McCarthy faces House Republican caucus following revelations in leaked audio – live

Thompson: 6 January panel to pursue McCarthy again

Kevin McCarthy is likely to face new pressure this week to appear before the bipartisan panel investigating the 6 January insurrection, its chairman has said, as the House minority leader faces angry Republican colleagues this morning.

The embattled GOP chief was caught in a lie over the 6 January insurrection by the New York Times, which released audio clips capturing the purported Donald Trump ally saying he would call for Trump’s resignation, which he denied.

Possibly more damaging for McCarthy’s hopes of one day becoming House speaker is the Times’ latest release, in which he suggests far-right Republican lawmakers could incite violence against colleagues.

In a recording made on 10 January last year, four days after Trump supporters rioted at the Capitol building and amid the then-president’s efforts to overturn his election defeat by Joe Biden, McCarthy tells fellow Republican leaders that extremist politicians are “putting people in jeopardy” with incendiary statements and tweets.

Vocal Trump acolytes Matt Gaetz of Florida and Mo Brooks of Alabama are identified by McCarthy as particularly likely to endanger other lawmakers’ security.

Gaetz, predictably, reacted with fury, exposing Republican fissures in a tweet attacking both McCarthy and minority whip Steve Scalise:

McCarthy faces the House GOP caucus later this morning, with the knowledge that the 6 January panel is pressing again to get him to testify.

According to the Associated Press, the panel expects to decide this week about issuing a second request to McCarthy, who has declined to voluntarily appear, and is also looking at summoning a widening group of House Republicans for interviews.

The committee is looking into the riot and Trump’s attempts to cling on to power. Its chair, the Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, says the panel will hold public meetings in June, and expects to release a report in the early fall.

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Report: Trump appeals contempt ruling, $10,000 daily fine

Donald Trump is appealing the contempt of court ruling and daily $10,000 fine imposed on him by a New York judge this week for his refusal to hand over documents the state attorney investigating his business affairs.

CNN is reporting that the appeal was filed yesterday, the same day that the fines were supposed to come into effect, meaning the former president may not have to pay until the legal challenge is resolved.

New York state supreme court judge Arthur Engoron ruled Trump in contempt on Monday over his resistance to a subpoena from New York state attorney Letitia James demanding documents and information.

“Mr Trump, I know you take your business seriously, and I take mine seriously. I hereby hold you in civil contempt and fine you $10,000 a day,” Engoron said at the hearing Trump did not attend.

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One of the most intriguing trials stemming from the 6 January Capitol riot has begun in Washington DC, with a retired member of New York city’s police department charged with beating a fellow lawman, a Washington DC police officer, with a flagpole.

The New York Times has this in-depth look at the case surrounding Thomas Webster, the former NYPD officer and one-time member of the security detail for New York’s ex-mayor Michael Bloomberg.

Thomas Webster at the 6 January riot.
Thomas Webster at the 6 January riot. Photograph: AP

Webster, the Times says, beat his on-duty compatriot with the flagpole several times, according to prosecutors, then pushed through barricades and tackled him to the ground.

Webster, who denies the charges, insists the Washington DC officer provoked his aggression and that he was simply trying to protect himself.

The trial began in federal district court in Washington DC on Tuesday, the sixth case connected to the Capitol attack to go on trial.

Former New Mexico county commissioner Couy Griffin, who founded a group called Cowboys for Trump, was found guilty by a judge last month, the second consecutive conviction of a 6 January rioter.

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Biden, Obama and Clinton join world leaders at Albright funeral

The funeral of Madeleine Albright, America’s first female secretary of state, is getting under way in Washington DC with a number of world leaders and senior US political figures, including Barack Obama, Bill Clinton, Joe Biden and Antony Blinken, paying their respects.

Albright, 84, died of cancer last month, after a storied political career that saw her rise from child refugee to a pinnacle of service during the Clinton administration.

Madeleine Albright’s casket arrives at Washington National Cathedral.
Madeleine Albright’s casket arrives at Washington National Cathedral. Photograph: Manuel Balce Ceneta/AP

About 1,400 mourners are gathered at Washington National Cathedral, every one masked at the Albright family’s request.

Blinken, who is Biden’s secretary of state, is one of three of Albright’s successors in attendance. Another, Hillary Clinton, is scheduled to deliver a tribute, as well as her husband and Biden.

