Twitter Fate In Doubt As Employees Defy Musk Ultimatum

Elon Musk and a Twitter illustration

 

The future of Twitter seemed to hang in the balance Friday after its offices were locked down and key employees announced their departures in defiance of an ultimatum from new owner Elon Musk.

Fears grew that a fresh exodus would threaten the very existence of one of the world’s most influential internet platforms, which serves as a key communication tool for the world’s media, politicians, companies, activists and celebrities.

According to ex-employees and US media, hundreds of employees chose “no” to Musk’s demand that they either be “extremely hardcore” or leave the company.

“So my friends are gone, the vision is murky, there is a storm coming and no financial upside. What would you do?” tweeted Peter Clowes, who refused Musk’s final warning.

Musk, also the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX, has come under fire for radical changes at the California-based firm, which he bought less than a month ago for $44 billion.

He had already fired half of Twitter’s 7,500 staff, scrapped a work-from-home policy and imposed long hours, all while his attempts to overhaul the company faced backlash and delays.

His stumbling attempts to revamp user verification with a controversial subscription service led to a slew of fake accounts and pranks, and prompted major advertisers to step away from the platform.

On Friday, Musk appeared to be pressing on with his plans and reinstated previously banned accounts, including that of comedian Kathy Griffin, which had been taken down after she impersonated him on the site.

Musk did not immediately welcome back former US president Donald Trump, saying the “decision has not yet been made” on the return of the ex-leader.

Trump was banned for inciting last year’s attack on the Capitol by a mob seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 US election.

But hours later, Musk posted a poll to Twitter asking users to vote “yes” or “no” on whether to “Reinstate former President Trump,” though there was no clear indication that he would adhere to the results of the ad hoc survey.

Musk has done similar polls in the past, asking followers last year if he should sell stock in his electric car company Tesla.

– ‘Not super worried’ –

Fevered talk of the site’s imminent demise was driving record-high engagement on Twitter, according to Musk.

In a tweet, the South African-born billionaire said: “Record numbers of users are logging in to see if Twitter is dead, ironically making it more alive than ever!”

Musk added that the “best people are staying, so I’m not super worried.”

Despite Musk’s assurances, entry to Twitter’s offices was temporarily closed until Monday, even with a badge, according to an internal message seen on US media.

In leaked emails reported in The New York Times, Musk asked engineers critical to the site’s functioning to make their way to Twitter’s headquarters in San Francisco on Friday to meet him in person.

Twitter did not respond to AFP requests for comment on the new measure.

In the ultimatum sent Wednesday, Musk had asked staff to follow a link to affirm their commitment to “the new Twitter” by 5:00 pm New York time (2200 GMT) on Thursday.

If they did not do so, they would have lost their jobs, receiving three months of severance pay.

Signs that government regulators were becoming impatient with Musk’s handling of Twitter also grew on Friday, especially over the platform’s ability to moderate content with a severely reduced headcount.

A group of US senators on Thursday said Musk’s plans for the site “undermined the integrity and safety of the platform… despite clear warnings those changes would be abused for fraud, scams, and dangerous impersonation.”

A top regulator for the European Union, meanwhile, said that Musk should be increasing the number of moderators in Europe, not reducing them.

Musk “knows perfectly well what the conditions are for Twitter to continue operating in Europe,” EU commissioner Thierry Breton told French radio.

A spokesman for German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said his government was watching developments at Twitter “with growing concern” and reviewing its presence on the platform.

AFP

Republicans Take Control Of US House, Congress Split – Projections

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) holds her weekly news conference in the U.S. Capitol Visitors Center on April 29, 2022 in Washington, DC. Getty Images via AFP

 

Republicans on Wednesday took control of the US House of Representatives from Democrats, networks said, narrowly securing a legislative base to oppose President Joe Biden’s agenda for the final two years of his term –- and leaving power in Congress split.

The slim Republican majority in the lower house of the US legislature will be far smaller than the party had been banking on, and Republicans also failed to take control of the Senate in a historically weak performance in the November 8 midterm elections.

NBC and CNN projected the victory for Republicans with at least 218 seats in the 435-member House of Representatives — the magic number needed to take control. This came a week after millions of Americans went to the polls for the midterms, which typically deliver a rejection of the party in the White House.

Biden congratulated top House Republican Kevin McCarthy “on Republicans winning the House majority” and added that he was “ready to work with House Republicans to deliver results for working families.”

Last week’s vote, he said, was “a strong rejection of election deniers, political violence and intimidation” and demonstrated “the strength and resilience of American democracy.”

Tweeting soon after the projection was called, McCarthy said that “Americans are ready for a new direction, and House Republicans are ready to deliver.”

