Judge Rejects Trump’s Claim of Immunity from Criminal Charges

A U.S. judge on Friday said Donald Trump does not have immunity from criminal charges for actions he took as president, rejecting a bid by the Republican to toss out the case accusing him of conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss.

U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan in Washington found there was no legal basis for concluding that U.S. presidents cannot face criminal charges once they are no longer in office.

Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, can immediately appeal the ruling, which could delay the trial while an appeals court and potentially the Supreme Court weigh the issue. The trial is currently scheduled to begin in March.

Chutkan’s ruling brings Trump a step closer to facing a jury on charges that he plotted to interfere in the counting of votes and obstruct Congress’ certification of his election defeat to Democrat Joe Biden.

Trump has pleaded not guilty and accused prosecutors of attempting to damage his campaign. The case is one of four criminal prosecutions that Trump is facing as he seeks to retake the White House.

Trump has other pending legal motions to dismiss the case based on claims that it violates his free speech rights and is legally flawed.

Because Trump is the first current or former U.S. president to face criminal charges, Chutkan’s ruling is the first by a U.S. court affirming that presidents can be charged with crimes like any other citizen.

The U.S. Justice Department has long had an internal policy not to indict a sitting president, but prosecutors said no such restrictions exist once a president leaves the White House.

Trump’s lawyers made a sweeping claim that Trump is “absolutely immune” from charges arising from official actions he took as president, arguing that political opponents could use the threat of criminal prosecution to interfere with a president’s responsibilities.

His defense team argued that the immunity U.S. presidents enjoy from civil lawsuits should extend to criminal charges.

Prosecutors contended that Trump’s argument would essentially put the U.S. president above the law, violating foundational principles of the U.S. Constitution.

US Congressman Santos Refuses to Resign, Says Expulsion Would Set Precedent

In his closing arguments for remaining a member of the House, a defiant Representative George Santos depicted himself as a victim of a smear campaign by some of his colleagues and made clear that he would not resign before a vote Friday on whether he should be expelled.

The first-term Republican congressman from New York could well become just the sixth member of the House to have been ousted by colleagues. While Santos survived two earlier expulsion efforts, a critical House Ethics Committee report released on November 16 has convinced more members that his actions merit the House’s most severe punishment.

“I will not stand by quietly,” Santos said during Thursday afternoon’s debate on the House floor. “The people of the Third District of New York sent me here. If they want me out, you’re going to have to go silence those people and go take the hard vote.”

‘This will haunt them,’ says Santos

Of the previous expulsions in the House, three were for disloyalty to the Union during the Civil War and two were for lawmakers convicted in federal court. Santos appealed to those lawmakers who worry that a new precedent is being set for the chamber’s harshest punishment.

“This will haunt them in the future where mere allegations are sufficient to have members removed from office when duly elected by their people in their respective states and districts,” Santos said during a press conference held early in the morning before House debate began.

Santos was a bright spot for the Republican Party when he won his election in November 2022, flipping a seat that had been held by the Democrats and helping Republicans take control of the House. But, soon after, reports began to emerge that Santos had lied about having Jewish ancestry, a career at top Wall Street firms and a college degree. He turned into a distraction and an embarrassment to his party.

In early March, the House Ethics Committee announced it was launching an investigation into Santos. That was followed in May when the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York unveiled a 13-count federal indictment that was later replaced with the 23-count indictment.

The indictment alleges he stole the identities of campaign donors and then used their credit cards to make tens of thousands of dollars in unauthorized charges. Federal prosecutors say Santos wired some of the money to his personal bank account and used the rest to pad his campaign coffers.

Santos has pleaded not guilty.

Panel says it has evidence of lawbreaking

Meanwhile, Ethics Committee investigators spent eight months on the Santos case. The panel said it amassed “overwhelming evidence” of lawbreaking by Santos that it sent to the Justice Department. Among other things, the panel said that Santos knowingly caused his campaign committee to file false or incomplete reports with the Federal Election Commission, used campaign funds for personal purposes, and violated the Ethics in Government Act with his financial disclosure statements.

The disgraceful association that comes with expulsion was not lost on Santos. But rather than seek to avoid it by resigning, he sought to frame it as an unfair persecution, saying “If I leave, they win. If I leave, the bullies take place. This is bullying.”

Members of the Republican delegation from New York led the arguments for expelling Santos. Representative Anthony D’Esposito acknowledged that the expulsion would set a new precedent, but he said he was confident the American people would welcome lawmakers being held to a higher standard.

Arguing against expulsion, Louisiana Republican Representative Clay Higgins said that while he respects the Ethics Committee, he had concerns about how the Santos case was handled. He said he was troubled that a Republican-led committee would submit a report that was so judgmental and publicized.

While the Ethics Committee does have a Republican chairman, its membership is evenly divided between Republicans and Democrats.

Colorado Judge Keeps Trump on Primary Ballot, Uncertain on General Election

A judge in the U.S. state of Colorado on Friday allowed Donald Trump to remain on the ballot in the state’s election next year, rejecting a bid to disqualify the former president over his actions before the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol by his supporters.

The ruling from Judge Sarah Wallace, which is almost certain to be appealed, is a victory for Trump who is fighting a series of challenges to his candidacy under a rarely used provision of the U.S. Constitution that bars officials who have engaged in “insurrection or rebellion” from holding federal office.

The Colorado case, which was brought by a group of voters aided by the watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, was the first to go to trial and was viewed as a test case for the wider disqualification effort.

Lawyers for the voters argued that Trump engaged in an insurrection by spreading false claims of widespread voter fraud following his defeat in the 2020 presidential election, summoning supporters to a rally in Washington and then urging them to march to the U.S. Capitol, where Congress was meeting to certify the election results.

Thousands of Trump supporters then stormed the Capitol, assaulting police and sending lawmakers running for their lives, in an unsuccessful bid to stop the certification.

Trump’s lawyers claimed the former president had no relationship with the far-right extremist groups who played a major role in the attack and that his remarks before the riot were protected by his right to free speech.

The ruling applies only to the Republican presidential primary and general election in Colorado. The state is rated as safely Democratic by nonpartisan political forecasters for the general election.

The decision is the latest setback for the effort to disqualify Trump. Courts in Minnesota and Michigan have rejected efforts to keep him off the Republican primary ballot but have not ruled on his eligibility for the November 2024 general election.

The Colorado decision can be appealed to the state’s supreme court and eventually the U.S. Supreme Court, whose 6-3 conservative majority includes three Trump appointees. 

