Political News

Ignoring Trump, Arizona Republicans don't want to move too fast to repeal 1864 abortion ban

Arizona state capitol building. Via KingWu/Getty Images

(PHOENIX) -- Arizona's Republican lawmakers made clear on Wednesday, despite the controversy engulfing their state with the revival of a strict, Civil War-era abortion ban -- roiling the politics of the key battleground and drawing criticism from top conservatives like Donald Trump -- that it's not the time to move too quickly.

"Legislatures are not built for knee-jerk reactions," state House Speaker Ben Toma said during a floor session as the GOP majority, with one exception, blocked a Democratic-led effort to fast-track a bill to repeal the 1864 abortion ban that the Arizona Supreme Court recently ruled is enforceable.

"The last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and reaffirmed by the Legislature several times," Toma said.

The 1864 ban, which supersedes a 15-week abortion ban that was enacted in 2022 after a state Supreme Court ruling last week, blocks all abortions except to save the life of the pregnant woman.

Anyone found guilty of violating it will face two to five years in state prison, but Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes, a Democrat, said she would not prosecute providers under the law.

Though the ban remains temporarily on hold, Mayes said this week that the earliest it could take effect is June 8, "absent any additional litigation" or legislative action.

While the ban was celebrated by abortion opponents like Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America President Marjorie Dannenfelser -- who called the state Supreme Court decision an "enormous victory for unborn children and their mothers" -- it was denounced by abortion access advocates and Democrats.

On Wednesday, as lawmakers reconvened and Democrats sought to move forward on their repeal proposal, advocates on both sides of the issue gathered inside and outside of the state Capitol.

"This is a stain on history that this ban even exists -- from a time when the age of consent was 10, from a time when women didn't have the right to vote," Arizona state Sen. Eva Burch, a Democrat, told ABC News' Elizabeth Schulze.

Burch's GOP colleague Dave Farnsworth took another view.

"We have the best law possible on the books right now," the state senator told Schulze.

Pressed about the ban's lack of exceptions, Farnsworth said, "Arizona's a pro-life state and that law was put into place by people that believe in the sanctity of life."

Toma, the House speaker, said during Wednesday's floor session that "abortion is a complicated topic -- it is ethically, morally complex. I understand that we have deeply held beliefs, and I would ask everyone in this chamber to respect the fact that some of us who believe that abortion is in fact the murder of children."

That position cuts against some of the most prominent voices in the GOP, who have staked out a more careful position in an election year in which abortion is expected to be a major issue for voters -- and as abortion access has won out in races elsewhere in the country.

Leading Republicans like Trump, former Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and Senate candidate Kari Lake touted their general support for abortion restrictions but said the 1864 ban goes too far.

"It's all about states' rights and it needs to be straightened out," Trump said last week during a campaign stop in Atlanta. "And I'm sure that the governor and everybody else will bring it back into reason and that will be taken care of."

The state's Democratic governor, Katie Hobbs, has called on state lawmakers to repeal the ban -- but shot back at Trump.

"I'm kind of tired of cleaning up Donald Trump's messes," Hobbs said on "GMA3" last week. "But, look, this is just political opportunism from these politicians who this is they are getting exactly what they wanted. Donald Trump bragged about getting rid of Roe v. Wade. And this is the consequence of that."

Since Roe was overruled in 2022 by the U.S. Supreme Court's 6-3 conservative majority, including three justices named by Trump, as he often notes, 21 states have banned or severely restricted abortion access.

However, since 2022, voters across the country have also repeatedly cast ballots protecting abortion rights, and exit polling showed that it was top of mind for some voters, as in Michigan's midterm races.

The Arizona for Abortion Access campaign is working to get a potential constitutional amendment on the state's ballot in November to enshrine abortion access, which Democrats believe could boost voter enthusiasm and turnout for their candidates. The campaign has said that they have gathered more than 500,000 signatures -- surpassing the necessary threshold, but will continue to gather signatures “until the wheels fall off,” a spokesperson told ABC News.

The inititiave would amend Arizona's Constitution to prohibit the state from legislating against abortion up until fetal viability, which is around 24 weeks into pregnancy; and it enshrines other abortion protections into law.

The Republican-led House counsel in Arizona has, separately, internally proposed a plan to rival the state's abortion rights ballot initiative by adding ballot initiatives of their own in the wake of what they call "court chaos" on abortion policy, according to a presentation leaked Monday and shared with ABC News. Those plans could be publicly announced as soon as this week, a Republican lawmaker said Wednesday.

Democratic lawmakers also plan to keep pushing repeal.

State senators on Wednesday began the process of taking up another bill to undo the 1864 ban, though the earliest that proposal would likely see a vote is on May 1, as it requires two other readings before a vote can be taken and the Legislature is on a once-a-week meeting schedule.

Arizona voter Desiree Mayes, a Republican at the Capitol on Wednesday to help apply pressure on lawmakers not to repeal the ban, called Trump's stance on abortion "inconsistent."

"If you really if you really believe that babies in the womb are precious and valuable, they deserve equal protection," she said, explaining she doesn't support exceptions for rape or incest.

Her message to Arizona Republicans like Lake and others distancing themselves from the 1864 ban? "You're saying you're pro-life. If you work to repeal this ban, we're going to make sure all your constituents know."

Republican strategist Barrett Marson said the failure of a quick repeal showed that Trump and Lake “only have so much sway over far-right politicians,” noting that not one vote changed since they weighed in.

House Democrats will try again, next week, for another vote on their bill.

Arizona state Rep. David Cook, a Republican who voted against fast-tracking the repeal legislation on Wednesday, told ABC News' Phil Lipof in an interview on "ABC News Live Prime" that conservatives do intend to get behind repeal in the future. He felt the rules weren't followed Wednesday and he refused to "roll the speaker," or neutralize the speaker’s objections to move to a final vote.

"We made tremendous progress ... in moving forward," Cook said of internal deliberations in the GOP state House caucus.

"The bottom is that the 1800 law will be repealed," he said, with a successful vote likely as soon as next week.

Republican state Rep. Matt Gress, who backed repeal on Wednesday, agreed. "There are enough votes in this chamber to repeal the territorial law. It will happen, it's just a matter of time," he said on the floor.

But after that, Cook told Lipof, more exceptions need to be enacted in the state's abortion restrictions, including for rape and incest.

He defended the timeline so far, telling Lipof, "We don't need knee-jerk reactions to bypass the rules and the normal order of business. This is not an emergency."

State Rep. Alexander Kolodin, another Republican, said during Wednesday's floor session that Republicans will roll out their own abortion plan, indicating that action may be through a ballot initiative.

"The ultimate folks who are going to make the call will be the people of the state of Arizona," he said.

Speaking with ABC News' Elizabeth Schulze, Kolodin suggested he's not worried that the politics of abortion will imperil his party at the ballot box.

"Voters are smart," he said. "They would rather vote for somebody that they respect and disagree with than somebody that doesn't believe in anything."

Meanwhile, for the women of Arizona seeking abortions, the clock is ticking, providers say.

"We are having conversations with them, letting them know that we're going week by week," Dr. DeShawn Taylor told Schulze. "Because there will come a time when we'll have to stop."

ABC News' Isabella Murray contributed to this report.

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Biden, in counter to RFK Jr., to get endorsement of other Kennedy family members

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) --  President Joe Biden is wrapping up a three-day Pennsylvania campaign swing in Philadelphia on Thursday with an endorsement by 15 members of the politically famous Kennedy family -- a counter to the political threat from RFK Jr.

In speech excerpts released by the Biden campaign from Kerry Kennedy, a daughter of former Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, she will say another Donald Trump presidency would "horrify" her father.

"We can say today, with no less urgency, that our rights and freedoms are once again in peril," Kennedy is expected to say. "That is why we all need to come together in a campaign that should unite not only Democrats, but all Americans, including Republicans, and independents, who believe in what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature."

