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The Guardian

Trump says in video ‘anyone in my position not taking the fifth would be an absolute fool’ – as it happened

By Chris Stein in Washington,


9.00pm GMT

Closing summary

“Witch-hunt”. “Unfair”. “Anyone in my position not taking the fifth would be a fool”. It was Donald Trump at his finest, or perhaps most exhausting, in video of his summer deposition before the New York attorney general obtained by CBS News . Besides bashing Letitia James and her inquiry – which alleges he and his children conspired to inflate his net worth in order to get better loan terms – Trump doesn’t say much, instead refusing to answer questions more than 400 times. Meanwhile, in Washington, lawmakers have plenty of questions of their own in the ongoing saga of the classified documents discovered in the possession of former White House occupants, with a top Democrat demanding information on Trump and Mike Pence ’s visitors from the Secret Service.

Here’s what else happened today:

  • George Santos announced he will not serve on any House committees, even though Republican speaker Kevin McCarthy said he would be willing to seat him.

  • The Biden administration will let the emergencies declared over Covid-19 expire, but is considering declaring a new crisis to allow Americans to obtain access to abortions.

  • Kamala Harris will attend Tyre Nichols ’s funeral in Memphis on Wednesday, her office announced.

  • Minnesota’s governor Tim Walz signed into law a measure protecting abortion rights, making the state’s legislature the first to enshrine access to the procedure since the end of Roe v Wade last year.

  • Boris Johnson paid a visit to the US Capitol in search of support for Ukraine and perhaps also political relevance.

8.49pm GMT
Boris Johnson, as he made the rounds of the US Capitol on Tuesday. Photograph: Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

Boris Johnson, the former British prime minister, has brought his quest for political relevance to Washington, holding talks with Republican members of Congress in an effort to shore up support for Ukraine.

Johnson left office last September amid a Trumpian cascade of scandals but, far from fading into retirement, may be hoping that the war with Russia offers a shot at redemption and chance to emulate his hero Winston Churchill as a global statesman.

The 58-year-old visited Ukraine earlier this month and, on Tuesday, was seen entering the office of House speaker Kevin McCarthy , who ruffled feathers last year by warning that Republicans will not write a “blank check” for Ukraine if they win back the majority.

Reporters also spotted Johnson heading to the office of Mitch McConnell , the Senate minority leader and staunch supporter of Ukraine who has urged Joe Biden to act faster, as well as Congressman Jim Banks , a veteran of the Afghanistan war.

Cristina Maza , a journalist at the National Journal, tweeted that Johnson told her that he is on Capitol Hill to thank Americans for backing Ukraine and called Republican support for Kyiv “very robust”. The ex-PM also met Oksana Markarova , the Ukrainian ambassador to the US, and took questions from Ukrainian journalists.

Johnson has penned an opinion column for the Washington Post, arguing that years of “diplomatic doublespeak” about Ukraine joining Nato ended in disaster. “Ukrainians should be given everything they need to finish this war, as quickly as possible, and we should begin the process of admitting Ukraine to NATO, and begin it now,” he writes.

The former PM is set to speak at a private Republican club on Tuesday evening and take part in a virtual conversation about sustaining support to Ukraine with the Atlantic Council think tank at 11.30am on Wednesday.

8.35pm GMT

Here’s a statement from Ben Crump, attorney for the parents of Tyre Nichols, regarding Vice-President Kamala Harris’s attendance at his funeral tomorrow:

This morning, Ms. RowVaughn Wells, Mr. Rodney Wells, and I spoke on the phone with Vice President Kamala Harris for over thirty minutes about the tragic loss of Tyre. Vice President Harris and Ms. Wells spoke exclusively, and during this emotional time, the Vice President was able to console Ms. Wells and even help her smile. Tyre’s parents invited Vice President Harris to the funeral tomorrow, and were pleased that she accepted their invitation. Mr. and Mrs. Wells are grateful for Vice President Harris reaching out to them during this heartbreaking time and for her sensitivity on the call.

Updated at 8.40pm GMT

8.20pm GMT

Vice-President Kamala Harris will travel to Memphis tomorrow to attend Tyre Nichols’s funeral, her office has announced.

Last week, Joe Biden spoke with Nichols’s mother and stepfather after the 29-year-old was beaten by Memphis police following a traffic stop, and died three days later.

