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Weekly News Bites #023 | Trump arrested (again). Joe Biden on tape for $5 million? And, California's push for 'fertility equality.'
All of the top stories 📰 of the week in small bites.
It’s FRIDAY, June 9! YAY
Some of the stories this week!
Former President Trump was arraigned on 37 criminal charges in Miami, marking the first-ever federal arraignment of a former president.
Senator Chuck Grassley has disclosed that an FBI informant involved in an alleged "criminal bribery scheme" with Joe and Hunter Biden stated that the Ukrainian oligarch also possesses 17 recordings of his conversations with the president and his son.
Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican, has announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election.
California Bill SB 729 aims to redefine the term "infertility" as a status rather than a medical condition, encompassing individuals who are unable to reproduce without medical intervention.
House Republicans have initiated an investigation that could lead to the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.
China has been using Cuba as a spy base since at least 2019, according to White House officials.
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Former President Trump was arraigned on 37 criminal charges in Miami, marking the first-ever federal arraignment of a former president. The Left says Trump is likely guilty of “obstruction of justice” and that “no one is above the law.” The charges relate to his possession of sensitive documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida, including one count of conspiracy to obstruct justice. Despite pleading not guilty, the trial could potentially coincide with the GOP primary race, where Trump is the front-runner. Trump attempted to seize back the narrative, criticizing the charges as "the most evil and heinous abuse of power." Some constraints were imposed on Trump, limiting his communication with witnesses. The arraignment received widespread media coverage, further bolstering Trump's position as the GOP's potential 2024 presidential nominee. Democrats remained relatively muted, avoiding comments that could be seen as fueling Trump's efforts to discredit the case.
The Right says the indictment is a gross politicization of the judiciary to attack the Left’s political opponents. Former President Trump's declassification of documents is unlikely to have a significant impact on his federal indictment, according to legal experts. The charges against him pertain to the improper retention or disclosure of sensitive defense information under the Espionage Act, not the classification status of the documents. Even if Trump had declassified them, it would be irrelevant because the grand jury subpoena was concerned with whether the documents were physically marked classified, not their current classification status. Experts also highlight that some national defense information is unclassified but still falls under the Espionage Act. The indictment has led to calls for similar charges to be brought against President Biden, as concerns arise regarding the handling and potential exposure of classified documents during his time as vice president.
→ Senator Chuck Grassley has disclosed that an FBI informant involved in an alleged "criminal bribery scheme" with Joe and Hunter Biden stated that the Ukrainian oligarch also possesses 17 recordings of his conversations with the president and his son. Grassley revealed the existence of an unredacted version of the bureau's FD-1023 form, which indicates that the recordings were kept as an insurance policy. Mykola Zlochevsky, the Ukrainian owner of Burisma, was identified as the "foreign national" involved in the scheme, and the form suggests the potential involvement of Joe Biden in Hunter Biden's employment at Burisma. Grassley raised questions about the U.S. Attorney's handling of the recordings, which are relevant to the bribery investigation. The allegations surrounding Burisma and the Bidens have been a contentious issue, with opposing narratives presented by Democrats and Republicans.
→ Devon Archer, a former business partner of Hunter Biden and a convicted felon, is in discussions with the House Oversight Committee to testify about the business dealings of the Biden family, particularly in Russia and Ukraine. Archer's attorney is coordinating with the committee to schedule a deposition for a later date. The committee is interested in Archer's knowledge regarding allegations of bribery involving Joe and Hunter Biden and their involvement with Ukrainian gas company Burisma. Archer was also involved in Hunter Biden's efforts to assist Russian oligarchs in purchasing US property. Notably, President Biden has not imposed sanctions on these oligarchs despite Russia's invasion of Ukraine.
Comer has also issued subpoenas to two banks for Archer's financial records, as well as the records of Elena Baturina and Rosemont Seneca Thornton. The latter company, linked to Archer and Hunter Biden, reportedly received a $3.5 million wire transfer from Baturina, the widow of a corrupt former mayor of Moscow. Archer's testimony is deemed critical to the committee's investigation, as he played a significant role in the Biden family's business deals abroad and had meetings with then-Vice President Biden. Archer, who was convicted last year for securities fraud in a separate case, is expected to provide information on the purpose of these companies and relevant documents related to the committee's investigation.
