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Democrats approve new primary calendar for 2024

Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images

(PHILADELPHIA) -- The Democratic National Committee near unanimously approved a reconfigured presidential primary calendar rubber-stamped by the White House at the group's winter gathering on Saturday.

A few nay votes were drowned out by a sea of "ayes," followed by cheering from inside the Sheraton Hotel ballroom in Philadelphia.

Under the new calendar, the 2024 Democratic presidential primary begins in South Carolina -- the state that revived President Joe Biden's campaign in the 2020 contest -- on Feb. 3.

That primary would be followed by Nevada and New Hampshire on Feb. 6, Georgia on Feb. 13 and Michigan on Feb. 27.

Modernization and representation were two key guiding pillars for the DNC as they strategized changing their early nominating window. The committee debated for months over what sort of voter coalition could win Democrats votes.

"This calendar reflects who we are as a nation," party chair Jamie Harrison said at Saturday morning's meeting.

During Saturday's session, members of the New Hampshire and Iowa caucuses protested the changes to the primary calendar.

"We are creating a situation of continued uncertainty that will drag on until 2023," said Iowa DNC member Scott Brennan. "We will leave here with absolutely nothing settled."

Rita Hart, Iowa party chair, argued this calendar "feeds the narratives" that Democrats have "turned their backs" on the rural Midwest.

"Democrats cannot forget about entire groups of voters in the heart of the Midwest without doing significant damage to the party," Hart said.

Joanne Dowdell, a DNC member from New Hampshire, says the DNC is punishing them because they cannot change their law.

"And we are frustrated because as many times as we say it, no one seems to listen when we tell you that this will only hurt President Biden in our purple, battleground state," said Dowdell.

Dowdell added: "If President Biden doesn't file for the New Hampshire primary, it will provide an opening to an insurgent candidate to rise in the state and potentially win the first presidential primary of 2024- something that no one in this room wants to see."

Former 2020 candidate author Marianne Williamson is teasing a Democrat challenge to Biden and will be visiting New Hampshire in the coming weeks.

"No one state should have a lock on going first," responded Michigan Rep. Debbie Dingell, met with a round of applause.

Leah Daughtry also argued that other states are going to have to "shift" to make space for Black and Latino voters, saying that they are all not urban voters, asking the body to dispel with the idea non-White voters are somehow not rural and suburban.

Georgia election official Jordan Fuchs told ABC News back in December that there's little appetite to move their primary up unless both parties can do so, without either receiving penalties from their respective national parties – another unlikely parameter.

"Our legal team has continuously stated that both party primaries are going to be on the same day and we will not cost anyone any delegates," said Fuchs.

Both states will lose their early-state waiver if they are unable to meet compliance – and if they run their primary anyway, they risk losing convention delegates.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Florida schools directed to cover or remove classroom books that are not vetted

Courtesy Don Falls

(MANATEE COUNTY, Fla.) -- A new state guidance in Florida is directing school districts to cover up or remove books in classrooms that have not been approved under a law restricting instruction and books on race and diversity and making it a felony for teachers to share pornographic material to students.

The directive instructs schools to "remove or cover all materials that have not been vetted" in classrooms, according to a copy of the guidance reviewed by ABC News.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis in April signed the "Stop WOKE" act, which restricts lessons and training on race and diversity in schools and in the workplace, particularly anything that discusses privilege or oppression based on race, or whether someone “bears personal responsibility for and must feel guilt, anguish, or other forms of psychological distress” due to U.S. racial history. WOKE in the bill stands for "Wrongs to Our Kids and Employees."

A judge in November temporarily blocked the law from restricting race-related curriculum and conversation in colleges and universities, which is still being battled out in the courts.

Michael Barber, communications director of Manatee County schools, told ABC News on Friday that teachers could be charged with a third-degree felony if they share a book that’s considered pornographic or obscene under Florida law. But many teachers misinterpret the law as meaning they could be indicted for simply sharing any unvetted material, he said.

Manatee County acted under an abundance of caution when they asked teachers to cover all their books, which could have been an overreaction, according to Barber. The county official explained that teachers have an online link to a list of books that have been approved for their grades and if they make sure their class collections are on the list then they would be fine.

Barber admits that this is a tough time as teachers are preparing their students for national state accountability tests and don’t have much time to vet their reading material. Manatee County schools are planning to ask volunteers to help them with the vetting process, he said.

"Each school district is tasked with ensuring that the materials offered in school libraries and classrooms offer educational value and comply with Florida law," DeSantis' press secretary Bryan Griffin tweeted on Tuesday.

But Don Falls, a history teacher at Manatee High School in Florida, says the new law limits the kind of information that can be given to students.

According to Falls, if a student feels uncomfortable about the content that is being presented, then that would be a violation of the law by the teacher.

"Last week, I was doing a couple of lessons on civil rights, looking at the Albany movement, Birmingham in 1963. And, of course, some of those images of those periods can be quite upsetting: dogs turned on little girls, fire hoses," Falls said in an interview on ABC News Live Prime. "I'm showing them some of these images, in the back of my mind, I was saying, 'Well, if a student here gets upset about these, have I violated the law?' But the information to me is too important to deny students. And so I'm still going to continue to do it."

