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    Trump pays $110,000 in fines after being held in contempt of court – as it happened

    Former US president Donald Trump has paid the $110,000 in fines he racked up after being held in contempt of court for being slow to respond to a civil subpoena issued by New York’s attorney general, the Associated Press writes.Trump paid the fine Thursday but must still submit additional paperwork in order to have the contempt order lifted, the office of attorney general Letitia James said Friday.A message seeking comment was left Friday with Trump’s lawyer.A Manhattan judge declared Trump in contempt of court on April 25 and fined him $10,000 per day for not complying with a subpoena in James’ long-running investigation into his business practices.Judge Arthur Engoron agreed May 11 to lift the contempt order if, by Friday, Trump paid the fines and submitted affidavits detailing efforts to search for the subpoenaed records and explaining his and his company’s document retention policies.Engoron also required a company hired by Trump to aid in the search, HaystackID, finish going through 17 boxes kept in off-site storage, and for that company to report its findings and turn over any relevant documents. That process was completed Thursday, James’ office said.Engoron told Trump to pay the money directly to James’ office and for the attorney general to hold the money in an escrow account while Trump’s legal team appeals the judge’s original contempt finding.Engoron stopped the fine from accruing May 6, when Trump’s lawyers submitted 66 pages of court documents detailing the efforts by him and his lawyers to locate the subpoenaed records. He warned that he could reinstate it, retroactive to May 7, if his conditions weren’t met.James, a Democrat, has said her three-year investigation uncovered evidence that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misstated the value of assets like skyscrapers and golf courses on financial statements for over a decade.Trump, a Republican, denies the allegations.Trump’s lawyers have accused her of selective prosecution. Trump is also suing James in federal court, seeking to shut down her probe.Last week, a lawyer for James’ office said that evidence found in the probe could support legal action against the former president, his company, or both.The lawyer, Andrew Amer, said at a hearing in Trump’s lawsuit against James that:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}There’s clearly been a substantial amount of evidence amassed that could support the filing of an enforcement proceeding.” A final determination on filing such an action has not been made.That’s it for the US politics blog for the day and the week. Thanks for joining us.Donald Trump’s wallet is a little lighter this weekend after he coughed up $110,000 in contempt of court fines for defying the New York attorney general’s investigation into the former president’s business dealings. Here’s what else we followed today:
    A Florida appeals court reinstated Republican governor Ron DeSantis’s “racist” congressional redistricting map that disenfranchises Black voters.
    With no resolution yet in the Republican senate primary in Pennsylvania, neck-and-neck candidates Mehmet Oz and David McCormick are beefing up their staff with lawyers experienced in vote recounts.
    Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, conservative activist and wife of supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, pressed Arizona lawmakers to set aside Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the state.
    Joe Biden ended the first day of his Asian tour with the lowest approval rating of his presidency.
    Bill Barr, attorney general in the Trump administration, is reportedly in negotiations to testify before the 6 January House committee investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat by Joe Biden.
    A reminder that you can follow coverage of the Ukraine conflict in our global live news blog here.If you had billionaire tech mogul Larry Ellison on your insurrection bingo card, congratulations. The co-founder and chairman of the software company Oracle was identified by the Washington Post Friday afternoon as a participant in a call of staunch Donald Trump allies trying out ways to keep him in office after his election defeat by Joe Biden.The 14 November 2020 teleconference focused on strategies for contesting the legitimacy of the vote, according to court documents and a participant, the Post said.It included fellow Trump acolytes Lindsey Graham, Republican senator for North Carolina; Sean Hannity, Fox News host; Jay Sekulow, attorney for Trump; and James Bopp Jr, attorney for True the Vote, a nonprofit that has promoted the lie of widespread voter fraud. That Ellison was/is a Trump supporter is not new. He gave significant support to Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, including hosting a fundraiser at his California mansion.But the Post says Ellison’s reported participation in the call is “the first known example of a technology industry titan joining powerful figures in conservative politics, media and law to strategize about Trump’s post-loss options and confer with an activist group that had already filed four lawsuits seeking to uncover evidence of illegal voting”.He was also among business figures identified by CNBC as distancing themselves from Trump in the wake of the deadly 6 January 2021 Capitol riot.Ellison is the world’s eighth richest person with a net worth of $106bn, according to Forbes.Oracle representatives did not respond to the Post’s request for comment. As Tucker Carlson asked Hunter Biden for help getting his son into an elite Washington university in 2014, the Fox News host’s