U.S. regulators have approved updated COVID-19 vaccines from Pfizer and Moderna, shots aimed at revving up protection this fall and winter
US approves updated COVID vaccines to rev up protection this fall.
The U.S. approved updated COVID-19 vaccines Monday, hoping to rev up protection against the latest coronavirus strains and blunt any surge this fall and winter.
The Food and Drug Administration decision opens the newest shots from Moderna and Pfizer and its partner BioNTech to most Americans even if they’ve never had a coronavirus vaccination. It’s part of a shift to treat fall updates of the COVID-19 vaccine much like getting a yearly flu shot.
There’s still another step: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention must sign off. A CDC advisory panel is set to issue recommendations Tuesday on who most needs the updated shots. Vaccinations could begin later this week, and both the COVID-19 and flu shot can be given at the same visit.
A third vaccine maker, Novavax, said its updated shot is still being reviewed by the FDA.
COVID-19 hospitalizations have been rising since late summer although –- thanks to lasting immunity from prior vaccinations and infections –- not nearly as much as this time last year.
But protection wanes over time and the coronavirus continually churns out new variants that can dodge prior immunity. It’s been a year since the last time the vaccines were tweaked, and only about 20% of adults ever received that earlier update.
“Vaccination remains critical to public health and continued protection against serious consequences of COVID-19, including hospitalization and death,” FDA vaccine chief Dr. Peter Marks said in a statement. “We very much encourage those who are eligible to consider getting vaccinated.”
Just like earlier vaccinations, the fall round is cleared for adults and children as young as age 6 months. FDA said starting at age 5, most people can get a single dose even if they’ve never had a prior COVID-19 shot. Younger children might need additional doses depending on their history of COVID-19 infections and vaccinations.
The FDA pointedly isn’t calling this latest round a “booster” but instead a vaccine updated to better match the currently circulating virus. The new recipe targets an omicron variant named XBB.1.5 — replacing outdated combination vaccines that mixed protection against the original coronavirus strain and an older version of omicron.
And while even the XBB.1.5 variant is no longer dominant, FDA determined that it’s close enough to coronavirus strains causing most COVID-19 illnesses today to offer good cross-protection. Like earlier versions, they’re expected to be most protective against COVID-19’s worst consequences rather than mild infection.
But while the FDA’s decision allows for wide use of the updated shots, the CDC will decide how strongly different groups are urged to get them.
Federal officials have said the shots still will be free to most Americans through private insurance or Medicare. But for the uninsured or underinsured, the CDC is working with health departments, clinics and certain pharmacies to temporarily provide free shots.
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McCarthy to Work with Dems to Pass 45-Day Funding, Avoiding Govt Shutdown
On the brink of a federal government shutdown, Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced a dramatic pivot Saturday, trying to push a 45-day funding bill through the House with Democratic help — a move that could keep government open but most certainly risks his job.
Republican lawmakers met behind closed doors early in the morning with hours to go before the midnight deadline needed to fund government operations or face a disruptive federal closure.
The new approach would leave behind aid to Ukraine, a White House priority opposed by a growing number of GOP lawmakers, but the plan would increase federal disaster assistance by $16 billion, meeting President Joe Biden’s full request.
The House was preparing for a quick vote Saturday on the plan, but Democrats hit the brakes, seeking time so they could read the 71-page bill. Across the Capitol, the Senate was opening a rare weekend session and hoping to advance its own stopgap plan, but with money for Ukraine.
“We’re going to do our job,” McCarthy said after the morning meeting. “We’re going to be adults in the room. And we’re going to keep government open.”
With no deal in place before Sunday, federal workers will face furloughs, more than 2 million active-duty and reserve military troops will work without pay and programs and services that Americans rely on from coast to coast will begin to face shutdown disruptions.
The sudden House action would fund government at current 2023 levels for 45 days, through Nov. 17. It would move closer to the bipartisan approach underway in the Senate, which also would fund the government through that period, while adding $6 billion for Ukraine to fight the war against Russia and $6 billion for U.S. disaster relief.
“A bipartisan, a bicameral solution is the only way forward,” said Rep. Rosa DeLauro, the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee. She and other Democrats decried cutting Ukraine aid.
McCarthy, R-Calif., will be forced to rely on Democrats for passage because the speaker’s hard-right flank has said it will oppose any short-term measure. McCarthy was setting up a process for voting that will require a two-thirds supermajority, about 290 votes in the 435-member House for passage. Republicans hold a 221-212 majority, with two vacancies.
Relying on Democratic votes and leaving his right-flank behind is something that the hard-right lawmakers have warned will risk McCarthy’s job as speaker. They are almost certain to quickly file a motion to try to remove McCarthy from that office, though it is not at all certain there would be enough votes to topple the speaker.
“If somebody wants to remove me because I want to be the adult in the room, go ahead and try,” McCarthy said of the threat to oust him. “But I think this country is too important.”
The quick pivot comes after the collapse Friday of McCarthy’s earlier plan to pass a Republican-only bill with steep spending cuts up to 30% to most government agencies that the White House and Democrats rejected as too extreme.
“Our options are slipping away every minute,” said one senior Republican, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida.
Meanwhile, the Senate was marching ahead on its package with support from both Democrats and Republicans.
“Congress has only one option to avoid a shutdown — bipartisanship,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y.
Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky echoed the sentiment, warning his own hard-right colleagues there is nothing to gain by shutting down the federal government.
“It heaps unnecessary hardships on the American people, as well as the brave men and women who keep us safe,” McConnell said.
The federal government is heading straight into a shutdown that poses grave uncertainty for federal workers in states all across America and the people who depend on them — from troops to border control agents to office workers, scientists and others.
Families that rely on Head Start for children, food benefits and countless other programs large and small are confronting potential interruptions or outright closures. At the airports, Transportation Security Administration officers and air traffic controllers are expected to work without pay, but travelers could face delays in updating their U.S. passports or other travel documents.
An earlier McCarthy plan to keep the government open collapsed Friday due to opposition from a faction of 21 hard-right holdouts despite steep spending cuts of nearly 30% to many agencies and severe border security provisions.
The White House has brushed aside McCarthy’s overtures to meet with Biden after the speaker walked away from the debt deal they brokered earlier this year that set budget levels.
Catering to his hard-right flank, McCarthy had returned to the spending limits the conservatives demanded back in January as part of the deal-making to help him become the House speaker.
After Friday’s vote, McCarthy’s chief Republican critic, Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida, said the speaker’s bill “went down in flames as I’ve told you all week it would.”
LIST: 21 House Republicans Who Voted “NO” on McCarthy’s Stopgap Funding Bill
The House of Representatives failed to pass a stopgap funding bill which could have averted a government shutdown, with 21 Republican members of Congress voting against the bill.
While a procedural vote to advance the bill passed, final passage failed by a 198-232 vote, with 21 Republicans voting against the bill.
Funding for the government expires at midnight on Sunday, and without a deal agreed to by the House and Senate, all federal functions considered “nonessential” will temporarily be placed on hold.
The bill voted down by lawmakers, the “Continuing Appropriations and Border Security Enhancement Act, 2024,” if agreed upon by the Senate, would have given lawmakers more time to gather support for 12 individual spending bills.
Here are the 21 GOP members of Congress who voted no to the stopgap funding bill:
- Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Ariz.
- Rep. Dan Bishop, R- N.C.
- Rep. Lauren Boebert, R-Colo.
- Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo.
- Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn.
- Rep. Eric Burlison, R-Mo.
- Rep. Michael Cloud, R-Texas.
- Rep. Eli Crane, R-Ariz.
- Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla.
- Rep. Paul Gosar, R-Ariz.
- Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga.
- Rep. Wesley Hunt, R-Texas.
- Rep. Nancy Mace, R-S.C.
- Rep. Mary Miller, R-Ill.
- Rep. Cory Mills, R-Fla.
- Rep. Alex Mooney, R-W.V.
- Rep. Barry Moore, R-Ala.
- Rep. Troy Nehls, R-Texas.
- Rep. Andy Ogles, R-Tenn.
- Rep. Matt Rosendale, R-Mont.
- Rep. Keith Self, R-Texas.
Fox News Digital reached out to every individual who voted no on the “Continuing Appropriations and Border Security Enhancement Act, 2024.”
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Burlison said: “Regular Order has become irregular in the House. For decades, the House has been derelict in duty. Failing to pass appropriations bills and instead opting to kick the can down the road. I refuse to play that game. Continuing Resolutions with long lead times allows the House to shirk responsibility until it becomes politically toxic to do anything but pass massive spending bills written by leadership no one has time to read. Promises made, must be promises kept. I will not stand by and watch my country decompose.”
Miller, also in a statement to Fox News Digital, said, “I voted no on the ‘CR’ continuing resolution because I will not be part of the process to kick government funding down the road until the holidays, when Senate and House ‘insiders’ will agree to ram through some massive omnibus with Ukraine funding behind closed doors. I have directed the clerk to withhold my pay and I will vote on appropriations bills all day, every day, until we keep the promises that we made to hold Joe Biden and the DC Swamp accountable through our ‘power of the purse.’”
