Biden honors Roe anniversary as abortion foes convene

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, which protected abortion rights nationwide until it was overturned by the conservative-dominated supreme court last year. The White House has issued a proclamation honoring the formerly precedent-setting case, and promising to continue fighting for abortion access.

“The Court got Roe right 50 years ago. It was a balanced decision with broad national consensus that the majority of Americans have continued to support for the last 50 years. And it was a constitutional principle upheld by justices appointed by Democratic and Republican Presidents alike,” Joe Biden wrote in the proclamation, which honors “generations of advocates who have fought for reproductive freedom, to recognize the countless women whose lives and futures have been saved and shaped by the Roe v. Wade decision, and to march forward with purpose as we work together to restore the right to choose.”

“I continue to call on the Congress to pass legislation to make those protections the law of the land once and for all. Until then, I will continue to use my Executive authority to protect women and families from harm in the wake of the Dobbs decision,” which overturned Roe, the president said.

But just blocks from the White House, anti-abortion advocates are gathering for the annual March for Life rally, the first since the supreme court ruling in Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization allowed states to ban the procedure. They’ve changed up their route this year and will finish near the Capitol, a recognition that the latest front in the abortion debate is in Congress and state legislatures nationwide.

The Guardian’s Lauren Gambino is on the scene at the rally:

Abortion opponents are beginning to gather on the mall before the annual March for Life rally and march, the first since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. The theme this year is “Next Steps: Marching Forward into a Post-Roe America.” pic.twitter.com/aQnnE5SLiT

— Lauren Gambino (@laurenegambino) January 20, 2023

Key events

In a lengthy reply to Republican House judiciary chair Jim Jordan, the justice department laid out some conditions for its cooperation with the committee, CNN reports:

News: DOJ responds to GOP Rep. Jim Jordan’s requests for documents & info related to House Judiciary Committee probes.

Makes clear department unlikely to share information about ongoing criminal investigations but will work to accommodate other requests. pic.twitter.com/mbS2zSpKbZ

— Zachary Cohen (@ZcohenCNN) January 20, 2023

Jordan’s committee is one of several in the House that Republicans are using to launch inquiries into the Biden administration, and it has already sent several requests for documents on various subjects to the White House, justice department and elsewhere.

The supreme court is well into its 2022-2023 term, but hasn’t released any opinions yet, in what court observers say is an unprecedented period of silence.

That’s set to change Monday morning, when the justices finally release their first decision, SCOTUSblog reports:

NEW: The Supreme Court expects to issue one or more opinions on Monday morning. It will be the first opinion-release of the 2022-23 term.

— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) January 20, 2023

As NBC News points out, there’s no telling which opinions they will release:

Court heard some big cases in the fall but generally its first rulings are in lower-profile cases in which the justices are (mostly) unanimous

— Lawrence Hurley (@lawrencehurley) January 20, 2023

Joanna Walters

US vice president Kamala Harris is due to give a speech on Sunday in the Florida state capital of Tallahassee, to mark the 50th anniversary of the US Supreme Court making abortion in the US a constitutional right, with its 1973 decision in the case Roe v Wade.

It would have been a celebration for those in favor of reproductive rights in America, including personal choice in the matter of abortion.

Instead, the anti-abortion movement is holding its annual rally and march in Washington in an atmosphere of triumph for the anti-choice school because of last June’s decision by the now-conservative-dominated supreme court overturning Roe.

Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a roundtable discussing women’s issues, rights and empowerment at Sofitel Manila, Philippines, last November.
Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a roundtable discussing women’s issues, rights and empowerment at Sofitel Manila, Philippines, last November. Photograph: Reuters

That decision in the so-called Dobbs case out of Mississippi ripped up Roe and threw away federal abortion rights, returning the power to make law on abortion back to individual states.

On Sunday, Harris will make a pro-choice speech and moments ago, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said the veep chose Florida partly because it has tough restrictions on abortion – though less so than its neighboring states.

“Florida’s restrictions are not as tough as neighbors,” said Jean-Pierre, but noted that Florida “is considering an even more extreme ban which would be devastating for women.”

White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre takes the podium in the west wing of the White House for the daily media briefing.
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre takes the podium in the west wing of the White House for the daily media briefing. Photograph: Alex Wong/Getty Images

Harris and Joe Biden have been in office for exactly two years today.

