Political News

Sarah Sanders' office potentially violated state law in $19K lectern controversy, audit finds

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, governor of Arkansas, speaks during the Milken Institute Global Conference in Beverly Hills, May 2, 2023. (Patrick T. Fallon/AFP via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- The little-seen, $19,000 lectern at the center of a controversy in Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders' office was made available for viewing on Tuesday night -- after a monthslong audit into how the lectern was procured and paid for found that Sanders' staff potentially violated several state laws.

The governor's office responded by characterizing the investigation as "a waste of taxpayer resources and time" and called the audit report "deeply flawed."

"The facts outlined in the report demonstrate what the governor's office said all along: we followed the law, and the state was fully reimbursed with private funds for the podium, at no cost to the taxpayers," Sanders' spokesperson Alexa Henning said in a statement.

A Republican state senator had requested the probe last year after the lectern's high price tag sparked scrutiny and captured the national spotlight, including a jab from late-night host Jimmy Kimmel.

The purchase only came to light when Matt Campbell, a Little Rock attorney and progressive blogger, called attention to Sanders' office using a state-issued credit card in June 2023 to make a $19,029.25 payment to Beckett Events, a boutique event planning company whose owners are close with the governor.

Lawmakers questioned Sanders' staff about the audit's findings in a nearly three-hour hearing at the state Capitol on Tuesday, after the report was sent Monday to prosecuting attorneys.

"I was really hoping that you all would have brought the lectern with you today so we could see it," Republican state Rep. Julie Mayberry said at that hearing. "We all can agree that $19,000 was spent on an item and no one has really seen it."

Sanders' deputy chief of staff, Judd Deere, told lawmakers that she plans to use the lectern now that the audit is complete, previously having not wanted it to be a distraction.

Despite seven "areas of noncompliance" identified in the audit report where the governor's office potentially violated state laws regarding purchasing, state property and government records, Deere also said no members of the governor's staff were disciplined for their actions -- "nor should they be," he added.

What's next then for the dispute also known as #LecternGate?

Arkansas' Attorney General Tim Griffin, a Republican, has already indicated he won't pursue charges -- enraging critics -- when last week he said that state purchasing laws don't apply to the governor or other executive branch officials, only to state agencies.

That means the potential for any criminal charges to be filed would likely fall to Will Jones, the 6th Judicial District prosecuting attorney in Little Rock.

Jones said his office is assessing the audit and that their "review is no different than any other file review" sent to them.

Sanders, a former Trump White House official and daughter of former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, has been seen as a rising star in the Republican Party.

She was defiant in dismissing the findings, posting a 20-second video edit of the lectern to social media this week that said "COME AND TAKE IT."

Here are key takeaways from the audit:

Potential violations include tampering with public records

Auditors identified seven "areas of potential noncompliance with state law" that the governor's office engaged in -- including a member of the governor's office staff shredding the bill of lading for the lectern, which contained details of the shipment and was attached to the delivery crate, potentially violating document retention laws.

They were told in interviews that the shredding was inadvertent.

Auditors also reported that, at the direction of the governor's deputy chief of staff, an executive assistant added handwritten notes that read "to be reimbursed" on two invoices after Campbell, the blogger, asked for documents surrounding the lectern's purchase in a Freedom of Information Act request. State Republicans ultimately repaid the cost of the lectern -- after Campbell called attention to it.

According to the audit, other potential violations of budgeting and accounting laws include the purchase being applied to operating expenses, though state law prevents equipment that must be capitalized from being expensed, as well as the lectern being paid for before it was delivered.

The governor's office further failed to notify a state agency of the lectern's delivery, as required, and did not create a business expense justification statement on the day it was purchased.

Sanders has previously maintained that the lectern's purchase "went through standard protocol in our office."

Lectern has no electronic components, despite special features touted

When Sanders came under fire last fall for the lectern's price tag, relative to other such furniture and equipment, she told reporters it was custom made for her height, was designed "to get the best sound quality" and that it incorporated components to allow multiple media outlets to plug in at the same time.

Auditors reported the lectern features no microphone or any electronic elements.

It does include a light, they said.

The report included a breakdown of the total cost as follows: $11,575 for the lectern itself, $2,500 for a consulting fee, $2,200 for a travel case, $1,225 for freight shipping for the lectern, $975 for freight shipping for the travel case and $554 for a credit card processing fee.

The $2,500 consulting fee had not been previously reported but attracted scrutiny on social media when coupled with a detail from the report that the governor's office was considering returning the lectern shortly after its delivery because its height did not meet order specifications.

The total $19,000 cost for the podium is notably higher than could be purchased via standard retail means. One retailer previously wrote online that their own lecterns sell for around $7,000. And two political sources outside of Sanders' office with experience producing podiums and the costs associated with them has told ABC News that $19,029.25 is more than they would have charged or spent on the procurement.

Sanders herself didn't participate in the audit, nor did the lectern's vendors

Neither Sanders, who previously said she welcomed the audit, nor the lectern vendors cooperated with the probe, according to the audit report.

Virginia Beckett and Hannah Stone of Beckett Events did not respond to repeated attempts from auditors to contact them via telephone, certified mail and email, the report said, nor did New York-based Miller's Presentation Furniture, which manufactured the lectern, according to the audit.

Beckett and Stone were previously hired by Sanders' office to help with advance planning on her gubernatorial inauguration and the 2023 GOP response to the State of the Union address. They were also at the Paris Air Show last June, which Sanders also attended, the same month the lectern was purchased.

Auditors recruited Sanders' office for help reaching out to the vendors during their investigation. Chief legal counsel for the governor's office told lawmakers Tuesday she sent two emails to Beckett Events.

Moving forward, an aide to the governor said Tuesday that she doesn't plan on using the vendors again.

Neither of the vendors immediately responded to ABC News' request for comment.

No evidence state party planned to reimburse state before FOIA request

Only after Campbell sought additional information about the five-figure purchase with taxpayer dollars was it reimbursed by the state's Republican Party, with auditors reporting "there was no indication the governor's office was seeking reimbursement for the cost of the podium and the road case" before the requests.

Sanders' spokesperson said last fall that use of a state credit card for the purchase was "an accounting error."

The governor's deputy chief of staff, however, told lawmakers Tuesday that it was decided later on it would be "preferable" for the lectern to be paid for with private funds via the state Republican Party.

"This body appropriated money that was available for us to use to purchase items. Later on we determined it was preferable that private funds the governor raised be used to reimburse the state," Deere said. "No taxpayer has been used to purchase this item. So we do not view it as a mistake."

Notably, the governor's office had also sought approval before the lectern purchase to increase the state credit card's spending limit, as opposed to having the Arkansas Republican Party make the purchase themselves.

Campbell, in a statement to ABC News, applauded the auditors' work which he said proved "what we already knew: that the lectern purchase was illegal and done in the shadiest way imaginable."

The audit also determined, because of broken protocols, that the lectern belongs to the state of Arkansas.

One Arkansas vendor contacted and quoted a far lower lectern price

Staffers in Sanders' office told auditors they "could not recall any other quotes being obtained" for the lectern.