Nehls told Fox News Digital, “When House Republicans took the gavel in January, we made a promise to the American people to pass 12 individual appropriation bills to avoid a Continuing Resolution in the first place,” said Nehls. “While this bill makes significant spending cuts and enhances border security, it allows illegal aliens to remain in our communities and continue to wreak havoc across the country. I remain committed to fighting against out-of-control, reckless spending. I refuse to adhere to the traditions of the Swamp. I remain committed to restoring fiscal sanity in Washington, D.C., and fight to always put America FIRST.”
A spokesperson for Gosar told Fox News Digital: “Congressman Gosar will not support spending bills, whether they are CR’s or appropriations bill, that continue to lead this country further into financial ruin.”
In a statement to Fox News Digital, Self said “30 days is too long. A 14-day CR with strong border provisions would keep up the pressure. This would give us time to pass conservative appropriations bills. I want to pass the bills as fast as possible.”
Jack Smith Demands Trump Gag Order
Special Counsel Jack Smith submitted a new filing in support of his proposed gag order against ex-President Donald Trump citing his posts about Gen. Mark Milley, the judge in the case and Federal District Judge Tanya Chutkan.
Two weeks ago, Smith’s team filed a motion for a limited gag order, but late Friday, a new motion in support of that proposed order responded to opposition from Trump attorneys and cited a raft of more recent events to underscore the urgency.
“The Government’s proposed order restricting the parties’ statements under Local Criminal Rule 57.7(c) is necessary and appropriate to protect the due administration of justice in this case. The defendant’s opposition to it is based on several faulty premises: that the defendant need not face even the most limited imposition in order to protect the public interest in the due administration of justice; that the legal standard for imposing reasonable restrictions on extrajudicial statements in a criminal case is higher than it actually is; that the defendant’s statements to date have not been intimidating or prejudicial; and that the proposed order would impose sweeping restrictions that it plainly would not. In fact, the proposed order readily meets the relevant legal standard set forth below,” the filing reads.
Among the events cited were the Milley remark, as well as attacks on the judge and other principles in the cases against Trump:
On September 5, shortly before the Government filed its motion, the defendant posted an article on the social media platform Truth Social, on which the defendant has more than 6 million followers, making claims about the Court with the sarcastic caption, “Oh, I’m sure she will be very fair” and an article circulating a false accusation against a Special Counsel’s Office prosecutor with the caption, “Really corrupt!”
• On September 6, on Truth Social, the defendant issued two posts attacking the former Vice President, a witness identified in the indictment, in relation to this case, saying that he had seen the Vice President “make up stories about me, which are absolutely false,” and that the witness had gone to the “Dark Side”;
• In an interview aired on NBC’s Meet the Press on September 17,5 the defendant answered questions for more than an hour, and said, among other things:
o That the Georgia Secretary of State, a witness identified in the indictment, recently said things that he had not, including that the defendant “didn’t do anything wrong” during a phone call constituting an overt act in the indictment;
o That another witness identified in the indictment, the former Attorney General, “didn’t do his job” during the charged conspiracy because he was afraid of being impeached;
On September 22, on Truth Social, the defendant falsely claimed that the retiring Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a witness cited in the indictment, had committed treason and suggested that he should be executed:
“The defendant’s baseless attacks on the Court and two individual prosecutors not only could subject them to threats—it also could cause potential jurors to develop views about the propriety of the prosecution, an improper consideration for a juror prior to trial,” the filing says.
Likewise, the defendant’s continuing public statements about witnesses are substantially likely to materially prejudice a fair trial. In his opposition, the defendant makes light of some of his previous attacks on witnesses—some of whom are federal and state government figures in their own right—by stating that such witnesses do not “sh[y] away from a hearty public debate with [the defendant]” and were not intimidated by the defendant, or by implying that government officials somehow have asked for his attacks because they “have made politics, for all its discord and discourse, a large part of their lives.” ECF No. 60 at n.7.
Even assuming that certain witnesses are not intimidated by the defendant’s statements, other witnesses see and may be affected by what the defendant does to those who are called to testify in this case. And regardless of whether certain witnesses are intimidated by the defendant’s extrajudicial statements, the defendant should not be permitted to attack or bolster the credibility of any witness in a manner that could influence prospective jurors.
Smith concluded by saying “Through both of its proposed orders, the Government seeks appropriate processes for protecting the jury pool in this case and the integrity of this proceeding. The Court should grant the Government’s motion and enter them.”
The Five (Including Oprah) Who Could Replace Dianne Feinstein
The death of Sen. Dianne Feinstein means California Gov. Gavin Newsom will be forced to appoint an interim replacement ahead of the 2024 elections when voters will get a say.
Feinstein held the seat since 1992, holding back a generation of aspiring Golden State politicians now eager for a chance to replace her.
Newsom, who appointed the state’s other senator Alex Padilla to replace Kamala Harris in 2021 when she became vice president, has publicly fretted about the decision.
In 2021 Newsom promised to appoint a black woman to Feinstein’s seat in the event it became available before a general election.
That left many thinking the spot would go to Rep. Barbara Lee, a longtime California progressive who had already been running for the seat in 2024 when Feinstein planned to retire.
But earlier this month Newsom all but ruled out Lee — saying he did not want to interfere with the current primary.
“It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off. That primary is just a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance of that,” Newsom told “Meet The Press.”
California insiders say Newsom is now boxed into a corner.
“I kept wincing as additional requirements got put on, and I don’t even know why. He is free to appoint anyone he wants including himself. but he seems to have eliminated a lot of very good candidates,” said California GOP Rep. Darrell Issa.
Below is a list of five names experts told The Post could be at the top of Newsom’s list.
The odds are provided by Hank Sheinkopf, a longtime Big Apple political handicapper.
California Secretary of State Shirley Weber (3 to 1)
Weber, 75, already owes her current job to Newsom, who appointed her to replace Padilla in 2020. She won a full term in the job in 2022.
It’s unclear whether she would want to give up the safe seat for a placeholder Senate position.
Despite owing her career to Newsom, Weber played a major role as secretary of state in facilitating the 2021 recall election against him.
“She’s elected statewide, poses no threat to Newsom, is easily identifiable as a black woman, has won statewide, and as long as there are no blemishes, it works,” Sheinkopf said.
Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass ( 5 to 1)
Bass would be a relatively safe choice.
A former California state assembly speaker who spent a decade in Congress, Bass was elected mayor of Los Angeles in 2022.
She’s been a popular mayor, but insiders say she might not be interested in the placeholder spot.
“Obviously I would think that Bass, given her vast experience, would be good, but I am not sure she would even want to do it. She’s got a pretty good job right now,” said longtime Democratic strategist James Carville. “Karen wouldn’t take that senate seat for just a year.”
Bass, 69, herself had publicly come out in favor of Newsom choosing Barbara Lee.
State Controller Malia Cohen (8 to 1)
Cohen is the second-highest ranking black woman office holder in California after Weber.
She’s been chummy with Newsom for two decades and previously served as a San Francisco county supervisor.
As controller, Cohen, 45, is in charge of disbursing state funds, overseeing audits of state agencies, and representing the state on dozens of boards and commissions.
She would be a relative unknown outside of California and have little chance of being able to solidify herself in the seat before the 2024 primaries.
Oprah Winfrey (1000 to 1)
The ultimate wild card.
The legendary television performer would come in with universal name ID and sky-high approval ratings. Rumors circulated that Newsom was considering the daytime television queen who has the added bonus of not having any known political aspirations.
She has repeatedly turned down appeals by avid fans that she runs for president.
Winfrey, 69, has publicly thrown cold water on the idea of replacing Feinstein.
In May a spokesman claimed “she is not considering the seat should it become vacant,” the Los Angeles Times reported.
San Francisco Mayor London Breed (10,000 to 1)
Breed would be by far the most divisive choice.
Feinstein herself once held the job of San Francisco mayor in the 1980s, but things have trended sharply more liberal.
In the tumult surrounding the death of George Floyd, Breed, 49, cut $120 million from the budgets of both San Francisco’s police and sheriff’s departments.
Looting and other violent crimes promptly skyrocketed forcing her into a dramatic reversal.
Breed also oversaw some of the nation’s most Draconian mask mandates during the pandemic, yet was busted dancing maskless and letting loose at a jazz club in September 2021.
Under her leadership, San Francisco has become synonymous with urban blight.
“She’s in charge of the disease called San Francisco,” Sheinkopf said.
WATCH: DeSantis Wins Over Bill Maher’s Audience on COVID Lockdowns
Governor Ron DeSantis on Friday tackled tough questions from Real Time host Bill Maher and received repeated applause from the audience when he vowed to “clean house” in the public-health apparatus that brought about Covid lockdowns.
The center-left personality asked why DeSantis decided to run for president, given former president Trump’s current domination of the GOP candidate field.
“You did not take my advice,” Maher said. “I was on the show- a few times we talked- I said, ‘this guy’s crazy to run this time. He’s- what are you, 45 years old? You just had a birthday, right?”
“Yeah,” DeSantis said.
Maher remarked that DeSantis has decades ahead of him in his political career to enter the presidential race. The GOP nomination will be difficult to take from Trump, Maher suggested.
