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Republican Jim Jordan May Replace McCarthy as House Speaker

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Republican Jim Jordan May Replace McCarthy as House Speaker

Republican Jim Jordan’s combative, in-your-face style of politics has made the former college wrestler a constant source of trouble for his party’s leadership in the United States House of Representatives for much of the last 16 years.

His party is now debating whether the hardline co-founder of the House Freedom Caucus will lead the chamber in challenging Democratic President Joe Biden and the Democratic-controlled United States Senate for the next two years.

The 58-year-old congressman from Ohio emerged on Tuesday as a possible replacement for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, a powerful position that is second in line to the Oval Office after the vice president.

McCarthy was opposed by enough Republicans to deny him a House majority vote after vote, so a group of fellow hardliners nominated Jordan, who backed McCarthy and gave an impassioned speech in his support.

Twenty Republicans voted for Jordan, which was less than a tenth of those who voted for McCarthy, but it was enough to halt McCarthy’s progress. On Tuesday, the House recessed after three votes without providing McCarthy with the House majority he required, and adjourned until noon ET (1700 GMT) on Wednesday to try again.

Being elected speaker would be a huge step up for Jordan, who is known for not wearing suit jackets to congressional hearings and news conferences, potentially making him the successor to, and a stark contrast to, liberal predecessor Nancy Pelosi, a Democrat.

Deep cuts to domestic programs

Jordan, now in his ninth term and 17th year in the House, would almost certainly push for deep cuts to domestic programs, including popular social services, and would be a vocal opponent of abortion and LGBTQ rights, while advocating for greater parental involvement in public school education.

Jordan has raised his profile on House committees over the years, particularly during Republican Donald Trump’s presidency, but he has also faced accusations that as a wrestling coach at Ohio State University in the 1980s and 1990s, he was aware of sexual harassment on the team but did nothing to stop it.

Jordan, a high school and college wrestler before becoming a college coach, denied the allegations and thrived in Congress.

During Trump’s first impeachment, in late 2019 and early 2020, Jordan stood in front of the cameras, repeating the mantra, “There was no quid pro quo.”

He was referring to allegations made by Democrats, who controlled the House at the time, that Trump withheld US military aid to Ukraine while asking its president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, in a phone call to launch an investigation into Joe Biden’s son Hunter. The call came as the elder Biden was emerging as Trump’s likely opponent in the 2020 presidential election.

Jordan made President Barack Obama’s life difficult in 2011, with a newly installed Republican majority in the House, by demanding deep budget cuts opposed by Democrats. By insisting on the cuts, he helped lead the government to the brink of a historic default on government debt.

Jordan is a hardliner Republican

Jordan refused to listen to pleas, including those from the business community in the United States, to relent and allow for more government borrowing. The uncertainty shook global financial markets.

With Republicans regaining control of the House and the party’s far-right wing ascendant, fears of a government default later this year have resurfaced. Jordan was a key player in stymieing long-running negotiations for comprehensive immigration reform.

A bipartisan bill passed by the Senate in 2013 would have significantly increased spending on border security. However, it would have provided a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants who had been in the country for years and had committed no serious crimes.

While then-Speaker John Boehner was attempting to bring a similar bill up for a vote in the House, Jordan told Reuters at a critical juncture that it was dead. He proved to be correct, causing Boehner embarrassment.

Jordan outlined his own priorities in his speech nominating McCarthy for speaker on Tuesday.

“We have a border that no longer exists. We have a military that is unable to meet its recruitment targets. We have bad energy policy, bad education policy, record spending, record debt, and a government that has been weaponized against ‘we the people’; against the very people that we are supposed to represent “He stated.

Republican Civil War Over McCarthy May Cost Them in 2024

Republican Civil War Over McCarthy May Cost Them in 2024

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Biden Is Honoring Kenya With State Visit As The East African Nation Prepares To Send Police To Haiti

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Biden | NBC Image

Washington — President Joe Biden is greeting Kenyan President William Ruto to the White House for a three-day state visit as the East African country prepares to send troops to Haiti as part of a United Nations-led effort to calm a deteriorating security situation in the Caribbean.