Trump withdraws lawsuit against New York attorney general

Joanna Walters

Joanna Walters

In the wake of a federal judge ordering Donald Trump and one of his attorneys to jointly pay nearly $1m in penalties for pursuing a frivolous lawsuit that accused Hillary Clinton and others, the former president today also withdrew his lawsuit against New York Attorney General Letitia James.

The case against James, in federal court in Florida, had also been before US district court judge Donald Middlebrooks, the Associated Press reports.

Just in: Trump withdraws suit against NY State AG Letitia James — the type of frivolous case that was cited by the judge who last night imposed sanctions of nearly $1 million against Trump and his lawyer Alina Habba

— Hugo Lowell (@hugolowell) January 20, 2023

Trump sued James in November in response to her lawsuit alleging he and his company mislead banks and others about the value of assets in a practice she dubbed “The art of the steal” [a parody on Trump’s best-selling book about getting rich as a New York real estate mogul, The Art of the Deal.]

Trump, a Republican, also sought to prevent James, a Democrat, from having any oversight over the family trust that controls his company.

His 35-page complaint rehashed some claims from his previously dismissed lawsuit against James in federal court in New York, irritating Middlebrooks.

Middlebrooks wrote in an order in December:

This litigation has all the telltale signs of being both vexatious and frivolous.”

New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Harlem National Action Network event last Monday.
New York State Attorney General Letitia James speaks during a Martin Luther King Jr. Day event in Harlem National Action Network event last Monday. Photograph: Ron Adar/REX/Shutterstock

The day so far

Today is the 50th anniversary of the supreme court handing down Roe v Wade, and the first since its conservative justices reversed that ruling last year and allowed states to ban the procedure. Joe Biden marked the day with a proclamation restating his administration’s commitment to protecting reproductive rights, while blocks from the White House, anti-abortion activists have gathered for the annual March for Life – the first since Roe was overturned. In a sign of the struggle ahead, the route for their march this year will finish near the US Capitol, a signal that legislatures nationwide are now the main battlefields for their movement.

Here’s what else has happened today:

  • Donald Trump has warned Republicans not to go after the popular Social Security or Medicare programs after the party’s leaders promised to cut government spending in exchange for raising the debt limit.

  • Today marks the halfway point of Biden’s first term in office, and reports indicate he still plans to seek a second term, with an announcement planned for after the 7 February State of the Union address.

  • Democrats breathed a big sigh of relief when Virginia senator Tim Kaine said he would seek a third term. Had he opted to retire, the party’s quest to hold on to the Senate in the 2024 election could have become more complicated.

Judge: DeSantis broke law by suspending Florida state attorney

Richard Luscombe

Ron DeSantis violated the law when he suspended a Florida state attorney for saying he wouldn’t enforce the state’s restrictive new 15-week abortion ban, a judge has ruled.

But district court judge Robert Hinkle says he doesn’t have the authority to overturn the Republican governor’s decision and reinstate Hillsborough county state attorney Andrew Warren to office.

Andrew Warren.
Andrew Warren. Photograph: Octavio Jones/Reuters

DeSantis removed Warren in August after the Democrat said he wouldn’t enforce the abortion law, or prosecute providers of gender transition treatment for young people. Accusing Warren of following a “woke” agenda, the governor said he had put himself “above the law”.

But in a scathing 59-page ruling released Friday, Hinkle said it was DeSantis, a likely candidate for the Republican party’s 2024 presidential nomination, who had broken the law.

He rejected DeSantis’s assertion that Warren had a blanket policy of not prosecuting certain cases, and that Warren had every right as a state attorney to “exercise prosecutorial discretion at every stage of every case”:

The governor violated the first amendment by considering Mr Warren’s speech on matters of public concern as motivating factors in the decision to suspend him.

The governor [also] violated the first amendment by considering Mr Warren’s association with the Democratic party.

Hinkle conceded that DeSantis would still have removed Warren without the violations, and because they didn’t affect the outcome, he couldn’t provide injunctive relief.

DeSantis’s violation of the Florida state constitution did affect the outcome, Hinkle said. But he noted the 11th amendment prohibited a federal court awarding relief against a state official based only on a violation of state law, and that he had no alternative to dismiss Warren’s request for reinstatement.

