Розділ: Політика

Biden Returns to South Carolina, Determined to Win Back Black Voters

COLUMBIA, South carolina — U.S. President Joe Biden doesn’t need to worry about his prospects in South Carolina’s Democratic primary next week. He’s got that locked up. 

He also knows he’s not likely to win the solidly red state come November. South Carolina hasn’t voted for a Democrat since 1976. 

Nonetheless, Biden spent the weekend in the state, intent on driving home two messages: He’s loyal to the state that saved his campaign in 2020 and he’s determined to win back Black voters here and elsewhere who were central to his election last time but are less enthused this go-round. 

“You’re the reason I am president,” Biden told attendees at the state party’s fundraising dinner ahead of its first ever “first-in-the-nation” Democratic primary on February 3. “You’re the reason Kamala Harris is a historic vice president. And you’re the reason Donald Trump is a defeated former president. You’re the reason Donald Trump is a loser. And you’re the reason we’re going to win and beat him again.” 

Biden received raved applause and chants of “four more years” from attendees at the dinner, as he criticized his predecessor’s policies and highlighted his efforts to support Black Americans. He was set to spend Sunday in the state where politics and faith are intertwined at a political event at St. John Baptist Church. 

Deputy campaign manager Quentin Fulks said of the primary that Biden’s team was working to “blow this out of the water” by running up the score against long shot challengers. The Biden campaign also wants to learn lessons about activating Black voters — the backbone of the party — ahead of an expected 2024 rematch with Republican front-runner Donald Trump. 

Challenger invites Biden to pass torch

It was the first time Biden shared a stage with Representative Dean Phillips, a long-shot challenger for the Democratic nomination, who called on the president, 81, to step aside for a younger generation of leaders to take on Trump. 

“The numbers do not say things are looking good,” Phillips said of Biden’s poll numbers. “My invitation to President Biden is to pass the torch.”

Struggling to hold the attention of the crowd — many of whom were holding Biden campaign signs ahead of the president’s appearance — Phillips repeatedly asked the audience to quiet down and listen to him.

Phillips told The Associated Press he did not interact with Biden at the event, saying of Biden’s staff, “No. I don’t think they want him to see me.” 

Supporters talk up accomplishments

Ahead of the dinner, Biden stopped into Regal Lounge Men’s Barber & Spa in Columbia, greeting, owners, employees and customers mid-haircut at the barbershop. 

The president has been getting mixed reviews from some Black voters in the state that came through for him in 2020, including discontent over his failure to deliver on voting rights legislation and other issues. 

Last year, at the outset of Biden’s reelection bid, conflicting views among the same South Carolina Democratic voters whose support had been so crucial to his nomination provided an early warning sign of the challenges he faces as he tries to revive his diverse winning coalition from 2020. 

Overall, just half of Black adults said they approved of Biden in a December poll by the Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs. That is compared with 86% in July 2021, a shift that is generating concern about the president’s reelection prospects. 

APVoteCast, an extensive national survey of the electorate, also found that support for Republican candidates ticked up slightly among Black voters during the 2022 midterm elections, although Black voters overwhelmingly supported Democrats. 

The Biden campaign is running TV ads in South Carolina highlighting Biden initiatives that it hopes will boost enthusiasm among Black voters. 

“On his first day in office with a country in crisis, President Biden got to work — for us,” the ad states. “Cutting Black child poverty in half, more money for Black entrepreneurs, millions of new good-paying jobs and he lowered the cost of prescription drugs.” 

The campaign is spending more than $270,000 on the ads through the primary, according to tracking data. The Democratic National Committee also launched a six-figure ad campaign across South Carolina and Nevada, which is next on the Democratic primary calendar, to boost enthusiasm for Biden among Black and Latino voters. And first lady Jill Biden was in the state on Friday evening to rally voters. 

Biden’s campaign has also hired staff in South Carolina to organize ahead of the primary and through the general election, although for nearly 50 years the state has picked a Republican for president. 

‘We know Joe…Joe knows us’

Meanwhile, a pro-Biden super PAC, Unite the Country, is airing an ad featuring Democratic Representative Jim Clyburn of South Carolina ticking through what he says are major Biden accomplishments such as reducing student loan debt and cutting insulin costs for older people. 

It was Clyburn’s 2020 endorsement of his longtime friend Biden that helped the then-candidate score a thundering win in South Carolina’s presidential primary. 

In the new advertisement, Clyburn references his late wife, Emily, who influenced his 2020 endorsement of Biden. She said that “if we wanted to win the presidency, we better nominate Joe Biden,” Clyburn says in the ad. “She was right then, and she’s still right today.” 

Clyburn greeted Biden at the airport and accompanied him throughout his visit. 

While Trump has seen slightly improving levels of support among Black and Latino voters, Biden’s team is more concerned that a lack of enthusiasm for Biden will depress turnout among voters who are pivotal to the Democratic coalition. 

Biden’s team is using South Carolina as a proving ground, tracking which messages and platforms break through with voters. 

South Carolina, where Black voters make up a majority of the Democratic electorate, is now the first meaningful contest in the Democratic presidential race after the party reworked the party’s nominating calendar at Biden’s call. Leading off with Iowa and New Hampshire had long drawn criticism because the states are less diverse than the rest of the country. 

A co-chairman of Biden’s reelection campaign, Clyburn has remained one of the president’s most stalwart advocates in Congress, as well as in his home state. 

Frequently, he reminds people of the same message he delivered in his 2020 endorsement: “We know Joe, and Joe knows us.” 

Biden’s decision to campaign in the state “helps solidify South Carolina’s place as the first in the nation primary moving forward,” said Biden campaign communications director Michael Tyler. 

It also provides Biden an opportunity to re-engage with Black voters who have connections that extend beyond South Carolina. 

“Obviously the diaspora is strong, familial ties are strong with other key swing states in the area like Georgia and North Carolina,” Tyler said. 

This is Biden’s second trip to South Carolina this month. He spoke earlier in the month at the pulpit of Mother Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, where nine Black parishioners were shot to death in 2015 by a white stranger they had invited to join their Bible study. 

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By Polityk | 28/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

House Speaker Suggests Border Bill May Be ‘Dead on Arrival’ 

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Friday pressed Congress to embrace a bipartisan Senate deal to pair border enforcement measures with Ukraine aid, but House Speaker Mike Johnson suggested the compromise on border and immigration policy could be “dead on arrival” in his chamber.

The Democratic president said in a statement late Friday that the policies proposed would “be the toughest and fairest set of reforms to secure the border we’ve ever had in our country.” He also pledged to use a new emergency authority to “shut down the border” as soon as he could sign it into law.

