By the time superintendent David Smith decided to close Joshua Tree national park on 7 January 2019, the list of problems was already long. Tire tracks wove through the wilderness mapping a path of destruction where rare plants had been crushed and trees toppled. Charred remains of illegal campfires dotted the desert, and historic cultural artifacts had been plundered. Trash piles were growing, vault toilets were overflowing and park security workers were being pushed to their limits.It was week three in what would become the longest shutdown of the US government, and the famed California park was feeling the consequences of operating without key staff, services and resources.To protect the park and its workers, it would have to close, Smith thought.But the Trump administration, which demanded national parks remain accessible throughout the shutdown, wasn’t willing to change course. In a controversial move, David Bernhardt, who had only recently been appointed acting secretary of the interior, called Smith and ordered him to keep the gates open.By the end of the 35-day shutdown, irreversible damage had been inflicted on Joshua Tree’s ecosystems, its wild, remote landscapes thrust into the political turmoil unfolding thousands of miles away.Bernhardt’s decision and its aftermath are chronicled in hundreds of pages of emails between park officials, which the Guardian obtained through a records request. The correspondence sheds light on the pressure national parks faced during the shutdown, as well as how political considerations influenced decisions about their maintenance and protection.Another possible government shutdown looms, raising fresh questions about whether the National Park Service (NPS), the federal agency that oversees the parks, will follow the precedent set by the previous administration.“The situation right now is deeply concerning on many levels, including the potential threat to resources and visitors,” said John Garder, the senior director of budget and appropriations at the National Parks Conservation Association, a non-profit that advocates for park preservation. “It is difficult for the parks service to do their jobs when Congress doesn’t give them the resources they need.”‘Parks are struggling’There have long been tensions over the interpretation of the NPS mission, with an uneasy balance of conservation and recreation. As politicians switch priorities, priorities in the parks can switch with them, and at the end of 2018 the NPS found itself in the crosshairs.On 21 December that year, Mick Mulvaney, who headed the office of management and budget for the Trump administration, announced the shutdown in a memorandum to agency leaders across the country, advising them that all talking points should reflect that the “national parks will remain as accessible as possible”. Communications staff for NPS’s Pacific west regional office followed up with instructions: “Keep the message positive, avoid saying limited access.”Regional NPS leaders meanwhile told superintendents in close-of-day emails they were aware of the potential for damage to delicate ecosystems and park infrastructure if parks stayed open without the necessary resources, and possible danger to largely unsupervised visitors. The timing of the shutdown, which left employees furloughed or working without pay during the busy holiday season, only added to the challenges, Sarah Creachbaum, the acting deputy regional director, wrote in an email on 23 December.“If the shutdown does persist for more than a few days it will be increasingly important to keep an eye out for signs and symptoms of stress among your teams,” she said. “Uncertainty and stress are legitimate health and safety issues that can affect everyone.”There would be weeks to go.As the shutdown progressed, and the situation at some national parks turned increasingly dire, the NPS leaders told park superintendents they would support decisions to shut parks down, especially in situations where staff and visitors could not be kept safe.“We’ve heard from many parks across the region that they are struggling more and more with trash accumulation, human waste, traffic congestion, fatigued employees etc,” wrote Stephanie Burkhart, the associate regional director of the Pacific west region on 28 December. “As the shutdown continues, these challenges will get harder. So please continue to evaluate your capacity and resources, rotate staff to provide rest and implement area closures as needed.”Two days later, Smith, the Joshua Tree superintendent, reached out to Creachbaum, Burkhart and communications staff to say he had decided to close campgrounds and a day-use area at the park after the start of the new year. The holidays were peak visiting times for the California site. With just nine working staff members, a disaster seemed imminent, he warned. Already, he reported, two search-and-rescue operations had been needed the week before, both requiring helicopters because the park hadn’t been able to adequately respond.Staff had told him that visitors were resisting direction, telling law enforcement rangers they could do whatever they wanted during the shutdown. Staff members were increasingly concerned about their own safety, especially as incidents of intoxication and physical assaults in the park began to rise.The interior department intervenesStaff who worked at Joshua Tree national park at the time said the experience was among the most difficult in their careers. “What I witnessed at the park was chaos and destruction,” said one park employee who, like others quoted in this story, asked to remain anonymous out of fear of retribution for speaking out.From the start of the shutdown, the majority of the park staff had been opposed to keeping Joshua Tree open, they said, describing long days of work and feeling despondent as some visitors abused their unfettered access.Another employee said decision-makers seemed out of touch with the reality on the ground: “In the lower rungs nothing made sense to us – you are just executing these orders that make no sense for the park, no sense for the visitor, and no sense for the employees.”National parks are required to be ready for events like a shutdown with a contingency plan. But the controversial directions from the Trump administration forced the agency and the parks to make in-the-moment adjustments.Four days before Smith informed NPS leaders of his intention to fully close Joshua Tree, the Pacific west regional NPS team were maintaining in staff