In an earlier stage of the legal case, Hinkle ordered DeSantis to testify in defense of his decision, but backed down in November.

With his legal path to reinstatement now apparently blocked, Warren is expected to lay out his next steps to reporters later today.

The demise of Roe v Wade was unusual in that Americans knew it was coming weeks in advance.

That’s because somebody obtained a draft of the decision in the Dobbs case and leaked it to Politico, a highly unusual development for an institution whose inner workings are almost never revealed. Chief justice John Roberts ordered an investigation into the leak, but yesterday, the court’s marshal said they could not figure out who did it.

That hasn’t sat well with some. Republican senator John Kennedy deployed his trademark colorful language in an interview with Fox News, blaming the leaker for putting a supreme court justice in danger:

“Congratulations, butthead.”

— Sen. John Kennedy’s (R-LA) message to the leaker of the U.S. Supreme Court draft opinion on overturning Roe v. Wade pic.twitter.com/m6XMognn70

— The Recount (@therecount) January 20, 2023

He doesn’t name him, but Kennedy is likely referring to Brett Kavanaugh,a conservative who was among the justices voting to overturn Roe. Last summer, a 26-year-old man was arrested for allegedly plotting to assassinate Kavanaugh.

The sentiment among March for Life attendees is a mixture of politics, prayer and poetry, the Guardian’s Lauren Gambino reports from the rally:

Signage is similar to last years: “I am the post-roe generation.” “Love them both” with an image of a pregnant woman.

Also spotted some Trump 2024 signage and attire and at least one “let’s go Brandon” flag.” pic.twitter.com/pXD0iUvD8S

— Lauren Gambino (@laurenegambino) January 20, 2023

The Irish musician performing at the rally is asking women to pray for the men in the audience who are here standing up for women and children pic.twitter.com/sSrHQoLQ3j

— Lauren Gambino (@laurenegambino) January 20, 2023

Top Republicans are welcoming the annual March for Life to Washington DC, including Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell:

Proud of the Kentuckians and all Americans standing up for human dignity at this year’s March for Life. I’m honored to stand together with you today and everyday in solidarity with the most vulnerable in our society.

— Leader McConnell (@LeaderMcConnell) January 20, 2023

As well as speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy:

I want to welcome everyone who has come to our nation’s Capital today to celebrate a special gift from God: the right to life.

Last week, we passed legislation providing medical care for babies born alive during abortions. You now have a Congress that is standing up for life.

— Kevin McCarthy (@SpeakerMcCarthy) January 20, 2023

His majority leader Steve Scalise is among the speakers expected at the rally, which is streaming live below:

Biden honors Roe anniversary as abortion foes convene

Today is the 50th anniversary of the Roe v Wade decision, which protected abortion rights nationwide until it was overturned by the conservative-dominated supreme court last year. The White House has issued a proclamation honoring the formerly precedent-setting case, and promising to continue fighting for abortion access.

“The Court got Roe right 50 years ago. It was a balanced decision with broad national consensus that the majority of Americans have continued to support for the last 50 years. And it was a constitutional principle upheld by justices appointed by Democratic and Republican Presidents alike,” Joe Biden wrote in the proclamation, which honors “generations of advocates who have fought for reproductive freedom, to recognize the countless women whose lives and futures have been saved and shaped by the Roe v. Wade decision, and to march forward with purpose as we work together to restore the right to choose.”

“I continue to call on the Congress to pass legislation to make those protections the law of the land once and for all. Until then, I will continue to use my Executive authority to protect women and families from harm in the wake of the Dobbs decision,” which overturned Roe, the president said.

But just blocks from the White House, anti-abortion advocates are gathering for the annual March for Life rally, the first since the supreme court ruling in Dobbs vs Jackson Women’s Health Organization allowed states to ban the procedure. They’ve changed up their route this year and will finish near the Capitol, a recognition that the latest front in the abortion debate is in Congress and state legislatures nationwide.