Some 1,000 Kenyan police personnel will soon arrive in Haiti as part of a multilateral security support operation aimed at reducing gang violence. Other countries anticipated to assist the Kenyan military include the Bahamas, Barbados, Benin, Chad, and Bangladesh.

For years, the United States has worked with Kenya on counterterrorism initiatives in Africa, notably the fight against the extremist group al-Shabab. Kenya has joined the Ukraine Defense Contact Group and an international maritime task force established by the Biden administration in December in response to Houthi attacks on shipping in the Red Sea.

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Biden | AP News Image

Biden Is Honoring Kenya With State Visit As The East African Nation Prepares To Send Police To Haiti

A top Biden administration official praised Ruto’s decision to send police personnel to Haiti, calling it an “unprecedented undertaking” and demonstrating Kenya’s international leadership.

Kenya is the first African nation to have a state visit from the United States since 2008.

“This is a deep and broad partnership,” White House principal deputy national security adviser Jon Finer said last week. He said it begins with combatting terrorism in Kenya’s region of Africa and progresses to “becoming a net security provider in our own hemisphere” with the upcoming deployment to Haiti.

The state visit begins with the two leaders meeting with CEOs at the White House in the afternoon. The goal is to increase relations between the American and Kenyan IT industries. The White House predicts that Teneo, Alphabet, and Semiconductor Technologies Limited executives will attend.

On Thursday, Biden and Ruto will hold formal talks and a joint press conference before attending a state dinner. Ruto is also scheduled to attend a U.S. Chamber of Commerce event with Vice President Kamala Harris this Friday.

Ruto began his journey to the United States in Atlanta, where he visited The King Center, met NBA icon Shaquille O’Neal, and dropped by Tyler Perry Studios.

The United States and Kenya are commemorating their 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations. According to White House officials, the leaders’ agenda will include trade and investment, technological innovation, climate and sustainable energy, as well as health and security.

Deputy Secretary of State Kurt Campbell stated that the two countries would make “substantial commitments” to strengthen Kenya’s technical industry. Kenya hosts Google and Microsoft headquarters and established itself as East Africa’s technology hub, the Silicon Savannah.

In December 2022, Biden gathered dozens of African leaders in Washington to make the case that the United States was “all in” on Africa’s future, promising billions of dollars in government and private investment in health, infrastructure, business, and technology. The Democrat also promised to visit Sub-Saharan Africa in 2023.

biden

Biden | AP news Image

Biden Is Honoring Kenya With State Visit As The East African Nation Prepares To Send Police To Haiti

But other issues got in the way last year, notably the Israel-Hamas conflict and Biden’s lengthy battle with Republicans to renew financing for Ukraine’s war with Russia. Biden’s projected journey to Africa never occurred.

All the while, Russia has attempted to strengthen its economic and military influence in Africa. The junta in the West African nation recently ordered the withdrawal of US troops from Niger, which should be complete by mid-September. Meanwhile, Russia sent military trainers to Niger.

In addition, the United States needs to catch up to rival China in terms of investment in Africa, which has emerged as a vital battleground in the rivalry between great powers.

Biden and his advisers foresee fierce economic competition with Beijing in Africa but have attempted to argue that Washington is a far more stable partner in the long run

To that purpose, Biden took steps early in his presidency to prioritize Africa over his predecessors, including hosting over 50 leaders for the U.S.-Africa Leaders Conference in December 2022. However, analysts think the administration’s involvement has waned since the summit.

Cameron Hudson, a senior scholar at the Center for Strategic and International Studies Africa Program, highlighted that Biden has only hosted one African leader, Angola President João Manuel Gonçalves Lourenço, for meetings at the White House since the conference.

“This visit today feels a bit like a fig leaf, not just for the Kenyans but for Africa in general, and a kind of a placeholder for the administration to say: All of those things that we said early on in the administration, they all remain true,” Hudson stated.