emails that they would support park closures for heath and hygiene reasons, to protect visitor safety or due to staff fatigue. “As we come to the end of our second week of the closure, and with no end in sight, it is clear that keeping all park areas accessible is not feasible,” Creachbaum wrote to superintendents on 3 January. “Now is the time to determine if the NPS contingency plan triggers for closures apply to your circumstances.”skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionBut on 5 January, Bernhardt intervened, issuing a memorandum to the deputy director of the NPS instructing him to modify the contingency plan so parks would rely on Federal Lands Recreation Enhancement Act funds to stay open. FLREA funds, which come from park fees, are designated by law to be used to improve the parks, including hacking away at a large maintenance backlog, estimated at roughly $12bn across all parks at the time.Bernhardt ordered that they be used for maintaining operations “until such funds have reached zero balance”.The Government Accountability Office would later deem Bernhardt’s move to be a violation of the law. In a scathing report issued in 2019, the GAO concluded that Bernhardt’s decree had undermined congressional power of the purse and sidestepped laws outlining shutdown procedures. The interior department maintains Bernhardt’s decision was legal, and in 2020 the Trump administration’s Office of Management and Budget (OMB) laid out a legal argument supporting Bernhardt and his decision.“The decision to utilize FLREA funds in 2019 was entirely lawful,” Cole Rojewski, a lawyer speaking on behalf of Bernhardt, said, pointing to the OMB analysis. He added that if the action had been initiated from the beginning of the shutdown, the destruction of the park and dangers posed to both staff and visitors could have been avoided “while also allowing for continued public access and ensuring dedicated employees were paid throughout the duration of the shutdown”.Raúl Grijalva, a congressman from Arizona, disagreed. As chair of the committee on natural resources in 2019, he wrote to Bernhardt admonishing him for the decision to use FLREA funds and questioned whether he had complied with the law outlining their use. Casting the former secretary’s act as a way to help “obfuscate the real costs of the shutdown”, Grijalva said the Department of the Interior’s actions “sidestepped Congress and used these park funds for political purposes”.A call from the Trump administrationBy 6 January, superintendents across the system were rushing to carve out new plans to bring back furloughed staff using FLREA funds. Smith, meanwhile, still tried to quickly close Joshua Tree. On 7 January he requested a temporary closure from regional park leaders, highlighting the “considerable damage to park resources”. Creachbaum, the deputy regional director, responded: “I am so sorry about the damage to your park. It’s heartbreaking. We support the closure.” It would be her last email serving in the leadership role, and she stepped down soon after. A press release was drafted from Joshua Tree national park announcing a plan to close.But the very next day, Smith wrote to Creachbaum’s successor, Katariina Tuovinen, alerting her that he’d been contacted by the director of the NPS, who had advised him Bernhardt would call him later that day. “The Secretary will be calling to order that the park stays open and that we use FLREA funds to do it,” Smith wrote in an email on 8 January.Communications officials at the national office scrambled to reframe the eyebrow-raising shift, issuing a new press release that cast the decision more favorably. “National Park Service officials have been able to avert a temporary closure of Joshua Tree National Park,” the release read, highlighting how revenue generated by recreation fees would be used to support the reopened campgrounds and entrance stations.At the time, the NPS didn’t return calls and emails from the Guardian requesting comment on how this decision had been made. (The emails show they did connect with some reporters, asking the Los Angeles Times to make revisions to their reporting.)A cautionary tale – or a precedent?Amid a growing likelihood the US government is headed for another shutdown on 1 October, it’s unclear how the NPS is planning to respond.In August, agencies across the federal government were expected to submit contingency plans. But the NPS has yet to confirm whether a new plan has been drafted and whether national parks will again be expected to remain accessible during the funding stalemate.Repeated requests for information and comment went unanswered from both the Department of the Interior and the National Park Service.The park service operating budget is also under threat from budget cuts. As record numbers of visitors continue to flood in, the depletion of funds for maintenance and improvement could lead to more disastrous results, Garder argued. The maintenance backlog has only ballooned in recent years, growing from $11.6bn during the last shutdown to more than $22bn in 2022.Jonathan Jarvis, a retired NPS director who served under the Obama administration and oversaw a 2013 shutdown, agrees. “When I was director, there was no question – you shut ’em down,” he said.Jarvis, who spent four decades in the park service, said he hopes for a future where public lands aren’t put at risk by shifts in political whim, and advocates for the agency to be removed from the Department of the Interior.Ultimately, he said, the future of US national parks will be linked to funding. “The good news is that in the US the parks are highly supported by the American people,” he said. “But they expect them to be taken care of.” More