The news came one day after former president Donald Trump — who loomed large during the election cycle, and whose endorsement appears to have doomed some of his party’s candidates — announced a new run for the White House.

With inflation surging and Biden’s popularity ratings cratering, Republicans had hoped to see a “red wave” wash over America, giving them control of both houses and hence an effective block over most of Biden’s legislative plans.

But instead, Democratic voters — galvanized by the Supreme Court’s overturning of abortion rights and wary of Trump-endorsed candidates who openly rejected the result of the 2020 presidential election — turned out in force.

And Republicans lost ground with candidates rejected by moderate voters as too extreme.

“In the next Congress, House Democrats will continue to play a leading role in supporting President Biden’s agenda — – with strong leverage over a scant Republican majority,” House speaker Nancy Pelosi said.

– ‘Officially flipped’ –

Biden’s party flipped a key Senate seat in Pennsylvania and held onto two more in battleground states Arizona and Nevada, giving them an unassailable majority in the upper chamber with 50 seats plus Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote.

A Senate runoff election in Georgia set for next month could see the Democrats ultimately improve their majority in the upper house.

The Senate oversees the confirmation of federal judges and cabinet members, and having the 100-seat body in his corner will be a major boon for Biden.

Meanwhile on Tuesday McCarthy won his party’s leadership vote by secret ballot, putting him in prime position to be the next speaker, replacing Democrat Nancy Pelosi.

The 57-year-old congressman from California, a senior member of House Republican leadership since 2014, fended off a challenge from Andy Biggs, a member of the influential far-right Freedom Caucus.

But potential far-right defections could yet complicate his path when the full chamber votes in January.

McCarthy now begins what is expected to be a grueling campaign to win the consequential floor vote on January 3, when the House of Representatives’ 435 newly elected members — Democrats and Republicans — choose their speaker, the third most important US political position after president and vice president.

McCarthy has raised eyebrows by saying that his party might not grant a “blank check” for continued multi-billion dollar US funding for Ukraine’s fight against the Russian invasion.

AFP

US Judge Throws Out Policy Used To Block Migrant Entry

An image of the U.S. flag.
An image of the U.S. flag.

 

A US federal judge ruled Tuesday that the government could not use public health rules to block the entry of asylum-seeking migrants, marking the apparent end of a controversial Donald Trump-era policy that has been criticized as cruel and ineffective.

Judge Emmet Sullivan said Title 42, which has been used to expel hundreds of thousands of people since being invoked in the early days of the Covid-19 pandemic, was an “arbitrary and capricious” policy that violated government procedures.

The Department of Homeland Security filed a stay motion asking that Tuesday’s decision be suspended for five weeks, but stressed it was doing so as a transitional measure.

“The delay in implementation of the court’s order will allow the government to prepare for an orderly transition to new policies at the border,” a statement said.

“But to be clear, under the unopposed motion, Title 42 would remain in place for some period. During the period of this freeze, we will prepare for an orderly transition to new policies at the border.”

The stay, until midnight on December 21, would give the government time to put in place tools to stem the flow of migrants at the southern border with Mexico, most of whom ask for asylum.

The ballooning numbers at the border — more than 200,000 have been interdicted each month this year — is an increasing political headache for President Joe Biden and his Democratic Party, who the Republicans have repeatedly sought to paint as soft on illegal immigration.

Before the ruling, newly re-elected Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican immigration hardliner, took to Twitter to say that he was deploying the national guard and gunboats to turn back migrants.

“I invoked the Invasion Clauses of the US & Texas Constitutions to fully authorize Texas to take unprecedented measures to defend our state against an invasion,” he tweeted.

READ ALSO: Trump Declares 2024 Presidential Bid, Says Biden Won’t Get Another Term

Those clauses, he said, would allow him to “build a border wall” and “designate Mexican drug cartels as foreign terrorist organizations.”

– ‘Huge victory’ –
Tuesday’s ruling came after a lawsuit brought in January by the American Civil Liberties Union, which accused the Department of Homeland Security and Border Patrol of “summary expulsion” of vulnerable families seeking asylum who showed no signs of Covid infection.

“This is a huge victory and one that literally has life-and-death stakes,” said ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt, who led the lawsuit.

“We have said all along that using Title 42 against asylum seekers was inhumane and driven purely by politics. Hopefully this ruling will end this horrific policy once and for all,” he said in a statement.

The ruling came six months after a Louisiana judge ruled in a separate suit that Biden’s administration, which inherited the Title 42 policy from Donald Trump, could not drop it.

The judge in that case said ending the use of Title 42 rule would violate official government procedures.