Florida Education Commissioner Manny Diaz Jr. wrote in a tweet last month, "A teacher or any adult faces a felony if they knowingly distribute egregious materials such as images which depict sexual conduct, sexual battery, bestiality or sadomasochistic abuse. Who could be against that?"

Falls believes that rule is unnecessary because schools were already operating under those standards.

"We have a set of ethical guidelines that we agree to. State guidelines that go along with our contract that would prohibit any of that. And those have always been there in all my years of teaching," Falls said. "So, this attempt to try to convince the public that there is this kind of cabal of woke people that are out there distributing this stuff is just ridiculous because that just doesn't happen."

Earlier this week, the College Board released an updated version of the AP African American course framework after the Florida Department of Education rejected the course on Jan. 12.

Falls compared the law to McCarthyism, the controversial campaign by Sen. Joseph McCarthy in the 1950s to repress and persecute communists in the U.S. government.

"How ridiculous this was that in 2023 that we are covering books, that we are looking to ban books, that we are at a point that sounds like McCarthyism in our society," Falls said. "I guess it's frustrating as a long-time educator. I have been in the classroom for 38 years and I've never seen anything like this where this kind of widespread attempt to silence students, silence teachers to control the information in the classroom."

DeSantis’ press secretary Bryan Griffin on Friday directed ABC News to a tweet he wrote in response to a video shared online that seemed to show empty bookshelves in a Florida library.

"This is the latest lie from the crowd who believes they should be able to subject children to their preferred political agenda in public schools without any accountability to parents or the taxpayer," Griffin wrote.

ABC News' Sabina Ghebremedhin and Brianti Downing contributed to this story.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Republicans paint Biden as soft on China as surveillance balloon soars over US

Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

(WASHINGTON) -- As what U.S. officials call a massive surveillance balloon believed to be from China continued to fly over the continental United States, President Joe Biden faced growing pressure Friday to address the situation as Republicans said he needed to take stronger action against Beijing.

In his first chance to comment Friday, after touting the January jobs report, he instead told reporters he wouldn't answer questions on anything but the economy.

While Biden has, so far, decided against ordering military action, a U.S. official said late Thursday that the U.S. was closely monitoring the situation and "keeping all options open."

Montana GOP Rep. Ryan Zinke, who served as interior secretary under former President Donald Trump, is among a chorus of Republicans calling for the balloon to be shot down, with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., saying Trump would have done so already. But government officials have said they are concerned doing so would pose a risk to civilians below.

Still, Florida Republican Sen. Marco Rubio, vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, tweeted Friday, "It was a mistake to not shoot down that Chinese spy balloon when it was over a sparsely populated area. This is not some hot air balloon, it has a large payload of sensors roughly the size of two city buses & the ability to maneuver independently."

Arkansas GOP Sen. Tom Cotton tweeted for Biden to "stop coddling and appeasing the Chinese communists." He also asked whether the ballon was detected over Alaskan airspace as questions swirl.

Utah Republican Sen. Mitt Romney added a warning against Tik Tok, too: "A big Chinese balloon in the sky and millions of Chinese TikTok balloons on our phones. Let's shut them all down."

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, meanwhile, has called for the congressional "Gang of Eight" top members to be briefed. Such a meeting would bring together the top House and Senate leaders and the heads of the intelligence committees in each chamber.

"China's brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent," McCarthy tweeted.

The criticism comes as newly-empowered House Republicans have formed a House Select Committee on China to investigate threats from the foreign power as the GOP argues the administration has not done enough on its own.

As officials weigh what to do next, Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Friday postponed his visit to Beijing, originally scheduled for next week, with an official noting that Blinken did not want to blow the situation out of proportion by canceling his visit but also did not want the balloon to dominate his meetings with Chinese officials.

A senior U.S. official said talks with Beijing would continue across multiple levels of government and that Blinken had been in touch with his Chinese counterpart this morning.

"We are committed to maintaining open lines with the PRC at all times, including during this incident," the official said. "We will maintain open lines of communication with the PRC to address our concerns about this ongoing incident and to responsibly manage the competition between our countries."

The Chinese Foreign Ministry said earlier Friday that the balloon is civilian in nature and used for scientific research, "mainly meteorological."

"The airship is from China," the foreign ministry said. "Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course. The Chinese side regrets the unintended entry of the airship into US airspace due to force majeure."

"Force majeure" refers to something that is done beyond the control of the government.

ABC News' Luis Martinez, Shannon Crawford, Gabe Ferris and Karson Yiu contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Confidence in police practices drops to a new low: POLL

amphotora/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Americans' confidence in how police are trained and their treatment of Black people both have fallen to new lows in an ABC News/Washington Post poll.

Following the death of Tyre Nichols after he was beaten by Memphis, Tennessee police on Jan. 7, just 39 percent of adults in the national survey are confident that the police in this country are adequately trained to avoid the use of excessive force. And just 41 percent are confident the police treat Black and white people equally.

Both are lows since first asked in ABC/Post polls nearly a decade ago.

The decline has been striking. In 2014, 54 percent of adults expressed confidence that the police are adequately trained to avoid excessive force; that's since tumbled by 15 percentage points. Fifty-two percent said the police treat Black and white people equally; that's 11 points lower now.

See PDF for full results, charts and tables.