“Why run against Trump? You’re trying to thread this needle that will never happen,” he added. “You can’t disavow him because that’s the base, and yet you’re running against him. And that’s why, I mean, let’s face it Ron, if the campaign was going well, you wouldn’t be on this show.”
DeSantis reminded Maher of Trump’s weak spots, namely his leadership during Covid, when he elevated Dr. Fauci to advise the government’s pandemic policies. After following those directives in Florida initially, DeSantis reversed course and ended lockdowns and many other Covid restrictions. The governor has been a vocal Fauci critic ever since.
“Oh that’s not true,” DeSantis said. “One: I don’t think he can win the election. I could win the election. Two: I don’t think he could actually get the job done that we need to do.”
“For example, COVID. I think we need accountability for what this government did to this country with the COVID restrictions mandates and lockdowns. Donald Trump is not gonna do that… He’s not going to clean house at CDC, NIH, FDA. I will do that. I will get the job done,” DeSantis promised, evoking applause from the audience.
DeSantis defended his record of conservative achievements in Florida.
“The one thing about me in Florida, and even my critics will acknowledge- if he says he’s going to do something, he will follow through and get the job done,” he said. “So it’s about the country. Are we gonna get the country turned around or not? I don’t think he’s a vehicle that’s doing and I have been- when I supported them on things I liked. I’ve said it, but I’ve been critical about the things that he didn’t do, and I’m gonna continue to do that.”
After Maher knocked him for propping up Trump allies that spread the narrative that the 2020 election was stolen, DeSantis doubled down and argued that the aim was to elect Republicans to key seats and positions. DeSantis also called hypocrisy on Maher for coming from the Hollywood world in which it was very popular to spread the false claims that Russia stole the 2016 election for Donald Trump.
“Your friends in Hollywood were cutting ads telling the Electoral College to vote against Trump in the Electoral College because it was stolen,” DeSantis rebutted. “They said Russia stole the election, for years they said that. So don’t act like this is like a unique thing in modern history of the country.”
After the audience again cheered, Maher shot back in jest, “First of all, Ron, I have no friends in Hollywood.”
Most polling shows Trump ahead of DeSantis a significant margin in the 2024 race. After the first presidential debate, which Trump boycotted, Republican voters said DeSantis performed best 29 percent compared to 26 percent for conservative entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, according to a Washington Post/FiveThrityEight/Ipsos poll. After the second presidential debate last week, which Trump skipped again, a plurality of Republican primary voters who watched it concluded that DeSantis won again, according to the same poll conducted immediately after the debate.
Left-wing Bill Maher can admit this, but not Donald Trump.
“It’s unfair what they did to you because you did handle [COVID] better…You were right. You were like, let’s protect the people who are most vulnerable and everybody else can go on with their lives.” pic.twitter.com/MSJN61edWj
— DeSantis War Room 🐊 (@DeSantisWarRoom) September 30, 2023
— American Brushfire 🔥 (@AmBrushfire) September 30, 2023
DA Alvin Bragg Hit with Racial Discrimination Lawsuit After Murder Charges Dropped
The New York City bodega clerk who had murder charges dropped after video showed he acted in self-defense is suing District Attorney Alvin Bragg and NYPD for civil rights violations.
Jose Alba, an ex-bodega worker who was attacked behind the counter on July 1, 2022, by 35-year-old Austin Simon and his girlfriend, Tina Lee, filed a lawsuit in the Southern District of New York on Friday alleging he was wrongfully prosecuted because of the Manhattan district attorney’s “racial equity” policies. The complaint names Bragg, NYPD Detective William Garcia, and unidentified arresting officers and detectives of the NYPD as defendants in the case.
“New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg and/or his subordinates, following Bragg’s policy to achieve ‘racial equity’ in the Manhattan criminal justice system, charged Plaintiff with murder in the second degree and asked for high bail at Plaintiff’s arraignment,” the complaint states.
“Despite the fact that Simon and Lee were the initial aggressors, it was Plaintiff who was arrested, incarcerated, and wrongfully prosecuted. While in theory, Bragg’s ‘racial equity’ policies are a well-intentioned attempt by him to implement even-handed justice, the means and methods employed by Bragg have instead had an opposite effect and resulted in discrimination against certain defendants based on race.”
The lawsuit also names Department of Corrections Commissioner Louis Molina and other DOC officials as defendants “responsible for the unconstitutional conditions of confinement and inadequate medical care at Rikers Island.”
Alba’s attorney, Richard Cardinale, told Fox News Digital Alba is seeking justice and compensatory and punitive damages against the city.
New York City’s Law Department said the city will review the case when serve and respond accordingly.
Read the Lawsuit Here.
Alba’s case grabbed national headlines for months after he was charged with second-degree murder for killing Simon, who was seen on surveillance video first coming behind the cashier’s desk at the Blue Moon convenience store in Manhattan and attacking him. Despite claiming self-defense, Alba was sent to Riker’s Island prison and initially given $250,000 bail, outraging the city’s Dominican community.
“After the video of Simon and Lee’s attack on Plaintiff was shown by the news media, and Plaintiff’s arrest, prosecution and incarceration at Rikers Island Correctional Facility became a national story, there was widespread outrage against Bragg and his office for charging a law-abiding, older working man for lawfully defending himself during the crime wave in New York City, caused in part by the massive resignations of New York City Police Officers, and legislation and policies that frustrate the ability for law enforcement to combat crime,” the complaint states.
“Defensively, Bragg responded that he was still investigating the incident, while Plaintiff, who could not pay the high bail for murder in the second degree, suffered at Rikers Island, unaware whether he was facing a long prison sentence for lawful self-defense.”
Bragg’s office faced widespread condemnation for bringing charges against Alba, as footage strongly suggested that the bodega worker grabbed a knife and fatally stabbed his assailant only after he had been attacked first.
Among many other supporters, New York City Mayor Eric Adams and former NYPD Commissioner Bill Bratton had publicly decried the initial charging decision, saying Alba acted in self-defense to thwart what appeared to be either an attempt on his own life or a robbery in progress.
Under intense public pressure, the district attorney dropped the murder charge on July 19, 2022.
Alba had declared his intention to sue the city in February, but the case was delayed while his attorney negotiated a pre-lawsuit settlement with the city. However, the parties could not reach an agreement, Cardinale told Fox News.
“The case is strong because it relies on defendants’ own documents and statements and papers filed in the criminal case,” Cardinale said. “This is not a case based on a lawyer or client’s unsupported speculation.”
As a candidate for district attorney, Bragg said racial equity must be a priority and stated his belief that thievery should not be prosecuted because it was a “crime of poverty.”
“I grew up with friends disappearing over charges like that (theft) and even if there is an alternative [to incarceration, such as diversion programs, there is a] consequence of disruption for the family. We need to asking, ‘Does something make us safer?’ And prosecuting a young person, even if it doesn’t end in incarceration [such as in diversion programs], in my view does not make us safer,” Bragg said. “I think we need to move away from what I would call a crime of poverty.”
Bragg was speaking to a group from Young New Yorkers in May 2021. The organization “applies a racial justice framework to… all levels of operations” as it diverts individuals facing charges under the age of 25 from the criminal justice system.
Bragg said his overall intention was to “Shrin[k] the footprint” of the criminal justice system.
He has since been criticized for taking a soft-on-crime approach as Manhattan’s top prosecutor.
6th Circuit Issues Devastating Ruling for the Trans Agenda
Daily Wire host Matt Walsh dove into the “huge” ruling from the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals that upheld Tennesee’s and Kentucky’s bans on puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender surgeries on gender-confused children.
In its 2-1 ruling rejecting a challenge to the laws from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and families of trans-identifying children, the federal court “thoroughly dismantled, point-by-point, every disingenuous argument from trans activists,” Walsh said in a thread posted to X.
🧵Last night, the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals delivered a devastating ruling for the trans cult. No other court decision has so thoroughly dismantled, point-by-point, every disingenuous argument from trans activists. https://t.co/5LZG9YZXCG
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) September 29, 2023
“The case arose because of laws in TN and KY banning the use of puberty blockers and sterilizing cross-sex hormones on children. The laws were passed after my reporting on Vanderbilt’s gender clinic, and how they see some gender ‘treatments’ as big money makers,” said Walsh, who was a vocal proponent of banning puberty blockers, cross-sex hormones, and gender surgeries on children in his home state of Tennessee.
“Trans activists were apoplectic,” the Daily Wire host added. “The ACLU went to court. Initially, they convinced a judge to block the law. I said at the time that the judge’s ruling was terrible and that it would be overturned. But admittedly, I had no idea how bad it would be for the trans cult.”
2/ The case arose because of laws in TN & KY banning the use of puberty blockers & sterilizing cross-sex hormones on kids. The laws were passed after my reporting on Vanderbilt’s gender clinic, and how they see some gender “treatments” as big money makers. https://t.co/fzOVq8Lfd0
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) September 29, 2023
Walsh then went into detail about the court’s decision and what it means for the future of protecting children from the devastating effects of radical gender theory in medical practice.
“First, the ruling establishes that voters have the right to ban medical procedures they believe are immoral or dangerous. That’s true regardless of what the ‘experts’ at Big Pharma say,” Walsh wrote. “Then the court explains that voters have very good reason to believe that so-called ‘gender-affirming care’ – including puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones – are dangerous. The court notes that many countries have started banning them.”
