More stories

  • in

    JD Vance ‘disrespecting the dead’ with bump stock remarks, Nevada senator says

    Political ripples from the supreme court’s decision to overturn a Trump White House-era ban on sales of “bump stocks” – a spring-loaded stock that uses recoil to in effect turn a semi-automatic firearm into a machine gun – continued to radiate on Monday when Jacky Rosen took exception to comments on the issue made by his Republican colleague JD Vance.Vance, the Ohio senator and potential vice-presidential pick as Trump seeks a second presidency in November had dismissed efforts by senior Democrats, including Chuck Schumer, the Senate majority leader, to pass legislation banning the devices as “a huge distraction”.Vance went further. “What is the real gun violence problem in this country, and are we legislating in a way that solves fake problems? Or solves real problems?” Vance said, before adding: “My very strong suspicion is that the Schumer legislation is aimed at a PR problem, not something that’s going to meaningfully reduce gun violence in this country.”Rosen, the Democratic senator, hit back, facing re-election this year in politically purple Nevada, the site of the 2017 Las Vegas concert shooting that killed 58 and prompted Trump to ban the rapid-fire device.“This is not a fake problem,” she told reporters. “Let him come to Las Vegas. Let him see the memorial for those people who died. Let him talk to those families. It’s not a fake problem. Those families are dead.”Rosen said Las Vegas, the gambling mecca and major source of Nevada’s revenue, had been “changed forever because of what the shooter did, and the bump stocks helped him”. She invited Vance to visit memorials to the victims as well as to talk to first responders. “Shame on him,” Rosen added, visibly enraged. “Shame on him for disrespecting the dead.”In its ruling last week, the conservative majority on the supreme court ruled that the executive branch of government did not have the power to use existing firearms laws to prohibit bump stocks. But the justices allowed legislators to pass new laws banning the accessory.Schumer and other senior Democrats have since said they would quickly move to do so.Outcry from Democrats mounted after Vance reasoned that a bill to ban bump stocks would “end up just inhibiting the rights of law-abiding Americans” and mused about how many people would still have been killed if the heavily armed video poker player Stephen Paddock had not outfitted his armory with the contested devices.“How many people would have been shot alternatively? And you have to ask yourself the question: will anyone actually not choose a bump stock because Chuck Schumer passes a piece of legislation?” Vance said.After Vance made his comments, Schumer retorted: “Talk to the people in Las Vegas who lost loved ones.”The supreme court ruling gives both sides of the gun issue red meat for the election campaign, though it is complicated by the initial ban coming from the Trump White House. Lindsey Graham, the Republican South Carolina senator, told NBC News he will block the Democrats’ measure. And Vance questioned Democrats’ legislative priorities.Chris Murphy, the Democratic Connecticut senator who has championed tougher gun laws after the Sandy Hook elementary school shooting in 2012, said Republicans in his chamber should have no problem voting for the measure banning bump stocks.“Is it good politics to make it easier for potential mass killers to get their hands on machine guns? Probably not,” Murphy said. “The idea is to try to make this attractive to Republicans. And we would be a lot better off if psychopaths couldn’t get their hands on machine guns.”Between Friday – when the supreme court’s ruling on bump stocks returned gun control to the top of the national discourse – and Monday, there were 17 mass shootings reported across the US, according to the Gun Violence Archive.Among those was a shooting Saturday in Rochester Hills, Michigan, in which nine people – including two children – were wounded at a city-run splash pad that families frequent to cool off in the summer. Police said the attack was carried out at random by a gunman who later died by suicide.Another shooting on Saturday in Round Rock, Texas, saw 14 people wounded and two killed. There, the shooting erupted after an altercation between two groups of people – the victims were uninvolved bystanders, police said.The non-partisan Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more victims are wounded or killed.There have been at least 230 such shootings reported in the US so far this year, a high rate which has fueled public calls for more substantial gun control but which Congress for the most part has not heeded.
    Ramon Antonio Vargas contributed reporting More

