Joe Biden condemns antisemitism following Kanye West’s remarks: ‘Silence is complicity’ – as it happened

2 months ago

Joe Biden condemns antisemitism following Kanye West’s remarks: ‘Silence is complicity’ – as it happened

The Guardian

Closing summary

Thanks for joining us today, and through the week, for the US politics blog. We’re closing it now for the day.

  • Joe Biden had a busy Friday. He’s currently in Boston, where he’s talking with Prince William about the climate emergency.

  • The president has been speaking out about antisemitic hate speech in a forthright tweet condemning political leaders whose silence, he says, equals “complicity”. It comes after Twitter suspended the account of rapper Kanye West for inciting violence with offensive, anti-Jewish posts.

  • Closing arguments in the criminal tax fraud trial of the Trump Organization have wrapped up in New York. Former president Donald Trump is not on trial, but prosecutors say he was fully aware of an illegal scheme perpetrated by top executives of his real estate company. Jurors will deliberate next week.

  • Pat Cipollone, Trump’s former White House counsel, was spotted entering the grand jury area of the US district court in Washington DC on Friday, CNN reported, in the justice department’s January 6 case.

  • Democrats voted to remove Iowa as the leadoff state on the presidential nominating calendar and replace it with South Carolina starting in 2024. The move was championed by Joe Biden to better reflect the party’s deeply diverse electorate.

  • Biden said the US had dodged an “economic catastrophe” after Congress approved legislation averting a nationwide rail shutdown on 9 December. The president signed a law imposing a labor settlement on rail workers that did not include paid time off that unions had demanded.

  • A 15-year-old canvassing for Georgia senator Raphael Warnock was shot through the door of a house he knocked at on Thursday, according to police in Savannah. The youth was hit in the leg, and is expected to survive. A 42-year-old man was arrested.

Please join us again next week for a consequential week in the US Senate. The runoff election between Warnock and Republican challenger Herschel Walker is on Tuesday, and victory for the incumbent would give Democrats a 51-49 advantage in the chamber.

Democrats drop Iowa from lead spot in primary calendar

Democrats voted Friday to remove Iowa as the leadoff state on the presidential nominating calendar and replace it with South Carolina starting in 2024, the Associated Press reports.

It is a dramatic shakeup championed by Joe Biden to better reflect the party’s deeply diverse electorate.

The Democratic National Committee’s rule-making arm made the move to strip Iowa from the position it has held for more than four decades after technical meltdowns sparked chaos and marred results of the state’s 2020 caucus.

The change also comes after a long push by some of the party’s top leaders to start choosing a president in states that are less white, especially given the importance of Black voters as Democrats’ most loyal electoral base.

Read more:

Democrats are poised to shake up the way in which they nominate presidential candidates, after Joe Biden said the primary process should better represent the party’s non-white voters, Adam Gabbatt writes.

Biden has reportedly told Democrats that Iowa, the state that has led off the Democratic voting calendar since 1976, should be moved down the calendar, with South Carolina instead going first.

The move would see New Hampshire, which has technically held the nation’s first primary since 1920 (Iowa uses a slightly different system of caucuses, or in-person voting), shunted down the calendar.

Princess Walker, of Des Moines, fills out her ballot in Iowa's primary election at the Polk county central senior center in June 2020.
Princess Walker, of Des Moines, fills out her ballot in Iowa's primary election at the Polk county central senior center in June 2020. Photograph: Charlie Neibergall/AP

Both Iowa and New Hampshire are predominantly white states. Clamor has been growing inside and outside the Democratic party for a different state, with a population more representative of the US as a whole, to be given the first go.

Associated Press reported that Biden had written to the Democratic National Committee regarding the proposal. The DNC’s rules committee is meeting on Friday to vote on the primary calendar.

“For decades, Black voters in particular have been the backbone of the Democratic party but have been pushed to the back of the early primary process,” Biden wrote.

“We rely on these voters in elections but have not recognized their importance in our nominating calendar. It is time to stop taking these voters for granted, and time to give them a louder and earlier voice in the process.”

Read the full story:

Biden welcomes Prince William to Boston

Joe Biden has welcomed the Prince of Wales to Boston, where they will have a discussion about the climate emergency at the John F Kennedy presidential library and museum.

The president and Prince William exchanged a warm handshake and posed briefly for photographs before heading inside.

Joe Biden greets Prince William at the John F Kennedy library in Boston on Friday afternoon.
Joe Biden greets Prince William at the John F Kennedy library in Boston on Friday afternoon. Photograph: Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters

The Prince and Princess of Wales, who earlier visited the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University, are on the third and final day of what has been a turbulent visit to the US.