wife, Susie, reportedly wrote in an email: “Tucker and I have the greatest respect and admiration for you. Always!” Since the 2020 election, however, Carlson has fueled rightwing attacks on Joe Biden’s son, particularly over business affairs in which he allegedly benefited from his father’s position.The existence of emails about getting Buckley Carlson into Georgetown has been known for some time, thanks to a laptop once owned by Hunter Biden that was obtained by Donald Trump’s lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and pushed to media in 2020.On Thursday the Washington Post revealed new emails and said analysis by security experts confirmed their authenticity.The emails, the Post said, “reveal the extent to which Carlson was willing to turn on a former associate as he thrives in a hyper-partisan media world in which conservatives have made Biden a prime target for attack”.“They also show how Carlson once sought to benefit from the elite political circles in Washington that he now regularly rails against as the ‘ruling class’.”Carlson told the Post that in 2014, when Joe Biden was vice-president, “Hunter Biden was my neighbor. Our wives were friends. I knew him well.“I talked to him many times about addiction, something I know a lot about. And I’ve said that. I think that Hunter Biden is an addict and that’s why his life is falling apart, and I feel bad for him. I’ve said that many times, and I mean it.”Read more:Tucker Carlson tried to use Hunter Biden to get his son into GeorgetownRead moreWith no resolution yet in the Republican senate primary in Pennsylvania, neck-and-neck candidates Mehmet Oz and David McCormick are beefing up their staff with lawyers experienced in vote recounts, the Associated Press reports.A few hundred votes separated the candidates on Friday afternoon, with 99% of the count completed. Barring a surprise surge in the remaining votes one way or the other, an automatic recount is all but certain.Both campaigns have hired Washington-based lawyers to lead their recount efforts, and both have hired Philadelphia-based campaign strategists who helped lead the operation to observe vote-counting on election day for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign in 2020, the AP says.The two campaigns already had dozens of lawyers and volunteers fanned out around the presidential battleground state as election workers and election boards toiled through the remaining ballots.A recount would mean that the outcome of the race might not be known until 8 June, the deadline for counties to report their results to the state.Oz, the celebrity TV doctor endorsed by Trump, led McCormick, a former treasury department official, by 1,092 votes, or 0.08%, out of 1,338,399 ballots counted by midday Friday. Pennsylvania’s department of state, which oversees elections, said there were almost 28,000 mail-in and absentee ballots still to count.A see-saw legal battle over Florida’s “racist” redestricting of its congressional maps has tilted back in favor of Republican governor Ron DeSantis.An appeals court on Friday removed a block on the new maps that a circuit judge – one appointed by DeSantis himself – had imposed.It means that, for now at least, the governor’s hand-drawn redistricting stands. It effectively removes Black representation from areas in the state’s north by dividing Florida’s Black majority fifth district into four smaller ones where the vote will be diluted.Although Florida’s Republican controlled legislature should have been the body to draw up the maps, it abrogated the responsibility to DeSantis then obediently gave the governor’s proposal swift approval at a hastily convened special legislative session last month.That sparked a lawsuit from voting rights groups, and the hold put on DeSantis’s map by circuit court judge Layne Smith last week that the 1st District Court of Appeals overturned today. “Based on a preliminary review, the court has determined there is a high likelihood that the temporary injunction is unlawful, because by awarding a preliminary remedy to the appellees [plaintiffs] on their claim, the order ‘frustrated the status quo, rather than preserved it,’” the appeals court said.In simple terms, the court indicated it was fine with DeSantis carving up the congressional map however he saw fit.Michael Li, a redistricting expert at the Brennan Center for Justice, said of DeSantis last month:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}This is a deeply racist move that targets Black political power. What he’s doing in the Florida fifth just seems gratuitous. It seems mean-spirited. Read more:‘Democracy in Florida is not functioning.’ Governor’s rigged maps rob Black voters of power Read moreIt’s been a lively morning and there’s more to come in the next few hours so please stay tuned for live updates in US political news.Here’s where things stand:
    Former US president Donald Trump has paid the $110,000 in fines he racked up after being held in contempt of court for being slow to respond to a civil subpoena issued by New York’s attorney general Letitia James.
    Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, pressed Arizona lawmakers to set aside Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the state, the Washington Post reports.
    There’s more trouble at home for Joe Biden as he ends the first day of his Asian tour: his approval rating has dropped to the lowest point of his presidency.
    Bill Barr, attorney general in the Trump administration, is reportedly in negotiations to testify before the special House committee investigating the events on and surrounding the insurrection at the US Capitol by extremist supporters of Donald Trump on January 6, 2021, who were intent on overturning Joe Biden’s victory in the 2020 election.