  • in

    Senate Republicans block bill that establishes right to IVF across the US

    Senate Republicans have defeated a bill that would have established a federal right to in vitro fertilization, a piece of legislation that Democrats forced to the floor on Thursday as part of an election-year effort to contrast their approach to reproductive rights with that of the party across the aisle.The bill, the Right to IVF act, would have overwritten any state efforts to restrict the right to IVF as well as seeking to make the treatment more affordable and accessible, including for US military service members and veterans.The legislation was introduced by Senators Patty Murray of Washington state, Cory Booker of New Jersey and Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, and the bill was not expected to pass, given that most legislation needs at least 60 votes to advance in the Senate.Instead, Democrats hoped to get Republicans on the record opposing an infertility treatment that is widely popular among Americans. They deployed a similar strategy last week, when Democrats held a vote on a bill that would have guaranteed a nationwide right to contraception – which, like IVF, is very popular. That bill, the Right to Contraception act, also failed.“Last week, every senator was put on the record as to whether they will defend the right to contraception. And despite Republicans’ words about supporting birth control, their actions – voting against the Right to Contraception act – spoke louder,” Murray said in a speech from the Senate floor on Thursday. “Today, we are putting Republicans on the record on another issue families across the country are deeply concerned about: the right to IVF.”The Louisiana senator Bill Cassidy, a Republican, denounced the bill, which he said was motivated by “political purposes”.“This is not serious legislation,” Cassidy said. “It was not brought through the committee process. It is a political process.”Because IVF typically involves creating embryos that may not be implanted in a woman’s uterus or may go unused after genetic testing, some anti-abortion campaigners have long opposed IVF. However, the US abortion wars have rarely focused on IVF.Then, in February, the Alabama state supreme court ruled that frozen embryos created through IVF are legally “extrauterine children” – a decision that endorsed the tenets of so-called fetal personhood, promoted by a US movement that seeks to endow embryos and fetuses with full legal rights and protections. The ruling led many IVF providers in Alabama to temporarily pause their operations, which created chaos and triggered backlash across the country.Still, anti-abortion activists have continued to gain ground in their battle on IVF. On Wednesday, the Southern Baptist Convention, the largest Protestant group in the US, voted at its annual meeting to condemn IVF. With its nearly 13 million members and enormous political influence, the Southern Baptist Convention’s rejection of IVF signaled a turning point in the debate over IVF. Although evangelical Protestants have largely supported IVF, the vote suggests that the anti-abortion movement is successfully making the case that opposition to abortion necessitates opposition to IVF.“This is not the end of our fight for family building for all. We will continue until everyone in this country has access to the family building options they need and the availability of IVF is guaranteed in all 50 states,” Barbara Collura, president and CEO of Resolve: The National Infertility Association, said in a statement Thursday, after the failed Senate vote. “Introducing this bill was already a big win for advocates of increasing access to fertility treatments. Our work led to this comprehensive legislation, and we are not giving up.” More

  • in

    Clarence Thomas took additional trips funded by Harlan Crow, senator reveals

    The US supreme court justice Clarence Thomas took at least three additional trips funded by the billionaire benefactor Harlan Crow that the conservative justice failed to disclose, the chair of the Senate judiciary committee said on Thursday.Crow, a Texas businessman and Republican donor, disclosed details about the justice’s travel between 2017 and 2021 in response to a judiciary committee vote last November to authorize subpoenas to Crow and another influential conservative, according to the committee chair, Senator Dick Durbin, a Democrat representing Illinois.“The Senate judiciary committee’s investigation into the supreme court’s ethical crisis is producing new information – like what we’ve revealed [on Thursday] – and makes it crystal clear that the highest court needs an enforceable code of conduct, because its members continue to choose not to meet the moment,” Durbin said.A supreme court spokesperson did not immediately respond to a request for comment, nor did a lawyer for Crow.Thomas has previously come under criticism for failing to disclose gifts from Crow. Most recently, Thomas last week belatedly revised his 2019 financial disclosure form to acknowledge that Crow had paid for his “food and lodging” at a hotel in Bali, Indonesia, and at a California club.But the recent filing by Thomas failed to disclose that Crow had paid for his travel by private jet related to the Bali and California trips, and an eight-day excursion on a yacht in Indonesia, omissions that were revealed on Thursday in a redacted document that Durbin’s office said contained travel itineraries where Crow had provided the justice with transportation.The document shows private jet travel in May 2017 between St Louis in Missouri, the state of Montana, and Dallas. It also shows private jet travel in March 2019 between Washington DC and Savannah, Georgia, and private jet travel in June 2021 between Washington DC and San Jose, California.Under pressure from criticism over ethics, following a series of rows focusing mainly on Thomas and Samuel Alito, the most conservative justices, the nine justices of the supreme court last November adopted their first code of conduct.However, critics and some congressional Democrats have said the code does not go far enough to promote transparency, continuing to leave decisions to recuse from cases to the justices themselves and providing no mechanism of enforcement.Earlier this week, the South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate judiciary committee, said he would block Democrats’ attempts to pass an ethics bill to rein in the US supreme court.And the Democratic congresswomen Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the court had been “captured and corrupted by money and extremism”, provoking a “crisis of legitimacy” that threatens the stability of US democracy.Reuters contributed reporting More