Former US First Lady Rosalynn Carter, 96, Enters Hospice Care

Former U.S. first lady Rosalynn Carter is in hospice care at home in Plains, Georgia, the Carter Center announced Friday.

The center said the 96-year-old is at home with former U.S. President Jimmy Carter, now 99. The Carter family said through the statement that they are “grateful for the outpouring of love and support.”

The family announced earlier this year that the former first lady is suffering from dementia. The former president entered hospice care at home in February.

They have been married for more than 77 years, through his rise from their Georgia farm to his election to the presidency in 1976. After his 1980 defeat, the couple established the Carter Center in Atlanta as a global center to advocate human rights, democracy and public health.

“The best thing I ever had happen in my life was when she said she’d marry me,” Jimmy Carter said, long after leaving the Oval Office.

The couple’s grandson, Jason Carter, described his grandmother in a recent interview as the former president’s “partner No. 1, 2 and 3,” and the former first couple themselves both agreed that she has been the more aggressive political personality of their long pairing.

Nicknamed ‘the Steel Magnolia’

In Washington, the political press of the late 1970s dubbed Rosalynn Carter “the Steel Magnolia,” reflecting the quiet grace stereotypical of the era’s Southern political wives and a tough core that made her a force on her husband’s behalf and in her own right.

“She knew what she wanted to accomplish,” said Kathy Cade, a White House adviser to Rosalynn Carter.

Expanding the role of first lady, she worked in her own office in the East Wing, with her own staff, on her own initiatives. She also huddled with the president’s advisers and sat in on top-level meetings, raising eyebrows in Washington power circles.

“She didn’t say anything in Cabinet meetings, but she wanted to be fully informed so she could give her husband good advice,” said Carter biographer Jonathan Alter.

Alter considers Rosalynn Carter’s only peers as influential first ladies to be Eleanor Roosevelt and Hillary Clinton, although he said the Carters’ partnership was more seamless, because it lacked the infidelity and personal drama of the Roosevelts and Clintons.

The bond also involved friendly rivalry and humor: “I never knew I’d be married to somebody that old,” he wisecracked when Rosalynn was 91.

They often raced to finish writing their next book or best the other in tennis, skiing or any other pursuit.

‘Uncanny political instincts’

Rosalynn Carter was at the center of Carter’s political campaigns, starting with his first state Senate race in 1962.

“In the beginning, I wrote letters to people. He would go out and then I would write letters to them,” she told The Associated Press. “But then it developed into a full-time job for me, working to help him get elected.”

She first campaigned solo during his 1966 bid for governor. She was initially nervous but warmed to the role and ultimately demonstrated what White House adviser Stuart Eizenstat called “uncanny political instincts.”

In the White House, it was Rosalynn Carter who urged her husband to think more about the 1980 election as he set priorities and talk through how decisions might play in the media.

When Jimmy Carter stayed in Washington to work every angle to free the American hostages in Iran, the first lady hit his reelection campaign trail.

“I had the best time,” she told the AP. “I campaigned solid every day the last time we ran.”

Pushed for mental health care

Rosalynn Carter’s signature policy issue — improving treatment and removing societal stigma about mental health — traced back to her husband’s Georgia campaigns.

Voters “would stand patiently” waiting to tell of their family struggles, she once wrote. After hearing one overnight mill worker’s story of caring for her afflicted child, Rosalynn Carter decided to take the issue to the candidate. She showed up at her husband’s rally that day, unannounced, and stood in line to shake his hand like everyone else.

“I want to know what you are going to do about mental health when you are governor,” she asked him. She recounted his reply: “We’re going to have the best mental health system in the country, and I’m going to put you in charge of it.”

US Congress Approves Deal, Pushing Shutdown Threat to January

Ending the threat of a government shutdown until after the holidays, Congress gave final approval Wednesday night to a temporary government funding package that pushes a confrontation over the federal budget into the new year.

The Senate met into the night to pass the bill with an overwhelming 87-11 tally and send it to President Joe Biden for his signature one day after it passed the House on an overwhelming bipartisan vote. It provides a funding patch into next year, when the House and Senate will be forced to confront — and somehow overcome — their considerable differences over what funding levels should be.

In the meantime, the bill removes the threat of a government shutdown days before funding would have expired.

“This Friday night there will be no government shutdown,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said in a floor speech ahead of the final vote.

The spending package keeps government funding at current levels for roughly two more months while a long-term package is negotiated. It splits the deadlines for passing full-year appropriations bills into two dates: Jan. 19 for some federal agencies and Feb. 2 for others, creating two deadlines where there will be a risk of a partial government shutdown.

“Everybody is really kind of ready to vote and fight another day,” Republican Whip John Thune, the No. 2 Republican, said earlier Wednesday.

The spending package would keep government funding at current levels for roughly two more months while a long-term package is negotiated. It splits the deadlines for passing full-year appropriations bills into two dates: Jan. 19 for some federal agencies and Feb. 2 for others, creating two deadlines where there will be a risk of a partial government shutdown.

The spending bill does not include the White House’s nearly $106 billion request for wartime aid for Israel and Ukraine, as well as humanitarian funding for Palestinians and other supplemental requests. Lawmakers are likely to turn their attention more fully to that request after the Thanksgiving holiday in hopes of negotiating a deal.

Schumer called the stopgap funding plan “far from perfect,” but said he would support it because it averts a shutdown and “will do so without any of the cruel cuts or poison pills” that hardline conservatives wanted.

House Speaker Mike Johnson, who crafted the plan, has vowed that he will not support any further stopgap funding measures, known as continuing resolutions. He portrayed the temporary funding bill as setting the ground for a spending “fight” with the Senate next year.

The new speaker, who told reporters this week that he counted himself among the “arch-conservatives” of the House, is pushing for deeper spending cuts. He wanted to avoid lawmakers being forced to consider a massive government funding package before the December holidays — a tactic that incenses conservatives in particular.

But Johnson is also facing pushback from other hardline conservatives who wanted to leverage the prospect of a government shutdown to extract steep cuts and policy demands.

Many of those conservatives were among a group of 19 Republicans who defied Johnson Wednesday to prevent floor consideration of an appropriations bill to fund several government agencies.

GOP leaders called off the week’s work after the vote, sending lawmakers home early for Thanksgiving. It capped a period of intense bickering among lawmakers.

“This place is a pressure cooker,” Johnson said Tuesday, noting that the House had been in Washington for 10 weeks straight.

The House GOP’s inability to present a united front on funding legislation could undercut the Louisiana congressman’s ability to negotiate spending bills with the Senate.