    Former US president Donald Trump has paid the $110,000 in fines he racked up after being held in contempt of court for being slow to respond to a civil subpoena issued by New York’s attorney general, the Associated Press writes.Trump paid the fine Thursday but must still submit additional paperwork in order to have the contempt order lifted, the office of attorney general Letitia James said Friday.A message seeking comment was left Friday with Trump’s lawyer.A Manhattan judge declared Trump in contempt of court on April 25 and fined him $10,000 per day for not complying with a subpoena in James’ long-running investigation into his business practices.Judge Arthur Engoron agreed May 11 to lift the contempt order if, by Friday, Trump paid the fines and submitted affidavits detailing efforts to search for the subpoenaed records and explaining his and his company’s document retention policies.Engoron also required a company hired by Trump to aid in the search, HaystackID, finish going through 17 boxes kept in off-site storage, and for that company to report its findings and turn over any relevant documents. That process was completed Thursday, James’ office said.Engoron told Trump to pay the money directly to James’ office and for the attorney general to hold the money in an escrow account while Trump’s legal team appeals the judge’s original contempt finding.Engoron stopped the fine from accruing May 6, when Trump’s lawyers submitted 66 pages of court documents detailing the efforts by him and his lawyers to locate the subpoenaed records. He warned that he could reinstate it, retroactive to May 7, if his conditions weren’t met.James, a Democrat, has said her three-year investigation uncovered evidence that Trump’s company, the Trump Organization, misstated the value of assets like skyscrapers and golf courses on financial statements for over a decade.Trump, a Republican, denies the allegations.Trump’s lawyers have accused her of selective prosecution. Trump is also suing James in federal court, seeking to shut down her probe.Last week, a lawyer for James’ office said that evidence found in the probe could support legal action against the former president, his company, or both.The lawyer, Andrew Amer, said at a hearing in Trump’s lawsuit against James that:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}There’s clearly been a substantial amount of evidence amassed that could support the filing of an enforcement proceeding.” A final determination on filing such an action has not been made.The Washington Post said Friday it had obtained emails showing that Virginia “Ginni” Thomas, the conservative activist and wife of supreme court justice Clarence Thomas, pressed Arizona lawmakers to set aside Joe Biden’s 2020 victory in the state and choose “a clean slate of electors”.Thomas wrote to two unidentified lawmakers on 9 November 2020, the newspaper says, six days after the general election, arguing they needed to intervene because the vote had been marred by fraud. The emails came two days after media organizations declared Biden the victor in Arizona, and nationally.Thomas urged the lawmakers to “stand strong in the face of political and media pressure”, the Post says, telling them responsibility to choose electors to present Arizona’s result to Congress for certification was “yours and yours alone” and that they had the “power to fight back against fraud”.In Arizona, as in the rest of the country, there was no evidence of widespread fraud.Yet in sending the emails, the newspaper noted, Thomas played a significant role in Donald Trump’s scheming to substitute the will of Republican-controlled legislatures for the will of voters.Thomas has come under increasing scrutiny for her activities since the election and support of Trump’s big lie that it was stolen from him.In March, the Post obtained text messages between Thomas and Trump’s then chief of staff Mark Meadows, also sent in the days following the election, calling on him to do anything he could to subvert the democratic result. Ginni Thomas texts spark ethical storm about husband’s supreme court roleRead moreEither Joe Biden is having a very late night, or somebody on his staff is. It’s after 1.30 in the morning in Seoul, South Korea, and the president’s official Twitter account has burst back into life with news and photos from the first day of his Asia tour (this after a lengthy two-stage flight late Thursday into Friday morning from Washington DC to Seoul, via Alaska):The United States and the Republic of Korea work together to make the best, most advanced technology in the world. This factory is proof. And that gives us both a competitive edge in the global economy if we can keep our supply chains resilient, reliable, and secure. pic.twitter.com/l9NgV9zC9b— President Biden (@POTUS) May 20, 2022