She along with several of her family members have denounced her brother Robert F. Kennedy Jr.'s bid for president. The independent candidate, who officially launched his presidential bid last fall, is famously known for espousing conspiracy theories about the efficacy of vaccines.

The endorsement comes as no real surprise. Although he is the fourth Kennedy to run for president, RFK Jr. is the only one to have broken from the Democratic Party. Many of his relatives, like Kerry Kennedy, argue that not only is his run an "embarrassment" but that it could swing a close race in Trump's come November.

"I think, you know, this is the most important election of my lifetime," Kerry Kennedy told ABC News anchor George Stephanopoulos on "Good Morning America" on Thursday, listing Trump's dictator remarks, his boasting of the overturning of Roe v. Wade and more as worrisome.

"The list goes on and on and on," she said. "We must elect President Biden, and that's where our energy has to be."

Kerry Kennedy also said that "nobody competes for the President Biden when it comes to carrying on the legacies of John Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Ted Kennedy."

"I've listened to him, I know him, I have no idea why anyone thinks he should be president," Jack Schlossberg, the grandson of John F. Kennedy, said about RFK Jr. in a video on Instagram last summer. "What I do know is his candidacy is an embarrassment."

Rory Kennedy, RFK Jr.'s sister, told ABC's "GMA" a couple of weeks ago that she's "concerned" voting for her brother will "take votes away from Biden and lead to a Trump election."

Realistically the candidate, who is currently polling at 7%, according to 538's average, has a longshot path to getting into the White House. Although his campaign has claimed he has enough signatures to appear on the ballots of eight states, including battleground states North Carolina and Nevada, only Utah has confirmed that he has qualified.

But in a race that is expected to see small margin wins, any votes siphoned away from the Biden could theoretically help lead to another Trump presidency.

Biden, who has a close friendship with the Kennedy family, has steered away from commenting on RFK Jr.'s bid, but in a show of force against the candidate, the Democratic National Committee has hired a communications team to combat the legitimacy of Kennedy.

It has filed a federal complaint alleging RFK Jr.'s super PAC is working too closely with his campaign. And on a call with reporters in March, DNC surrogates called him 'dangerous' and a 'spoiler.'

"A vote for Joe Biden is a vote to save our democracy and our decency. It is a vote for what my father called for, in his own presidential announcement in 1968," Kerry Kennedy is expected to say at Thursday's announcement. "Our right to the moral leadership of this planet."

On Thursday morning, RFK Jr. responded to the news of his family's appearance with Biden.

"I hear some of my family will be endorsing President Biden today. I am pleased they are politically active -- it’s a family tradition," he said in a statement. "We are divided in our opinions but united in our love for each other."

He said, as he has before, that other relatives are on his side.

"My campaign, which many of my family members are working on and supportive of, is about healing America -- healing our economy, our chronic disease crisis, our middle class, our environment, and our standing in the world as a peaceful nation," he said. "But this will only happen if we heal our national conversation, and move from rage and fear into love and respect."

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Supreme Court to decide if ban on homeless encampments is 'cruel and unusual'

ABC News

(GRANTS PASS, Ore.) -- Just past the outfield fence of the local little league ballpark, homeless residents of this sleepy Oregon town erect tents to spend the night protected from cold and rain.

“It’s public access, plain and simple,” said Brandon, 38, a Grants Pass native who says the death of his wife three years ago plunged him into a financial crisis that cost him a permanent home.

The city, seeing a menace in its parks, wants unhoused residents like Brandon prohibited from camping on public land.

“When kids practice on that field and there’s needles and stuff like that,” said local state representative Dwayne Younker, “is it safe to have a kid play in the park where there's a tent 20 feet away? I don't know what the people in the tent are doing.”

A debate over homeless encampments familiar to many communities heads to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, where the justices will confront a rising tide of unhoused Americans and punitive steps cities like Grants Pass are increasingly taking to address it.

In 2013, the Grants Pass city council attempted to ban anyone “from using a blanket, pillow or cardboard box for protection from the elements” while sleeping outside under threat of civil citation.

Two federal courts put the measure on hold after finding it “cruel and unusual punishment” under the Eighth Amendment to ticket people with no alternative to survive.

“Involuntarily homeless people are punished for engaging in the unavoidable acts of sleeping or resting in a public place when they have nowhere else to go,” a district court concluded in 2020.

There are no public homeless shelters in Grants Pass, which has a population of nearly 40,000. An estimated 600 residents are experiencing homelessness.

“We all want to solve homelessness, but criminalizing our neighbors who’ve been forced to live outside is not the way to do it. It will not work; it will make matters worse,” said attorney Ed Johnson at the Oregon Law Center, which represents a group of Grants Pass homeless residents.

In City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, the nation’s highest court is being asked to decide whether ticketing homeless people is patently unconstitutional -- the most significant legal dispute over homelessness in America in more than 40 years.

"This case is about giving cities the tools that they need to address the urgent homelessness crisis," said Theane Evangelis, an attorney representing the city before the Supreme Court. "We believe that it's cruel to allow these conditions to continue, and that cities need to have the flexibility to address all of the circumstances as they work on long term solutions to homelessness."

The case also has sweeping implications for those living on the streets, advocates say.

“The stakes are really high,” said Ann Olivia, CEO of the National Alliance to End Homelessness. “What the data tells us, what the evidence tells us, what our humanity tells us, is that moving people around because you don’t want to see them is not the answer.”

Soaring home and rent prices have eaten into incomes and priced some people out of the market. The situation has been compounded by sunsetting COVID relief programs; an ongoing mental health and drug abuse crisis; and, an aging population without retirement savings.

Adding to that financial burden -- and giving some people a criminal record -- by ticketing them for camping is counterproductive, homeless advocates contend.

“The reality is, the only thing that works is more permanent affordable housing,” said Johnson. “If we prevail in this case, our homeless problem is still going to be there. It just means that we can't criminalize people while they're homeless.”

Helen Cruz, an unhoused Grants Pass native, knows the indignity first hand. Over five years living in city parks before a nearby church took her in, she says she received more than $5,000 in camping related fines.

“I was holding down two jobs when I was out here, and it's still not enough to be able to rent a place,” she said. “The terms of low income housing here is $1,000 a month, and that's not workable either.”

Still, from Phoenix, to Los Angeles, to Seattle, city leaders and law enforcement groups -- members of both political parties -- have joined Grants Pass in urging the justices to make it easier to clear tent encampments from the streets.

"Cities need to have these ordinances so that they can help incentivize people to accept offers of help," Evangelis said. "That's what these laws do."

In its brief to the high court, Grants Pass says lower courts created “a judicial roadblock preventing a comprehensive response to the growth of public encampments in the West” and that the situation threatens “crime, fires, the reemergence of medieval disease, environmental harm, and record levels of drug overdoses and deaths on public streets.”

“The cities are saying they don’t have clarity on this issue,” said Austin VanDerHeyden, a municipal affairs analyst with the Goldwater Institute. “It’s more ‘cruel and unusual’ to punish someone the way they are currently existing -- the way that they’re being forced to live on the street currently is not compassionate.”

Grants Pass Police Chief Warren Hensman said many law enforcement agencies feel caught in the middle and need to be able to enforce the law.

“We have community members in Grants Pass that are afraid to come their parks. We've had shootings in our parks. We have fights in our parks, chronic drug abuse in our parks. So much of our citizenry are not walking through our parks,” he said.

“The problem is much more than the police department. It’s much more than a city. It’s really a state and national problem to come together and work on," he said.

Some social service providers say local ordinances like a camping ban would provide incentive to homeless people to take advantage of existing resources.

