Known for laughs, DC dinner spotlights risks of journalism
The White House Correspondents' Association dinner — known for its fun albeit ferocious jabs at Washington — took a more solemn tone this year as what many see as the brazen attack on press freedom across the globe was on painful display. Upon arriving at the Washington Hilton on Saturday, President Joe Biden and first lady Jill Biden met privately with the parents of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been imprisoned in Russia since March. He was charged with spying, despite strong denials from his employer and the U.S. government. Some guests wore buttons with “Free Evan” printed on them. Also among the 2,600 people attending the gala is Debra Tice, the mother of Austin Tice, who has not been heard from since disappearing at a checkpoint in Syria in 2012. U.S. officials say they operate under the assumption that he is alive and are working to try to bring him home. Also Read: Jailed US reporter in Russian court to appeal detention “They are among hundreds of journalists around the world who are wrongfully detained for the simple act of doing journalism — which is not a crime,” said Tamara Keith, a White House correspondent for NPR and the association’s president. The Bidens also made a beeline for Brittney Griner, the WNBA star and Olympic gold medalist who was detained in Russia for nearly 10 months last year before her release in a prisoner swap. Griner is attending with her wife, Cherelle, as guests of CBS News. The black-tie dinner draws a wide array of celebrities and media moguls to Washington, with parties being held across the capital. Among those in attendance are actor Liev Schreiber, singer John Legend and his wife, Chrissy Teigen, the model and television personality. Also Read: Russia charges Journal reporter with espionage: Report Actor and former California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger opened the dinner with a pre-taped video about the importance of a free and independent press. Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are seated on the stage along with comedian Roy Wood Jr., a correspondent for “The Daily Show,” as the featured entertainer. Wood gave a preview of where his jokes were headed, predicting that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis wasn’t likely to end his culture clashes or stop his feud with Disney just because of a few jibes. The comedian told CNN not to expect DeSantis to say, "'You know what, man, you’re right. Go ahead and put Black history back in them books.’ ... He’s fighting Mickey Mouse. You can’t change that person’s mind with a joke.” The venue is a familiar one for Biden, who attended several as vice president to Barack Obama. The Washington event returned last year after being sidelined by the pandemic in 2020 and 2021. Biden was the first president in six years to accept the invitation after Donald Trump shunned the event while in office. Biden took the opportunity last year to take aim at his many critics, including Republicans and the leader of their party: Trump. This year, he is coming not only as the commander in chief but as a presidential contender.
Why is Biden announcing his 2024 bid now, and what will change?
President Joe Biden has formally announced he's seeking reelection. But he's also still the president, with roughly 20 months left in his term regardless of whether he wins a second one on Election Day 2024. With Tuesday's campaign video release, Biden is following through on months of saying he intended to seek reelection. Top Democrats have remained solidly unified behind the president, despite his low approval ratings and many Americans saying they'd rather not see the 80-year-old Biden try for four more years in the White House. But all that has meant Biden faced relatively little pressure to make his 2024 bid official. Here's a look at why he announced now and how things will, and won't, change for him going forward: ___ WHY NOW? A formal reelection announcement means the president is now allowed to raise money directly for his campaign. It's a change from his speeches at donor events benefiting the Democratic National Committee or other outside political groups that he has given since entering the White House. Also Read: Joe Biden announces 2024 reelection bid Biden will spend campaign funds on salaries and logistics building out a 2024 staff and holding events outside his official presidential business. He plans to have dinner in Washington on Friday with leading Democratic donors and DNC leaders, paying special attention to those who write big checks to ensure his reelection campaign stays well funded. Some party donors and organizers had begun grumbling about a lack of movement on the reelection front, and the announcement, followed by Friday's gathering, will allow the president to reassure them. Another reason why Biden waited until April was that it allowed him to avoid releasing publicly how much his reelection campaign raised during the year's first quarter. That's when donors typically slow down their contributions — and some top Democratic givers wanted a break after a busy election season during last fall's midterms and before next year's presidential race kicks into high gear. President Barack Obama waited to announce his 2012 reelection bid until early April of the previous year. Tuesday also marks the fourth anniversary of Biden's announcement of his 2020 presidential campaign. Also Read: Biden to