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Seven Republican presidential candidates participated in a Wednesday night debate in California, offering up an array of dubious data and claims to prop up their talking points.Here are six fact-checks from the night.The claim: Candidates said crime was overrunning US citiesWhile Republicans discussed fears of crime overrunning cities, it’s worth noting that the best data we have so far suggests that, after an increase in killings during the early pandemic, the number of murders across the country fell substantially last year. Crime analyst Jeff Asher has also noted that murders appear to be falling even more this year.The 2023 drop in murders began early in the year, when Asher’s analysis of early data suggested that the “United States may be experiencing one of the largest annual percent changes in murder ever recorded”.The claim: Mike Pence suggested the threat of the death penalty would deter people from committing mass shootingsThe former vice-president volunteered his plan for preventing mass shootings in the United States: “a federal expedited death penalty for anyone involved in a mass shooting.” He said he was disgusted that the teenager who committed the Parkland school shooting did not get a death sentence.According to the Violence Project, a research firm, “Seventy-two percent of mass shooters were suicidal either before or at the time of the shooting.”Data from the FBI on mass shootings in 2021 and 2022 also showed that a third to nearly a half of perpetrators either died by suicide or were killed by police or other citizens during the attack.The claims: Vivek Ramaswamy said children who are transgender have ‘a mental health disorder’ , while Mike Pence implied that children could transition without parents’ consentRamaswamy said: “Transgenderism, especially in kids is a mental health disorder.”But major medical organizations, like the American Medical Association and the American Psychiatric Association, say being transgender is not a mental disorder. Gender dysphoria is recognized as a medical condition that doctors agree should be remedied by offering gender-affirming treatment.Pence, meanwhile, misleadingly claimed: “The Linn-Mar community schools in Iowa had a policy where you could, you had to have a permission slip from your parents to get a Tylenol but you could get a gender transition plan without notifying your parents.”Linn-Mar’s policy directed educators to use students’ chosen names, without consulting with parents. That’s a far reach from a “gender transition plan”.Claim: Pence boasted that under his and Donald Trump’s administration, illegal immigration dropped drasticallyskip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotion“We reduced illegal immigration and asylum abuse by 90%,” Pence said.In fact, the number of border patrol apprehensions was higher during the Trump administration than during the last four years of Barack Obama’s administration. There was a change in how US Customs and Border Protection reports migrant encounters during the pandemic, complicating some of this data – pre-pandemic, the agency reported enforcement actions taken under immigration law, but after, it also began reporting actions taken under the Title 42 public health policy that authorized officers to immediately send most migrants at the border back to Mexico.Analysis by PolitiFact found that Pence’s 90% reduction figure could be approximated by comparing enforcement data from May 2019, the month that saw the highest number of apprehensions, with data from April 2020 – just as governments around the world moved to drastically restrict travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic. “That’s a severely cherry-picked period,” the fact-checking group writes.Claim: Ron DeSantis denied that the Florida school curriculum suggests that enslaved people drew benefits from slaveryThe Florida governor was asked about the curriculum in Florida that said enslaved people “develop skills which in some instances, could be apply for their personal benefit”.Historians and educators decried the new teaching standard, which came after the state enacted the “Stop Woke Act” signed by DeSantis, prohibiting instruction that could cause students to feel discomfort or guilt due to their race, sex or national origin.DeSantis decried the criticism as “a hoax that was perpetrated by Kamala Harris”, mispronouncing the vice-president’s name. In an impassioned speech reacting to the standard, Harris said: “They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us and we will not stand for it.” More
From 8h agoChris Christie turned a question about crime fighting into an attack on Donald Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination who has snubbed this debate.“And I want to look at a camera right now to tell you, Donald, I know you’re watching. You can’t help yourself. I know you’re watching, OK,” the former New Jersey governor said.“And you’re not here tonight. Not because of polls, and not because of your indictments. You’re not here tonight because you’re afraid of being on the stage and defending your record. You’re ducking these things. And let me tell you what’s going to happen. You keep doing that, no one up here is gonna call you Donald Trump any more. We’re gonna call you Donald Duck.”For two hours, the seven Republican candidates gathered in California duked it out over everything from energy to immigration, all in the absence of Donald Trump, the far-and-away frontrunner for the GOP’s presidential nomination. We’ll see if anything that was said on the debate stage at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library this evening changed the contours of the race, but one thing is now clear: none of these candidates will share the debate stage with Trump. He’s opted to skip the third debate set for Miami in November, and his campaign is calling for the Republican Party to cancel it altogether.Here are some highlights from tonight’s event:The reviews of the second Republican presidential debate are rolling in from political analysts and they are … not great.Larry Sabato of the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics:Fernand R. Amandi of public opinion research firm Bendixen & Amandi:GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who thought Nikki Haley and Tim Scott’s argument about curtains was a low point:But did think Chris Christie handled questions about abortion in a way other Republicans could learn from:Republican rivals hoping to face Donald Trump on the debate stage won’t get their chance. CBS News reports that the former president will skip the third and final debate of the primary process, set for November in Miami:In fact, the Trump campaign is out with a statement calling on the Republican National Committee to cancel the third debate entirely. Here’s the campaign’s senior advisor Chris LaCivita:
Tonight’s GOP debate was as boring and inconsequential as the first debate, and nothing that was said will change the dynamics of the primary contest being dominated by President Trump. President Trump has a 40- or 50-point lead in the primary election and a 10-point lead over Joe Biden in the general election, and it’s clear that President Trump alone can defeat Biden.