“The big question is, is there nowhere else to go? Or Is there just nowhere else that they want to go?” said Brian Bouteller, director of Grants Pass Gospel Rescue Mission, the only private homeless shelter in town, which has provided warm beds and meals to the needy for more than 40 years.

The facility -- which has 78 beds to house homeless men -- is only half full.

“We've seen a drop in our residency, and we've seen an increase in people in our parks and freeway underpasses and that kind of stuff in places where they ought not be,” because the courts put the camping ban on hold, he said.

The Supreme Court’s decision, which is expected by the end of June, is expected to lay out guidelines for how cities can regulate homeless encampments going forward.

Helen Cruz and Brandon say, for them, a lot is on the line.

“If I don't feel like I belong, I'm going to feel like an outsider, and then I'm going to want to continue doing the same thing,” said Brandon as he erected his tent in centerfield of Morrison Park, “because there's no reason to thrive for anything different.”

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Sarah Sanders' office potentially violated state law in $19K lectern controversy, audit finds

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, governor of Arkansas, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, May 2, 2023. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- The little-seen, $19,000 lectern at the center of a controversy in Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' office was made available for viewing on Tuesday night -- after a monthslong audit into how the lectern was procured and paid for found that Sanders' staff potentially violated several state laws.

The governor's office responded by characterizing the investigation as "a waste of taxpayer resources and time" and called the audit report "deeply flawed."

"The facts outlined in the report demonstrate what the governor's office said all along: we followed the law, and the state was fully reimbursed with private funds for the podium, at no cost to the taxpayers," Sanders' spokesperson Alexa Henning said in a statement.

A Republican state senator had requested the probe last year after the lectern's high price tag sparked scrutiny and captured the national spotlight, including a jab from late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.

The purchase only came to light when Matt Campbell, a Little Rock attorney and progressive blogger, called attention to Sanders' office using a state-issued credit card in June 2023 to make a $19,029.25 payment to Beckett Events, a boutique event planning company whose owners are close with the governor.

Lawmakers questioned Sanders' staff about the audit's findings in a nearly three-hour hearing at the state Capitol on Tuesday, after the report was sent Monday to prosecuting attorneys.

"I was really hoping that you all would have brought the lectern with you today so we could see it," Republican state Rep. Julie Mayberry said at that hearing. "We all can agree that $19,000 was spent on an item and no one has really seen it."

Sanders' deputy chief of staff, Judd Deere, told lawmakers that she plans to use the lectern now that the audit is complete, previously having not wanted it to be a distraction.

Despite seven "areas of noncompliance" identified in the audit report where the governor's office potentially violated state laws regarding purchasing, state property and government records, Deere also said no members of the governor's staff were disciplined for their actions -- "nor should they be," he added.

What's next then for the dispute also known as #LecternGate?

Arkansas' Attorney General Tim Griffin, a Republican, has already indicated he won't pursue charges -- enraging critics -- when last week he said that state purchasing laws don't apply to the governor or other executive branch officials, only to state agencies.

That means the potential for any criminal charges to be filed would likely fall to Will Jones, the 6th Judicial District prosecuting attorney in Little Rock.

Jones said his office is assessing the audit and that their "review is no different than any other file review" sent to them.

Sanders, a former Trump White House official and daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, has been seen as a rising star in the Republican Party.

She was defiant in dismissing the findings, posting a 20-second video edit of the lectern to social media this week that said "COME AND TAKE IT."

Here are key takeaways from the audit:

Potential violations include tampering with public records

Auditors identified seven "areas of potential noncompliance with state law" that the governor's office engaged in -- including a member of the governor's office staff shredding the bill of lading for the lectern, which contained details of the shipment and was attached to the delivery crate, potentially violating document retention laws.

They were told in interviews that the shredding was inadvertent.

Auditors also reported that, at the direction of the governor's deputy chief of staff, an executive assistant added handwritten notes that read "to be reimbursed" on two invoices after Campbell, the blogger, asked for documents surrounding the lectern's purchase in a Freedom of Information Act request. State Republicans ultimately repaid the cost of the lectern -- after Campbell called attention to it.

According to the audit, other potential violations of budgeting and accounting laws include the purchase being applied to operating expenses, though state law prevents equipment that must be capitalized from being expensed, as well as the lectern being paid for before it was delivered.

The governor's office further failed to notify a state agency of the lectern's delivery, as required, and did not create a business expense justification statement on the day it was purchased.

Sanders has previously maintained that the lectern's purchase "went through standard protocol in our office."

Lectern has no electronic components, despite special features touted

When Sanders came under fire last fall for the lectern's price tag, relative to other such furniture and equipment, she told reporters it was custom made for her height, was designed "to get the best sound quality" and that it incorporated components to allow multiple media outlets to plug in at the same time.

Auditors reported the lectern features no microphone or any electronic elements.

It does include a light, they said.

The report included a breakdown of the total cost as follows: $11,575 for the lectern itself, $2,500 for a consulting fee, $2,200 for a travel case, $1,225 for freight shipping for the lectern, $975 for freight shipping for the travel case and $554 for a credit card processing fee.

The $2,500 consulting fee had not been previously reported but attracted scrutiny on social media when coupled with a detail from the report that the governor's office was considering returning the lectern shortly after its delivery because its height did not meet order specifications.

The total $19,000 cost for the podium is notably higher than could be purchased via standard retail means. One retailer previously wrote online that their own lecterns sell for around $7,000. And two political sources outside of Sanders' office with experience producing podiums and the costs associated with them has told ABC News that $19,029.25 is more than they would have charged or spent on the procurement.

Sanders herself didn't participate in the audit, nor did the lectern's vendors

Neither Sanders, who previously said she welcomed the audit, nor the lectern vendors cooperated with the probe, according to the audit report.

Virginia Beckett and Hannah Stone of Beckett Events did not respond to repeated attempts from auditors to contact them via telephone, certified mail and email, the report said, nor did New York-based Miller's Presentation Furniture, which manufactured the lectern, according to the audit.

Beckett and Stone were previously hired by Sanders' office to help with advance planning on her gubernatorial inauguration and the 2023 GOP response to the State of the Union address. They were also at the Paris Air Show last June, which Sanders also attended, the same month the lectern was purchased.

Auditors recruited Sanders' office for help reaching out to the vendors during their investigation. Chief legal counsel for the governor's office told lawmakers Tuesday she sent two emails to Beckett Events.

Moving forward, an aide to the governor said Tuesday that she doesn't plan on using the vendors again.

Neither of the vendors immediately responded to ABC News' request for comment.

No evidence state party planned to reimburse state before FOIA request

Only after Campbell sought additional information about the five-figure purchase with taxpayer dollars was it reimbursed by the state's Republican Party, with auditors reporting "there was no indication the governor's office was seeking reimbursement for the cost of the podium and the road case" before the requests.

Sanders' spokesperson said last fall that use of a state credit card for the purchase was "an accounting error."

The governor's deputy chief of staff, however, told lawmakers Tuesday that it was decided later on it would be "preferable" for the lectern to be paid for with private funds via the state Republican Party.

"This body appropriated money that was available for us to use to purchase items. Later on we determined it was preferable that private funds the governor raised be used to reimburse the state," Deere said. "No taxpayer has been used to purchase this item. So we do not view it as a mistake."

Notably, the governor's office had also sought approval before the lectern purchase to increase the state credit card's spending limit, as opposed to having the Arkansas Republican Party make the purchase themselves.

Campbell, in a statement to ABC News, applauded the auditors' work which he said proved "what we already knew: that the lectern purchase was illegal and done in the shadiest way imaginable."

The audit also determined, because of broken protocols, that the lectern belongs to the state of Arkansas.

One Arkansas vendor contacted and quoted a far lower lectern price

Staffers in Sanders' office told auditors they "could not recall any other quotes being obtained" for the lectern.