    In a week when a teenager shot dead 10 Black people in Buffalo, New York, apparently motivated by the ‘great replacement’ theory, Jonathan Freedland speaks to Michael Harriot and Anne Applebaum about why this racist ideology has become mainstream in rightwing circles in the US, and why we shouldn’t be surprised.Listen to the Guardian’s latest Politics Weekly America podcast here:Politics Weekly AmericaWill Republicans drop the ‘great replacement’ theory? Politics Weekly AmericaSorry your browser does not support audio – but you can download here and listen https://audio.guim.co.uk/2020/05/05-61553-gnl.fw.200505.jf.ch7DW.mp300:00:0000:36:22Donald Trump appears to be engaged in a hasty retreat from next week’s Republican governor’s primary in Georgia, in which his vendetta against the incumbent Brian Kemp looks about to blow up in his face.The former president went all in on the candidacy of former senator David Perdue, convinced his hand-picked choice was certain to oust Kemp from the governor’s mansion.Kemp angered Trump by refusing to bend to his demands to overturn his 2020 defeat by Joe Biden.However, after a bright start in the polls, Perdue – a recent convert to Trump’s big lie of a stolen election – appears to have lost his luster and now trails Kemp by a seemingly unassailable margin, according to RealClearPolitics.Accordingly, Trump is washing his hands of Perdue, according to NBC News, which said on Friday he’s given up the Perdue campaign for dead and won’t be making any more appearances or offering any further support.Trump, the article says, citing anonymous insiders, “has groused about what he believes is a lackluster campaign effort from Perdue”.It also quoted Kemp’s lieutenant governor Geoff Duncan, who said Trump had engaged in “a very shallow attempt at trying to unseat a perfectly fit conservative governor”:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}At the end of the day, Donald Trump doesn’t care about David Perdue winning. He just cared about Brian Kemp losing.Defeat for Perdue would be a particularly bloody nose for Trump, who likes to boast about the power of his endorsements. Former president Mike Pence, with whom Trump has also feuded in recent months, campaigned for Kemp.Regardless of the outcome of the Kemp v Perdue race, Georgia is unlikely to be a total dead loss for Trump. His pick for the Republican senate nomination, former NFL star Herschel Walker, enjoys a huge lead, more than 60% in some polls, over rivals.Joe Biden has been talking microchips in South Korea, touring a factory that could become the model for a similar facility in Texas he says will keep the US at the forefront of new technology.The president also promised closer cooperation between the US and South Korea in an address with the country’s leader Yoon Suk Yeol.“It’s emblematic of the future of cooperation and innovation that our nations can and must build together,” Biden said of the Samsung semiconductor plant in Pyeongtaek.The company he said, was investing $17bn in US operations, including the new factory in Texas he said would create 3,000 new jobs:.css-knbk2a{height:1em;width:1.5em;margin-right:3px;vertical-align:baseline;fill:#C70000;}So much of the future of the world is going to be written here, in the Indo Pacific, over the next several decades. This is the moment, in my view, to invest in one another to deepen our business ties, to bring our people even closer together. It’s past midnight now in Seoul, so we’re not expecting any more news from the president’s first Asian visit of his presidency in the next few hours.But we do know that the bill passed by the US Senate on Thursday approving $40bn in new military, economic and humanitarian aid for Ukraine is being flown to South Korea for Biden’s urgent signature. Here’s the video of Biden’s address from Friday night:Tune in as I deliver remarks with President Yoon Suk Yeol of the Republic of Korea. https://t.co/vnkjCXQQfw— President Biden (@POTUS) May 20, 2022
    We’re still waiting for the final result from Tuesday’s Republican senate primary in Pennsylvania, in which Donald Trump’s endorsed candidate, celebrity TV doctor Mehmet Oz, and former treasury official David McCormick are separated by only a few hundred votes with 99% of the count in.But there was a clear winner in the race to become the Republican nominee for state governor in November’s midterms – Trump loyalist and big lie proponent Doug Mastriano.My colleague Sam Levine has this profile of the extremist, whom critics fear will be in charge of appointing officials to oversee the state’s elections if he wins later this year, and who will theoretically have the power to reject a result he doesn’t like:The Trump loyalist who could be a major threat to US democracyRead moreBill de Blasio, the former mayor of New York city, is running for Congress in a district that includes areas of Manhattan and his home in western Brooklyn.He made the announcement on MSNBC’s Morning Joe on Friday, shortly before his Bill de Blasio for Congress website went live with the campaign slogan: “The only way to save our democracy is to be a part of it”. De Blasio, whose second term as NYC mayor ended last year, is seeking election in New York’s 10th congressional district, currently represented by Democrat Jerry Nadler. Redistricting under the supervision of a New York judge, which Nadler says is unconstitutional, has forced him into a race for the 12th district with another Democratic incumbent, Carolyn Maloney, opening up the 10th for de Blasio’s run.The state’s primary has been pushed back from June to 23 August following legal wrangling over the legality of New York’s maps and a court’s decision last month that Democrats’ original proposals were too heavily in their own favor.De Blasio, 61, toyed with running for governor this year, the Associated Press says, but decided not to challenge incumbent Democrat Kathy Hochul. He also had a short-lived run for president in 2019. There’s more trouble at home for Joe Biden as he ends the first day of his Asian tour: his