The RNC should immediately put an end to any further primary debates so we can train our fire on Crooked Joe Biden and quit wasting time and money that could be going to evicting Biden from the White House.
Mike Pence claimed that during his and Donald Trump’s administration, they “reduced illegal immigration and asylum abuse by 90%.”That’s not really true.The number of Border Patrol apprehensions was higher during the Trump administration than during the last four years of Barack Obama’s administration. There was a change in how US Customs and Border Protection reports migrant encounters during the pandemic, complicating some of this data – pre-pandemic, the agency reported enforcement actions taken under immigration law, but after, it also began reporting actions taken under the Title 42 public health policy that authorized officers to immediately send most migrants at the border back to Mexico.Analysis by Politifact found that Pence’s 90% reduction figure could be approximated by comparing enforcement data from May 2019, the month that saw the highest number of apprehensions, with data from April 2020 – right as governments around the world moved to severe restrict travel due to the Covid-19 pandemic.“That’s a severely cherry-picked period,” the fact-checking group writes.It’s worth noting that the moderators’ attempts to spur even more conflict between the candidates was not particularly well received.None of them were willing to name another to be voted off the stage, or the island, as it were:The candidates are now leaving the stage after the moderators wrapped up the second Republican presidential debate with a question that, fittingly, invoked Donald Trump.In the debate’s final moments, the candidates were asked by the moderators to write down which other candidate they would – in the style of pioneering reality TV program Survivor – vote off the stage. Chris Christie chose Trump, the frontrunner for the nomination who did not attend.“This guy has not only divided our party, he divided families all over this country. He’s divided friends all over this country,” Christie said. “I’ve spoken to people and I know everyone else has, who have sat at Thanksgiving dinner or at a birthday party and can’t have a conversation anymore if they disagree with Donald Trump. He needs to be off the island and taken out of this process.Vivek Ramaswamy disagreed. “I think Trump was an excellent president. But the America first agenda does not belong to one man. It does not belong to Donald Trump. It doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to you, the people of this country. And the question is who’s going to unite this country and take the America first agenda to the next level?” he said.“We did not just hunger for a single man, we hungered for the unapologetic pursuit of excellence and yes, I will respect Donald Trump and his legacy because it’s the right thing to do.”And with that, the debate was over.Call it the Squabble in South Carolina.While the debate may be taking place in Simi Valley, California, the two candidates hailing from the Palmetto state – Senator Tim Scott and Nikki Haley, the state’s former governor – just got into it over gas taxes, curtains and several other things.“As the UN ambassador, you literally put $50,000 on curtains in a $15m subsidized location,” Scott said, while Haley defiantly interjected, “bring it, man.”“You got bad information,” Haley, who served as UN ambassador under Donald Trump, replied. “On the curtains, do your homework, Tim, because Obama bought those curtains.”“Did you send them back?” the senator asked.“It’s the state department!” Haley shot back at Scott. “Did you send them back? You’re the one that works in Congress … You are scrapping right now!”“We do not intend to go ahead like this,” the moderator, Stuart Varney, said, before sending us all, mercifully, to a commercial break.Ron DeSantis was asked about curriculum in Florida that said, enslaved people “develop skills which in some instances, could be apply for their personal benefit”.DeSantis called this “a hoax that was perpetrated by Kamala Harris”, mispronouncing the vice-president’s name. In fact, the quoted bit is taken straight from Florida’s African American history standards.In an impassioned speech reacting to the standard, Harris said: “They insult us in an attempt to gaslight us and we will not stand for it.”Ron DeSantis just won himself some applause with a well-timed interjection to tout his accomplishments as Florida governor.Amid bickering over government spending between Nikki Haley and Tim Scott, DeSantis piped up.“I’m the only one up here who’s gotten in the big fights and has delivered big victories for the people of Florida. And that’s what it’s all about,” DeSantis said to cheers.“You can always talk but when when it gets hot in there, when they’re shooting arrows at you, are you going to stand up for parents rights, keep the state free? Are you going to be able to do all those things? And in the state of Florida because of our success, the Democratic party lies in ruins. We have won the big fights. We have turned our state into a Republican state.”Doug Burgum really wants to answer these questions, but the moderators aren’t having it.They asked Nikki Haley elaborate on her energy policies – but not Burgum. “As the only leader of an energy state, can I answer?” interjected Burgum, whose state has a sizable oil industry. But the answer the North Dakota governor got was no.He tried again after Ron DeSantis was asked the same question, but was rebuffed. “We can’t talk over each other. We must respect each other,” moderator Stuart Varney insisted.As candidates address trans rights on stage, here’s a bit of context.Vivek Ramaswamy said: “Transgenderism, especially in kids is a mental health disorder.”This is false. Major medical organizations, like the American Medical Association and American Psychiatric Association (APA), say being transgender is not a mental disorder. Gender dysphoria is recognized as a medical condition that doctors agree should be remedied by offering gender-affirming treatment.From Mike Pence: “The Linn-Marr community schools in Iowa had a policy where you could you had to have a permission slip from your parents to get a Tylenol but you could get a gender transition plan without notifying