Former US President Donald Trump announced Wednesday he is filing a class-action lawsuit against Facebook, Twitter and Google, escalating his years-long free speech battle with tech giants who he argues have wrongfully censored him.
“I’m filing, as the lead class representative, a major class-action lawsuit against the big tech giants including Facebook, Google and Twitter as well as their CEOs, Mark Zuckerberg, Sundar Pichai and Jack Dorsey — three real nice guys,” Trump told reporters at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey.
The nation’s top tech firms have become the “enforcers of illegal, unconstitutional censorship,” added the 75-year-old Republican, who was banned from posting on Facebook and Twitter in the wake of the deadly January 6 siege of the US Capitol by his supporters.
Trump says he is being joined in the suit by the America First Policy Institute and thousands of American citizens who have been “de-platformed” from social media sites.
“Through this lawsuit we are standing up for American democracy by standing up for free speech rights of every American — Democrat, Republican, independent, whoever it may be,” Trump said. “This lawsuit is just the beginning.”
Trump said he is filing the suit in US District Court in southern Florida, where he is seeking an immediate halt to censorship, blacklisting and what he called the “cancelling” of people who share his political views.
Trump stressed that he is not looking for any sort of a settlement. “We’re in a fight that we’re going to win,” he said.
Facebook banned Trump indefinitely on January 7 over his incendiary comments that preceded the Capitol insurrection by his supporters one day earlier.
Twitter quickly followed suit and permanently suspended Trump’s account due to the “risk of further incitement of violence.”
In June, following a review by Facebook’s independent oversight board, Facebook narrowed the ban to two years.
Trump said YouTube and its parent organization Google have deleted “countless videos” addressing the handling of the coronavirus pandemic, including those that questioned the judgement of the World Health Organization.
The Republican billionaire, his allies and many supporters say the ban on Trump and others amount to censorship and abuse of their power.
“There is no better evidence that big tech is out of control than the fact that they banned the sitting president of the United States,” Trump said.
Trump has begun a series of public engagements, including campaign-style rallies, as he seeks to maintain his status as the most influential Republican in the nation.
He has teased a potential 2024 presidential run but has made no announcement on his political future.
Facebook on Friday set its ban on former US president Donald Trump for two years, saying he deserved the maximum punishment for violating platform rules over a deadly attack by his supporters on the US Capitol.
The two-year ban will be effective from January 7, when Trump was booted off the platform, and comes after Facebook’s independent oversight board said the indefinite ban should be reviewed.
“Given the gravity of the circumstances that led to Mr. Trump’s suspension, we believe his actions constituted a severe violation of our rules which merit the highest penalty available under the new enforcement protocols,” Facebook vice president of global affairs Nick Clegg said in a post.
In updating its policies, Facebook also said it will no longer give politicians blanket immunity for deceptive or abusive content at the social network based on their comments being newsworthy.
At the end of Trump’s two-year ban, Facebook will enlist experts to assess whether his activity at the social network still threatens public safety, according to Clegg.
“If we determine that there is still a serious risk to public safety, we will extend the restriction for a set period of time and continue to re-evaluate until that risk has receded,” Clegg said.
When Trump’s suspension is lifted, he will face strict sanctions that could rapidly escalate to permanent removal from the social network for rule-breaking, according to Clegg.
“We know today’s decision will be criticized by many people on opposing sides of the political divide,” Clegg said.
“But, our job is to make a decision in as proportionate, fair and transparent a way as possible, in keeping with the instruction given to us by the Oversight Board.”
Last month, the independent oversight board said Facebook was right to oust Trump for his comments regarding the deadly January 6 rampage at the US Capitol but that the platform should not have applied an “indeterminate and standardless penalty of indefinite suspension.”
Trump denounces ‘insult’
Trump said in a statement the ban was an “insult” to voters, renewing his false claims that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him.
“They shouldn’t be allowed to get away with this censoring and silencing,” Trump said.
But Angelo Carusone of the left-leaning watchdog group Media Matters for America, called Facebook’s move dangerous, saying that if Trump is reinstated, “the platform will remain a simmering cauldron of extremism, disinformation, and violence.”