approval rating has dropped to the lowest point of his presidency.Raging inflation, soaring gas prices, the baby formula shortage and a failure to deliver on campaign promises were cited by respondents in an Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Research study that also reflects deepening pessimism among his own Democratic party.Only 39% of US adults approve of Biden’s performance as president, a further drop from already negative ratings a month earlier.Overall, only about two in 10 adults say the US is heading in the right direction or the economy is good, both down from about three in 10 a month earlier. Those drops were concentrated among Democrats, with just 33% within the president’s party saying the country is headed in the right direction, down from 49% in April.Of particular concern for Biden ahead of the midterm elections, his approval among Democrats stands at 73%, a substantial drop since earlier in his presidency. In AP-NORC polls conducted in 2021, Biden’s approval rating among Democrats never dropped below 82%.The findings reflect a widespread sense of exasperation in a country facing a cascade of challenges ranging from inflation, gun violence, and a sudden shortage of baby formula to a persistent pandemic.“I don’t know how much worse it can get,” Milan Ramsey, a 29-year-old high school counselor and Democrat in Santa Monica, California, told the AP. She said she and her husband had to move into her parents’ house to raise their infant son.“He hasn’t delivered on any of the promises. I think he’s tired and I don’t blame him, I’d be tired too at his age with the career he’s had.”Biden has been attempting to play up his successes at home over improved unemployment figures and his bipartisan infrastructure bill, and the White House sees his tour of Asia, including meetings with the leaders of South Korea and Japan, as an opportunity to market the US abroad.But the trip has already attracted unwelcome headlines. A member of Biden’s advance security detail was arrested for allegedly assaulting a South Korean citizen in Seoul in a dispute over a taxi, and CNN reports that two secret services agents have been sent home.It is not known if it relates to the same incident.Read more:Biden security team member arrested in Seoul over alleged drunken assaultRead moreBill Barr, the former attorney general who says he told Donald Trump his fantasy of a stolen election was “bullshit”, could soon be on the record with the 6 January House panel.Axios is reporting that Barr, who resigned in the waning days of Trump’s single term of office, is in negotiations with the committee to tell what he knows of the days surrounding the deadly insurrection, and Trump’s demand for the justice department to declare the election fraudulent.Details are scant, the committee is refusing to confirm the story, and it’s not known if Barr will be invited to take part in public hearings the panel will be holding this spring.But Axios says it has sources with knowledge of the situation who insist Barr is in “active discussions” to follow up his previous informal conversations with the committee with on-the-record testimony and transcribed interviews.The news comes at an important juncture for the bipartisan inquiry, which wants to complete its work ahead before November’s midterms, when Republicans are expected to win back control of the House and shut it down.What information Barr has to offer remains to be seen. Most of what we already know about his knowledge of Trump’s desperate efforts to stay in power comes from his book, which the Guardian reviewed in March as a “self-serving narrative that ignores tricky truths”. But the pace of the 6 January investigation is undoubtedly picking up as members scramble to complete their work.Separately on Friday, CNN reported that John Eastman, the rightwing attorney and Trump acolyte, was deeply involved in the plot to steal back the election, and has revealed in a court filing that he spoke regularly with, and had handwritten notes from the former president, concerning those efforts.The panel is chasing those documents, and on Thursday wrote to Georgia congressman Barry Loudermilk seeking information about “reconnaissance tours” of the Capitol the Republican is reported to have hosted on 5 January 2021, one day before Trump’s supporters ransacked the building in efforts to stop Congress certifying his defeat. Read more:Congress members led ‘reconnaissance tours’ of Capitol before attack, evidence suggestsRead moreGood morning blog readers, and welcome! We’ve made it to Friday, but as you know, the pace of US politics never winds down!We’re learning that Bill Barr, the former attorney general, is poised to give sworn testimony to the 6 January House committee investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn his 2020 election defeat.Axios reports that Barr, who has already spoken informally to the panel, is in “active discussions” for a formal, transcribed interview. We’ll have more on that coming up, as well as the following:
    Joe Biden is in Seoul, South Korea, talking computer chips at a technology factory with ties to Texas. Meanwhile, his popularity rating back home has taken another dive.
    Vote counting from Tuesday’s Republican senate primary in Pennsylvania is limping towards the finish line, with Trump-endorsed TV doctor Mehmet Oz in a neck-and-neck race with former treasury department official David McCormick.