We’ll have more coverage coming up.

Read Albright’s obituary here:

Matthew Cantor

Sarah Palin announced her candidacy for Alaska’s only congressional seat this month, entering a race with dozens of candidates. She certainly brings name recognition to the contest – but another contender may have her beat in that department.

His name is Santa Claus.

He lives, of course, in North Pole – a town of about 2,000 in Alaska. He has a big white beard and a kindly manner, and Santa Claus is indeed his legal name, though, as a Bernie Sanders supporter, he does not exploit elf labor. He won a city council seat in 2015, to the delight of observers around the world. Now he’s ready to take his political career to the next stage.

He’s running to complete the term of the long-serving Republican congressman Don Young, who died last month at age 88. A special primary will be held on 11 June.

As for Claus’s politics: he’s been called “a bastion of blue on a city council as red as Rudolph’s nose”. He says voters who look at Sanders’ policy platform can get a pretty good idea of his own, including support for Medicare for All, racial justice, corporate accountability, and free and fair elections.

Sarah Palin.
Sarah Palin. Photograph: Mark Thiesssen/AP

That includes ranked-choice voting, which will feature in the second round of the coming election. “That’s what’s given me the opportunity here,” he said. Ranked-choice voting “gives people with name recognition such as yours truly, and even Sarah, for that matter, a slight advantage”.

But Claus hasn’t always had that name. “Seventy-four years ago, I didn’t pop out with a beard,” he says. In fact, Claus changed his name from Tom O’Connor in 2005.

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Covid-19 pandemic stage ‘over’ in US, Fauci says

Anthony Fauci has declared the pandemic stage of the Covid-19 virus over in the US, in an eyebrow-raising interview the government’s leading infectious diseases expert gave to PBS NewsHour.

Yet despite his pronouncement, which he says he’s basing on the nation’s low numbers of new daily infections, Fauci has pulled out of attending this weekend’s White House correspondents’ dinner in Washington DC for fear of catching an infection himself.

Dr Anthony Fauci.
Dr Anthony Fauci. Photograph: Reuters

His declaration is more surprising, and contradictory perhaps, because of his assertion in the same interview with NewsHour host Judy Woodruff that the US was undercounting cases of Covid-19. Recorded new infections, fueled by the BA.2 Omicron subvariant, have risen 61% in the last 14 days, figures show.

Fauci told PBS:

I am virtually certain that we are undercounting the number of infections. There are many people, people who I know myself, friends and others, who get infected, who do an antigen test, don’t get many symptoms, but don’t report it to anyone. So, the fact is, there are infections that are not getting centrally reported.

Fauci said he does not envisage the virus will ever be eradicated, but that vaccines and treatments will keep infections at a low, and less dangerous level:

We are certainly in this country out of the pandemic phase. Namely, we don’t have 900,000 new infections a day, and tens and tens and tens of thousands of hospitalizations and thousands of deaths. We are at a low level right now.

Pandemic means a widespread, throughout the world, infection that spreads rapidly among people. So if you look at the global situation, there’s no doubt this pandemic is still ongoing.

CNN’s Reliable Sources reported that Fauci, 81, decided to withdraw from Saturday’s White House correspondents’ dinner “because of an individual assessment of his own personal risk.”

Joe Biden still intends to attend, the White House press secretary Jen Psaki said on Tuesday, despite a new wave of infections among Washington DC politicians, including vice-president Kamala Harris and Democratic senators Chris Murphy and Ron Wyden.

Joe Biden has spoken with the family of Trevor Reed, the former US marine freed today by Russian in prisoner swap deal.

The swap was “months in the making”, White House sources told CNN, with senior administration officials including the president working on the details.

Video aired by CNN, reportedly from Russian authorities, appeared to show Reed at an airport about to board a plane to the US.

In a statement, the president said:

I heard in the voices of Trevor’s parents how much they’ve worried about his health and missed his presence. And I was delighted to be able to share with them the good news about Trevor’s freedom.

His safe return is a testament to the priority my administration places on bringing home Americans held hostage and wrongfully detained abroad. We won’t stop until Paul Whelan and others join Trevor in the loving arms of family and friends.

Whelan is another former US marine and corporate security officer sentenced to 16 years by a Russian court in 2020 for spying. John Sullivan, the US ambassador to Moscow, called Whelan’s conviction “a mockery of justice”.