According to Macharia Munene, a professor of international relations at the United States International University in Africa, Ruto hopes to use the visit to boost his international reputation. He feels that deploying Kenyan police to Haiti will help him achieve that aim.

biden

Biden | AP news Image

Biden Is Honoring Kenya With State Visit As The East African Nation Prepares To Send Police To Haiti

“Ruto wishes to be known as the African leader, particularly in the West. “And this kind of recognition fuels that desire,” Munene explained.

Ruto has stated that Kenya’s mission to Haiti aims to “formulate actionable strategies that will lead to long-term solutions” in the poorest Western Hemisphere country. For decades, Haiti has suffered from poverty, political instability, and natural calamities. The United States has agreed to offer direct financial assistance to the United Nations-backed mission and training, logistics, and material support.

However, Ruto’s decision to involve Kenyan police in a crisis hundreds of miles abroad has sparked criticism in Nairobi, including legal challenges to prevent police troops from being deployed.

International intervention in Haiti has a complex history. A sexual abuse scandal and the arrival of cholera, which claimed over 10,000 lives, hindered a U.N.-approved stabilization operation in Haiti that started in June 2004. The mission concluded in October 2017.

SOURCE – (AP)

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2024: Spain, Ireland And Norway Say They Will Recognize A Palestinian State. Why Does That Matter?

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Palestinian
Palestinian | AP News Image

Some 140 of the about 190 countries represented in the U.N. have already recognized a Palestinian state.

Here’s a look at how and why the new European announcements could be important:

A U.N. partition plan in 1947 called for the creation of a Jewish state alongside a Palestinian state, but Palestinians and the wider Arab world rejected it because it would have given them less than half of the land even though Palestinians made up two-thirds of the population.

The Arab-Israeli war the following year left Israel with even more territory, Jordan in control of the West Bank and east Jerusalem, and Egypt in control of Gaza.

In the 1967 war, Israel seized all three territories, and decades of on-again, off-again peace talks have failed.

The United States, Britain and other Western countries have backed the idea of an independent Palestinian state existing alongside Israel as a solution to the Middle East’s most intractable conflict, but they insist statehood should come as part of a negotiated settlement. There have been no substantive negotiations since 2009.

Palestinian

Palestinian | AP news Image

Spain, Ireland And Norway Say They Will Recognize A Palestinian State. Why Does That Matter?

Though the EU countries and Norway won’t be recognizing an existing state, just the possibility of one, the symbolism helps enhance the Palestinians’ international standing and heaps more pressure on Israel to open negotiations on ending the war.

Also, the move lends additional prominence to the Middle East issue ahead of the June 6-9 elections to the European Parliament.

Diplomatic pressure on Israel has grown as the battle with Hamas stretches into its eighth month. The U.N. General Assembly voted by a significant margin on May 11 to grant new “rights and privileges” to Palestine in a sign of growing international support for a vote on full voting membership. The Palestinian Authority currently has observer status.

The leaders of Spain, Ireland, Malta and Slovenia said in March they were considering recognizing a Palestinian state as “a positive contribution” toward ending the war.

Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez said Wednesday, “This recognition is not against anyone, it is not against the Israeli people,” he said. “It is an act in favor of peace, justice and moral consistency.”

Norwegian Foreign Minister Espen Barth Eide told The Associated Press that while the country has supported the establishment of a Palestinian state for decades, recognition is “a card that you can play once.”

“We used to think that recognition would come at the end of a process,” he said. “Now we have realized that recognition should come as an impetus, as a strengthening of a process.”

While dozens of countries have recognized a Palestinian state, none of the major Western powers has done so, and it is still being determined how much of a difference the move by the three countries might make.

Palestinian

Palestinian | AP News Image

Spain, Ireland And Norway Say They Will Recognize A Palestinian State. Why Does That Matter?