“The court goes on to state that WPATH – the standard-setting organization for ‘trans healthcare’ – counseled against using hormones and puberty blockers on minors from 1979 to 2000. Even now, WPATH admits there is ‘limited data’ supporting their use.”
5/ Then the court explains that voters have very good reason to believe that so-called “gender-affirming care” – including puberty blockers and cross-sex hormones – is dangerous. The court notes that many countries have started banning them. pic.twitter.com/3AngcO9ify
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) September 29, 2023
Walsh wrote that the ruling came just after misleading data from a U.K. study was analyzed again and showed a staggering number of young people who identify as transgender struggle with mental health issues.
“Indeed, just this month, we learned that previous data from the UK justifying the use of puberty blockers was wildly misleading. A re-analysis of this data showed that a third of so-called trans youth suffered mental health problems after taking puberty blockers,” Walsh said.
“In their attempt to win this case despite this evidence, the ACLU tried to claim that ‘transgender people’ are a special category entitled to unique protections under the Constitution. They argued that any law affecting only ‘trans’ people is akin to a law affecting only black people, and must be carefully scrutinized by courts.”
8/ In their attempt to win the case despite this evidence, the ACLU claimed that “transgender people” are a special category entitled to unique protections under the Constitution & argued that any law affecting only “trans” people is akin to a law affecting only black people.
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) September 29, 2023
“The point of this strategy is to subvert the will of the voters,” Walsh continued. “But to make this argument, the ACLU had to make a series of arguments that backfired massively, and created precedent that will be devastating for trans activists for years to come. First, the ACLU claimed that the trans community is a ‘politically powerless’ group that’s being unfairly treated. The court pointed out that when every major law firm, the feds, and medical organizations are on your side, you are not marginalized.”
“The ACLU also attempted to argue that transgender status is ‘immutable,’ like being born with a certain skin color,” Walsh said. “But the Sixth Circuit observed that the meaning of ‘transgender’ status is constantly changing. Every day there’s a new gender.”
11/ The ACLU also attempted to argue that transgender status is “immutable,” like being born with a certain skin color. But the Sixth Circuit observed that the meaning of “transgender” status is constantly changing. Every day there’s a new gender. pic.twitter.com/IY8lS3SZKq
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) September 29, 2023
The ruling represents a massive precedent going forward, according to Walsh.
“So there’s no special treatment for trans activists. Precedent set. But the Sixth Circuit wasn’t done. They also ripped apart the familiar argument that parents should be allowed to do whatever they want with their kids,” he said. “As the Sixth Circuit pointed out, that’s completely illogical. You have to look specifically at what parents are doing to their children. Being a parent doesn’t give you the right to mutilate your child.”
13/ As the Sixth Circuit pointed out, that’s completely illogical. You have to look specifically at what parents are doing to their children. Being a parent doesn’t give you the right to mutilate your child. pic.twitter.com/qsXTC0AZEj
— Matt Walsh (@MattWalshBlog) September 29, 2023
“Much of this is common sense, but until now, it hasn’t been clearly articulated by a federal appeals court. Given the makeup of the Supreme Court, this ruling will likely stand, no matter how much the ACLU screams into the void,” Walsh added.
“This is a major win for the voices of sanity and for millions of children. Trans activists have relied on too many disingenuous and self-contradictory arguments for too long. Now it’s all falling apart. If we keep up the fight, soon there won’t be anything left of transgenderism.”
Charges Pending Against Transgender Student Seen Assaulting Girl in Viral Video
Reduxx has confirmed that a petition has been received by the Washington County Juvenile Court and charges are now pending in the case of a transgender student caught on film violently attacking a female student at Hazelbrook Middle School in Tualatin, Oregon.
Last night, a viral clip began circulating on social media depicting a trans-identified male assaulting a female student without provocation.
The clip was initially uploaded to Instagram and X (formerly Twitter) by Ben Edtl, the Republican nominee for the Senate district in which the school is situated.
Edtl later uploaded additional clips purporting to show the same student assaulting other girls.
While details were initially limited, Reduxx spoke with a representative at Hazelbrook Middle School and received confirmation that an assault had taken place at the school last week.
Reports that a transgender student assaulted a female student at Hazelbrook Middle School in Tualatin, Oregon are going viral on social media.
Reduxx has spoken with the school directly, which confirmed a student was assaulted last week and that an investigation was underway. pic.twitter.com/EBc27e40xv
— REDUXX (@ReduxxMag) September 28, 2023
Following the confirmation, Reduxx reached out to the Tualatin Police Department, which revealed that they had received a report of assault at the school, and had passed the case on to the Washington County Juvenile Department (WCJD).
Reduxx has now received a statement from WCJD Director Ray Cameron, who confirmed that the student was now being processed.
“A petition has been filed with the Juvenile Court and the charges are pending. In light of Oregon records law pertaining to juveniles, we are not able to comment further regarding this particular youth,” Cameron said. “The Washington County Juvenile Department remains committed to enhancing community safety and breaking the cycle of delinquency through effective evidence-based intervention practices and holding youth accountable for their behavior.”
On September 27, in obvious anticipation of the community blowback, the Tigard-Tualatin School District held an emergency “Student Safety and Well Being” forum in which principals from multiple schools within the district gathered to respond to parental concerns. Along with the principals, the District Superintendent and three police officers were also on the panel.
During the forum, Superintendent Sue Rieke-Smith repeatedly affirmed that the District did not have a “zero tolerance” policy on student misconduct, leading to obvious confusion and concern amongst the parents in attendance.
Rieke-Smith attempted to assure parents that “zero tolerance” policies on violent behavior are ineffective, and raise the risks for potentially deadly retaliation by students against the schools they felt “excluded” from. In response, one parent asked if the District was “prepared for lawsuits” to be filed against it.
At one point during the question and answer period, a father became visibly upset and stormed out of the room. The heated back-and-forth he was having with Reike-Smith was censored by the school in its recording of the forum.
Rieke-Smith, along with some principals from District schools, also noted that there was a trend amongst students of committing misbehavior or starting fights for the explicit purposes of uploading footage to social media for “likes.” While they refused to specifically comment on the incident at Hazelbrook during the forum, it was heavily implied that may have been the case.
The Tigard-Tualatin School District has a history of particularly progressive policies pertaining to gender ideology.
In 2013, the District became the first in Washington County to introduce “gender neutral” bathrooms at all of its secondary schools in an effort to be more “inclusive” of transgender and non-binary students. At the time, a District spokesperson stated that transgender students were already are permitted to use whichever restroom they prefer or staff restrooms.
Earlier this year, Twality Middle School in the Tigard-Tualatin School District came under fire after it was learned that students had been permitted to skip class in order to watch a TV show promoting the medical transitioning of minors.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. to Run as Independent
2024 presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. plans to announce he will run as an independent on October 9 in Pennsylvania, Mediaite reported.
Kennedy’s campaign machine is now planning “attack ads” against the Democratic National Committee in order to “pave the way” for his announcement in Philadelphia about running as an independent, according to a text reviewed by Mediaite.
“Bobby feels that the DNC is changing the rules to exclude his candidacy so an independent run is the only way to go,” a Kennedy campaign insider told Mediaite.
Kennedy posted a video on X on Friday asking Americans to join him for a “major announcement” in Philadelphia on Oct. 9.
“I’m going to be in Philadelphia on October 9 to make a major announcement at the very birthplace of our nation,” Kennedy said in a video announcement released Friday.
“I’m not going to tell you right now exactly what that announcement will be. I can say, though, that if you’ve been waiting to come to one of my public events, this will be the one to come to,” he teased.
— Robert F. Kennedy Jr (@RobertKennedyJr) September 29, 2023
Kennedy challenging incumbent President Joe Biden for the Democratic nomination, has been flirting with a third party run in recent weeks.
The New York Times reported last week that he met with the chair of the Libertarian Party, raising the prospect of a departure from the party that decades ago became synonymous with his family name.
Kennedy remains 40+ points behind Biden in the polls. But Democrats worry that a third-party run by Kennedy could draw votes away from Biden and help elect former President Donald J. Trump.
According to the Rasmussen Report survey, 41 percent of Democrats have an at least somewhat favorable view of Kennedy along with 56 percent of Republicans and 49 percent of those without party affiliation. In total 49 percent of likely voters view Kennedy favorably, including 14 percent for very favorably, whilst 37 percent have an unfavorable opinion of him.
If the Democrats and Republicans nominate Biden and Trump respectively, and Kennedy runs as an independent, 33 percent of Democratic voters would “likely” vote for him according to the poll, including 14 percent who would be “very likely” to back him.
Among likely voters as a whole, 25 percent said they would likely vote for Kennedy if he runs against Biden and Trump, including 14 percent of Republicans, with 10 percent saying they are “very likely” to cast their ballots this way.
Duane “Keffe D” Davis, 60, Charged with Murdering Tupac
A man who prosecutors say ordered the 1996 killing of rapper Tupac Shakur was arrested and charged with murder Friday in a long-awaited breakthrough in one of hip-hop’s most enduring mysteries.