  • in

    Pelosi condemns Trump’s Capitol visit: ‘Returning to the scene of the crime’

    Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic former House speaker, mounted a forceful denunciation of Thursday’s first visit to the US Capitol by Donald Trump since he incited a mob to attack it on January 6 2021, accusing him of returning with “the same mission of dismantling our democracy”.In remarks that triggered a fresh war of words between the pair, Pelosi said the former president’s visit to discuss strategy with congressional Republicans in advance of the election amounted to a symbolic return to the scene of a crime that he deliberately initiated.“Today, the instigator of an insurrection is returning to the scene of the crime,” Pelosi said in a statement. “January 6 was a crime against the Capitol, that saw Nazi and Confederate flags flying under the dome that Lincoln built.”She added: “It was a crime against the constitution and its peaceful transfer of power, in a desperate attempt to cling to power. And it was a crime against members, heroic police officers and staff, that resulted in death, injury and trauma that endure to this day.”Pelosi, whose office was overrun and defiled by invading Trump supporters in the assault, as rioters ran through the halls of Congress calling her name, added: “With his pledges to be a dictator on day one and seek revenge against his political opponents, Donald Trump comes to Capitol Hill today with the same mission of dismantling our democracy. But make no mistake – Trump has already cemented his legacy of shame in our hallowed halls.”Her furious broadside may have provided the fuel for outlandish comments attributed to Trump in his Thursday morning meeting with House Republicans.Jake Sherman, a reporter for the website Punchbowl, posted on X that Trump had digressed to talk about an imagined romantic relationship between Pelosi and himself, which he said had been suggested by one of the former speaker’s daughters, whom he did not identify by name.“Nancy Pelosi’s daughter is a wacko … her daughter told me if things were different Nancy and I would be perfect together. There’s an age difference, though,” Sherman quoted Trump as saying, adding that his words were “close to an exact quote”.The reported comments provoked an angry response from one Pelosi daughter, Christine Pelosi, also on X.“Speaking for all 4 Pelosi daughters – this is a LIE,” she wrote. “His deceitful, deranged obsession with our mother is yet another reason Donald Trump is unwell, unhinged and unfit to step foot anywhere near her – or the White House.”The Hill quoted a spokesman for Pelosi as saying: “That guy has clearly lost his marbles. Not that he had many to begin with.” More

  • in

    ACLU hails supreme court’s mifepristone decision: ‘This fight is far from over’ – as it happened