They are seeking to end the trip on a high note at an award ceremony later for award ceremony for Prince William’s environmental Earthshot prize.

Read more:

Police in Savannah, Georgia, have charged a 42-year-old man they say shot a teenage canvasser for incumbent Democratic senator Raphael Warnock.

Authorities say the youth was on the campaign trail when he was wounded, and was shot through the front door of a house he had knocked at.

Today is the final day of early voting ahead of next Tuesday’s Senate runoff, in which Warnock holds a narrow polling advantage over Republican challenger Herschel Walker. More than 1.5m votes have already been cast.

The incident took place on Thursday. The 15-year-old was shot in the leg and sustained non life-threating injuries.

A press release from the Savannah police department says “at this point, there is no indication the shooting was politically motivated”.

But it adds: “According to the preliminary investigation, the teen was campaigning for Raphael Warnock for the upcoming run-off election when the incident occurred. While at the front door of one of the residences on Hartridge Street, the suspect fired a shot through the closed door, striking the teen.

“Officers quickly identified and located the suspect, Jimmy Paiz, at the residence. Paiz was booked into the Chatham County jail on charges of aggravated assault and aggravated battery.”

In her Air Force One mini-briefing, Karine Jean-Pierre was pressed on how Joe Biden intended to secure paid leave for all workers. During his signing earlier today of legislation averting a nationwide rail shutdown, which did not include such a provision for rail workers, the president said he would be “coming back at it”.

It seems there’s no specific plan. The White House press secretary said:

He’ll continue forcefully advocating for Congress and employers to extend paid sick leave to all workers. That’s what’s important. As you can tell from his remarks this afternoon, the president’s focus remains, again, on getting Congress to act.

Biden won’t, however, be returning to Congress to fix the “glitches” in the Inflation Reduction Act he conceded yesterday, during a visit by President Emmanuel Macron of France, had upset European countries.

The president said Thursday they were fixable. When asked on Friday how, Jean-Pierre responded:

We don’t have any plans to go back to Congress for legislative changes. There is a complex implementation and process which is actively underway at federal agencies, but… we’re not going to be addressing any glitches.

White House: Biden 'stands with Jewish community' over hate speech

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has been expanding on Joe Biden’s earlier tweet calling out antisemitic hate speech.

It follows Twitter’s decision to suspend the rapper Kanye West for making offensive posts, including an image of a swastika blended with a Star of David.

“It doesn’t matter who [says it],” Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One as the president headed to Boston to meet the Prince and Princess of Wales.

“What the President is trying to say is being silent is complicit. And when we see this type of hatred when we see the some type of antisemitism, we need to call it out.”

Jean-Pierre was asked several times who Biden was addressing, and whether it was a direct response to West’s message.

She added: “The president is standing with the Jewish community. The common theme of all forms of bigotry is that hate doesn’t go away, it only hides the grotesque poison of antisemitism.

“Just yesterday he and President Macron [of France] recognized the hundreds of thousands of Americans who gave their lives to overcome the horror of Nazism and keep us free. And so he believes as president is important to speak up.”

Prosecutor: Trump 'knew exactly what was going on' in tax fraud scheme

Prosecutors resumed closing arguments Friday in the Trump Organization’s criminal tax fraud trial, promising to share previously unrevealed details about Donald Trump’s knowledge of a tax dodge scheme hatched by one of his top executives, the Associated Press reports.

“Donald Trump knew exactly what was going on with his top executives,” assistant Manhattan district attorney Joshua Steinglass told jurors on Thursday during the first half of his closing argument, adding: “We will come back to that later.”

Allen Weisselberg.
Allen Weisselberg. Photograph: Sarah Yenesel/EPA

Trump himself is not on trial, but the company that bears his name, through which he manages real estate holdings and other ventures, faces fines of more than $1m if convicted of helping executives avoid paying income taxes on company-paid perks such as Manhattan apartments and luxury cars.

The tax fraud case is the only trial to arise from the three-year investigation of Trump and his business practices by the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The company has denied wrongdoing.

Steinglass told jurors that two executives involved in the scheme, longtime finance chief Allen Weisselberg and controller Jeffrey McConney, were “high managerial” agents entrusted to act on behalf of the company and its various entities.

The defense has alleged that Weisselberg came up with the tax dodge scheme on his own without Trump, or the Trump family knowing, and that the company didn’t benefit from his actions. Weisselberg testified that Trump didn’t know, but that the Trump Organization did derive some benefit because it didn’t have to pay him as much in actual salary.