Duane “Keffe D” Davis has long been known to investigators as one of four suspects identified early in the investigation. He isn’t the accused gunman but was described as the group’s ringleader by authorities Friday at a news conference and in court. In Nevada you can be charged with a crime, including murder, if you help someone commit the crime.
“Duane Davis was the shot caller for this group of individuals that committed this crime,” said Las Vegas police homicide Lt. Jason Johansson, “and he orchestrated the plan that was carried out.”
Davis himself has admitted in interviews and in his 2019 tell-all memoir, “Compton Street Legend,” that he provided the gun used in the drive-by shooting.
Authorities said Friday that Davis’ own public comments revived the investigation.
Davis, now 60, was arrested early Friday while on a walk near his home on the outskirts of Las Vegas, hours before prosecutors announced in court that a Nevada grand jury had indicted the self-described “gangster” on one count of murder with a deadly weapon. He is due in court next week.
The grand jury also voted to add a sentencing enhancement to the murder charge for gang activity that could add up to 20 additional years if he’s convicted.
Hundreds of pages of transcripts released Friday provide a view into the first month of grand jury proceedings, which began in late July with testimony from former associates of Davis, friends of Shakur and a slate of retired police officers involved in the case early on. Their testimony painted a picture for the jurors of a deep, escalating rift between Shakur’s music label Death Row Records and Bad Boy Records, which had ties to Davis and represented Shakur’s rap rival, Biggie Smalls.
“It started the whole West Coast/East Coast” rivalry that primarily defined the hip-hop scene during the mid-1990s, one of Davis’ former associates testified.
The first-ever arrest in the case came after Las Vegas police in mid-July raided Davis’ home in the nearby city of Henderson for items they described at the time as “concerning the murder of Tupac Shakur.”
Davis denied an interview request Friday from jail, and court records don’t list an attorney who can comment on his behalf. Phone and text messages to Davis and his wife on Friday and in the months since the July 17 search weren’t returned.
In a statement Friday, Sekyiwa “Set” Shakur, the rapper’s sister, described the arrest as a victory.
“This is no doubt a pivotal moment. The silence of the past 27 years surrounding this case has spoken loudly in our community,” she said. “It’s important to me that the world, the country, the justice system, and our people acknowledge the gravity of the passing of this man, my brother, my mother’s son, my father’s son.”
On the night of Sept. 7, 1996, Shakur was in a BMW driven by Death Row Records founder Marion “Suge” Knight. They were waiting at a red light near the Las Vegas Strip when a white Cadillac pulled up next to them and gunfire erupted.
Shakur was shot multiple times and died a week later at the age of 25.
Davis, in his memoir, said he was in the front passenger seat of the Cadillac and had slipped a gun into the back seat, from where he said the shots were fired.
He implicated his nephew, Orlando “Baby Lane” Anderson, saying he was one of two people in the backseat. Anderson, a known rival of Shakur, had been involved in a casino brawl with the rapper shortly before the shooting.
“Little did anyone know that this incident right here would ultimately lead to the retaliatory shooting and death of Tupac Shakur,” said Johansson, the police lieutenant.
Anderson died two years later. He denied any involvement in Shakur’s death.
Emails seeking comment from two lawyers who have previously represented Knight were not immediately returned. Knight was grazed by a bullet fragment in the shooting but had only minor injuries. He is serving a 28-year prison sentence in California for an unrelated voluntary manslaughter charge.
On the night of July 17, Las Vegas police quietly surrounded the home where Davis lives with his wife, Paula Clemons. Police lapel video obtained by The Associated Press showed SWAT officers detaining a man and his wife outside the home lit up by a swirl of red and blue lights after announcing their presence on a bullhorn. The couple’s faces are blurred in the videos.
Police reported collecting multiple computers, a cellphone and hard drive, a Vibe magazine that featured Shakur, several .40-caliber bullets, two “tubs containing photographs” and a copy of Davis’ memoir.
Greg Kading, a retired Los Angeles police detective who spent years investigating the Shakur killing and wrote a book about it, said he’s not surprised by Davis’ arrest.
“He put himself squarely in the middle of the conspiracy,” Kading said, adding that Davis himself gave Las Vegas police “the ammunition and leverage to move forward.”
Kading said he had also anticipated the murder charge, because Davis’ public comments showed the crime was premeditated.
“All the other direct conspirators or participants are all dead,” Kading said. “Keefe D is the last man standing among the individuals that conspired to kill Tupac.”
The rapper’s death came as his fourth solo album, “All Eyez on Me,” remained on the charts, with some 5 million copies sold. Nominated six times for a Grammy Award, Shakur is still largely considered one of the most influential and versatile rappers of all time.
Trump Co-Defendant Pleads Guilty in Georgia Election Case
Scott Hall, one of the 18 defendants charged along with former President Donald Trump for allegedly interfering with the 2020 presidential election results in Georgia, pleaded guilty Friday.
Hall is the first defendant to enter a plea in the case.
Under the terms of an agreement with Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis’ office, Hall pleaded guilty to five misdemeanor charges and will be sentenced to five years’ probation, if he abides by the terms of the deal. He also agreed to testify in related court hearings and trials stemming from the sprawling 41-count indictment that was unsealed in August.
“Do you understand that conditions of your probation in this sentence is that you testify truthfully at any further court proceedings to include trials of any co-defendants that is listed on the original indictment in which you were charged,” the DA’s office asked Hall in a Friday afternoon hearing before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Scott McAfee.
“Yes, ma’am,” he responded.
Hall pleaded guilty to five counts of conspiracy to commit intentional interference with performance of an election.
Hall, 59, is a bail bondsman who was hit with charges relating to a voting system breach in Georgia’s Coffee County in early 2021. He was also the first of the 19 defendants charged in the case to surrender last month.
Also named in the indictment as participating in the Coffee County conspiracy was former Trump attorney Sidney Powell, who is scheduled to stand trial on those charges in late October. Powell has pleaded not guilty.
In the indictment, Hall was charged with numerous felony counts: violation of the Georgia RICO Act; two counts of conspiracy to commit election fraud; conspiracy to commit computer theft; conspiracy to commit computer trespass; conspiracy to commit computer invasion of privacy; and conspiracy to defraud the state.
Under the terms of the plea deal, Hall will also have to write an apology letter to the state for his conduct, pay a $5,000 fine, serve 200 hours of community service and provide the DA’s office with a recorded statement, which he has already done.
In other court activity Friday, U.S. District Judge Steve C. Jones denied bids by former Justice Department official Jeffrey Clark and three so-called “alternate electors” to move their cases to federal court. The four were among the 19 indicted in Fulton County last month.
In his ruling Friday, Jones found “Clark has submitted no evidence that the December 28 letter was written within the scope of his role” at the Justice Department.
“To the contrary, the evidence before the Court indicates the opposite: Clark’s role in the Civil Division did not include any role in the investigation or oversight of State elections,” the judge wrote, denying his bid to move the case.
In separate rulings Friday, Jones also rejected similar requests from defendants David Shafer, Shawn Still and Cathy Latham, who acted as 2020 electors for Trump in Georgia. The indictment said the three, who’ve pleaded not guilty, “unlawfully falsely held themselves out as the duly elected and qualified presidential electors from the State of Georgia,” even though Joe Biden had won the state.
The three defendants argued they were carrying out federal duties in their role as electors, and should therefore have their case heard in federal court. Jones disagreed.
“In sum, the Court finds that presidential electors, or the Republican nominated presidential electors in this case, are not federal officers,” the judge wrote in one of his rulings.
“Even though electors are engaging in a federal functions when they meet and cast their ballots, that is insufficient to make someone a federal officer. To find otherwise would convert all citizens who can lawfully vote into federal officers when they cast their ballot for U.S. House of Representatives,” Jones wrote.
William Cromwell, an attorney for Latham, said, “We plan to appeal this decision.”
The judge denied a similar bid by former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows this month. Meadows is appealing the ruling.
In a court filing Thursday, attorneys for Trump said the former president would not seek to move his Georgia election interference charges to federal court.
Trump had previously indicated in a court filing that he might seek to move his case to a federal venue.
“This decision is based on his well-founded confidence that this Honorable Court intends to fully and completely protect his constitutional right to a fair trial and guarantee him due process of law throughout the prosecution of his case in the Superior Court of Fulton County, Georgia,” Trump attorney Steven Sadow wrote in a letter to McAfee.
IRS Contractor Charged with Leaking Tax Return Info of Trump
A former contractor for the Internal Revenue Service was charged Friday with leaking tax information to news outlets about thousands of the country’s wealthiest people.
Charles Edward Littlejohn, 38, of Washington, D.C., is accused of stealing the tax return information and giving it to two different news outlets between 2018 and 2020, the Justice Department said in a statement.
Both organizations published numerous articles about the tax information, some of which dated back more than 15 years, charging documents state.
The outlets are not named in charging documents, but the description and time frame align with stories about former President Donald Trump’s tax returns in The New York Times and reporting about wealthy Americans’ taxes in the nonprofit investigative journalism organization ProPublica.
The 2020 New York Times report found Trump paid $750 in federal income tax the year he entered the White House and no income tax at all some years thanks to colossal losses.