However, auditors found that in March 2023, a staff member contacted an Arkansas-based audio and visual equipment dealer and received quotes for podiums up to $1,500, lighting systems up to $1,000 and sound systems up to $3,000.

While auditors said they were ultimately unable to determine the reasonableness of the cost of the podium due to the "custom specifications," "lack of vendor responses" and "lack of documentation," they hinted at its high price when compared to similar-style lecterns on the market.

"It should be noted that similar non-customized falcon style podiums can be purchased from online vendors starting at approximately $7,000, as opposed to the $11,575 amount allocated to the custom falcon podium," the report said.

Arkansas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed doubt about the lectern's value.

"I don't think the lectern's worth $19,000 or $11,500," Republican state Sen. John Payton said on Tuesday. "But I do think the lesson learned could be worth far more than that if we would just accept the fact that it was bad judgment and it was carelessness."

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Johnson hawks $95 billion Israel, Ukraine aid package amid threats to speakership

Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker Mike Johnson and other House Republican leaders released a $95 billion foreign aid package Wednesday that provides funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan – as Congress continues to grapple with a response to actions taken by Russia, Iran and China that have defied the international community.

The package includes $26.4 billion for Israel aid, including $4 billion to replenish Israel Iron Dome defense system, $60.8 billion for Ukraine aid, including $23 billion for replenishing weapons and $8.1 billion for Indo-Pacific aid.

Johnson, who is facing a small revolt within his own conference and will need to rely on Democratic votes to advance the package, told members to expect a final passage vote on the package Saturday evening. But the path to getting there will be an uphill battle and could potentially cost the speaker his gavel.

Far-right Republicans are mocking Johnson's plan as the #AmericaLast Act – complaining, for example, that it includes $481 million to pay for housing, medical bills and legal fees for Ukrainian refugees coming to the United States.

"The Republican Speaker of the House is seeking a rule to pass almost $100 billion in foreign aid - while unquestionably, dangerous criminals, terrorists, & fentanyl pour across our border. The border "vote" in this package is a watered-down dangerous cover vote. I will oppose," Chip Roy, R-Texas, said in a statement on X.

Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is threatening to oust Johnson, said in a statement on X, "Speaker Johnson, voted against $300 million for Ukraine before we gave you the gavel along with the majority of Republicans, no one understands why it is now your top priority to give Ukraine $60 billion more dollars. You are seriously out of step with Republicans by continuing to pass bills dependent on Democrats."

Greene's motion to vacate the speakership hangs over Johnson's head -- though he has moved forward with his plan undeterred.

While several Republicans are coming out strongly against the plan, President Joe Biden and top Democrats are urging lawmakers to support the bills.

Biden urged the House to pass the package this week, adding that the Senate should "quickly follow."

"I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won't let Iran or Russia succeed," Biden wrote in a statement Wednesday.

​​Rep. Rosa DeLauro -- the top Democratic appropriator in the House – announced her support for the three bills, noting they "mirror" the Senate's bipartisan national security package that passed through the upper chamber on Feb. 13.

"After House Republicans dragged their feet for months, we finally have a path forward to provide support for our allies and desperately needed humanitarian aid," DeLauro, D-Conn., stated. "We cannot retreat from the world stage under the guise of putting 'America First.' We put America first by demonstrating the power of American leadership – that we have the strength, resolve, and heart to fight for the most vulnerable people, protect their freedom, and preserve their dignity. I urge swift passage of these bills."

Republicans are expected to unveil a fourth measure later Wednesday, including the REPO Act, sanctions, the Tik Tok bill, and other measures to "confront Russia, China and Iran."

And to appease hardliners, the House will also introduce a separate bill on the border that includes "the core components of H.R.2, under a separate rule that will allow for amendments."

If the package clears the House this weekend, the Senate will have a one-week recess to consider how to handle the legislation when the upper chamber returns on April 29.

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Biden promises union workers to keep US Steel 'American-owned, American-operated'

Kyle Mazza/Anadolu via Getty Images

(PITTSBURGH) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday continued his 2024 campaign swing through Pennsylvania, speaking to the United Steelworkers union as he proposed tripling tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum and denouncing the sale of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel, promising union workers he will keep it a “totally American company.”

“U.S. Steel has been an iconic American company for more than a century, and it should remain a totally American company," he said in Pittsburgh. "American-owned, American-operated by American union steel workers, the best in the world. And it’s -- that's going to happen, I promise you.”

The acquisition by Japan’s Nippon Steel took one more step last week when U.S. Steel shareholders approved the $14.9 billion sale, despite opposition from the United Steelworkers union.

The president also accused the Chinese government of “cheating” by overproducing steel and subsidizing the cost, leading to “unfairly low prices” in the global market.

“The prices are unfairly low because China's steel companies don’t need to worry about making a profit because the Chinese governor subsidizes them so heavily, they're not competing, they’re cheating. They’re cheating. And we've seen the damage here in America,” he said.

Biden promised the crowd that he would not let American workers lose their jobs due to the import of Chinese steel, which he noted happened in the early 2,000s in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

While Biden courts the critical voting bloc, his likely GOP presidential opponent -- former President Donald Trump -- faced a criminal trial in a Manhattan courtroom, which Biden made a veiled reference to in his remarks.

“Under my predecessor -- who's busy right now -- Pennsylvania lost 275,000 jobs. I mean, just look at the facts,” Biden said.

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Arizona Republicans block another Democratic effort to repeal 1864 abortion ban

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(PHOENIX) -- Arizona Republicans on Wednesday again blocked a Democratic-led effort to repeal a controversial 19th-century ban on almost all abortions in the state, which the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled is enforceable.

Democrats in the state House failed to overcome procedural obstacles to advance House Bill 2677, introduced by Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, to repeal the 1864 abortion law, which predates Arizona's statehood and only provides exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman.

Only one of the Republican representatives joined with the Democratic minority, leaving them one vote short of pushing the bill forward.

"The last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and reaffirmed by the Legislature several times," Speaker Ben Toma, a Republican, said during Wednesday's state House session.

"Abortion is a complicated topic -- it is ethically, morally complex," said Toma. "I understand that we have deeply held beliefs."

Assistant Minority Leader Oscar De Los Santos, speaking after Toma, said, "This issue is very simple: Do we support or do we oppose an 1864 territorial abortion ban that includes no exceptions for rape, no exceptions for incest?"

He continued: "We heard the speaker mention that we shouldn't be rushing this process. Members, we have had since 1864 to repeal this abhorrent law,"

Arizona lawmakers had reconvened on Wednesday after a week's recess, with much attention was on the repeal bill and whether it would move forward.

It's unclear how Democrats will next attempt to roll back the strict ban, though members in the state Senate have said they plan to act quickly to take up such efforts in their chamber later Wednesday.

The Arizona Supreme Court's ruling reviving the 1864 ban immediately roiled the politics of the key swing state -- being celebrated by abortion opponents and denounced by abortion access advocates and Democrats, while top Republicans, including Donald Trump, said it went too far.

The ban remains temporarily on hold but Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said this week that the earliest it could take effect is June 8 -- "absent any additional litigation" or legislative action.

Anyone found guilty of violating it will face two to five years in state prison. Mayes previously said she would not prosecute providers under the law.

Arizona Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, on Wednesday planned to hold rally outside the state Capitol in support of the 1864 ban.

The Arizona for Abortion Access coalition was also set to hold a rally outside of the state Capitol.

If Arizona lawmakers attempt repeal again, how would it work?

Hamilton's repeal bill, which failed to advance on Wednesday, already passed two readings in the Arizona House, setting it up for another attempt at a floor vote -- after one more step.

A member will need bring up a motion to waive the normal procedures to consider the bill, since it has not yet been heard in a committee.