While Biden’s team had wanted to end the use of Title 42, it has at the same time continued to rely heavily on the policy.

Border agents logged a record 2.3 million migrant encounters along the land border with Mexico in the year to September 22.

Critics branded Title 42 “inhumane,” and said it was an ad-hoc immigration plan dressed up as a health policy, but fit for neither purpose.

The measure, originally placed on the books in the 19th century in an effort to control contagious diseases, allows for the immediate removal of any foreigner or non-resident trying to enter the country without a visa.

There is no legal process, or any formal deportation to the country of origin, and a border agent can apply a Title 42 expulsion without the lengthy interview process usually required.

But, unlike a regular expulsion, which usually results in some kind of ban on attempting to re-enter the United States, a Title 42 expulsion comes with no black mark.

Some have noted that this means anyone who is apprehended while illegally crossing can simply try again.

Aaron Reichlin-Melnick, director of policy for the American Immigration Council said Title 42 had been “a failed border management policy that caused chaos along the border, immeasurable harm to innocent people seeking our protection, and diminished our standing on the world stage.”

“Judge Sullivan’s decision is… a long overdue step toward rebuilding a humanitarian protection system at the border that is safe, humane, and orderly.”

AFP

Trump Declares 2024 Presidential Bid, Says Biden Won’t Get Second Term

This combination of file pictures created on October 22, 2020 shows US President Donald Trump (L) and former Democratic Presidential candidate and former US Vice President Joe Biden during the final presidential debate at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee, on October 22, 2020. JIM WATSON, Morry GASH / AFP
This combination of file pictures shows former US President Donald Trump (L) and US President Joe Biden. Credit: Morry GASH / AFP

 

A combative Donald Trump launched into the 2024 White House race on Tuesday, setting the stage for a bruising Republican nomination battle after a poor midterm election showing by his hand-picked candidates weakened his grip on the party.

“America’s comeback starts right now,” the 76-year-old former president told hundreds of supporters gathered in an ornate American flag-draped ballroom at his palatial Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida.

“In order to make America great and glorious again, I am tonight announcing my candidacy for president of the United States,” Trump said, minutes after filing the official paperwork for his third presidential run.

Trump’s unusually early entry into the race is being seen in Washington as an attempt to get the jump on other Republicans seeking to be party flag-bearer — and to stave off potential criminal charges.

In a fiery, hour-long speech, Trump lauded — and at times inflated — his accomplishments as America’s 45th president and fired off verbal salvos against Democrat Joe Biden, who defeated him in 2020.

“I will ensure that Joe Biden does not receive four more years,” Trump vowed, while the US leader greeted his announcement with a tweet saying: “Donald Trump failed America.”

Trump, who was impeached for seeking political dirt on Biden from Ukraine and again after the January 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by his supporters, launches his new bid with several potential handicaps.

He is the target of multiple investigations into his conduct before, during and after his first term as president — which could ultimately result in his disqualification.

These include allegations of fraud by his family business, his role in the attack on the Capitol, his attempt to overturn the 2020 election, and his stashing of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago.

Meanwhile Trump’s Republicans are licking their wounds after disappointing midterms, widely blamed on the underperformance of Trump-anointed candidates, and some are openly asking whether Trump — with his divisive politics and mess of legal woes — is the right person to carry the party colors next time around.

Several possible 2024 primary rivals are circling, chief among them the governor of Florida Ron DeSantis, who bucked the tide and won a resounding reelection victory on November 8.

– ‘Nation in decline’ –
The powerful media empire of Rupert Murdoch has already appeared to turn its back on Trump, labelling him a “loser” who shows “increasingly poor judgement.”

And Trump remains banned by Facebook and Twitter, which was instrumental in his stunning political rise.

In his announcement speech, Trump attacked Biden over inflation, crime and immigration, mocked climate change and congratulated himself for toppling the Islamic State, keeping North Korea in check and building a border wall with Mexico.

“Under our leadership, we were a great and glorious nation. But now we are a nation in decline,” he said. “This is not just a campaign this is a quest to save our country.

“In two years the Biden administration has destroyed the US economy,” he said. “With a victory we will again build the greatest economy ever.

“The blood-soaked streets of our once great cities are cesspools of violent crimes,” he said, vowing to “restore and secure America’s borders.”

The 79-year-old Biden has said his intention is to seek a second term — but he will make a final decision early next year.

Trump had made denial of the 2020 election results a key litmus test for midterm candidates seeking his endorsement — but a string of defeats by loyal allies sapped his momentum for a new White House bid.

Having failed to wrest control of the Senate, Republicans appeared poised to take over the House with a razor-thin majority.