“Their entire theory of the case is a fraud,” Steinglass said, insisting the former president had full knowledge of everything that occurred.

Jurors are expected to deliberate next week.

The Colorado secretary of state has ordered a recount in the congressional race where extremist Republican Lauren Boebert led Democrat Adam Frisch by just 550 votes in an unexpectedly tight race.

Lauren Boebert.
Lauren Boebert. Photograph: Phelan M Ebenhack/AP

The Associated Press has declared the race too close to call and will await the results of the recount. The recount, which was expected, was formally announced Wednesday.

One week after the polls closed, Boebert claimed victory and Frisch conceded. Frisch, a former city councilman from Aspen, acknowledges a recount is unlikely to change the results, the AP says.

In a virtual press conference announcing his concession, Frisch argued that the thin margin is its own small victory after his campaign was largely considered futile by the political establishment. He added that he hasn’t ruled out another bid for the seat in 2024.

Interim summary

It’s been a lively morning in US politics news and there’s more to come. We’ll shortly have a post on closing arguments in the Trump Organization trial in New York.

Joe Biden’s on his to Boston to meet Britain’s Prince William and his wife, Kate, the princess of Wales, and White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will gaggle aboard Air Force One around the half hour (if the White House is on stated schedule, which is rarely.)

Here’s where things stand:

  • Joe Biden used Twitter to condemn antisemitism and political leaders who fail to call it out, following Ye’s suspension from Twitter after the rapper formerly named Kanye West posted an image blending a swastika with a star of David, following an interview in which he praised Adolf Hitler and denied the Holocaust.

  • Pat Cipollone, former White House counsel for Donald Trump, was spotted entering the grand jury area of the US district court in Washington DC on Friday, CNN is reported, in the DoJ’s January 6 case.

  • Biden said the US has dodged an “economic catastrophe” after Congress approved legislation averting a nationwide rail shutdown on 9 December. The president was speaking at the White House before signing legislation that was approved in the Senate on Thursday and which imposes a labor settlement on rail workers who were poised to strike in a dispute over pay and conditions.

It looks like Florida’s legislature will press ahead with a plan to allow Ron DeSantis to continue serving as the state’s governor, while he pursues his expected run for the White House.

An Associated Press report Friday adds credence to the idea floated by Republicans last month, and reported in this blog, to repeal Florida’s so-called “resign to run” rule.

Ron DeSantis.
Ron DeSantis. Photograph: Lynne Sladky/AP

The existing rule would have required DeSantis, a rising Republican star seen as a leading candidate for the party’s 2024 presidential nomination, to stand down after announcing.

The AP says only a handful of other states have similar laws for politicians seeking federal office. In Florida, where DeSantis was recently re-elected by a landslide to serve a second term as governor, Republicans have a supermajority in both chambers of the legislature that would override any Democratic opposition to a repeal.

Florida House speaker Paul Renner recently told reporters that it was a “great idea” to review the law, the agency reports.

Senate president Kathleen Passidomo said: “If an individual who is a Florida governor is running for president, I think he should be allowed to do it.”

Biden condemns antisemitism following Kanye West's remarks

Kanye West’s suspension from Twitter after the rapper posted an image blending a swastika with a star of David, following an interview in which he praised Adolf Hitler and denied the Holocaust, appears to have caught the eye of Joe Biden.

The president tweeted his own response on Friday morning, not directly addressing West, who now goes by the name of Ye, but saying he wanted “to make a few things clear”.

“The Holocaust happened. Hitler was a demonic figure. And instead of giving it a platform, our political leaders should be calling out and rejecting antisemitism wherever it hides. Silence is complicity,” he wrote.

His tweet alludes to Republican leaders who either chose to not to speak our, or offered only tepid criticism of Donald Trump hosting West and fellow Holocaust denier and white supremacist Nick Fuentes at a dinner at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.

Read more:

Updated

Report: Trump lawyer Cipollone speaks to grand jury again

Pat Cipollone, former White House counsel for Donald Trump, was spotted entering the grand jury area of the US district court in Washington DC on Friday, CNN is reporting.

The network says it’s an indication the justice department has compelled him to answer more questions in the January 6 criminal investigation, despite challenges from Trump’s legal team.

Pat Cipollone departs the US district court in Washington DC after giving grand jury testimony in September.
Pat Cipollone departs the US district court in Washington DC after giving grand jury testimony in September. Photograph: Leah Millis/Reuters

Cipollone has previously cooperated with the investigation. His call back would seem to be in keeping with a number of recent court rulings that experts say has turned the tide on the former president’s legal strategy of obstructing and delaying various investigations.