However, auditors found that in March 2023, a staff member contacted an Arkansas-based audio and visual equipment dealer and received quotes for podiums up to $1,500, lighting systems up to $1,000 and sound systems up to $3,000.

While auditors said they were ultimately unable to determine the reasonableness of the cost of the podium due to the "custom specifications," "lack of vendor responses" and "lack of documentation," they hinted at its high price when compared to similar-style lecterns on the market.

"It should be noted that similar non-customized falcon style podiums can be purchased from online vendors starting at approximately $7,000, as opposed to the $11,575 amount allocated to the custom falcon podium," the report said.

Arkansas lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have expressed doubt about the lectern's value.

"I don't think the lectern's worth $19,000 or $11,500," Republican state Sen. John Payton said on Tuesday. "But I do think the lesson learned could be worth far more than that if we would just accept the fact that it was bad judgment and it was carelessness."

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Johnson hawks $95 billion Israel, Ukraine aid package amid threats to speakership

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(WASHINGTON) -- Speaker Mike Johnson and other House Republican leaders released a $95 billion foreign aid package Wednesday that provides funding for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan – as Congress continues to grapple with a response to actions taken by Russia, Iran and China that have defied the international community.

The package includes $26.4 billion for Israel aid, including $4 billion to replenish Israel Iron Dome defense system, $60.8 billion for Ukraine aid, including $23 billion for replenishing weapons and $8.1 billion for Indo-Pacific aid.

Johnson, who is facing a small revolt within his own conference and will need to rely on Democratic votes to advance the package, told members to expect a final passage vote on the package Saturday evening. But the path to getting there will be an uphill battle and could potentially cost the speaker his gavel.

Far-right Republicans are mocking Johnson's plan as the #AmericaLast Act – complaining, for example, that it includes $481 million to pay for housing, medical bills and legal fees for Ukrainian refugees coming to the United States.

"The Republican Speaker of the House is seeking a rule to pass almost $100 billion in foreign aid - while unquestionably, dangerous criminals, terrorists, & fentanyl pour across our border. The border "vote" in this package is a watered-down dangerous cover vote. I will oppose," Chip Roy, R-Texas, said in a statement on X.

Georgia Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, who is threatening to oust Johnson, said in a statement on X, "Speaker Johnson, voted against $300 million for Ukraine before we gave you the gavel along with the majority of Republicans, no one understands why it is now your top priority to give Ukraine $60 billion more dollars. You are seriously out of step with Republicans by continuing to pass bills dependent on Democrats."

Greene's motion to vacate the speakership hangs over Johnson's head -- though he has moved forward with his plan undeterred.

While several Republicans are coming out strongly against the plan, President Joe Biden and top Democrats are urging lawmakers to support the bills.

Biden urged the House to pass the package this week, adding that the Senate should "quickly follow."

"I will sign this into law immediately to send a message to the world: We stand with our friends, and we won't let Iran or Russia succeed," Biden wrote in a statement Wednesday.

​​Rep. Rosa DeLauro -- the top Democratic appropriator in the House – announced her support for the three bills, noting they "mirror" the Senate's bipartisan national security package that passed through the upper chamber on Feb. 13.

"After House Republicans dragged their feet for months, we finally have a path forward to provide support for our allies and desperately needed humanitarian aid," DeLauro, D-Conn., stated. "We cannot retreat from the world stage under the guise of putting 'America First.' We put America first by demonstrating the power of American leadership – that we have the strength, resolve, and heart to fight for the most vulnerable people, protect their freedom, and preserve their dignity. I urge swift passage of these bills."

Republicans are expected to unveil a fourth measure later Wednesday, including the REPO Act, sanctions, the Tik Tok bill, and other measures to "confront Russia, China and Iran."

And to appease hardliners, the House will also introduce a separate bill on the border that includes "the core components of H.R.2, under a separate rule that will allow for amendments."

If the package clears the House this weekend, the Senate will have a one-week recess to consider how to handle the legislation when the upper chamber returns on April 29.

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Biden promises union workers to keep US Steel 'American-owned, American-operated'

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(PITTSBURGH) -- President Joe Biden on Wednesday continued his 2024 campaign swing through Pennsylvania, speaking to the United Steelworkers union as he proposed tripling tariffs on Chinese steel and aluminum and denouncing the sale of Pittsburgh-based U.S. Steel, promising union workers he will keep it a “totally American company.”

“U.S. Steel has been an iconic American company for more than a century, and it should remain a totally American company," he said in Pittsburgh. "American-owned, American-operated by American union steel workers, the best in the world. And it’s -- that's going to happen, I promise you.”

The acquisition by Japan’s Nippon Steel took one more step last week when U.S. Steel shareholders approved the $14.9 billion sale, despite opposition from the United Steelworkers union.

The president also accused the Chinese government of “cheating” by overproducing steel and subsidizing the cost, leading to “unfairly low prices” in the global market.

“The prices are unfairly low because China's steel companies don’t need to worry about making a profit because the Chinese governor subsidizes them so heavily, they're not competing, they’re cheating. They’re cheating. And we've seen the damage here in America,” he said.

Biden promised the crowd that he would not let American workers lose their jobs due to the import of Chinese steel, which he noted happened in the early 2,000s in Pennsylvania and Ohio.

While Biden courts the critical voting bloc, his likely GOP presidential opponent -- former President Donald Trump -- faced a criminal trial in a Manhattan courtroom, which Biden made a veiled reference to in his remarks.

“Under my predecessor -- who's busy right now -- Pennsylvania lost 275,000 jobs. I mean, just look at the facts,” Biden said.

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Arizona Republicans block another Democratic effort to repeal 1864 abortion ban

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(PHOENIX) -- Arizona Republicans on Wednesday again blocked a Democratic-led effort to repeal a controversial 19th-century ban on almost all abortions in the state, which the Arizona Supreme Court has ruled is enforceable.

Democrats in the state House failed to overcome procedural obstacles to advance House Bill 2677, introduced by Democratic state Rep. Stephanie Stahl Hamilton, to repeal the 1864 abortion law, which predates Arizona's statehood and only provides exceptions to save the life of the pregnant woman.

Only one of the Republican representatives joined with the Democratic minority, leaving them one vote short of pushing the bill forward.

"The last thing we should be doing today is rushing a bill through the legislative process to repeal a law that has been enacted and reaffirmed by the Legislature several times," Speaker Ben Toma, a Republican, said during Wednesday's state House session.

"Abortion is a complicated topic -- it is ethically, morally complex," said Toma. "I understand that we have deeply held beliefs."

Assistant Minority Leader Oscar De Los Santos, speaking after Toma, said, "This issue is very simple: Do we support or do we oppose an 1864 territorial abortion ban that includes no exceptions for rape, no exceptions for incest?"

He continued: "We heard the speaker mention that we shouldn't be rushing this process. Members, we have had since 1864 to repeal this abhorrent law,"

Arizona lawmakers had reconvened on Wednesday after a week's recess, with much attention was on the repeal bill and whether it would move forward.

It's unclear how Democrats will next attempt to roll back the strict ban, though members in the state Senate have said they plan to act quickly to take up such efforts in their chamber later Wednesday.