Biden’s embrace of the deal — and Republican resistance — could become an election-year shift on the politics of immigration. Yet the diminishing prospects for its passage in Congress may have far-reaching consequences for U.S. allies around the globe, especially Ukraine.

Senate Republicans had initially insisted that border policy changes be included in Biden’s $110 billion emergency request for funding for Ukraine, Israel, immigration enforcement and other national security needs. But the Senate deal faced collapse this week as it came under fire from Republicans, including Donald Trump, the likely presidential nominee, who eviscerated the deal as a political “gift” to Democrats.

Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, on Friday sent a letter to colleagues that aligns him with hardline conservatives determined to sink the compromise. The speaker said the legislation would have been “dead on arrival in the House” if leaked reports about it were true.

A core group of senators negotiating the deal were hoping to release text early next week, but conservatives already say the measures do not go far enough to limit immigration. The proposal would enact tougher standards on migrants seeking asylum as well as deny asylum applications at the border if daily migrant encounters grow to numbers that are unmanageable for authorities.

The speaker’s message added to the headwinds facing the Senate deal, closing a week in which Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell acknowledged to his colleagues that the legislation faced tough opposition from Trump that could force them to pursue Ukraine aid another way. He later clarified that he was still supportive of pairing border measures with Ukraine aid.

If the deal collapses, it could leave congressional leaders with no clear path to approving tens of billions of dollars for Ukraine. Biden has made it a top priority to bolster Kyiv’s defense against Russia, but his administration has run out of money to send ammunition and missiles. Ukraine supporters warn that the impasse in Congress is being felt on battlefields and leaving Ukrainian soldiers outgunned.

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, the lead GOP negotiator in the border talks, has repeatedly urged lawmakers to refrain from passing final judgment on the bill until they receive legislative text and said some of the reports of its contents in conservative media are not accurate depictions of the bill.

The Republican speaker was deeply skeptical of any bipartisan compromise on border policy. On Friday, he again pointed to a sweeping set of immigration measures that the House passed last year as being the answer to the nation’s border challenges. But that bill failed to gain a single Democratic vote then and has virtually no chance of picking up Democratic support now, which would be necessary to clear the Senate.

As they enter an election year, Republicans are seeking to drive home the fact that historic numbers of migrants have come to the U.S. during Biden’s presidency. His administration has countered that global unrest is driving the migration and has sought to implement humane policies on border enforcement.

“Securing the border through these negotiations is a win for America,” Biden said in the statement. “For everyone who is demanding tougher border control, this is the way to do it.”

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By Polityk | 27/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Concerns Over US Support of Israel Hang Over 2024 Poll

Protesters angered over the Israel-Hamas conflict have taken to the streets in the United States, and some have disrupted President Joe Biden’s campaign appearances. VOA White House correspondent Anita Powell looks at how the issue is playing out on the campaign trail. Carolyn Presutti contributed to this report from Nashua, New Hampshire. Patsy Widakuswara contributed from Washington.
Camera: Adam Greenbaum

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By Polityk | 25/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Concerns Over US Support of Israel Hang Over 2024 Poll

washington/nashua, new hampshire — The burning conflict in Gaza has lit a spark under untold numbers of American voters, and put extra heat on U.S. President Joe Biden’s reelection bid. Protesters have interrupted his recent campaign appearances to express their anger over his support of Israel’s military campaign.

On Wednesday, protesters briefly disrupted a labor union event where Biden was speaking. During a Tuesday rally focused on abortion access, 14 protesters shouted through most of Biden’s speech in Manassas, Virginia. The interruptions clearly frustrated the president.

“This is going to go on for a while,” Biden said. “They have got this planned.”

That protest was organized by Die-In For Humanity, a 700-member strong protest group that has made nearly 100 appearances at Biden events, the U.S. Capitol, outside administration members’ homes, outside the Israeli Embassy, and at January’s protest in Washington.

“I think the majority of people are not OK with American tax dollars being used to commit atrocities overseas,” Hazami Barmada, the group’s lead organizer, told VOA. She was among the protesters escorted out of Tuesday’s event.

“We’re seeing a shift in the tide in the United States with complete rejection — in essence — of Biden,” said Barmada. “…what we’re saying is that you’re not going to get the vote of the American community when you constantly continue to disregard the voices of the Arab American community that are saying stop the injustice and the atrocities in Gaza.”

The White House said Wednesday the president supports Americans’ right to peacefully protest.

“He also believes it’s really important that Israel have the right and the ability to continue to defend themselves against — which is … what is clearly still a viable threat from Hamas,” said John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council.

“But that doesn’t mean we’re going to stop, again, urging a stronger focus by our Israeli counterparts on minimizing civilian casualties and on getting aid in,” Kirby said.

Foreign policy, political analysts say, rarely drives elections but can make a difference when the competition is tight. Like for undecided New Hampshire voter Isaac Geer, who participated Tuesday in a primary vote that Biden and Republican contender Donald Trump won for their respective parties.

“The biggest thing I’m voting for this election season is foreign policy,” he told VOA, speaking in Nashua, New Hampshire. “It’s really important to me that we stay out of any foreign wars and keep our military spending down, and bring our troops back home or keep them home.”

Trump’s plan to resolve the Gaza crisis is unclear, and his previous actions as president included a much-criticized “ban” of Muslim immigrants. VOA reached out several times to the Trump campaign, but they did not respond.

For Muslim activists, it’s a stark choice. Hassan Abdel Salam is a Minneapolis-based professor who co-founded the Abandon Biden movement of Muslim voters, which focuses on swing states. He is a Canadian citizen.

“Mr. Trump prevented our friends and colleagues and family from entering the country,” he told VOA. “But Mr. Biden killed them. And that four years under any Republican is incomparable to one day in Gaza, that an argument has emerged within our communities, that we have to sacrifice.”

Political analysts say Biden is in a difficult position.

“There’s no doubt that the situation in Gaza is a political problem for Biden,” Norm Ornstein, a senior fellow emeritus at the American Enterprise Institute, told VOA. “If you step back and look objectively, Biden has handled this issue adroitly about as well as any president could. He understood early on that by hugging [Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu close, he could keep some of the worst things from happening in Gaza. But he’s now getting very close to pushing Bibi aside. And that means that the initial move — which alienated a lot of voters, not just Arab American voters, but young progressives — may in fact end up being worse for him, because if he pushes or spurns Bibi Netanyahu aside, then some of his strongest supporters, pro-Israel supporters, may be unhappy as well.”

Carolyn Presutti contributed to this report from Nashua, New Hampshire. Patsy Widakuswara contributed from Washington.

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By Polityk | 25/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Texas Woman Who Lost Lawsuit to Get Abortion to Attend Biden’s State of the Union

washington — U.S. President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden have extended an invitation to attend the president’s State of the Union address to a Texas woman who sued her state and lost over the ability to get an abortion.