your parents.”This is misleading. Linn-Marr’s policy directed educators to use students’ chosen names, without consulting with parents. That’s a far reach from a “gender transition plan”. Children under 17 seeking gender affirming care such as hormone replacement therapy or gender affirming surgery.Vivek Ramaswamy was the most pilloried candidate at the previous debate, and will likely win that dubious distinction after this debate.He recently joined TikTok, the controversial social media app many GOP candidates want to ban over allegations that it’s tied to the Chinese Communist party. Asked why he was on the app, Ramamswamy cited its popularity with young people, and said: “The answer is, I have a radical idea for the Republican party. We need to win elections, and part of how we win elections is reaching the next generation of young Americans where they are.”Nikki Haley did not like that response. “Honestly, every time I hear you, I feel a little bit dumber for what you say,” she said, before going on to outline a number of privacy and national security concerns about the app.Mike Pence wants to “repeal the Green New Deal”. Too bad it’s never passed Congress or been signed into law…“Joe Biden’s Green New Deal agenda is good for Beijing and bad for Detroit. We ought to repeal the Green New Deal,” the former vice president said. “We ought to repeal the Green New Deal.”The Green New Deal is a climate legislation proposal that was never passed. Joe Biden did sign into law the Inflation Reduction Act, which includes key climate provisions is different.Although the IRA includes major investments in clean energy technologies – some of which have relied on critical minerals controlled by China. But the landmark climate investment is also considered a key step in reducing reliance on China for these minerals by increasing domestic supply. And while ramping up domestic extraction has raised new environmental concerns, Pence’s assertion is notably misleading.The IRA’s tax credits for electric vehicles, for example, come with the caveat that the materials used to manufacture the veible come from the US or countries with which the US has free trade agreements. The law also incentivizes domestic manufacturing.Doug Burgum did it again.The moderators didn’t call on him for a contentious question about social media app TikTok, so he just started talking, keeping the moderators from moving on to Ron DeSantis.“We will have to cut your mic and I don’t want to do that,” warned moderator Dana Perino. Burgum piped down.Raise your hand if you expected Mike Pence to discuss his sex life at this debate.Us neither. But discuss it he did. Chris Christie laid the groundwork while responding to a question about how he would close educational gaps with minorities, which he turned into an attack on teachers unions.“This public school system is no longer run by the public. It is run by the teachers unions in this country,” Christie said. “And when you have the president of the United States sleeping with a member of the teachers union, there is no chance that you could take the stranglehold away from the teachers unions.” That line was a reference to Jill Biden, who has taught at community colleges and is a union member.It got weird when the moderators, a few minutes later, called on Mike Pence. “By way of full disclosure, Chris, you’ve mentioned the president’s situation,” Pence said. “My wife isn’t a member of the teachers union, but I gotta admit I’ve been sleeping with a teacher for 38 years.” OK Mike. More
The second Republican presidential debate – once again without frontrunner Donald Trump – took place on Wednesday evening at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library in Simi Valley, California.Amid the squabble of the seven candidates, all of whom trail Trump significantly, Americans were left to parse which direction the Republican party plans to take in 2024. Trump, meanwhile, gave a speech in Michigan, where autoworkers have been striking for better work conditions and pay.Here are the main takeaways from the two-hour debate that aired on Fox Business.The candidates finally called out Trump for his absence, and spoke out against him more oftenUnlike in the first debate, candidates Chris Christie and Ron DeSantis directly commented on Trump’s absence multiple times.“He should be in this room to answer those questions for the people you talked about who are suffering,” Christie said.Later, he added: “And you’re not here tonight. Not because of polls, and not because of your indictments. You’re not here tonight because you’re afraid of being on the stage and defending your record. You’re ducking these things. And let me tell you what’s going to happen. You keep doing that, no one up here is gonna call you Donald Trump any more. We’re gonna call you Donald Duck.”DeSantis, once seen as Trump’s main rival, also took on his fellow Florida man. “He should be on this stage tonight,” DeSantis said. “He owes it to you to defend his record.”The jokes were worse than usualFrom Chris Christie’s highly practiced Donald Duck quip to ultra-conservative Mike Pence’s weird foray into his sex life, the audience was mostly left to uncomfortably chuckle.Republicans continue to politicize crime to avoid talking about solutions to issues like gun violence, immigration and drug overdosesThe party has tried to hold up crime rates – which have continued to decline after the pandemic spike – to criticize attempts at police reform or gun control.DeSantis touted his ousting of “progressive prosecutors” who he claimed were making Floridians unsafe when they investigated police misconduct, while Nikki Haley tried to connect issues at the southern border with seemingly unrelated looting in Philadelphia this week.When faced with a question about the prevalence of school shootings in the US, Mike Pence said the “expedited” death penalty for the shooters would prevent more shootings.Children were at the center of multiple questions about daycare, education and transgender rights, but it mostly devolved into culture warsBuilding on the heated discussions about “parents’ rights” and school choice that escalated during the pandemic, the candidates doubled down on their cultural agendas.