Six years of his returns were later released by the then-Democratically controlled House Ways and Means Committee.
ProPublica reported in 2021 on a trove of tax-return data about the wealthiest Americans. It found the 25 richest people legally pay a smaller share of their income in taxes than many ordinary workers do.
A spokesman for the outlet declined to comment on the charges, adding that ProPublica reporters have previously said they don’t know the identity of the source.
The stories sparked calls for reform and for an investigation into the leak of tax information, which has specific legal protections.
Littlejohn is charged with one count of unauthorized disclosure of tax returns and return information. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
The IRS declined to comment specifically on the case, but Commissioner Danny Werfel said “any disclosure of taxpayer information is unacceptable” and the agency has since tightened security.
Here Are the Oldest U.S. Senators After Feinstein’s Death
There are now three octogenarians and one nonagenarian in the U.S. Senate, where more than half of the chamber is over 60, following the death of its oldest serving member Dianne Feinstein of California at 90 this week.
Feinstein faced scrutiny over health concerns and her ability to serve during her final years in office, as America’s aging leaders have been on display, prompting conversations around fitness for office, term limits and ageism.
Feinstein, the longest-serving woman in the U.S. Senate who had a sprawling legacy, had announced earlier this year she wouldn’t seek re-election.
The oldest Senators are the following:
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Ia.), 90
- Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), 82
- Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), 81
- Sen. Jim Risch (R-Idaho), 80
- Sen. Ben Cardin (D-Md.), 79
- Sen. Angus King (I-Maine), 79
- Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.), 78
- Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.), 77
- Sen. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), 77
- Sen. Tom Carper (D-Del.), 76
- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.), 76
- Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), 76
- Sen. Peter Welch (D-Vt.), 76
- Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W. Va.), 76
- Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii), 75
There are 68 senators age 60 and older — that’s more than half of the Senate.
The average age of senators in the 118th Congress (which includes Feinstein) is 64 years old – unchanged from the previous class, according to data from Quorum.
The 118th Congress is one of the oldest in U.S. history.
McConnell, one of the older Senators in office, has faced public pressure in recent months over his health status in the wake of several public freeze-ups.
He’s vowed to serve out his full term leading his caucus.
Meanwhile, former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), 83, was among top House Democrats who stepped aside from leadership positions last year to make room for a younger generation.
The shift is less apparent in the Senate, particularly among Republicans.
Still, Pelosi announced this month that she will seek another term in 2024.
The presidency is not immune from questions of fitness to serve over age, as the likeliest matchup for the 2024 election pits President Biden, who’d be 81 at the start of a second term, against former President Trump, who’d be 78.
Ex-ABC News Star Gets 6 Years in Prison for Child Porn
A former investigative journalist with ABC News and father-of-two girls has been sentenced to six years in jail after he was found guilty of possessing child porn.
James Gordon Meek, 53, was sentenced to 72 months in prison after he was caught sending and receiving sexually explicit content involving prepubescent minors while visiting South Carolina in 2020.
Federal prosecutors had initially pushed for the disgraced journalist to receive between 12 and a half and 15 years.
Meek joined ABC News’ Washington bureau as an investigative producer in 2013 and was based in Virginia returned to Virginia with an iPhone containing the child sex abuse material (CSAM).
Officials with the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia explained how Meek possessed several electronic devices containing images and videos of minors engaged in sexually explicit content.
Earlier this year, he was charged with possessing and transporting child photography following an FBI raid on his Arlington penthouse in April 2022.
In court papers filed last Friday, prosecutors revealed Meek’s actions in detail.
In them, prosecutors Zoe Bedell and Whitney Kramer wrote: ‘He clearly sought out individuals across the internet for the specific purpose of sharing (and expanding) his [Child Sexual Abuse Material] collection for his sexual gratification.’
Bedell and Kramer noted how Meek both sent and received pornography of ‘infants and toddlers’ together with content ‘depicting sadistic and masochistic abuse of prepubescent children.’
Meek, who is divorced, would solicit lewd images from underage individuals and even pose ‘as a minor himself.’
An FBI affidavit told how evidence was also seized showing Meek using Snapchat and other apps to pressure minors into sending him sexually explicit images.
In some of those communications, Meek portrayed himself as a girl.
Text messages were found by police that saw Meek conversing with two girls, aged 14 and 15, who sent him pictures of their breasts, according to the court documents.
In other messages including videos he could be seen ‘naked and holding his penis in his hand.’
Another included one showing the sexual abuse of an infant in a chat with two other people.
FBI agents found the content dated back almost a decade to 2014.
Meek’s lawyer, Eugene Gorokhov said his client should receive no more than the minimum sentence arguing that prosecutors’ recommendations were ‘excessive.’
‘Meek’s criminal conduct in this case is completely at odds with his proven personal values,’ Gorokhov added.
He appealed to the defendant being a dad and suggested that Meek’s coverage of the war on terror in the Middle East had affected ‘his mental health.’
The investigation into Meek began last year when the FBI was tipped off that videos involving the sexual abuse of children was connected to the embattled former journalist.
His penthouse apartment in Arlington, Virginia was then raided by law enforcement.
Agents found dozens of images of child pornography that he had been collecting since 2014.
Following the dawn raid, he resigned from ABC News and went into hiding, taking refuge at his elderly mom’s townhouse in McLean, Virginia, 15 minutes outside Washington, D.C.
Meek was arrested on charges of transportation of images of child sex abuse in January.
Until his career came to an abrupt end, Meek had served as senior counterterrorism adviser and investigator for the U.S. House Committee on Homeland Security.
Meek had built up a reputation for trailblazing journalism, which had exposed shocking military cover-ups, friendly fire deaths, and foiled terror plots.
His news coverage of shooting at Orlando’s Pulse nightclub received an Emmy Award in 2017. He had previously worked for the New York Daily News.
Top Military Officer General Mark Milley Retires
General Mark Milley steps down on Friday after a tumultuous term as the top US military officer that saw him face repeated crises at home and abroad.
Milley said that troops take an oath to a constitution and not a “wannabe dictator”, in an apparent reference to Trump that drew an audible reaction from some in the audience.
“We don’t take an oath a king or queen or a tyrant or dictator. We don’t take an oath to a wannabe dictator. We don’t take an oath to an individual. We take an oath to the Constitution,” Milley during a ceremony at Joint Base Myer-Henderson Hall near Washington.
Trump later in the day lashed out at him, calling Milley, a Princeton University graduate, “Slow moving and thinking” and a “moron.”
“Look at his words – STUPID & VERY DANGEROUS!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform.
As chairman, “it was one crisis right after another,” Milley told AFP last month.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the chaotic withdrawal from Afghanistan and nationwide BLM protests are just some of the events that defined his four years as the top US officer.
His departure comes at a time when the US military — particularly its leadership — has been under repeated fire from conservative politicians and pundits, especially over the imposition of woke policies on the armed forces.’
General CQ Brown will replace him, becoming the second black officer after Colin Powell to serve as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, at a time when the Pentagon is headed by Lloyd Austin, the country’s first black secretary of defense.
Brown was commissioned as a US Air Force officer in 1984 and is an experienced pilot with more than 3,000 flight hours, 130 of them in combat.
He has commanded a fighter squadron and two fighter wings, as well as US air forces under the Central Command and Indo-Pacific Command, and served as chief of staff of the Air Force.
Following the 2020 death of George Floyd, Brown recorded an emotional video about his personal experiences, including with discrimination in the American military.
He said he felt pressure to “perform error-free” and worked “twice as hard” to prove wrong those who expected less of him because of his race.
14-Year-Old Girl Hanged Her Rapist in the Forest
A 26-year-old taxi driver from the Middle East was reported for raping a 14-year-old girl in Sweden – then he was found hanged in a nature reserve. Now the girl, her boyfriend and three of his brothers are suspected of the very painful murder, which according to the prosecutor had the character of “an execution,” Friatider reported.
The events began in February this year when the then 15-year-old girl reported that the taxi driver had raped her when she was 14.
On March 26, a taxi was found abandoned, covered in snow and with the taximeter running in a parking lot at the Hjälstaviken nature reserve in Enköping municipality north of Stockholm.
On April 1, the taxi driver was found – hanging from a tree 500 meters from the car.
The police quickly turned their attention to the now accused young people. All the young people deny the crime except for the girl, who admits that she lured the man to the place – but only so that he would be beaten.
According to the indictment, the girl lured the taxi driver to the scene of the murder on March 24 and kept him there until the four boys arrived.
The boys had previously bought rope, masking and clothes that were used as aids in the murder, which took place by strangulation and hanging.
According to the indictment, the approach involved a painful death for the taxi driver and the murder had, according to the prosecutor, “the character of an execution”.
The day before the murder, the police have found plans to take revenge on the taxi driver in a chat where the girl mentioned that the boyfriend’s brothers would meet the rapist.
“They are going to meet my rapist. THIHIHI”, the girl writes, among other things, in internal messages.
The night before the murder, the girl sent a message to the taxi driver asking him to get vodka and arranged to meet him at the desolate place.
According to the indictment, he was hanged the same day in the solitary nature reserve by the five young people.