Activists joined together in a group that facetiously calls itself The Real Facebook Oversight Board decried the social network’s latest steps as belated and insufficient.
“Facebook shouldn’t have needed a $130 million Oversight Board and a team of law professors to tell them dictators and authoritarians were running wild on their platforms,” the group said in a release.
Trump was suspended from Facebook and Instagram after posting a video during the attack by his fired-up supporters challenging his election loss, in which he told them: “We love you, you’re very special.”
The panel gave Facebook six months to justify why his ban should be permanent — putting the ball in company chief Mark Zuckerberg’s court and spotlighting weaknesses in the platform’s plan for self-regulation.
Zuckerberg has stressed his belief that private companies should not be the arbiters of truth when it comes to what people say.
The oversight board, which was created as part of Zuckerberg’s vision for a “supreme court” for difficult content decisions, said it has begun a review of the latest decision on Trump “and will offer further comment once this review is complete.”
A “newsworthiness” allowance granted to a small number of posts at Facebook left Trump free to rile supporters with claims that had been disproven.
Facebook will begin publishing the “rare instances” in which offending posts are tolerated, and will not treat content posted by politicians any differently from content posted by anyone else, according to Clegg.
New York University Stern Center deputy director Paul Barrett welcomed the move by Facebook.
“Donald Trump illustrated how a political leader can abuse social media to undermine democratic institutions such as elections and the peaceful transfer of power,” Barrett said.
“Facebook was justified in removing Trump from its platforms, and now the company has appropriately decided to enforce its rules more vigorously against other political figures, as well.”
Donald Trump has canceled his own blog, an advisor announced Wednesday, highlighting the ex-president and election conspiracy theorist’s struggle to escape the social media wilderness.
The blog “will not be returning,” Trump aide Jason Miller told CNBC.
Named “From the Desk of Donald J. Trump,” the blog was launched only a month ago in response to decisions by Twitter and Facebook to ban the Republican for inciting rebellion against President Joe Biden’s election win.
The blog on the donaldjtrump.com website was touted as a major new outlet following Trump’s defeat in November and punishment by the top social media players for stirring up a mob that ransacked Congress on January 6.
Fox News heralded the blog — in fact a basic set up where Trump could post statements — as a “communications platform.”
The Trump website itself described the blog’s appearance in even grander terms, calling it “a beacon of freedom” in a “time of silence and lies.”
Trump, also banned from Instagram, YouTube and Snapchat in the wake of the Capitol mayhem, continues to promote the conspiracy theory that the 2020 election was stolen from him.
In angry emailed statements and in interviews with niche right-wing outlets like OAN, as well as the more mainstream Fox News, he continues to claim without evidence that he was victim of a conspiracy.
Now in place of his blog page, a form appears allowing sign-ups for alerts from the ex-president.
Miller told CNBC that the blog had been “just auxiliary” to broader efforts at rebuilding Trump’s social media presence, though he said he did “not have a precise awareness of timing” on those plans.
Later, Miller responded to a suggestion that the blog’s demise was in preparation for Trump joining some other social medial platform, tweeting: “Yes, actually, it is. Stay tuned!”
Donald Trump sought to tighten his grip on the Republican Party Wednesday after an oversight board upheld Facebook’s ban on the former US president, reiterating his false claims of election fraud and attacking his “gutless” Republican critics in Congress.
Despite losing the election to Joe Biden last year and enduring a second impeachment in January after the deadly pro-Trump insurrection at the US Capitol, the brash billionaire remains the GOP’s most influential figure.
Trump blasted party leaders who have publicly reprimanded him, including top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell, or who voted to impeach him in January, most notably congresswoman Liz Cheney, the number three House Republican.
“Warmonger Liz Cheney, who has virtually no support left in the Great State of Wyoming, continues to unknowingly and foolishly say that there was no Election Fraud in the 2020 Presidential Election when in fact, the evidence… shows the exact opposite,” Trump said in a fiery statement.