The Texas Supreme Court denied Kate Cox’s request. But by then, her lawyers said, she had already traveled out of state for an abortion.

The Bidens spoke with Cox on Sunday and invited her to the annual address set for March 7 at the U.S. Capitol. Cox will sit with the first lady, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday. Cox accepted the invite, she said.

“They thanked her for her courage in sharing her story and speaking out against the impact of the extreme abortion ban in Texas,” Jean-Pierre said.

Cox, 31, was pregnant with her third child when she learned the fetus had a rare genetic disorder. The couple was informed by doctors that their baby would live at best a week. She sued over the right to have an abortion to end the pregnancy but lost because the judges said she hadn’t shown her life was in danger enough to be granted the procedure.

The White House invitation reflects how strongly the administration is leaning into reproductive rights as a galvanizing force for voters in the upcoming presidential election after the Supreme Court in 2022 overturned abortion protections. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris and their spouses on Tuesday centered their first major campaign rally of the election year on abortion rights.

In his speech, Biden spoke about the increased medical challenges women are facing since the fall of Roe v. Wade, particularly for women who never intended to end their pregnancies. He laid the blame on Republican frontrunner Donald Trump, who as president appointed three conservative justices to the Supreme Court.

This will be the first State of the Union under Republican House Speaker Mike Johnson, who will sit behind the president and to his left during the address to Congress. This year’s speech will offer an opportunity for Biden to detail his broader vision and policy priorities as he campaigns for reelection in November.

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By Polityk | 25/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Nevada Judge Approves Signature-Gathering Stage for Petition to Put Abortion Rights on 2024 Ballot

RENO, Nevada — A Nevada judge has approved a petition by abortion access advocates as eligible for signature gathering in their long-standing attempt to get abortion rights on the 2024 ballot.

Carson City District Judge James T. Russell made the ruling Tuesday, about two months after he struck down a similar yet broader version that, if passed, would have enshrined additional reproductive rights into the state’s constitution.

If the Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom political action committee gets enough signatures, a question would appear on the November ballot that would enshrine abortion access for up to 24 weeks, or as needed to protect the health of the pregnant patient, into the Nevada Constitution.  Then, voters would need to approve it again on the 2026 ballot to amend the constitution.

Abortion rights up to 24 weeks are already codified into Nevada law through a 1990 referendum, where two-thirds of voters were in favor. That could be changed with another referendum.

The standards are higher for amending the constitution, which requires either approval from two legislative sessions and an election, or two consecutive elections with a simple majority of votes.

The petition that was cleared for signatures is one of two efforts from the Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom committee to get the right to abortion on the 2024 ballot.

Russell rejected an earlier petition in a November ruling, saying the proposed ballot initiative was too broad, contained a “misleading description of effect” and had an unfunded mandate.

The petition would have included protections for “matters relating to their pregnancies” including prenatal care, childbirth, postpartum care, birth control, vasectomies, tubal ligations, abortion and abortion care, as well as care for miscarriages and infertility. Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom appealed that rejection to the Nevada Supreme Court and are waiting for a new ruling.

The petition approved for signatures Tuesday had narrower language — “establishing a fundamental, individual right to abortion,” which applies to “decisions about matters relating to abortion” without government interference.

In a statement following the ruling, Nevadans for Reproductive Freedom spokesperson Lindsey Harmon celebrated the ruling but said she remained confident that the committee’s initial petition would be recognized as eligible by the Nevada Supreme Court.

“Abortion rights are not the only form of reproductive freedom under attack across the country,” Harmon said. “Protecting miscarriage management, birth control, prenatal and postpartum care, and other vital reproductive health care services are inextricably linked pieces of a singular right to reproductive freedom.”

Abortion rights have become a mobilizing issue for Democrats since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, the landmark 1973 court decision establishing a nationwide right to abortion.

Constitutional amendments protecting abortion access are already set to appear on the 2024 ballot in New York and Maryland and could also show up in a host of states, including Missouri and Arizona.

Lawmakers in Nevada’s Democratic-controlled Legislature are also attempting to get reproductive rights including abortion access in front of voters on the 2026 ballot. The initiative, which would enshrine those rights in the state constitution, passed the state Senate and Assembly in May 2023 and now must be approved with a simple majority again in 2025 before being eligible for the 2026 ballot.

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By Polityk | 25/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Donald Trump’s Defamation Trial to Resume Thursday

NEW YORK — Donald Trump’s trial in the defamation case brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll will resume on Thursday and will not be held on Wednesday as initially scheduled, Manhattan federal court records showed Tuesday. 

The trial’s second postponement this week delays a potential face-to-face encounter between Carroll and the former U.S. president, who has said he wants to testify. 

On Monday, U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan delayed the trial until Wednesday after a juror and one of Trump’s lawyers reported illnesses. 

When the trial resumes, jurors will determine how much Trump should pay Carroll for defaming her in June 2019, when he denied raping her in the mid-1990s in a Bergdorf Goodman department store dressing room in Manhattan. 

Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, has consistently denied that anything happened and accused Carroll of making up the incident to boost sales of her then-new memoir.

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By Polityk | 24/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

What Happens if Biden or Trump Drops Out Before Election Day?

President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump seem on track for a rematch in November’s presidential election. But questions about Trump’s legal difficulties and both candidates’ ages lurk in the background. White House bureau chief Patsy Widakuswara looks at what could happen should one of them be forced to drop out.

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By Polityk | 21/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

In Snowy DC, March for Life Rallies Against Abortion

WASHINGTON — Thousands of opponents of abortion rights rallied under falling snow on Friday at the annual March for Life, as speakers urged the impassioned crowd to capitalize on the movement’s major victory in the Supreme Court and keep fighting until abortion is eliminated.

Months before a presidential election that could be heavily influenced by abortion politics, anti-abortion activists packed the National Mall carrying signs with messages such as “Life is precious” and “I am the pro-life generation.” After listening to speeches, the crowd, braving frigid temperatures, marched past the U.S. Capitol and Supreme Court. One group planted in front of Court, beating a drum and chanting: “Everyone you know was once an embryo.”

Friday’s March for Life is the second such event in the nation’s capital since the June 2022 Supreme Court ruling that ended the federal protection for abortion rights enshrined in Roe v. Wade. Last year’s march was triumphant, with organizers relishing a state-by-state fight in legislatures around the country.

Speakers praised the Dobbs decision that overturned Roe v. Wade but said it was more important now than ever to keep up the pressure on lawmakers to advance abortion restrictions.