But despite his lackluster election performance, the real estate tycoon retains an undeniable popularity with the millions of grassroots supporters who have flocked to his “Make America Great Again” banner.

And though abandoned by several top donors, he has a campaign war chest of well over $100 million.

– 2024 challengers –
For the moment, the hard-right DeSantis looks like the leading challenger to Trump in a Republican field that may include former vice president Mike Pence, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, Virginia Governor Glenn Youngkin, former secretary of state Mike Pompeo and ex-South Carolina governor Nikki Haley.

The 44-year-old DeSantis, dubbed “Ron DeSanctimonious” by Trump, had a ready reply Tuesday when asked about the former president’s attacks on him, urging “people to go check out the scoreboard from last Tuesday night.”

By throwing his hat in the ring, Trump is seeking to become just the second American president to serve non-consecutive terms — Grover Cleveland was elected in 1884, lost in 1888, and won again in 1892.

AFP

Trump’s Loyalist Kari Lake Loses Arizona Governor Race

(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 8, 2022 Republican gubernatorial candidate for Arizona Kari Lake speaks during an election night watch party in Scottsdale, Arizona. – Kari Lake, the Republican candidate for governor in the southwest US state of Arizona who had cast doubt on the 2020 election results, was projected by US media Monday to have lost. Lake’s defeat by Democrat Katie Hobbs, projected by CNN and NBC, adds to the list of candidates supported by former president Donald Trump who had made skepticism of his 2020 election loss to Joe Biden a major plank of their campaigns. (Photo by Olivier Touron / AFP)

 

Donald Trump loyalist and prominent election denier Kari Lake has lost her bid to be governor of Arizona, US networks projected Monday, rounding out a difficult week for the former president as he readies a new run for the White House.

Lake, a former TV anchor, had been seen as one of Trump’s most reliable picks heading into the midterm elections, but her defeat caps a run of results that have raised doubts about the former president’s place in the Republican Party.

The projections by major US TV networks come after a week of intense scrutiny of the vote count in Arizona, where Lake and her supporters have repeatedly cast doubt on the competence and integrity of officials.

“Democracy is worth the wait,” tweeted Lake’s opponent, Democrat Katie Hobbs.

“Thank you, Arizona. I am so honored and so proud to be your next Governor.”

But Lake, who has built her brand on skepticism of the mainstream media and the political establishment appeared to reject the projections.

“Arizonans know BS when they see it,” she tweeted, using a euphemism for nonsense.

– Election denial –
If confirmed by election officials, Hobbs’s victory would mark an end to a bitter election campaign which Lake joined in earnest when she quit local broadcast journalism last year.

The former anchor married her made-for-tv smile to the flame-throwing political style of Trumpism, delighting the Make America Great Again wing of her party.

She made denial of the 2020 presidential election win by Joe Biden a key tenet of her campaign, and said that she would not have validated his victory if she had been in the governor’s mansion at the time.

Her caustic attacks on journalists and election officials, including the Republicans heading key departments in hotly contested Maricopa County, earned her plaudits with the base.

But they also led to warnings that she was stoking trouble in a country still reeling from the January 2021 assault on the Capitol by Trump supporters.

Democratic National Convention chair Jaime Harrison on Monday tweeted his congratulations to Hobbs along with the phrase: “Sanity wins”

Trump, who is expected on Tuesday to announce his entry to the 2024 race for the White House, took to his Truth Social platform to denounce the call.

“Wow! They just took the election away from Kari Lake. It’s really bad out there!” he wrote, without explaining who “they” were.

– Scrutiny –
Lake had declared herself “100 percent confident” that she would prevail, but — in line with Trump’s playbook — had expended a lot of energy sowing doubt about the election system.

Supporters seized upon minor problems with vote tabulation machines in Maricopa County, the home of America’s fifth biggest city, Phoenix, which left some people standing in short lines last Tuesday.

Officials have forcefully insisted that no legitimate vote would be excluded, and mounted a well-organized social media campaign to push back at falsehoods circulating online as the count plodded methodically on.

Arizona has been under intense scrutiny for two years since Biden eked out a narrow win in the state.

Maricopa County became ground zero for election deniers, who made unfounded claims about ballot stuffing, despite repeated investigations that turned up no evidence of wrongdoing.

The slow-moving count in Arizona has been the subject of national — and international — fascination this week as it became increasingly clear that election deniers across the United States had fared badly.

Lake was thought of as a leading light in the movement, and Republican Party insiders — as well as media pundits — have noted that regardless of the result, she could be well placed for a spot on a future White House ticket.