Republicans are demanding that Congress work out government funding through 12 separate bills, as the budgetary process requires, but House leadership has so far been forced to pull two of those bills from the floor, seen another rejected on a procedural vote and struggled to win support for others.

When it returns in two weeks, Congress is expected to focus on the Biden administration’s requests for Ukraine and Israel funding. Republican senators have demanded that Congress pass immigration and border legislation alongside additional Ukraine aid, but a bipartisan Senate group working on a possible compromise has struggled to find consensus.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell in a floor speech pledged that Republicans would continue to push for policy changes on the U.S. border with Mexico, saying it is “impossible to ignore the crisis at our southern border that’s erupted on Washington Democrats’ watch.”

One idea floating among Republicans is directly tying Ukraine funding levels with decreases in the number of illegal border crossings. It showed how even longtime supporters of Ukraine’s defense against Russia are willing to hold up the funding to force Congress to tackle an issue that has flummoxed generations of lawmakers: U.S. border policy.

Most Senate Republicans support the Ukraine funding, said Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., but he added, “It is secondary to securing our own border.”

But the U.S. is already trimming some of the wartime aid packages it is sending Ukraine as funds run low, National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby said from San Francisco, where he accompanied President Joe Biden for a summit of Asia-Pacific leaders.

He said the pot of money available for Ukraine is “withering away, and with it will be a deleterious effect on Ukraine’s ability to continue to defend itself.”

Schumer said the Senate would try to move forward on both the funding and border legislation in the coming weeks, but warned it would require a compromise.

“Both sides will have to give,” he said.

US House Speaker Johnson Floats Measure to Avert Gov’t Shutdown

U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Mike Johnson unveiled a Republican stopgap spending measure Saturday, aimed at averting a government shutdown, but the measure quickly ran into opposition from lawmakers from both parties in Congress.

“This two-step continuing resolution is a necessary bill to place House Republicans in the best position to fight for conservative victories,” Johnson said in a statement after announcing the plan to House Republicans in a conference call.

The House and Democratic-led Senate must agree on a spending vehicle that President Joe Biden can sign into law by Nov. 17, or risk a fourth partial government shutdown in a decade that would close national parks, disrupt pay for as many as 4 million federal workers and disrupt a swath of activities from financial oversight to scientific research.

Unlike ordinary continuing resolutions, or “CRs,” that fund federal agencies for a specific period, the measure announced by Johnson would fund some parts of the government until Jan. 19 and others until Feb. 2. House Republicans hope to pass the measure Tuesday.

The bill surfaced a day after Moody’s, the last major credit ratings agency to maintain a top “AAA” rating on the U.S. government, lowered its outlook on the nation’s credit to “negative” from “stable,” citing political polarization in Congress on spending as a danger to the nation’s fiscal health.

Johnson, the top Republican in Congress, appeared to be appealing to two warring House Republican factions: hardliners who wanted legislation with multiple end-dates; and centrists who had called for a “clean” stopgap measure free of spending cuts and conservative policy riders that Democrats reject.

But the plan quickly came under fire from members of both parties.

“My opposition to the clean CR just announced by the Speaker to the @HouseGOP cannot be overstated,” Representative Chip Roy, a member of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, said on the social media platform “X,” formerly known as Twitter.

“It’s a 100% clean. And I 100% oppose,” wrote Roy, who had called for the new measure to include spending cuts.

Democratic Senator Brian Schatz called Johnson’s measure “super convoluted,” adding that “all of this nonsense costs taxpayer money.”

“We are going to pass a clean short-term CR. The only question is whether we do it stupidly and catastrophically or we do it like adults,” Schatz said on X.

The House Republican stopgap contained no supplemental funding such as aid for Israel and Ukraine.

Johnson’s House Republicans have passed a $14.3 billion aid bill for Israel, which would be paid for by cuts to the Internal Revenue Service budget. He has also called for tying Ukraine aid to tighter security at the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats largely oppose both approaches.

“Separating out the CR from the supplemental funding debates places our conference in the best position to fight for fiscal responsibility, oversight over Ukraine aid, and meaningful policy changes at our Southern border,” Johnson’s statement said.

If Congress can pass a stopgap measure in time to keep federal agencies afloat, lawmakers are expected to use the time to negotiate spending legislation for the 2024 fiscal year that runs through Sept. 30.

House Republican hardliners have been pushing to cut fiscal 2024 spending below the $1.59 trillion level that Biden and Johnson’s predecessor agreed in the May deal that averted default. But even that is a small slice of the overall federal budget, which also includes mandatory outlays for Social Security and Medicare, and topped $6.1 trillion in fiscal 2023.

Johnson, who won the speaker’s gavel less than three weeks ago, could put his own political future at risk if his current plan fails to win support for passage and he is forced to go with a standard CR that Democrats can accept.

His predecessor, Kevin McCarthy, was ousted from the job by eight Republican hardliners early last month, after he moved a bipartisan measure to avert a shutdown on Oct. 1, when fiscal 2024 began. McCarthy opted for the bipartisan route after hardliners blocked a Republican stopgap measure with features intended to appease them. 

In Veterans Day Tribute, Biden Says US Vets Are ‘Steel Spine’ of Nation

President Joe Biden said America’s veterans are “the steel spine of this nation” as he marked Veterans Day during a visit to Arlington National Cemetery. 

In remarks at the Memorial Amphitheater, the commander in chief recounted famous battles fought by U.S. troops and said those deployments of soldiers are “linked in a chain of honor that stretches back to our founding days. Each one bound by a sacred oath to support and defend. Not a place, not a person, not a president, but an idea, to defend an idea unlike any other in human history. That idea is the United States of America.” 

November 11, once known as Armistice Day, is the anniversary of the armistice that ended World War I in 1918. Biden said that was “unlike any war the world had ever seen before.” 

The ceremony was personal for Biden and first lady Jill Biden. 

Biden’s son Beau enlisted in 2003 in the Delaware Army National Guard and deployed to Iraq in 2008 for a year as a member of the 261st Theater Tactical Signal Brigade. A captain, he earned the Legion of Merit and Bronze Star. Beau Biden later served two terms as the state’s attorney general. He died in 2015 of brain cancer. 

“We miss him,” the president told the crowd, recounting how he pinned the bars on his son on the day he joined the National Guard. 

“We come together today to once again honor the generations of Americans who stood on the front lines of freedom. To once again bear witness to the great deeds of a noble few who risked everything, everything, to give us a better future,” he said, paying tribute to “those who have always, always kept the light of shining bright across the world.” 

