civil rights family, has won the Democratic nomination to run in Alabama’s redrawn second congressional district Tuesday night, defeating state representative Anthony Daniels.The runoff election has been closely watched because of its implications for control of Congress in November, and for the effect of supreme court orders requiring southern states to comply with the federal Voting Rights Act and eliminate racial gerrymandering.Republicans currently control Congress by a margin of 218 to 213, with four vacancies. A win by Figures in November represents one seat flipping control from Republicans to Democrats.Alabama legislators resisted complying with the order of the US supreme court last year, requiring the state’s congressional map to add an additional district that would be politically competitive for a Black candidate. The courts eventually appointed a special master to oversee redrawing district lines, creating a new second district in southern Alabama, stretching through the “Black Belt” of counties with large African American populations.Just under half of the residents are Black. The Cook Political Report rates Alabama’s second congressional district as “leans Democratic” with a +4 Democratic partisan advantage, which Republicans believe may still provide an opportunity to hold the seat.Tuesday night, Republicans chose Caroleene Dobson, a real estate attorney and political newcomer, to face Figures in November. Dobson, a Harvard graduate and Federalist Society member, ran as a more conservative candidate than her runoff opponent, former State Senator Dick Brewbaker, who served a Montgomery-area district for 10 years.The Republican runoff candidates had contributed about a million dollars to their campaigns by March election filing deadlines, a sign of how hard fought the contest will be in November.The campaigns of Figures, 38, and Daniels, 41, differed less by ideology than biography. Daniels is the youngest Black man to lead Democrats in the Alabama house of representatives. He grew up in a small Black Belt town south of Montgomery, but represents Huntsville, Alabama, a prospering north Alabama city from which he has built a statewide power base.Daniels developed a reputation as a political dealmaker while serving in the legislature, navigating a political environment that is hostile to Democrats to get legislation passed that eliminated state income taxes on overtime pay. But Daniels could not overcome Figures’ financial advantages in a runoff.Figures is the kind of Alabama political royalty whose engagement five years ago was announced in the New York Times. Figures’ father, Alabama state Senator Michael Figures was a crusading attorney who famously bankrupted the Alabama Ku Klux Klan in the ’80s. His mother, state Senator Vivian Davis Figures, won the seat held by her husband after his death in 1996 and has held it since.Figures resigned his job as the deputy chief of staff and counselor to Merrick Garland, the attorney general, to compete in the crowded March primary. His longstanding connections to national politics helped him draw nearly $2m in outside spending from groups like Protect Progress, a Washington-based political action committee. More