unveil new efforts to protect S. Korea from nukes President Donald Trump, meanwhile, first filed for reelection on Jan. 20, 2017, the day of his inauguration, and held his first campaign rally in February 2017. But his second White House campaign didn't formally kick off until June 2019 with an Orlando, Florida, rally that fell roughly four years after he first entered the 2016 presidential race. ___ WHAT ABOUT HIS AGE? Biden is the oldest president in U.S. history and would be 86 by the end of a second term. He has acknowledged that age is a “legitimate" concern but scoffed at questions about whether he will have the stamina for another campaign, much less four more years in the White House. “Watch me," he has repeatedly declared. Voters will now get the chance to do just that — but that is unlikely to make such questions go away. Republicans have often highlighted Biden's age, and even some Democrats have questioned whether the president is living up to promises he made during the 2020 campaign to be a “bridge” to a new generation of leadership. One Republican running for president, former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley, has called for mental competency testing for candidates over 75 — a category that would include both Biden and Trump, who announced his own 2024 campaign in November. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre brushed aside such testing, noting that Biden helped lead Democrats to a surprisingly strong midterm showing. “Maybe they’re forgetting the wins the president got over the past few years, but I’m happy to remind them anytime,” Jean-Pierre said in February. ___ WILL SEEKING REELECTION CHANGE HOW BIDEN HANDLES BEING PRESIDENT? There won't be big changes, Biden aides insist, at least for now. The president is still hosting South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol at the White House for a state dinner on Wednesday and planning overseas travel later this summer. As he has done in recent months, Biden also will continue to hit the road domestically to highlight legislation his administration helped push through Congress. Biden has already visited many parts of the country, highlighting how a bipartisan public works package will help repair roads, highways, bridges, ports and train tunnels and how increased federal spending approved as part of other legislation will bolster U.S. manufacturing, lower prescription drug prices and improve broadband internet access in rural areas. Such events often blur the line between official business and promoting the president and his party politically, and the distinction will only get murkier going forward. Since the weeks leading up to the midterms, Biden has frequently denounced “extreme" Republicans loyal to Trump's “Make America Great Again” movement as posing a threat to America's core democracy. It's a message he will continue to champion as the 2024 race begins heating up. ___ WILL BIDEN HAVE TO COMPETE FOR THE DEMOCRATIC NOMINATION? Probably not much. Self-help author Marianne Williamson and anti-vaccine activist Robert F. Kennedy Jr. are the only Democrats to challenge the president. Neither of them presents the type of primary opposition that wounded previous incumbents, such as Sen. Ted Kennedy's campaign against President Jimmy Carter in 1980 or Pat Buchanan's run against President George H.W. Bush in 1992. The DNC is so fully committed to Biden this year that it is not planning to schedule primary debates, sparing the president from sharing a stage with Williamson, Kennedy or any other potential challenger. Also benefiting Biden is the fact that South Carolina's primary is set to replace Iowa's caucuses in leading off the Democratic primary voting next year. Biden revived his 2020 campaign after losing the first three contests with a resounding South Carolina primary victory, and he personally directed that the state go first in 2024 — solidifying his popularity among Democrats there. That may counterbalance Democrats' deep ambivalence to Biden elsewhere. An Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research poll last week found that only 26% of Americans — and only about half of Democrats — said they wanted to see Biden run again. But the poll found that 81% of Democrats said they would at least probably support the president in a general election. ___ WHO WILL BIDEN'S REPUBLICAN OPPONENT BE? Trump is the 2024 Republican presidential field's early leader, setting up a potential general election rematch with Biden. Although Trump announced his bid back in November, the rest of the 2024 Republican primary field has been slow to form around him. The only other declared GOP candidates in the race include Haley, former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchison, businessman Perry Johnson, “Woke, Inc.” author Vivek Ramaswamy and radio host Larry Elder. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis is widely expected to be a leading Trump alternative but is in no hurry to announce his campaign. Also expected to join the race but not officially in yet are former Vice President Mike Pence and U.S. Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina. Biden's political team has for months been preparing to face Trump again. But even if an alternative like DeSantis wins the GOP nomination, Biden's aides argue, many of the same criticisms about adherence to MAGA extremism apply since so many top Republicans agree with Trump on key policy and social issues.