Biden said that as commander in chief, “I have no higher honor. As the father of a son who served, I have no greater privilege.” 

He said that “our veterans are the steel spine of this nation and their families, like so many of you, are the courageous heart.” 

Trump Pushes for Federal Election Interference Case to be Televised

Donald Trump is pushing for his federal election interference trial in Washington to be televised, joining media outlets that say the American public should be able to watch the historic case unfold. 

Federal court rules prohibit broadcasting proceedings, but The Associated Press and other news organizations say the unprecedented case of a former president standing trial on accusations that he tried to subvert the will of voters — warrants making an exception. 

The Justice Department is opposing the effort, arguing that the judge overseeing the case does not have the authority to ignore the long-standing nationwide policy against cameras in federal courtrooms. The trial is scheduled to begin on March 4. 

Lawyers for Trump wrote in court papers filed late Friday that all Americans should be able to observe what they characterize as a politically motivated prosecution of the Republican front-runner for his party’s presidential nomination in 2024. The defense also suggested Trump will try to use the trial as a platform to repeat his unfounded claims that the 2020 election that he lost to Democrat Joe Biden was stolen from him. Trump has pleaded not guilty. 

“President Trump absolutely agrees, and in fact demands, that these proceedings should be fully televised so that the American public can see firsthand that this case, just like others, is nothing more than a dreamt-up unconstitutional charade that should never be allowed to happen again,” Trump’s lawyers wrote. 

The request for a televised trial comes as the Washington case has emerged as the most potent and direct legal threat to Trump’s political fortunes. Trump is accused of illegally scheming to overturn the election results in the run-up to the violent riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by his supporters. 

Trump has repeatedly sought to delay the Washington trial date until after the 2024 election. But U.S. District Judge Tanya Chutkan, who was nominated for the bench by Democratic President Barack Obama, appears determined to keep it as scheduled. 

On Friday in Florida, U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon, who is handling the separate classified documents prosecution of Trump, pushed back multiple deadlines in a way that makes it highly unlikely that case can proceed to trial in May, as had been planned. Trump is facing dozens of felony counts under the Espionage Act. He has pleaded not guilty. 

Lack of transparency can sow distrust, say news outlets

The news outlets wrote in their request to Chutkan last month that a lack of transparency can sow distrust in the legal system. They said that is particularly dangerous in a case where “a polarized electorate includes tens of millions of people who, according to opinion polls, still believe that the 2020 election was decided by fraud.” 

“It would be a great loss if future generations of Americans were forever deprived of being able to access and view the events of this trial even years after the verdict, which would immeasurably improve the ability of future journalists and historians to retell accurately and meaningfully analyze this unique chapter of American history,” Rebecca Blumenstein, president of editorial for NBC News, wrote in a court filing. 

Some state courts allow cameras in the courtroom. The public has been able to watch proceedings held by the judge overseeing the Georgia election case against Trump and 18 co-defendants. 

Photographers have been permitted to take photos of Trump inside the courtroom during his civil fraud trial in New York, but the trial has not been broadcast. 

Cameras could affect witnesses, says Justice Department

The Justice Department has said that knowledge that cameras are in the courtroom can affect lawyers and witnesses in “subtle ways” and lead to grandstanding. Noting the “ever-increasing acrimony in public discourse,” prosecutors said witnesses who testify on camera may also be harassed or threatened. 

“When a witness’s image is captured on video, it is not just a fleeting image, but it exists indefinitely,” the government said. “Were there an appeal and retrial, witnesses who were subjected to scrutiny and harassment on social media may be unwilling to testify again.” 

The coronavirus pandemic led the federal courts to temporarily relax its rules, allowing the public to listen to many proceedings over the telephone or videoconference. The U.S. Supreme Court has continued to provide a live audio feed of its arguments since the pandemic began. 

The policymaking body of the federal courts adopted a new policy in September that allows judges to provide live audio access to non-trial proceedings in civil and bankruptcy cases. It does not apply in criminal cases. 

News outlets had previously asked the federal courts’ policymakers to revise the rules to allow broadcasting, at least in cases where there is an extraordinary public interest. The chair of the advisory committee last month agreed to establish a subcommittee to study the issue, though it’s highly unlikely any rules changes would come before Trump’s trial. 

High-Profile Third-Party Candidates Crowd Into US Presidential Field

When West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin announced Thursday that he will not seek reelection in 2024, speculation immediately turned to whether or not the centrist Democrat is considering a third-party bid for the presidency.

If Manchin does decide to mount an outside challenge to the candidates nominated by the Democratic and Republican parties, he won’t be alone.

When U.S. voters go to the polls to elect a president in 2024, they may be confronted with more familiar names on the ballot than they are used to seeing, as relatively high-profile third-party candidates seek to take advantage of a year in which the likely candidates of the two major parties are suffering from low favorability ratings.

President Joe Biden is currently expected to be the nominee of the Democratic Party, and despite a crowded primary field, Donald Trump is the favorite to win the Republican nomination. Both men have public approval ratings well below 50%, and a majority of Americans have, for months, been telling pollsters that they do not want to see a rematch of the 2020 election, in which Biden unseated Trump.

Alternative candidacies declared

Voter dissatisfaction with the choices on offer from the two major parties has led to a number of alternative candidates and organizations considering their chances.

Manchin is associated with No Labels, an organization that bills itself as politically centrist and is building the infrastructure necessary to place candidates for the presidency and vice presidency on the ballot in all 50 states. No Labels has said its ticket will contain one former Democrat and one former Republican.

Because he has frequently made common cause with Senate Republicans during his time in Washington, Manchin has been mentioned as a possible member of the group’s ticket.

On Thursday, Jill Stein, a physician who has run as the presidential nominee of the environmentally focused Green Party, announced that she will seek the party’s nomination again in 2024. Stein ran on the Green Party ticket in 2012 and 2016, but sat out the 2020 contest. In 2016, Stein received 1.4 million votes and the opprobrium of many Democrats, who blamed her for contributing to Hillary Clinton’s loss to Trump.

Another candidate who has announced an independent bid is Robert F. Kennedy Jr. He is the nephew of former President John F. Kennedy and the son of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy. An environmental attorney, Kennedy has made a name for himself as a prominent anti-vaccine activist, and a purveyor of conspiracy theories.

Also planning an independent run is Cornel West, a prominent left-wing public intellectual who has taught at a number of prestigious universities, including Harvard and Princeton. West first declared that he was seeking the nomination of the People’s Party, then the Green Party, before deciding to run as a true independent.

