Political News

Special counsel opposes Trump's bid to halt proceedings in election subversion case

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(WASHINGTON) -- Special counsel Jack Smith's team has asked the court to deny former President Donald Trump's request to halt all proceedings in the Jan. 6 case pending their appeal of District Judge Tanya Chutkan's presidential immunity order and urged the judge to do all she can to make sure the March 4 trial date isn't delayed.

"During the pendency of the appeal, any number of matters could arise in this case that are not involved in the appeal; the Court should not enter an order preventing it from handling them. Furthermore, the Court should maintain the March 4 trial date," the special counsel states in a filing from the weekend.

In a separate filing, also from the weekend, Smith's prosecutors revealed they asked virtually every senior former Trump administration intelligence official if they had knowledge of a single vote being flipped by a voting machine in the 2020 election. It's a significant revelation as Smith's team discloses their access to more than a dozen top intel officials -- including the former president's intelligence briefer -- which gives a roadmap to evidence they likely plan to present at trial.

"To the contrary, as the defendant is aware from the discovery that has been provided, the Government asked every pertinent witness -- including the former DNI, former Acting Secretary of DHS, former Acting Deputy Secretary of DHS, former CISA Director, former Acting CISA Director, former CISA Senior Cyber Counsel, former National Security Advisor (“NSA”), former Deputy NSA, former Chief of Staff to the National Security Council, former Chairman of the Election Assistance Commission (“EAC”), Presidential Intelligence Briefer, former Secretary of Defense, and former senior DOJ leadership -- if they were aware of any evidence that a domestic or foreign actor flipped a single vote in a voting machine during the presidential election. The answer from every single official was no," the filing reads.

This filing, in particular, came in response to Trump's request to access an array of classified information that he claims is pertinent to his defense in the Jan. 6 case.

"To create the false impression that there might actually be support for his lies about voting machines, the defendant, without context, threads his filing with discussion of irrelevant network breaches around the time of the 2020 election," the filing reads.

Trump in August pleaded not guilty to charges of undertaking a "criminal scheme" to overturn the results of the 2020 election by enlisting a slate of so-called "fake electors," using the Justice Department to conduct "sham election crime investigations," trying to enlist the vice president to "alter the election results," and promoting false claims of a stolen election as the Jan. 6 riot raged -- all in an effort to subvert democracy and remain in power.

The former president has denied all wrongdoing.

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Ukraine's Zelenskyy will meet with Biden, congressional leaders amid standoff over more aid

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(WASHINGTON) -- Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy will meet both with President Joe Biden at the White House and with congressional leaders on Tuesday amid debate in Washington about providing billions of dollars in additional military aid to Ukraine.

"As Russia ramps up its missile and drone strikes against Ukraine, the leaders will discuss Ukraine's urgent needs and the vital importance of the United States' continued support at this critical moment," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

The Senate's majority and minority leaders, Chuck Schumer and Mitch McConnell, have also invited Zelenskyy to speak at an all-senators meeting on Tuesday morning, according to a leadership aide.

House Speaker Mike Johnson will meet with Zelenskyy on Tuesday in the Capitol, too, according to his spokesman.

Zelenskyy's trip comes as additional funding for Ukraine remains in limbo, with a vote on more money failing in the Senate last week.

The Biden administration has asked for $61 billion in Ukraine aid as part of a $100 billion-plus package that would also include money for Israel, currently at war with Hamas in the wake of a Hamas terror attack, as well as money for Taiwan and $14 billion for border security.

But Republicans, some of whom have become increasingly skeptical of spending more to back Ukraine in defending against Russia's invasion, have said that major immigration policy changes must be part of any deal.

"People want a legal, orderly process, not the chaos that we currently have on our southern border. That shouldn't be too tall of an order to be able to fulfill," Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford, who is leading his party in the chamber in negotiations on the border, told ABC "This Week" anchor George Stephanopoulos earlier this month.

"There's a reason that this hasn't been done in decades, because it's hard. It's very technical work, and there's a lot of challenges that are in it. And any time you deal with border security, there are a lot of complicating features in this. ... But the most important thing is to be able to get this right," Lankford said then.

The White House has said its aid proposal is a priority and repeatedly urged swift passage.

"Ukraine has done an extraordinary job in defending against this Russian aggression," Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on This Week on Sunday.

"Over the past years, it's taking back more than 50% of its territory. It's engaged in a ferocious battle right now along the eastern and southern fronts. We are running out of resources already in the bank to continue to assist them," Blinken said.

Biden has been more blunt, saying Wednesday, after Republicans blocked his proposal in the Senate: "[They] are willing to give [Russian President Vladimir] Putin the greatest gift he could hope for and abandon our global leadership, not just Ukraine, but beyond that."

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Kevin McCarthy looks back at career, including historic removal as House speaker

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(NEW YORK) -- Rep. Kevin McCarthy is reflecting on his congressional career and his ouster earlier this year from the House speakership, an inglorious twist that helped usher in his upcoming resignation.

In an interview with CBS News that aired Sunday, McCarthy, a California Republican, suggested he'd always recognized he might not keep his gavel as long as he'd like but that he enjoyed the job while it lasted in a place he likened to less of a "country club" than a "truck stop."

The House is "a microcosm of society, so everything good and bad in society is gonna be here," he said.

"I never said I didn't want this job. I love the challenge. I knew at the time I probably wouldn't be able to end the job, not on my terms. I knew who I was dealing with. I think history will say they were wrong in that decision," McCarthy said, referencing the eight Republicans who helped engineer his demotion -- the first time a speaker had ever been removed that way.

Still, he projected confidence about his track record, saying, "I've had the privilege of being here 17 years, and I got to be a part of building two majorities."

"I come from California. I grew up in a family that were Democrats. I applied for [an] internship in a congressional seat -- I got turned down," he said. "And now, I got elected to that seat I couldn't get an internship for and I got to be the 55th speaker of the House. Tell me any other country is that possible in."

He wouldn't, however, totally rule out supporting primary bids against his eight Republicans detractors next year, including Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz, only saying he's "not focused on that."

McCarthy's speakership started on the rocks in early 2023 when it took Republicans 15 rounds to hand him the gavel over the objections of a group of rebels, led by Gaetz, who remained a fierce critic.

The Californian ultimately faced a motion for his removal after agreeing to a temporary government funding bill that didn't include the significant spending cuts that hard-liners, again led by Gaetz, had demanded.

When asked in his CBS interview what he thinks of Gaetz, McCarthy simply said, "I think history will show who Matt Gaetz really is."

McCarthy's future is now unclear as he leaves his seat later this month, more than a year before his term is up. His exit also weakens his party's already narrow majority, with just a few votes to spare.

However, he did make clear his views on former President Donald Trump, whom he had once criticized in the wake of Jan. 6 but then embraced.

In his exit interview with CBS, he endorsed Trump's comeback bid for the White House -- "if [Joe] Biden stays as the nominee for the Democrats, I believe Donald Trump will win" -- and said he would consider joining a future Trump administration in some Cabinet role.

"If I'm the best person for the job, yes," he said when asked about such a possibility. "We worked together to win the majority. But we also have a relationship where we're very honest with each other."

Still, McCarthy said Trump would be wise to tweak his 2024 campaign messaging, focusing more on "restoring" the country rather than the "retribution" he's been previewing.

"What President Trump needs to do in this campaign, it needs to be about rebuilding, restoring, renewing America. It can't be about revenge," McCarthy said. "He needs to stop that."

"But that's him. I'm not going to change who I am, and I'm not going to stop giving him the advice," McCarthy added. "And, look, I lost the job of speaker. Maybe I don't have the best advice."

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Trump again defends infamous 'Access Hollywood' comments and warns Biden, 'Be very careful'

ABC News

Former President Donald Trump spoke on Saturday night to some of his most staunch conservative supporters, filling a speech at the New York Young Republican Club's annual gala with praise for his political allies on the far right and doubling down on his controversial comment that he'd only be a "dictator" if reelected on "Day 1."

He also bragged about his ability to win the 2016 election after the release of a video from behind the scenes of "Access Hollywood" years earlier, where he was seen making lewd and vulgar statements about women.

Trump spotlighting the "Access Hollywood" tape -- an infamous episode late in his 2016 campaign that fueled widespread condemnation and calls for him end his campaign -- started out on Saturday as a seemingly off-the-cuff remark.

In his speech, he mentioned "the biggest inescapable" situation he endured in politics and then shared more details, making it clear he was talking about the "Access Hollywood" video.