The Arizona Supreme Court's ruling reviving the 1864 ban immediately roiled the politics of the key swing state -- being celebrated by abortion opponents and denounced by abortion access advocates and Democrats, while top Republicans, including Donald Trump, said it went too far.

The ban remains temporarily on hold but Arizona Attorney General Kris Mayes said this week that the earliest it could take effect is June 8 -- "absent any additional litigation" or legislative action.

Anyone found guilty of violating it will face two to five years in state prison. Mayes previously said she would not prosecute providers under the law.

Arizona Right to Life, an anti-abortion group, on Wednesday planned to hold rally outside the state Capitol in support of the 1864 ban.

The Arizona for Abortion Access coalition was also set to hold a rally outside of the state Capitol.

If Arizona lawmakers attempt repeal again, how would it work?

Hamilton's repeal bill, which failed to advance on Wednesday, already passed two readings in the Arizona House, setting it up for another attempt at a floor vote -- after one more step.

A member will need bring up a motion to waive the normal procedures to consider the bill, since it has not yet been heard in a committee.

That waive motion was opposed by nearly all Republicans in the state House majority on Wednesday. But if it ever succeeds, the repeal ban could then go up for a full House vote and would need 31 votes to pass -- a simple majority of legislators in the 60-member chamber.

As there are 29 Democratic members in the Arizona House, the bill needs just two Republican votes to succeed. The GOP members to watch are Reps. Matt Gress, David Cook and Tim Dunn.

Toma, the Arizona House speaker, said last week that lawmakers will not "rush legislation on a topic of this magnitude without a larger discussion," and Republican lawmakers quashed an earlier, Democratic-led effort to quickly repeal the ban.

"We as an elected body are going to take the time needed to listen to our constituents and carefully consider appropriate actions," Toma said last week.

The Center for Arizona Policy, which has led the fight against abortion rights at the Legislature and successfully lobbied for myriad restrictions, has called on GOP lawmakers not to repeal the 1864 ban.

If the Arizona House votes yes on the bill, however, there are still more steps and procedures before the ban is formally repealed and off the books.

The proposal, after passing the state House, would then go to the state Senate for yet another vote to waive rules on the bill.

Two Republicans are needed to join Democrats in the state Senate as well, and Sens. Shawnna Bolick and T.J. Shope have said they'd support the repeal.

The legislation may have to go through further procedural steps given that it has not yet been read in the state Senate. That includes a rule requiring bills be heard on three separate days, so it will likely take at least three more days.

To repeal the 1864 ban immediately, lawmakers would have to include an emergency clause in their language but get a two-thirds majority vote for passage. Otherwise, anything approved by the Legislature and signed by the governor does not take effect until 90 days after the end of the legislative session.

Gov. Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, opposes the ban.

"A law passed in 1864 by 27 men is the reason why my 22-year-old daughter now has fewer rights than I did at her age," she wrote on X on Tuesday. "It's absolutely outrageous. I'm committed to ensuring that future generations have the essential freedoms they deserve."

She has reiterated that an executive order she signed in 2023 prohibits county attorneys from going above Mayes, the Arizona attorney general, who has said her office is still analyzing legal options and is continuing plans over what to do if litigation efforts are unsuccessful, including how Arizona can support abortion providers.

Potentially dueling ballot measures on abortion

The Arizona for Abortion Access campaign is working to get a potential constitutional amendment on the state's ballot in November enshrining abortion access. The campaign has said that they have gathered more than 500,000 signatures – surpassing the necessary threshold.

The proposed amendment would amend Arizona's Constitution to prohibit the state from legislating against abortion up until fetal viability, which is around 24 weeks into pregnancy; and it enshrines other abortion protections into law.

The Republican-led House counsel in Arizona has, separately, internally proposed a plan to rival the state's abortion rights ballot initiative by adding ballot initiatives of their own in the wake of what they call "court chaos" on abortion policy, according to a presentation leaked Monday and shared with ABC News.

That proposal includes potentially legislatively-referred ballot initiatives that would compete with the Arizona for Abortion Access measure -- to either return to a 15-week ban that had been in effect before the 1864 ruling or offer a six-week ban, with exceptions in both cases for rape, incest, fetal abnormalities and to save the life of "the woman" in the language presented.

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Senate kills Mayorkas impeachment trial, votes both articles 'unconstitutional'

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Wednesday dismissed both impeachment articles against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, deeming them "unconstitutional."

The trial against Mayorkas, long a target of Republican criticism over his handling of immigration policy and the southern border, lasted just three hours after senators were sworn in as jurors.

The votes to dismiss both articles and adjourn the trial were along party lines, 51-49.

House Republicans, back in February, approved two articles over what they called Mayorkas' failed leadership. The first article alleged Mayorkas willfully and systemically refused to comply with the law on immigration policy and the second accused him of breaching public trust. The Cabinet secretary, the first to be impeached in nearly 150 years, had called both allegations "baseless."

Leading up to the trial, Republicans were demanding a thorough consideration of the articles of impeachment take place while Democrats said they would seek to dismiss them quickly.

Such back-and-forth was apparent as proceedings kicked off in the Senate after lawmakers were sworn in as jurors.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., first asked for unanimous consent on a plan that would have allowed for debate time and for Republicans to raise various points of order before Democrats moved toward a motion to dismiss the charges.

Republicans quickly objected.

"Never before in the history of our republic has the Senate dismissed or tabled articles of impeachment when the impeached individual was alive and had not resigned," Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., said as he rose to reject what Schumer proposed.

"I will not assist Senator Schumer in setting our Constitution ablaze and bulldozing 200 years of precedent," Schmitt added.

Schumer responded that the first of the articles of impeachment "does not allege conduct that rises to the level of a high crime or misdemeanor" and "therefore is unconstitutional."

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., tried to aside Schumer's motion that the first article of impeachment against Mayorkas is unconstitutional.

"Our colleagues know that we are obligated to take these proceedings seriously," McConnell said. "This is what our oath prescribes. It is what the history and precedent require and I would urge each of our colleagues to consider that this is what our framers actually envisioned."

McConnell added, "This process must not be abused, it must not be short circuited. History will not judge this moment well."

Republican senators tried several times to move into a closed session or adjourn the court of impeachment, but such efforts failed along party lines.

"The Senate Majority Leader has argued that Secretary Mayorkas' defiance of federal immigration law and active aiding and abetting of the worst illegal alien invasion in American history does not constitute a high crime or misdemeanor," Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said as he tried to move debate behind closed doors.

"He has presented no argument on that question. He has presented no briefing on that question ... the only rational way to resolve this question is actually to debate it, to consider the Constitution and consider the law," Cruz added.

All senators present for Wednesday's proceedings were seated at their desks. At some points, lawmakers could be seen handing out candy or huddling in groups for conversation.

Mayorkas previously called the allegations "false" and "politically motivated." Asked about the proceedings earlier Wednesday as the department rolled out a new campaign to child exploitation, the secretary said he was focused on his work.

"The Senate is going to do what the Senate considers to be appropriate as that proceeds," Mayorkas said. "I'm here in New York City on Wednesday morning, fighting online child sexual exploitation and abuse. We are focused on our mission. Our mission is an imperative to keep everyone safe and secure."