Joe Biden announces 2024 reelection bid
President Joe Biden on Tuesday formally announced that he is running for reelection in 2024, asking voters to give him more time to “finish the job” he began when he was sworn in to office and to set aside their concerns about extending the run of America’s oldest president for another four years. Biden, who would be 86 at the end of a second term, is betting his first-term legislative achievements and more than 50 years of experience in Washington will count for more than concerns over his age. He faces a smooth path to winning his party’s nomination, with no serious Democratic rivals. But he’s still set for a hard-fought struggle to retain the presidency in a bitterly divided nation. The announcement, in a three-minute video, comes on the four-year anniversary of when Biden declared for the White House in 2019, promising to heal the “soul of the nation” amid the turbulent presidency of Donald Trump — a goal that has remained elusive. “I said we are in a battle for the soul of America, and we still are," Biden said. “The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom. More rights or fewer.” Also Read: Biden to unveil new efforts to protect S. Korea from nukes While the question of seeking reelection has been a given for most modern presidents, that’s not always been the case for Biden, as a notable swath of Democratic voters have indicated they would prefer he not run, in part because of his age — concerns Biden has called “totally legitimate” but ones he did not address head-on in the launch video. Yet few things have unified Democratic voters like the prospect of Trump returning to power. And Biden’s political standing within his party stabilized after Democrats notched a stronger-than-expected performance in last year’s midterm elections, as the president set out to run again on the same themes that buoyed his party last fall, particularly on preserving access to abortion. Also Read: Biden says US embassy evacuation in Sudan has been completed “Freedom. Personal freedom is fundamental to who we are as Americans. There’s nothing more important. Nothing more sacred,” Biden said in the launch video, which painted the Republican Party as extremists trying to roll back access to abortion, cut Social Security, limit voting rights and ban books they disagree with. “Around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take those bedrock freedoms away.” “This is not a time to be complacent,” Biden added. “That’s why I’m running for reelection." As the contours of the campaign begin to take shape, Biden plans to campaign on his record. He spent his first two years as president combating the coronavirus pandemic and pushing through major bills such as the bipartisan infrastructure package and legislation to promote high-tech manufacturing and climate measures. With Republicans now in control of the House, Biden has shifted his focus to implementing those massive laws and making sure voters credit him for the improvements, while sharpening the contrast with the GOP ahead of an expected showdown over raising the nation's borrowing limit that could have debilitating consequences for the country's economy. Also Read: Biden 2024 splits Democrats, but most would back him in November: AP-NORC poll But the president also has multiple policy goals and unmet promises from his first campaign that he’s pitching voters on giving him another chance to fulfill. “Let’s finish this job. I know we can,” Biden said in the video, repeating a mantra he said a dozen times during his State of the Union address in February, listing everything from passing a ban on assault-style weapons and lowering the cost of prescription drugs to codifying a national right to abortion after the Supreme Court's ruling last year overturning Roe v. Wade. Buoyed by the midterm results, Biden plans to continue to cast all Republicans as embracing what he calls “ultra-MAGA” politics — a reference to Trump’s “Make America Great Again" slogan — regardless of whether his predecessor ends up on the 2024 ballot. He’s spent the last several months road-testing campaign themes, including painting Republicans as fighting for tax cuts for businesses and the wealthy while trying to cut social safety net benefits relied on by everyday Americans and roll back access to abortion services. Also Read: Biden aide, Saudi prince see ‘progress’ toward Yemen war end Biden, speaking over brief video clips and photographs of key moments in his presidency, snapshots of diverse Americans and flashes of his outspoken Republican foes, including Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, exhorted supporters that “this is our moment” to “defend democracy. Stand up for our personal freedoms. Stand up for the right to vote and our civil rights.” Biden also plans to point to his work over the past two years shoring up American alliances, leading a global coalition to support Ukraine’s defenses against Russia’s invasion and returning the U.S. to the Paris climate accord. But public support in the U.S. for Ukraine has softened in recent months, and some voters question the tens of billions of dollars in military and economic assistance flowing to Kyiv. The president faces lingering criticism over his administration's chaotic 2021 withdrawal from Afghanistan after nearly 20 years of war, which undercut the image of competence he aimed to portray to the world, and he finds himself the target of GOP attacks over his immigration and economic policies. As a candidate in 2020, Biden pitched voters on his familiarity with the halls of power in Washington and his relationships around the world as he promised to return a sense of normalcy to the country amid Trump’s tumultuous presidency and the deadly COVID-19 pandemic. But even back then, Biden was acutely aware of voters’ concerns about his age. Also Read: Biden review of chaotic Afghan withdrawal blames Trump “Look, I view myself as a bridge, not as anything else,” Biden said in March 2020, as he campaigned in Michigan with younger Democrats, including now-Vice President Kamala Harris, Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. “There’s an entire generation of leaders you saw stand behind me. They are the future of this country.” Three years later, the president now 80, Biden allies say his time in office has demonstrated that he saw himself as more of a transformational than a transitional leader. Still, many Democrats would prefer that Biden didn’t run again. A recent poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research shows just 47% of Democrats say they want him to seek a second term, up from 37% in February. And Biden’s verbal — and occasional physical — stumbles have become fodder among the GOP, which has sought to cast him as unfit for office. Biden, on multiple occasions, has brushed back concerns about his age, saying simply, “Watch me.” During a routine physical in February, his physician, Dr. Kevin O’Connor, declared him “healthy, vigorous” and “fit” to handle his White House responsibilities. Aides acknowledge that while some in his party might prefer an alternative to Biden, there is anything but consensus within their diverse coalition on who that might be. And they insist that when Biden is compared with whomever the GOP nominates, Democrats and independents will rally around Biden. For now, the 76-year-old Trump is the favorite to emerge as the Republican nominee, creating the potential of a historic sequel to the bitterly fought 2020 campaign. But Trump faces significant hurdles of his own, including the designation of being the first former president to face criminal charges. The remaining GOP field is volatile, with DeSantis emerging as an early alternative to Trump. DeSantis' stature is also in question, however, amid questions about his readiness to campaign outside of his increasingly Republican-leaning state. To prevail again, Biden will need to revive the alliance of young voters and Black voters — particularly women — along with blue-collar Midwesterners, moderates and disaffected Republicans who helped him win in 2020. He'll have to again carry the so-called “blue wall” in the Upper Midwest, while protecting his position in Georgia and Arizona, longtime GOP strongholds that he narrowly won in his last campaign. Biden’s reelection bid comes as the nation weathers uncertain economic crosscurrents. Inflation is ticking down after hitting the highest rate in a generation, driving up the price of goods and services, but unemployment is at a 50-year low, and the economy is showing signs of resilience despite Federal Reserve interest rate hikes. Presidents typically try to delay their reelection announcements to maintain the advantages of incumbency and skate above the political fray for as long as possible while their rivals trade jabs. But the leg up offered by being in the White House can be rickety — three of the last seven presidents have lost reelection, most recently Trump in 2020. Biden’s announcement is roughly consistent with the timeline followed by then-President Barack Obama, who waited until April 2011 to declare for a second term. Trump launched his reelection bid on the day he was sworn in in 2017. Biden is not expected to dramatically alter his day-to-day schedule as a candidate — at least not immediately — with aides believing his strongest political asset is showing the American people that he is governing. And if he follows the Obama playbook, he may not hold any formal campaign rallies until well into 2024. Obama didn't hold a reelection rally until May 2012. On Tuesday, Biden named White House adviser Julie Chávez Rodríguez to serve as campaign manager and Quentin Fulks, who ran Sen. Raphael Warnock's reelection campaign in Georgia last year, to serve as principal deputy campaign manager. Reps. Lisa Blunt-Rochester, Jim Clyburn and Veronica Escobar; Sens. Chris Coons and Tammy Duckworth; entertainment mogul and Democratic mega-donor Jeffrey Katzenberg; and Whitmer will serve as campaign co-chairs. On the heels of the announcement Tuesday, Biden was set to deliver remarks to union members before hosting South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for a state visit at the White House. He plans to meet with party donors in Washington later this week. Biden’s formal go-ahead comes after months of public incredulity that the president would seek another term despite plentiful signs that he was intent on doing so. Ahead of the president’s announcement, first lady Jill Biden expressed disbelief at the persistent questions about her husband’s intent to run. “How many times does he have to say it for you to believe it?” she told The Associated Press in late February. “He says he’s not done."
‘You set an example of empathy, generosity for the world’: Biden writes to PM Hasina
US President Joe Biden has said his country made a commitment to finding long-term solutions to the Rohingya refugee crisis and holding perpetrators of the atrocities accountable. “You set an example for the world of empathy and generosity in practice,” the US President wrote in a letter to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. The US Embassy in Dhaka shared the letter on Sunday (March 26, 2023) which was originally sent on March 21. The US president said Bangladesh has opened its arms and welcomed nearly one million Rohingya refugees. Read More: UK King Charles eyes continuing strong, close partnership with Bangladesh In a message to PM Hasina, Biden on behalf of the United States, wished her and the people of Bangladesh a happy Independence Day. Bangladeshis understand deeply the value of freedom and independence, as they fought courageously in 1971 to choose their own fate and to speak their own language, Biden wrote in the letter that he concluded with "Joy Bangla." As Bangladesh approaches its next election, the US president said, he is reminded of the “deep value” both the nations place on “democracy, equality, respect for human rights, and free and fair elections.” Read More: British parliament urged to recognise Bangladesh Genocide He applauded Bangladesh’s demonstrated commitment to protecting the most vulnerable as the largest contributor to peacekeeping operations. “We thank Bangladesh for cohosting the Global Action Plan ministerial that significantly elevated the political commitment to end the global pandemic,” Biden said. In over 50 years of diplomatic relations, the United States and Bangladesh have achieved a lot together – advancing economic development, strengthening people-to-people ties, addressing global health and climate issues, partnering on the humanitarian response to Rohingya refugees, and committing to a prosperous, secure, democratic, and independent Bangladesh, said the US president. Read More: Bangladesh’s tremendous achievements widely commended by int’l community: Xi Jinping
Biden says Jimmy Carter has asked him to deliver his eulogy