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionDeSantis refused to backtrack on the part of his state curriculum that says enslaved people benefited from enslavement and touted Florida’s education record. Meanwhile, students and parents in Florida are organizing against the ongoing book bans and anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric that Republicans have brought to endless school meetings.Pence said he would enact a national ban on transgender care when asked about violence against the LGBTQ+ community. Vivek Ramaswamy said a return to faith would motivate the youth, and claimed “transgenderism, especially in kids, is a mental health disorder”. (Major health organizations disagree.)Haley addressed the issue directly. “We have to acknowledge the fact that 67% of our eighth-graders are not proficient in reading or math,” she said. “And recently they came out and said our 12- and 13-year-olds are scoring at the lowest levels they have been scoring in reading and math in decades.”Abortion was almost overlookedUnlike in the previous debate, abortion took a backseat, despite the fact that Republicans have lost several recent elections to this issue after the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade last year.DeSantis denied that abortion played a large role in those elections and implied Trump was turning on pro-life voters. Christie, however, talked about the need for Republicans to talk about the issue in a way that didn’t downplay the health of women caught in difficult circumstances.The Trump campaign may have revealed in an email blast who they feel most threatened byWhile Trump, speaking in Michigan, joked about there being no one at the debate fit for even the vice-presidency, a campaign email suggested otherwise. The email, with the subject “The Real Nikki Haley”, outlined her past quotes and positions to make her look hypocritical and weak.A recent poll showed that if Haley were the Republican nominee, she might beat Biden next year. More
Donald Trump tried to woo US autoworkers in a rambling speech in Michigan on Wednesday night that took potshots at Joe Biden, electric vehicles and Barack Obama while pushing culture war issues and fell far short of supporting the core issues that have many car workers currently on strike.The speech came a day after Joe Biden spoke to striking United Auto Workers members on a picket line nearby. Biden’s historic appearance was the first time that a sitting president has walked a picket line.Trump dismissed that as a “photo op” at Drake Enterprises, a non-unionised car parts maker in Macomb county, a few miles from where Biden spoke to striking employees picketing a Ford facility.The former US president and other prominent Republicans have consistently attacked unions but many are now being more supportive of the UAW strike. Trump is the overwhelming frontrunner in the Republican 2024 nomination race and Michigan and other rust belt states are seen as crucial battlegrounds in the race for the White House.“Your leadership should endorse me and I will not say a bad thing about them again,” said Trump, though he did not substantively address the issues at stake in the strike beyond expressing support for getting better wages.At one stage Trump said that the UAW leader, Shawn Fain, should endorse him and called him “a good man … he’s got to endorse Trump”. In the run-up to the visit Fain, however, has been withering in his opinion of Trump and declined to meet him.“I see no point in meeting with him because I don’t think the man has any bit of care about what our workers stand for, what the working class stands for,” Fain said before Trump’s visit. “He serves a billionaire class, and that’s what’s wrong with this country.” Biden had attended the UAW picket at Fain’s invitation.Several hundred people attended the speech, which was timed to coincide with the latest Republican presidential debate.“When you look at the thousands of people outside, why couldn’t you get a bigger plant?” said Trump.The crowd appeared to be in the hundreds and while the speech took place, it thinned to less than a hundred as the rain came down. At one moment Trump – who has a long history of exaggerating crowd sizes at his events – falsely claimed that there were “10,000” people outside the venue.“Just get your union guys, your leaders, to endorse me and I will take care of the rest,” said Trump. “Under a Trump presidency, gasoline engines will be allowed and sex changes for children will be banned. Is that OK?”Trump consistently attacked electric vehicles (EVs) and said US autoworkers would lose their jobs if the country made the shift to EVs. He pledged to support gas-powered cars. “We will drill baby drill and it will have zero environmental difference,” he said.Michigan is a crucial battleground for the 2024 election. Hillary Clinton lost the state to Trump in 2016 but Biden took it back from Trump in 2020. It looks set to be a hard-fought race next year.Ahead of the speech, the crowd shouted “Freedom” and “Fuck Joe Biden”.Auto worker Christopher Demopolis, 35, said: “I don’t see why he won’t win Michigan next time around – a lot of this is going to determine it,” he said, motioning to the lively crowd. “Trump supports the workers, Biden supports the leaders.”Debbie Swolfs, a retired caterer who also owned a cleaning business, ran through a litany of complaints of life under Biden: inflation, gas prices, illegal immigrants, the move to electric vehicles.“We need Trump back!” she said. “Do you remember how wonderful things were three years ago? I want that back,” she said. “Biden is compromised by China and he doesn’t need to be impeached – he needs to be put in handcuffs.” More
From 3h agoThe US secretary of transportation, Pete Buttigieg, warned that a government shutdown could disrupt the nation’s air travel system as he spoke to reporters just days before the deadline.Even a short shutdown would jeopardize the work and the hiring and training of potentially thousands of air traffic controllers and other key department employees, he said in a news conference earlier today.House Republicans who are “comfortable” with a government shutdown should “explain themselves directly to all of the nonpartisan civil servants who make sure that planes land safely, who inspect trucks and railroads and pipelines to prevent disasters, who will have to go without pay”, he said.