In that notorious clip, he had said, "You know I’m automatically attracted to beautiful [women] -- I just start kissing them. It’s like a magnet. Just kiss. I don’t even wait. ... And when you’re a star they let you do it."

"Grab them by the p----," Trump said in the video. "You can do anything."

He later tried to play that down as "locker room talk," including during one of the 2016 debates, but his defense only fueled some other notable Republicans to call for him to step aside.

Trump on Saturday described how all of his political advisers, except Steve Bannon, encouraged him to drop out of the 2016 race after the video resurfaced. Trump claimed that an unnamed general told him the "locker room talk" explanation he gave was the "bravest thing I've ever seen" over witnessing people die on the battlefield.

"It was an incredible campaign and we won and nobody thought we could win," Trump said.

The unusual rehashing of the "Access Hollywood" video -- which has not been in the headlines for years -- is the latest example of how Trump continues to brush aside scandal while remaining popular with the Republican base.

Trump is campaigning for the White House for a third time while facing numerous legal battles, including four sets of criminal charges. He denies all wrongdoing and has pleaded not guilty to all of his charges.

In Saturday's speech, he claimed it was another example of his opponents attempting to stop his political rise -- an accusation prosecutors have rejected.

"Our mission in this race is to win a historic and powerful mandate to take back our nation from the shadow government of corrupt alliances," he said.

He also continued focusing on a theme of retribution and retaliation, seemingly threatening President Joe Biden.

He has said that as president, he would appoint a special prosecutor "to go after" Biden and Biden's family, whom he blamed for the destruction of the country.

"They've opened up a Pandora's box and I only can say to Joe is: Be very careful what you wish for," Trump said Saturday.

In front of a friendly crowd, he joked about his comments from a town hall with Fox News' Sean Hannity last week where he said he wasn't going to be a dictator if reelected "other than Day 1," when he would focus on the border and drilling.

That statement raised new alarms about whether Trump would abuse his power as president, something he did not rule out when questioned by Hannity.

"You know why I wanted to be a dictator, because I want a wall. Right? I want a wall and I want to drill, drill, drill," Trump said on Saturday to "build the wall" chants.

The club's gala is known for making headlines with its speeches and a room full of guests with their own controversies.

Saturday's event honored figures like Bannon, who was sentenced last year after being convicted of contempt of Congress.

Bannon has had an off-and-on relationship to Trump, including serving briefly as a senior White House strategist in 2017. Trump pardoned him in early 2021 after Bannon was accused of money laundering and conspiracy to commit wire fraud by federal prosecutors. Bannon has pleaded not guilty to similar charges filed by prosecutors in New York City.

Other guests on Saturday included former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who is charged with Trump in a Georgia election subversion indictment (Giuliani has pleaded not guilty); and Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar, who was previously censured and removed from committees after posting a graphic anime clip featuring violence against New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

At one point during the gala, host Alex Stein tried to make a punchline out of stereotyping the Black and Hispanic community as criminals and gang members, saying it would be "good if Donald Trump went to jail" because it would help him earn the support from those communities.

Stein then repeated the joke later in the night when Trump was in the room.

"Once President Trump is back in office, we won't be playing nice anymore. It will be a time for retribution," the club's president, Gavin Wax, said in his own remarks. "After baseless years of investigations and government lies and media lies against this man, now it is time to turn the tables on these actual crooks and lock them up for a change."

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Liz Cheney's plea: 'Our focus has got to be on defeating Donald Trump' in 2024

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Former Republican Rep. Liz Cheney has issued a stark warning to the nation not to reelect Donald Trump to the presidency, arguing that thwarting the former commander in chief's comeback bid must be the "focus" across the political spectrum.

"There's a lot that has to be done to begin to rebuild the Republican Party, potentially to build a new conservative party," Cheney told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl in an interview that aired Sunday. "But in my view, that has to wait until after the 2024 election because our focus has got to be on defeating Donald Trump."

Cheney, author of the new book "Oath and Honor: A Memoir and a Warning," said she hasn't "ruled anything out" when asked if running as a third-party candidate next year is a possibility, but she stressed that she would not "do something that has the impact of helping Donald Trump."

Democrats have contended that third-party candidates would only hurt President Joe Biden and benefit Trump in the general election, if he is the Republican nominee. They have particular animosity toward No Labels, a group working to secure ballot access across the country as it weighs putting forward an independent, bipartisan "unity ticket" made up of one Republican and one Democrat as the presidential and vice presidential nominees.

Cheney believes that because there are several third-party candidates already in the race -- like Cornel West, Jill Stein and Robert F. Kennedy Jr. -- that even without a No Labels ticket, there is still going to be "a fractured electorate," so the principal question remains: "What do we do to defeat the man who is an existential threat to our republic?"

The former three-term Wyoming congresswoman and member of Republican leadership said that it's also "crucially important in this next cycle ... to elect candidates who believe in the Constitution" to ensure that the peaceful transfer of power is completed after the next election, including on Jan. 6, 2025, when Congress will be tasked with counting the electoral votes submitted by the states -- the final step before the next inauguration.

"I've expressed very clearly my view that having Mike Johnson as the speaker, having this Republican majority in charge, you can't count on them to defend the Constitution at this moment," Cheney said.

Johnson joined with more than 100 other House Republicans in 2020 in supporting a lawsuit to overturn Biden's win in some key swing states; Johnson and numerous other Republicans also voted against certifying the 2020 election results. After winning the speakership, Johnson declined to say whether he stood by that.

In her new book, Cheney writes about how she came to believe Trump needed to be impeached as the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol was unfolding and lawmakers were being whisked out of the chambers to safety. As the House Republican Conference chair at the time of the riot, Cheney ended up being the highest-ranking Republican -- and one of just 10 Republicans total -- to vote to impeach Trump on Jan. 13, 2021.

He has repeatedly maintained he did nothing wrong and was ultimately acquitted by Senate Republicans in a 57-43 vote, but Cheney continued to speak out against Trump, arguing he bore responsibility for the Jan. 6 attack.

Before losing her 2022 primary to a Trump-endorsed challenger, she served as vice chair of the House select committee investigating that attack.

Trump, for his part, has long criticized Cheney as well. He wrote in a recent social media post that she was "crazy" and has called her "smug."

In a March 18, 2021, interview, Karl asked Trump if he really wanted to go to the Capitol on Jan. 6, as the riot was unfolding.

"I was thinking about going back during the problem, to stop the problem, doing it myself. Secret Service didn't like that idea too much. And you know what? I would have been very well received," Trump said, according to Karl's latest book, "Tired of Winning."

"Don't forget -- the people that went to Washington that day, in my opinion, they went because they thought the election was rigged," Trump said then.

Karl asked Cheney in Sunday's interview: "Isn't that right there an admission by Trump himself of his own culpability?"

"Yes," Cheney said. "One of the things that's really important throughout all of this is Donald Trump's intent. And we see again and again sort of the premeditation for this whole plan, the premeditation to claim victory, but also the fact that while the mob, the violence, was underway and the electoral vote was stopped -- the armed mob at that point was carrying out his wishes."

Three days after Jan. 6, Karl spoke to then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. In that interview, McCarthy told him, "What's real crazy is back in our district, there's tons of people who are ready to storm the Capitol again. I just don't know about these people."

Cheney told Karl that, behind closed doors, McCarthy initially "was being responsible" but then changed course.

"One of the things that was striking to me in writing the book was it was absolutely clear in those days, just after the sixth, on the calls that we were having in leadership, Kevin McCarthy was very clear and very strong about the potential for violence against members of the House," Cheney said. "He actually understood reality and was being responsible in the beginning. But it didn't take long until the political necessity of appeasing Donald Trump caused him to take a different path."

A McCarthy spokesman said in a recent statement to CNN, responding to Cheney's book, that she had "McCarthy Derangement Syndrome."

Not even a month after the attack, which McCarthy had said Trump "bears responsibility" for, McCarthy visited Trump at his Mar-a-Lago club in Florida, a move that was seen by many as re-legitimizing Trump's place in the Republican Party.

Cheney and others who have publicly taken a stance against Trump and how his influence has changed the Republican Party have faced threats in response. She called that a "sad" reality of the political environment today.

"This isn't sort of the threat of physical violence because of terrorist organizations or outside entities. This is the threat of violence because of a former president of the United States. And I think we have to be very careful as a country that we stop and we think about what that means and the path that we're going down," she said.

Karl asked Cheney what she thinks people will say about her and her legacy, years in the future.

"I hope that they will say she did the right thing and that she put the country ahead of politics and ahead of partisanship at a moment when it really mattered," she said.