ABC News' Juhi Doshi contributed to this report.

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Trump, campaigning after court, comments on jurors in historic trial and seeks to spotlight crime

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(NEW YORK) -- Though he remains confined to a court room on most weekdays for his New York hush money trial, which began on Monday, former President Donald Trump is adapting his schedule and his message to try and boost his bid to return to the White House.

On Tuesday evening, at the end of the second day of jury selection in his trial, Trump visited a bodega in Harlem, the scene of a fatal stabbing two years ago, to criticize what he said were Democratic failures in public safety.

Trump singled out the Manhattan district attorney by name, echoing his repeated accusations that Democrats are soft on crime and that the charges against him are motivated by partisanship, which prosecutors reject, saying they are following the law. Trump denies all wrongdoing.

"It's Alvin Bragg's fault," he claimed at the bodega. "He does nothing. He goes after guys like Trump, who did nothing wrong. Violent criminals, murderers -- they know there are hundreds of murderers all over the city."

He used his stop after court not only to take a jab at Bragg and his criminal trial, one of four he faces, but also to repeat his rhetoric about what he often describes on the trail as "crime-ridden" cities largely run by Democrats -- like New York, his hometown, where he built his national profile before moving to Florida.

He has made similar claims about crime in Atlanta as he's railed against Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, who is prosecuting him in Georgia related to his efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state.

The shop that Trump visited in Harlem on Tuesday, at the invitation of the Bodega Association, he said, was the scene of a homicide in 2022 when the shop's then-clerk Jose Alba fatally stabbed someone whom Alba later said was attacking him and he was acting in self-defense.

Surveillance footage from inside the bodega showed the other man, Austin Simon, confronting Alba behind the cash register and shoving him before the two were drawn into a fight.

Alba was initially charged with murder. The case was controversial, and Bragg's office later dropped the case against Alba, reportedly saying they had insufficient proof to proceed.

Despite Trump's rhetoric about crime, statistics from New York City police show violent crime in the city has been falling.

Through March 17, homicides were down 19% from the same period in 2023, according to the data -- though homicides previously surged 30% in 2020, during the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Crime and public safety are key parts of Trump's pitch to voters on the trail, along with attacking President Joe Biden for high inflation and immigration.

With the first of his criminal trials now underway, the former president has both complained about how his obligations in court are interfering with his campaign schedule and he has insisted he plans to campaign "all over" on the weekends, with rallies "all over the place."

The Biden campaign isn't directly commenting on the trial, though they have issued thinly veiled attacks through press releases and sought a contrast by having the president actively campaign in battlegrounds like Pennsylvania this week while Trump sits in court.

At his own campaign stop on Tuesday, Biden went after Trump for previously supporting tax cuts on the wealthy and said Trump "embodies" the "failure" of so-called trickle-down economics.

Biden's team has also said that his campaign has been more active across swing states, even before Trump's trial began.

"This is a trial that should have never been brought. ... I should be right now in Pennsylvania, in Florida, in many other states -- North Carolina, Georgia -- campaigning," Trump told reporters as he headed back to court on Tuesday, taking advantage of the omnipresent news coverage outside.

Speaking with the press at the Harlem bodega later on Tuesday, Trump repeated his frequent, baseless criticism that it's an "election interference" to keep him off the trail.

In New York, he faces 34 counts of falsifying business records in the first degree related to money paid to adult film actress Stormy Daniels during his 2016 presidential bid, in order to stop Daniels from going public about what she claimed was a sexual encounter with him, which he denies. He has pleaded not guilty.

As jury selection is underway, Trump said at the bodega that "anybody that's fair" is his ideal juror.

Asked how he feels about the seven jurors selected so far, he responded, "I'll let you know in about two months."

He dodged a question about whether he believes the jurors seated are fair, instead saying there shouldn't be a jury in the first place.

Trump also claimed he has not violated the limited gag order imposed by Judge Juan Merchan overseeing the case -- after the prosecution on Monday argued he did so by posting social media attacks on Daniels and his former attorney Michael Cohen, who are potential key witnesses.

"There shouldn't be a gag order," Trump said, calling it "unconstitutional."

At his bodega stop, he was also asked about recent efforts by two GOP hard-line lawmakers to oust House Speaker Mike Johnson over Johnson's support for voting on foreign aid.

"We'll see what happens with that," Trump said. "I think he's a very good person."

ABC News' Gabriella Abdul-Hakim, Mary Bruce, Peter Charalambous, Bill Hutchinson and Molly Nagle contributed to this report.

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Democrats will try to dismiss Mayorkas impeachment articles as GOP demands full trial

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(WASHINGTON) -- Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer announced on Wednesday Democrats will ultimately seek to dismiss the articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

"Today, the trial will commence, and we will be in our seats as jurors for the third time in four years. But this time, senators will provide as jurors in the least legitimate, least substantive and most politicized impeachment trial ever in the history of the United States," Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor.

"For the sake of the Senate's integrity and to protect impeachment for those rare cases we truly need it, senators should dismiss today's charges," Schumer added.

Senators are expected to square off, largely along party lines, over whether to proceed with a full-scale trial of Mayorkas over his handling of immigration policy and the southern border when they convene at 1 p.m. EDT.

"When we convene in trial today, to accommodate the wishes of our Republican Senate colleagues, I will seek an agreement for a period of debate time that would allow Republicans to offer a vote on trial resolutions, allow for Republicans to offer points of order and then move to dismiss," Schumer said.

House GOP managers delivered two articles of impeachment against Mayorkas Tuesday, and the next step in the proceedings calls for senators to be sworn in as jurors, sitting as a court of impeachment, on Wednesday afternoon.

Because Democrats control the Senate, and if they stick together, they could quickly win a vote to dismiss the articles. Just 51 votes would be needed.

Many Democrats believe that the articles of impeachment, which accuse Mayorkas of "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law" and "breach of public trust" are baseless and politicized.

But Schumer's facing a fight from Senate Republicans, many of whom are enraged at the suggestion that there wouldn't be a full trial.

"This is raw gut politics," Sen. John Kennedy, R-La., said during a news conference on Tuesday where he shared the stage with the House impeachment managers.

"What Senator Schumer is going to do tomorrow -- it is fatuous, it is fraudulent and it is an insult to the Senate. It is a disservice to every American citizen who believes in the rule of law," he said.

Beyond complaining, though, there's very little Republicans can ultimately do to get their demands met if all Democrats stick together.

But it's not clear that they will.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., faces a difficult reelection fight in increasingly-red Montana this fall. He hasn't yet said whether or not he would support a motion to dismiss and has repeatedly told reporters he'd wait to make a decision until he's read the articles.

Notably, when the articles were being read aloud in the Senate by impeachment manager Rep. Mark Green on Tuesday, Tester, who had previously been seated in the chamber, left his seat and headed to the cloak room.

He caught flack for it from Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, during the GOP news conference shortly after.

"Jon Tester was nowhere to be found because apparently it was too frightening to hear the managers imply read the facts of the people that were dying because of policies he supports," Cruz said.