There is no good time for a government shutdown, but this is a particularly bad time for a government shutdown, especially when it comes to transportation.
The consequences of a shutdown would be “disruptive and dangerous”, he added.Tanya Chutkan, the federal judge presiding over Donald Trump trial on charges related to trying to overturn the 2020 election, has rejected an effort by the former president to remove her from the case, Politico reports:Trump’s legal team earlier this month had filed the motion asking Chutkan to recuse herself from the case, arguing previous statements she had made about his involvement in the January 6 insurrection were disqualifying.We’re about three hours away from the start of the second Republican primary debate at the Ronald Reagan presidential library in Simi Valley, California.The Guardian’s David Smith is on the scene, and reports that the seven candidates who have qualified will have quite the view:The Republican-led House Ways and Means committee today held a press conference to discuss evidence related to Joe Biden’s impeachment, but that was overshadowed by a testy exchange between its chair Jason Smith and a reporter for NBC News.As this video shows, the reporter asked Smith, who chairs one of three committees involved in the impeachment effort, to explain some of the gaps in his evidence. Smith struggles to do so. You can watch more below:Video clips like these play right into the hands of White House officials who argue the Republicans have no case. Here’s Ian Sams, Biden’s spokesman for oversight and investigations:While the Senate’s top Republican Mitch McConnell is not the type to engage in social media spats, he used his speaking time on the chamber’s floor today to wag his finger at the House Republicans whose intransigence in approving spending may soon cause the government to shut down:And here’s another great example of the intraRepublican fingerpointing that’s probably only going to get worse over the coming hours and days.It’s Montana congressman Ryan Zinke, who aligns with speaker Kevin McCarthy and House Republican leadership, squaring off against insurgent leader congressman Matt Gaetz. The point of contention is which wing of the House GOP was responsible for returning to “regular order” in the chamber, which the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service defines as “a traditional, committee-centered process of lawmaking, very much in evidence during most of the 20th century.”While it’s somewhat in the weeds, the open social media bickering (yes, they really did this in front of everybody on Twitter/X) tells you a lot about how things are going in the House today:They went on from there. Click on the tweets if you want to read more.As Washington shambles towards its 11th government shutdown since 1980, finger pointing is intensifying between lawmakers in Congress.CNN heard from West Virginia’s Republican senator Shelley Moore Capito, who pondered Kevin McCarthy could have averted the crisis that now looms if he had stuck to an agreement reached earlier this year that increased the government’s borrowing limit and also provided a rough outline of future spending plans. Here’s what she had to say:While Joe Biden may not believe that anything is inevitable in politics, he struck a realistic note when reporters traveling with him in California pressed him on his ability to stop the federal government from shutting down. “If I knew that, I would’ve already done it,” the president replied, when asked what he could have done to stop the shutdown.Elon Musk’s X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, has axed around half of its global team dedicated to tracking election disinformation, according to a report by the Information.The cuts, which reportedly include the head of the Dublin-based team, come less than a month after the company said it would expand its safety and election teams.X executives told the team last week that “having elections integrity employees based in Europe wasn’t necessary,” according to the report. The team had about two dozen employees before Musk bought the platform, and is now down to less than half of that.Joe Biden said a government shutdown is not inevitable, but that if there is one, a lot of vital work could be impacted in science and health, Reuters reported.The president, speaking to reporters after remarks to a group of science and technology advisers in San Francisco, was asked if he believed a government shutdown was inevitable. He replied:
I don’t think anything is inevitable … in politics.