Updated at 8.27pm GMT

8.05pm GMT

Minnesota becomes first state to codify abortion rights since Roe overturned

Minnesota’s Democratic governor Tim Walz has signed into law the Protect Reproductive Options (PRO) Act, which creates a “fundamental right” to abortion under the state’s laws:

Abortion access is already protected under a state supreme court ruling, but the Minneapolis Star Tribune reports Democrats controlling the state legislature passed the PRO Act to guard against the possibility that the precedent gets overturned.

With the law, Minnesota has become the first state to add abortion protections to its statutes since the supreme court overturned Roe v Wade last June and allowed states to ban the procedure entirely. Voters elsewhere in the country have approved ballot measures protecting abortion access in reaction to the ruling from the supreme court’s conservative majority.

7.38pm GMT

In the wake of Tyre Nichols’s death , Joe Biden will meet with Black lawmakers on Thursday in a bid to revive stalled talks on a federal police reform bill, the Associated Press reports:

Spurred by the death of George Floyd in 2020 and the nationwide protests that followed, negotiations over passing some kind of reform measure dragged on for months in 2021, but ultimately proved fruitless. The Washington Post reports that despite the outrage over Nichols’s death following a beating by Memphis police officers – five of whom have been charged with murder – the chances of passing such a measure have only worsened.

“I don’t know what the space is for that,” Senator Lindsey Graham , who is the top Republican on the judiciary committee that would probably consider any such bill.

Previous talks were held while Democrats controlled both the House and Senate, and negotiators were trying to find a compromise that could overcome a Republican filibuster in the upper chamber. Now, the GOP controls the House, and John Cornyn , a Republican who played a part in passing a bill to help police departments implement de-escalation training, doubts such a measure is feasible.

“I think it’s probably less likely to happen now with divided government,” Cornyn said, according to the Post.

Updated at 8.03pm GMT

7.17pm GMT

George Santos has elaborated on his decision to recuse himself from the House committees on small business and science, space and technology.

Here’s a statement from the New York Republican lawmaker and fabulist:

With the ongoing attention surrounding both my personal and campaign financial investigations, I have submitted a request to Speaker McCarthy that I be temporarily recused from my committee assignments until I am cleared. This was a decision that I take very seriously. The business of the 118th Congress must continue without media fanfare. It is important that I primarily focus on serving the constituents of New York’s Third Congressional District and providing federal level representation without distraction.

I want to personally thank Speaker McCarthy for meeting with me to discuss the matter and allowing me to take time to properly clear my name before returning to my committees. To my constituents, I remain committed to serving the district, and delivering results for both New York’s Third Congressional District and for the American people.

Most of Santos’s constituents would like him to resign , a recent survey said.

6.28pm GMT

Far-right commentators who joked or cast doubt about the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, husband of former House speaker Nancy Pelosi, are having to eat their words, now that video of assault has been released, the Guardian’s Martin Pengelly reports:

Conservative commentators were forced to backtrack over conspiracy theories and jokes about the hammer attack on Paul Pelosi, after the release of police video and audio last week.

One Fox News commentator had to retreat from his claim there was no “evidence of a breaking and entering” when his host pointed out that footage of the attacker breaking into Pelosi’s home was playing on screen at the time.

“Got it,” Brian Claypool said. “Yeah. OK. Can’t we talk more about what is the DoJ doing?”

The Department of Justice has charged Pelosi’s attacker, David DePape, with assault and attempted kidnapping. The 42-year-old also faces state charges including attempted murder. He has pleaded not guilty .

Pelosi, 82, was attacked in his San Francisco home in late October, a time when his wife, Nancy Pelosi, was still speaker of the US House. According to tapes released by the police, the attacker said he was looking for her. She was not present. Her husband suffered a fractured skull and injuries to his hand and arm.

Republican leaders including Donald Trump and Mitch McConnell condemned the attack.

But prominent rightwingers including Donald Trump Jr, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson, the Tesla and Twitter owner Elon Musk and Republican members of Congress including Ted Cruz and Marjorie Taylor Greene eagerly spread jokes, misinformation and conspiracy theories.

Related: Paul Pelosi attack: rightwing pundits backtrack after release of police video

6.07pm GMT

The day so far

“Witch-hunt”. “Unfair”. “Anyone in my position not taking the fifth would be a fool”. It was Donald Trump at his finest, or perhaps most exhausting, in video of his summer deposition before the New York attorney general obtained by CBS News . Besides bashing Letitia James and her inquiry – which alleges he and his children conspired to inflate his net worth in order to get better loan terms – Trump doesn’t say much, instead refusing to answer questions more than 400 times. In Washington, lawmakers have plenty of questions of their own in the ongoing saga of the classified documents found in the possession of former White House occupants, with a top Democrat demanding information on Trump and Mike Pence ’s visitors from the Secret Service.