"And that project is, in your mind, just getting started?" Karl asked.

"Certainly," Cheney said. "Once we get through this election cycle and we defeat Donald Trump, I think there's clearly a huge amount of work that has to be done to restore, to right the ship of, our democracy."

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US trying to close 'gap' between Israel's intent and resulting Gaza death toll: Blinken

ABC News

The U.S. is trying to lower civilian casualties from Israel's military campaign against Hamas in the Gaza Strip, in the wake of Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack that sparked the current war, but there is a "gap" between the Israeli military's intention and results, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Sunday.

"We're focused on two things: We're focused on -- what is their intent, and are they [the Israelis] taking necessary measures to make sure that they're acting in adherence with humanitarian law and international law? But then also, what are the results?" Blinken told ABC "This Week" co-anchor Martha Raddatz.

"We've seen the results," Raddatz responded. She noted reports of numerous civilians, including women and children, killed in the fighting. More than 17,700 people have died in Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

Israeli officials maintain they take steps to curb the risk to non-Hamas fighters.

"There's a gap between the intent and the results, and that's the gap that we're trying to make sure is closed," Blinken said. "Look, this could be over tomorrow. This could be over tomorrow. If Hamas got out of the way of civilians instead of hiding behind them, if it put down its weapons, if it surrendered."

The "entire world" should put pressure on Hamas "to do just that," Blinken said. "That would stop this tomorrow. But in the absence of that, Israel has to take steps not only to defend itself against the ongoing attacks from Hamas, but against Hamas’s stated intent to repeat Oct. 7 again and again if given the opportunity."

Political pressure and public outcry have ramped up in the U.S. over its support for Israel's government in the fight against Hamas after the terror group's attack two months ago killed 1,200 people, according to the Israeli prime minister's office.

Hamas is also thought to have taken more than 200 captives back to Gaza after the October attack, though more than 100 were freed in a hostage-prisoner exchange deal as part of a now-lapsed cease-fire.

When pressed by Raddatz on Sunday over U.S. military aid to Israel during the fighting, even amid mounting criticism and scrutiny over how Israel has carried out its retaliatory operations in Gaza, Blinken insisted weapons transfers like 13,000 more rounds of tank ammunition come with strings attached -- including keeping civilians out of harm's way as much as possible.

The tank ammo sale was done under an emergency authorization that bypasses congressional review.

"We are in almost constant discussions with the Israelis to ensure that they understand what their obligations are, to make sure that we understand how they're using whatever arms we're providing to them," Blinken said.

Raddatz asked if he had "seen anything in the Israel campaign, with thousands and thousands of civilians killed, many, many of those children, that you believe should be investigated, or has been investigated?"

"I can’t evaluate a specific instance in the moment. But I can tell you, we’re looking at everything," Blinken responded.

The U.S. has largely remained steadfast in support for Israel's military campaign while voicing vocal concerns for Palestinian civilian casualties.

"We are deeply, deeply aware of the terrible human toll that this conflict is taking on innocent men, women and children," Blinken said on Sunday.

But, he said, Israel's push to eliminate Hamas after the October attack was a legitimate goal that could not be set aside -- including through a U.N. demanding a cease-fire, which the U.S. recently vetoed.

"When it comes to a ceasefire in this moment, with Hamas still alive, still intact, and again, with the stated intent of repeating Oct. 7 again and again and again, that would simply perpetuate the problem," Blinken said.

The fighting in Gaza has sparked concerns over wider violence in the Middle East, particularly as Iranian-backed Houthi rebels in Yemen continue to attack ships in the Red Sea, which is a vital lane for goods and travelers.

While the militant group has said its strikes are about Israel, Blinken noted that numerous other countries' ships are vulnerable. He told Raddatz that sanctions that have been applied to weaken the Houthis' funding and he would not rule out future military action.

The U.S. is balancing its role in the Israel-Hamas war with providing Ukraine with further aid to fend off Russia's invasion.

Congress is currently weighing a package that would send billions of dollars in more assistance to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan while also increasing security measures on the southern border.

Democrats are largely aligned in support of the package proposed by the Biden administration, but Republicans have become more skeptical of additional Ukraine funding and are calling for major immigration policy changes to be attached to any legislation. A Senate vote on the money failed last week.

Blinken called for passage of the Biden-backed bill "as quickly as possible" so that Ukraine could continue to weaken Russia's military.

"Ukraine has done an extraordinary job in defending against this Russian aggression," he said. "Over the past years, it’s taking back more than 50% of its territory. It’s engaged in a ferocious battle right now along the eastern and southern fronts. We are running out of resources already in the bank to continue to assist them."

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First on ABC: Nikki Haley opens up about Trump, Israel and more

ABC News

Former U.S. ambassador to the U.N. and Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley sat down with ABC News Live Prime anchor Linsey Davis in a network interview in which she discussed a wide range of topics including former President Donald Trump, the Israel-Hamas war, abortion and her life before stepping into the public eye.

Haley sat down with Davis in Sioux Center, Iowa, before she continued her swing around the state just days after the fourth Republican primary debate.

"I don't think he's the right person to be president."

During the fourth GOP debate, held Wednesday, candidates were asked whether Trump is fit to be president -- and while former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a staunch Trump critic, said that he was not, the other three contenders offered less clear answers.

Haley did not answer during the debate, but when asked by Davis, she said it was not about fitness but rather that Trump is just not the right person to be president right now.

"It's not about fitness. I think he's fit to be president. It's 'Should he be president?' I don't think he should be president. I thought he was the right president at the right time," said Haley.

"We've got to look at the issues that we're dealing with, coming forward with new solutions, not focusing on negativity and baggage of the past. So it's not about being fit. It's just I don't think he's the right person to be president," she added.

Haley has insisted that Trump was the right president at the right time in remarks from the campaign trail, but recently, she has taken to calling for the country to move past him. However, at the first GOP debate, she signaled she would support the president as nominee even if he were convicted of a felony.

The former U.N ambassador was asked about her waffling on her loyalty towards Trump, something that the former president himself has called her out on, saying, "She criticizes me one minute, and 15 minutes later, she un-criticizes me."

"You know, anti-Trumpers don't think I hate him enough and pro-Trumpers don't think I love him enough. I call it like I see it," she said.

"I'm not going to be 100% with him. I'm not going to be 100% against him. It's not personal for me. This is about what's right for the country," she continued. "This is about how we're going to lead. This is about the direction we should go. It's not about the personal thoughts of an individual. It's about the fact that we have a country to save."

"Israel does not want Gaza"

Since Hamas' Oct. 7 surprise terror attack on Israel, Haley has called for Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to "finish" Hamas and has largely pushed aside concerns about the humanitarian crisis playing out in Gaza.

While she talked about making a distinction in combat between "civilians versus terrorist" at the November GOP debate, she has repeatedly dismissed the idea of a cease-fire repeatedly, including that evening.

"The best way to save people in Gaza is to eliminate Hamas because they should not live under that," Haley said at the debate. "If you do a cease-fire, people die, because we've done this before and what Hamas did before, they killed Israeli soldiers and they took more Israeli soldiers hostage. That's what would happen."

Davis asked Haley who she believed should control Gaza.

"I think Israel, Israel does not want Gaza, but they don't want terrorists living in Gaza. So I think it needs to be a situation where the Israeli border is safe and protected and Gaza is no longer a bed for terrorists to act. And so I think we have to figure out how this is going to work," she said.

"I don't think it's something that Israel wants. I do think that it's a place that should be free and open and safe, but not with terrorist activity. So Israel is going to have to be involved in that. You can't go through something like Oct. 7 and chance that happening to your people again because Hamas has already said that they're going back. They're going to do it again," she added.

"A personal issue": Haley discusses abortion

On the trail, Haley has tried to walk a fine line on abortion, dodging support for any specific federal ban and trying to strike a "humanizing" tone in her response. She often discusses a college roommate she says was raped and her own struggles with having children.

But she has also said she would sign "anything that would pass" the Senate, always adding the caveat that it would be unlikely any ban would pass under the current filibuster rules.

At the third Republican debate in Miami, Haley sidestepped directly answering questions about supporting Sen. Tim Scott's 15-week federal ban using that very tactic.

"When it comes to the federal law, which is what's being debated here, be honest: It's going to take 60 Senate votes, a majority of the House and a president to sign it," Haley said. "So no Republican president can ban abortions any more than a Democrat president can ban these state laws."