    Joe Biden has released the following statement on the supreme court’s decision to uphold mifepristone:
    Today’s decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues. It does not change the fact that the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade two years ago, and women lost a fundamental freedom. It does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states.It does mean that mifepristone, or medication abortion, remains available and approved. Women can continue to access this medication – approved by the FDA as safe and effective more than 20 years ago. But let’s be clear: attacks on medication abortion are part of Republican elected officials’ extreme and dangerous agenda to ban abortion nationwide … The stakes could not be higher for women across America.
    It is just past 4pm in Washington DC. Here is a wrap-up of the day’s key events:
    The supreme court has rejected a bid to restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone. The decision overturned an appeals court ruling that would have restricted mail-order prescriptions of the common abortion drug. The nation’s highest court arrived at the decision unanimously, in turn marking a win for reproductive rights across the country.
    Joe Biden released the following statement on the supreme court’s decision to uphold mifepristone: “Today’s decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues. It does not change the fact that the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade two years ago, and women lost a fundamental freedom. It does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states.”
    The American Civil Liberties Union hailed the supreme court’s decision on mifepristone, saying: “The supreme court just unanimously rejected a request by anti-abortion extremists to impose medically unnecessary restrictions on mifepristone, a safe and effective medication used in most abortions nationwide.”
    Donald Trump visited Capitol Hill for the first time since the January 6 insurrection in 2021. Trump was invited to address House Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club and also meet with Senate Republicans at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters.
    Ahead of Donald Trump’s visit to Capitol Hill, former House speaker Nancy Pelosi said: “Donald Trump comes to Capitol Hill today with the same mission of dismantling our democracy. But make no mistake – Trump has already cemented his legacy of shame in our hallowed halls.”
    That’s it as we wrap up the blog for today. Thank you for following along.When voters are asked to sum up Joe Biden in one word, the most popular response is “old”, according to a survey by polling firm JL Partners.Facing the same question with regard to Biden’s election-challenger Donald Trump, the word “criminal” comes up more than any other.The poll also found that voters expect Trump to perform better in the first presidential debate later this month in Atlanta. Some 70% expect “Biden to mess up his words” and 49% even expect “Biden to forget where he is”.Responding to the findings at a panel discussion in Washington on Thursday, political consultant and pollster Patrick Ruffini said: “This age issue for Biden really ties into voter perceptions of his competence and his ability to get things done.“I think why that has proven to be a such a devastating issue for him, that has really underlied the failure to message around accomplishments, is that when people look at him they don’t see somebody who is going to [have] the ability to do a whole lot to actively change the course of events in a potential second term.”JL Partners, using a representative sample size of 500 people and conducting fieldwork on 10 and 11 June, asked: “Thinking about anyone alive today, who would be your dream President?” In the resulting word cloud, “Donald Trump” loomed largest, followed by “Obama” – a combination of both Barack and Michelle.Mini Timmaraju, president and CEO of Reproductive Freedom for All, joined the Biden campaign press call and warned that anti-abortion advocates would likely pursue other means to block access to mifepristone after the supreme court’s decision.“Regardless of today’s ruling, Trump and his allies are laying the groundwork to ban medication abortion nationwide,” Timmaraju said.“They want to try and use executive power to jail doctors and patients for sending or receiving abortion medication in the mail, and they could extend that strategy to try to jail those mailing anything intended for producing abortion.”Anti-abortion advocates have already tried to argue that the Comstock Act, an 1873 anti-obscenity law, bans the mailing of abortion-related materials, and Trump could use that strategy to threaten reproductive rights across the country, Timmaraju said.“The road ahead is long. The fight to restore rights will be hard,” she told reporters. “But we know President Biden and Vice-President Harris are on our side. So that’s why I’m so proud to be fighting alongside them.”Joe Biden’s campaign officials celebrated the supreme court’s ruling preserving access to the abortion medication mifepristone, but they emphasized that the case was “only one tactic in a broader relentless strategy to strip away access to reproductive freedom”.“If Trump regains power in November, Trump’s allies will be ready to deploy their plans to ban abortion access nationwide without the help of Congress or the court,” Julie Chávez Rodriguez, Biden’s campaign manager, said on a press call.“President Biden is going to make Donald Trump answer for the state of reproductive rights in this country. There’s so much at stake in 2024, and we’re going to continue to make sure that every single voter knows it.”As the country marks two years since Roe v Wade was overturned, Rodriguez indicated that Biden would make the issue of abortion access a central focus of the first general election debate, which will take place later this month.