It's unclear what Tester will ultimately decide. But if he sticks with his party, there is ultimately very little Republicans can do to force a trial to go on. That doesn't mean they'll make things easy.

If Democrats want to quickly table the trial, Republicans are expected to offer a number of procedural points of order that would force votes and could eat up several hours of floor time.

Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., told reporters after a closed-door lunch Tuesday that there's been an ongoing behind-the-scenes discussion about an agreement that would allow several hours of debate over whether a trial is necessary before a motion to dismiss is ultimately voted on.

"For those of us who would like to have some discussion or debate the potentially offer that we are going to be considering I think offers us an opportunity to build our case," Tillis said.

Such an agreement would require the consent of all senators, and it's unclear if that could happen.

Senators might also try to send the trial to a committee for it to be heard, as they're permitted to do when an impeachment is brought against someone who is not a sitting president.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who has been among those demanding a trial, suggested this might be an "acceptable" outcome.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he will strongly oppose Democratic efforts to quash the impeachment effort, saying it is the chamber's solemn duty to take the matter seriously.

"The Senate will be called for just the 19th time in our history to rule on the impeachment of a senior official of our government. It's a responsibility to be taken seriously.

"I intend to give these charges my full and undivided attention. Of course, that would require that senators actually get the opportunity to hold a trial. And this is exactly what history and precedent dictates. Never before has the Senate agreed to a motion to table articles of impeachment," McConnell said.

"I'll strenuously oppose the effort to table the articles of impeachment and avoid looking at the Biden administration border crisis squarely in the face," he added.

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Congressional committee grills Columbia University president on campus antisemitism

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(NEW YORK) -- Columbia University President Nemat "Minouche" Shafik testified Wednesday before a congressional committee investigating antisemitism on the New York City campus after two of her counterparts at other elite colleges resigned amid a backlash over their responses at a previous hearing of the same panel.

Prior to letting Shafik speak, Rep. Virginia Foxx, chair of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, opened the hearing by calling some elite U.S. colleges "hotbeds of antisemitism and hate."

"Columbia University is one of the worst of those hotbeds and we’ve seen too little, far too late done to counter that and protect students and staff," Foxx, R-North Carolina, said. "Columbia stands guilty of gross negligence at best and, at worst, has become a platform for those supporting terrorism and violence against the Jewish people."

In her opening statement, Shafik, who was appointed president of the Ivy League school in July 2023, told the committee that Columbia "strives to be a community free of discrimination and hate in all forms and we condemn the antisemitism that is so pervasive today."

Shafik said she took the job to foster a diverse community at Columbia.

"But on Oct. 7, the world changed and so did my focus," she said of the day Hamas terrorists launched a surprise attack on Israel, killing 1,200 people and taking others hostage, according to Israeli officials.

She said a "major challenge" has been reconciling free speech with the rights of Jewish students to go to school in a environment free of discrimination and harassment.

"Regrettably, the events of Oct. 7 brought to the fore an undercurrent of antisemitism that is a major challenge and like many other universities Columbia has seen a rise in antisemitic incidents," Shafik said.

Shafik said she has taken actions since Oct. 7, including enhancing Columbia's reporting channels, hiring staff to investigate complaints and forming an antisemitism task force.

"Safety is paramount and we would do whatever is necessary to ensure the safety of our campus," Shafik said. "We must uphold freedom of speech, because it's essential to our academic mission, but we cannot and shouldn't tolerate abuse of this privilege to harass and discriminate."

Shafik was joined on the witness panel by David M. Schizer, dean emeritus and Harvey R. Miller professor of law and economics at Columbia Law School; Claire Shipman, co-chair of the Columbia University Board of Trustees; and David Greenwald, also a co-chair of the school's board of trustees.

Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, D-Oregon, repeated a key question from the first antisemitism hearing in December: "Does calling for the genocide of Jews violate Columbia's code of conduct?"

Each witness, including Shafik, told Rep. Bonamici, "Yes, it does."

In a heated exchange, Rep. Elise Stefanik, R-New York, asked Shafik what disciplinary action has been taken against faculty members who have made antisemitic remarks.

Shafik said repeatedly that those faculty members "have been spoken to" but cited only one who has been dismissed for making such remarks.

Speaking about one professor who was spoken to by a senior administrator after making antisemitic comments, Shafik said "he has not repeated anything like that."

"Does he need to repeat, stating that the massacre of Israeli civilians 'was awesome'?" Stefanik asked. "Does he need to repeat his participation in an unauthorized pro-Hamas demonstration on April 4?"

Before Shafik could respond, Stefanik cited Schizer's opening statement, in which he spoke about the lack of enforcement at Columbia.

Shafik answered, "We have 4,700 faculty at Columbia ..." But before she could finish her sentence, Stefanik cut her off.

"But I'm talking about faculty members who are supporting terror," Stefanik said.

She noted a professor who was hired after the Oct. 7 attacks and later posted "Yes, I am with Hamas and and Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad" on social media.

"He also decried 'false reports' accusing Arabs and Muslims of decapitating the heads of children and being rapists," Stefanik said. "We know that there were decapitations of babies, of innocent Israeli citizens, of seniors, of women. There were rapes. Yet, Columbia hired this individual as a professor. How did that hiring process work? Were you aware of those statements before the hiring?"

Shafik responded, "I share your repugnance at those remarks. I completely understand that. On my watch, faculty who make remarks that cross the line, there will be consequences for that."

She said that professors who cross the line will be "either taken out of the classroom or dismissed."

"Was he one of those?" Stefanik asked.

Shafik said, "He has not just been terminated, but his files will show that he will never work at Columbia again."

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Nikki Haley's next move is going to a think tank after becoming major Trump critic

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(WASHINGTON) -- Nikki Haley has been tapped to be a chair at the Hudson Institute conservative think tank, according to a statement from the group Monday morning, marking the first major move for the former 2024 Republican presidential candidate since she left the race.

"When our policymakers fail to call out our enemies or acknowledge the importance of our alliances, the world is less safe. That is why Hudson's work is so critical," Haley, who previously received the group's Hudson's Global Leadership Award, said in a statement.

"I look forward to partnering with them to defend the principles that make America the greatest country in the world," Haley said.

She will be the Walter P. Stern chair, named for the group's former chairman. Hudson's board chair, Sarah May Stern, said in her own statement that Haley is "courageous and insightful."

It remains unclear, however, to what extent Haley will weigh in on the 2024 presidential race -- or not.

A former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador, she was the last major candidate to challenge former President Donald Trump for the 2024 GOP nomination, which he ultimately won.

By the end of Haley's primary campaign, she had also become one of Trump's most vocal critics within the party -- something she had avoided earlier in the race.

And though he triumphed in almost every contest, Haley did win two primaries, in Vermont and Washington, D.C. She often touted the argument that Trump would not be able to unify the party and win a general election because a notable minority of Republicans continued to vote for her.

Haley didn't endorse Trump when she ended her campaign in early March.

"I have always been a conservative Republican and always supported the Republican nominee," Haley said then. "But on this question, as she did on so many others, Margaret Thatcher provided some good advice when she said, 'Never just follow the crowd. Always make up your own mind.'"