When referring to the case of Kate Cox, a 31-year-old Texas mother who had to go before a judge saying that she needed to get an abortion in order to save her uterus and preserve her chance to have healthy children in the future, Davis asked Haley how a Haley administration would handle the case. Haley responded that abortion is a personal issue.

"I don't know the details of the case that you're referring to. What I can tell you is I don't think that this issue needed to be in the hands of unelected justices. It needs to be in the hands of the people because it's a personal issue for every woman and man," said Haley.

"We're watching states make these decisions. Some states are going more pro-life. I welcome that. Some states are going more on the choice side. I wish that wasn't the case, but the people decide," she said.

"Uncalled for": Haley's daughter speaks on Ramaswamy TikTok comment

Haley, who was later joined by her daughter Rena during the interview, has said on the campaign trail that she would ban TikTok and has quibbled with some of her Republican competitors over the topic.

Most notably, Haley sparred with fellow candidate Vivek Ramaswamy after he brought up Haley's daughter previously having a TikTok account, which she has since deactivated.

"How do you get TikTok banned if you use it?" was the question posed to Ramaswamy, who himself has a TikTok account.

"I want to laugh at what Nikki Haley said. Her own daughter was actually using the app for a long time. So you might want to take care of your family first," Ramaswamy started, getting booed by some audience members.

Nikki Haley quickly told Ramaswamy to "Leave my daughter out of your voice" before calling him "scum."

Haley's daughter Rena told Davis that she felt Ramaswamy mentioning her use of TikTok was unnecessary and uncalled for.

"I mean, I felt like it was unnecessary," she said. "I feel like it's, people know not to bring kids into a situation. And so I felt like it was kind of uncalled for."

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ACLU defends free speech in furor over university presidents' handling of antisemitic rhetoric on campus

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(NEW YORK) -- As bipartisan pressure continued to mount Friday on three university presidents, including calls to resign and a donor withdrawing a $100 million gift, free speech advocates are defending how they responded when asked whether calls for "genocide of Jews" would violate their campus codes of conduct.

The ACLU, the organization that defends constitutional rights, is weighing in after the presidents of Harvard, the University of Pennsylvania and MIT faced furor for giving conditional answers to pointed questioning at a congressional hearing from New York Republican Rep. Elise Stefanik on how they would handle remarks in their university communities calling for the "genocide of Jews" and other phrases critics denounce as antisemitic.

The ACLU defended students' right to use terms such as "from the river to the sea" -- a slogan used by Hamas, designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group -- that supporters of Israel say means wiping Israel and its people off the map.

"There is no 'controversial speech' exception to the First Amendment. The First Amendment and the principles of academic freedom require higher education institutions to safeguard all protected speech -- even when that speech is contentious or offensive," Jenna Leventoff, senior policy counsel at ACLU, told ABC News.

"In fact, the First Amendment exists to protect exactly this kind of political expression. Therefore, phrases like 'from the river to the sea,' 'no ceasefire,' 'make America great again,' and 'no justice, no peace' are protected."

The First Amendment "protects speech no matter how offensive its content," according to the ACLU.

"Restrictions on speech by public colleges and universities amount to government censorship, in violation of the Constitution," the ACLU said in its "speech on campus" guidance. "Such restrictions deprive students of their right to invite speech they wish to hear, debate speech with which they disagree, and protest speech they find bigoted or offensive."

"An open society depends on liberal education, and the whole enterprise of liberal education is founded on the principle of free speech," the ACLU continued.

The ACLU has gone further to say "Where racist, misogynist, homophobic, and transphobic speech is concerned, the ACLU believes that more speech -- not less -- is the answer most consistent with our constitutional values."

While the ACLU is not exactly offering full-throated support for the universities' presidents themselves or their comments, the organization defends their decision to allow free speech on campus -- no matter how controversial or targeted it may be.

After facing backlash for testifying that it would be a "context-dependent decision" on whether calls for "genocide of Jews" violated the university's code of conduct, Penn President Liz Magill issued an apology video in which she said the university would reexamine its policies immediately.

The civil liberties group Foundation of Individual Rights and Expression said Magill's decision to clarify and evaluate school policies is "deeply troubling" because it indicates she may alter the free speech the organization seeks to preserve. Also, it is a signal that the school is "willing to abandon its commitment to freedom of expression."

"Were Penn to retreat from the robust protection of expressive rights, university administrators would make inevitably political decisions about who may speak and what may be said on campus," FIRE wrote in a statement. "Such a result would undoubtedly compromise the knowledge-generating process free expression enables and for which universities exist."

Call for presidents' removal grow; donations could dwindle
Meanwhile, the presidents and their universities continue to face backlash from those who believe their responses were too weak and their policies in need of further scrutiny, including through an investigation led by the House committee that called them to testify, setting off the new furor.

The Republican-led House Education Committee said it will investigate the policies and disciplinary procedures at Penn, Harvard and MIT, the committee's chairwoman, Republican Rep. Virginia Foxx, said Thursday. The probe will include "substantial document requests" and subpoenas "if a full response is not immediately forthcoming," Foxx said in a statement.

Calls for the ouster of the presidents continues to grow -- after Stefanik called for their resignations during the hearing.

Pennsylvania's Republican members of Congress sent Penn's Board of Trustees a letter Thursday calling for Magill's resignation, in part, because during Tuesday's hearing she "refused to say whether calling for the genocide of all Jewish people is bullying and harassment according to the university's code of conduct."

"On December 5th, she confirmed that hateful, dangerous rhetoric is welcomed on the grounds of one of the oldest higher education institutions in the United States. Her actions in front of Congress were an embarrassment to the university, its student body, and its vast network of proud alumni," the six Republicans wrote in the letter. "Quite frankly, it was an utter disgrace to our commonwealth and the entire nation."

New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand said the three presidents should step down.

"You cannot call for the genocide of Jews, the genocide of any group of people, and not say that that's harassment," she told Fox News.

The Daily Pennsylvanian reports the Board of Advisors at Wharton -- Penn's business school -- is calling on the school to immediately replace Magill.

Donors are also joining the call to remove the presidents -- and threatening to pull their gifts if changes are not made.

Penn mega-donor Ross Stevens, the CEO of Stone Ridge Asset Management, said he will pull his roughly $100 million gift to the university because the of the school's "permissive approach to hate speech calling for violence against Jews and laissez faire attitude toward harassment and discrimination against Jewish students," according to a letter Stevens' lawyer sent the university. Stevens' donation could be available should Magill step down, the letter said. Axios first reported Stevens' decision.

Another major Penn donor and former governor of Utah, Jon Huntsman, said his foundation will "close its checkbook" on future donations, according to reporting from the Daily Pennsylvanian.

A Penn spokesman said it wouldn't comment on the personal decisions of its donors. The university declined to comment on calls for its president's resignation.

Second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who is Jewish, spoke at the lighting of the National Menorah Thursday night where he condemned the university presidents' remarks, saying that their "lack of moral clarity is simply unacceptable."

"Let me be clear: When Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or identity, and when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism and it must be condemned, and condemned unequivocally and without context," he said.

Harvard did not immediately respond to ABC News' requests for comment.

MIT pointed ABC News to a statement from its governing board, the Executive Committee of the MIT Corporation, that said it backs President Kornbluth "for her outstanding academic leadership, her judgment, her integrity, her moral compass, and her ability to unite our community around MIT’s core values."

"She has done excellent work in leading our community, including in addressing antisemitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hate, which we reject utterly at MIT. She has our full and unreserved support,” the statement said.

ABC News' Brian Hartman contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Giuliani's financial woes could compound as he faces mounting legal exposure

Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- In 2007, when Rudy Giuliani launched his presidential bid, he seemed both politically and financially at the height of his powers.

His image as "America's mayor" in the wake of the 9/11 terror attacks made him an immediate contender for the Republican presidential nomination. And in the half-decade since he left New York's City Hall, lucrative consulting work and speaking fees had boosted his net worth to between $18 and $70 million, according to financial disclosures he filed at the time.

But Giuliani's presidential ambitions fizzled almost immediately, and the former New York City mayor failed to make it through Super Tuesday. It was a humbling political tumble -- and now, some 15 years later, his wallet appears to have taken an equally humbling hit.

A deluge of civil and criminal lawsuits has left Giuliani experiencing what his attorney called "financial difficulties."

The twin threats of potential legal exposure and an apparent depletion of resources could continue to compound in the months and perhaps years ahead, as the onetime attorney to former President Donald Trump battles the fallout from his activities in the wake of the 2020 presidential election.