“That’s the contrast we will continue to highlight leading into the debate, using the Dobbs anniversary as another core inflection point,” Rodriguez said.Here are some images coming through the newswires from Capitol Hill, where Donald Trump made his first visit since the January 6 riots in 2021:The Senate minority leader, Mitch McConnell, said that the Trump meeting was “entirely positive”, Punchbowl News reported.McConnell specified that he and Trump “got a chance to talk”, adding that their meeting was policy focused.The meeting between McConnell and Trump is the first time the two have spoken since December 2020.The US House speaker, Mike Johnson, has issued a statement declaring that Republicans will win the White House, Senate and House of Representatives after he and other party members hosted Donald Trump.Johnson said that Trump brought “an extraordinary amount of energy and excitement and enthusiasm” during the morning meeting.Johnson said: “We believe we are going to win back the White House, and the Senate, and grow the House majority, and when we do that, we will not waste a moment.”The House speaker promised an “aggressive agenda” with the new Congress in January. So far, such an agenda could look like pushing far-right legislation around immigration, gun control and other policies.Hello, US politics readers, it’s been a busy morning in Washington with an important decision from the US supreme court relating to reproductive rights and the first visit to Capitol Hill by Donald Trump since some of his extremist supporters stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021.We’ll have much more news for you coming up.Here’s where things stand:
    The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) hailed the supreme court’s decision on mifepristone, while warning: “This fight isn’t over. Anti-abortion politicians have already pledged to continue their efforts in this case to deny people access to medication abortion.”
    Joe Biden took a similar stance and said, in part: “Today’s decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues. It does not change the fact that the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade two years ago, and women lost a fundamental freedom. It does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states.” He additionally warned of “Republican elected officials’ extreme and dangerous agenda to ban abortion nationwide”.
    The US supreme court has rejected a bid to restrict access to the abortion pill mifepristone, with a unanimous decision from the nine-member bench that, essentially, the plaintiff did not have standing. FDA-approved mifepristone therefore continues to be available.
    Donald Trump visited Capitol Hill for the first time since the January 6 insurrection in 2021. Trump was invited to address House Republicans at the Capitol Hill Club and also meet with Senate Republicans at the National Republican Senatorial Committee headquarters.
    A crowd of reporters, protesters and aides gathered outside the Capitol Hill Club. Former House speaker and sitting California congresswoman Nancy Pelosi said Trump’s visit was with the “mission of dismantling our democracy”.
    The Democratic National Committee has echoed similar sentiments as other Democratic leaders including Joe Biden and Kamala Harris following the supreme court’s decision on mifepristone.In a statement on Thursday, the DNC said:
    The supreme court’s unanimous ruling that the Maga extremists who sued the FDA in an attempt to ban medication abortion nationwide lacked standing does not change the dire stakes of this election for reproductive freedom.
    It does not change the fact that because of Trump, millions of women in states across the country cannot access the health care they need. It does not change the fact that Trump bragged about overturning Roe and thinks women suffering extreme physical, mental, and emotional harm because they can’t access reproductive health care is a ‘beautiful thing to watch.’
    And it does not change the fact that if elected, Trump and his allies want to effectively ban abortion nationwide with or without the help of Congress and the courts … The only way to stop the Maga movement’s attacks on our freedoms is to turn out the vote in November to win Democratic majorities in Congress and reelect President Biden and Vice President Harris – who will never stop fighting to guarantee women in every state have access to the care they need.
    In a statement on the supreme court’s ruling, Kamala Harris said that it “does not change the fact that millions of American women are today living under cruel abortion bans because of Donald Trump”.The vice-president went on to add:
    Nor does this ruling change the threat to medication abortion. We know the Trump team has a plan to try to end access to medication abortion and carry out a Trump abortion ban in all 50 states, with or without Congress, if they get the chance. We cannot and will not let that happen.
    The contrast is stark: while Trump relentlessly attacks reproductive freedoms, President Biden and I will never stop fighting to protect them. Americans have repeatedly made it clear they want more freedom, not less, and they will make their voices heard at the ballot box once again this November.
    The American Civil Liberties Union hailed the supreme court’s decision on mifepristone, saying:
    The supreme court just unanimously rejected a request by anti-abortion extremists to impose medically unnecessary restrictions on mifepristone, a safe and effective medication used in most abortions nationwide.
    This fight isn’t over. Anti-abortion politicians have already pledged to continue their efforts in this case to deny people access to medication abortion.”
    Joe Biden has released the following statement on the supreme court’s decision to uphold mifepristone:
    Today’s decision does not change the fact that the fight for reproductive freedom continues. It does not change the fact that the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade two years ago, and women lost a fundamental freedom. It does not change the fact that the right for a woman to get the treatment she needs is imperiled if not impossible in many states.It does mean that mifepristone, or medication abortion, remains available and approved. Women can continue to access this medication – approved by the FDA as safe and effective more than 20 years ago. But let’s be clear: attacks on medication abortion are part of Republican elected officials’ extreme and dangerous agenda to ban abortion nationwide … The stakes could not be higher for women across America.
    Washington’s Democratic representative Pramila Jayapal echoed similar sentiments as other Democrats following the supreme court’s mifepristone decision.In a tweet on X, Jayapal wrote:
    This is a massive victory for abortion access, but there is no question – we must codify access to reproductive care nationwide. More