Indeed, this poll produced for ABC by Langer Research Associates, finds that 38 percent are "not confident at all" that the police treat Black and white people equally, while just 15 percent are very confident of this. On avoiding excessive force, 34 percent are not at all confident, vs. 12 percent very confident.

These polls were conducted across a long period of police killings of Black people and subsequent protests, from the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, in August 2014 to the murder of George Floyd by police in May 2020 and now the death of Nichols, in which five Memphis officers were fired and have been charged with murder. His funeral was Wednesday.

An ongoing analysis by the Washington Post finds that police officers fatally shot at least 1,096 people in 2022, with Black people more than twice as likely as white people to be killed.

RACIAL/ETHNIC GAPS – While confidence in the police is down overall, wide gaps across racial and ethnic groups remain. Forty-six percent of white people think the police are adequately trained on excessive force, compared with 34 percent of Hispanic people and only 20 percent of Black people.

On equal treatment, the gap in perceptions between Black and white people is wider: While 48 percent of white people think the police treat Black and white people equally, just 12 percent of Black people say so. It's 33 percent among Hispanic people.

That said, the biggest shift in these views has come among white people. The sense among white people that the police are adequately trained to avoid using excessive force has dropped by 16 points since 2014, compared with 10 points among Hispanic people and 9 points among Black people, both within the margin of error for these groups.

Similarly, the share of white people who say the police treat Black and white people equally has fallen by 15 points, compared with 9 points among Black people and 7 points among Hispanic people which is again, within sampling error in the latter two groups. This is the first time fewer than half of white people (48 percent, as noted) say the police treat Black and white people equally.

Notably, while 33 percent of white people and 32 percent of Hispanic people are not confident at all that the police treat Black and white people equally, this soars to 72 percent among Black people.

OTHER GROUPS – There also are wide partisan and ideological differences in these views. On treating Black and white people equally, 72 percent of Republicans are confident in the police, falling to 40 percent among independents and just 14 percent of Democrats. On avoiding the use of excessive force, confidence in the police runs from 60 percent of Republicans to 39 percent of independents and 20 percent of Democrats.

One reason is that 29 percent of Democrats are Black people, dropping to 9 percent of independents and 3 percent of Republicans.

Attitudes divide similarly on the basis of ideology. Confidence in the police to treat Black and white people equally ranges from 68 percent of conservatives to 38 percent of moderates and 9 percent of liberals. Confidence on excessive force is 55-40-15 percent across these groups, respectively.

Among other groups, on equal treatment, confidence is far lower in urban areas, 35 percent, as opposed to rural areas, 57 percent; it's 42 percent in the suburbs. Gaps are similar on avoiding the use of excessive force.

Women are 10 points less confident than men on the question of equal treatment by the police, 36 vs. 46 percent. And confidence on this item is a slight 7 points lower in the Midwest and South than in the Northeast and West.

METHODOLOGY – This ABC News/Washington Post poll was conducted by landline and cellular telephone Jan. 27-Feb. 1, 2023, in English and Spanish, among a random national sample of 1,003 adults. Results have a margin of sampling error of 3.5 percentage points, including the design effect. Partisan divisions are 26-25-40 percent, Democrats-Republicans-independents.

The survey was produced for ABC News by Langer Research Associates, with sampling and data collection by Abt Associates of Rockville, Md. See details on the survey's methodology here.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Democrats rally without 'any reservation' around Biden's expected 2024 campaign

Bonnie Cash/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- As hundreds of Democrats gather in Philadelphia this weekend for their annual winter meeting, the party is primed to create a smooth on-ramp for Biden to gear up for his reelection campaign, which a source says is expected to launch within months.

The main business of the Democratic National Committee's (DNC) winter meeting will go down at a Saturday session where the full body will finally green light a reconfigured -- and somewhat controversial -- primary calendar boosted by the White House that cuts the famed Iowa causes and all but guarantees the loss of the typically first-in-the-nation New Hampshire primary as part of the official early window.

Many Democrats see the proposed changes -- adding Georgia and Michigan to the lineup while tapping South Carolina to kick-off the entire schedule -- as hyper-advantageous to Biden, who owes much of his 2020 campaign reinvigoration to key voting blocs in those states after early setbacks in Iowa and New Hampshire.

Supporters of the calendar shuffle also say it will allow a more diverse group of Democratic voters, including Black people in the South, to have a larger and earlier role in selecting primary candidates.

But others, like Sen. Bernie Sanders' senior adviser Faiz Shakir, critiqued the newly proposed calendar as a "fatal mistake" because, he wrote in a December New York Times op-ed, South Carolina "is not trending in any way toward the Democratic Party."

This week, the DNC is set to resolve the matter, with the Biden-backed calendar likely to get unanimous support at the same time the party is officially declaring their support for his likely reelection campaign.

The president has repeatedly said he intends to run in 2024 but that he hasn't definitively decided.

One DNC member familiar with discussions around timing, who like others in this story was granted anonymity to speak candidly, said his reelection announcement would occur within a few months. (The White House declined to comment.)

Outgoing White House chief of staff Ron Klain told Biden on Wednesday, at a transition ceremony, that he "look[s] forward to being on your side when you run for president in 2024."