Here’s what else has happened today so far:

  • George Santos announced he will not serve on any House committees, even though Republican speaker Kevin McCarthy said he would be willing to seat him.

  • The Biden administration will allow the emergencies declared over Covid-19 to expire, but is considering declaring a new crisis to allow Americans to obtain access to abortions.

  • The fallout from the police killing of Tyre Nichols continues in Memphis.

Updated at 6.11pm GMT

5.47pm GMT

Trump: 'Anyone in my position not taking the fifth would be a fool'

What does Trump think of those who would answer questions in a deposition, like the one he sat for with New York’s attorney general?

“Anyone in my position not taking the Fifth Amendment would be a fool, an absolute fool,” he said in the interview .

Meanwhile, on his Truth social network, which stands in for his inactive-but-no-longer-banned Twitter account, the former president was doing his usual thing.

“The Democrat D.A.’s, Attorney Generals, and Prosecutors are very DANGEROUS to the well being of our Country. Many are deranged and only interested in pleasing the Fake News Media and the Democrat Party. Fair and True Justice means NOTHING in our Country anymore,” he wrote in a post released shortly after CBS News aired video of his deposition today.

“I am being hit by so many DEMOCRAT Prosecutors, LOCAL, STATE, & FEDERAL, all to keep me from “running,” and all because I am leading by sooo much. The great people of our Country aren’t going to take it. MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN!”

Updated at 5.53pm GMT

5.30pm GMT

The top Democrat on the House oversight committee has sent the director of the Secret Service a letter asking for information on all visitors to Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort and Mike Pence’s Indiana home since they left office two years ago.

Jamie Raskin , the ranking member on the Republican-led committee that is playing a major role in investigating Joe Biden , cited the FBI’s discovery of classified materials at Pence and Trump’s properties.

“The Committee on Oversight and Accountability is investigating former President Donald Trump’s and former Vice President Mike Pence’s mishandling of sensitive, highly classified documents,” Raskin wrote in the letter to director Kimberly Cheatle .

“Given that the U.S. Secret Service provided protection for Mr. Trump and Mr. Pence during the time they stored classified materials at their respective residences, the Committee is seeking information from your agency regarding who had access to former President Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club and former Vice President Pence’s personal residence since leaving office.”

Led by James Comer , Republicans on the oversight committee are investigating Biden over a number of matters, including his improper possession of classified documents. Comer has requested from the Secret Service information regarding visitors to Biden’s Delaware residence, where some of his classified documents were found. In a statement, Raskin said he asked Comer to join in his letter about Trump and Pence’s properties, but received no reply.

5.05pm GMT

Trump refused to answer 400 times in fraud deposition before New York attorney general

Donald Trump invoked his fifth amendment right to refuse to answer questions more than 400 times last summer during his deposition in the New York attorney general’s fraud investigation, CBS News reports .

The network obtained video of the interview, which starts with the former president accusing attorney general Letitia James of conducting an “unfair” investigation that amounted to a “witch hunt” – familiar words for anyone who has heard Trump talk about the many inquiries he has faced, and is facing.

He then states that on the advice of his lawyers, “I respectfully decline to answer the questions under the rights and privileges afforded to every citizen under the United States constitution. This will be my answer to any further questions.”

An investigator for the attorney general’s office tells Trump that he can just say “same answer” for all the questions put to him, which Trump does throughout the deposition.

Weeks after Trump’s August deposition, James announced she was suing the former president and three of his children for what she called a fraud scheme of “staggering” scale in which they falsely inflated his net worth to win more favorable loan terms.

Here’s the full report and footage of the deposition, from CBS:

4.33pm GMT

FBI searched Biden's former Washington office in November

FBI agents conducted a voluntary search of an office formerly used by Joe Biden in Washington DC after classified materials were discovered there, CBS News reports .

The search of the Penn Biden Center was carried out with Biden’s agreement in November of last year, after the secret documents dating from Biden’s time as vice president under Barack Obama were first discovered. The search was not publicly announced, and CBS News cited two sources familiar with the investigation in reporting it.

In contrast, the FBI earlier this month searched Biden’s home in Delaware, another location where classified materials had been found. That search was also voluntary, and made public by Biden’s lawyer the day after it happened.