  • in

    Lindsey Graham vows to block Democrats’ supreme court ethics bill

    The South Carolina senator Lindsey Graham, the top-ranking Republican on the Senate judiciary committee, said that he will block Democrats’ attempts to pass an ethics bill to rein in the US supreme court.Graham told NBC News that he “will object” to the bill on Wednesday, meaning it will not move forward on its legislative journey.The Senate judiciary committee chairman, Dick Durbin, from Illinois, told reporters that Senate Democrats were working to unanimously move the bill forward, the Hill reported. Durbin co-authored the bill with Senator Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island.“We’re planning on making a move on the floor this week to move the ethics bill for the supreme court,” Durbin said.It follows a series of scandals focusing on the rightwing justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito in relation both to gifts and to their capacity to serve with political neutrality.Durbin added that “new evidence” might emerge concerning ethics on the supreme court, elaborating that the evidence “relates to the ethical considerations from some of the justices for gifts they’ve taken and not reported”, the Hill reported.US representatives have also criticized what they call a “crisis of legitimacy” affecting the court.While speaking at a round table on Capitol Hill in Washington DC on Tuesday, the New York progressive representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez said the court has been captured and corrupted “by money and extremism”.“A group of anti-democratic billionaires with their own ideological and economic agenda has been working one of the three co-equal branches of government,” she said.The Democratic congressman Jamie Raskin of Maryland, who was also at Tuesday’s round table, said: “The highest court in the land today has the lowest ethical standards.”In recent weeks, Alito has faced calls to recuse himself from election-related cases and for a broader investigation after a flag associated in modern times with the far right was reportedly flying above one of his homes.And Alito, along with his wife, Martha-Ann Alito, came under additional scrutiny after Alito said that one side in the US’s partisan left versus right ideology battle “has to win”, in remarks captured in a secret recording.Martha-Ann also criticized the LGBTQ+ Pride flag, as heard in the same recording.Thomas has repeatedly faced criticism for failing to disclose in the official record that he took lavish vacations paid for by the conservative billionaire Harlan Crow, ProPublica first reported. Thomas belatedly disclosed the luxury trips for the court record last week.Public confidence in the court has also swiftly fallen in the last year to near record lows, according to polling from Gallup. More

  • in

    Mayorkas insists immigration order not at odds with Biden’s campaign promise

    The US homeland security secretary, Alejandro Mayorkas, defended both the timing and substance of Joe Biden’s new executive order to restrict immigration at the southern border, as the president faces criticism from Democrats and Republicans alike over the measure.The order, issued on Tuesday, tells officials to shut down asylum requests once the average number of encounters between legal ports of entry reaches 2,500 or more. If the number of encounters falls to 1,500 or fewer for seven consecutive days, the border would reopen two weeks later.During an interview on ABC News’s This Week, host Martha Raddatz noted that crossings had never reached the threshold of falling to 1,500 or fewer during Biden’s presidency – and Mayorkas declined to say whether he expected it to happen before election day.Mayorkas declined to give a concrete timeline on when to expect border crossings to meet the targeted threshold. Mayorkas was impeached by House Republicans earlier this year over his handling of the border, but the charges were quickly dismissed by the Senate.“We are at a very early stage. Implementation, as you noted, has just begun,” Mayorkas told Raddatz on Sunday. “It’s early, the signs are positive. Our personnel have done an extraordinary job in implementing a very big shift in how we operate on the southern border.”Some Democrats have assailed the order as essentially a revival of the Trump administration’s asylum ban, which was struck down by federal courts. Biden also criticized the measure when he was a candidate for president.Mayorkas insisted on Sunday that the executive order was not at odds with Biden’s campaign promise.“What the president said then is what we are living today,” he said. “We are allowing individuals to access asylum through the ports of entry, pursuant to a program that we developed. We are allowing people to access asylum if they come from the countries of Cuba, Haiti, Nicaragua and Venezuela.”Republicans have dismissed the policy as insufficient and an election-year stunt. “This is like turning a garden hose on a five-alarm fire. And the American people are not fools. They know that this play is too little, too late,” Mitch McConnell, the Republican leader in the US Senate, said last week. But the Republican criticism comes after Republican senators twice blocked a sweeping bipartisan border security bill. Trump, who is the presumptive Republican nominee in November’s presidential election, had lobbied against the measure.Mayorkas defended the timing of the executive order, which came four months after the border bill first failed. He said the administration would have preferred for Congress to act.“The bipartisan deal was rejected once. We pressed forward again. It was rejected a second time. And then we developed this and have implemented it and we are at an early stage,” he said. “And let’s not minimize the significance of this move and the significance of operationalizing it. And it requires the cooperation of other countries which we have secured.” More