“Had gutless and clueless MINORITY Leader Mitch McConnell… fought to expose all of the corruption that was presented at the time, with more found since, we would have had a far different Presidential result, and our Country would not be turning into a socialist nightmare,” he said, adding: “Never give up!”
The statement came minutes after Facebook’s independent oversight board upheld a ban on Trump, while ordering the social media giant to further review the case.
And with Trump openly mulling another run for the White House, his attack appears to be an effort to clip the wings of high-profile Republicans like McConnell and Cheney who have not fallen in line with his false narrative that Biden and other Democrats stole the election.
Cheney, the most senior Republican woman in Congress, is meanwhile facing the most serious challenge yet to her role as House Republican conference chair, with Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and number two Steve Scalise signalling they support ousting her from the leadership.
McCarthy was recently caught on a hot mic on Fox News saying he has “lost confidence” in Cheney.
And a Scalise aide confirmed that Scalise “has pledged to support” pro-Trump Republican Elise Stefanik’s bid for conference chair.
Federal investigators raided the New York apartment of president Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani early Wednesday as part of a probe into his dealings in Ukraine, US media reported.
Investigators with search warrants combed Giuliani’s residence and a separate office, seizing electronic devices, The New York Times said, citing unnamed sources familiar with the investigation.
Giuliani, himself once a top New York prosecutor and then mayor of the city, was a personal lawyer for Trump when the president was impeached for seeking political help from Ukraine.
Giuliani spent months trying to help Trump find dirt on election rival Joe Biden in Ukraine, and on Biden’s son Hunter, during 2018-2020.
The investigation reportedly involves Giuliani’s work on behalf of Ukrainian businessmen and political actors that could violate US lobbying laws.
According to reports, the FBI and the Justice Department’s prosecutor in New York had sought search warrants for Giuliani’s phones last year, but were denied that while Trump remained in office, until January 20.
Under the new attorney general, Merrick Garland, in the administration of now-President Biden, the warrants were evidently approved.
The FBI and Justice Department declined to confirm the raids or the investigation.
The New York Times quoted Giuliani’s own attorney, Robert Costello, as calling the raids Wednesday “legal thuggery.”
“Why would you do this to anyone, let alone someone who was the associate attorney general, United States attorney, the mayor of New York City and the personal lawyer to the 45th president of the United States?” he asked.
Investigations of lawyers, especially those who represented a president, are highly sensitive, given protections they have for privileged dealings with clients.
Nevertheless, a previous personal attorney for Trump, Michael Cohen, was sent to prison in 2019 after pleading guilty to charges including paying hush money to two women who said they slept with Trump, for tax fraud and for lying to Congress.
On January 11, the US Treasury imposed sanctions on four Ukrainians who it said helped Giuliani in the effort to smear Biden ahead of the 2020 presidential election.
President Joe Biden is scrapping his pledge for a rapid expansion in the number of refugees allowed into the United States and will instead maintain the historically low ceiling of 15,000 people a year, a senior administration official said Friday.
The Biden administration had recently stated it wanted to allow in some 60,000 refugees annually, ramping up to double the following year. That aim had been part of the Democrat’s broader promise to end harsh anti-immigrant and anti-refugee sentiment whipped up by his predecessor Trump.
Instead, the White House will keep the strict 15,000 limit set by Trump so that it can “rebuild” a broken program and deal with pandemic-related complications, said the official, who asked not to be identified.
The official did not give a date for when the doors will opened wider to refugees, but indicated it would not be any time soon.
The admissions system left by the Trump administration was “even more decimated than we’d thought, requiring a major overhaul in order to build back toward the numbers to which we’ve committed,” the official said.
“That build back is and has been happening and will enable us to support much increased admissions numbers in future years.”
The official said that the 15,000 slots would be opened to more regions than allowed under Trump and said “we are prepared to consult with Congress should we need to increase the number of admissions.”
About 7,000 slots are reserved for refugees from Africa, 1,000 from East Asia, 1,500 from Europe and Central Asia, 3,000 from Latin America and the Caribbean, 1,500 from the Near East and South Asia. There is a reserve of 1,000 slots.