“Roe is done, but we still live in a culture that knows not how to care for life,” said Benjamin Watson, a former NFL player who is now an anti-abortion advocate. “Roe is done, but the factors that drive women to seek abortions are ever apparent and ever increasing. Roe is done, but abortion is still legal and thriving in too much of America.”

Friday’s event appeared smaller than in past years as ice and snow complicated travel plans. But the crowd was fired up as speakers, which included members of Congress and Michigan University Football Coach Jim Harbaugh, urged participants to keep fighting until abortion becomes “unthinkable.”

“Let’s be encouraged, let’s press on and hope that we can join together and make this great difference,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La. “We can stand with every woman for every child, and we can truly build a culture that cherishes and protects life.”

The snow fell heavily throughout the speeches as young people built snowmen and had snowball fights behind the stage. Near the Capitol, the crowd celebrated as a group on a balcony of the Cannon House Office building cheered on the march.

“I almost didn’t come when I saw the forecast, but this is just incredible,” said Stephanie Simpson, a 42-year-old grocery store employee from Cleveland, who has attended the last four marches.

Roberto Reyes, a Mexican native and Carmelite friar, said: “All these people are going to remember this year’s march for the rest of their lives!”

Members of the crowd described overturning Roe v. Wade as a victory, but said the anti-abortion fight rages on.

“The key message this year is that our work is not done,” said Bishop Michael Burbidge, chair of the committee for pro-life activities for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.

The movement has seen mixed results. The ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization reverted abortion lawmaking back to the states, and 14 states are now enforcing bans on abortion throughout pregnancy. Two more have such bans on hold because of court rulings. And another two have bans that take effect when cardiac activity can be detected, about six weeks into pregnancy — often before women know they’re pregnant.

But abortion restrictions have also lost at the ballot box in Ohio, Kansas and Kentucky. And total bans have produced high-profile causes for abortion rights supporters to rally around. Kate Cox, a Texas mother of two, sought an abortion after learning the baby she was carrying had a fatal genetic condition. Her request for an exemption from Texas’ ban, one of the country’s strictest, was denied by the state Supreme Court, and she left Texas to seek an abortion elsewhere.

Movement organizers now expect abortion rights to be a major Democratic rallying cry in President Joe Biden’s reelection campaign.

“The pro-abortion forces, that’s one of the major things they’re going to run on,” said Susan Swift, president of Pro-Life Legal and a veteran anti-abortion activist. “That’s one of the only things that seems to animate their base.”

Biden campaign officials openly state that they plan to make Biden synonymous with the fight to preserve abortion rights.

Vice President Kamala Harris has led the charge on the issue for the White House. She will hold the first event in Wisconsin on Monday, which would have been the 51st anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the lawsuit that led to the landmark 1973 U.S. Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion.

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By Polityk | 20/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Top US, Mexican Officials in Washington for Migration Talks  

washington — Top U.S. and Mexican officials met Friday in Washington to discuss strengthening cooperation in addressing the large numbers of migrants trying to enter the U.S. through Mexico.

“Since our last meeting, I think a very significant development is President Arevalo being inaugurated in Guatemala,” said U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken at the start of the meeting. “This opens an important new area for quiet operation on migration between our three countries and we will continue to work together more broadly to develop regional solutions to the historic challenge that that we face.”   

New Guatemalan President Bernardo Arevalo has said he wants to work with the United States to expand temporary work programs for migrants there, while also increasing investment in his country’s poorest areas to reduce departures.  

No significant announcement is expected to be made following Friday’s engagement, which Biden administration officials say continues progress made during a December 27 meeting in Mexico City.    

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and White House Homeland Security Advisor Liz Sherwood-Randall also attended Friday’s meeting, with Mexican Foreign Affairs Secretary Alicia Barcena leading the visiting delegation.   

“We will concentrate on implementing sustainable solutions that address the root causes of migration,” a U.S. State Department spokesperson said on a call with reporters Thursday.   

The Mexican government has called on Washington to increase development investment in Central America to reduce migration, increase the number of temporary worker visas and other legal pathways for immigration, and ramp up repatriation flights for people who arrive in the U.S. illegally, particularly from Venezuela, as a deterrence for migrants.  

The U.S. has resumed repatriation flights to Venezuela, and Mexico has done the same thing, starting in December, the most recent measure by countries in the region to address the exodus of people to the U.S. border.   

“We encourage other countries to join us. We also applaud the steps that Mexico has taken, Panama, and other countries to restrict irregular migration and impose new visa controls,” according to a White House National Security Council official on a call to reporters Thursday.    

In May 2023, Mexico agreed to receive migrants from countries such as Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba who were removed from the U.S. border for crossing into the United States without authorization and without following established legal pathways to asylum or other forms of migration.   

Venezuela is in the middle of a political and economic crisis and 7 million Venezuelans have left their home country, according to the United Nations. 

Officials apprehend thousands daily

U.S. Customs and Border Protection reported 242,418 migrant encounters at the southern border in November, numbers similar to October’s total of 240,986. In 2022, encounters totaled 235,173 in November and 231,529 in October.    

December numbers have yet to be released, but federal border officials reported a record 11,000 apprehensions a day at the southern border in December.   

“It coincided with the time when Mexican enforcement was no longer implemented. The immigration enforcement agency in Mexico was not funded, which prompted President Biden to reconnect with [Mexican] President [Andres Manual Lopez] Obrador.” Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas told reporters January 10. 

Border encounters dropped sharply with the beginning of the new year when enforcement resumed in Mexico.    

On Thursday’s call, U.S. officials said this is typically the time of year when encounters at the border decrease.    

“But we also believe that the actions taken by the Mexican government are having an impact as well,” the DHS official said.    

Migrant wave becomes liability  

The wave of migration has become a political liability for U.S. President Joe Biden ahead of the November election. He has been under immense pressure from Republicans and some members of his own party to limit border crossings, in part to ease pressure on American cities struggling to house and feed all the new arrivals.  

House Republicans have linked their demands for stricter border policies — their current top domestic priority — to the request from the White House for billions of dollars in funding to support Ukraine and Israel.   

“We understand that there’s concern about the safety, security and sovereignty of Ukraine,” House Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican, told reporters after he and other congressional leaders met with Biden this week. “But the American people have those same concerns about our own domestic sovereignty and our safety and our security.”  

Meanwhile, former President Donald Trump, the leading Republican candidate likely to compete against Biden in the November election, has launched increasingly anti-immigrant rhetoric on the campaign trail, saying that migrants crossing the border are “poisoning the blood of our country.”  

A Homeland Security Department official said during Thursday’s call that the U.S. and Mexico understand that more people are displaced around the world today than at any other time since World War II.   