That waive motion was opposed by nearly all Republicans in the state House majority on Wednesday. But if it ever succeeds, the repeal ban could then go up for a full House vote and would need 31 votes to pass -- a simple majority of legislators in the 60-member chamber.

As there are 29 Democratic members in the Arizona House, the bill needs just two Republican votes to succeed. The GOP members to watch are Reps. Matt Gress, David Cook and Tim Dunn.

Toma, the Arizona House speaker, said last week that lawmakers will not "rush legislation on a topic of this magnitude without a larger discussion," and Republican lawmakers quashed an earlier, Democratic-led effort to quickly repeal the ban.

"We as an elected body are going to take the time needed to listen to our constituents and carefully consider appropriate actions," Toma said last week.

The Center for Arizona Policy, which has led the fight against abortion rights at the Legislature and successfully lobbied for myriad restrictions, has called on GOP lawmakers not to repeal the 1864 ban.

If the Arizona House votes yes on the bill, however, there are still more steps and procedures before the ban is formally repealed and off the books.

The proposal, after passing the state House, would then go to the state Senate for yet another vote to waive rules on the bill.

Two Republicans are needed to join Democrats in the state Senate as well, and Sens. Shawnna Bolick and T.J. Shope have said they'd support the repeal.

The legislation may have to go through further procedural steps given that it has not yet been read in the state Senate. That includes a rule requiring bills be heard on three separate days, so it will likely take at least three more days.

To repeal the 1864 ban immediately, lawmakers would have to include an emergency clause in their language but get a two-thirds majority vote for passage. Otherwise, anything approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor does not take effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session.

Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, opposes the ban.

"A law passed in 1864 by 27 men is the reason why my 22-year-old daughter now has fewer rights than I did at her age," she wrote on X on Tuesday. "It's absolutely outrageous. I'm committed to ensuring that future generations have the essential freedoms they deserve."

She has reiterated that an executive order she signed in 2023 prohibits county attorneys from going above Mayes, the Arizona attorney general, who has said her office is still analyzing legal options and is continuing plans over what to do if litigation efforts are unsuccessful, including how Arizona can support abortion providers.

Potentially dueling ballot measures on abortion

The Arizona for Abortion Access campaign is working to get a potential constitutional amendment on the state's ballot in November enshrining abortion access. The campaign has said that they have gathered more than 500,000 signatures – surpassing the necessary threshold.

The proposed amendment would amend Arizona's Constitution to prohibit the state from legislating against abortion up until fetal viability, which is around 24 weeks into pregnancy; and it enshrines other abortion protections into law.

The Republican-led House counsel in Arizona has, separately, internally proposed a plan to rival the state's abortion rights ballot initiative by adding ballot initiatives of their own in the wake of what they call "court chaos" on abortion policy, according to a presentation leaked Monday and shared with ABC News.

That proposal includes potentially legislatively-referred ballot initiatives that would compete with the Arizona for Abortion Access measure -- to either return to a 15-week ban that had been in effect before the 1864 ruling or offer a six-week ban, with exceptions in both cases for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities and to save the life of "the woman" in the language presented.

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Senate kills Mayorkas impeachment trial, votes both articles 'unconstitutional'

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Wednesday dismissed both impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, deeming them "unconstitutional."

The trial against Mayorkas, long a target of Republican criticism over his handling of immigration policy and the southern border, lasted just three hours after senators were sworn in as jurors.

The votes to dismiss both articles and adjourn the trial were along party lines, 51-49.

House Republicans, back in February, approved two articles over what they called Mayorkas' failed leadership. The first article alleged Mayorkas willfully and systemically refused to comply with the law on immigration policy and the second accused him of breaching public trust. The Cabinet secretary, the first to be impeached in nearly 150 years, had called both allegations "baseless."

Leading up to the trial, Republicans were demanding a thorough consideration of the articles of impeachment take place while Democrats said they would seek to dismiss them quickly.

Such back-and-forth was apparent as proceedings kicked off in the Senate after lawmakers were sworn in as jurors.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., first asked for unanimous consent on a plan that would have allowed for debate time and for Republicans to raise various points of order before Democrats moved toward a motion to dismiss the charges.

Republicans quickly objected.

"Never before in the history of our republic has the Senate dismissed or tabled articles of impeachment when the impeached individual was alive and had not resigned," Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., said as he rose to reject what Schumer proposed.

"I will not assist Senator Schumer in setting our Constitution ablaze and bulldozing 200 years of precedent," Schmitt added.

Schumer responded that the first of the articles of impeachment "does not allege conduct that rises to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor" and "therefore is unconstitutional."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tried to aside Schumer's motion that the first article of impeachment against Mayorkas is unconstitutional.

"Our colleagues know that we are obligated to take these proceedings seriously," McConnell said. "This is what our oath prescribes. It is what the history and precedent require and I would urge each of our colleagues to consider that this is what our framers actually envisioned."

McConnell added, "This process must not be abused, it must not be short circuited. History will not judge this moment well."

Republican senators tried several times to move into a closed session or adjourn the court of impeachment, but such efforts failed along party lines.

"The Senate Majority Leader has argued that Secretary Mayorkas' defiance of federal immigration law and active aiding and abetting of the worst illegal alien invasion in American history does not constitute a high crime or misdemeanor," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said as he tried to move debate behind closed doors.

"He has presented no argument on that question. He has presented no briefing on that question ... the only rational way to resolve this question is actually to debate it, to consider the Constitution and consider the law," Cruz added.

All senators present for Wednesday's proceedings were seated at their desks. At some points, lawmakers could be seen handing out candy or huddling in groups for conversation.

Mayorkas previously called the allegations "false" and "politically motivated." Asked about the proceedings earlier Wednesday as the department rolled out a new campaign to child exploitation, the secretary said he was focused on his work.

"The Senate is going to do what the Senate considers to be appropriate as that proceeds," Mayorkas said. "I'm here in New York City on Wednesday morning, fighting online child sexual exploitation and abuse. We are focused on our mission. Our mission is an imperative to keep everyone safe and secure."

ABC News' Juhi Doshi contributed to this report.

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Trump, campaigning after court, comments on jurors in historic trial and seeks to spotlight crime

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(NEW YORK) -- Though he remains confined to a court room on most weekdays for his New York hush money trial, which began on Monday, former President Donald Trump is adapting his schedule and his message to try and boost his bid to return to the White House.

On Tuesday evening, at the end of the second day of jury selection in his trial, Trump visited a bodega in Harlem, the scene of a fatal stabbing two years ago, to criticize what he said were Democratic failures in public safety.

Trump singled out the Manhattan district attorney by name, echoing his repeated accusations that Democrats are soft on crime and that the charges against him are motivated by partisanship, which prosecutors reject, saying they are following the law. Trump denies all wrongdoing.

"It's Alvin Bragg's fault," he claimed at the bodega. "He does nothing. He goes after guys like Trump, who did nothing wrong. Violent criminals, murderers -- they know there are hundreds of murderers all over the city."

He used his stop after court not only to take a jab at Bragg and his criminal trial, one of four he faces, but also to repeat his rhetoric about what he often describes on the trail as "crime-ridden" cities largely run by Democrats -- like New York, his hometown, where he built his national profile before moving to Florida.

He has made similar claims about crime in Atlanta as he's railed against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is prosecuting him in Georgia related to his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state.

The shop that Trump visited in Harlem on Tuesday, at the invitation of the Bodega Association, he said, was the scene of a homicide in 2022 when the shop's then-clerk Jose Alba fatally stabbed someone whom Alba later said was attacking him and he was acting in self-defense.

Surveillance footage from inside the bodega showed the other man, Austin Simon, confronting Alba behind the cash register and shoving him before the two were drawn into a fight.

Alba was initially charged with murder. The case was controversial, and Bragg's office later dropped the case against Alba, reportedly saying they had insufficient proof to proceed.