AFP

Trump’s Ex-Spokesperson Sarah Sanders Elected Arkansas Governor

In this file photo taken on March 11, 2019, ex-White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders speaks during a press briefing at the White House in Washington, DC.  SAUL LOEB / AFP

 

Donald Trump’s former White House spokesperson Sarah Huckabee Sanders won Tuesday’s gubernatorial race in heavily Republican Arkansas, US media projected.

She had been favored to beat Democrat Chris Jones in the southern state that her father, who ran twice for the Republican presidential nomination, governed from 1996 to 2007.

Sanders, 40, ran a campaign that lambasted President Joe Biden, a moderate Democrat, as “radical,” and like Republicans across the country hammered Democrats on issues including inflation, border policies, and crime.

She said she was “ready to join the coalition of strong conservative governors defending our freedom and empowering our people.”

READ ALSOUS Livid As Basketball Star Griner Is Moved To Russia Penal Colony

As the top spokesperson at the Trump White House Sanders was routinely criticized for perpetuating untruths when answering journalists’ questions.

A mother of three children, Sanders frequently discussed her family and religious faith while working in the press room.

When she departed the post in 2019, Trump praised her as a “warrior,” and later said she would be “fantastic” as Arkansas governor.

AFP

Banned Twitter Accounts To Be Restored – Musk

Elon Musk and a Twitter illustration

 

New Twitter owner Elon Musk said Wednesday that it will be “a few more weeks” before any banned accounts — such as that of former US president Donald Trump — may be restored on the platform.

Twitter users have been watching closely to see whether Musk will reinstate Trump, banned for inciting last year’s attack on the Capitol by a mob seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election, and other deplatformed users.

The potential reinstatement of such accounts banned for violating the site’s content moderation rules has been seen as a bellwether of where Musk, a self-described “free speech absolutist,” wants to take the site he describes as a global town square.

But on Wednesday the South African billionaire said the wait will have to continue a little longer.

“Twitter will not allow anyone who was de-platformed for violating Twitter rules back on platform until we have a clear process for doing so, which will take at least a few more weeks,” he tweeted.

READ ALSO: Elon Musk Announces $8 Monthly Charge For Verified Twitter Accounts

That means after crucial November 8 midterm elections in the United States, which will determine control of Congress. Trump, once a prolific tweeter, retains a powerful hold on his Republican Party, and has reopened his 2020 playbook by questioning the integrity of the upcoming election.

Since Musk took Twitter private last week, Trump has suggested he would be happier sticking with his own Truth Social messaging platform.

But the former president’s network has financial issues and many political strategists believe he would find it hard to resist the mass audience and influence offered by a return to Twitter, where he was once one of the site’s biggest global draws.

The announcement comes only days after the world’s wealthiest man took sole control of the social media giant in a contentious $44 billion deal, vowing to dial back content moderation.

Musk was tweeting in response to a post from the company’s head of safety, Yoel Roth, on Twitter’s efforts to combat disinformation ahead of the elections.

“We’re staying vigilant against attempts to manipulate conversations about the 2022 US midterms,” Roth said.

Musk also said he had talked to civil society leaders “about how Twitter will continue to combat hate & harassment & enforce its election integrity policies.”

On Tuesday, Musk said the site will charge $8 per month to verify users’ accounts.

AFP

Trump Says Twitter ‘Now In Sane Hands’ After Musk Purchase

In this file photo taken on November 26, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after participating in a Thanksgiving teleconference with members of the United States Military, at the White House in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)
In this file photo taken on November 26, 2020 US President Donald Trump speaks to reporters after participating in a Thanksgiving teleconference with members of the United States Military, at the White House in Washington, DC. (Photo by Andrew CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

 

Former US president Donald Trump on Friday hailed the sale of Twitter to tech billionaire Elon Musk, but declined to commit to rejoining the platform.

Musk, the world’s richest man, saw his $44 billion bid to buy the company concluded late Thursday after months of uncertainty and speculation.

“I am very happy that Twitter is now in sane hands, and will no longer be run by Radical Left Lunatics and Maniacs that truly hate our country,” Trump said on his own Truth Social platform.

Musk has indicated he would lift Trump’s Twitter ban, imposed in the wake of the 2021 assault on the US Capitol that the Republican leader is accused of inciting.

But Trump did not say whether he intended to make a comeback from his Twitter exile and refused to comment on the issue in a subsequent interview with Fox News Digital.

Trump told the cable network he liked Musk and wished him luck, adding: “I don’t think Twitter can be successful without me.”

Most observers believe the 76-year-old real estate magnate will be unable to resist the allure of regaining the giant online megaphone on which he once boasted more than 80 million followers.