The Libertarian Party has not yet nominated a candidate for president but is expected to do so before the election. In recent years, its presidential candidates have reliably come in third in the popular vote. The party’s high-water mark was in 2016, when candidate Gary Johnson won a little more than 3% of all votes cast.

Favorable conditions

In an email exchange with VOA, Kyle Kondik, managing editor of Sabato’s Crystal Ball at the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics, said that third-party candidates could significantly disrupt the 2024 presidential elections.

“The conditions are ripe for third party candidates to get a bigger share of the vote than they typically do,” Kondik wrote. “If Biden and Trump are nominated, both have weak favorability numbers, meaning a significant slice of the electorate will hold an unfavorable view of both candidates.

“This is what happened in 2016, when third party candidates got 6% of the vote. Third party candidates very often poll better than they perform, but they still, collectively, should get some level of combined support.”

More so than in a typical presidential year, Kondik said, there are multiple third-party candidates with relatively high levels of name recognition who can appeal to a range of demographics.

“There also will likely be a lot of different third party candidates, all potentially appealing to different kinds of voters: Robert F. Kennedy Jr. for the conspiracy-minded, Jill Stein and Cornel West for the far left, a Libertarian for some conservatives, and a No Labels candidate for moderates.”

Arcane system

It is important to point out that in U.S. presidential elections, there is no requirement that the winner receive a majority of the vote. The winner is the individual who receives 270 or more votes in the electoral college — an arcane system under which the candidate who receives the most votes in each state is awarded that state’s electors, the number of whom is determined by the state’s population.

This means that not only can someone who receives less than 50% of the popular vote become president, but that under certain circumstances, a candidate can win the presidency despite losing the popular vote to his or her opponent. This has happened several times in U.S. history, most recently when Donald Trump won the 2016 election.

Not running to win

Experts say it is extremely unlikely that a candidate who is not the nominee of one of the two major parties will actually win the presidency. However, that does not mean their collective presence in the race will have no effect.

“I think we can be pretty confident that none of those people or any other sort of third party candidate is going to be elected president in 2024,” said Hans Noel, an associate professor of government at Georgetown University.

“What’s vastly more likely, though, is that one of those candidates, or some combination of them being on the ballot affects the outcome of the election,” Noel told VOA.

The difficulty, Noel said, is trying to discern which of the major party candidates is more likely to lose voters to third-party alternatives. On balance, Noel said, and especially if a former Democrat like Manchin receives the No Labels nomination, it seems most likely that the presence of third-party candidates will hurt Biden more than it will hurt Trump.

Seth Masket, a professor of political science and director of the Center on American Politics at the University of Denver, agreed that the most likely role that any third party candidates will play next November is that of a spoiler.

Masket said that you have to look back only as far as the 2016 race between Clinton and Trump to see that, even in years when the two major party nominees are unpopular, they still command the loyalty of the vast majority of their voters.

“This was a telling election where you had two of the least popular party nominees in the history of polling,” Masket told VOA. If in any year, you were going to see a lot of defection from the major parties, it would have been then, and it really didn’t happen. Ninety percent of the Democrats voted for Clinton and 90% of Republicans voted for Trump.” 

US House Republicans Plan Shutdown-Averting Measure Amid Credit Warning

U.S. House of Representatives Republicans aim to release a stopgap measure to avert a partial government shutdown Saturday, the morning after the Moody’s credit agency lowered its outlook on the government’s credit ratings to “negative.” 

A knowledgeable source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said plans for the release of the continuing resolution, or “CR,” were still in flux. It was also unclear what form the measure would take.  

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson has spent days in talks with members of his slim 221-212 Republican majority about several CR options. The Republican-controlled House and Democratic-led Senate must agree on a vehicle that President Joe Biden can sign into law before current funding expires on November 17.  

Moody’s cited political polarization in Congress as a factor in making its decision to lower the credit outlook, saying Washington may not be able to reach agreement to make its growing deficits more affordable. 

The U.S. recorded a $1.7 trillion deficit last year — the largest outside of the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic — and rising interest rates mean that the cost of servicing that debt will continue to grow. 

Just a few months ago, Congress brought the U.S. to the brink of defaulting on its more than $31 trillion in debt, a move that would have shaken world financial markets. 

With a potential shutdown only days away, some Republicans have called for a “clean” CR that would run to mid-January and have no spending cuts or conservative policy riders that Democrats oppose.  

But hardline conservatives continue to press for a measure with spending cuts, policies including tighter security at the U.S.-Mexico border, and an unorthodox structure with staggered deadlines for different segments of the federal budget. 

Many lawmakers warn that a prolonged partisan fight over a stopgap measure could prevent Congress from averting a shutdown.  

As House Republicans debated their options this week, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer took an initial procedural step toward moving his own stopgap measure. 

Police Investigate Fentanyl-Filled Envelopes Sent to US Election Offices

Authorities were hunting Thursday for whoever sent suspicious letters — including some containing fentanyl — to elections offices in at least five states this week, delaying the counting of ballots in some local races in the latest instance of threats faced by election workers around the country.

The letters were sent to elections offices in the presidential battlegrounds of Georgia and Nevada, as well as California, Oregon and Washington, with some being intercepted before they arrived. Four of the letters contained fentanyl, the FBI and U.S. Postal Inspection Service reported in a statement to elections officials Thursday.

“Law enforcement is working diligently to intercept any additional letters before they are delivered,” the statement said.

The Pierce County auditor’s office in Tacoma, Washington, released images of the letter it received, showing it had been postmarked in Portland, Oregon, and read in part, “End elections now.”

In Seattle, King County Elections Director Julie Wise said that letter appeared to be the same one her office got. She said it was very similar to one King County received during the August primary, which also contained fentanyl.

Authorities in Georgia suspect that election offices in Fulton County, which includes Atlanta and is the largest voting jurisdiction in one of the nation’s most important presidential swing states, was a likely target. They were working to intercept any letters. In the meantime, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger said officials were sending the overdose-reversal drug naloxone to the office as a precaution.

“This is domestic terrorism, and it needs to be condemned by anyone that holds elected office and anyone that wants to hold elective office anywhere in America,” said Raffensperger, a Republican.

It was not immediately clear how authorities came to suspect that a letter might have been sent to Georgia’s biggest election office. Raffensperger said the state alerted all 159 of its counties of the possible threat Wednesday but believes only Fulton County is being targeted.