And while Republicans recently saw internal fissures over their leadership on public display in the elections for Republican National Committee chair and House speaker, several DNC members tell ABC they are preparing to stand firm, despite Biden's middling approval numbers and the Democratic base's stated preference for another standard-bearer in the next cycle.

One member called their strategy "controlled unity" as Biden is scheduled to appear at the winter meeting on Friday along with Vice President Kamala Harris. On Thursday morning, a resolution was unanimously passed supporting Biden running for reelection.

While the president is expected to stop short of making any formal announcement in his remarks to the group on Friday, DNC members believe the newly configured primary speaks for itself.

If approved, the line-up would begin with South Carolina on Feb. 3, 2024, followed by Nevada and New Hampshire hosting their contests concurrently on Feb. 6, then Georgia on Feb. 13 and ending with Michigan on Feb. 27.

"Look, if you start to read the tea leaves here, you'll see that the president is running. The first and most obvious signal of that is the calendar," said one DNC member.

"The top line is Biden's going to come there, he's going to make it clear that he and Harris are running [in 2024], that's going to soak up the interest level on Friday," another DNC member said, predicting that the entire committee will then "rubber stamp" the new nominating calendar which was previously agreed upon by the Rules and Bylaws Committee.

"This is not a calendar for an open primary. This is a calendar for reelect," a third DNC member said. "I do think this will be the calendar for '24. I do not think it will be the calendar for 2028.

Biden's presumptive bid will result in an almost certain nomination, which makes some Democrats indifferent about the timing of his announcement.

The third DNC member noted that Biden faces "no pressure" to announce a 2024 campaign as no other establishment Democrat is planning to oppose him.

Other DNC members predicted that Donald Trump's fairly low-key campaign kickoff so far could be contributing to Biden taking his time, having said last year that he would confer with his family over the winter holidays.

"I have heard from no one within the DNC or other power brokers within the Democratic Party any reservation about Joe Biden," one of the DNC members said.

Another of the members who spoke with ABC News theorized the timeline for Biden's announcement has more to do with the future of his presidential agenda with a divided Congress and related factors that might influence his candidacy -- like the recent discovery of classified documents retained while at of office at an old office in Washington, D.C., and at his Wilmington, Delaware, home -- than any threat of a primary challenger.

This member said that the narrative and media attention will change around Biden when he is "encumbered" by running a campaign at the same time that he is running the federal government.

"There's no perceived opposition on the Democratic side. So why not just continue to do events, and you get all the free media and are spending money to do it?" one of the DNC members said.

However, one potential challenger to Biden from the left has made herself known: author and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Marianne Williamson. In the last few weeks, she's teased possible trips to the early nominating states of New Hampshire and South Carolina to explore the option of running.

But many DNC members brushed that aside, given Williamson is without party backing, comparable funds and comparable support from the party's base.

"My expectation is that after President Biden announces that there won't be any substantive, well-funded, well-known people running against him," South Carolina DNC member Carol Fowler said.

One of the DNC members said that attempting to primary Biden would only serve to weaken the party's ultimate chance to keep the White House.

"You undermine him in the campaign. You don't make him stronger," this member said.

New Hampshire DNC member Ray Buckley, however, cited the chance of a Williamson campaign as an example for Democratic leaders of an "insurgent candidate" who could optimize the state's anger at losing its nominating slot, suggesting the angst over the calendar shakeup had electoral ramifications.

The new nominating calendar will "create an opening for an insurgent candidate — serious or not — who can garner media attention and capitalize on Granite Stater's anger about being passed over by [Biden's] campaign," Buckley wrote in a letter published last week.

"Some of her supporters have made that very clear, that that is something that they are heavily thinking about," Buckley said in an interview with ABC News.

New Hampshire Democrats will use their time at the DNC winter meeting to engage in conversations with members of the Rules and Bylaws Committee and the White House about the "predicament" they've found themselves in: where their secretary of state will not breach state law, which mandates New Hampshire be the first in the nation to hold a primary election.

Opposition from New Hampshire -- along with hesitation in Georgia about working to change its laws to accommodate a new calendar -- forced a DNC committee to vote last week on an extension for the two states so that they might meet the requirements of their spots in the restructured early state schedule.

But Buckley maintains that New Hampshire Democrats do not have the power to break the law instituted by state leaders, even if they are punished by the DNC and are at risk of losing delegates.

"We want to make sure that we are successful: that we carry the state for the Biden-Harris ticket and that we pick up the governor's race so we gain it, we hold onto our congressional seats and gain the majorities in the legislature," Buckley said. "That's what our focus is."

He said they'll continue to fight for their spot at the front of the primary line with little expectation that the DNC at large will vote for anything other than the new early nominating calendar.

ABC News' Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden meets with Congressional Black Caucus on pushing policing reform

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris met Thursday with members of the Congressional Black Caucus to discuss pushing policing reform in the wake of the death of Tyre Nichols.

As the group gathered in the Oval Office, Biden said it was his hope that the "dark memory" of Nichols' death "spurs some action that we've all been fighting for."

"We got to stay at it, as long as it takes," the president said.

Attendees included CBC chair Rep. Steven Horsford, Sen. Cory Booker, Sen. Raphael Warnock, Rep. James Clyburn, Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee and Rep. Joe Neguse -- all Democrats.