The Guardian’s Lauren Gambino is on the scene at the rally:

Abortion opponents are beginning to gather on the mall before the annual March for Life rally and march, the first since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v Wade. The theme this year is “Next Steps: Marching Forward into a Post-Roe America.” pic.twitter.com/aQnnE5SLiT

— Lauren Gambino (@laurenegambino) January 20, 2023

Virginia Senator Tim Kaine has announced he will run for another term in 2024, meaning Democrats won’t have to find a new candidate to fill his seat in what is expected to be a very difficult year for the party:

New: Kaine says he’s running for a third term

— Marianne LeVine (@marianne_levine) January 20, 2023

Virginia has supported Democrats in recent presidential and Senate elections, but Kaine’s retirement would have created another headache for a party that will have several as they try to maintain control of the Senate in 2024. Several Democratic lawmakers from red states will be up for re-election then, including West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, Montana’s Jon Tester and Ohio’s Sherrod Brown, and Republicans only need to win two seats to regain control of the Senate.

You’re going to be hearing a lot about the debt limit for the next several months, and thus, the Guardian’s Joan E Greve has written a story telling you everything you need to know about the bubbling debate:

The US economy could be headed for a crisis manufactured by a handful of House Republicans.

The treasury secretary, Janet Yellen, informed congressional leaders on Thursday that the US has hit its debt ceiling, which limits the amount of money that the government can borrow to pay all of its bills. Yellen urged Congress to work as quickly as possible to raise the debt ceiling and prevent the US from defaulting on any of its financial obligations, which would have catastrophic consequences.

“It is therefore critical that Congress act in a timely manner to increase or suspend the debt limit,” Yellen warned in a letter sent last week. “Failure to meet the government’s obligations would cause irreparable harm to the US economy, the livelihoods of all Americans, and global financial stability.”

The dire language from the nation’s top economic official underscored the urgency of Congress’s task and appeared to represent an attempt to deter any lawmaker from toying with the idea of a default. Some House Republicans have chosen to do so anyway.

Members of the hard-right House Freedom Caucus have already promised to oppose a “clean” debt ceiling increase, meaning a bill that raises the national borrowing limit without any other policy concessions.

“We cannot raise the debt ceiling,” the Arizona congressman Andy Biggs said on Tuesday. “Democrats have carelessly spent our taxpayer money and devalued our currency. They’ve made their bed, so they must lie in it.”

Trump cautions Republicans on debt limit fight

Donald Trump has weighed in on the battle over raising the debt ceiling, imploring fellow Republicans not to try to change the Social Security or Medicare programs in exchange for agreeing to an increase, Politico reports.

“Under no circumstances should Republicans vote to cut a single penny from Medicare or Social Security,” Trump said in a video message.

“Cut waste, fraud and abuse everywhere that we can find it,” he continues. “But do not cut the benefits our seniors worked for and paid for their entire lives. Save Social Security, don’t destroy it.”

The video was made by Trump’s presidential campaign, and obtained by Politico before its public release.

Republicans, who control the House of Representatives, are demanding unspecified budget reforms in exchange for agreeing to increase the government’s legal borrowing limit. Washington hit that limit yesterday, but is expected to have enough cash on hand to continue funding government operations until at least June, after which it could default on its debt for the first time in history.

The House GOP has been vague on what exactly they want in exchange for an increase, but some lawmakers have called for changing the Social Security retirement benefit or Medicare program, which pays for health care for elderly and disabled people. Both are extremely popular programs, but have become increasing drains on the federal budget.

Donald Trump is usually the feuder-in-chief, but now his former deputies are fighting amongst themselves! Leave it to The Guardian’s Martin Pengelly to tell you why:

Nikki Haley said the former secretary of state Mike Pompeo’s claim that she plotted to replace Mike Pence as Donald Trump’s vice-president was “lies and gossip to sell a book”.

The former United Nations ambassador spoke to Fox News on Thursday evening, after the Guardian obtained a copy of Pompeo’s forthcoming memoir, Never Give An Inch, and reported his comments about Haley.

Haley resigned from the Trump administration in October 2018. Before that, Pompeo says, she set up a personal meeting with Trump in the Oval Office without checking with him.

Pompeo writes that John Kelly, then Trump’s chief of staff, thought Haley had in fact been accompanied by Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner as they presented “a possible ‘Haley for vice-president’ option”.

Pompeo also writes unfavourably of Haley’s performance as UN ambassador and criticises her resignation.