In California, the United States Postal Service intercepted two suspicious envelopes that were headed to election facilities in Los Angeles and Sacramento.

Authorities in Lane County, Oregon, which includes the University of Oregon, were investigating a piece of mail that arrived at the local election office Wednesday. No one who came in contact with it had experienced any negative health effects, said Devon Ashbridge, spokesperson for the Lane County Elections Office in Eugene.

The incident prompted officials to close the office and delayed an afternoon pickup of ballots. Ashbridge declined to provide further details.

“Someone attempted to terrorize our elections staff, and that’s not OK,” Ashbridge said.

On Wednesday, authorities in Washington state said four county election offices had to be evacuated as election workers were processing ballots cast in Tuesday’s election, delaying vote-counting.

Election offices in King, Skagit, Spokane and Pierce counties received envelopes containing powders. Local law enforcement officials said the substances in King and Spokane counties field-tested positive for fentanyl. In at least one other case, the substance was baking soda.

Pierce County Auditor Linda Farmer released images of the envelope and letter her office received. The letter contained a warning about the vulnerability of “ballot drops” and read: “End elections now. Stop giving power to the right that they don’t have. We are in charge now and there is no more need for them.”

The letter featured an antifascist symbol, a progress pride flag and a pentagram. While the symbols have sometimes been associated with leftist politics, they also have been used by conservative figures to label and stereotype the left, and the sender’s political leanings were unclear.

Elections offices in two Washington counties — King and Okanogan — also received suspicious envelopes while processing ballots during the August primary, and the letter sent to King County tested positive for traces of fentanyl. Those letters remain under investigation by the U.S. Postal Inspection Service and FBI.

Washington Secretary of State Steve Hobbs called the incidents in his state “acts of terrorism to threaten our elections.”

White House spokesperson Olivia Dalton said the Biden administration was aware of the investigation: “We are grateful for the election and poll workers who served this week to ensure the security of our democratic processes.”

Fentanyl, an opioid that can be 50 times as powerful as the same amount of heroin, is driving an overdose crisis deadlier than any the U.S. has ever seen as it is pressed into pills or mixed into other drugs. Briefly touching fentanyl cannot cause an overdose, and researchers have found that the risk of fatal overdose from accidental exposure is low.

Republican Debate Candidates Narrow to 5

The third Republican presidential debate took place Wednesday in Miami, Florida, featuring fewer candidates than past debates. The candidates tried to set themselves apart from each other and from front-runner Donald Trump with several international issues. VOA’s Senior Washington Correspondent Carolyn Presutti brings us the highlights.

Takeaways From the Third 2024 Republican Presidential Debate

Five candidates seeking to halt Donald Trump’s march toward the 2024 Republican presidential nomination gathered in Miami on Wednesday for the party’s third debate while the former president held a separate campaign rally across town.

Here are some takeaways from the debate:

Laying blame

One night after a stinging series of election losses at the hands of Democrats, the candidates vented their frustrations on the debate stage.

“I’m sick of Republicans losing,” Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said.

DeSantis has long contrasted his successful reelection last year in Florida with Republican setbacks in the last few elections, including Trump’s loss in 2020. Earlier in the day, his campaign argued that backing Trump cost candidates seats in races such as the one for governor of Kentucky, where Republican Daniel Cameron lost to Democrat Andy Beshear.

Republicans on Wednesday were also smarting from the success of a ballot issue in Ohio that enshrined the right to an abortion in the state constitution, as well as the loss of state legislative control in Virginia.

Entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy blamed Ronna McDaniel, the chair of the Republican National Committee, instead of Trump, for the party’s recent performance.

“We’ve become a party of losers,” he lamented. “We have to have accountability in our party.”

McDaniel was Trump’s hand-picked choice to lead the RNC in 2017, and the committee was a sponsor of Wednesday’s debate.

Ramaswamy comes out swinging

It was clear from the outset that Ramaswamy, whose candidacy has faded since the first debate, was determined to be a spoiler and throw elbows in every direction.

Ramaswamy, a businessman with no political experience, attacked former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley and DeSantis right out of the gate.

In an exchange regarding the conflict in Israel, Ramaswamy warned that the two leading candidates on the stage could drag America into a bloody war in Europe, while also channeling speculation that DeSantis wears lifts inside his boots.

“Do you want Dick Cheney in 3-inch heels? Because you’ve got two of them on stage tonight,” he said in reference to Haley and DeSantis, while invoking the Republican former vice president who was known for his neoconservative views.

“They’re 5-inch heels, and I don’t wear them unless I can run in them,” Haley later shot back. “They are not a fashion statement, they are ammunition.”

Ramaswamy wasn’t finished going after Haley. During a discussion over banning the Chinese short video app TikTok, he mentioned that Haley’s daughter used the platform. “You might want to take care of your family first,” he said.

“Leave my daughter out of your voice,” Haley countered, adding under her breath, “You’re just scum.”

Given his lagging poll numbers, the Miami debate could end up being Ramaswamy’s final one. Haley won’t miss him.

Haley and DeSantis go head-to-head on China

All eyes were on Haley and DeSantis, who were widely expected to go after each other in a bid to establish themselves as the top challenger to Trump in the Republican nominating contest.

After circling each other for half the debate, they finally went on the attack over the other’s dealings with China.

Both said their opponent had cozied up to Chinese industry as governors — Haley in South Carolina and DeSantis in Florida. Both, unsurprisingly, disagreed, leading to a heated exchange.

While all candidates on the stage portray themselves as tough on China, Haley has taken pains for months to establish herself as the top China hawk in the field.

The DeSantis campaign, meanwhile, has tried to attack Haley on that issue, accusing her of welcoming a Chinese company into her state.

Republican Presidential Candidates Back Israel at Latest Debate

Five Republicans hoping to be their party’s candidate in next year’s U.S. presidential election debated Wednesday night, expressing support for Israel in its war against Hamas, while clashing over China and Russia.

Not appearing on the debate stage in Miami was Republican front-runner Donald Trump, who is seeking to return to the White House after losing the 2020 election.

Trump has not appeared at any of the three Republican debates, and while holding his own rally nearby on Wednesday called the event with his competitors “unwatchable.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, who appears a distant second place in opinion polls, said Trump owes it to those watching the debates to appear and “explain why he should get another chance” to be the party’s nominee.

Former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie pointed to Trump’s multiple current and impending legal trials, saying, “Anybody who’s going to be spending the next year and a half of their life focusing on keeping themselves out of jail and courtrooms cannot lead this party.”