  • in

    Businessman testifies he promised Bob Menendez up to $250,000 in bribes

    A New Jersey businessman took his star turn on the witness stand on Friday in the bribery case against US senator Bob Menendez, telling a jury he believed he had a $200,000-$250,000 deal in 2018 for the Democrat to pressure the state attorney general’s office to stop investigating his friends and family.Jose Uribe testified in Manhattan federal court in the afternoon, providing key testimony against Menendez and two other businessmen charged in a conspiracy along with Menendez’s wife. Next week, Menendez’s lawyers will get to cross-examine the naturalized US citizen.“Next week we get the truth,” Menendez said just before stepping into a car that carried him away from Manhattan federal court, where he has been on trial for the last month.Uribe, 57, who pleaded guilty to charges in a March cooperation deal, was the star witness for the government in its bid to win a conviction against the senator, who once held the powerful post as chair of the Senate foreign relations committee. He was forced out of the position after he was criminally charged last fall.Menendez, 70, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he accepted gold bars, cash and a luxury car in return for doing favors for the businessmen. Two businessmen and Menendez’s wife, Nadine Menendez, also have pleaded not guilty. Nadine Menendez’s trial has been postponed until at least July after she was diagnosed with breast cancer.Uribe testified that he had been close friends with Wael Hana, who is on trial with Menendez, when Hana told him in early 2018 that New Jersey state criminal investigations swirling around the trucking business of a friend of his and Uribe’s own insurance business could be largely put to rest if he was willing to spend $200,000 to $250,000.Uribe said Hana told him that he would go to Nadine Arslanian (her name before she married the senator), who had begun dating Menendez that year, and then “Nadine would go to Senator Menendez”, although Uribe did not testify about how the couple could resolve multiple investigations.Uribe said he held a 13 July 2018 political fundraiser for Menendez, which the senator attended, raising $50,000. He said he attended an afterparty with Menendez and Arslanian that included cocktails, along with “some laughs, some jokes and some dancing”, but there was no mention of the work he expected Menendez to do on his behalf.View image in fullscreen“It was a crowded and loud place,” Uribe said.He said his confidence that the deal was working faded in the fall when an investigator from the attorney general’s office asked to interview his employee.“I was not happy,” he said.Assistant US attorney Lara Pomerantz showed jurors a series of text messages between Uribe and Hana in which Uribe pressed his friend to get the senator to stop the criminal investigations.“Please be sure that your friend knows about this,” Uribe wrote to Hana in one text.Pomerantz asked whom he was referring to as “your friend”.“Senator Menendez,” Uribe responded. Hana, according to the texts, responded: “I will.”Hana arranged for Uribe to have dinner with Menendez and Arslanian at a restaurant in October 2018, but Uribe testified there was no mention of the deal.“Nothing was discussed there of value, I will say,” Uribe testified. “It was a … pointless meeting.”Uribe said he began communicating directly with Nadine Arslanian in March 2019 and promised that he would buy her a car if she delivered on the deal to get the senator to shut down New Jersey criminal investigations.“She agreed to the terms,” he said.When the prosecutor asked Uribe what he understood the terms of the deal to mean, he said he understood that Nadine Arslanian would contact Menendez and get him to use his “influence and power to do anything possible to stop and kill” the investigations.On Thursday, former New Jersey attorney general Gurbir Grewal testified that Menendez in an early 2019 telephone call and in a September 2019 office meeting tried to talk to him about a criminal investigation. Grewal said he followed his policy and refused to do so, telling Menendez to contact defense lawyers so they could reach out to trial-level prosecutors or the judge.Uribe, of Clifton, New Jersey, pleaded guilty in March, saying during his plea that he gave Nadine Menendez a Mercedes-Benz in return for her husband “using his power and influence as a United States senator to get a favorable outcome and to stop all investigations related to one of my associates”.Uribe was accused of buying the luxury car for Nadine Menendez after her previous car had been destroyed when she struck and killed a man crossing the street. She did not face criminal charges in connection with that crash. More