The United Nations high commissioner for refugees says at least 108.4 million people were forcibly displaced at the end of 2022 worldwide because of “persecution, conflict, violence, human rights violations, or events seriously disturbing public order.”

That number “includes record numbers of individuals displaced within our own hemisphere,” the DHS official said on the phone call.

“This is a challenge for us,” said the official. “And it’s also a challenge for our Mexican counterparts. We look forward to continuing our robust conversations with them on how we can work together to address what isn’t just an American challenge or a Mexican challenge but truly a regional challenge.”   

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By Polityk | 19/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Is Europe Ready for Possible Return of President Trump?

America’s allies in Europe are preparing for a possible second presidential term for Donald Trump after he won the Iowa Republican caucus earlier this month, cementing his place as the current front-runner to take on President Joe Biden in November’s election. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.

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By Polityk | 19/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

US Congress Averts Shutdown, Funds Government Into March

WASHINGTON — U.S. Congress sent President Joe Biden a short-term spending bill on Thursday that would avert a looming partial government shutdown and fund federal agencies into March. 

The House approved the measure by a vote of 314-108, with opposition coming mostly from the more conservative members of the Republican conference. Shortly before the vote, the House Freedom Caucus announced it ‘strongly opposes’ the measure because it would facilitate more spending than they support. 

Nevertheless, about half of Republicans joined with Democrats in passing the third stopgap funding measure in recent months. The action came a few hours after the Senate had voted overwhelmingly to pass the bill by a vote of 77-18. 

The measure extends current spending levels and buys time for the two chambers to work out their differences over full-year spending bills for the fiscal year that began in October. 

The temporary measure will run to March 1 for some federal agencies. Their funds were set to run out Friday. It extends the remainder of government operations to March 8. 

Right wing pressures Johnson

Speaker Mike Johnson has been under pressure from his right flank to scrap a $1.66 trillion budget deal he reached with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer earlier this month. Republican Representative Chip Roy said the continuing resolution passed Thursday will facilitate that agreement. 

“It’s Groundhog Day in the House chamber all the time, every day, yet again spending money we don’t have,” Roy said. 

Johnson has insisted he will stick with the deal, and moderates in the party have stood behind him. They say that changing course now would be going back on his word and would weaken the speaker in future negotiations. 

Representative Rosa DeLauro, the ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee, said Americans expect Congress to govern and work in a bipartisan fashion. 

“Some of my colleagues would see that this government would shut down and don’t care how hurtful that would be,” DeLauro said. 

House Republicans have fought bitterly over budget levels and policy since taking the majority at the start of 2023. Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted by his caucus in October after striking an agreement with Democrats to extend current spending the first time. Johnson also has come under criticism as he has wrestled with how to appease his members and avoid a government shutdown in an election year. 

“We just needed a little more time on the calendar to do it and now that’s where we are,” Johnson said Tuesday about the decision to extend federal funding yet again. “We’re not going to get everything we want.”

Most House Republicans have refrained so far from saying that Johnson’s job is in danger. But a revolt of even a handful of Republicans could endanger his position in the narrowly divided House. 

Representative Bob Good, one of eight Republicans who voted to oust McCarthy, has been pushing Johnson to reconsider the deal with Schumer. 

“If your opponent in negotiation knows that you fear the consequence of not reaching an agreement more than they fear the consequence of not reaching an agreement, you will lose every time,” Good said this week. 

Other Republicans acknowledge Johnson is in a tough spot. “The speaker was dealt with the hand he was dealt,” said Representative Andy Barr, noting the constraints imposed by the party’s slim majority. 

The short-term measure comes amid negotiations on a separate spending package that would provide wartime dollars to Ukraine and Israel and strengthen security at the U.S.-Mexico border. Johnson is also under pressure from the right not to accept a deal that is any weaker than a House-passed border measure that has no Democratic support. 

Johnson, Schumer and other congressional leaders and committee heads visited the White House on Wednesday to discuss spending legislation. Johnson used the meeting to push for stronger border security measures while Biden and Democrats detailed Ukraine’s security needs as it continues to fight Russia. 

Biden has requested a $110 billion package for the wartime spending and border security. 

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By Polityk | 19/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Biden Convenes Top Congressional Leaders to Discuss Ukraine Aid, US Border Deal

WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden convened top congressional leaders at the White House to underscore Ukraine’s security needs, a meeting that comes at a pivotal time as senators narrow on a landmark immigration deal that could unlock $110 billion in stalled aid to Ukraine, Israel and other U.S. allies.

But Speaker Mike Johnson and other Republicans used the face-to-face moment with Biden to push him for tougher border security measures, with the speaker telling the president that Republican lawmakers were demanding “substantive policy change” and insisting that the White House’s executive actions on immigration had weakened the border.

“We understand that there’s concern about the safety, security and sovereignty of Ukraine,” Johnson told reporters after the meeting, which ran for more than an hour. “But the American people have those same concerns about our own domestic sovereignty and our safety and our security.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, also speaking to reporters after the meeting, stressed that Biden has repeatedly said he is willing to compromise on certain border measures and that any effort in a divided Congress must be bipartisan. House Republicans have insisted on passage of a hard-line border security measure that has no Democratic support on Capitol Hill.

“There was a large amount of agreement around the table that we must do Ukraine, and we must do border,” he said.

The White House called the meeting with lawmakers — including Johnson, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell — to brief them on Ukraine’s current need for weapons and other aid, which the White House described as “desperate” and “urgent.”

By populating the meeting with national security leaders, the meeting was expected to impress on the new speaker the importance of the aid package and the current U.S. approach to world affairs. The Republicans in the room, even Johnson, are largely supportive of aiding Ukraine but have stressed to the White House that it will need significant border-security measures in return to persuade the large swath of rank-and-file Republican lawmakers skeptical about sending more funds abroad.

“He’s willing to hear what these congressional members want to talk about, but the purpose of this meeting is to talk about Ukraine,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said ahead of the mid-afternoon gathering, which was held in the Cabinet Room.

Key time to convene

Biden is convening the lawmakers at the start of an election year when border security and the wars abroad are punctuating the race for the White House as he faces a potential rematch against Republican Donald Trump with control of the presidency and Congress all at stake.

It comes as Congress is about to quickly approve temporary funding to avoid a government shutdown — postponing the annual spending battles — but as the supplemental aid package sits undone during the immigration and border talks.

Biden, a longtime leader in U.S. foreign policy, finds himself confronting a new generation of Republican lawmakers who have little interest in engaging abroad or supporting vast American military aid or actions around the world.

Led by Trump, the former president who is the Republicans’ front-runner for the nomination, a growing number of the Republicans in Congress are particularly hostile to helping Ukraine fight Russian President Vladimir Putin’s invasion.