"It is now up to Donald Trump to earn the votes of those in our party and beyond it, who did not support it," she added. "And I hope he does that. At its best politics is about bringing people into your cause, not turning them away. And our conservative cause badly needs more people."

ABC News' Hannah Demissie and Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.

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Who are the key players in Donald Trump's Manhattan hush money trial?

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(NEW YORK) -- Jury selection began Monday in former President Donald Trump's first criminal trial over allegations that he falsified business records to conceal criminal conduct. Michael Cohen and Stormy Daniels are among the witnesses expected to testify in the weeks-long Manhattan trial.

Trump is accused of allegedly engaging in a scheme with his then-attorney Michael Cohen and others to influence the 2016 election by suppressing negative information about Trump's alleged sexual encounter with adult actress Stormy Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. He has denied the affair and all wrongdoing in the matter.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg impaneled a grand jury to hear the hush money case in 2023, which eventually voted to indict Trump.

Trump is facing 34 counts of falsifying business records. The New York trial is expected to run for six to eight weeks.

Here are the key players in the trial:

Michael Cohen
Trump's former attorney allegedly coordinated the catch-and-kill scheme and directly sent a $130,000 hush-money payment to Daniels in the days ahead of the 2016 election.

Cohen was reimbursed $420,000 in 2017 -- through 12 $35,000 payments -- for that hush-money payment and other costs, and the records to falsely characterize those payments as legal expenses form the underlying 34 criminal counts in the New York case.

Cohen worked as an executive vice president at the Trump Organization and personal counsel to Donald Trump, describing himself as Trump's "fixer."

A lawyer in New York private practice who lived in one of Trump's buildings, Cohen joined the Trump Organization after helping the former president with a real estate dispute and other favors.

In 2018, Cohen pleaded guilty to tax evasion, lying to Congress and violations of campaign finance law -- when he made payments to Clifford. Cohen spent more than a year in federal prison before finishing his sentence in home confinement.

Cohen's congressional testimony prompted the New York Attorney General to open its investigation into the Trump Organization's finances. Cohen testified as a key witness in Trump's civil fraud trial, where he alleged that Trump directed him and then Trump Organization CFO Allen Weisselberg to fraudulently inflate his net worth.

Judge Arthur Engoron in February ordered Trump and his company to pay more than $450 million in the civil lawsuit and banned the former president and his sons from running companies in New York for three years. Trump denied all wrongdoing and said he will appeal.


Stephanie Clifford a.k.a. Stormy Daniels
Daniels is an adult film actress who allegedly had a sexual encounter with Trump at a golf tournament in 2006. Trump has denied the allegations of an affair. In the days following the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape in 2016, Cohen negotiated a deal to secure Daniels' silence for $130,000, according to prosecutors.

Daniels has given multiple media interviews, written a book and featured in a documentary in the years after the story became public in 2018.

Daniels claims that she never wanted the incident itself to become public and that her sexual relationship with the former president was consensual. 
In March, Daniels told ABC's "The View" that she is "absolutely ready" to testify at Trump's criminal trial. 
"I'm absolutely ready. I've been ready. I'm hoping with all of my heart that they call me," Daniels said. "I relish the day that I get to face him and speak my truth."

Daniels unsuccessfully sued the former president for defamation in 2018 after Trump suggested her allegations about being threatened to keep quiet about her encounter with Trump was a "total con job." A federal judge dismissed the lawsuit, determined that Trump's statement fell within the "'rhetorical hyperbole' normally associated with politics and public discourse," and ordered Daniels to pay Trump's legal fees.

Rhona Graff
Graff worked as Donald Trump's longtime executive assistant at the Trump Organization, serving as the gatekeeper to the former president after she joined the company in 1987.

Trump described Graff as his "very loyal secretary" in the 1997 book "The Art of the Comeback."

Serving as a senior vice president at the Trump Organization, Graff did not join the 
White House but remained a point of contact for anyone seeking Trump's attention.

Graff was subpoenaed to answer questions by the New York Attorney General about the Trump Organization's finances, including the company's document retention policy and Trump's oversight of his financial statements.


Hope Hicks
Hope Hicks served as Trump's 2016 campaign press secretary, coordinating with Trump in the weeks ahead of the election as his aides and advisors attempted to silence long-denied allegations of his affair with Daniels, according to court records from a federal investigation.

Hicks held multiple senior level roles in the Trump White House. She no longer works for Trump.

Madeleine Westerhout
Westerhout served as Trump's executive assistant for the first two-and-a-half years of his presidency, describing herself as Trump's "primary gatekeeper."

Westerhout also served as the director of Oval Office operations for eight months but left her role in August 2019 after she shared details of her work -- including reportedly making comments about Tiffany Trump -- at an off-the-record event with reporters.

"While Madeleine Westerhout has a fully enforceable confidentiality agreement, she is a very good person and I don't think there would ever be reason to use it. She called me yesterday to apologize, had a bad night. I fully understood and forgave her! I love Tiffany, doing great!" Trump wrote on X (then Twitter) on August 31, 2019.


Jeffrey McConney
The Trump Organization's longtime controller, McConney received the fraudulent invoices from Cohen and began processing them, according to prosecutors.

McConney prominently testified as witness for both the state and defense at Trump's civil fraud trial last year, where he broke down to tears on the witness stand when questioned about his departure from the Trump Organization.

"To be hit over the head every time with a negative comment over something is just really frustrating, and I gave up," McConney testified.


Karen McDougal
McDougal is a former Playboy model who alleged that she had a 10-month affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007. Trump denied having a sexual relationship with McDougal.

Executives at the National Enquirer contacted McDougal in June 2016 with an offer to tell her story, with the intention to kill it, according to prosecutors. American Media Inc. eventually paid McDougal $150,000 for her story with the understanding that the Trump Organization would reimburse AMI for the payment, according to prosecutors.


David Pecker
David Pecker served as the longtime chief executive of American Media Inc., which published the National Enquirer.

Shortly after Trump announced his presidential campaign, Pecker met with Trump and agreed to act as the "eyes and ears" of the campaign by looking out for and killing negative stories about Trump, according to the Manhattan DA.

Pecker allegedly directed a 2015 deal to pay $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman -- regarding the false allegation that Trump allegedly fathered a child out of wedlock -- to take place because of his prior agreement with Cohen and Trump. Cohen allegedly insisted that the deal stay in place even after AMI discovered it was false. AMI paid the doorman, according to the Manhattan DA.


Dylan Howard
Dylan Howard worked as the editor-in-chief of the National Enquirer between 2014 and 2020.

Howard allegedly communicated with Cohen to buy McDougal's story and to coordinate Daniel's hush-money payment, according to prosecutors.

Trump and Cohen agreed to reimburse AMI for the payment and AMI signed an agreement in September 2016 to transfer then rights to the story to the Trump Organization for $125,000, but the deal fell through before the reimbursement took place, according to prosecutors.

Deborah Tarasoff
Tarasoff worked in the Trump Organization's accounting department and allegedly helped arrange for Cohen to be reimbursed for Daniel's hush money payment.