Speaking to Fox News, Haley said: “I don’t know why he said it, but that’s exactly why I stayed out of DC as much as possible, to get away from the drama.”

Donald Trump is often in court, both as a plaintiff and defendant, but the Guardian’s Hugo Lowell reports one of his legal sagas has turned out to have quite an expensive conclusion:

A federal judge has ordered Donald Trump and one of his attorneys to jointly pay nearly $1m in penalties for pursuing a frivolous lawsuit that accused Hillary Clinton, the Democratic National Committee and other perceived enemies of the former president of engaging in racketeering and concocting a vast conspiracy against him.

The suit was dismissed in September and Trump was ordered to pay tens of thousands in November after one defendant sought sanctions. The latest order came after a group of the remaining defendants, including Clinton, filed a separate request for sanctions.

The end of the lawsuit marks the latest legal setback for Trump as he grapples with an array of civil and criminal investigations, including the probe into his retention of sensitive documents, while some of his lawyers are under scrutiny themselves for conduct in those cases.

A president in possession of classified documents he should not have. Sound familiar? That’s because both Joe Biden and Donald Trump are facing investigations for potentially breaching government secrecy laws. However there are a number of differences between the cases facing the two men, and the Guardian’s Chris Michael, Andrew Witherspoon and Richard Luscombe have put together a breakdown of the contrasts:

The discovery of classified documents in offices used by Joe Biden’s thinktank and in a locked storage unit in a garage near where the president keeps his Corvette may not be a criminal matter, but it does appear to have taken a political toll.

With a new Reuters/Ipsos poll on Thursday finding that Biden’s approval rating, which had risen at the end of 2022, was back down to just 40% – near the lowest level of his presidency – many Democrats are smacking their foreheads, fearing Biden has done exactly what his expected 2024 opponent, Donald Trump, was under investigation for doing.

So much for painting Trump as dangerous, volatile and a threat to national security. Right?

But that’s not to say the two cases are the same. The scale of the scandals is hugely lopsided: thousands of documents in Trump’s possession, including many marked top secret, versus an estimated dozen in Biden’s.

By all indications, Joe Biden will seek a second term in office.

“He spent his entire adult lifetime running for president, and on the third try, he finally got there. Who would give it up under those conditions, who? Almost nobody,” veteran political analyst Larry Sabato told the Guardian earlier this month, in a comment that encapsulates much of the reason the 80-year-old is expected to run again, despite being the oldest president to serve.

But the announcement will likely be made under a cloud of scandal, though it’s to be seen how much voters will care. The classified documents discovery is being taken seriously in Washington, with the justice department appointing a special prosecutor to look into whether Biden did wrong. But beyond that, people in his administration say much of the furor is “‘DC elite’ making ‘DC noise,’” CNN reported yesterday, and the president still plans to announce his bid for a second term sometime after the 7 February State of the Union address.

With ‘no regrets’ about classified documents, Biden marks two years in office, hints at 2024

Good morning, US politics blog readers. Today marks the halfway point of Joe Biden’s first term as president. Will he seek a second? He has yet to officially decide, but all signs continue to point to yes. Here’s the latest one: the White House is circulating a document, obtained by Politico, recounting all of what they say are his accomplishments over the past 24 months. But in recent days, Biden has found himself personally entangled in a growing scandal over classified documents from his time as vice-president that were found at his home and former residence. Considering the justice department is going after Donald Trump for doing something similar, albeit in much greater quantities and with much less transparency, the affair seems to present a threat to Biden’s presidency. Yesterday, Biden shrugged it off. “I think you’re going to find there’s nothing there. I have no regrets,” he replied, when a reporter asked about the documents. “There’s no there there.”

Here’s a look at what we can expect today:

  • The anti-abortion March of Life is holding its annual rally in Washington DC, the first since the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade. This year, the marchers will conclude not at the high court, but near the Capitol, in a sign of how campaign’s focus has shifted.

  • Biden welcomes a bipartisan groups of mayors to the White House at 2pm eastern time, before heading to Delaware for the weekend.

  • Senator Tim Kaine is expected to announce whether he will seek a third term today, according to Punchbowl News. A retirement by the Virginia Democrat would give Republicans another opportunity to flip a seat and take control of the chamber in the 2024 election.

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