President Joe Biden says he plans to deliver the eulogy at the funeral of former President Jimmy Carter, who remains under hospice care at his home in south Georgia. Biden told donors at a California fundraiser Monday evening about his “recent” visit to see the 39th president, whom he has known since he was a young Delaware senator supporting Carter’s 1976 presidential campaign. “He asked me to do his eulogy,” Biden said, before stopping himself from saying more. “Excuse me, I shouldn’t say that.” Carter, who at 98 is the longest-lived U.S. president, announced Feb. 18 that he would spend his remaining days at home receiving end-of-life care, forgoing further medical intervention after a series of short hospital stays. The Carter Center in Atlanta and the former president’s family members have not disclosed details of his condition, though Biden alluded to Carter’s 2015 cancer diagnosis and subsequent recovery. “I spent time with Jimmy Carter and it’s finally caught up with him, but they found a way to keep him going for a lot longer than they anticipated because they found a breakthrough,” Biden said in Rancho Sante Fe, California. Biden, 80, and first lady Jill Biden visited Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, who is now 95, at their home in Plains, Georgia, a few months after Biden took office in 2021. Biden was the first U.S. senator to endorse Carter’s 1976 presidential bid, breaking from the Washington establishment that Carter — then a former one-time Georgia governor — shocked by winning the Democratic nomination. Biden’s presidency represents a turnabout, of sorts, for Carter’s political standing. He served just one term and lost in a landslide to Republican Ronald Reagan in 1980, prompting top Democrats to keep their distance, at least publicly, for decades after he left the White House. Presidents Bill Clinton and Barack Obama did not have close relationships with Carter. And the longshot presidential candidates who sometimes ventured to Plains over the years typically did so privately. But as the Carters’ global humanitarian work and advocacy of democracy via The Carter Center garnered new respect, Democratic politicians began publicly circulating back to south Georgia ahead of the 2020 election cycle. And with Biden’s election, Carter again found a genuine friend and ally in the Oval Office.
Supreme Court weighs Biden student loan plan worth billions
The Supreme Court is taking up a partisan legal fight over President Joe Biden's plan to wipe away or reduce student loans held by millions of Americans. The high court, with its 6-3 conservative majority, is hearing arguments on Tuesday in two challenges to the plan, which has so far been blocked by Republican-appointed judges on lower courts. Arguments are scheduled to last two hours but likely will go much longer. The public can listen in on the court’s website. Twenty-six million people have applied, and 16 million have been approved to have up to $20,000 in federal student loans forgiven, the Biden administration says. The program is estimated to cost $400 billion over 30 years. “I’m confident the legal authority to carry that plan is there,” Biden said on Monday, at an event to mark Black History Month. The president, who once doubted his own authority to broadly cancel student debt, first announced the program in August. Legal challenges quickly followed. Also Read: Cheapest countries for Bangladeshi students for higher studies Republican-led states and lawmakers in Congress, as well as conservative legal interests, are lined up against the plan as a clear violation of Biden's executive authority. Democratic-led states and liberal interest groups are backing the Democratic administration in urging the court to allow the plan to take effect. Without it, loan defaults would dramatically increase when the pause on loan payments ends no later than this summer, the administration says. Payments were halted in 2020 as part of the response to the coronavirus pandemic. The administration says a 2003 law, commonly known as the HEROES Act, allows the secretary of education to waive or modify the terms of federal student loans in connection with a national emergency. The law was primarily intended to keep service members from being worse off financially while they fought in wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Nebraska and other states that sued say the plan is not necessary to keep the rate of defaults roughly where it was before the pandemic. The 20 million borrowers who have their entire loans erased would get a “windfall” that will leave them better off than they were before the pandemic, the states say. Dozens of borrowers came from across the country to camp out near the court on a soggy Monday evening in hopes of getting a seat for the arguments. Among them was Sinyetta Hill, who said that Biden's plan would erase all but about $500 of the $20,000 or so she has in student loans. “I was 18 when I signed up for college. I didn’t know it was going to be this big of a burden. No student should have to deal with this. No person should have to deal with this,” said Hill, 22, who plans to study law after she graduates from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in May. Biden's plan could meet a frosty reception in the courtroom. The court's conservatives have been skeptical of other Biden initiatives related to the pandemic, including vaccine requirements and pauses on evictions. Those were billed largely as public health measures intended to slow the spread of COVID-19. The loan forgiveness plan, by contrast, is aimed at countering the economic effects of the pandemic. The national emergency is expected to end May 11, but the administration says the economic consequences will persist, despite historically low unemployment and other signs of economic strength. In addition to the debate over the authority to forgive student debt, the court also will confront whether the states and two individuals whose challenge also is before the justices have the legal right, or standing, to sue. Parties generally have to show that they would suffer financial harm and benefit from a court ruling in their favor. A federal judge initially found that the states would not be harmed and dismissed their lawsuit before an appellate panel said the case could proceed. Of the two individuals who sued in Texas, one has student loans that are commercially held and the other is eligible for $10,000 in debt relief, not the $20,000 maximum. They would get nothing if they win their case. A decision is expected by late June.