CNN has previously reported that Beryl Howell, chief judge of the DC district court, who oversees the federal grand juries in Washington, ordered Cipollone and his deputy to provide additional grand jury testimony this month

According to the network, Cipollone was accompanied Friday by his attorney, Michael Purpura. Seen walking in with them were Thomas Windom and Mary Dohrmann, prosecutors in the January 6 investigation now led by special counsel Jack Smith.

Smith is overseeing the justice department’s parallel investigations into Trump’s January 6 insurrection, and improper handling of classified documents at the former president’s resort home in Florida.

A federal appeals court on Thursday removed a significant block to the documents inquiry by removing a special master appointed to evaluate certain papers before they were handed to investigators.

Read more:

Biden: rail deal 'avoids economic catastrophe'

Joe Biden says the US has dodged an “economic catastrophe” after Congress approved legislation averting a nationwide rail shutdown on 9 December.

The president was speaking at the White House before signing legislation that was approved in the Senate on Thursday and which imposes a labor settlement on rail workers who were poised to strike in a dispute over pay and conditions.

Joe Biden is flanked by agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg and labor secretary Marty Walsh as he signs railroad legislation at the White House on Friday.
Joe Biden is flanked by agriculture secretary Tom Vilsack, transportation secretary Pete Buttigieg and labor secretary Marty Walsh as he signs railroad legislation at the White House on Friday. Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/Reuters

He acknowledged criticism that the deal did not include paid sick leave that the rail unions had insisted on, but said he would work on that:

We still have more work to do in terms of ultimately getting paid sick leave, not just for rail workers but for every worker in America. That’s a goal I had at the beginning and I’m coming back at it.

The bill I’m about to sign ends a difficult rail dispute and helps our nation avoid what without a doubt would have been an economic catastrophe at a very bad time in the calendar.

Our nation’s rail system is literally the backbone of our supply chain. So much of what we rely on is delivered on a rail, from clean water, to food, and gas and every other good. A rail shutdown would devastate our economy. Without freight rail many of the US industries would literally shut down.

I want to thank Congress, Democrats and Republicans for acting so quickly. I know this was a tough vote for members of both parties, it was tough for me. But it was the right thing to do at the moment, to save jobs, to protect millions of working families from harm and disruption, and to keep the supply chain stable around the holidays.

Biden said 765,000 workers would have been put out of work by the shutdown.

The president also hailed a just-released jobs report showing the US added 263,000 jobs in November, while the unemployment rate remained at 3.7%:

We’ve now created 10.5m jobs since I took office, more than any administration in history at this point in the presidency. And 750,000 of them are domestic manufacturing jobs made in America.

Americans are working, the economy is growing, wages are rising faster than inflation, and we avoided a catastrophic rail strike.

Updated

Alex Jones, the rightwing conspiracy theorist and Infowars host, has filed for bankruptcy, the Associated Press reports.

A Connecticut court last month ordered Jones to pay $473m in punitive damages on top of a nearly $1bn verdict handed down in October for his defamatory claims about the 2012 Sandy Hook mass shooting, after he claimed the massacre was faked.

Read more:

Late on Thursday, a federal appeals court delivered a major blow to Donald Trump by knocking down the appointment of a special master to look at documents seized by the FBI from the former president’s Florida resort.

The court also sternly rebuked Aileen Cannon, the Trump-appointed judge who assigned the special master, for meddling in a justice department investigation. Here’s my colleague Hugo Lowell’s report:

A federal appeals court on Thursday terminated the special master review of documents seized from Donald Trump at his Mar-a-Lago property, paving the way for the justice department to regain access to the entirety of the materials for use in the criminal investigation surrounding the former president.

The decision by the US court of appeals for the 11th circuit marked a decisive defeat for Trump in a ruling that said a lower-court judge should never have granted his request for an independent arbiter in the first place and is unlikely to be overturned in the event of appeal.

“The law is clear,” the appeals court wrote in an unanimous 23-page opinion. “We cannot write a rule that allows any subject of a search warrant to block government investigations after the execution of the warrant. Nor can we write a rule that allows only former presidents to do so.”

The ruling removed the lower-court judge’s order, allowing federal prosecutors to use the unclassified documents – in addition to the documents marked classified they previously regained in an earlier appeal – in the criminal investigation examining Trump’s mishandling of national security materials.

Trump can only appeal to the US supreme court, according to local rules in the 11th circuit, though it was not immediately clear whether he would do so. The former president has lost multiple cases before the supreme court, most recently including whether Congress can get access to his tax returns.