Even so, their recognition would mark a significant accomplishment for the Palestinians, who believe it confers international legitimacy on their struggle. Norway said it would upgrade its representative’s office for Palestine to an embassy, but it was unclear what Ireland and Spain would do.

Little would likely change on the ground in the short term. Peace talks are stalled, and Israel’s hardline government has dug its heels in against Palestinian statehood.

Israel reacted rapidly Wednesday by recalling its ambassadors to Ireland, Norway and Spain.

The Israeli government slams talk of independence as a “reward” for the Hamas Oct. 7 attack on southern Israel that killed 1,200 people and led to the abduction of over 250 others. It rejects any move to legitimize the Palestinians internationally.

Steps like the ones by the three European countries Wednesday will harden the Palestinian position and undermine the negotiating process, Israel says, insisting that all issues should be solved through negotiations.

Israel often responds to foreign countries’ decisions deemed as going against its interests by summoning those countries’ ambassadors and also punishing the Palestinians through measures such as freezing tax transfers to the cash-strapped Palestinian Authority.

Palestinian

Palestinian | AP News Image

Spain, Ireland And Norway Say They Will Recognize A Palestinian State. Why Does That Matter?

Some 140 countries have already recognized a Palestinian, more than two-thirds of the United Nations’ membership.

Some major powers have indicated their stance may be evolving amid the outcry over the consequences of Israel’s offensive in Gaza, which has killed more than 35,000 Palestinians, according to Gaza’s Health Ministry. The ministry does not distinguish between noncombatants and fighters in its count.

British Foreign Secretary David Cameron said no recognition of a Palestinian state could come while Hamas remains in Gaza but that it could happen while Israeli negotiations with Palestinian leaders were in progress.

France indicated that it isn’t ready to join other countries in recognizing a Palestinian state, even if it isn’t opposed to the idea in principle. French Foreign Minister Stéphane Séjourné, in comments relayed by his ministry after a closed-door meeting with his Israeli counterpart on Wednesday, said that recognizing a Palestinian state must be “useful” in pushing forward a two-state solution and suggested that doing so now won’t have a genuine impact in pursuing that goal.

SOURCE – (AP)

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Judge Reprimands Trump Witness Robert Costello in New York Trial

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Judge Reprimands Trump Witness Robert Costello
Judge Reprimanded Robert Costello: AP Image

The judge in Donald Trump’s highly controversial hush money trial cleared the courtroom of media on Monday before threatening to dismiss the defense witness Robert Costello from the trial entirely due to his behavior on the stand.

Judge Juan M. Merchan reprimanded Robert Costello, a former federal prosecutor, for his conduct during testimony. Costello irritated Merchan repeatedly, in part by continuing to speak after objections were sustained, indicating to witnesses that they should stop talking. Costello muttered “jeez” when he was interrupted by an objection. He also labeled the entire exercise “ridiculous.”

The discussion occurred near the close of a heated day that saw the prosecution’s star witness admit to stealing tens of thousands of dollars from Trump’s firm. Trump’s lawyers also pushed Merchan to drop the case after prosecutors finished presenting evidence. The judge did not immediately rule on the request.

Robert Costello on Witness Stand

However, the most uncomfortable moments occurred with Costello on the witness stand. Merchan first led the jurors out of the courtroom to discuss basic decorum. He chastised Costello for saying “jeez” when cut off by a protracted argument and “strike it” at another point.

Merchan told him, “I am the only one who can strike testimony in court. “Do you understand that?”

“And then if you don’t like my ruling, you don’t give me side eye and you don’t roll your eyes.”

Merchan was about to call the jury back in when he asked Costello, “Are you staring me down right now?” and then ejected the press to further chastise him.

“I’m putting you on notice that your conduct is contemptuous,” Merchan said, according to a transcript of the conversation that took place after the reporters left the room. “If you try to stare me down one more time, I will remove you from the stand.”

Costello did not respond to a message seeking comment Monday night.

When Merchan called the reporters back in, Costello’s evidence continued, and it will resume on Tuesday. The defense is using him to undermine the credibility of Trump’s former attorney and rival, Michael Cohen.