Next week, a Washington, D.C.-based jury will determine what penalties Giuliani will owe a pair of Georgia election workers he was found to have defamed. He is already on the hook for some $230,000, and the election workers are seeking between $15 million and $43 million at trial.

Giuliani stands to owe millions more if he loses cases brought by two voting machine companies and his own longtime personal attorney, and he faces an unrelated sexual harassment suit for $10 million from a former business associate. In October, President Joe Biden's son Hunter Biden also sued Giuliani for unspecified damages, accusing him of mishandling personal data belonging to him.

Giuliani has denied all claims, and "unequivocally denies the allegations" in the sexual harassment suit.

But perhaps more concerning for Giuliani is the criminal racketeering indictment Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis returned in August against him and 18 other co-defendants, including Trump, accusing them of unlawfully seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election in the state of Georgia. Giuliani -- who, like many of the other defendants, faces potential jail time in the case -- has pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Even if Giuliani emerges victorious from his legal tribulations, fighting them will undoubtedly rack up an immense cost.

"He has made it pretty clear that he doesn't have the resources to handle litigation," said one source familiar with Giuliani's legal situation.

To help raise money, Giuliani has turned to a deep-pocketed former client -- Trump himself. The former president reportedly recently hosted a $100,000-a-plate dinner at his Bedminster, New Jersey, estate, with proceeds going to Giuliani.

It was not immediately clear how much money the event raised -- though Giuliani's son has suggested it eclipsed $1 million -- or how much of those funds have made it to Giuliani. But one thing is clear, according to Giuliani himself: He needs the help.

Election lies -- and costs
In court filings over the summer, Giuliani's lawyer wrote a federal judge asking to defer payments Giuliani was ordered to pay to Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, two former election workers, citing "financial difficulties" as a result of fighting a slew of litigation elsewhere.

"Giuliani needs more time to pay the attorneys' fees," an attorney for Giuliani wrote.

Since then, the judge in that case has issued a summary judgment finding Giuliani liable for defamatory remarks he made about the two women during the Georgia presidential election recount. In a December 2020 appearance before a committee of the Georgia state legislature, Giuliani told lawmakers that a video circulating online showed "Ruby Freeman and Shaye Freeman Moss ... quite obviously surreptitiously passing around USB ports, as if they're vials of heroin or cocaine."

The judge initially ordered Giuliani to pay roughly $132,000 to cover Freeman and Moss' attorneys' fees -- but after Giuliani missed a deadline to submit payment earlier this month, the judge tacked on an additional $104,000. The judge ordered Giuliani to appear in person at a trial beginning next week to determine additional damages.

Beyond what Giuliani already owes in that lawsuit, he could lose even more substantial sums in his other suits.

In early 2021, voting machine company Dominion Voting Systems filed a string of lawsuits after Giuliani and others targeted the firm with false accusations that it orchestrated a plot to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Dominion's $1.3 billion lawsuit against Giuliani accuses him of carrying out "defamatory falsehoods" about Dominion, in part to enrich himself through legal fees and his podcast.

Dominion has since won an historic $787 million settlement against Fox News after filing a similar lawsuit against the conservative media giant seeking $1.6 billion dollars. The suit was settled just minutes before opening statements were set to begin in the trial.

Days after the Dominion suit was filed, Smartmatic, a voting technology company, followed suit, claiming that Giuliani, Fox News, and others "engaged in a widespread disinformation campaign" about the company's voting software rigging the election around the country.

Smartmatic is seeking a total of $2.7 billion in damages from Giuliani and the other defendants. Giuliani and other defendants have denied wrongdoing.

Paying his own attorneys
In September, Giuliani faced another potential legal blow from an unlikely source: his own longtime attorney and personal friend, Bob Costello.

Costello and his partners at Davidoff Butcher & Citron LLP accused Giuliani of owing them nearly $1.4 million for work defending him during numerous criminal, civil and congressional investigations. Giuliani has paid $214,000 to the firm since November 2019, when he retained Costello, the lawsuit said.

Costello represented Giuliani during criminal investigations in New York, Georgia and Washington and in 10 civil lawsuits in various state and federal courts, as well as during the House select committee's Jan. 6 investigation, and in disciplinary proceedings involving Giuliani's law license.

Giuliani has denied Costello's claim, but the allegation leveled by Costello is not the first of its kind.

In May, Bruce Castor, a former Trump impeachment attorney who agreed to defend Giuliani in a 2020 election-related civil suit, accused the former New York mayor of bilking him out of his attorneys' fees.

In court papers seeking to withdraw from the case, Castor, who said he had known Giuliani for decades, unloaded on Giuliani for his failure to cooperate with court-ordered documents on time -- telling the court that Giuliani "failed to provide the retainer sum" or "work even in the slightest with [Castor] to advance this case."

"That he promised to send the money and then didn't was a shock to me, and not in keeping with the character of the man I thought I knew when we were both prosecutors and later watching him from afar as mayor," Castor told ABC News. "Something had change in him."

A spokesperson for Giuliani rejected the claims at the time, insisting that Giuliani had indeed paid Castor for his work.

In the Fulton County racketeering case, two attorneys who initially represented Giuliani have since withdrawn, without public explanation.

One of those attorneys, David Wolfe, had previously defended Giuliani's payment record.

"Of course I'm getting paid for my work," Wolfe said in an interview on CNN over the summer. "I'm doing my work, I've been paid to do my work, and it's going to cause some problems for the state to respond to it."

But a source familiar with the matter told ABC News at the time that it remained unclear how long Wolfe would remain on the case. Wolfe resigned weeks later.

In the bank
Despite his entreaties for help and his self-described "financial difficulties," Giuliani's actual financial picture remains opaque, and at times has seemed to contradict his declarations of poverty in court.

Giuliani earns some $400,000 annually from advertisers on his daily WABC radio program, according to the New York Times, and in August, he traveled by private jet from New Jersey's Teterboro Airport to his initial court appearance in Georgia to face the racketeering charges. The longtime New York resident also recently listed his Upper East Side apartment for more than $6.5 million, according to Insider.

Ted Goodman, a political adviser to Giuliani, told ABC News that Giuliani's livestream show, "America's Mayor Live," brings in over five figures per month from advertisers.

The U.S. district judge overseeing Freeman and Moss' defamation case, Beryl Howell, recently cited Giuliani's luxury apartment and private flight in court documents, framing them as evidence that Giuliani's request to defer payments to the election workers was "dubious."

"In short, based on the current record, Giuliani has failed to show that he cannot pay the reimbursement fees he owes," Howell wrote.

Judge Howell had ordered Giuliani to share detailed financial information with attorneys for Freeman and Moss ahead of their upcoming trial to determine damages owed. Giuliani was supposed to submit details about his "assets and net worth," including "savings accounts, money market funds, mutual fund accounts, hedge fund accounts and certificates of deposit ... and financial statements."

Giuliani missed the Sept. 20 deadline to share all the information the judge requested; attorneys for Freeman and Moss said Giuliani only turned over a 2018 tax return and his divorce settlement from the same year. Judge Howell will instruct the jury to consider their request for additional sanctions against Giuliani at trial.

"It would be difficult to find a clearer example of an informed, sophisticated, and well represented party openly flouting orders of a federal court," attorneys for Freeman and Moss wrote in a recent filing in the case.

"Accordingly," they wrote, "severe sanctions are both warranted and necessary."

"The Rudy Giuliani you see today is the same man who took down the Mafia, cleaned up New York City and comforted the nation following September 11th," Goodman said in a statement to ABC News. "I implore folks to take the life of public service and accomplishments of Rudy Giuliani, and name a more consequential mayor or U.S. attorney in our nation's history."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

Timeline: Hunter Biden under legal, political scrutiny

Marilyn Nieves/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Five years into a federal probe of his personal and professional life, President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, is facing additional legal exposure in the coming months after a summer punctuated by setbacks.

U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a Trump-era appointee who has since been elevated to special counsel, has indicted the younger Biden on felony gun charges after a plea deal between the two parties fell apart in a Delaware courtroom in July.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this week said he would initiate an impeachment inquiry against President Biden over his alleged role in his son's influence-peddling, despite a dearth of concrete evidence.

Here's a timeline of Hunter Biden's legal and political scrutiny.

Dec. 10, 2020

A month after Joe Biden wins the 2020 presidential election, Hunter Biden announces that federal prosecutors in Delaware are investigating his "tax affairs."

A source with knowledge of the investigation tells ABC News that the tax probe began in 2018, but that the U.S. attorney's office in Delaware waited to notify Hunter Biden's legal team due to sensitivities around the election.