    Polls suggest Trump is set for a bruising in next week’s Georgia primary, where David Perdue, the former senator Trump wants to replace incumbent Republican governor Brian Kemp, has fallen further behind.
    Covid-19 cases are rising again across the US, and there’s little sign that Congress is willing to fund Biden’s requested $22.5bn relief package for vaccines, testing and therapeutics.
    A decision is expected imminently from a federal judge in Louisiana, who will decide if the Biden administration can proceed with plans to end next Monday the Trump-era Title 42 immigration policy keeping refugees at the border because of the pandemic.
    Stick with us as the days unfolds, and you can also follow developments in the Ukraine conflict in our global live news blog here. More

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

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

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

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

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    Trump loyalist’s primary win prompts election fears in Pennsylvania

    Trump loyalist’s primary win prompts election fears in PennsylvaniaDoug Mastriano promoted Trump’s voter fraud myth – if he becomes governor, could he block a result he doesn’t like? As Donald Trump tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election, there were few officials more willing to help than Doug Mastriano, then a little-known Pennsylvania state senator.Mastriano, a retired army colonel first elected in 2019, regularly communicated with Trump in the weeks after the election. He helped arrange a pseudo-hearing weeks after election day in which the Trump campaign presented baseless claims of fraud. Mastriano helped facilitate a plan to appoint a fake set of electors in Pennsylvania for Trump after Joe Biden won the state by more than 80,000 votes. He embraced and promoted a fringe, anti-democratic legal theory that state legislatures can override the results of an election and appoint its own electors. He was also at the US capitol on January 6, and helped bus supporters there. He pushed an unofficial review of election equipment that prompted the state to decertify election machines in a county. He has been subpoenaed by the January 6 committee. He supported efforts to decertify the election, which is legally impossible.The Republican primaries are a tug-of-war between rightwing and even-righter-wing | Lloyd GreenRead moreThis week, Republican voters in Pennsylvania nominated Mastriano to be their governor.If elected this fall, there seems to be little doubt Mastriano would be willing to use his power to reject the results of a free and fair election in Pennsylvania, a key battleground state in US presidential elections. As governor, he would be responsible for certifying the election, and could refuse to sign off on an outcome he disagrees with. He would also be responsible for appointing a secretary of state, charged with overseeing elections in the state and signing off on the results. (Pennsylvania is one of three states where the secretary of state is appointed, not elected).“We really need voters to be paying attention to how dangerous it is to have someone in a position like the governor who does not believe in the elections or in our system, who has cast so much doubt on the 2020 elections and would be in a great position of power,” said Lizzie Ulmer, senior vice-president for communications at States United Action, which is tracking election deniers running for office across the US. “It’s really important to not fall into that trap of thinking ‘OK, these are really extreme candidates’. Because they’re not fringe candidates, they’re raising money. They’re campaigning on these issues.”David Becker, the executive director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research, said: “If a governor would not certify an election in which his candidate lost, which had been upheld by the courts and election officials throughout the state, that’s incredibly dangerous – period. That’s incredibly dangerous in a state where that governor gets to appoint the chief election official, who might share similar inclinations.”While Becker has said courts would ultimately thwart any effort to block the certification of a lawful election, Becker said he was worried about the confusion that would arise from a governor refusing to accept election results.“I am very concerned about what happens in the meantime. And what messages are used to inflame the base of the losing party to act in a way that is anti-democratic and perhaps violent,” he said. Mastriano is one of a number of candidates who refuse to accept the results of the 2020 election and are seeking elected offices in which they would play a key role in overseeing the 2024 election. Candidates in Michigan, Nevada, and Minnesota have already earned their party’s nomination and there is a closely-watched primary for the top election office in Georgia on Tuesday.“What we’ve seen is that there are a number of elected officials within the Republican caucus that are still advocating or supporting this notion that the 2020 presidential elections were stolen,” said Khalif Ali, the executive director of the Pennsylvania chapter of Common Cause. “We’re not just talking about a gubernatorial race, we’re talking about the very essence of democracy in this state and in this country.”Mastriano has embraced the possibility of getting to overturn an election, saying he already has a secretary of state picked out (he has declined to say who). “I get to appoint the secretary of state, who is delegated from me the power to make the corrections to elections, the voting logs and everything. I could decertify every machine in the state with the stroke of a pen,” he said in a March radio interview.