Calls for legislative action have grown in the weeks following the fatal encounter between Nichols and Memphis police. Graphic footage of the Jan. 7 confrontation showed officers striking and kicking Nichols after a traffic stop. He died three days later. According to a preliminary independent autopsy commissioned by the family, he suffered from "extensive bleeding caused by a severe beating."

Nichols' parents, attorney Ben Crump and Rev. Al Sharpton all pushed for the passage of the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as they delivered remarks at Nichols' funeral on Wednesday. Harris, too, demanded Congress pass the legislation, calling it "nonnegotiable."

"The death of Tyree Nichols is yet another example of why we do need action," Horsford said as the caucus sat down with the president and vice president.

"We need your help to make sure we can get the legislative actions that are necessary to save lives, and to make public safety the priority that it needs to be for all communities," he told them.

The group did not elaborate on any specific policies they planned to discuss as they entered the otherwise closed-door meeting.

But any policing reform faces an uphill battle in the now-divided Congress.

ABC News' Justin Gomez pressed President Biden on whether police reform will be possible this Congress just before his meeting with the Congressional Black Caucus.

"I hope so," Biden said as he held up his hands and crossed his fingers.

In advance of Thursday's meeting between the Congressional Black Caucus and Biden, Republican Sen. Tim Scott poured cold water on the idea of using the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act as a starting point in negotiations.

"Resurrecting the House progressives' police reform bill is a non-starter," Scott wrote in a Twitter thread.

The legislation passed the Democrat-controlled House in 2021 but stalled in the Senate, with impasse occurring primarily over the issue of qualified immunity for officers.

Scott has been at the center of police reform negotiations in the Senate in recent years, and he worked with Booker in 2021 to try to get a deal on the issue. His sign approval of any policing reform bill would likely be essential in garnering the necessary Republican support in the Senate.

"I've been working toward common ground solutions that actually have a shot at passing," he tweeted. "Solutions to increase funding and training to make sure only the best wear the badge. Solutions that would have made a difference in places like Memphis & Kenosha.Here's the truth: We can get something meaningful done. We can pass a bill that the majority of Congress--and the majority of Americans--would agree on."

House Democratic leader Hakeem Jeffries told reporters at his weekly press conference Thursday he'd spoken to Congressional Black Caucus leaders ahead of their meeting at the White House.

Jeffries declined to say when exactly Democrats would put forward a policing bill, saying he wouldn't get ahead of the meeting.

"We do need to have a real, genuine, authentic, and bipartisan conversation about dealing with police reform in America, and figuring out how do we strengthen the relationship between the police and the community," Jeffries said.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What is the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act?

Stephen Maturen/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The funeral for Tyre Nichols was filled with tributes for the 29-year-old who died after a violent encounter with police, and a call to action for reform.

Nichols’ mother RowVaughn Wells, who addressed the mourners gathered in Mississippi Boulevard Christian Church through tears, said she needed the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act bill to be passed.

“We need to take some action because there should be no other child that should suffer the way my son [did] and all the other parents here who’ve lost their children,” Wells said. “We need to get that bill passed because if we don’t, that blood -- the next child that dies -- that blood is going to be on their hands.”

Vice President Kamala Harris, Rev. Al Sharpton and attorney Ben Crump all pushed for lawmakers to revive talks on the legislation, which was crafted in the wake of George Floyd’s killing in 2020 at the hands of Minneapolis police.

"We demand that Congress pass the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act," Harris said at the funeral. "Joe Biden will sign it. We should not delay, and we shall not be denied. It is nonnegotiable."

The bill, which would’ve sought to address racial profiling and use of deadly force, was passed by the Democrat-controlled House in 2021 but stalled in the Senate over the issue of qualified immunity for officers.

Here’s what was included in the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act:

Accountability for police misconduct

The bill would have lowered the legal standard for prosecuting officers from willfulness to recklessness, and would've limited qualified immunity as a defense to liability in a private civil action against an officer.

It also mandated the creation of a National Police Misconduct Registry to collect data on complaints and records of police misconduct. The registry would've been designed to keep track of termination records, lawsuits against officers, discipline records and more at the federal, state and local level.

The Department of Justice would've also been granted administrative subpoena power in pattern-or-practice investigations -- reviews the agency says are a central tool to accomplish police reform and restoring police-community trust.

Framework for addressing racial profiling

The bill would have banned racial and religious profiling by law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels. It would also have required officers to complete training on racial profiling and other discriminatory practices.

It would also have required procedures for investigating and "responding meaningfully" to complaints alleging racial profiling.

Limit use of force

The bill would also have banned no-knock warrants in federal drug cases. The use of no-knock warrants in such cases was highly scrutinized after police killed Breonna Taylor when entering her Louisville home on a no-knock warrant in March 2020.

It would also have incentivized local and state agencies to ban chokeholds by tying the prohibitions to federal funding.

Federal officers would also have been required to wear and activate body cameras except in narrow circumstances when stopping to activate it would endanger their life.