Keith Davidson
Davidson is an attorney who negotiated the payments for Daniels and McDougal. He is the "Lawyer B" mentioned in the indictment.

In a 2019 interview with ABC News, Davidson described how the release of the Access Hollywood tape served as the "catalyst" for the hush money payment to Daniels.

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Sen. Bob Menendez may blame wife in federal corruption trial, court filing shows

Sen. Bob Menendez, Democrat of New Jersey, with his wife Nadine Arslanian, leaves US District Court, Southern District of New York, in New York City on Sept. 27, 2023, after their arraignment. (Timothy A. Clary/AFP via Getty Images)

(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Bob Menendez may blame his wife when he stands trial next month on political corruption charges, according to a court document unsealed Tuesday after news organizations, including ABC News, fought to make it public.

The potential line of defense was filed secretly earlier this year, before the judge agreed Menendez and his wife would be tried separately due to Nadine Menendez’s undisclosed medical condition. The senator’s trial is scheduled to begin May 6 in Manhattan federal court.

Defense attorneys said Menendez could take the stand in his own defense and implicate his wife by suggesting she kept information from him and he was unaware of her allegedly illegal activities.

"While these explanations, and the marital communications on which they rely, will tend to exonerate Senator Menendez by demonstrating the absence of any improper intent on Senator Menendez's part, they may inculpate Nadine by demonstrating the ways in which she withheld information from Senator Menendez or otherwise led him to believe that nothing unlawful was taking place," the filing said.

Menendez is accused of accepting, cash, gold bars and other perks from New Jersey businessmen in exchange for official favors to benefit the businessmen and the governments of Egypt and Qatar. He has pleaded not guilty.

The senator announced last month that he will not be running for a fourth term as a Democrat in the fall.

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Four big takeaways from Day 2 of Trump’s hush money trial

Former US President Donald Trump attends the second day of his trial for allegedly covering up hush money payments linked to extramarital affairs, at Manhattan Criminal Court in New York City on April 16, 2024. (MARK PETERSON/POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Dozens of prospective jurors poured back into a Manhattan, New York criminal court Tuesday morning for the second day of former President Donald Trump's hush money trial.

Seven jurors have been selected so far to decide the legal fate of the first U.S. president ever to face criminal trial. Prosecutors allege that Trump falsified business records related to a hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election. Trump pleaded not guilty last year and has denied all wrongdoing.

Although the parties estimated that jury selection could take as long as two weeks, on Tuesday, Judge Juan Merchan suggested opening statements could begin this coming Monday.

Here are four of the biggest takeaways from Day 2 of the historic trial:

First batch of jurors selected

By the end of the day on Tuesday, seven jurors -- including an oncology nurse, an attorney, a teacher and an IT consultant -- were selected.

Although defense attorneys previously argued against holding the trial in New York City, many of the jurors impaneled so far have appeared mainly to have neutral or even somewhat positive feelings about Trump.

At least two of the final jurors expressed positive feelings about the former president.

"He walks into a room, and he sets people off one way or another," the juror said. "I find that really interesting. Really, this one guy can do all of this. Wow, that's what I think."

A woman who works as a teacher, who said she "doesn't really care for the news," praised Trump for his outspokenness.

"President Trump speaks his mind," she said. "And I'd rather that than someone who's in office who you don't know what they're thinking."

Trump says alleged hush money payment was a ‘legal expense'

In remarks to reporters Tuesday morning, Trump defended himself, pushing back against prosecutors' allegations that payments made to Michael Cohen were improperly labeled as legal expenses.

"I was paying a lawyer, and I marked it down as a legal expense, some accountant," Trump said. "I didn't know. That's exactly what it was. And you get indicted over that?"

Prospective juror speaks out

Kara McGee -- a prospective juror who was excused from the Trump case -- told ABC News that she didn’t approve of Trump’s presidency but emphasized the importance of a fair trial.

"I don’t like him, I don’t approve of what he did as president," said McGee said. "But the right to a fair trial is extremely important. And if this would serve to uphold that, then that would be my priority.”

McGee was excused from the case because of scheduling conflicts with her job.

"No matter what you think about someone as a person, or what other things they may have done, what he is on trial for is a very specific thing that even he deserves the right to a fair trial," she continued.

Jurors interrogated over anti-Trump social media posts

Proceedings grew contentious Tuesday afternoon after defense attorney Todd Blanche sought to strike prospective jurors based on social media posts that he said contradicted their assertions of fairness.

One woman had posted a video on Facebook of people having a "dance party" on a Manhattan street a day after the 2020 election, which Blanche called "extraordinarily hostile." Merchan seemed baffled and denied the motion to remove her, saying he found her a credible juror.

But another potential juror was dismissed due to a social media post celebrating the end of Trump's travel ban, which stated, "Get him out and lock him up." Merchan agreed to strike the juror, saying the post showed "a desire that Trump be locked up."

Another man was removed because he recently shared an AI video that mocked Trump, which included a fake Trump saying, "I'm dumb as f----."

"I thought it would be funny," the prospective juror said.

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Historic impeachment articles against Alejandro Mayorkas sent to Senate, but will there be a full trial?

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(WASHINGTON) -- Articles of impeachment against Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, over his handling of the border, were officially transmitted to the Senate on Tuesday.

The House impeachment managers, selected by Republican leadership, walked the two articles through the Capitol led by the House clerk and sergeant-at-arms. The charges against Mayorkas will be read aloud from the Senate dais.

The procession kickstarts trial proceedings in the Senate, where lawmakers will be sworn in as jurors on Wednesday.

House Republicans voted to impeach Mayorkas in mid-February over what they said was his failure to enforce border laws amid a surge in migrants arriving at the U.S.-Mexico border. The controversial vote, which had previously failed, was opposed by three Republicans and all Democrats.

The charges accuse Mayorkas of "willful and systemic refusal to comply with the law" and "breach of public trust" -- allegations he's called "baseless."

A department official, defending Mayorkas, said Congress should have impeached every Homeland Security secretary since the department’s inception if detaining all migrants is a requirement of the job -- and no administration has detained 100% of people suspected of crossing the border illegally.

The House impeachment managers include Homeland Security Committee Chairman Mark Green, Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Michael McCaul and Reps. Andy Biggs, Ben Cline, Andrew Garbarino, Michael Guest, Harriet Hageman, Clay Higgins, Laurel Lee, August Pfluger and Marjorie Taylor Greene.

Top Republicans have demanded a complete Senate trial, but it's possible Senate Democrats will move quickly to dismiss the charges or send the matter to be heard by a committee.

"It would be beneath the Senate's dignity to shrug off our clear responsibility and fail to give the charges we'll hear today the thorough consideration they deserve," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said. "I'll strenuously oppose the effort to table the articles of impeachment and avoid looking at the Biden administration border crisis squarely in the face."

Still, chances of a full-scale Senate trial are slim, though exactly how the impeachment proceedings will play out is still unclear.

The Senate has the option to either dismiss the trial outright or to require a committee to hear it instead. Senate Democrats are largely expected to move to dismiss -- or table -- a trial.