After the murder, the girl took a picture of her boyfriend while he was celebrating with a flatbread roll. Later, she sent a message to an acquaintance that her rapist was dead.
All the defendants deny wrongdoing, but the evidence includes cell phone cell phone lines and DNA traces.
DNA from both the taxi driver and one of the brothers was found on a jacket.
The girl is now 16 years old, as is her boyfriend. Two of his brothers are 17 years old and one is 18 years old.
Dianne Feinstein, California’s Longest-Serving Senator, Dies at 90
U.S. Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California has died at age 90, her office confirmed Friday.
Feinstein, a Democrat, was the oldest member of the Senate, where she served since 1992. She held her seat in the chamber longer than any other woman, and any senator from California.
She passed away Thursday night at her home in Washington, D.C.
“There are few women who can be called senator, chairman, mayor, wife, mom and grandmother. Senator Feinstein was a force of nature who made an incredible impact on our country and her home state,” her chief of staff James Sauls said in a statement.
Feinstein’s death ends a boundary-pushing political career that spanned more than half a century, and was studded with major legislative achievements on issues including gun control and the environment.
But In Feinstein’s final years, she had increasingly visible health and memory issues, and as a result of those a conflict with fellow Democrats over her refusal to step down.
She planned to retire at the end of her current term in January 2025.
Feinstein’s death leaves it to Gov. Gavin Newsom to appoint a temporary successor. Three leading Democrats are seeking the seat, Reps. Barbara Lee, Katie Porter and Adam Schiff.
Newsom in a statement called Feinstein “a political giant, whose tenacity was matched by her grace.”
“She broke down barriers and glass ceilings, but never lost her belief in the spirit of political cooperation,” he said. “There is simply nobody who possessed the poise, gravitas, and fierceness of Dianne Feinstein.”
“Jennifer and I are deeply saddened by her passing, and we will mourn with her family in this difficult time.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said on the chamber floor, “We lost a giant in the Senate.”
“Today, there are 25 women serving in this chamber, and every one of them will admit, they stand on Dianne’s shoulders,” he said.
Rep. Nancy Pelosi of California, the former speaker of the House, grew emotional as she told reporters, “It’s a very sad day for all of us.”
“May she rest in peace,” Pelosi said.
President Joe Biden, who served with Feinstein for decades in the Senate, said in a statement, “She had an immense impact on younger female leaders for whom she generously opened doors.”
“Dianne was tough, sharp, always prepared, and never pulled a punch, but she was also a kind and loyal friend, and that’s what Jill and I will miss the most,” Biden said.
From the office of Senator Dianne Feinstein: pic.twitter.com/rvcAmVk8O0
— Senator Dianne Feinstein (@SenFeinstein) September 29, 2023
A San Francisco native, Feinstein cleared a path for women in politics as she rose through the ranks of leadership.
After two failed bids for mayor, she was elected president of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors in 1978, becoming the first woman to hold the title.
Feinstein was made acting mayor later that year, when then-Mayor George Moscone and Harvey Milk, a colleague on the supervisors’ board, were assassinated by former board member Dan White.
In later interviews, Feinstein recalled finding Milk’s body and searching for a pulse by putting her finger in a bullet hole.
Feinstein was the first to announce the murders to the press. Her appointment a week later made her San Francisco’s first female mayor.
The trauma of the murders remained with her for decades.
“I never really talk about this,” Feinstein said with a sigh when asked about the killings during a 2017 CNN interview.
Her streak of firsts continued at the national level.
Feinstein lost a gubernatorial bid in 1990. But in 1992, she won a special election to the U.S. Senate, becoming the first California woman to hold a seat there.
Weeks later, Barbara Boxer, was sworn in as a senator, making California the first state to be represented in the Senate by two women at once.
Their elections came in the “Year of the Woman,” when four Democratic women were elected to the Senate — more than doubling the chamber’s female representation.
During Feinstein’s tenure in the Senate, she wrote and championed the 1994 assault weapons ban, a landmark bill that was a continuation of a career-long effort to enact stricter gun controls.
The legislation passed Congress and was signed by then-President Bill Clinton, albeit with major compromises including a 10-year sunset provision.
The ban expired in 2004 during the administration of President George W. Bush.
She also sponsored bills that protect millions of acres of California’s desert, worked to create a nationwide AMBER alert network, helped reauthorize the Violence Against Women Act and fought for the release of a lengthy report detailing the CIA’s torture practices, among other accomplishments.
Over her three decades in the Senate, Feinstein has generally been seen as a political moderate in her party.
In the 1990s and 2000s, that reputation made Feinstein highly popular — but much of that popularity eroded in the proceeding years as California’s political tint shifted toward deeper shades of blue.
As her centrism increasingly fell out of fashion, Feinstein’s standing in her final stretch in office was further diminished by a crescendo of skepticism about her mental fitness for the Senate.
A damning report from the San Francisco Chronicle in April 2022 featured unnamed Democratic colleagues of Feinstein fretting over her apparent decline in mental acuity.
Feinstein defended her ability to legislate while acknowledging that she had been going through an “extremely painful and distracting” period as her late husband, financier Richard Blum, had battled cancer.
By the time Feinstein announced that she would not seek reelection at the end of her term, multiple Democrats already had launched campaigns to succeed her.
Newsom to Pick Black Woman as Senator to Replace Feinstein
California Gov. Gavin Newsom has a free hand to decide who he chooses to appoint to succeed the late Sen. Dianne Feinstein in the Senate – but he is hemmed in by his own pledges and complex political constraints.
Feinstein, who died Thursday at 90, has been a force in California politics and her hometown of San Francisco for decades. Now it is up to Newsom to decide who will succeed her until an election will be held in November 2024.
He has already been direct about who he will designate: a black woman. Vice President Kamala Harris is one of just two black women to serve in the Senate during its history, and Newsom said flat-out that in the event of a vacancy, he would name another one.
‘I have multiple names in mind. We have multiple names in mind — and the answer is yes,’ he told MSNBC host Joy Reid in March, when asked if he would nominate a black woman.
There are multiple black women in California politics to choose from. One of them, Rep. Barbara Lee, is already running for the seat, complicating matters.
Others include Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, another former member of Congress. She was elected to the post only last year.
Additional names floated as Feinstein battled health problems and missed votes include Secretary of State Shirley Weber, L.A. County Supervisor Holly Mitchell, and San Francisco Mayor London Breed, Politico reported in May.
Selecting Lee might invite charges of giving her an unfair advantage in the hotly contested primary. That would give her the chance to run in 2024 as an incumbent, a substantial leg up in a heavily Democratic state.
Newsom said as much on NBC’s ‘Meet the Press’ a few weeks ago.
‘It would be completely unfair to the Democrats that have worked their tail off,’ he said. ‘That primary is just a matter of months away. I don’t want to tip the balance of that.’
An L.A. Times / Berkeley IGS poll this week had California Rep. Adam Schiff leading the field with 20 per cent. Schiff, a former House impeachment manager, was followed by Rep. Katie Porter at 17 per cent and Lee at 7 per cent.
One state political consultant, Michael Trujillo, floated the idea of Newsom appointing Weber, then reappointing her to her secretary of state post later.
Schiff is an ally of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, 83, who surprised politicos in both parties by announcing she would seek reelection next year. She currently carries the title Speaker Emerita, but continues to hold sway in her party and is an effective fundraiser.
Newsom appointed Sen. Alex Padilla when Harris was elected to the vice presidency in 2020. Padilla became state’s first latino represented in the Senate.
The longtime Democratic senator had suffered from health issues in the past year, including a case of shingles that kept her away from the Senate for a month. She also fell at her San Francisco home in August and was briefly hospitalized.
Feinstein stayed in her Senate seat despite pressure to resign due to her health. She used a wheelchair in the Senate and aides had been seen directing her how to vote.
She was the fifth-oldest person to serve in the Senate.
Newom is a gathering force inside his own party. The Biden campaign dispatched him to Simi Valley this week as a counter spokesman for the Republican presidential debate.
He is set to debate Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis next month on Fox News host Sean Hannity’s program. He has also repeatedly denied his own interest in running for the White House, amid polling problems for Biden, 80, and concerns by insiders that public perceptions of his age and vitality could harm his chances.
Newsom in a statement Friday called Feinstein a ‘political giant’ who ‘broke down barriers and glass ceilings.’
He called her a ‘powerful, trailblazing US senator’ and a ‘leader in times of tragedy and chaos.’
In words underlining the challenging of choosing someone to succeed her, he said ‘there is simply nobody who possessed the poise, gravitas, and fierceness of Dianne Feinstein.’
Key Takeaways from Biden’s 1st Impeachment Hearing
House Republicans used their first impeachment inquiry hearing on Thursday to lay out the basis for starting the proceedings, just one day after releasing hundreds of pages of evidence in the Hunter Biden investigation.
Facing frequent objections from Democrats defending President Joe Biden, GOP lawmakers relied on a panel of tax and legal experts to explain the seriousness of the allegations against the president.
The hearing veered into several procedural tangents as Democrats attempted to submit their own evidence or introduce motions that required lengthy votes.
But Republicans managed to highlight new documents that shed light both on the Biden family business dealings and on how the Justice Department handled an investigation into them.