U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who along with National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan met this week with Ukrainian President Zelenskyy in Davos, Switzerland, said Washington is determined to keep supporting Ukraine, and “we’re working very closely with Congress in order to do that.”

Ahead of the meeting, McConnell announced the package could be ready for a vote as soon as next week, and Schumer sounded a similarly optimistic note — though negotiations continue.

Senators develop border proposal

Johnson, since taking the gavel in October, signaled he personally believes in supporting Ukraine as it works to expel Russia. He met privately with Zelenskyy during the Ukrainian president’s whirlwind tour of Washington last month seeking aid before the year-end holidays.

But the speaker leads an ambivalent House Republican majority that wants to extract its own priorities on the U.S.-Mexico border in exchange for any overseas support.

The speaker has insisted any border security deal must align with the House-passed strict border security bill. He told lawmakers in a private meeting over the weekend that they could probably get their priorities enacted with a Republican president, though the speaker did not mean that to preclude not taking action now, said a Republican leadership aide familiar with the call.

But senators, even fellow Republicans, said the House approach is a nonstarter that would never find the bipartisan backing in both chambers needed for approval.

Instead, a core group of senators led by Republican James Lankford has been meeting privately for weeks with Biden’s top advisers — including Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas — to develop a border security package that could actually be signed into law.

Lankford told reporters late Tuesday that he hopes to prepare bill text as negotiations try to wrap up soon.

McConnell told Republican senators privately last week they should take the deal Lankford is producing, according to a person granted anonymity to discuss the closed meeting.

“This is a unique moment in time,” said the Number 2 Republican John Thune.

“It’s an opportunity to get some really conservative border policy that we haven’t been able to get for 40 years,” he said. “And so we’ll see. I mean, it may or may not happen, but I think you got to take a run at it.”

Senator ‘hopeful’

The broader security package includes about $60 billion for Ukraine, which is mainly used to purchase U.S. weaponry to fight the war and to shore up its own government operations, along with some $14.5 billion for Israel, about $14 billion for border security, and additional funds for other security needs.

Biden opened the door to a broader U.S.-Mexico border security package late last year and the changes being discussed could be difficult for some Democrats who oppose strict restrictions on immigration.

Schumer said negotiations over the border security package have made progress in recent weeks and he was “hopeful that things are headed in the right direction.”

Schumer said he expects the meeting with Biden will reinforce that the national security package is urgent and “any agreement on an issue as complex and contentious as the border is going to have to have support from both sides of the aisle.”

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By Polityk | 18/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Maine Court Puts Trump Ballot Decision on Hold Until After US Supreme Court Acts

Washington — A Maine court on Wednesday ordered the state’s top election official to reevaluate a decision to bar former President Donald Trump from the Republican primary ballot after the U.S. Supreme Court rules on a related case from Colorado. 

State Superior Court Judge Michaela Murphy found that the Supreme Court’s decision to take the Colorado case “changes everything about the order in which these issues should be decided and by which court.” 

The judge ordered Maine Secretary of State Shanna Bellows, a Democrat, to reassess her decision to bar Trump from the ballot within 30 days after the Supreme Court rules. 

In December, Bellows determined that Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, was ineligible to hold office again under a provision in the U.S. Constitution that bars people who have engaged in insurrection or rebellion from holding office. 

Depending on the sweep of its ruling in the Colorado case, the U.S. Supreme Court could resolve the issue nationwide in the coming weeks, with oral arguments scheduled for February 8. 

Maine and Colorado are so far the only two states to disqualify Trump under the constitutional provision, known as Section 3 of the 14th Amendment. Both states have put their decisions on hold while Trump appeals. 

Courts and election officials in several other states have rejected similar ballot challenges to Trump’s candidacy.  

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By Polityk | 17/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Dangerous Cold Snap Blankets Iowa Ahead of Caucus

As Democrats shift their presidential preference caucus to mail-in balloting in Iowa with incumbent President Joe Biden the likely winner, Republicans take center stage during Iowa’s 2024 Caucus, when supporters assemble in person to choose their candidate for the Republican nomination. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports from Iowa.

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By Polityk | 14/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Dangerous Cold Snap Blankets Iowa Ahead of Caucuses

des moines, iowa — First it was the snow, then the bitter cold temperatures that iced out most of the campaign events in the U.S. Midwestern state of Iowa the weekend before the January 15 caucuses.

Former President Donald Trump, who has spent much of the week before the caucuses outside of the state, canceled most of his in-person events because of the weather.

Former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley moved many of her events online.

“It will make the non-passionate people stay home, and the passionate people will come out,” said Carson Odle, who was undeterred by the bad weather as he attended one of the few, in-person events that Florida Governor Ron DeSantis didn’t cancel, in the Des Moines suburb of Ankeny.

“The die-hards will come,” said Cheryl Weisheit, who also braved traveling in the snowstorm to hear DeSantis’ campaign pitch. “Early on it wasn’t that bad. … I don’t know … we’re just so used to this!”

Weisheit, who chairs a local Republican group, said physically attending an event was important to her because she still doesn’t know who to support on caucus night.

“I probably won’t know until that night,” she said.

Snow could affect turnout

Iowa Democrats shifted their presidential preference caucuses to mail-in balloting later in the election cycle, with incumbent President Joe Biden the likely winner.

So Republicans will take center stage during Iowa’s 2024 Caucuses, a first-in-the-nation event when supporters assemble in person to choose their candidate for the Republican nomination. It comes amid some of the heaviest snow and coldest temperatures Iowa has experienced during the caucuses in many years, creating several unknowns for how it will impact the results.

“The unknown here is how much the supporters for the various candidates will turn out,” said University of Iowa political science professor Tim Hagle. “Will the Trump supporters really be as loyal to him and as faithful to him as everyone expects?”

Hagle said if polling translates into turnout, it’s more difficult for the Republicans vying to unseat Trump as the front-runner and curbs their ability to pick up momentum as the race moves beyond Iowa.

“If Trump is still 30 points ahead or maybe even more, it seems pretty unlikely that DeSantis or Haley is going to be able to beat him or even come close because to a certain extent they are splitting the anti-Trump vote,” he said.

Hagle added that polling also shows Trump’s legal troubles haven’t dampened his support.

“Given that he was indicted in four different places, he’s got a civil trial going on in New York, he’s got a defamation trial going on there as well, states are trying to kick him off the ballot, all this means — in the eyes of a lot of his supporters — is that they’re politically persecuting him and so there’s a rally-around-the-chief effect that’s going on,” Hagle said.

Campaigns urge voters to show up

But there are signs of fatigue among Iowa voters. Retired police officer John Frank supported Trump before, but not this year.