Mayorkas was on Capitol Hill earlier Tuesday to push lawmakers for more funding for the department as he testified about President Joe Biden's 2025 fiscal year

“The dedicated public servants of DHS deserve full support, and the American people deserve the results a fully resourced DHS can deliver," Mayorkas told lawmakers.

Mayorkas is only the second Cabinet secretary to be impeached in U.S. history after William Belknap, a former secretary of war, in 1876.

ABC News' Mariam Khan, Allison Pecorin and Quinn Owen contributed to this report.

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Garland defends Biden's fitness after special counsel Hur criticized his memory: 'Complete confidence'

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(WASHINGTON) -- Attorney General Merrick Garland told lawmakers on Tuesday he has "complete confidence" in President Joe Biden's mental fitness for office, despite findings by special counsel Robert Hur whose report issued in February included embarrassing and disputed characterizations about the president's memory and age.

"If you're asking me about my own observations as a member of the National Security Council and a member of the president's Cabinet, I have complete confidence in the president," Garland said during a House Appropriations hearing.

"I have watched him expertly guide meetings of staff and Cabinet members on issues of foreign affairs and military strategy and policy in the incredibly complex world in which we now face and in which he has been decisive -- decisive in instructions to the staff and the subject in making the decisions necessary to protect the country," Garland added.

The attorney general had faced criticism from some Democrats for not pushing back before against Hur's descriptions of Biden's memory in a report that scrutinized the president's handling of classified records while he was out of office.

"We conclude that no criminal charges are warranted in this matter" as the "evidence does not establish Mr. Biden's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt," Hur's report stated.

Nonetheless, throughout that report, Hur painted a dim picture of the president -- one that his political opponents immediately seized on -- as sometimes struggling with memory issues and not able to remember when he finished his term as vice president or when his son Beau died.

Biden, his aides and attorneys forcefully rejected that assessment.

"How in the hell dare he raise that?" the president told reporters in a defiant press conference after the report's release, continuing: "I don't need anyone to remind me when he [Beau] passed away or that he passed away."

Under questioning from lawmakers in March, Hur defended how he described Biden's memory, insisting that "my assessment in the report about the relevance of the president's memory was necessary and accurate and fair. I did not sanitize my explanation."

Garland told reporters last month that the suggestion that he could censor or dilute Hur's report was "absurd," reasoning it would most certainly cause greater controversy than simply releasing Hur's report as he had promised previously.

He declined at the time to comment directly on whether he personally believed Hur's detailed descriptions of Biden's mental acuity were appropriate to include.

His response on Tuesday was his most extensive personal defense of Biden since the report's release, even as he told lawmakers he wasn't seeking to comment on the report directly.

"With respect to domestic policy discussions, these are intricate, complicated questions that he has guided all of us through in order to reach results that are helpful and important and beneficial to the American people," Garland said. "I could not have more confidence in the president."

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'I am not resigning': Johnson at risk as he forges ahead on Ukraine, Israel aid

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(WASHINGTON) -- House Speaker Mike Johnson is forging ahead with a plan to try to pass aid to Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan that's been tied up in a political fight in Washington for months -- but will the move cost him his job?

Johnson laid out a proposal to split the $95 billion foreign aid package passed by the Senate into three separate bills, one for each country, and a fourth bill loaded with conservative priorities.

Johnson spoke with President Joe Biden on Monday before unveiling his plan to his conference, two sources told ABC News. A White House official said it was waiting to see the plan "in detail" before discussing with Democrats how to proceed.

But Johnson's approach is already causing more rancor with the right flank of his party, as a second member said Tuesday he would join Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene's motion to remove him from the speaker post.

Rep. Thomas Massie, R-Ky., said he told Johnson in a closed-door conference meeting he would cosponsor Greene's motion, which she introduced last month. Massie said he suggested Johnson "pre-announce" his resignation so Republicans can get to work on finding a new speaker and avoid any lapse in leadership.

ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott asked Johnson for his response to Republicans who say that if he doesn't step aside, they may oust him over this issue.

"I am not resigning," Johnson answered. "And it is, in my view, an absurd notion that someone would bring a vacate motion when we are simply here trying to do our jobs."

Johnson continued, "It is not helpful to the cause. It is not helpful to the country. It does not help the House Republicans to advance our agenda."

"I asked him to resign," Massie told ABC News as he left the GOP meeting earlier Tuesday. "He said he would not, and I said you're the one who is going to put us into this. The motion is going to get called, does anybody doubt that? The motion will get called, and he's going to lose more votes than Kevin McCarthy. And I have told him this in private, like weeks ago."

Republicans have a razor-thin majority in the House, which means Johnson can only afford two defections.

However, some Democrats have privately signaled they'd bail out Johnson rather than freeze the House in another month of potential speaker elections.

"We don't like the chaos and dysfunction," House Democratic Caucus chair Pete Aguilar said Tuesday when asked about the motion to vacate during a Democratic news conference.

Aguilar added, "Look, we want this place to work. We want to see aid to Israel, Ukraine, humanitarian assistance and [Indo-Pacific] priorities. That's what we're focused on right now. We can't control the theatrics of Marjorie Taylor Greene and the House Republican conference but we stand willing to stand with anyone who wants to deliver on that help and support."

And some Republicans are fuming over Massie's latest threat to oust Johnson.

"I hate to even dignify it. It's wrong. We voted for the speaker, and we stick with our speaker," Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., told ABC News. "He's trying his very best. He's a good man, he's been dealt a tough hand, and he's playing it the best he can. And we should stand by him."

Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., said he does not support Massie's effort, as the "last thing this country needs is to throw a speaker out even though I disagree with what he has done. [Johnson] is an honest man."

"I am not concerned about this," Johnson said on Tuesday. "I am going to do my job and I think that's what the American people expected."

Legislative text for the bills has not yet been released, and Johnson said discussions would continue Tuesday.

"We're still working it out," he said. "We have lots of ideas on the table and we'll be doing that in earnest."

Johnson previously said funding levels would be similar to the Senate package, which provided roughly $60 billion for Ukraine, $14 billion in security assistance for Israel and nearly $5 billion for partners in the Indo-Pacific.

As for the fourth bill on Republican priorities, details are still being worked out, but it could include measures to ban TikTok and to seize Russian assets to help provide funding to Ukraine.

"We've laid out the plan on how to finally address the supplemental situation. There are precipitating events around the globe that we're all watching very carefully. And we know that the world is watching us to see how we react,” Johnson told reporters Monday, adding he thought this approach would let members vote their conscience on each issue.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Tuesday he was "reserving judgment" on Johnson's proposal for individual foreign aid bills until more information is released, but stressed the only way to proceed is in a bipartisan manner.

"Hopefully we will get details of the speaker's proposal later today," Schumer said in remarks on the Senate floor. "Again, time is of the essence. Israel was attacked for the first time in its history directly by Iran. The people of Ukraine are now in all-out desperation ... and anyone who thinks that the war in Ukraine will stay in Ukraine, remember the warning of Japanese Prime Minister [Fumio] Kishida: Ukraine today may be East Asia tomorrow."

ABC News' Lauren Peller, Mariam Khan, Benjamin Siegel and Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

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