Investigators are looking into Hunter's business dealings in China and elsewhere, including scrutinizing whether he may have committed tax crimes stemming from those overseas business dealings, sources tell ABC News.

Dec. 21, 2020

Outgoing Attorney General William Barr says he doesn't intend to appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, as President Donald Trump and others have suggested.

April 2, 2021

In a new memoir, Hunter Biden addresses many of the topics that emerged as fodder for his father's political foes during the presidential campaign, including his struggles with substance addiction, his dealings in China, and his seat on the board of a Ukrainian oil and gas firm during his father's tenure as vice president -- a role that later led to then-President Donald Trump's first impeachment trial on charges that Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Hunter Biden's position on the board. Trump was subsequently acquitted.

The memoir, titled "Beautiful Things," also offers lurid details as it chronicles the younger Biden's repeated relapses into drug and alcohol abuse.

March 30, 2022

ABC News reports that the federal investigation into Hunter Biden over his tax affairs has intensified, according to sources.

Sources say a number of witnesses have appeared before a grand jury Wilmington, Delaware, in recent months, and have been asked about payments Hunter Biden received while serving on the board of directors of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, as well as about how he paid off tax obligations in recent years.

Nov. 17, 2022

Fresh off the GOP regaining control of the Senate in the midterm elections, congressional Republicans say they're poised to push ahead with an investigation into President Joe Biden's family, including Hunter Biden, in the coming session.

Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and James Comer of Kentucky, two high-ranking members expected to helm powerful committees when Republicans take control of Congress in January, pledge to "pursue all avenues" of wrongdoing, calling investigations into the president's family a "top priority."

Dec. 21, 2022

Ahead of an expected deluge of Republican probes, Hunter Biden retains high-powered defense lawyer Abbe Lowell to help navigate congressional oversight.

March 1, 2023

Testifying in his annual oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Merrick Garland says that U.S. Attorney David Weiss has been told he has "full authority" to make any charging decisions stemming from the Hunter Biden investigation, even if that would involve bringing a case in a district outside of Delaware.

Garland also says he has pledged to Weiss any resources necessary to conduct his investigation, and has received no reports thus far of the his investigation being stymied in any way by personnel at the main Justice Department.

March 17, 2023

Attorneys for Hunter Biden file counterclaims alleging invasion of privacy in response to a defamation lawsuit brought by Delaware-based computer repairman John Paul Mac Isaac, who they say triggered the infamous laptop controversy in the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

The counterclaim is in response to an ongoing defamation lawsuit against Hunter Biden and others that was filed in October 2019 by Mac Isaac, who Hunter Biden's attorney say obtained and later disseminated data from a laptop allegedly belonging to the younger Biden.

April 20, 2023

ABC News reports that a supervisor at the IRS has told lawmakers that he has information that suggests the Biden administration could be mishandling the investigation into Hunter Biden, according to sources.

In a letter to lawmakers obtained by ABC News, the lawyer for the IRS whistleblower says his client is an IRS criminal supervisory special agent "who has been overseeing the ongoing and sensitive investigation of a high-profile, controversial subject since early 2020 and would like to make protected whistleblower disclosures to Congress."

The letter says that "The protected disclosures: (1) contradict sworn testimony to Congress by a senior political appointee, (2) involve failure to mitigate clear conflicts of interest in the ultimate disposition of the case, and (3) detail examples of preferential treatment and politics improperly infecting decisions and protocols that would normally be followed by career law enforcement professionals in similar circumstances if the subject were not politically connected."

May 3, 2023

ABC News reports that the GOP-led House Oversight Committee has issued a subpoena demanding the FBI produce a record related to an alleged "criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Joe Biden and a foreign national."

The subpoena seeks an unclassified FD-1023 document, which is generally defined as a report from an informant. The White House denounces the contents of the document as "anonymous innuendo."

May 16, 2023

Attorneys for the IRS whistleblower inform key members of Congress that their client -- along with his "entire investigative team" -- has been removed from the probe into the president's son. The Justice Department defers comment to U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who does not comment on the claim.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer announces his intention to initiate contempt of Congress hearings over FBI Director Chris Wray's refusal to physically turn over the FD-1023 document that Republicans believe is related to President Joe Biden.

June 20, 2023

Hunter Biden agrees to plead guilty to a pair of tax-related misdemeanors and enter into a pretrial diversion agreement that would enable him to avoid prosecution on one felony gun charge, potentially ending the yearslong probe.

According to the agreement, the younger Biden will acknowledge his failure to pay taxes on income he received in 2017 and 2018, until they were paid in 2020 by a third party, identified by ABC News as attorney and confidant Kevin Morris. In exchange, prosecutors will recommend probation, meaning Hunter Biden will likely avoid prison time. For the gun charge, he will agree to pretrial diversion, with the charge being dropped if he adheres to certain terms.

June 21, 2023

U.S. Judge Maryellen Noreika sets a court date of July 26 for Hunter Biden to make his initial court appearance related to the plea deal he has agreed to.

June 22, 2023

The GOP-led House Ways and Means Committee releases transcripts of their interviews with two IRS whistleblowers that they say show that senior Biden administration officials stymied U.S. Attorney David Weiss' investigation into Hunter Biden. In their testimony, the whistleblowers claim that senior Justice Department officials blocked prosecutors' attempts to bring charges against Hunter Biden in Washington and California, and refused to grant Weiss special counsel status.

Justice Department officials dispute the claim, saying, "As both the Attorney General and U.S. Attorney David Weiss have said, U.S. Attorney Weiss has full authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges as he deems appropriate. He needs no further approval to do so."

June 23, 2023

ABC News reports that House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer has been given access the redacted FD-1023 document that allegedly contains claims about what Comer calls a "criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions." But Comer tells reporters that reading the document was "a total waste of my time," as more than half of the document was redacted. Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight panel, says the Trump-era Justice Department investigated the claims and, "in August 2020, Attorney General [William] Barr and his hand-picked U.S. Attorney signed off on closing the assessment."

Congressional Republicans have also seized on a July 2017 WhatsApp message in which the younger Biden purportedly threatened a Chinese business associate by invoking his father's political connections, allegedly writing, "I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled. Tell the director that I would like to resolve this now before it gets out of hand, and now means tonight."

"And, Z, if I get a call or text from anyone involved in this other than you, Zhang, or the chairman, I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction," the message continues. "I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father."

At the time of the message, Joe Biden's term as vice president had already ended and he held no political office. But Republicans say the message undercuts President Biden's claim that he never discussed overseas business endeavors with his son. Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, reiterates that "the president was not in business with his son."

Meanwhile, Attorney General Merrick Garland disputes outright the IRS' whistleblowers' claim that Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney David Weiss had requested to be named a special counsel but was turned down, saying, "Mr. Weiss never made that request to me."

June 26, 2023

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, regarding the IRS whistleblowers' claim that Garland turned down Weiss' request to be named a special counsel in the Hunter Biden probe, tells Fox News, "If it comes true what the IRS whistleblower is saying, we're going to start impeachment inquiries on the attorney general."

July 12, 2023

ABC News reports that Weiss has pushed back on the IRS whistleblowers' allegations, writing in a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham of the Senate Judiciary Committee: "To clarify an apparent misperception and to avoid future confusion, I wish to make one point clear: in this case, I have not requested Special Counsel designation."

Separately, in an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray is asked by Rep. Matt Gaetz, "Are you protecting the Bidens?"

"Absolutely not," Wray answers.

July 13, 2023

Hunter Biden's attorney Abbe Lowell sends a cease-and-desist letter to Trump's legal team claiming that Trump's rhetoric on social media and elsewhere "could lead to [Hunter Biden's] or his family's injury."

"This is not a false alarm," Lowell writes. "You should make clear to Mr. Trump -- if you have not done so already -- that Mr. Trump's words have caused harm in the past and threaten to do so again if he does not stop."

July 19, 2023

In congressional testimony, the two IRS whistleblowers -- 14-year IRS veteran Gary Shapley and IRS investigator Joseph Ziegler, who has previously been unidentified -- reiterate their claims that Justice Department officials stymied Weiss' probe of Hunter Biden.

"It appeared to me, based on what I experienced, that the U.S. Attorney in Delaware in our investigation was constantly hamstrung, limited and marginalized by DOJ officials," Ziegler says. "I still think that a special counsel is necessary for this investigation."

July 20, 2023

In an unusual move, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, releases the FD-1023 document containing a confidential FBI informant's unverified claim that, years ago, the Biden family "pushed" a Ukrainian oligarch to pay them millions of dollars.