He has just over four million on Truth Social, which he founded in October last year.

A return to Twitter in the days ahead of the November 8 midterm elections could impact the race, giving him a broader audience for his posts disparaging candidates and baselessly claiming election fraud in outcomes he doesn’t like, as he did after his own defeat in 2020.

‘Commander in Tweets’

Musk has tried to assure Twitter staff that he isn’t intending to completely rebuild the company, although he did immediately fire four top executives and has talked about turning it into an authentic “digital town square where a wide range of beliefs can be debated.”

Trump, who was a more avid and unfiltered tweeter than any other world leader, frequently courted controversy, wielding the famous @realDonaldTrump account like a cudgel and using it to spread disinformation about the Covid-19 crisis and the 2020 US election.

At times, often when he was caught in the headlights of the latest scandal engulfing his presidency, he would post dozens of messages a day, earning him the moniker “Commander in Tweets.”

Some of the former president’s more incendiary posts were used as evidence in congressional hearings into the 2021 insurrection.

He tweeted 25 times on January 6, 2021, appearing to condone the riot in one particularly provocative post.

Twitter pulled the plug on the 12-year-old account in January 2021, citing concerns that Trump would use it for “further incitement of violence.”

Analysts on Trump watch are following closely what will become of the banned accounts of some of his closest allies, such as far right congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, whose personal account was suspended for spreading misinformation about the Covid-19 pandemic.

AFP

Trump Family Business Fraud Trial Opens

(FILES) In this file photo taken on August 18, 2019, US President Donald Trump (C) First Lady Melania Trump (R) and their son Barron Trump (L) return to the White House after two weeks spent at Trump’s golf club in New Jersey, in Washington, DC. – Barron Trump, 14, has tested negative for the coronavirus after both his parents tested positive, a spokeswoman said on October 2, 2020. (Photo by Alastair Pike / AFP)

 

 

The trial of Donald Trump’s family business on fraud and tax evasion charges began in New York on Monday, with the former US president immediately dismissing as it as a political stunt.

Manhattan prosecutors have charged the Trump Organization, currently run by Trump’s two adult sons, Donald Jr and Eric Trump, with hiding compensation it paid to top executives between 2005 and 2021.

Trump, who is not named in the case, slammed the charges as a “witch hunt” by rivals, weeks ahead of congressional elections on November 8.

“The highly partisan Democrat Witch Hunt goes on, this time in New York… right during the important Mid-Term Elections, of course,” he said on social media.

The company faces potential fines of over $1.5 million if found guilty.

US news outlets said Judge Juan Merchan had made media access to the courtroom difficult and had warned the 130 jury candidates that their selection could take a week, so as to filter out any supporters or open opponents of the divisive former Republican president.

The trial could last a month and a half, he said.

One of the implicated executives, longtime CFO Allen Weisselberg, has already pleaded guilty to 15 counts of tax fraud, and is expected to testify against his former company as part of a plea bargain.

A close friend of the Trump family, the 75-year-old Weisselberg admitted he schemed with the company to receive undeclared benefits such as a rent-free apartment in a posh Manhattan neighborhood, luxury cars for him and his wife and private school tuition for his grandchildren.

According to his plea deal, Weisselberg has agreed to pay nearly $2 million in fines and penalties and complete a five-month prison sentence in exchange for testimony during the trial, for which jury selection began Monday.

“This plea agreement directly implicates the Trump Organization in a wide range of criminal activity and requires Weisselberg to provide invaluable testimony in the upcoming trial against the corporation,” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg said in August.

Weisselberg has so far refused to give testimony directly implicating the former president in the scheme.

– Multiple legal cases –
Two subsidiaries of the Trump family’s sprawling real estate, golf and hospitality business are targeted by the suits.

While Donald Trump is not named in this case, he is facing charges along with three of his eldest children in a civil investigation led by New York’s attorney general, Leticia James.

James, a Democrat, has accused the family of purposefully inflating and deflating the value of their properties to avoid tax liabilities and to get more favorable loan and insurance deals.

Her office is seeking $250 million in fines against the former president, and that his family be barred from conducting business in the state.

The suit also calls for three of Trump’s children — Donald Jr, Eric and Ivanka — to be barred from purchasing real estate in New York for five years.

The 76-year-old Trump, who has heavily hinted at but not yet announced a 2024 White House run, is also facing legal action on several other fronts.

He is at the center of a Justice Department investigation into the handling of highly classified documents, which the FBI seized from his Florida home in a raid, as well as multiple state and federal probes into his involvement in the January 6, 2021, attack on the US Capitol.