Despite Trump's rhetoric about crime, statistics from New York City police show violent crime in the city has been falling.

Through March 17, homicides were down 19% from the same period in 2023, according to the data -- though homicides previously surged 30% in 2020, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crime and public safety are key parts of Trump's pitch to voters on the trail, along with attacking President Joe Biden for high inflation and immigration.

With the first of his criminal trials now underway, the former president has both complained about how his obligations in court are interfering with his campaign schedule and he has insisted he plans to campaign "all over" on the weekends, with rallies "all over the place."

The Biden campaign isn't directly commenting on the trial, though they have issued thinly veiled attacks through press releases and sought a contrast by having the president actively campaign in battlegrounds like Pennsylvania this week while Trump sits in court.

At his own campaign stop on Tuesday, Biden went after Trump for previously supporting tax cuts on the wealthy and said Trump "embodies" the "failure" of so-called trickle-down economics.

Biden's team has also said that his campaign has been more active across swing states, even before Trump's trial began.

"This is a trial that should have never been brought. ... I should be right now in Pennsylvania, in Florida, in many other states -- North Carolina, Georgia -- campaigning," Trump told reporters as he headed back to court on Tuesday, taking advantage of the omnipresent news coverage outside.

Speaking with the press at the Harlem bodega later on Tuesday, Trump repeated his frequent, baseless criticism that it's an "election interference" to keep him off the trail.

In New York, he faces 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree related to money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential bid, in order to stop Daniels from going public about what she claimed was a sexual encounter with him, which he denies. He has pleaded not guilty.

As jury selection is underway, Trump said at the bodega that "anybody that's fair" is his ideal juror.

Asked how he feels about the seven jurors selected so far, he responded, "I'll let you know in about two months."

He dodged a question about whether he believes the jurors seated are fair, instead saying there shouldn't be a jury in the first place.

Trump also claimed he has not violated the limited gag order imposed by Judge Juan Merchan overseeing the case -- after the prosecution on Monday argued he did so by posting social media attacks on Daniels and his former attorney Michael Cohen, who are potential key witnesses.

"There shouldn't be a gag order," Trump said, calling it "unconstitutional."

At his bodega stop, he was also asked about recent efforts by two GOP hard-line lawmakers to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson over Johnson's support for voting on foreign aid.

"We'll see what happens with that," Trump said. "I think he's a very good person."

ABC News' Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Mary Bruce, Peter Charalambous, Bill Hutchinson and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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Democrats will try to dismiss Mayorkas impeachment articles as GOP demands full trial

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(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Wednesday Democrats will ultimately seek to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

"Today, the trial will commence, and we will be in our seats as jurors for the third time in four years. But this time, senators will provide as jurors in the least legitimate, least substantive and most politicized impeachment trial ever in the history of the United States," Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor.

"For the sake of the Senate's integrity and to protect impeachment for those rare cases we truly need it, senators should dismiss today's charges," Schumer added.

Senators are expected to square off, largely along party lines, over whether to proceed with a full-scale trial of Mayorkas over his handling of immigration policy and the southern border when they convene at 1 p.m. EDT.

"When we convene in trial today, to accommodate the wishes of our Republican Senate colleagues, I will seek an agreement for a period of debate time that would allow Republicans to offer a vote on trial resolutions, allow for Republicans to offer points of order and then move to dismiss," Schumer said.

House GOP managers delivered two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas Tuesday, and the next step in the proceedings calls for senators to be sworn in as jurors, sitting as a court of impeachment, on Wednesday afternoon.

Because Democrats control the Senate, and if they stick together, they could quickly win a vote to dismiss the articles. Just 51 votes would be needed.

Many Democrats believe that the articles of impeachment, which accuse Mayorkas of "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law" and "breach of public trust" are baseless and politicized.

But Schumer's facing a fight from Senate Republicans, many of whom are enraged at the suggestion that there wouldn't be a full trial.

"This is raw gut politics," Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said during a news conference on Tuesday where he shared the stage with the House impeachment managers.

"What Senator Schumer is going to do tomorrow -- it is fatuous, it is fraudulent and it is an insult to the Senate. It is a disservice to every American citizen who believes in the rule of law," he said.

Beyond complaining, though, there's very little Republicans can ultimately do to get their demands met if all Democrats stick together.

But it's not clear that they will.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., faces a difficult reelection fight in increasingly-red Montana this fall. He hasn't yet said whether or not he would support a motion to dismiss and has repeatedly told reporters he'd wait to make a decision until he's read the articles.

Notably, when the articles were being read aloud in the Senate by impeachment manager Rep. Mark Green on Tuesday, Tester, who had previously been seated in the chamber, left his seat and headed to the cloak room.

He caught flack for it from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the GOP news conference shortly after.

"Jon Tester was nowhere to be found because apparently it was too frightening to hear the managers imply read the facts of the people that were dying because of policies he supports," Cruz said.

It's unclear what Tester will ultimately decide. But if he sticks with his party, there is ultimately very little Republicans can do to force a trial to go on. That doesn't mean they'll make things easy.

If Democrats want to quickly table the trial, Republicans are expected to offer a number of procedural points of order that would force votes and could eat up several hours of floor time.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told reporters after a closed-door lunch Tuesday that there's been an ongoing behind-the-scenes discussion about an agreement that would allow several hours of debate over whether a trial is necessary before a motion to dismiss is ultimately voted on.

"For those of us who would like to have some discussion or debate the potentially offer that we are going to be considering I think offers us an opportunity to build our case," Tillis said.

Such an agreement would require the consent of all senators, and it's unclear if that could happen.

Senators might also try to send the trial to a committee for it to be heard, as they're permitted to do when an impeachment is brought against someone who is not a sitting president.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who has been among those demanding a trial, suggested this might be an "acceptable" outcome.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will strongly oppose Democratic efforts to quash the impeachment effort, saying it is the chamber's solemn duty to take the matter seriously.

"The Senate will be called for just the 19th time in our history to rule on the impeachment of a senior official of our government. It's a responsibility to be taken seriously.

"I intend to give these charges my full and undivided attention. Of course, that would require that senators actually get the opportunity to hold a trial. And this is exactly what history and precedent dictates. Never before has the Senate agreed to a motion to table articles of impeachment," McConnell said.

"I'll strenuously oppose the effort to table the articles of impeachment and avoid looking at the Biden administration border crisis squarely in the face," he added.

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Congressional committee grills Columbia University president on campus antisemitism

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(NEW YORK) -- Columbia University President Nemat "Minouche" Shafik testified Wednesday before a congressional committee investigating antisemitism on the New York City campus after two of her counterparts at other elite colleges resigned amid a backlash over their responses at a previous hearing of the same panel.

Prior to letting Shafik speak, Rep. Virginia Foxx, chair of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, opened the hearing by calling some elite U.S. colleges "hotbeds of antisemitism and hate."

"Columbia University is one of the worst of those hotbeds and we’ve seen too little, far too late done to counter that and protect students and staff," Foxx, R-North Carolina, said. "Columbia stands guilty of gross negligence at best and, at worst, has become a platform for those supporting terrorism and violence against the Jewish people."

In her opening statement, Shafik, who was appointed president of the Ivy League school in July 2023, told the committee that Columbia "strives to be a community free of discrimination and hate in all forms and we condemn the antisemitism that is so pervasive today."

Shafik said she took the job to foster a diverse community at Columbia.

"But on Oct. 7, the world changed and so did my focus," she said of the day Hamas terrorists launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking others hostage, according to Israeli officials.

She said a "major challenge" has been reconciling free speech with the rights of Jewish students to go to school in a environment free of discrimination and harassment.

"Regrettably, the events of Oct. 7 brought to the fore an undercurrent of antisemitism that is a major challenge and like many other universities Columbia has seen a rise in antisemitic incidents," Shafik said.