The document cites an unnamed source who says that in 2015, Mykola Zlochevsky, the chief executive of Burisma -- the Ukrainian energy firm that hired Hunter Biden as a board member in 2013 -- claimed that he was "forced" to pay Joe and Hunter Biden $5 million each, apparently in exchange for orchestrating the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor named Viktor Shokin who was purportedly investigating Burisma at the time.

The assertion that the elder Biden, who was then vice president, acted to have Shokin removed in an effort to protect Burisma has been undercut by widespread criticism of the former Ukrainian prosecutor that led the U.S. State Department itself to seek Shokin's ouster.

A White House spokesperson, responding to the document's release, says "congressional Republicans, in their eagerness to go after President Biden regardless of the truth, continue to push claims that have been debunked for years."

July 24. 2023

Under questioning from reporters, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre reiterates that President Biden "was never in business with his son."

July 26, 2023

Hunter Biden appears before U.S. Judge Maryellen Noreika to formally agree to the plea deal negotiated in June -- but during a contentious hearing, Judge Noreika defers the deal after taking issue with the structure of the arrangement.

Noreika requests additional briefings from the parties before she'll determine next steps. In the meantime, Hunter Biden enters a plea of not guilty.

July 31, 2023

Former Hunter Biden associate Devon Archer testifies before the House Oversight panel, telling legislators that Burisma, through Hunter Biden, benefitted by its association with the so-called "Biden brand" -- but that Hunter Biden only provided the "illusion of access" to his father and did not discuss his business dealings with him, according to committee members who participated in the closed-door hearing.

Aug. 3, 2023

House Republicans release the complete transcript of Devon Archer's testimony before the Oversight panel, which include his recollection that Hunter Biden put his father on speakerphone or referenced his father being on the phone in front of business associates "maybe 20 times" in the 10 years that Archer and Hunter Biden were business associates -- which included a period when Biden was vice president -- but that Joe Biden's interactions with Hunter Biden's associates were "not related to commercial business" and that Joe Biden had no involvement with Burisma or took any actions to benefit Burisma or Hunter Biden, according to the fully transcribed interview with the committee.

Archer confirms that he was not aware of any wrongdoing by President Biden, according to the transcription.

Aug. 11, 2023

Attorney General Merrick Garland appoints Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss as special counsel in his investigation of Hunter Biden, after the Trump appointee asked Garland to be appointed special counsel in the case.

Weiss says in court documents filed within minutes of his appointment that plea negotiations have reached "an impasse" and that he intends to drop the misdemeanor tax charges against Hunter Biden in Delaware and instead bring them in California and Washington, D.C., where prosecutors say the alleged misconduct occurred.

Aug. 14, 2023

Attorneys for Hunter Biden say in a court filing that federal prosecutors reneged on the plea deal that would have resolved tax and gun charges against Hunter Biden.

Despite their acknowledgement that the plea agreement on tax charges is "moot," attorneys for Hunter Biden argue that the second part of the deal -- a diversion agreement on a separate gun charge -- remains in effect, since it is a separate contract negotiated and entered into by the parties outside the judge's purview.

Aug. 15, 2023

In court filings, prosecutors for Weiss push back on Hunter Biden's assertion that they "reneged" on the ill-fated plea deal, and dispute defense counsel's claim that the diversion agreement on a gun possession charge remains "valid and binding."

Sept. 6, 2023

Court documents filed by special counsel David Weiss say that Weiss intends to bring an indictment against Hunter Biden by the end of the month, pertaining to the felony gun charge that was previously brought under the pretrial diversion agreement brokered by the two parties.

Hunter Biden's legal team argues that the pretrial diversion agreement remains in effect.

"We believe the signed and filed diversion agreement remains valid and prevents any additional charges from being filed against Mr. Biden," says Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Hunter Biden. "We expect a fair resolution of the sprawling, 5-year investigation into Mr. Biden that was based on the evidence and the law, not outside political pressure."

Sept. 14, 2023

Hunter Biden is indicted by special counsel David Weiss on felony charges that he lied on a federal form when he said he was drug-free at the time that he purchased a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver in October 2018. His legal team maintains that the pretrial diversion agreement from July remains in effect, though Weiss' team says it's null and void.

"As expected, prosecutors filed charges today that they deemed were not warranted just six weeks ago following a five-year investigation into this case," Hunter Biden attorney Abbe Lowell says in a statement. "We believe these charges are barred by the agreement the prosecutors made with Mr. Biden, the recent rulings by several federal courts that this statute is unconstitutional, and the facts that he did not violate that law, and we plan to demonstrate all of that in court."

Sept. 18, 2023

Hunter Biden files a lawsuit against the IRS over alleged "unlawful disclosures" made by the pair of whistleblowers who accused government prosecutors of mishandling their investigation into him.

Sept. 19, 2023

Hunter Biden's attorney files court papers seeking to have his client's arraignment, scheduled for Oct. 3 in a Delaware court, take place via video conference instead of in person.

Sept. 20, 2023

A judge denies Hunter Biden's effort to avoid appearing in person at his arraignment on federal gun charges, ordering him to appear at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 3.

The same day, Attorney General Merrick Garland, testifying for five hours before the House Judiciary Committee, is grilled by GOP lawmakers about his department's handling of criminal probes into Hunter Biden and others. Garland pushes back on GOP claims that he's taken any directives from the White House, saying, "I am not the president's lawyer. I am not Congress' prosecutor. The Justice Department works for the American people. Our job is to follow the facts and the law, and that is what we do."

Sept. 26, 2023

Hunter Biden files a lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, accusing the former Trump attorney of computer fraud over his role in obtaining and sharing the alleged contents of the infamous laptop. In a statement responding to the suit, Giuliani adviser Ted Goodman says, "I'm not surprised he's now falsely claiming his laptop hard drive was manipulated by Mayor Giuliani, considering the sordid material and potential evidence of crimes on that thing."

Oct. 3, 2023

Hunter Biden, appearing in the same Delaware courthouse where his federal plea deal with prosecutors fell apart over the summer, formally enters a plea of not guilty to the three felony gun charges that were part of the original plea agreement.

Nov. 3, 2023

ABC News reports that Hunter Biden is urging the Justice Department to investigate his former business associate Tony Bobulinski over claims that Bobulinski lied to federal investigators during an interview in the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election when he alleged that the Bidens had lied to the public about the nature of then-candidate Joe Biden's involvement in Hunter Biden's proposed overseas business ventures.

Nov. 8, 2023

Hunter Biden is subpoenaed by House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer to appear before the committee, along with his former business associate Rob Walker, President Biden's brother James Biden, and other members of the Biden family.

Nov. 15, 2023

Hunter Biden's attorneys file a motion seeking court approval to issue subpoenas to former President Donald Trump, former Attorney General William Barr, and two ex-Justice Department officials for documents they say could shed light on whether the federal gun charges Hunter Biden is facing were the result of "a vindictive or selective prosecution arising from an unrelenting pressure campaign beginning in the last administration."

Nov. 16, 2023

ABC News reports that special counsel David Weiss is using a Los Angeles-based federal grand jury to pursue the investigation into Hunter Biden's tax affairs, according to sources. The grand jury has issued a subpoena to James Biden, the brother of President Joe Biden, as part of the probe, a source says.

Nov. 28, 2023

Responding to his subpoena to appear before the House Oversight Committee, Hunter Biden, in a letter from his attorney to Republican lawmakers, says he is willing to testify before the panel -- but only in a public forum.

Dec. 7, 2023

Special counsel David Weiss files nine tax-related charges against Hunter Biden, accusing him of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes from 2016 to 2020. The indictment alleges that the younger Biden earned millions of dollars from foreign entities and "spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle at the same time he chose not to pay his taxes."

Hunter Biden's attorney, Abbe Lowell, claims the 56-page indictment includes "no new evidence" and says, "Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter's last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought."


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ABC News to host GOP presidential debate before New Hampshire primary

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(MANCHESTER, N.H.) -- ABC News, partnering with WMUR-TV, announced Thursday it will host a Republican presidential primary debate in New Hampshire next month, just days ahead of its first-in-the-nation GOP primary election.

Held in coordination with the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, the Thursday Jan. 18 debate will take place at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The broadcast will come just three days behind the Iowa caucuses, the first electoral test of the GOP primary field, which includes former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The debate also comes five days ahead of the New Hampshire primary election.

More details about the debate, format, qualifications, moderators, as well as ABC News' coverage will be announced at a later time.