The bill would have prohibited federal officers from using deadly force unless all “reasonable alternatives to the use of the form of less lethal force have been exhausted” -- including verbal warnings, de-escalation tactics and nonlethal force. The attorney general would also be mandated to establish a clear duty for federal officers to intervene in cases where another law enforcement officer is using excessive force against a civilian.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


The external campaign grows for a DeSantis 2024 bid

James A. Jones Jr./The Bradenton Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

(TALLAHASSEE, Fla.) -- Florida Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis has not made any significant public movements toward a presidential run, but his supporters are gearing up for one.

While former President Donald Trump is so far the most prominent candidate to have announced a 2024 campaign for the White House, much attention has also been on DeSantis. At the same time, DeSantis has begun to build the foundation to explore a potential presidential run, according to recent reports.

And as DeSantis' profile continues to grow, and even as he has played down the constant questions about his political ambitions, committees and organizations are coming together to urge him to run.

One of the groups already doing that is Ready for Ron, a draft committee created in May of 2022 to encourage DeSantis to run for president.

Gabriel Llanes, the committee's executive director, told ABC News that this year the organization is doing several grassroots events in several states to raise DeSantis' national profile. Recently, the group announced that it plans to spend millions through television, phone, mail and digital promotion.

"We think that our efforts have kind of helped propel him to be that person to generate that chatter across the country," Llanes said.

Llanes attributed DeSantis' popularity among conservatives to his actions as governor of Florida and his "ambitious legislative session" last year, where he signed into law the controversial Parental Rights in Education Bill, which critics call "Don't Say Gay," and took on the Walt Disney Corporation by eliminating its special district which allowed it to self-govern.

Ready for Ron has attracted different groups of people energized by the possibility of DeSantis' launching a presidential campaign, including Bob Carey, part of Vets for Ron. The committee approached Carey, a retired Navy officer, to help on the veteran side.

Carey told ABC News that part of the reason he supports DeSantis' is his ability to get things done, which he sees as a reflection of the veteran and military mentality. DeSantis is also a former Navy officer.

"I think that the veteran community finds in Gov. DeSantis a kindred spirit to whom they can relate and to whom they can believe in," Carey said.

Dan Backer, counsel at Ready for Ron, told ABC News that in addition to DeSantis' broad appeal is the importance of winning for the Republican Party.

"It is clear to us I think, and more and more people, that Ron DeSantis has the best chance to beat Joe Biden [in 2024] and turn this country around," Backer said.

The possibility of DeSantis' presidential run has spurred excitement in Republican circles, even having some of Trump's supporters switch over to support the Florida governor, believing he can help the party regain power throughout the country.

Ed Rollins, a prominent Republican adviser, left his position as chairman of the Great American PAC, which supported Trump's candidacy, to be the chief political strategist at Ready for Ron. Following Republicans' surprisingly lackluster results in the 2022 midterm elections -- in many parts of the country except Florida -- Rollins has publicly said that he believes DeSantis is the "complete package" and can win the White House.

This sentiment seems to be shared by other groups supporting the Florida governor, with many believing that the Republican Party can't win a major election cycle if Trump is at the helm. Since the 2018 elections, the GOP has faced tough losses. The party lost the House in 2018, lost the White House and both chambers of Congress in 2020 and although they retook the House in 2022, it was by a slim number of seats and the Senate was retained by Democrats.

John Thomas, the chief political strategist at Ron to the Rescue, a federal super PAC, told ABC News that while Trump was heavily involved in the 2022 midterms, it did not "make the winning difference" for the party.

"What struck me was after the midterm elections, when we were promised a red wave, [was] at best we got a red mist and in large part I think what we saw was a lot of the Donald Trump-endorsed candidates failed," Thomas said.

Republicans did see the red wave they were hoping for in Florida, where DeSantis won reelection by nearly 20 points -- changing Florida's status from a longtime swing state to a ruby red one.

"I think there's this thirst for a MAGA agenda that has become so popular in the Republican Party, but they're ready for Donald Trump to move from a party leader to a party elder," Thomas said.

And while Trump remains a hugely popular figure in the Republican Party, it's clear that DeSantis is gaining momentum ahead of 2024. A recent University of New Hampshire poll showed that DeSantis led Trump among likely voters in the state's 2024 Republican presidential primary 42%-30%.

Last week, the New Hampshire GOP held its annual meeting, where Trump served as the keynote speaker, kicking off his presidential campaign events. At the meeting, Ron to the Rescue had a presence there, talking to voters about DeSantis and they were pleased with the conversations they had with attendees at the meeting.

"Everybody was cordial and polite, but throughout the whole day, even self-identified Trump supporters that would come up were all saying essentially the same thing: 'We're supporting President Trump, [but] we really like Ron DeSantis, and we'll see how the primary plays out. Maybe we change our mind,'" Thomas said.

"That's not where you want your base to be if you're former President Trump, so that actually was really great."

Earlier this week, DeSantis seemingly swiped at Trump for criticizing his handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, invoking how, unlike the former president, he won reelection.

"You take a crisis situation like COVID -- you know, the good thing about it is when you're an elected executive, you have to make all kinds of decisions, you got to steer that ship," DeSantis said during a press conference on education. "And the good thing is is that the people are able to render a judgment on that, whether they reelect you or not."