“He’s saying that part out loud,” said Ulmer. “It goes to show just how prevalent and mainstream the far right and the big lie supporters have made this issue. It’s so wild to think about. They really are campaigning, raising money, and generating a lot of interest and support from carrying this thing forward.”Mastriano has also said he might “reset” voter registration in Pennsylvania and “start all over,” something that would likely violate federal law. He has pledged to eliminate the state’s contract with “compromised voting machine companies,” even though there’s no evidence any machines were compromised in 2020. He wants to end no-excuse mail-in voting, which passed the state legislature with Republican support.Mastriano, who grew up in New Jersey, joined the military in 1986, and was deployed to the West-German Czechoslovakia border before being sent to Iraq, according to a New Yorker profile of him last year. A few years ago, he began attending events hosted by the New Apostolic Reformation, a group whose goal it is “to return the United States to an idealized Christian past”, according to the New Yorker. He is often described as a christian nationalist, embracing the belief that America should be a Christian nation.Beyond elections, Mastriano has embraced other extreme policies. He has signaled his support for a complete ban on abortion, with no exceptions for rape or incest. He railed against Covid-19 restrictions, at one point falsely questioning whether mRNA vaccines were actually vaccines. He has supported legislation that would require teaching the Bible in public schools, according to The New Yorker, and allow adoption agencies to discriminate against same-sex couples. If elected, Mastriano has pledged to be more conservative than some of the most conservative governors in the country.“You guys think Ron DeSantis is good? Amateur,” Mastriano cracked, adding: “We love you, Ron, but this is Pennsylvania. This is where the light of liberty was set in 1776, where this nation was born,” he said earlier this month, according to NBC News.He has promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, and spoke at a conference in April organized by far-right activists who have promoted the movement.Ulmer, from States United and Ali, from Common Cause, both said it would be a mistake to dismiss Mastriano as too extreme to win a statewide election.“I take every candidate who has won their party’s nomination seriously,” Ali said. “He’s made a number of inflammatory statements, and I think we should absolutely believe him and take him seriously as the Republican nominee.”TopicsDonald TrumpPennsylvaniaUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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

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

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    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets engaged to longtime partner Riley Roberts

    Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez gets engaged to longtime partner Riley RobertsDemocratic congresswoman confirms engagement to Roberts, whom she met as a student at Boston University Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez took a break between visiting Amazon union workers and endorsing progressive candidates to get engaged to her longtime partner Riley Roberts.Ocasio-Cortez to unionized Amazon workers: victory is ‘just the beginning’Read moreOcasio-Cortez, 32, confirmed to Insider on Thursday that she and Roberts, who met while both were at Boston University, got engaged last month while visiting her parents’ home town in Puerto Rico.She then wrote on Twitter: “It’s true! Thank you all for the well wishes.”According to Insider, the pair were quiet about their relationship even before Ocasio-Cortez became a popular political voice, and their friends at university did not always know they were together.Roberts has also been one of her greatest support systems throughout her career, according to a biography published earlier this year, People magazine reported.“What we do know about Roberts doesn’t fit the stereotype of a politician’s partner,” writes Josh Gondelman in an essay in Take Up Space: The Unprecedented AOC by the editors of New York magazine.“He doesn’t seem focus-grouped or media-trained for state dinners and press conferences. We know he’s supportive and encouraging in private,” Gondelman writes. “And his expertise, as far as his public image goes, is his elusiveness and restraint.”The few times Roberts, a marketing professional, has popped up in media it has been with the couple’s dog, Deco, or in the 2018 documentary Knock Down the House.Ocasio-Cortez said she and Roberts would not start planning a wedding for at least a month.TopicsAlexandria Ocasio-CortezDemocratsUS politicsnewsReuse this content More

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    ‘Help is on the way’: US Senate approves $40bn Ukraine package

    ‘Help is on the way’: US Senate approves $40bn Ukraine packageBiden to sign mix of military and economic aid for Ukraine and its allies after 86-11 vote in Senate on Thursday The Senate overwhelmingly approved a $40bn infusion of military and economic aid for Ukraine and its allies on Thursday as both parties rallied behind America’s latest, and quite possibly not last, financial salvo against Russia’s invasion.The 86-11 vote gave final congressional approval to the package, three weeks after Joe Biden requested a smaller $33bn version and after a lone Republican opponent delayed Senate passage for a week. Every voting Democrat and all but 11 Republicans – including many of the chamber’s supporters of Donald Trump’s isolationist agenda – backed the measure.US Senate passes $40bn aid package for Ukraine – liveRead more“I applaud the Congress for sending a clear bipartisan message to the world that the people of the United States stand together with the brave people of Ukraine as they defend their democracy and freedom,” Biden said in a written statement afterwards.Biden’s quick signature was certain as Russia’s attack, which has mauled Ukraine’s forces and cities, slogs into a fourth month with no obvious end ahead. That means more casualties and destruction in Ukraine, which has relied heavily on US and Western assistance for its survival, especially advanced arms, with requests for more aid potentially looming.