After the jurors had left for the day, defense attorney Todd Blanche informed the court that prosecutors had failed to prove their case and that it should be dismissed immediately. Blanche begged the judge to “not send this case to the jury based on Mr. Cohen’s testimony.”

Cohen was the last witness

The judge remained unfazed by the argument, asking the defense attorney whether he believed that “as a matter of law, this person’s so not worthy of belief that it shouldn’t even be considered by the jury?”

“You said his lies are irrefutable,” the judge responded. “But you think he’s going to fool 12 New Yorkers into believing this lie?”

Cohen was the last witness — at least for the time being — for prosecutors trying to prove that Trump attempted to bury bad reports about himself and then altered internal business documents to conceal them as part of a conspiracy to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election. The defense has portrayed Cohen as a media-obsessed liar on a revenge mission to bring down Trump.

The defense called Costello because of his role as Cohen’s enemy and critic in the years after their professional relationship fractured spectacularly.

Costello offered to represent Cohen shortly after the lawyer’s hotel room, office, and house were raided, and Cohen had to decide whether to stay defiant in the face of a criminal investigation or to collaborate with authorities in the hopes of receiving more lenient punishment.

Costello said that Cohen told him Trump “knew nothing” about the $130,000 hush money payment to porn actor Stormy Daniels that is at the heart of the investigation.

“Michael Cohen said numerous times that President Trump knew nothing about those payments, that he did this on his own, and he repeated that numerous times,” Costello told the jury.

Trump would not testify

Trump lawyer Emil Bove told the judge that the defense does not intend to call any other witnesses following Costello, however they may bring campaign finance expert Bradley A. Smith for limited testimony.

They have not explicitly stated that Trump would not testify, but this is the clearest hint yet that he will forego his right to testify in his own defense.

Cohen returned to the witness stand for a fourth day on Monday, telling jurors that he stole from the Trump Organization when his 2016 holiday bonus was reduced from $150,000 to $50,000.

Cohen claimed he paid $50,000 to a technology firm for artificially increasing Trump’s standing in a CNBC online poll of notable CEOs. Cohen claimed he only provided the firm $20,000 in cash in a brown paper bag, but he sought reimbursement from Trump for the entire amount, pocketing the remainder.

Cohen claimed he never paid the Trump Organization back. Cohen has never been accused of stealing from Trump’s company.

Cohen is an important witness, but also a problematic one. He acknowledged on the witness stand to a number of previous lies, many of which he alleges were intended to protect Trump. Cohen also served time in prison after pleading guilty to a number of criminal counts, including lying to Congress and a bank, as well as campaign finance violations tied to the hush money scam.

However, when pressed by Blanche, Cohen maintained by his account of talks with Trump about the hush money payment to Daniels. Cohen stated that he spoke with Trump about the topic over 20 times in October 2016.

“No doubt in your mind?” Blanche inquired whether Cohen remembers having contacts with Trump about the Daniels case. No question, Cohen stated.

Trump facing 34 felony counts

Following more than four weeks of testimony, jurors could begin deliberate next week on whether Trump is guilty of 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first criminal trial of a former US president.

The charges derive from internal Trump Organization records that show payments to Cohen were classified as legal expenditures. Prosecutors contend they were actually reimbursements for Daniels’ payment to prevent her from going public with claims of a sexual encounter with Trump prior to the 2016 election. Trump claims nothing sexual occurred between them.

Donald Trump has pled not guilty. His lawyers claim that the Daniels arrangement and Cohen’s payment were both legal.

“There’s no crime,” Trump told reporters after arriving at the courthouse on Monday. “We paid legal fees. Do you know what the price is? “A legal expense.”

After Trump’s witnesses have testified, prosecutors will have the opportunity to call rebuttal witnesses. The judge, citing scheduling constraints, stated that he expected closing arguments to take place on May 28, the Tuesday following Memorial Day.

Source: The Associated Press

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