“He’s getting up in age, just like Joe Biden, and we have to consider that,” Frank told VOA. “And he’s never learned in his life, especially his political life, to keep his mouth shut.”

Frank said he’ll caucus for DeSantis.

“Trump is probably going to win, but I don’t think it’s going to the be slam dunk people think,” said Weisheit, who has narrowed her choices to DeSantis and Haley, but not Trump.

“Well, if Trump is the candidate, I will [vote for him], but right now … he’s not the one that I will caucus for,” she said.

“You really have to energize your supporters and get them to turn out,” Hagle said, because “we often see some movement up until caucus night,” which is why the messaging from every candidate left in the race in the final days of the campaign is a push to encourage their supporters to physically show up to support them at caucus locations across the state on January 15.

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By Polityk | 14/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

US Congressional Leaders Prepare Bill to Fund Government to March

WASHINGTON — Congressional leaders are preparing a stopgap bill to keep the federal government running into March and avoid a partial shutdown next week.

The temporary measure will run to March 1 for some federal agencies whose approved funds are set to run out Friday and extend the remainder of government operations to March 8. That’s according to a person familiar with the situation and granted anonymity to discuss it. Several media outlets are also reporting on the agreement to keep the government open.

The stopgap bill, expected to be released Sunday, would come as House Speaker Mike Johnson, R-La., has been under pressure from his hard-right flank in recent days to jettison a recent bipartisan spending deal with Senate Democrats. The bill would need Democratic support to pass the narrowly divided House.

Johnson insisted Friday that he is sticking with the deal he struck with Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., despite pressure from some conservatives to renegotiate. Moderates in the party had urged him to stay the course.

Still, in his first big test as the new leader, he has yet to show how he will quell the revolt from his right flank that ousted his predecessor.

“Our top-line agreement remains,” Johnson said Friday, referring to the budget accord reached January 7.

That accord sets $1.66 trillion in spending for the next fiscal year, with $886 billion of the tally going to defense.

Hard-right members have criticized the deal, including several of those who helped oust former Speaker Kevin McCarthy from the speaker’s office last year after he struck a spending deal with Democrats and President Joe Biden. Some have already raised the threat of a motion to oust Johnson over the deal, not even three months after he was elected.

The hard-right flank is also insisting that new immigration policies be included, which they say would stop the record flow of migrants at the U.S-Mexico border.

Johnson met with about two dozen House Republicans this past week, many of them centrist-leaning voices urging him not to go back on his word and stick with the deal. The centrists assured Johnson that they will support him.

“I just can’t imagine the House wants to relive the madness,” said Rep. French Hill, R-Ark., who had helped McCarthy negotiate the initial agreement with Biden and the other leaders.

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By Polityk | 14/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

House Republicans Aim to Impeach US Homeland Secretary

Washington — House Republicans held their first impeachment hearing Wednesday against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas over his handling of what they called the crisis at the U.S.-Mexico border.

In a 20-minute opening statement, Mark Green, the Republican chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee, shared what he said was evidence that supports impeaching a Cabinet secretary.

“Secretary Mayorkas has brazenly refused to enforce the laws passed by Congress that knowingly made our country less safe,” he said.

Republicans blame Mayorkas for the high numbers of migrants at the U.S.-Mexico border and said the Republican Party has undertaken a yearlong investigation into the secretary’s work.

During the hearing, Green said Mayorkas’ failure to adhere to the law provides ample justification for initiating impeachment proceedings. The lawmaker said the framers of the constitution did not envision impeachment solely for criminal acts but also for individuals displaying significant incompetence, jeopardizing fellow Americans, breaching public trust, or neglecting their duties.

“What we are seeing here is a willful violation of his oath of office by Secretary Mayorkas,” Green said.

Democrats dismissed the impeachment efforts.

Representative Bennie Thompson, the top Democrat on the committee, said Republicans want to “throw political red meat to their base,” adding that Republicans have “absolutely no basis” to impeach Mayorkas.

“You cannot impeach a Cabinet secretary because you don’t like a president’s policies — that’s not what impeachment is for,” he said.

US-Mexico border

Meanwhile, Mayorkas has carried on with his duties. On Monday, he visited the border at Eagle Pass, Texas, to see Southwest border enforcement efforts.

His visit came after federal border officials reported a record 11,000 apprehensions a day at the southern border in December alone. These encounters dropped sharply with the beginning of the new year.

“It coincided with the time when Mexican enforcement was no longer implemented. The immigration enforcement agency in Mexico was not funded, which prompted President [Joe] Biden to reconnect with [Mexican] President [Andres Manual Lopez] Obrador …” Mayorkas told reporters.

The high numbers of migrants encountered at the southern border is one of the Republicans’ arguments to impeach the DHS secretary.

In year 2023, about 2.5 million migrants were encountered by border patrol officers. Out of those, 564,380 were expelled under Title 42, a public health code that expired on May 11, 2023. It was used during the pandemic and allowed U.S. immigration officials to quickly expel migrants to their country of origin or Mexican border towns and denied them a chance at asylum.

But it did not ban them from trying again, and migrants were counted multiple times under Title 42.

According to DHS, the department repatriated about 469,000 migrants in fiscal 2023, while about 909,450 more were processed by border patrol officials and received a document to present themselves at an Immigration Customs Enforcement office. Some of those were paroled into the U.S. and allowed to stay temporarily or paroled into the alternative to detention program. And 311,343 more migrants were transferred to an ICE detention facility.

Since the end of Title 42, everyone is again processed under Title 8, the federal code of laws dealing with immigration. Those arriving at the border without documents or trying to enter between ports of entry can be removed without their case being decided by an immigration court through a process known as expedited removal, and they are banned from entering the U.S. for at least five years.

While in Texas, Mayorkas said that migrants encountered at the border who do not have a legal basis to stay in the U.S. will be removed.

Next steps

Impeaching the Homeland Security secretary would be a rare occurrence. In U.S. history, only one Cabinet official, Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876, has been impeached.

The committee is expected to host more hearings as part of the impeachment proceedings against Mayorkas. Once concluded, the panel is expected to conduct a markup on articles of impeachment that will culminate in a committee vote, setting the stage for the articles to be subsequently forwarded to the full House for consideration.

Mayorkas, however, is not expected to be removed by the Senate.

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By Polityk | 11/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

US Senator Menendez Seeks Dismissal of Criminal Charges

NEW YORK — Senator Bob Menendez on Wednesday sought dismissal of charges, including bribery, as his lawyers told a judge that New York federal prosecutors are making claims that are “outrageously false” and “distort reality.”

The New Jersey Democrat and his wife pleaded not guilty after they were charged last fall with accepting bribes of gold bars, cash and a luxury car in return for help from the senator that would benefit three New Jersey businessmen, who were also arrested and pleaded not guilty.