Shafik said she has taken actions since Oct. 7, including enhancing Columbia's reporting channels, hiring staff to investigate complaints and forming an antisemitism task force.

"Safety is paramount and we would do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of our campus," Shafik said. "We must uphold freedom of speech, because it's essential to our academic mission, but we cannot and shouldn't tolerate abuse of this privilege to harass and discriminate."

Shafik was joined on the witness panel by David M. Schizer, dean emeritus and Harvey R. Miller professor of law and economics at Columbia Law School; Claire Shipman, co-chair of the Columbia University Board of Trustees; and David Greenwald, also a co-chair of the school's board of trustees.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, repeated a key question from the first antisemitism hearing in December: "Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Columbia's code of conduct?"

Each witness, including Shafik, told Rep. Bonamici, "Yes, it does."

In a heated exchange, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, asked Shafik what disciplinary action has been taken against faculty members who have made antisemitic remarks.

Shafik said repeatedly that those faculty members "have been spoken to" but cited only one who has been dismissed for making such remarks.

Speaking about one professor who was spoken to by a senior administrator after making antisemitic comments, Shafik said "he has not repeated anything like that."

"Does he need to repeat, stating that the massacre of Israeli civilians 'was awesome'?" Stefanik asked. "Does he need to repeat his participation in an unauthorized pro-Hamas demonstration on April 4?"

Before Shafik could respond, Stefanik cited Schizer's opening statement, in which he spoke about the lack of enforcement at Columbia.

Shafik answered, "We have 4,700 faculty at Columbia ..." But before she could finish her sentence, Stefanik cut her off.

"But I'm talking about faculty members who are supporting terror," Stefanik said.

She noted a professor who was hired after the Oct. 7 attacks and later posted "Yes, I am with Hamas and and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad" on social media.

"He also decried 'false reports' accusing Arabs and Muslims of decapitating the heads of children and being rapists," Stefanik said. "We know that there were decapitations of babies, of innocent Israeli citizens, of seniors, of women. There were rapes. Yet, Columbia hired this individual as a professor. How did that hiring process work? Were you aware of those statements before the hiring?"

Shafik responded, "I share your repugnance at those remarks. I completely understand that. On my watch, faculty who make remarks that cross the line, there will be consequences for that."

She said that professors who cross the line will be "either taken out of the classroom or dismissed."

"Was he one of those?" Stefanik asked.

Shafik said, "He has not just been terminated, but his files will show that he will never work at Columbia again."

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Nikki Haley's next move is going to a think tank after becoming major Trump critic

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(WASHINGTON) -- Nikki Haley has been tapped to be a chair at the Hudson Institute conservative think tank, according to a statement from the group Monday morning, marking the first major move for the former 2024 Republican presidential candidate since she left the race.

"When our policymakers fail to call out our enemies or acknowledge the importance of our alliances, the world is less safe. That is why Hudson's work is so critical," Haley, who previously received the group's Hudson's Global Leadership Award, said in a statement.

"I look forward to partnering with them to defend the principles that make America the greatest country in the world," Haley said.

She will be the Walter P. Stern chair, named for the group's former chairman. Hudson's board chair, Sarah May Stern, said in her own statement that Haley is "courageous and insightful."

It remains unclear, however, to what extent Haley will weigh in on the 2024 presidential race -- or not.

A former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador, she was the last major candidate to challenge former President Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination, which he ultimately won.

By the end of Haley's primary campaign, she had also become one of Trump's most vocal critics within the party -- something she had avoided earlier in the race.

And though he triumphed in almost every contest, Haley did win two primaries, in Vermont and Washington, D.C. She often touted the argument that Trump would not be able to unify the party and win a general election because a notable minority of Republicans continued to vote for her.

Haley didn't endorse Trump when she ended her campaign in early March.

"I have always been a conservative Republican and always supported the Republican nominee," Haley said then. "But on this question, as she did on so many others, Margaret Thatcher provided some good advice when she said, 'Never just follow the crowd. Always make up your own mind.'"

"It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it, who did not support it," she added. "And I hope he does that. At its best politics is about bringing people into your cause, not turning them away. And our conservative cause badly needs more people."

ABC News' Hannah Demissie and Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.

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Who are the key players in Donald Trump's Manhattan hush money trial?

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(NEW YORK) -- Jury selection began Monday in former President Donald Trump's first criminal trial over allegations that he falsified business records to conceal criminal conduct. Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels are among the witnesses expected to testify in the weeks-long Manhattan trial.

Trump is accused of allegedly engaging in a scheme with his then-attorney Michael Cohen and others to influence the 2016 election by suppressing negative information about Trump's alleged sexual encounter with adult actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. He has denied the affair and all wrongdoing in the matter.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg impaneled a grand jury to hear the hush money case in 2023, which eventually voted to indict Trump.

Trump is facing 34 counts of falsifying business records. The New York trial is expected to run for six to eight weeks.

Here are the key players in the trial:

Michael Cohen
Trump's former attorney allegedly coordinated the catch-and-kill scheme and directly sent a $130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels in the days ahead of the 2016 election.

Cohen was reimbursed $420,000 in 2017 -- through 12 $35,000 payments -- for that hush-money payment and other costs, and the records to falsely characterize those payments as legal expenses form the underlying 34 criminal counts in the New York case.

Cohen worked as an executive vice president at the Trump Organization and personal counsel to Donald Trump, describing himself as Trump's "fixer."

A lawyer in New York private practice who lived in one of Trump's buildings, Cohen joined the Trump Organization after helping the former president with a real estate dispute and other favors.

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion, lying to Congress and violations of campaign finance law -- when he made payments to Clifford. Cohen spent more than a year in federal prison before finishing his sentence in home confinement.

Cohen's congressional testimony prompted the New York Attorney General to open its investigation into the Trump Organization's finances. Cohen testified as a key witness in Trump's civil fraud trial, where he alleged that Trump directed him and then Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg to fraudulently inflate his net worth.

Judge Arthur Engoron in February ordered Trump and his company to pay more than $450 million in the civil lawsuit and banned the former president and his sons from running companies in New York for three years. Trump denied all wrongdoing and said he will appeal.


Stephanie Clifford a.k.a. Stormy Daniels
Daniels is an adult film actress who allegedly had a sexual encounter with Trump at a golf tournament in 2006. Trump has denied the allegations of an affair. In the days following the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape in 2016, Cohen negotiated a deal to secure Daniels' silence for $130,000, according to prosecutors.

Daniels has given multiple media interviews, written a book and featured in a documentary in the years after the story became public in 2018.

Daniels claims that she never wanted the incident itself to become public and that her sexual relationship with the former president was consensual. 
In March, Daniels told ABC's "The View" that she is "absolutely ready" to testify at Trump's criminal trial. 
"I'm absolutely ready. I've been ready. I'm hoping with all of my heart that they call me," Daniels said. "I relish the day that I get to face him and speak my truth."

Daniels unsuccessfully sued the former president for defamation in 2018 after Trump suggested her allegations about being threatened to keep quiet about her encounter with Trump was a "total con job." A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, determined that Trump's statement fell within the "'rhetorical hyperbole' normally associated with politics and public discourse," and ordered Daniels to pay Trump's legal fees.

Rhona Graff
Graff worked as Donald Trump's longtime executive assistant at the Trump Organization, serving as the gatekeeper to the former president after she joined the company in 1987.

Trump described Graff as his "very loyal secretary" in the 1997 book "The Art of the Comeback."

Serving as a senior vice president at the Trump Organization, Graff did not join the 
White House but remained a point of contact for anyone seeking Trump's attention.

Graff was subpoenaed to answer questions by the New York Attorney General about the Trump Organization's finances, including the company's document retention policy and Trump's oversight of his financial statements.