Biden should be 'embarrassed' by classified docs case: Democrats
Senior Democrats, dismayed by a steady stream of startling disclosures, expressed criticism Sunday of how President Joe Biden handled classified material after leaving office as vice president and disappointment that the White House has not been more forthcoming with the public. Lawmakers who might have anticipated questions focusing on the debt limit or Ukraine aid when they were booked last week for the Sunday news shows found themselves quizzed about the latest development over the weekend in the document drama that has put Biden's presidency on the defensive: During a search Friday of Biden’s home in Wilmington, Delaware, the FBI found additional documents with classified markings and took possession of some of his handwritten notes, the president’s lawyer said Saturday. Biden should be “embarrassed by the situation,” said Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, the second-ranking Democrat in the Senate, adding that the president had ceded the moral high ground on an issue that has already entangled former President Donald Trump. Special counsels appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland are investigating both cases. “Well, of course. Let's be honest about it. When that information is found, it diminishes the stature of any person who is in possession of it because it's not supposed to happen. ... The elected official bears ultimate responsibility," Durbin said. Read more: FBI searched Biden home, found documents marked classified Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., said Biden “should have a lot of regrets. ... You just might as well say, ‘Listen, it’s irresponsible.'" The president told reporters on Thursday that he had “no regrets” over how and when the public learned about the documents and that there was “no there there.” Despite their criticism, Biden's fellow Democrats defended what they said was his cooperation with the Justice Department as the search for additional classified material unfolds. They contrasted it with Trump's resistance to efforts to recover hundreds of documents after he left office. “It is outrageous that either occurred,” Durbin said. "But the reaction by the former president and the current president could not be in sharper contrast.” Biden voluntarily allowed the FBI into his home on Friday, but the lack of a warrant did not dim the extraordinary nature of the search. It compounded the embarrassment to Biden that started in earlier in January with the disclosure that the president’s lawyers had found a “small number” of classified records at a former office at the Penn Biden Center in Washington shortly before the Nov. 8 elections. The White House has disclosed that Biden's team found classified documents and official records on three other occasions in recent months — in follow-up searches on Dec. 20 in the garage of his Wilmington home, and on Jan. 11 and 12 in his home library. The discoveries have become a political liability as Biden prepares to kick off his 2024 reelection bid, and they undercut his efforts to portray an image of propriety to the American public after the tumultuous presidency of his predecessor, Trump. Manchin excoriated both men for their handling of sensitive security documents. “It's just hard to believe that in the United States of America, we have a former president and a current president that are basically in the same situation,” he said. “How does this happen?” Read more: Biden on classified docs discovery: 'There's no there there' At the same time, Democrats worried that Biden's travails have created an opening for newly empowered House Republicans. “We have to worry, since this new group that has taken over control of the House of Representatives has promised us endless investigations, confrontations, impeachments and chaos, what is going to happen,” Durbin said. The new chairman of the House Oversight and Accountability Committee, Rep. James Comer, R-Ky., said he took Biden “at his word when the first set of documents were found. ... But now this is gone from just simply being irresponsible to downright scary.” The Justice Department says Trump took hundreds of records marked classified with him upon leaving the White House in early 2021 and resisted months of requests to return them to the government. Biden has willingly turned over the documents once found. But the issue is wearing on Biden and his aides, who have said they acted quickly and appropriately when the documents were discovered, and are working to be as transparent as possible. Durbin appeared on CNN's “State of the Union,” Manchin was on CNN and NBC's “Meet the Press" and Comer was interviewed on Fox News Channel's “Sunday Morning Futures.”