The congressional committee investigating the Capitol riot has issued a subpoena requiring him to submit documents by November 4 and give sworn testimony by mid-November.

Without confirming that Trump had received the subpoena, his lawyer David Warrington has said his team would “review and analyze” the document and “respond as appropriate to this unprecedented action.”

Trump’s compliance would mean testifying under oath.

If he refuses, the House of Representatives can hold him in criminal contempt in a vote recommending him for prosecution.

Trump Ordered To Testify In Capitol Assault Probe

File photo of former US President Donald Trump (Photo by Brendan Smialowski / AFP)

 

Lawmakers probing the 2021 attack on the US Capitol subpoenaed former President Donald Trump Friday to testify on his involvement in the violence, in a major escalation of their sprawling inquiry.

The summons came after the House panel of seven Democrats and two Republicans voted unanimously last week to compel Trump’s appearance before investigators.

It requires the 76-year-old Republican to produce documents by November 4 and to appear for a deposition beginning on or around November 14 — the Monday after the crucial November 8 midterm elections.

“As demonstrated in our hearings, we have assembled overwhelming evidence, including from dozens of your former appointees and staff, that you personally orchestrated and oversaw a multi-part effort to overturn the 2020 presidential election and to obstruct the peaceful transition of power,” the committee told Trump in a letter.

Trump, who urged his supporters to “fight like hell” in a fiery speech near the White House on January 6, 2021, was impeached for inciting the mob to storm Congress later that day to halt the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden.

The letter accuses Trump of bidding to overturn the election despite knowing claims of fraud had been overwhelmingly rejected by more than 60 courts and refuted by his campaign staff and senior advisers.

“In short, you were at the center of the first and only effort by any US president to overturn an election and obstruct the peaceful transition of power, ultimately culminating in a bloody attack on our own Capitol and on the Congress itself,” it added.

Without confirming Trump had received the subpoena, his lawyer David Warrington said his team would “review and analyze” the document and “respond as appropriate to this unprecedented action.”

Biden weighed in on the matter later Friday during an interview with MSNBC, saying it “would make sense” for Trump to comply with the subpoena.

– Aggressive escalation –

Subpoenas from the panel have proved difficult to enforce, with former White House aide Steve Bannon the only target convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply.

Bannon was sentenced to four months in prison on Friday, although he remains out on bail pending an appeal.

Trump is notorious for his ability to run down the clock on congressional investigations and legal action, and it remains highly unlikely that he would agree to give evidence.

The subpoena expires in any case with the new congressional term in January. Republicans are expected to win back the House of Representatives in November’s elections, and plan to immediately end the investigation.

But the move marks an aggressive escalation of the probe, which has issued more than 100 subpoenas and interviewed more than 1,000 people since its launch in 2021.

While no sitting president has ever been forced to testify before Congress, lawmakers have summoned several former presidents to discuss their conduct in office.

Trump’s compliance would mean testifying under oath and could result in being charged with perjury were he to lie.

If he refuses to comply, the full House can hold him in criminal contempt in a vote recommending him for prosecution, as it did with Bannon.

– ‘Clear and present’ danger –

The panel unveiled reams of evidence across eight summer hearings on the former president’s involvement in a complex series of connected schemes to overturn the 2020 election.

Witness testimony provided stunning examples of Trump and his allies pressuring election officials and trying to get lawfully cast votes nullified in swing states, and of Trump’s inertia amid the mob uprising.

The committee also pressed its position that Trump — who continues to be a wellspring of disinformation about the 2020 presidential election — remains a “clear and present” threat to democracy.

Lawmakers plan to release a final report by the end of the year.

The committee has not announced whether it will make direct criminal referrals over the Capitol attack, although the move would amount to little more than a gesture as the Justice Department is already investigating.

The list of records that Trump is required to produce includes all of his communications on the day of the insurrection, as well as various categories of messages in the weeks leading up to the riot.

Investigators specifically mention Signal, suggesting the committee has determined that Trump used the encrypted communications app while participating in the plot.

The software allows users to have messages delete automatically within any time period selected.

The requested documents include any Signal communications between Trump and far-right militias such as the Oath Keepers and Proud Boys.

AFP

Kanye West Agrees To Buy Social Network Parler

FILES) In this file photo taken on November 6, 2019 US rapper Kanye West attends the WSJ Magazine 2019 Innovator Awards at MOMA in New York City. Rapper Kanye West, a former child actor, a libertarian and a prohibitionist by the name of Phil Collins. Voters who are not sold on Donald Trump or Joe Biden have an array of other candidates to choose from in next week’s US election – some more serious than others.
Angela Weiss / AFP

 

Social network Parler said Monday that Kanye West announced his intention to buy the platform, which has gained popularity among US conservatives close to former President Donald Trump.