→ According to a recent report, the White House is disregarding warnings from its internal watchdog regarding the use of the term "MAGA" in official communications. The Office of Special Counsel (OSC) has cautioned that this violates the Hatch Act, which prohibits government officials from engaging in campaign activities using government resources. Despite this, the White House continues to employ the term, which is closely associated with former President Donald Trump's campaign. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was found to have violated the Hatch Act by using the phrase "mega MAGA Republicans" during the 2022 midterm elections. While Hatch Act violations can lead to fines and employment bans, the OSC has chosen to close the matter without further action. This is not the first time members of the Biden administration have been found to violate the Hatch Act.
→ The Department of Education has announced that student loan payments will restart in October, with interest accruing starting in September. This decision comes after a three-year pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Congress recently passed a law preventing further extensions of the payment pause. The Biden administration's plan for student debt relief, which includes potential forgiveness of up to $10,000 or $20,000 depending on the borrower, is awaiting a decision from the Supreme Court. If the loan forgiveness plan is struck down, borrowers may face the risk of default when payments resume. The administration has not publicly discussed any backup plan in case the forgiveness program is not approved.
→ JPMorgan Chase has reached a tentative settlement in a federal lawsuit with victims of Jeffrey Epstein, agreeing to pay $290 million. The lawsuit, filed in Manhattan, accused the bank of facilitating Epstein's sex trafficking operation by allowing him to make large cash withdrawals over a 15-year period. The settlement follows depositions of top executives, including CEO Jamie Dimon. While the settlement does not include an admission of liability, it represents a significant victory for the victims. The bank denies wrongdoing and states that the settlement is in the best interests of all parties involved. A separate case brought by the U.S. Virgin Islands is still pending.
→ Fox News has sent a cease-and-desist letter to Tucker Carlson as he launches a competing series on Twitter, which garnered a combined 169 million views for its first two episodes. This contract battle between Fox and its former top host holds significant implications for the conservative media landscape. Carlson's "Tucker on Twitter" aims to establish Twitter as a news platform, and he argues for his First Amendment right to post on the platform. While Fox continues to pay Carlson, they maintain that his content should remain exclusive to Fox until the end of 2024. Carlson plans to expand his Twitter series with longer episodes, varied content, and guest appearances.
→ The Washington Post faced criticism for burying critical information in a report about bomb threats received by Target stores over their Pride merchandise. The headline led some to believe that conservatives opposing Pride displays were responsible for the threats. However, the seventh paragraph mentioned that some threats came from people accusing Target of betraying the LGBTQ+ community. The report also noted a threat referencing the date of the Oklahoma City bombing. Critics argued that the headline misled readers by implying conservative involvement. Target had initially faced backlash for prominently displaying Pride merchandise but later scaled back the presentation due to safety concerns. Threats were attributed to apparent trans activists upset with the removal of Pride items. The Post did not respond to comments and other outlets also used similar headlines. No explosives were found in the targeted stores, and Target did not immediately comment.
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→ Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, a Republican, has announced his candidacy for the 2024 presidential election. In a video statement, he emphasized the need for effective leadership and criticized Washington's focus on internal conflicts rather than serving the people. Suarez's entry into the race makes him the third Florida resident to join the Republican primary, alongside former President Trump and Governor Ron DeSantis. As the first Hispanic candidate in the GOP field, Suarez represents an important constituency for the party. However, he faces challenges due to his current low national recognition and will need to meet specific polling and donor requirements to qualify for the first Republican debate in August.
→ Former President Donald Trump has made a bold declaration, vowing to appoint a special prosecutor specifically aimed at President Joe Biden and his family if he wins the White House in 2024. Trump's statement, made on Truth Social, signals his intent to use the power of government to target political rivals. This comes after his own indictment by a Justice Department special counsel related to his handling of classified materials after leaving office. Trump's aggressive stance against Biden follows the unsealing of a 37-count indictment against him, including charges under the Espionage Act. The former president and his allies have claimed that the prosecution is politically motivated, while Biden has refrained from commenting on the investigation.
→ Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a potential GOP presidential candidate, has taken a swipe at the three conservative justices appointed to the Supreme Court by former President Donald Trump. DeSantis expressed his belief that he could surpass the appointments of Justices Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett, saying that his justices would be more in line with the likes of Justice Clarence Thomas and Justice Samuel Alito. DeSantis also highlighted his success in appointing conservative justices to Florida's Supreme Court and claimed to have the most conservative state Supreme Court in the country. The Trump campaign responded by criticizing DeSantis for flip-flopping on his previous praise for Trump's Supreme Court nominations.