The indictment has since been updated with charges alleging that Menendez used his political influence to secretly advance Egypt’s interests and that he acted favorably to Qatar’s government to aid a businessman.

“The Senator stands behind all of his official actions and decisions, and will be proud to defend them at trial,” the lawyers wrote.

A trial is scheduled for May 5. Menendez is free on $100,000 bail.

Menendez’s lawyers said in court papers that their client’s conduct was “constitutionally immune,” and none of it could serve as the basis for criminal charges.

“The government’s accusations in this case — that he sold his office and even sold out his nation — are outrageously false, and indeed distort reality,” the lawyers wrote.

They said the government is free to prosecute members of Congress for agreeing to exchange legislative action for personal benefits, as long as it doesn’t attack the integrity of the legislative acts themselves.

“But here, the Indictment does not try to walk that line; it flouts it entirely,” the lawyers said.

They said prosecutors were wrong to charge Menendez in connection with his decision to contact local state prosecutors to advocate on behalf of New Jersey constituents or to use his decision to invite constituents to meetings with foreign dignitaries as evidence against him.

“And the government goes so far as to impugn the Senator for introducing constituents to investors abroad. None of this is illegal, or even improper,” the lawyers wrote.

The indictment claims Menendez directly interfered in criminal investigations, including by pushing to install a federal prosecutor in New Jersey he believed could be influenced in a criminal case against a businessman and associate of the senator. Prosecutors also alleged that Menendez tried to use his position of power to meddle in a separate criminal investigation by the New Jersey Attorney General’s office.

Menendez’s lawyers said the novel charge that Menendez conspired with his wife and a businessman to act as an agent of the Egyptian government “fundamentally disrupts the separation of powers.”

Menendez, 70, was forced to step down from his powerful post leading the Senate Foreign Relations Committee after he was charged in September. Prosecutors said the senator and his wife, Nadine Menendez, accepted bribes over the past five years from the New Jersey businessmen in exchange for a variety of corrupt acts.

In October, he was charged with conspiring to act as an agent of the Egyptian government. As a member of Congress, Menendez is prohibited from acting as an agent for a foreign government.

His lawyers said in their Manhattan federal court filing Wednesday that the charge empowers the executive and judicial branches of government to second-guess the way the senator chooses to engage with foreign representatives as he carries out his duties.

As an example, the lawyers said that a future president might decide to prosecute legislative enemies as agents of Ukraine for supporting aid during its war with Russia or as agents of China for resisting a proposed ban of TikTok, or as agents of Israel for supporting military aid to fight Hamas.

“The Court should not permit this novel and dangerous encroachment on legislative independence,” the lawyers said.

They said there was “overwhelming, indisputable evidence” that Menendez was independent from any foreign official.

“As the government knows from its own investigation, far from doing Egypt’s bidding during the life of the alleged conspiracy, the Senator repeatedly held up military aid and took Egypt to task, challenging its government’s record for imprisoning political dissidents, running roughshod over the press, and other human rights abuses,” they said.

The lawyers said that their arguments Wednesday were just the start of legal challenges to be filed in the next week, including claims that the indictment was filed in the wrong courthouse and unjustly groups separate schemes into single conspiracy counts.

A spokesperson for prosecutors declined to comment.

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By Polityk | 11/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

Iowa Caucus – Visual Explainer

On January 15, the 2024 U.S. presidential election season will officially kick off with the Iowa caucuses. Republican candidates including Ron DeSantis, Nikki Haley, Chris Christie, and Vivek Ramaswamy will seek to unseat the current front-runner, former President Donald Trump, as the party’s eventual nominee to challenge incumbent President Joe Biden in November’s general election. (Produced by: Alex Gendler)

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By Polityk | 10/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика

US Lawmakers Back in Session, Working on Border Security, Ukraine Aid

WASHINGTON — U.S. lawmakers came back into session this week after a three-week holiday break to continue work toward a deal on border security in return for Republican votes to send more aid to Ukraine.

“We are closer to an agreement than we have been since the beginning of these talks,” Democratic Senator Chris Murphy, one of the lead negotiators on the deal, told reporters Tuesday.

“I wish that we weren’t in this position. I wish that Senate Republicans supported Ukraine aid because they believe in Ukraine,” he said. “I wish that we weren’t conditioning support for Ukraine upon the resolution of the most difficult issue in American politics — immigration reform.”

The White House’s $106 billion national security supplemental request also includes funding for border security as well as nearly $14 billion in aid to Israel and funding for Taiwan to combat the threat posed by China.

Senate negotiators continued meeting remotely throughout the three weeks Congress was out of session.

“We are working very hard to come up with an agreement to improve our situation at the border. But it’s also important to remember the world is literally at war,” Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters Tuesday. “This is the most serious international situation we have faced since the Berlin Wall came down. We need to pass the supplemental, and there needs to be a strong border provision part of it.”

The United States has dedicated more than $100 billion to arming and supporting Ukraine since Russia launched its full-scale invasion in February 2022, and President Joe Biden has asked Congress to approve an additional $60 billion. Republicans in Congress have become increasingly skeptical about the need to continue underwriting Ukraine’s defense.

The Pentagon announced on December 27 a new $250 million security assistance package for Ukraine, which included additional munitions for surface-to-air missiles systems, artillery rounds and more air defense components. The Pentagon still has $4 billion available to provide Ukraine with military aid, but no funds are available to replenish the U.S. military’s stockpiles. Officials tell VOA that no new aid packages are expected until Congress provides more funding.

Republicans in the Senate have conditioned approval of any additional money for Ukraine on the simultaneous strengthening of immigration rules aimed at reducing the number of people illegally entering the United States at its southern border and expelling some who are already in the country.

According to multiple news organizations, an estimated 300,000 people crossed the U.S.-Mexico border in December 2023. That estimate marks the highest recorded number of U.S.-Mexico border crossings.

Even if an agreement passes in the Senate, it might not survive in the House, where Republicans hold a very narrow majority. A significant group of Republican House members oppose additional aid to Ukraine, and the party in early October voted out a speaker who partnered with Democrats to pass legislation.

Last week, Speaker of the House Mike Johnson led a delegation of 60 House Republicans to visit the U.S.-Mexico border at Eagle Pass, Texas.

“If President Biden wants a supplemental spending bill focused on national security, it better begin with defending America’s national security,” Johnson told reporters at a news conference on the border.

Republicans have proposed their own legislation, H.R. 2, which would resume construction of a border wall as well as impose new restrictions on asylum-seekers.

VOA Pentagon Correspondent Carla Babb contributed reporting.

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By Polityk | 10/01/2024 | Повідомлення, Політика
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