According to CBS News, “Some documents found at the Penn Biden Center were labeled top secret.” In total, between 25 and 30 documents marked as classified and dating to Biden’s time as vice president and senator have been found in his possession.

The president is not alone in his possession of government secrets without the proper permissions. Donald Trump was found to have a similar but much larger cache of secret materials at his Mar-a-Lago resort, which he resisted turning over to investigators. His former vice-president Mike Pence also acknowledged discovering some secret documents at his Indiana home, and turned them over to the FBI. The justice department has appointed special counsels to investigate both Biden and Trump’s possession of the materials.

Updated at 4.35pm GMT

4.11pm GMT

But what of George Santos’s staffers?

The aides who coordinate lawmakers’ office affairs, communications with the press and public and assistance to constituents play a crucial role in Congress. But in Santos’s case, these employees have to reckon with the fact that they will have their name associated with an admitted fabulist.

Over the weekend, the Washington Post took a look at who Santos had recruited to work for him, and found that most lacked the deep Capitol Hill experience new lawmakers often come to rely on as they navigate the complex and confusing world of Congress:

Santos hired Charles Lovett as his chief of staff. Lovett served as Santos’s campaign manager and worked for six months as a field organizer for the Ohio Republican Party, according to LegiStorm. He also served as political director for Ohio Republican Josh Mandel’s unsuccessful primary bid for Senate. He has not worked on the Hill previously. Viswanag Burra, Santos’s operations director, spent less than a year as special operations director for Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) and recently worked as executive secretary for the New York Young Republican Club.

His communications director, Naysa Woomer, appears to have the most Hill experience. She worked for three Republican members between 2014 and 2018 before moving to Massachusetts to be the communications director for the state Republican Party and then as a communications specialist for the state Department of Revenue.

Rafaello Carone, Santos’s senior legislative assistant, worked for three GOP members, but his stints were short in each office. He spent six months as social media manager for Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), two months as deputy communications director for Rep. Greg Steube (R-Fla.) and a month as press secretary for Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-Ariz.), according to LegiStorm. He also ran a consulting firm that mostly worked for long-shot Republican congressional candidates. Gabrielle Lipsky, who served as Santos’s campaign press secretary, will be his press secretary and office manager. She does not have Hill experience.

One Santos aide who spoke anonymously to Semafor said they were motivated by a desire to help the people of his district. “It’s just about the constituents of the third congressional district and making sure that they’re actually being represented in Washington D.C. — whether it’s for federal funding for infrastructure projects down to anything as simple as a flag request,” the aide said.

3.54pm GMT

The Guardian’s Lauren Gambino got the official word from George Santos’s office about why he won’t serve on committees.

The New York Republican “is reserving his seats on his assigned committees until he has been properly cleared of both campaign and personal financial investigations,” his office said in an email.

Santos’ trouble isn’t just ethical, but potentially legal. Watchdog groups have filed complaints about him with the Federal Election Commission, but the Washington Post reports the justice department has asked the regulator to hold off on those – a sign that they may be pursuing their own criminal investigation.

3.39pm GMT

If George Santos were to resign, the person with the most to lose might be Republican House speaker Kevin McCarthy, who has a mere four-vote margin of control in the chamber.

Here’s what he had to say about Santos’s decision to step down from committee work, according to Politico:

Marc Molinaro , one of the New York Republicans who has called on Santos to resign, had stronger words:

But what did Santos have to say? Not much:

Updated at 3.46pm GMT

3.20pm GMT

George Santos may not serve on any committees, but he has insisted he won’t resign from the House. That’s not a popular stance back home.

A Newsday/Siena College survey of voters in his New York district finds that 78% believe he should resign, and 83% view him unfavorably. Those calling for his resignation include 71% of Republicans surveyed and 72% of independents. Perhaps most worryingly for the GOP’s hopes of keeping his seat should he step down, people who voted for Santos say, by a two-to-one margin, that they would not have supported Santos if they knew he was a liar.

When it comes to House speaker Kevin McCarthy ’s decision to allow Santos to sit on committees, 71% say that was a mistake.

3.02pm GMT

George Santos says he will not serve on House committees

George Santos , the recently elected House Republican who admitted to lying repeatedly as he campaigned for office, said he will not serve on committees, Punchbowl News reports:

Santos has faced calls to resign over his many falsehoods, but has said he will not do so. House speaker Kevin McCarthy has declined to call for Santos’ ouster, instead saying the New York lawmakers would be allowed to serve on committees while also referring him for ethics proceedings. Santos was reportedly to serve on committees dealing with small businesses and science and technology.