→ Bud Light loses its title as America’s top-selling beer. In May, Modelo Especial surpassed Bud Light as the leading beer brand in the United States. Bud Light's decline in sales began in April after a transgender influencer posted a controversial image of a personalized Bud Light can on Instagram. The boycott that followed caused Bud Light's sales to plummet, with a 24% decrease compared to the previous year. Anheuser-Busch InBev, the brewer of Bud Light, also experienced declines in other brands like Budweiser and Michelob Ultra. This shift in the beer market has raised concerns for Bud Light distributors, some of whom are contemplating layoffs. Modelo's surge has partially offset the losses for distributors who carry both brands. Anheuser-Busch's stock shares have fallen approximately 15% since April, while Modelo's success is seen as significant and potentially long-lasting.
→ The White House has taken action to ban trans influencer Rose Montoya following her controversial behavior at President Biden's Pride party. Montoya, who met Biden on the South Lawn during the event, was seen on viral footage flashing her breasts. The White House labeled the stunt as "inappropriate and disrespectful," stating that it went against basic etiquette and was not reflective of the LGBTQI+ celebration. A spokesperson confirmed that Montoya and others involved in the video would not be invited to future events. Montoya, a polyamorous model and trans rights advocate, has not yet responded to interview requests. She defended her actions by claiming that she did not violate any Washington, DC, laws.
→ The Hamtramck City Council in suburban Detroit, composed entirely of Muslim members, has voted unanimously to ban LGBTQ+ flags from city property. The decision, made during a four-hour debate, sparked controversy as it was seen as a direct attack on LGBTQ+ flags during Pride Month. The council's ruling permits only the display of flags representing the city, state, America, and the native countries of immigrant residents, along with the Prisoner of War flag. This ban solely applies to city flagpoles, allowing businesses and residents to fly other flags on their own property. Supporters argued that the ban respects the religious rights of citizens, while opponents criticized it for promoting discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community. The decision received widespread criticism, including from Detroit City FC, a professional soccer team that expressed disappointment and urged the council to reconsider.
→ California Bill SB 729 aims to redefine the term "infertility" as a status rather than a medical condition, encompassing individuals who are unable to reproduce without medical intervention. This change would classify gay men as infertile and require insurance companies to cover in-vitro fertilization (IVF) procedures, including surrogacy for same-sex couples in the name of fertility equality. Supporters, including co-author Sen. Caroline Menjivar, argue that the bill promotes equality and comprehensive healthcare for LGBTQ+ individuals. However, opponents, such as California businesses and insurance groups, raise concerns about increased insurance premiums and the potential impact on the traditional family structure. Critics argue that the bill overlooks the needs and safety concerns of children involved in IVF and surrogacy arrangements. The bill exempts entities contracted with the State Department of Health Care Services from its provisions.
→ A newly revised California bill, known as A.B. 957, aims to treat parents' refusal to affirm their child's gender identity as a violation of health, safety, and welfare in custody disputes. The bill, already passed by the State Assembly, requires judges to favor the parent who affirms the child's preferred identity. However, opponents are worried that the updated version's inclusion of affirmation as a factor in a child's health, safety, and welfare could lead to non-affirmation being treated as abuse. Critics argue that the bill, part of a broader set of left-wing gender ideology legislation in California, could impact custody and visitation rights and create abuse claims. The bill's supporters maintain that affirmation is just one factor to be considered in custody agreements.
→ House Republicans have initiated an investigation that could lead to the impeachment of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas. However, they face significant challenges, including resistance from party leadership and moderate lawmakers within the GOP. The investigation, led by the House Homeland Security Committee, will evaluate Mayorkas's performance over five phases, expected to take 11 to 12 weeks. Critics of Mayorkas claim that his policies have resulted in an unprecedented humanitarian crisis. The impeachment effort has exposed divisions within the GOP, with disagreement between supporters and opponents of impeachment, as well as among Mayorkas's critics vying for a prominent role. Democrats argue that Republicans have already reached a conclusion on impeachment, and they dismiss the basis for such action. The House Judiciary Committee holds the power to initiate an impeachment inquiry. While discontent among some Republicans has grown, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy urges against pursuing impeachment for political reasons. The Department of Homeland Security has pushed back on the GOP's arguments, placing responsibility on Congress for the border situation.
→ The pandemic has caused a surge in homicide rates for older teenagers and suicide rates for young adults in their early 20s, reaching their highest levels in over 20 years, according to the CDC. The study examined data from 2001 to 2021 and found that the largest increase in homicide rates among 15- to 19-year-olds occurred between 2019 and 2020, with a 38 percent rise. In 2020, the rate of homicide deaths among older teenagers was 12.3 per 100,000, up from 8.9 per 100,000 in 2019. Similarly, suicide rates for 20- to 24-year-olds saw a significant annual increase in 2021, with rates jumping 9 percent to 19.4 suicide deaths per 100,000. These findings highlight the alarming impact of the pandemic on the mental health and well-being of young people in the United States.