Here are some of the top takeaways.
No more defenses for Hunter Biden
Few Democrats even attempted to defend Hunter Biden’s years of profiting off foreign relationships, even though many have done so in the past.
Instead, several Democrats used their time during the hearing to distance Joe Biden from what his son had done over the past decade, without defending Hunter Biden’s work.
“The name that’s been repeated most often in this hearing is Hunter Biden, not President Biden,” said Michael Gerhardt, a University of North Carolina law professor who served as the Democrats’ witness.
Jonathan Turley, a constitutional law professor at George Washington University whom the Republicans called as a witness, also spoke to the widespread acknowledgment that Hunter Biden acted unethically.
“Many people accept that what Hunter Biden did was rather raw and open influence peddling,” Turley said.
During the 2020 race, Democrats tried to defend Hunter Biden’s conduct by arguing that he was a private citizen, an attorney, and had a background in lobbying that qualified him to work as a consultant while his father was vice president.
Now Democrats are focused mostly on discrediting evidence that links Joe Biden to Hunter Biden’s deals in China, Ukraine, Romania, and beyond, not on arguing that Hunter Biden’s work is above criticism.
Jim Biden has entered the chat
Lawmakers discussed newly unveiled messages between Hunter Biden and his uncle, Jim Biden, that underscored how deeply intertwined the Biden family’s finances are.
In a December 2018 message released on Wednesday by the House Ways and Means Committee, Jim Biden consoled Hunter Biden about money troubles, assuring Hunter Biden that he could “work with [your] father alone.”
“We as usual just need several months of his help for this to work,” James Biden, the president’s brother, wrote to Hunter Biden in the WhatsApp message.
In another message, this one from August 2017, Hunter Biden wrote to a Chinese business associate that Jim Biden would be bringing his brother to a meeting with the powerful chairman of a Chinese company that was then paying both Hunter and Jim Biden large amounts of money.
Jim Biden’s brother is, of course, Joe Biden, who was no longer vice president at the time.
Emails from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop had previously revealed Jim Biden’s extensive involvement in Hunter Biden’s Chinese business ventures. But in a September 2022 interview with FBI and IRS investigators, a summary of which was released on Wednesday, Jim Biden claimed to have had very little knowledge of how the Chinese company operated and denied having close relationships with any of the Chinese executives paying him through Hunter Biden.
House Republicans have spent relatively little time focusing on Jim Biden’s involvement in foreign business deals, giving Hunter Biden’s work far more scrutiny.
But Jim Biden’s ability to earn significant amounts of money from Hunter Biden’s foreign businesses despite having a markedly different professional background could become a larger part of the impeachment inquiry, as Republicans could argue the proximity to Joe Biden is the only reason both Hunter and Jim Biden managed to rake in money.
Does it matter if Joe Biden received payments directly?
That was a question Republicans appeared to pose as they laid out a case for their impeachment inquiry that, they suggested, is strong enough without evidence of a direct payment to Joe Biden.
The foreign money pocketed by Hunter Biden, Jim Biden, Hallie Biden, and other family members could form the basis of a case that focuses on what Joe Biden may have done to enable such earnings, even if no paper trail ever connects his bank account to the foreign deals.
“Obviously the strongest case is if you have a direct payment,” Turley said during the hearing. “But this idea that you can have millions going to a politician’s family and that’s not a benefit, I think, is pretty fallacious.”
GOP lawmakers cited emails, texts, and witness testimony that showed how Hunter Biden and his associates used Joe Biden to advance business deals by bringing him to meetings, putting him on speakerphone with foreign partners, or using the trappings of the vice presidency, such as White House visits, to project access.
Republicans argued the record already demonstrates that Hunter Biden’s foreign business would not have been possible without the participation of his father.
“How can President Biden continue to maintain that Hunter’s private business is simply that, private, when it’s clear from bank records, emails, and testimony that Joe Biden was intimately involved in Hunter’s pay-to-play scheme and crooked foreign business dealings?” said Rep. Jake LaTurner (R-KS) during the hearing.
Democrats, meanwhile, declared the impeachment case dead without evidence of direct payments from foreign businesses to Joe Biden.
Whether Republicans can advance their arguments absent a direct payment could determine the fate of the impeachment process.
Biden aides under scrutiny?
Some GOP lawmakers suggested that current and former White House aides who helped Joe Biden mislead the public about Hunter Biden’s business deals could become relevant to the case.
Turley testified that former President Richard Nixon’s use of his aides to cover up evidence of corruption was ultimately a “trip wire” in the impeachment inquiry proceedings against him.
“The degree to which you enlist support for a false narrative or to obstruct Congress can go into things like abuse of power,” Turley said.
Joe Biden’s aides during his vice presidency helped spread misleading information about Hunter Biden’s work with Ukrainian energy company Burisma, and recently released emails suggest the aides coordinated with one of Hunter Biden’s business partners on how to respond to questions from reporters. The aides may not have done so knowingly.
GOP lawmakers pointed to Attorney General Merrick Garland as another example of a top aide who misled the public in an effort to shield Joe Biden from scrutiny.
Garland claimed repeatedly that Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss had full authority to charge Hunter Biden in any jurisdiction he saw fit before two IRS whistleblowers revealed Weiss had no such power. Testifying before the House Judiciary Committee earlier this month, Garland said Weiss would have had the authority if he’d requested it, a departure from his previous assertions.
Statements by Garland and other Joe Biden aides could come under the microscope as Republicans piece together how the administration has handled inquiries into the Hunter Biden business controversy.
It’s (super) complicated
GOP lawmakers attempted to lay out all the names, dates, dollar amounts, and countries that make up their body of evidence, but the complex nature of the business dealings sometimes made the arguments difficult to follow.
Throughout the hourslong hearing, members cited charts with sprawling networks of shell companies, snippets of texts and emails that spanned years, and the difficult-to-pronounce names of numerous foreign businessmen who worked with Hunter Biden.
The effort underscored the challenges Republicans may have in explaining their evidence to a public that has heard bits and pieces about the Biden family business deals for the last three years.
While House Republicans have uncovered a remarkable amount of new information about the dealings since arriving in the majority in January, some of it tying Joe Biden to the businesses for the first time, they run the risk of struggling to explain the case clearly to voters. The sometimes unwieldy impeachment inquiry hearing showed that the GOP may have work to do on that front.
McCarthy Doesn’t Have the Votes to Stop a Shutdown
Congress remained on track Friday morning to trigger a government shutdown this weekend, as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy appears to lack the votes to pass a last-ditch stopgap bill to extend government funding beyond Saturday.
With Congress at an impasse, the federal government is scrambling to prepare for a shutdown when government funding runs out at midnight on Saturday.
Facing the most significant challenge to his leadership to date, McCarthy risks provoking a major confrontation with hardline conservatives if he tries to push through a one-month funding extension, as they argue Congress should instead focus on passing full-year spending bills. House GOP leadership is hoping that border security provisions tucked into the temporary measure will force hardliners’ hands.
But even if such a measure were to pass the House, the spending levels and border measures would likely doom it in the Democratic-controlled Senate anyway.
House GOP leaders are uncertain they have the votes to win a key procedural vote Friday morning to take up the stopgap bill, because all Democrats are expected to vote against the rule, and more than four conservative Republicans may vote against it over their opposition to McCarthy’s plans, two GOP sources said. The rule must be adopted to set the parameters for floor debate.
Typically, the majority party votes in lockstep to approve the rule, but hardliners in this Congress have repeatedly sank rules in order to gain leverage over McCarthy.
The vote is scheduled for 11:30 a.m. ET. If it’s adopted, the House will vote on final passage of the stopgap bill at 1:15 p.m.
The speaker refused on Thursday to say whether he would try to cut a deal with Democrats if the stopgap measure fails – a step that could prompt conservatives to move to oust him from the speakership.
“I still got time, I got time to do other things,” McCarthy responded when asked by CNN’s Manu Raju what will happen if the stopgap bill fails.
Pressed further on whether he has a plan B, McCarthy said, “In this job you got to have an ABCDEF and G,” and he laughed when asked what letter he was currently on.
“I haven’t spelled my name out completely,” the California Republican said.
A shutdown could have enormous impacts across the country, in consequential areas ranging from air travel to clean drinking water, as many government operations would come to a halt, while services deemed “essential” would continue.
House GOP leaders brought a series of spending bills to the floor Thursday evening as they try to show conservatives they are working in good faith to advance full-year funding bills.
The House passed several of those spending bills, but the measures would not stop a shutdown and have no hope of passing in the Senate.
At the end of the night, a bill to fund the Department of Agriculture failed to pass on the floor with 27 Republicans voting against it, highlighting once again the difficulty Republicans have had coalescing around spending bills.
Meanwhile, the Senate is working to advance a bipartisan stopgap bill that would keep the government open through November 17 and provide additional aid to Ukraine and disaster relief. McCarthy has so far dismissed that bill.
It could take until Monday to pass the Senate’s bill to keep the government open if GOP Sen. Rand Paul slows down the process – as he has vowed to do – over his demand that the bill drop the $6.2 billion in aid to Ukraine it contains, according to senators. That would put it past the Saturday evening shutdown deadline.
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