The policy marks a strong reversal from the Biden administration’s vow to let in 62,500 refugees, with 125,000 next year.
“We offered safe havens for those fleeing violence or persecution” in previous years, when America’s “moral leadership on refugee issues” encouraged other nations to open their doors as well, Biden said, promising to make good on his campaign promise of restoring US leadership.
Senate Foreign Relations Chair Menendez sharply criticized the White House, saying it “has not only stymied the number of refugees permitted entrance, it has prevented the State Dept from admitting vetted refugees currently waiting in the system.”
In a letter to Biden, Menendez called 15,000 “appallingly low.”
“As we face the largest global refugee crisis in history, with 29.6 million refugees worldwide, resettlement serves as a critical tool in providing protection to those fleeing persecution,” he wrote.
LIRS, one of the chief organizations helping refugees in the United States, said that as of this month, only 2,000 refugees have been resettled in the current fiscal year.
Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, CEO of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service, said “it is deeply disappointing that the administration has elected to leave in place the shameful, record low admissions cap of its predecessor.”
“There is far more work ahead to reclaim global leadership. The challenge of ramping up admissions to President Biden’s pledge of 125,000 is daunting, but it is an occasion we can rise to.”
Former US president Donald Trump stole the spotlight at a wedding in his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida over the weekend, using a congratulatory speech to mainly talk about himself and assail his successor.
“Do you miss me yet?” a tuxedo-clad Trump asked at Saturday night’s function, according to video posted on celebrity gossip site TMZ.
His question was met with whoops of delight and applause from guests at the wedding, between longtime Trump friends Megan Noderer and John Arrigo, according to Business Insider.
Trump used his moment in the nuptial limelight to blast President Joe Biden on several issues including the US-Mexico border, China and Iran.
“What’s happening to the kids? They are living in squalor, they are living like nobody has ever seen,” Trump said, referring to conditions on the border.
Since Biden took office, a surge of migrants including unaccompanied minors has tried to cross into the US.
Trump’s administration drew criticism for dividing families at the border and keeping children in what some critics described as “cages.”
He also referenced the November election, once again raising questions as to the integrity of the result even though he lost by seven million votes and all his attempts to challenge the outcome failed.
At the end of the former president’s speech, he praised the newlyweds.
“You are a great and beautiful couple,” the 74-year-old businessman said.
Former President Donald Trump’s Florida resort Mar-a-Lago has been partially closed after some members of staff tested positive for the coronavirus, US media reported Friday.
“As some of our staff have recently tested positive for Covid-19, we will be temporarily suspending service at the Beach Club and a la carte Dining Room,” the club’s management said in an email cited by The Washington Post.
It did not specify how many members of staff had been infected.
Now serving as the former president’s official residence since he left the White House in January, the club said banquet and event services would stay open and that “all appropriate response measures in accordance with CDC guidance” had been taken to sanitize the property.
Palm Beach County sent the club a formal warning in January that it had violated county code and could be fined after photos from a New Year’s party showed many guests not wearing masks.
The club is to host events during the Republican National Committee spring retreat in Florida next month, the New York Times said.
Donald Trump told conservatives Sunday he was considering running for president again in 2024, as he reasserted dominance over the Republican Party and warned of a “struggle” for America’s very survival.
Echoing the grievance politics of his 2016 campaign and the harsh rhetoric of his one-term presidency, the 74-year-old fired up an enthusiastic crowd at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Orlando.
In a keynote speech — his first since leaving the White House on January 20 — he repeated his false claims that he won the election instead of President Joe Biden, and hammered establishment Republicans who voted against him in the latest impeachment drama.
But while he teased his future plans, he left the crowd guessing about whether he will challenge Biden in a rematch.
“With your help we will take back the House, we will win the Senate, and then a Republican president will make a triumphant return to the White House — and I wonder who that will be?” Trump said to a raucous cheer.
“Who knows?” he boomed about his potential plans. “I may even decide to beat them for a third time, OK?”
Banned from Twitter and other social media, Trump has maintained a low post-presidential profile at his Mar-a-Lago resort.