→ Scientists working with the Chinese military conducted dangerous experiments in the Wuhan Institute of Virology, combining deadly coronaviruses and pursuing the development of bioweapons, according to intercepted communications and research investigated by US officials. The experiments, funded by the Chinese military, were shrouded in secrecy, with researchers reportedly experiencing Covid-like symptoms as early as November 2019. The lab's activities, initially justified as aiding vaccine development, became classified after the discovery of a fatal coronavirus in a mineshaft. Evidence suggests that the lab leak resulted in the Covid-19 pandemic. These findings, along with a whistleblower scientist's claims of genetic engineering and a potential US government role, have raised concerns about future deadly virus tests.
→ China has been using Cuba as a spy base since at least 2019, according to White House officials. The existence of the spy base, where China plans to build an electronic eavesdropping station, was confirmed by The Wall Street Journal. The Biden administration has been aware of China's spying efforts from Cuba and has taken diplomatic and other actions to disrupt it. Tensions between the US and China have increased, with military exercises around Taiwan and the US shooting down a Chinese spy balloon. Despite the accusations, the US plans to improve high-level communications with Chinese officials through upcoming meetings.
→ In a recent decision, the publicly funded National Health Service (NHS) in England announced that it will no longer routinely offer puberty-blocking drugs to children at gender identity clinics due to a lack of sufficient evidence regarding their potential benefits and harms. The closure of London's Gender Identity Development Service, the only such facility in England, and the subsequent opening of four regional clinics are part of the ongoing changes. While the NHS acknowledges the availability of puberty blockers in exceptional circumstances, it plans to conduct a clinical study on their impact on gender dysphoria in children. The decision aligns with similar moves in other European countries but stands in contrast to the approach in the United States, where transgender medical care for minors has been available for over a decade and is endorsed by major medical associations. This decision by the NHS signifies an interim policy subject to further review and emphasizes the need for more research on the use of puberty-suppressing hormones in minors.
→ An American musician named Michael Travis Leake, who has been living in Russia since 2010, was arrested on suspicion of drug trafficking. Russian news media reported that he is accused of selling mephedrone, a substance with effects similar to cocaine and MDMA. Leake, who is known as the singer for the band Lovi Noch (Seize the Night), was ordered by a Moscow court to be held in pre-trial detention for two months. If convicted of drug production or distribution, he could face up to 20 years in prison. This incident follows the arrest of WNBA star Brittney Griner in Moscow in February 2022 for possessing cannabis oil, for which she was sentenced to nine years in prison before being released in a prisoner exchange. The US State Department is aware of Leake's arrest and stated that it would seek consular access and provide appropriate consular assistance.
→ Actor Johnny Depp has announced that he will be donating a portion of his settlement from the defamation case with ex-wife Amber Heard to five different charities. The organizations set to receive $200,000 each are the Make-A-Film Foundation, The Painted Turtle, Red Feather, Tetiaroa Society, and the Amazonia Fund Alliance. The latter is a group of nonprofits and sustainability-focused companies that work towards preserving Indigenous communities in the Amazon. Red Feather focuses on housing solutions for American Indigenous communities, while Make-A-Film Foundation grants wishes to children with serious medical conditions. The Painted Turtle is a free summer camp for children with life-threatening illnesses, co-founded by Paul Newman. Tetiaroa Society is dedicated to conserving the natural and cultural heritage of a Tahitian atoll leased by Marlon Brando. The donation is part of a settlement that awarded Depp $10 million and Heard $2 million, bringing closure to a contentious legal battle.
→ Former Playboy model Victoria Valentino has sued Bill Cosby under a new California law that extends the statute of limitations on sex abuse claims. In her lawsuit, Valentino claims that 54 years ago, Cosby offered to pay for a spa treatment for her and a friend after seeing her crying over her son's drowning death. He allegedly gave them pills at a steakhouse and later sexually assaulted Valentino while she was incapacitated. Valentino's lawsuit follows similar cases brought forward by six Cosby accusers in New York. Cosby, who has faced numerous allegations of sexual assault and harassment, denies all allegations. His spokesperson argues that the "lookback" laws violate constitutional rights. Valentino's lawsuit seeks unspecified punitive damages and a jury trial.