“In a world where conservative opinions are considered to be controversial we have to make sure we have the right to freely express ourselves,” the rapper, who has legally changed his name to Ye, said in Parler’s statement.

US Capitol Riot Probe Votes To Subpoena Trump To Testify

A video is shown of former US President Donald Trump at the US House Select Committee hearing to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 13, 2022. (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP)
A video is shown of former US President Donald Trump at the US House Select Committee hearing to Investigate the January 6 Attack on the US Capitol, on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, on October 13, 2022. (Photo by JONATHAN ERNST / POOL / AFP)

 

Lawmakers probing the 2021 attack on the US Capitol voted Thursday to subpoena former president Donald Trump to testify on his involvement in the violence, in a major escalation of its sprawling inquiry weeks before it is due to wind up.

In what was expected to be its final hearing before the midterm elections, the House panel of seven Democrats and two Republicans agreed unanimously to compel Trump’s appearance before investigators.

“We need to be fair and thorough and gain a full context for the evidence we’ve obtained. But the need for this committee to hear from Donald Trump goes beyond our fact-finding,” said Bennie Thompson, the chairman of the committee.

“This is a question about accountability to the American people. He must be accountable. He is required to answer for his actions.”

Subpoenas from the panel have proved difficult to enforce, with former White House aide Steve Bannon the only target convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to comply.

Trump is notorious for his ability to run down the clock on congressional investigations and legal action, and it remains highly unlikely that he would agree to give evidence.

Any subpoena would expire in any case with the new congressional term in January. The House of Representatives is expected to be flipped in November elections to the Republicans, who plan immediately to end the investigation.

But the move marks an aggressive escalation of the probe, which has issued more than 100 subpoenas and interviewed more than 1,000 people since its inception in 2021.

While no sitting president has ever been forced to testify before Congress, lawmakers have summoned former presidents to discuss their conduct in office.

‘Clear and present’ threat

There was no immediate response from Trump. But if he refuses to comply, the full House can hold him in criminal contempt in a vote recommending him for prosecution.

The vote came as a spectacular coda to an already stunning hearing in which the committee offered fresh evidence that Trump had planned to declare victory in the 2020 election — regardless of the outcome.

Trump had a “premeditated plan” formulated months before the vote to claim he had won on election night, whatever the vote tally showed, panel member Zoe Lofgren told the hearing, citing evidence gathered by the committee.

Across eight hearings in the summer the panel unveiled reams of evidence on the former president’s involvement in a labyrinthine series of connected schemes to overturn the election.

“The vast weight of evidence presented so far has shown us that the central cause of January 6 was one man — Donald Trump — whom many others followed,” said committee deputy chair Liz Cheney.

The committee also pressed its position that Trump — who continues to be a wellspring of disinformation about the 2020 presidential election — remains a “clear and present” threat to democracy.

Blockbuster witness testimony in June and July provided stunning examples of Trump and his allies pressuring election officials and trying to get lawfully-cast votes nullified in swing states, and of Trump’s inertia amid the mob uprising.

Lawmakers plan to release a final report by the end of the year, although preliminary findings could be announced before November’s midterm elections.

The committee has not announced formally whether it will make direct criminal referrals over January 6, although several members see the issue as moot, since the Justice Department is already investigating.

‘Right to the violence’

Thursday’s hearing featured new video footage from a Danish film crew shot for a documentary about longtime Trump ally Roger Stone.

In one clip from the day before the 2020 election played to the packed hearing room, the notorious self-styled “dirty trickster” was seen telling the filmmakers he has no interest in waiting to contest the vote tally.

“Let’s get right to the violence,” says the 70-year-old Republican operative, who has not been charged in connection with the riot.

The panel said Stone had “maintained extensive direct connections to two groups responsible for violently attacking the Capitol, the Oath Keepers and the Proud Boys.”

Leaders of both groups have been charged with seditious conspiracy over the insurrection.

The panel also unveiled evidence developed from nearly one million pages of documents surrendered by the Secret Service, as lawmakers seek to understand why certain agents’ text messages from the eve of the insurrection and the day itself went missing.

Secret Service emails obtained by investigators confirm testimony from previous hearings that Trump wanted to join the mob at the Capitol — a move that would have escalated a riot into an attack by one branch of the government on another, potentially upending the republic.

Trump, who urged his supporters in a fiery speech near the White House to “fight like hell,” was impeached for inciting the mob to storm Congress to halt the peaceful transfer of power to Joe Biden.

AFP