At CPAC, he walked on stage to revel in a lengthy standing ovation by cheering loyalists, the vast majority maskless despite the coronavirus pandemic.
Like he did so often during his two campaigns, he painted a pitched battle against as Democrats’ “socialist” agenda to remake the nation.
“We’re in a struggle for the survival of America as we know it,” Trump said. “This is a terrible, terrible, painful struggle.”
But he said the “incredible” populist movement that propelled him to victory four plus years ago is just beginning, “and in the end, we will win.”
Trump also put to rest the rumors that he might take his base of support to create a new political party.
“I am not starting a new party,” Trump said. “We have the Republican Party. It’s going to unite and be stronger than ever before.”
Trump as expected took swipes at Biden, saying the Democrat just concluded a “disastrous” first month in office.
In his rambling 90-minute speech he attacked immigrants, slammed “cancel culture,” criticized Biden policies on climate change and energy, and repeated his false claims that “illegal” actions by Democrats had cost him the election.
But he also took aim at Republicans he feels betrayed him — a strong signal that he will seek to help oust them in upcoming elections.
He called out by name the 10 Republicans who voted to impeach him in the House of Representatives, and the seven Republicans who voted unsuccessfully to convict him in the Senate.
“Get rid of them all,” he seethed, while the crowd jeered.
Trump remains the most potent force in the Republican Party, something he made clear he was acutely aware of Sunday when he described his own endorsement as “the most powerful asset in politics.”
– ‘Cautionary note’ –
US political parties usually face a reckoning after a string of setbacks such as those the Republicans saw under four years of Trump: losing the White House, the Senate and the House of Representatives.
The party is also marked with Trump’s repeated lies about his election loss, his impeachment over inciting the US Capitol riot on January 6, and the faultline his actions have caused between establishment Republicans and pro-Trump populists.
But, instead of jettisoning its troubled leader and charting a new path, much of the party still sees Trump as retaining a vice-like grip on its future.
At least at CPAC, enthusiasm for Trump remained sky high. Attendees posed next to a shiny gold-colored statue of the former president, and cheers rose up whenever panelists praised him.
In a straw poll conducted at the conference, nearly seven in 10 respondents said they want him to run again.
On future direction for the party, support for Trumpism was rock solid, with 95 percent of respondents wanting to continue Trump’s policies and agenda.
But when asked who they prefer as the party’s 2024 nominee, a moderate 55 percent chose Trump, with Florida Governor Ron DeSantis a distant second on 21 percent.
Veteran Republican strategist Karl Rove said he would have expected a stronger result for Trump, especially at a gathering so supportive of the ex-president.
“I’d take that as a cautionary note,” Rove said on Fox News.
For some Republicans like Senator Bill Cassidy, who voted to convict Trump, moving on from the brash billionaire is critical.
Republicans can win “by speaking to those issues important to the American people,” he told CNN, “not by putting one person on a pedestal.”
It opened in 1984 and has undergone little to no maintenance since shuttering.
On several occasions during storms, pieces of its exterior have fallen onto the seaside promenade that runs alongside the building.
Since 2016, the two-building complex has belonged to billionaire investor Carl Icahn, who was one of Trump’s main Atlantic City financiers.
In mid-June, Atlantic City Mayor Marty Small announced the building’s demolition, after taking legal action over what he considered to be a danger to residents.
Icahn has not said what he will do with the land once the building is destroyed.
Trump had already filed a lawsuit in 2014 asking that his name be removed from the building’s facade, believing its presence there was bad for the Trump name and brand.
The former real estate developer has owned up to four casinos in the northeast gambling capital: apart from Trump Plaza there was also Trump World’s Fair which closed in 1999, Trump Marina which was sold by creditors in 2011, and the Trump Taj Mahal which closed in 2016.
The subsidiary that ran the former president’s Atlantic City properties, Trump Entertainment Resorts, filed for bankruptcy three times, in 2004, 2009 and 2014, weighed down by debt each time.
Donald Trump survived a second impeachment trial Saturday when the US Senate acquitted him on the charge of incitement of insurrection, ending Democratic efforts to hold the former president accountable over the deadly US Capitol riot.