More classified documents found at Biden’s home by lawyers
Lawyers for President Joe Biden found more classified documents at his home in Wilmington, Delaware, than previously known, the White House acknowledged Saturday. White House lawyer Richard Sauber said in a statement that a total of six pages of classified documents were found during a search of Biden’s private library. The White House had said previously that only a single page was found there. The latest disclosure is in addition to the discovery of documents found in December in Biden’s garage and in November at his former offices at the Penn Biden Center in Washington, from his time as vice president. The apparent mishandling of classified documents and official records from the Obama administration is under investigation by a former U.S. attorney, Robert Hur, who was appointed as a special counsel on Thursday by Attorney General Merrick Garland. Sauber said in a statement Saturday that Biden’s personal lawyers, who did not have security clearances, stopped their search after finding the first page on Wednesday evening. Sauber found the remaining material Thursday, as he was facilitating their retrieval by the Department of Justice. Read more: On eve of Biden's border visit, migrants fear new rules “While I was transferring it to the DOJ officials who accompanied me, five additional pages with classification markings were discovered among the material with it, for a total of six pages,” Sauber said. “The DOJ officials with me immediately took possession of them.” Sauber has previously said that the White House was “confident that a thorough review will show that these documents were inadvertently misplaced, and the president and his lawyers acted promptly upon discovery of this mistake.” Sauber’s statement did not explain why the White House waited two days to provide an updated accounting of the number of classified records. The White House is already facing scrutiny for waiting more than two months to acknowledge the discovery of the initial group of documents at the Biden office. On Thursday, asked whether Biden could guarantee that additional classified documents would not turn up in a further search, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters, “You should assume that it’s been completed, yes.” Sauber reiterated Saturday that the White House would cooperate with Hur’s investigation. Bob Bauer, the president’s personal lawyer, said his legal team has “attempted to balance the importance of public transparency where appropriate with the established norms and limitations necessary to protect the investigation’s integrity.” The Justice Department historically imposes a high legal bar before bringing criminal charges in cases involving the mishandling of classified information, with a requirement that someone intended to break the law as opposed to being merely careless or negligent in doing so. The primary statute governing the illegal removal and retention of classified documents makes it a crime to “knowingly” remove classified documents and store them in an unauthorized way. Read more: Biden agenda, lithium mine, tribes, greens collide in Nevada The circumstances involving Biden, at least as so far known, differ from a separate investigation into the mishandling of classified documents at former President Donald Trump’s private club and residence in Florida. In Trump’s case, special counsel Jack Smith is investigating whether anyone sought to obstruct their investigation into the retention of classified records at the Palm Beach estate. Justice Department officials have said Trump’s representatives failed to fully comply with a subpoena that sought the return of classified records, prompting agents to return to the home with a search warrant so they could collect additional materials.
US nears new cooperation deals with Pacific Island nations
The Biden administration is nearing deals with two Pacific Island nations to extend ties that are considered critical to maintaining balance in the U.S.-China rivalry for influence in a region where the Chinese are rapidly expanding their economic, diplomatic and military clout. This week, the U.S. signed memorandums of understanding with the Marshall Islands and Palau that administration officials hope will pave the way for the quick completion of broader agreements that will govern the islands' relations with Washington for the next two decades. Those ties grant the U.S. unique military and other security rights on the islands in return for substantial aid. The administration believes that extending those so-called “Compacts of Free Association” agreements will be key to efforts to retain American power and blunt Chinese assertiveness throughout the Indo-Pacific. The memorandums signed this week lay out the amounts of money that the federal government will provide to the Marshall Islands and Palau if their compacts are successfully renegotiated. Negotiations on a similar memorandum with a third compact country, Micronesia, are ongoing. The current 20-year compacts with the Marshall Islands and Micronesia expire this year; the current compact with Palau expires in 2024 but administration officials said they believe all three can be renewed and signed by mid- to late-spring. Officials would not discuss specifics of the amounts of money involved because the deals aren’t yet legally binding and must still be reviewed and approved by Congress as part of the budget process. A Micronesian news outlet, Marianas Variety, reported Thursday that the Marshall Islands will receive $700 million over four years under the memorandum that it signed. But that amount would cover only one-fifth of a 20-year compact extension and does not include the amount Palau would receive. Joe Yun, Biden's special presidential envoy for compact negotiations, said the amounts will be far greater than what the U.S. had provided in the past. Read more: Australia to reopen island detention camp after refugee bill Islanders have long complained that the previous compacts they signed did not adequately address their needs or long-term environmental and health issues caused by U.S. nuclear testing in the 1950s and '60s. Lawmakers had expressed concern dating back to 2021 that the administration was not giving enough attention to the matter. Yun, who signed the memorandums with representatives of the Marshalls and Palau on Tuesday and Wednesday in Los Angeles, said the Marshall Islands, in particular, would be compensated for such damage and would be given control over how that money is spent. Yun said it would pay “nuclear-affected communities' health, welfare and development” and also noted that the U.S. had committed to building a new hospital as well as a museum in the Marshalls to preserve the memory and legacy of their role, notably in the Pacific theater during WWII. This week's signings clear the way for individual federal agencies — including the Postal Service, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and the National Weather Service — to negotiate their own agreements with the Marshalls and Palau, which will then become part of the broader compacts. Along with the federal money, those agencies provide their services to the islands. In return, the U.S. is given unique military and national security basing rights and privileges in an area where China is increasingly flexing its muscles. Yun said China did not come up specifically in the negotiations but it was a major element in all sides' discussions. “The threat from China is unstated but there is no question that China is a factor,” Yun said. Not only does China have a large and growing economic presence in the region, but the Marshall Islands and Palau both recognize Taiwan diplomatically. “They are coming under Chinese pressure,” he said. China has steadily poached allies from Taiwan in the Pacific, including Kiribati and the Solomon Islands in 2019. The U.S. announced plans last year to reopen an embassy in the Solomon Islands, which has signed a security agreement with China. Since World War II, the U.S. has treated the Marshall Islands, along with Micronesia and Palau, much like territories. On the Marshall Islands, the U.S. has developed military, intelligence and aerospace facilities in a region where China is particularly active. In turn, U.S. money and jobs have benefited the islands’ economy. And many islanders have taken advantage of their ability to live and work in the U.S., moving in the thousands to Arkansas, Guam, Hawaii, Oregon and Oklahoma. Many on the Marshall Islands believe a U.S. settlement of $150 million agreed to in the 1980s fell well short of addressing the nuclear legacy. But the U.S. position has remained static for more than 20 years, the last time the compact came up for renegotiation. Various estimates put the true cost of the damage at about $3 billion, including for repairs to a massive nuclear waste facility known as the Cactus Dome which environmentalists say is leaking toxic waste into the ocean. Read more: Bangladesh to get US support in improving, widening coastal embankments The U.S. Department of Energy says the dome contains over 100,000 cubic yards (76,000 cubic meters) of radioactively contaminated soil and debris but the structure isn’t in any immediate danger of failing.