Hope Hicks
Hope Hicks served as Trump's 2016 campaign press secretary, coordinating with Trump in the weeks ahead of the election as his aides and advisors attempted to silence long-denied allegations of his affair with Daniels, according to court records from a federal investigation.

Hicks held multiple senior level roles in the Trump White House. She no longer works for Trump.

Madeleine Westerhout
Westerhout served as Trump's executive assistant for the first two-and-a-half years of his presidency, describing herself as Trump's "primary gatekeeper."

Westerhout also served as the director of Oval Office operations for eight months but left her role in August 2019 after she shared details of her work -- including reportedly making comments about Tiffany Trump -- at an off-the-record event with reporters.

"While Madeleine Westerhout has a fully enforceable confidentiality agreement, she is a very good person and I don't think there would ever be reason to use it. She called me yesterday to apologize, had a bad night. I fully understood and forgave her! I love Tiffany, doing great!" Trump wrote on X (then Twitter) on August 31, 2019.


Jeffrey McConney
The Trump Organization's longtime controller, McConney received the fraudulent invoices from Cohen and began processing them, according to prosecutors.

McConney prominently testified as witness for both the state and defense at Trump's civil fraud trial last year, where he broke down to tears on the witness stand when questioned about his departure from the Trump Organization.

"To be hit over the head every time with a negative comment over something is just really frustrating, and I gave up," McConney testified.


Karen McDougal
McDougal is a former Playboy model who alleged that she had a 10-month affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. Trump denied having a sexual relationship with McDougal.

Executives at the National Enquirer contacted McDougal in June 2016 with an offer to tell her story, with the intention to kill it, according to prosecutors. American Media Inc. eventually paid McDougal $150,000 for her story with the understanding that the Trump Organization would reimburse AMI for the payment, according to prosecutors.


David Pecker
David Pecker served as the longtime chief executive of American Media Inc., which published the National Enquirer.

Shortly after Trump announced his presidential campaign, Pecker met with Trump and agreed to act as the "eyes and ears" of the campaign by looking out for and killing negative stories about Trump, according to the Manhattan DA.

Pecker allegedly directed a 2015 deal to pay $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman -- regarding the false allegation that Trump allegedly fathered a child out of wedlock -- to take place because of his prior agreement with Cohen and Trump. Cohen allegedly insisted that the deal stay in place even after AMI discovered it was false. AMI paid the doorman, according to the Manhattan DA.


Dylan Howard
Dylan Howard worked as the editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer between 2014 and 2020.

Howard allegedly communicated with Cohen to buy McDougal's story and to coordinate Daniel's hush-money payment, according to prosecutors.

Trump and Cohen agreed to reimburse AMI for the payment and AMI signed an agreement in September 2016 to transfer then rights to the story to the Trump Organization for $125,000, but the deal fell through before the reimbursement took place, according to prosecutors.

Deborah Tarasoff
Tarasoff worked in the Trump Organization's accounting department and allegedly helped arrange for Cohen to be reimbursed for Daniel's hush money payment.


Keith Davidson
Davidson is an attorney who negotiated the payments for Daniels and McDougal. He is the "Lawyer B" mentioned in the indictment.

In a 2019 interview with ABC News, Davidson described how the release of the Access Hollywood tape served as the "catalyst" for the hush money payment to Daniels.

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Sen. Bob Menendez may blame wife in federal corruption trial, court filing shows

Sen. Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, with his wife Nadine Arslanian, leaves US District Court, Southern District of New York, in New York City on Sept. 27, 2023, after their arraignment. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Bob Menendez may blame his wife when he stands trial next month on political corruption charges, according to a court document unsealed Tuesday after news organizations, including ABC News, fought to make it public.

The potential line of defense was filed secretly earlier this year, before the judge agreed Menendez and his wife would be tried separately due to Nadine Menendez’s undisclosed medical condition. The senator’s trial is scheduled to begin May 6 in Manhattan federal court.

Defense attorneys said Menendez could take the stand in his own defense and implicate his wife by suggesting she kept information from him and he was unaware of her allegedly illegal activities.

"While these explanations, and the marital communications on which they rely, will tend to exonerate Senator Menendez by demonstrating the absence of any improper intent on Senator Menendez's part, they may inculpate Nadine by demonstrating the ways in which she withheld information from Senator Menendez or otherwise led him to believe that nothing unlawful was taking place," the filing said.

Menendez is accused of accepting, cash, gold bars and other perks from New Jersey businessmen in exchange for official favors to benefit the businessmen and the governments of Egypt and Qatar. He has pleaded not guilty.

The senator announced last month that he will not be running for a fourth term as a Democrat in the fall.

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Four big takeaways from Day 2 of Trump’s hush money trial

Former US President Donald Trump attends the second day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 16, 2024. (MARK PETERSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Dozens of prospective jurors poured back into a Manhattan, New York criminal court Tuesday morning for the second day of former President Donald Trump's hush money trial.

Seven jurors have been selected so far to decide the legal fate of the first U.S. president ever to face criminal trial. Prosecutors allege that Trump falsified business records related to a hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Trump pleaded not guilty last year and has denied all wrongdoing.

Although the parties estimated that jury selection could take as long as two weeks, on Tuesday, Judge Juan Merchan suggested opening statements could begin this coming Monday.

Here are four of the biggest takeaways from Day 2 of the historic trial:

First batch of jurors selected

By the end of the day on Tuesday, seven jurors -- including an oncology nurse, an attorney, a teacher and an IT consultant -- were selected.

Although defense attorneys previously argued against holding the trial in New York City, many of the jurors impaneled so far have appeared mainly to have neutral or even somewhat positive feelings about Trump.

At least two of the final jurors expressed positive feelings about the former president.

"He walks into a room, and he sets people off one way or another," the juror said. "I find that really interesting. Really, this one guy can do all of this. Wow, that's what I think."

A woman who works as a teacher, who said she "doesn't really care for the news," praised Trump for his outspokenness.

"President Trump speaks his mind," she said. "And I'd rather that than someone who's in office who you don't know what they're thinking."

Trump says alleged hush money payment was a ‘legal expense'

In remarks to reporters Tuesday morning, Trump defended himself, pushing back against prosecutors' allegations that payments made to Michael Cohen were improperly labeled as legal expenses.

"I was paying a lawyer, and I marked it down as a legal expense, some accountant," Trump said. "I didn't know. That's exactly what it was. And you get indicted over that?"

Prospective juror speaks out

Kara McGee -- a prospective juror who was excused from the Trump case -- told ABC News that she didn’t approve of Trump’s presidency but emphasized the importance of a fair trial.

"I don’t like him, I don’t approve of what he did as president," said McGee said. "But the right to a fair trial is extremely important. And if this would serve to uphold that, then that would be my priority.”

McGee was excused from the case because of scheduling conflicts with her job.

"No matter what you think about someone as a person, or what other things they may have done, what he is on trial for is a very specific thing that even he deserves the right to a fair trial," she continued.

Jurors interrogated over anti-Trump social media posts

Proceedings grew contentious Tuesday afternoon after defense attorney Todd Blanche sought to strike prospective jurors based on social media posts that he said contradicted their assertions of fairness.

One woman had posted a video on Facebook of people having a "dance party" on a Manhattan street a day after the 2020 election, which Blanche called "extraordinarily hostile." Merchan seemed baffled and denied the motion to remove her, saying he found her a credible juror.

But another potential juror was dismissed due to a social media post celebrating the end of Trump's travel ban, which stated, "Get him out and lock him up." Merchan agreed to strike the juror, saying the post showed "a desire that Trump be locked up."

Another man was removed because he recently shared an AI video that mocked Trump, which included a fake Trump saying, "I'm dumb as f----."

"I thought it would be funny," the prospective juror said.

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