In a statement, a Trump spokesman said: “The decision does not address the merits that clearly demonstrate the impropriety of the unprecedented, illegal and unwarranted raid on Mar-a-Lago. President Donald J Trump will continue to fight against the weaponized Department of ‘Justice.’”

Read the full story:

Updated

While we’re looking at the machinations of the January 6 House committee, we’re certainly not the only ones. Republicans, already committed to shutting down the panel when they assume control of the House next month (assuming it hasn’t done so itself by then) appear dead set on investigating the investigators.

MSNBC’s MaddowBlog, from the Rachel Maddow show, takes a closer look at would-be Speaker Kevin McCarthy’s role in the plan, in an article published Friday.

Kevin McCarthy.
Kevin McCarthy. Photograph: Michael McCoy/Reuters

The House minority leader, if he wins enough party support to get the gavel of course, appears eager not to find answers about the 6 January Capitol attacks, or Donald Trump’s desperate efforts to retain the presidency despite his defeat by Joe Biden.

Instead, he wants to cast shade on the integrity of the bipartisan panel. In a letter last week, reported by the New York Times, he wrote to the committee chair Bennie Thompson, ordering him to preserve all documents, including transcripts of more than 1,000 interviews. It’s being seen purely as a political display, as it’s something the panel would have to do anyway.

This from a man who resolutely refused to cooperate with the panel last year when he received a subpoena.

According to MSNBC, the tactics of McCarthy and the Republicans are “intended to discredit probes they consider politically inconvenient”.

You can read the MSNBC report here.

The January 6 House panel investigating the Capitol attack, and Donald Trump’s insurrection, is set to meet in private on Friday as it prepares to mull criminal charges against the former president.

The “walls closing in on Trump” headline has been written often, but this time with an elevated degree of peril for a man who recently announced his third run at the White House as a Republican.

A subcommittee formed in October to make recommendations will present its report to the full panel today, according to NPR, and a determination on recommending any particular action will follow in short order.

Bennie Thompson.
Bennie Thompson. Photograph: Rogelio V Solis/AP

“We’ll just accept the report, and probably one day next week, make a decision one way or another,” Mississippi Democratic Bennie Thompson, the committee’s chair, told the network.

The committee is expected to release its final report around the middle of this month, and it is expected to focus heavily on Trump’s involvement in the Capitol attack and his potential culpability.

The Guardian reported last week that it has provoked something of a rift between panel members, with some believing it concentrates too much on Trump himself, and not enough of alleged intelligence failures by the FBI that resulted in the Capitol being overrun by supporters he incited.

Members of the subcommittee, which is chaired by Democrat Jamie Raskin, and includes Republican Liz Cheney alongside other Democrats Adam Schiff and Zoe Lofgren, all have a legal background, or, in Schiff’s case, prosecutorial experience.

As well as making recommendations on criminal charges, the subcommittee was also tasked with resolving how to respond to Trump’s lawsuit against his subpoena.

Read more:

Updated

Biden to sign rail legislation shortly

The White House has announced that Joe Biden will deliver live remarks at 10.15am as he signs legislation averting a national rail strike.

The Senate voted 80-15 on Thursday to progress an imposed settlement on rail workers, one day after the House did the same.

Biden, who became known as Amtrak Joe for his days riding the railroad to and from the Capitol when he was a senator, is likely to praise the speed at which Congress moved to avoid the planned 9 December shutdown.

Biden’s pushing of the settlement, however, is not without controversy. Read more here:

Good morning politics blog readers, and happy Friday. It’s a big day for the January 6 House committee investigating Donald Trump’s insurrection as it meets to mull potential criminal referrals for the former president, and those in his inner circle.

The bipartisan panel’s closed-doors meeting follows a massive setback late on Thursday for Trump’s tactics of obstructing a parallel justice department inquiry into his improper handling of classified documents at his Florida resort.

A federal appeals court struck down the assignment of an independent special master reviewing the documents, and delivered a direct rebuke for the Trump-appointed judge who engaged him.

We’ll have plenty more about those developments coming up.

Here’s what else we’re watching Friday on what promises to be a busy day:

  • Joe Biden has picked up an unexpected fan in the form of Republican firebrand Newt Gingrich, the former Speaker who says the president is getting things right and enjoyed one of the best first-term midterm elections in history.

  • Biden will meet the Prince and Princess of Wales later today at the John F Kennedy presidential library in Boston.

  • White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will brief reporters at lunchtime aboard Air Force One en route to Boston.

  • It’s the last day of early voting ahead of next Tuesday’s crucial Senate run-off in Gerogia. Latest polls give Democratic incumbent Raphael Warnock a 3-4% lead over Republican challenger Herschel Walker.