"ABC News is excited to host this Republican debate with our partners in the nation's first primary state of New Hampshire," said ABC News President Kim Godwin in a statement. "Our powerhouse political team has been working hard on this debate to provide our audience with the opportunity to hear from the candidates at this decisive moment in the primary race."

The first four debates, which aired on Fox, Fox Business, NBC News and NewsNation, were Republican National Committee-sanctioned debates. ABC News' debate is "subject to RNC guidelines," according to Chris Ager, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee.

"The New Hampshire Republican State Committee is looking forward to working with our partners at ABC News, WMUR and St. Anselm's College for a New Hampshire Republican presidential primary debate subject to RNC guidelines," said Ager in a statement.

CNN also announced on Thursday it will also host GOP presidential debates next month in New Hampshire, along with Iowa.

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Special counsel files nine tax-related charges against Hunter Biden

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(NEW YORK) -- Special counsel David Weiss leveled a nine-count indictment against Hunter Biden late Thursday, accusing President Joe Biden's son of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes from 2016 to 2020.

The charges, which carry a penalty of up to 17 years in prison, include six misdemeanor charges and three felonies, including alleged tax evasion and filing a false return.

The sprawling 56-page indictment alleges that Hunter Biden earned millions of dollars from foreign entities in Ukraine, Romania and China and "spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle at the same time he chose not to pay his taxes."

Prosecutors sought to demonstrate that Hunter Biden had the means to pay his taxes from 2016 to 2020, but instead chose to spend his money elsewhere, including $683,212 in "Payments -- Various Women," another $397,530 on "Clothing & Accessories," and $188,960 on "Adult Entertainment."

Hunter Biden "also used the business line of credit to make $27,316 in payments to an online pornography website, which in total accounted for one fifth of all of the business line of credit expenditures," prosecutors wrote.

ABC News previously reported that Hunter Biden borrowed $2 million from his lawyer and confidant Kevin Morris to pay the IRS for back taxes, penalties and liens that he owed.

Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Hunter Biden, framed the indictment as including "no new evidence" and a result of Weiss "[bowing] to Republican pressure."

"Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter's last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought," Lowell said in a statement.

Prosecutors signaled their intention to bring tax-related charges against the president's son months ago after plea negotiations broke down. A Los Angeles-based grand jury has since issued a subpoena to James Biden, the brother of President Biden, as part of their work investigating Hunter Biden, a source familiar with the matter said.

Weiss' office filed a felony gun indictment against Biden in September. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

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Ramaswamy defends debunked conspiracy theories he shared at Republican debate

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(WASHINGTON) -- Entrepreneur and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy shared multiple conspiratorial or controversial claims at Wednesday night's debate, amplifying them to a new level of prominence in the 2024 race.

Ramaswamy touted himself as an outsider willing to speak "truth" on stage. But most of his assertions on hot-button topics like Jan. 6, the 9/11 terror attacks and demographic changes in the U.S. were groundless or elevated ideas that have been repeatedly debunked.

He told ABC News at a campaign event the following day that he was "proud" of having stirred discussion of the issues, he said. He also said he didn't believe the theories had, in fact, been debunked.

"I think it is important to speak to the hard truths and I would love to have a strong discussion on the merits of it," he insisted.

Jan. 6, 2021, riot at Capitol wasn't 'inside job'

"Why am I the only person on this stage, at least, who can say that Jan. 6 now does look like it was an inside job?" Ramaswamy said at one point in the debate.

That baseless idea has become popular among fringes on the far-right and on social media, at times even winning support from lawmakers, including Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who last month claimed without evidence that there were "undercover federal agents disguised" in the crowd during the rioting at the U.S. Capitol, as Congress had gathered to certify Donald Trump's election defeat.

More than 700 people have admitted to a variety of charges in connection with Jan. 6 -- 210 of those people having pleaded to felonies -- according to the Department of Justice; and more than 130 people have been convicted at trial.

In multiple hearings, convicted rioters have put forward a range of different excuses for their actions -- with many pointing the finger at Trump and conservative media outlets who pushed lies about a stolen election while framing the Electoral College certification as the final opportunity to prevent Trump's removal from office.

'Great replacement theory'

Ramaswamy also boosted the "great replacement theory," the white nationalist belief that immigration policies are designed specifically to dilute the political power of white Americans by making them a smaller share of the population.

The idea has been elevated by media figures like Tucker Carlson and inspired mass violence, including the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, church massacre and the 2019 shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

Ramaswamy alleged during the debate that the theory "is not some grand right-wing conspiracy theory but a basic statement of the Democratic Party’s platform."

He subsequently said on CNN, "I don't care about skin color ... Do you share the ideals of this country?"

He also said that he did not to stir violence. "I want to be careful in the way that I speak about this," he said.

But he added, "As a leader, it is important to give people the permission to say in public what they'll otherwise say in private."

While it is true that Democrats have historically adopted more liberal immigration policies and that the country's demographics are becoming less white and more racially diverse over time, there is no evidence that those changes are being engineered by politicians to ensure they can win power with those voters.

More specifically, although non-white voters have favored Democrats in presidential elections, they do not all vote as a uniform bloc.

In fact, Trump made small but noticeable gains with Latino and Black voters from 2016 to 2020, according to exit polling; and other Republicans have seen major success with some of those voters, too.

In the 2022 race, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won Latino voters over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, exit polls showed.

Reviving claims over 9/11

Ramaswamy revived his claims about 9/11 terrorist attacks, carried out by al-Qaida, and the groups truly behind it. He argued Wednesday that "the government lied to us for 20 years about Saudi Arabia's involvement in 9/11."

Unlike his other theories on the debate stage, Ramaswamy's comment about Sept. 11 reflects -- at least partially -- well-known suspicions that were investigated by authorities. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists were Saudi citizens.

Families of 9/11 victims and 9/11 survivors have for years been embroiled in a legal battle against Saudi Arabia's government, claiming it has some responsibility.

The kingdom, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, has long denied any involvement.

The 2004 the 9/11 Commission report reads, in part, "It does not appear that any government other than the Taliban financially supported al Qaeda before 9/11, although some governments may have contained al Qaeda sympathizers who turned a blind eye to al Qaeda's fundraising activities."

"Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of al Qaeda funding, but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization. (This conclusion does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al Qaeda)," the report goes on to say.

ABC News' Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

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House censures Rep. Jamaal Bowman for falsely pulling fire alarm

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(NEW YORK) -- The House voted Thursday to censure Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York for falsely pulling a fire alarm in a House office building in September.

The final vote was 214-191 with five members voting present. Three Democrats voted with Republicans to censure Bowman.

After the vote, Bowman stood in the well of the House surrounded by a large group of Democrats.

The New York congressman was caught on video pulling the fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building on Sept. 30 -- the day the House voted on funding the government. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for falsely triggering the alarm.

Thursday vote happened after a Democratic motion to table -- or kill -- the censure resolution failed by a vote of 201-216 Wednesday evening.

Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., introduced the censure resolution as privileged on Tuesday -- giving the House two legislative days to vote on it.

Bowman is the fifth House member censured in the 21st century, joining Reps. Charles Rangel, Paul Gosar, Adam Schiff and -- most recently -- Rashida Tlaib. Bowman would become the 27th House member censured in U.S. history, according to the Office of the House Historian.

Historically, censuring a House member is rare, but has been more recently used as a political tool.

During fiery House floor debate on the censure resolution Wednesday evening, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries defended Rep. Jamaal Bowman and called the resolution "fraudulent and fictitious."

"The behavior of the extreme MAGA Republicans – censuring member after member after member has brought disgrace to the institution. To the House of Representatives," Jeffries said.

Jeffries said the House is "wasting time talking about fire alarms."

Jeffries even dared House Republicans to censure him.

"Going after Democrats repeatedly week after week after week, because you have nothing better to do -- then I volunteer. Censure me next. Censure me next. That's how worthless your censure effort is. It has no credibility, no integrity, no legitimacy. Censure me next. And I'll take that censure and I'll wear it -- next week, next month, next year -- like a badge of honor," Jeffries said.


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House Republicans to move forward on formalizing Biden impeachment inquiry next week

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(NEW YORK) -- The House Rules Committee announced Thursday it will consider a resolution next week to formalize Republicans' impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said earlier this week that he believes that Republicans would get the votes they need to formalize their inquiry.

House Republicans have alleged, without proof, that Biden was directly involved in and benefited from his family's business dealings. The White House has called the inquiry "extreme politics at its worst."

Lawmakers have held one public hearing, which offered several contentious moments but no new evidence.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


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