2.49pm GMT

Some would go so far as to say police violence is a public health emergency, and on that topic, the Guardian’s Adam Gabbatt and Edwin Rios report a seventh Memphis police officer has been taken off the streets over the death of Tyre Nichols:

Two more Memphis police officers have been disciplined and three emergency responders fired in connection with the death of Tyre Nichols , officials said on Monday. That brings the total number of officers who have been disciplined to seven, including the five Black officers who were fired and charged last week with second-degree murder and other offenses in Nichols’s beating and 10 January death.

Officer Preston Hemphill, who is white, was relieved of duty and put on what is known as administrative leave, the Memphis police major Karen Rudolph said on Monday, according to multiple reports.

Later in the day it said another officer had also been relieved, but without naming the person or specifying what role they played in the incident.

Related: Tyre Nichols’s death: seven officers have been removed from duty, police confirm

2.31pm GMT

As America comes to grips with the consequences of ending Roe v Wade, the Guardian’s Gloria Oladipo reports that experts are warning less access to reproductive healthcare will be felt in doctors offices and emergency rooms nationwide:

Top doctors in the US warn that surgeons should be prepared to treat more patients with complications from self-managed abortions and forced pregnancy after the overturning of Roe v Wade.

In a recent opinion piece published in the BMJ, 17 experts from medical centers and universities including the University of Chicago, Duke Medicine and the University of Pennsylvania urged surgeons to be prepared to treat medical consequences related to a person’s inability to access an abortion.

“In the aftermath of the supreme court’s Dobbs v Jackson Women’s Health decision, acute care surgeons face an increased likelihood of seeing patients with complications from both self-managed abortions and forced pregnancy in underserved areas of reproductive and maternity care throughout the USA,” read the op-ed.

The Dobbs v Jackson case eliminated the nationwide abortion rights established by Roe v Wade in 1972. While many states still provide access to abortions, many others now generally prohibit the termination of pregnancies.

Physicians noted that self-managed abortions with pills such as mifepristone are extremely safe and used across the country to help provide access to abortion services.

Related: Surge in complications from unsafe abortions likely post-Roe, doctors warn

Updated at 2.34pm GMT

2.08pm GMT

When it comes to Washington and emergencies, it’s out with the old, in with the new.

The old, of course, are the national and public health emergencies declared by Donald Trump to fight Covid-19 as it began its disastrous spread across the country in 2020. Republicans were always uneasy with the idea of restricting what Americans could do in a bid to halt transmission of the virus, and the House GOP will today introduce two bills that would end the emergencies. But the Biden White House took some wind out of their sails by announcing they plan to let both expire on 11 May, while warning that a sudden termination could negatively affect everything from border security to health insurance.

Regardless of how or when those emergencies end, we may be getting another one declared soon. Biden is a supporter of abortion rights, and Axios reports that his department of health and human services secretary Xavier Becerra is weighing announcing a public health emergency aimed at ensuring Americans can continue obtaining abortions, even after the supreme court allowed states to ban the procedure entirely last year. Such a declaration could ensure people are able to receive abortion medication no matter where they are, but may not hold up in court.

1.51pm GMT

White House to end Covid emergency, eyes declaring reproductive health crisis

Good morning, US politics blog readers. It’s been three years since Covid-19 broke out across the United States and the government took extraordinary measures to stop it from spreading. Now, it appears one of those steps is coming to an end, with the White House announcing it will allow the national emergencies declared to fight the pandemic to lapse on 11 May, a statement it made in response to Republican legislation to force their hand on the matter. Much has changed in the country since the anxious early days of Covid-19, including the end of the nationwide right to abortion, and there are reports that Joe Biden is also considering declaring a separate public health emergency aimed at ensuring access to reproductive healthcare.

Here’s what we can expect to happen in the world of politics today:

  • It’s day two of Biden’s infrastructure blitz, with the president traveling to New York City to promote his 2021 overhaul of the country’s public works, and attend a Democratic National Committee reception. He was doing much the same in Baltimore yesterday.

  • The House of Representatives convenes at 10am to consider the GOP’s bills to force an end to the Covid-19 national emergencies. The Senate convenes at the same time, where lawmakers will be making speeches and generally getting their ducks in a row to start the chamber’s work.

  • Donald Trump sued journalist Bob Woodward and his publishers for releasing recordings of their interviews. The former president is seeking just a hair under $50m.

Updated at 1.57pm GMT

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