Moderate New York Republican Mike Lawler said members of the GOP blocking efforts to keep the federal government from going into shutdown before a Saturday deadline are “stuck on stupid” in an interview with CNN.Criticising members of his party, Lawler said:
Some of my colleagues have, frankly, been stuck on stupid and refused to do what we were elected to do, against the vast majority of the conference, who have been working to avoid a shutdown. More
Donald Trump’s real estate empire could collapse “like falling dominoes”, experts believe, following a New York judge’s ruling that the former president’s business fortune was built on rampant fraud and blatant lies.According to Michael Cohen, his former attorney and fixer, Trump is already effectively “out of business” in New York after Judge Arthur Engoron on Tuesday rescinded the licenses of the Trump Organization and other companies owned by Trump and his adult sons, Eric and Don Jr.“Those companies will end up being liquidated … the judge has already determined that the fraud existed,” Cohen told CNN, hailing Engoron’s pretrial ruling in a civil case brought by Letitia James, the New York attorney general.On Wednesday morning, in a confrontational post on his Truth Social website that branded the judge a “political hack”, Trump said Engoron “must be stopped”.At a hearing on Wednesday afternoon, Trump’s legal team asked Engoron if his ruling meant Trump’s assets and businesses must be sold, or if they could continue to operate under receivership.Engoron said he would address the issue at the non-jury trial beginning on 2 October, and extended to 30 days his original 10-day deadline for both parties to suggest names to act as receivers for the various companies.The lawyers have said they will appeal the rescinding of the licenses, the appointment of receivers, and Engoron’s assertion that Trump and executives lived in a “fantasy world” of routinely, repeatedly and illegally overvaluing property values and his personal net worth to gain favorable loan terms and reduced insurance premiums.But if the appeals are unsuccessful, the collapse of the Trump empire, upon which the former reality TV host staked his reputation as a successful business tycoon, could be imminent.It would probably start with the sale of Trump’s most prestigious real estate assets, experts say, including Trump Tower in New York, golf courses and resorts around the US, and possibly his prized Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, if it is determined to be a business operation instead of his primary residential home.In his post on Wednesday, Trump decried the judge’s $18m valuation of Mar-a-Lago, claiming it was worth “100 times more than he values it”.William Black, a white-collar criminologist, corporate fraud investigator and distinguished scholar in residence for financial regulation at the University of Minnesota law school, said: “In finance, once the dominoes start falling, it becomes basically impossible to save it.“These properties are even more damaged goods today because of the success in demonstrating they are massively overvalued. The most likely thing, if you get an honest agent or receiver, they’re going to sell the properties at a loss. And when you’ve got a whole bunch of properties, with the first one you just desperately need to get some action and that gets discounted the most.”Black, who helped expose congressional wrongdoing in the Lincoln Savings and Loans scandal of the 1980s, in which the financier Charles Keating inflated his company’s worth to bilk taxpayers for billions, called Engoron’s ruling “devastating”. He believes Trump insiders and employees would have incentive to come forward with more information if he loses his wealth and influence.“What we experienced in the Savings and Loan debacle, we would put in an honest manager and employees would start coming to that person over time and say, ‘You know, you really ought to look at this,’” Black said.“Trump is monumentally, stupidly greedy in that he isn’t actually paying for a number of key lieutenants in terms of their legal needs, and they’re facing financial collapse of their own, [such as] the Rudy Giulianis of this world. But a lot of folks can sink Trump.“Having this ability to control all these assets, even if they’re massively overvalued, meant hope springs eternal among the Trump folks that he can use that money and influence to help them, but if Trump instead ends up bereft of control over the overwhelming bulk of his assets, and has lots of liabilities, sugar daddy goes away.”Engoron’s independent court-appointed monitor for the Trump Organization, the retired federal judge Barbara Jones, reported last month she had identified inconsistency and incompleteness in financial disclosures.skip past newsletter promotionafter newsletter promotionOthers also see the writing on the wall.“Donald Trump is no longer in business,” David Cay Johnston, author of the Trump-themed book The Big Cheat, wrote in DC Report.“Barring a highly unlikely reversal by an appeals court, Trump’s business assets eventually will be liquidated since he cannot operate them without a business license. The various properties are likely to be sold at fire sale prices and certainly not for top dollar when liquidation begins, probably after all appeals are exhausted.“I give Trump’s chances of prevailing on appeal at somewhere between zero and nothing except perhaps on some minor procedural point, which you can be sure Trump will describe as complete vindication.”Joyce Vance, a retired US attorney and University of Alabama law school professor, called Engoron’s ruling “justice”.“This is New York’s corporate death penalty, applied to Trump because of years of misconduct,” she wrote on X, formerly Twitter.Black said Trump’s downfall would be self-inflicted.“The key to these frauds is not genius, it’s audacity, but Trump never wanted to do it himself, he’s too lazy, right?” he said.“And now he doesn’t control the people who have to actually do the deals. So they’re now forced into thousands of discussions, first with this judge, now this receiver, and that can’t work.“You won’t be able to do the scams, and you won’t be able to do things quickly, either. That means a domino effect in credit failings and bankruptcies. As people start taking action against your properties, the liquidity you’re boasting isn’t going to be there and you’re going to get a bankruptcy.” More