With Israel’s military response to an October attack by Hamas militants in its second month, former U.S. Ambassador to the U.N. Nikki Haley said Israel needs to “eliminate Hamas.”

“We need to be very clear-eyed to know there would be no Hamas without Iran, there would be no Hezbollah without Iran, there would not be the Houthis without Iran, and there wouldn’t be the Iranian militias in Syria and Iraq that are trying to hit our military men and women, if it hadn’t been for Iran,” Haley said.

Senator Tim Scott said he would tell Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, “not only do you have the responsibility and the right to wipe Hamas off the map, we will support you.”

Republican candidates will next debate on Dec. 6.

Voters will begin selecting the party’s presidential nominee Jan. 15 with the Iowa caucuses, and after the state-by-state nominating contests conclude, the Republican nominee will officially be named at the party’s convention in July.

Some information for this report came from The Associated Press, Agence France-Presse and Reuters.

Prosecutor Says Politics Didn’t Affect Hunter Biden Investigation

U.S. Special Counsel David Weiss, who is leading the probe into President Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden, told the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that he faced no political interference, contradicting earlier whistleblower testimony. 

Weiss has charged Hunter Biden, 53, with crimes related to owning a firearm while using illegal drugs. The president’s son has said he struggled with addictions to alcohol and crack cocaine.  

House Republicans allege the Justice Department improperly interfered with the investigation of Hunter Biden, whose brushes with the law are a central focus of their impeachment inquiry into the president. The White House has denied wrongdoing. Democrats say the impeachment inquiry is politically motivated. 

“Throughout this investigation, the career prosecutors on my team and I have made decisions based on the facts and the law,” Weiss said during testimony behind closed doors, according to his prepared remarks. “Political considerations played no part in our decision-making.” 

Weiss insists on his authority

Weiss, the first special counsel to testify in Congress before his final report is completed, is pushing back against comments by two Internal Revenue Service whistleblowers who say he told officials at a meeting that he did not have final authority on deciding to bring charges as part of his probe.  

Weiss told lawmakers he has had and continues to have full authority over his investigation. 

In keeping with Justice Department policy, Weiss would not address specifics about his probe.  

“Mr. Weiss reflected on his authorities, but then when we asked about the influences on those authorities – were there emails or meetings where people tried to move him in one direction or another? – he was entirely recalcitrant,” Republican lawmaker Matt Gaetz told reporters.  

Democrats participating in the interview sharply criticized it, saying Republicans’ questions were misleading and labeling the meeting a waste of time. 

At least 10 current and former officials from the FBI, IRS and Justice Department have testified behind closed doors as part of lawmakers’ probe. Attorney General Merrick Garland also testified before the House Judiciary Committee in a public hearing in September. 

Trump cheers inquiry

The impeachment inquiry has been cheered on by Republican former President Donald Trump, who is the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination to take on Biden again in the 2024 election. Trump is also the first U.S. president to be impeached twice. The Senate acquitted him both times. 

Trump is facing four criminal indictments for charges related to his business activities, mishandling of classified documents, and attempt to overturn the 2020 election. 

It is not clear if the full House of Representatives, controlled by a narrow 221-212 Republican majority, would support impeaching Biden. 

Democratic lawmaker Glenn Ivey said the first hour or so of testimony had mostly centered on letters between Weiss and lawmakers, and noted that the interview was unprecedented. 

“The irony is they’re always pushing to prosecute Hunter Biden, but this is the kind of stuff that could derail or cause problems for it,” Ivey told reporters. 

Originally nominated during Trump’s administration, Weiss was allowed to remain in place under Biden. 

War in Middle East Upends Dynamics of 2024 House Democratic Primaries

Most members of the U.S. Congress have stood firmly behind Israel since the Hamas attack last month, but not Cori Bush. The Missouri Democrat called Israel’s response a “war crime” and an “ethnic cleansing campaign,” and was among the few House members who opposed a resolution supporting Israel. 

Her unwavering stance has angered some in her district. St. Louis County Prosecuting Attorney Wesley Bell on Monday dropped a U.S. Senate bid to challenge Bush in next year’s 1st District Democratic primary, and moderate Democrats believe he could win. 

Bush isn’t alone. 

She’s among a small group of Democrats viewed by critics as insufficiently supportive of Israel — both long before and now after Hamas’ October 7 attack on Israel — or insufficiently critical of Hamas. Across those districts, moderates like Bell are being encouraged to run. In particular, Summer Lee in Pennsylvania, Jamaal Bowman in New York, Ilhan Omar in Minnesota, and Rashida Tlaib in Michigan probably will face challengers. 

All five have condemned Hamas’ attack and antisemitism, but they’ve all made statements seen as inflammatory by Israel’s staunchest supporters and been critical of U.S. military aid to Israel. 

Bush and Omar accused Israel of “ethnic cleansing.” Summer Lee said it had committed “human rights violations.” And at a recent cease-fire rally, Bowman said: “We cannot allow the lives of anyone to be erased. This erasure of Palestinian lives and experience has been happening for decades.” 

Adding to the fraught politics for Democrats is the fact that others could face pressure for the opposite reason — such as Shri Thanedar in Detroit, who represents a heavily Democratic district with a big Muslim population but has backed Israel. 

Last week, the House overwhelmingly passed a resolution supporting Israel. Bush, Bowman, Lee, Omar and Tlaib were among nine Democrats who opposed the measure, saying it failed to call for a cease-fire, create a pathway to peace, or express the need to protect Palestinian civilians in Gaza. 

Bowman, Lee, Omar and Tlaib also were among the 17 sponsors of Bush’s resolution asking the Biden administration to call for a cease-fire. Critics of that resolution said it failed to mention Hamas’ unprovoked attack on Israel, hostages held by Hamas, or that the U.S. considers Hamas a terrorist organization. 

All five are considered progressives in the Democratic caucus and represent strongly Democratic districts, so the main threat to their re-election prospects would probably come from the Democratic Party. 

Stances spur call for challengers

Challenges to Bush and the others were possible even before the Hamas attack on October 7 or Israel’s subsequent attack on Hamas in the Gaza Strip. But their stances after October 7 have fueled calls for primary challengers. 

Lee and Omar — who narrowly held off primary competitors in 2022 — may be particularly vulnerable. 

The progressive group Justice Democrats, which has backed primary challengers against moderate Democrats around the country, blamed the primary challenges on the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, or AIPAC, and a network of Republican donors who help fund AIPAC’s efforts to elect unequivocal allies of Israel. 