“Help is on the way, really significant help. Help that could make sure that the Ukrainians are victorious,” said the Senate majority leader, Chuck Schumer, underscoring a goal that seemed nearly unthinkable when Russia launched its assault in February.Final passage came as Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, said the US had authorized shipping Ukraine another $100m worth of weapons and equipment from Pentagon stocks. That brought the total US spend sent to Kyiv since the invasion began to $3.9bn, exhausting the amounts Congress previously made available but that will be replenished by the newest legislation.TopicsUS newsUS SenateUkraineUS foreign policyUS politicsUS CongressEuropenewsReuse this content More

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    US withdrawal triggered catastrophic defeat of Afghan forces, damning watchdog report finds

    US withdrawal triggered catastrophic defeat of Afghan forces, damning watchdog report findsReport by special inspector general blames Trump and Biden administrations, as well as the Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani Afghan armed forces collapsed last year because they had been made dependent on US support that was abruptly withdrawn in the face of a Taliban offensive, according to a scathing assessment by a US government watchdog.A report by the Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (Sigar) on the catastrophic defeat that led to the fall of Kabul on 15 August, blamed the administrations of Donald Trump and Joe Biden as well as the Afghan government of Ashraf Ghani.“Sigar found that the single most important factor in the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces’ (ANDSF) collapse in August 2021 was the decision by two US presidents to withdraw US military and contractors from Afghanistan, while Afghan forces remained unable to sustain themselves,” said the congressionally mandated report, which was released on Wednesday.Afghanistan stunned by scale and speed of security forces’ collapseRead moreThe Sigar account focused on the impact of two critical events that it said doomed the Afghan forces: the February 2020 Doha agreement between the Trump administration and the Taliban, and then Biden’s April 2021 decision to pull out all US troops by September, without leaving a residual force.“Due to the ANDSF’s dependency on US military forces, these events destroyed ANDSF morale,” the inspector general said. “The ANDSF had long relied on the US military’s presence to protect against large-scale ANDSF losses, and Afghan troops saw the United States as a means of holding their government accountable for paying their salaries. The US-Taliban agreement made it clear that this was no longer the case, resulting in a sense of abandonment within the ANDSF and the Afghan population.”The ANDSF were dependent on US troops and contractors because that was how the forces were developed, the report argued, noting “the United States designed the ANDSF as a mirror image of US forces”.“The United States created a combined arms military structure that required a high degree of professional military sophistication and leadership,” it said. “The United States also created a non-commissioned officer corps which had no foundation in Afghanistan military history.”It would have taken decades to build a modern, cohesive and self-reliant force, the Sigar document argued. The Afghan air force, the main military advantage the government had over the Taliban, had not been projected to be self-sufficient until 2030 at the earliest.Within weeks of Biden’s withdrawal announcement, the contractors who maintained planes and helicopters left. As a result, there were not enough functioning aircraft to get weapons and supplies to Afghan forces around the country, leaving them without ammunition, food and water in the face of renewed Taliban attacks.The US had begun cutting off air support to the Afghan army after the Doha agreement was signed. Exacerbating its impact on morale was the fact that the deal had secret annexes, widely believed to stipulate the Taliban’s counter-terrorism commitments and restrictions on fighting for both the US and Taliban. They remain secret, apparently, even from an official enquiry.“Sigar was not able to obtain copies of these annexes, despite official requests made to the US Department of Defence and the US Department of State,” the report observes.The secrecy led to unintended consequences, the report said.“Taliban propaganda weaponised that vacuum against local commanders and elders by claiming the Taliban had a secret deal with the United States for certain districts or provinces to be surrendered to them,” it said.The Sigar report also blames the Afghan president, Ashraf Ghani, who changed ANDSF commanders during the Taliban offensive, appointing aged loyalists from the communist era, while marginalising well-trained ANDSF officers aligned with the US.It quotes one unnamed former Afghan government official as saying that after the Doha agreement, “President Ghani began to suspect that the United States wanted to remove him from power.”According to the former official and a former Afghan government Ghani was afraid of a military coup. He became a “paranoid president … afraid of his own countrymen” and particularly of US-trained Afghan officers.Ghani fled Afghanistan on the day Kabul fell.TopicsAfghanistanAshraf GhaniUS foreign policyTrump administrationBiden administrationSouth and central AsiaUS politicsnewsReuse this content More