The five day trial, in which Democratic impeachment managers argued that Trump betrayed his oath of office by urging his supporters to storm Congress in a bid to block certification of the November election, concluded with an insufficient 57-43 majority of senators voting to convict.
It was the most bipartisan impeachment trial vote ever, with seven Republicans breaking ranks to join all 50 Democrats in seeking conviction — a dark and permanent stain on a former president who may yet seek to run for office again.
But two-thirds of the chamber, or 67 senators, is necessary to convict, and the Senate ultimately was not willing to punish the former president.
In Trump’s historic second impeachment trial, the senators for the first time ever were not only jurors, but witnesses to the assault at the heart of the charge against Trump.
Democrats argued that Trump’s behavior was an “open and shut” example of an impeachable offense, saying that as president he repeated the falsehood that the election was stolen, then whipped up supporters to attack Congress and stop the certification of the vote.
“He summoned his supporters to Washington, on the Ellipse, whipped them into a frenzy, and directed them at the Capitol,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said after the vote.
The defense team swatted such evidence away, insisting the Senate had no constitutional jurisdiction to try a former president. Most Republican senators agreed.
Trump, who has been secluded in his Florida club since leaving office on January 20, issued a statement in which he expressed thanks for the verdict, and called the proceedings “yet another phase of the greatest witch hunt in the history of our country.”
The 74-year old Republican also hinted at a possible political future, and at “continuing our incredible journey together to achieve American greatness for all of our people.”
“We have so much work ahead of us, and soon we will emerge with a vision for a bright, radiant, and limitless American future,” Trump said.
– ‘Never happened’ –
Democrats described how Trump refused to call a halt to the January 6 insurrection at the Capitol that left then-vice president Mike Pence and lawmakers in mortal danger.
But the defense team repeatedly proclaimed Trump’s innocence, insisting “the act of incitement never happened” and rioters acted alone.
With influential Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell revealing he would vote against convicting Trump, the case tilted even more solidly toward acquittal.
Before moving to final arguments, the proceedings were interrupted for a few hours when House impeachment managers, in a surprise move, said they wanted to call witnesses at the trial.
Lead manager Jamie Raskin, a Democratic congressman, said he wanted to call a Republican lawmaker as a witness but eventually agreed with Trump’s defense lawyers just to have a statement of hers entered into evidence.
Trump’s lawyers had threatened in response to call witnesses of their own, including Vice President Kamala Harris, Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and others in a process that could have prolonged the trial for days if not weeks.
Raskin had wanted Representative Jamie Herrera Beutler, a Republican who voted to impeach Trump last month, to testify after she released a statement about a notable exchange on January 6.
In her statement entered into the record, she said Republican House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy had made a frantic call to Trump while the attack was ongoing and implored him to call off the rioters.
Instead Trump falsely blamed other groups, not his own supporters, for breaching the Capitol, Herrera Beutler said.
“McCarthy refuted that and told the president that these were Trump supporters,” the congresswoman said.
“That’s when, according to McCarthy, the president said: ‘Well, Kevin, I guess these people are more upset about the election than you are,'” she said.
– ‘Willfully betrayed’ –
Democrats pounced on her statement.
“There can be no doubt that at the moment we most needed a president to preserve, protect and defend us, president Trump instead willfully betrayed us,” impeachment manager David Cicilline told the Senate, adding Trump “violated his oath” of office.
Trump was impeached by the Democratic-controlled House on January 13 for inciting the attack by his supporters, who were seeking to block congressional certification of Democrat Joe Biden’s November 3 election victory.
Trump’s defense lawyers argued on Friday that the ex-president bears no responsibility for the attack on Congress and wrapped up their presentation in just three hours.
This followed two days of evidence from Democrats centered around harrowing video footage of the mob assault on the Capitol.
Trump’s defense lawyers called the impeachment unconstitutional and an “act of political vengeance.”
They argued that Trump’s January 6 rally speech near the White House that preceded the attack, when he told supporters to “fight like hell,” was merely rhetorical.