Today, we welcome home Trevor Reed and celebrate his return to the family that missed him dearly. A former U.S. Marine, he is now free from Russian detention. I was delighted to be able to share with his family the good news about Trevor’s freedom.

— President Biden (@POTUS) April 27, 2022

US-Russia prisoner swap frees former marine

Russia and the US have carried out a dramatic prisoner exchange, trading a marine veteran jailed in Moscow for a convicted Russian drug trafficker serving a long prison sentence in America, a senior US official and the Russian foreign ministry said.

The surprise deal would have been a notable diplomatic manoeuvre even in times of peace, but it was all the more extraordinary because it was completed as Russia’s war with Ukraine has driven relations with the US to their lowest point in decades, the Associated Press says.

Trevor Reed.
Trevor Reed. Photograph: Alexander Nemenov/AFP/Getty Images

As part of the exchange, Russia released Trevor Reed, a former marine from Texas who was arrested in the summer of 2019 after Russian authorities said he assaulted an officer while being driven by police to a police station following a night of heavy drinking.

Reed was later sentenced to nine years in prison, though his family has maintained his innocence and the US government has described him as unjustly detained.

The US agreed to return Konstantin Yaroshenko, a Russian pilot serving a 20-year federal prison sentence in Connecticut for conspiracy to smuggle cocaine into the US after he was arrested in Liberia in 2010 and extradited to the US.

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Thompson: 6 January panel to pursue McCarthy again

Kevin McCarthy is likely to face new pressure this week to appear before the bipartisan panel investigating the 6 January insurrection, its chairman has said, as the House minority leader faces angry Republican colleagues this morning.

The embattled GOP chief was caught in a lie over the 6 January insurrection by the New York Times, which released audio clips capturing the purported Donald Trump ally saying he would call for Trump’s resignation, which he denied.

Possibly more damaging for McCarthy’s hopes of one day becoming House speaker is the Times’ latest release, in which he suggests far-right Republican lawmakers could incite violence against colleagues.

In a recording made on 10 January last year, four days after Trump supporters rioted at the Capitol building and amid the then-president’s efforts to overturn his election defeat by Joe Biden, McCarthy tells fellow Republican leaders that extremist politicians are “putting people in jeopardy” with incendiary statements and tweets.

Vocal Trump acolytes Matt Gaetz of Florida and Mo Brooks of Alabama are identified by McCarthy as particularly likely to endanger other lawmakers’ security.

Gaetz, predictably, reacted with fury, exposing Republican fissures in a tweet attacking both McCarthy and minority whip Steve Scalise:

McCarthy faces the House GOP caucus later this morning, with the knowledge that the 6 January panel is pressing again to get him to testify.

According to the Associated Press, the panel expects to decide this week about issuing a second request to McCarthy, who has declined to voluntarily appear, and is also looking at summoning a widening group of House Republicans for interviews.

The committee is looking into the riot and Trump’s attempts to cling on to power. Its chair, the Mississippi Democrat Bennie Thompson, says the panel will hold public meetings in June, and expects to release a report in the early fall.

Read more:

Good morning, and welcome to the midweek edition of our US politics blog.

It’s going to be an uncomfortable morning for the House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, who faces his Republican caucus for the first time since he was caught in a lie by the New York Times over the 6 January insurrection.

Audio clips released by the newspaper captured the purported Donald Trump ally saying he would call for Trump’s resignation, which he denied.

But possibly more damaging for McCarthy’s hopes of one day becoming House speaker is the Times’ latest release, in which he suggests far-right Republican lawmakers could incite violence against colleagues.

McCarthy faces the House GOP caucus at 10am.

Here’s what else were watching today:

  • Anthony Fauci, the government’s top infectious diseases expert, has declared the Covid-19 pandemic effectively over in the US, according to the Washington Post. Curiously, however, he’s skipping the White House correspondents’ dinner this weekend for fear of catching it.
  • Homeland security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas will appear before both House and Senate committees today trying to explain how the Biden administration intends to fix the pickle it has got itself into over ending the Trump-era Title 42 immigration policy.
  • Joe Biden, and Bill and Hillary Clinton, will attend the funeral in Washington DC for Madeleine Albright, the former secretary of state who died last month.
  • The House panel investigating the 6 January insurrection will hold public meetings in June, and expects to release a report in the early fall, its chair Bennie Thompson has said.