“Democratic members are truly out of step with their voters and their bases who do not want to see us barreling toward another war on their taxpayer dollars,” Justice Democrats’ spokesperson Usamah Andrabi said. 

It is unfortunate, Andrabi said, that the House Democratic leadership has not taken a stronger stance against AIPAC’s efforts to knock off rank-and-file Democrats. 

It remains unclear whether House Democrats will help incumbents fend off primary challengers through campaign fundraising arms. One organization, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, said it could potentially get involved in a primary race to protect an incumbent, but declined to discuss specifics. 

Before October 7, House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries  issued statements of support for Omar and others, saying he will support the reelection of every House Democratic incumbent, regardless of ideology. 

AIPAC declined to discuss its campaign efforts, saying “there will be a time for political action, but right now our priority is building and sustaining congressional support for Israel’s fight to permanently dismantle Hamas, which perpetrated this barbaric, terrorist attack on the Jewish state.” 

Rashida Tlaib, the lone Palestinian American in Congress, has been an outspoken opponent of the Biden administration’s response to the conflict. On Friday, she posted a video on social media showing anti-war protests across the United States and accusing President Joe Biden of supporting what she said was genocide against the Palestinian people. “We will remember in 2024,” she said. The White House declined comment Saturday on the video. 

While Tlaib defeated her primary opponent handily last year, pro-Israel groups have already signaled that they will focus on defeating her in 2024. The Democratic Majority for Israel — which bills itself as the “voice of pro-Israel Democrats” — began running ads against Tlaib in Detroit this week. 

Tlaib’s metro Detroit House district includes a large Arab American population in Dearborn and a substantial Jewish constituency in Southfield. 

Her congressional neighbor, however, is in a different situation: Tlaib and Thanedar have feuded publicly since he criticized her statements on Hamas’ attack on Israel, and Thanedar — a freshman who represents Detroit — has since drawn criticism from Tlaib on how he runs his office. 

Thanedar’s Detroit district has been a center of pro-Palestinian pushback in the state, with thousands of demonstrators calling for a cease-fire in the city’s downtown on October 28. 

He has a primary challenger in former state Senator Adam Hollier — Thanedar beat Hollier by 5 percentage points in a nine-way primary in 2022 — but Hollier’s campaign said his run isn’t a response to Thanedar’s stance on Israel. 

Rabbis criticize representative

In Pittsburgh, Summer Lee has faced broad criticism from the Jewish community, where members just marked the five-year anniversary of a gunman’s rampage through the Tree of Life synagogue, killing 11 people in the worst attack on Jews on American soil. 

On Tuesday, a group of 36 rabbis and four cantors released a letter criticizing Lee for voting against the House resolution expressing support for Israel and for supporting Bush’s cease-fire resolution. 

“It’s a rare day in any Jewish community when you have Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, Chabad and Reconstructionists together on one page,” said Rabbi Daniel Fellman of Pittsburgh’s Temple Sinai, who helped organize the effort. “But the reality is that Representative Lee isn’t representing her constituents.” 

Lee already has one declared opponent, and more may be coming. Bhavini Patel, 29, said she would have run regardless of Lee’s stance on Israel. But, she said, Lee’s standing in the Jewish community shows how Lee doesn’t try to understand the people she represents. 

Congresswoman accused of antisemitism

In Minneapolis, a former school board member, Don Samuels, is considering a second campaign against Ilhan Omar after he came within 2 percentage points of unseating her in 2022’s primary election. 

That close race turned mostly on the future of policing in the city where George Floyd was murdered. It remains to be seen how Omar’s stance on Israel will play out in her district, which has a large Somali American Muslim population. 

Omar has long been dogged by accusations that she is anti-Israel and antisemitic — accusations that have intensified since the Hamas attack. Since then, she has criticized both Hamas for its decision to attack Israel and the Israeli government’s response. Her main focus has been the impact on civilians in the Gaza Strip. She has called for a cease-fire and for Hamas to release hostages. 

In New York, current Westchester County Executive George Latimer is considering challenging Bowman. 

Latimer said people had encouraged him to challenge Bowman long before October 7, including overtures that had nothing to do with Israel. After Hamas’ attack, however, some in the Jewish community have intensified their efforts. 

A group of more than two dozen rabbis last month publicized a letter they wrote asking Latimer to challenge Bowman, citing the congressman’s posture on Israel. 

Latimer said he would decide in the coming months. 

Bush calls for ‘pro-peace agenda’

In Missouri, Bush — who has called Israel an “apartheid” state — said she is pushing a “pro-peace agenda.” 

Writing on social media, she said, “Israel’s collective punishment against Palestinians for Hamas’s actions is a war crime. I strongly condemn Hamas & their appalling violations of human rights, but violations of human rights don’t justify more human rights violations in retaliation.” 

Her challenger, Bell, said those types of comments “send the wrong message and we need to be sending to rogue nations and dictators and terrorist groups the message that that they cannot have missiles trained on Israel like we see with Hamas, like we see with Iran.” 

US House to Vote on Republicans’ Standalone $14.3 Billion Israel Bill

The U.S. House of Representatives plans a vote on Thursday on a Republican plan to provide $14.3 billion in aid to Israel by cutting Internal Revenue Service funding, setting up a clash with the Democratic-controlled Senate and White House.

Republicans unveiled the bill on Monday, in the first major legislative action under new House Speaker Mike Johnson, despite President Joe Biden’s request for a broad $106 billion package that would include funding for Israel, Taiwan and Ukraine, as well as humanitarian aid.

The bill will face its first test of support in a morning procedural vote, a hurdle it needs to clear before a final vote on passage later in the afternoon.

Republicans have a 221-212 majority in the House, but Biden’s fellow Democrats control the Senate 51-49. To become law, the bill would have to pass both the House and Senate and be signed by Biden.

The top Senate Democrat, Chuck Schumer, said the Republican bill would be dead on arrival in the upper chamber, even if it passed the House. The White House has threatened a veto.

Democrats objected to cutting money for the IRS, saying it will increase the country’s budget deficit by cutting back on tax collection.

They also said it was essential to continue to support Ukraine as it fights against a Russian invasion that began in February 2022.

While Democrats and many Republicans still strongly support Ukraine, a smaller but vocal group of Republicans question sending more money to the government in Kyiv at a time of steep budget deficits.

Congress has approved $113 billion for Ukraine since the invasion began.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office on Wednesday said the IRS cuts and the Israel aid in the standalone bill would add nearly $30 billion to the U.S. budget deficit, currently estimated at $1.7 trillion.