"I'm happy to say, you know, in my case, not only did we win reelection, we won with the highest percentage of the vote that any Republican governor candidate has in the history of the state of Florida."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Sarah Huckabee Sanders to deliver GOP's State of the Union response

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Arkansas Gov. Sarah Huckabee Sanders will deliver the Republican response to President Joe Biden's State of the Union address next Tuesday, Feb. 7, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy announced on Thursday via Twitter.

Sanders, 40, became the first woman elected to serve as Arkansas' governor in November and is currently the youngest governor in the country. She is also the first daughter to become a state's governor after her father, Mike Huckabee, held the same position from 1996 to 2007.

"I am grateful for this opportunity to address the nation and contrast the GOP's optimistic vision for the future against the failures of President Biden and the Democrats," Sanders said in a release with Republican congressional leaders. "We are ready to begin a new chapter in the story of America – to be written by a new generation of leaders ready to defend our freedom against the radical left and expand access to quality education, jobs, and opportunity for all."

Sanders is expected to deliver the response from Little Rock, while McCarthy will sit behind the president for the first time.

"She is bringing new ideas for a changing future, while also applying the wisdom of the past, including from the leadership of her father, Mike," McCarthy said in the release. "She is a servant-leader of true determination and conviction. I'm thrilled Sarah will share her extraordinary story and bold vision for a better America on Tuesday. Everyone, including President Biden, should listen carefully."

In her first week of office, Sanders signed executive orders banning critical race theory in schools and the term "Latinx" in government documents.

"While President Biden keeps repeating old mistakes and failing Americans, a rising generation of Republican Governors are fighting for families, advancing new solutions, and winning," echoed Republican Leader Mitch McConnell. "Governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the youngest Governor in the nation and a powerful advocate for the popular, commonsense conservative principles that will put our country back on a better course."

Sanders was former President Donald Trump's longest-serving White House press secretary from 2017 to 2019 and has remained a Trump loyalist since leaving his administration. It's rumored Trump could be eyeing Sanders for a vice presidential pick, though she's said she intends to serve as governor of Arkansas for eight years.

Sanders tenure in the White House saw a combative relationship with the press as she frequently spread disinformation to defend the Trump administration. She admitted to federal investigators in the Mueller special counsel investigation that she had made false statements to the public as press secretary, calling it a "'slip of the tongue,'" according to the Mueller report.

When Biden, 80, enters the House next week to address the joint session of Congress, it will be his first time since Republicans took control of the chamber.

McCarthy said Thursday to open his weekly press conference that he was "excited" to have Sanders deliver the response, as well as freshman Rep. Juan Ciscomani, R-Ariz., to deliver the response for the GOP in Spanish.

He called Ciscomani's story, "just a real, true American story, as well."

ABC News' Allison Pecorin contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


House Republicans vote to kick Rep. Ilhan Omar off Foreign Affairs Committee

Rep. Ilhan Omar speaks on the House floor before the vote to remove her from the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Feb. 2, 2023, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. - Pool via ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- House Republicans on Thursday voted to kick Democratic Rep. Ilhan Omar off the House Foreign Affairs Committee.

They said it was because of antisemitic comments and statements on Israel she later apologized for in 2019.

The vote on the resolution was 218-211 -- with one Republican -- Rep. David Joyce of Ohio -- voting "present."

Omar defended herself in an impassioned floor speech Thursday immediately ahead of the vote and displayed a photo of her younger self on a poster board beside her.

"I am Muslim. I am an immigrant. And interestingly, from Africa. Is anyone surprised that I am being targeted?" she said.

"I am an American -- an American who was sent here by her constituents to represent them in Congress, a refugee who survived the horrors of a civil war. Someone who spent her childhood in a refugee camp, someone who knows what it means to have a shot at a better life here in the United States, and someone who believes in the American dream," she said.

"There is an idea out there that I am not, that I do not have, objective decision making because of who I am, where I come from and my perspective -- but I would check that we say there is nothing objective about policy. We all inject our perspectives, our points of view, our lived experiences, and the voices of our constituents," she continued. "That's what democracy is about."

"I will continue to speak up because representation matters. I will continue to speak up for little kids who wonder who's speaking up for them. I will continue to speak up for families around the world towards seeking justice, whether they are displaced in refugee camps, or they are hiding under their beds -- somewhere like I was -- waiting for the bullets to stop -- because this child survivor of war would have wanted, that the nine-year-old me, would be disappointed if I didn't talk about the victims of conflict those that are experiencing unjust wars, atrocities, ethnic cleansing occupation or displacement like I did," Omar said.

The Minnesota congresswoman concluded by saying she would not let the vote silence her.

"I came to Congress to be their voice, and my leadership and voice will not be diminished," she said. "If I am not on this committee for one term, my voice will get louder and stronger, and my leadership will be celebrated around the world as it has been."

Earlier Thursday, Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries said the vote was "all about political revenge" and called the resolution written to remove Omar "phony, fake and fraudulent."

"This type of poisonous toxic double standard is going to complicate the relationship moving forward between House Democrats and help Republicans," Jeffries told ABC News Senior Congressional Correspondent Rachel Scott at his weekly press conference.

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy had repeatedly vowed to remove Omar and two other Democrats, California Reps. Eric Swalwell and Adam Schiff, once Republicans regained power.

The House Rules Committee voted along party lines on Tuesday night, 9-4, to advance a resolution to effectively block Omar from the panel -- by removing her once she is seated.