Biden intends to make his first visit to US-Mexico border
President Joe Biden intends to visit the U.S.-Mexico border — his first since taking office — in connection with his meeting next week in Mexico City with the leaders of Mexico and Canada. “That’s my intention, we’re working out the details now,” Biden told reporters Wednesday during a trip to Kentucky. Biden said upon his return to the White House that he hoped to see “what's going on” at the border and also planned to make remarks about border security on Thursday. Read more: Analysis: Biden, Zelenskyy try to keep Congress from balking There have been large increases in the number of migrants at the border even as a U.S. public health law remains in place that allows American authorities to turn away many people seeking asylum in the United States. Republican leaders have criticized the president for policies that they say are ineffective on border security and they have questioned why he has not made a trip there yet. The increased focus from Biden on the border also comes as the president prepares for a 2024 reelection bid. His sole declared potential rival, Donald Trump, rose to the top of the GOP ranks by animating the party's base voters with his hardline stances on immigration. But there was some praise Wednesday after the news. “I’m pleased President Biden will finally visit our southern border - which has been completely surrendered to the cartels, smugglers, and human traffickers,” tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., among those most critical. Among the complaints on border security by Republicans is the amount of fentanyl coming into the U.S. via Mexico. A 2022 report from a bipartisan federal commission found that fentanyl and similar drugs are being made mostly in labs in Mexico from chemicals shipped primarily from China. And fentanyl and other lab-produced synthetic opioids now are driving an overdose crisis deadlier than any the U.S. has ever seen. But drug control advocates and experts say an anti-drug policy that relies on tighter border security is dangerous and likely futile. It's too easy to move in small, hard-to-detect quantities. Drug trafficking and immigration are among the top talking points at the summit Monday and Tuesday when Biden and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau are hosted by Mexico President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador. Early in his presidency, Biden put Vice President Kamala Harris in charge of the White House effort to tackle the migration challenge at the border and work with Central American nations to address central causes of the problem. She visited El Paso, Texas, in June 2021 and was criticized for choosing a location too far from the epicenter of border crossings that straining federal resources. The number of migrants crossing the border has only risen. Read more: Biden signs gay marriage law, calls it ‘a blow against hate’ For now, the Supreme Court has for now kept in place Trump-era restrictions, often known as Title 42 in reference to a 1944 public health law, after Biden acted to end them and Republicans sued in response. Title 42 was invoked to prevent the spread of COVID-19, but there always has been criticism that the restrictions were used as a pretext by then-President Donald Trump to seal off the border. Biden also has yet to lay out any systemic changes to manage an expected surge of migrants should the health restrictions end. And the president is limited in what he can do without immigration law changes. But in Congress, a bipartisan immigration bill was buried shortly before Republicans assumed control of the House. Biden made his comment about the upcoming visit during a stop in Kentucky at a highway bridge that is receiving federal dollars under the bipartisan infrastructure law. Trump visited the U.S. side of the border as president several times times, including one trip to McAllen, Texas, where he claimed Mexico would pay for the border wall. American taxpayers ended up covering the costs. Mexican leaders had flatly rejected the idea when Trump pressed them early on. "NO,” Enrique Peña Nieto, then Mexico’s president, tweeted in May 2018. “Mexico will NEVER pay for a wall. Not now, not ever. Sincerely, Mexico (all of us).”