On Wednesday, the chamber voted to move forward with a vote on the resolution, which was introduced by Republican Rep. Max Miller of Ohio. It cites some of Omar's previous controversial statements to argue she doesn't have an "objective mindset."

Miller said it wasn't about a "tit-for-tat," given that Democrats and some Republicans had removed two GOP lawmakers -- Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Paul Gosar -- from committees in the last Congress.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Key Senate Democrat wants details on probes overseen by arrested former FBI official

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(WASHINGTON) -- The top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee wants more information about investigations overseen by the former head of the FBI New York Field Office Charles McGonigal.

McGonigal, who was the special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the FBI's New York Field Office, was arrested last month over his alleged ties to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who has been sanctioned by the United States and criminally charged last year with violating those sanctions.

"These allegations are extremely disturbing and raise concerns about the potential impact this misconduct may have had on the FBI's counterintelligence matters and criminal investigations," Sen. Dick Durbin, an Illinois Democrat, writes to FBI Director Christopher Wray and Attorney General Merrick Garland. "As a SAC for the New York Field Office, Mr. McGonigal oversaw many sensitive counterintelligence investigations, including investigations involving individuals he has now been accused of working to benefit."

Durbin points out U.S. officials have said Deripaska was a close associate of former Trump Campaign Chairman Paul Manafort and also on the U.S. sanctions list.

Noting the indictment alleges that McGonigal concealed his receipt of $225,000 cash from a former Albanian intelligence agency employee, Durbin writes, "Both indictments include alleged conduct that occurred while Mr. McGonigal served as the Special Agent in Charge (SAC) of FBI's Counterintelligence Division in the New York Field Office from 2016 to 2018 and after his retirement."

Durbin is wanting to know if any investigations were impacted and how many investigations that he oversaw were potentially compromised.

Durbin is asking for a response by Feb 15.

"Mr. McGonigal's alleged misconduct may have impacted these highly sensitive matters, including whether he compromised sensitive sources, methods, and analysis," Durbin writes. "Whether his alleged misconduct materially impacted the outcome of any investigations or further compromised our national security also remains unknown at this time."

Previously, FBI Director Christopher Wray said McGonigal's actions don't represent his agency.

McGonigal, who retired from the FBI in 2018, has pleaded not guilty to the four-count indictment unsealed Monday in Manhattan.

ABC News' Aaron Katersky contributed to this report.

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Justice Department in talks to search former Vice President Mike Pence's home for classified documents

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Department of Justice is in contact with former Vice President Mike Pence's lawyers about scheduling a potential search of his home in Indiana, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

The discussions come after classified documents were found in Pence's Indiana home and turned over to the FBI for review. A lawyer for Pence conducted the search of Pence's home in Indiana last week and found the documents.

The search was done proactively and in the wake of news that classified documents from before he was president were found in Joe Biden's home and old office at the Penn Biden Center.

The Wall Street Journal first reported that the Department of Justice and Pence's legal team were in discussions about scheduling a search.

Pence's team believes an additional search by federal investigators won't reveal any additional classified documents but intends to comply fully with the DOJ review of the matter, including any search of his home.

The Justice Department didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.

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Top Trump Organization executive to appear before grand jury

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(NEW YORK) -- The Trump Organization's controller is expected to testify Thursday before a grand jury in New York that is investigating whether former President Donald Trump played a role in the hush payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News.

Jeffrey McConney has worked at the Trump Organization for more than three decades and was a subordinate to its former chief financial officer Allen Weisselberg, who is now serving jail time after he pleaded guilty to tax fraud.

McConney appeared more than a half-dozen times before a grand jury about illegal practices at the Trump Organization and he testified at the company's trial late last year that resulted in a conviction on charges it paid certain executives as independent contractors and through under-the-table perks.

McConney is expected to appear before the new grand jury convened to hear evidence by the Manhattan District Attorney's Office about the payment to Daniels meant to keep quiet about her long-denied affair with Trump, the sources said.

A spokeswoman for the district attorney's office declined to comment. An attorney for McConney also declined to comment.

McConney's anticipated grand jury appearance was first reported by CNN.

The former publisher of the National Enquirer, David Pecker, appeared before the grand jury earlier this week, the sources said. Pecker helped broker a $150,000 payment to Daniels, according to federal prosecutors who previously investigated the arrangement and reached a non-prosecution agreement with Pecker's employer, AMI.

Pecker interviewed Daniels about her alleged affair in June 2016 and agreed to acquire the story for the purposes of burying it, a practice known in the tabloid industry as "catch and kill."

Prosecutors believe the payment violated campaign finance laws governing expenditures made for purposes of influencing an election and in coordination with a candidate or his campaign.

Trump has denied knowing about the payment that was arranged through his former personal attorney, Michael Cohen.

The Manhattan District Attorney's Office is investigating whether the Trump Organization falsified business records in the way it recorded a reimbursement payment to Cohen, sources familiar with the investigation have told ABC News.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biggs rolls out new articles of impeachment against DHS Secretary Mayorkas

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(WASHINGTON) -- Arizona Republican Rep. Andy Biggs on Wednesday rolled out new impeachment articles against Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, saying the top Biden administration official has "violated his oath of office, wreaking havoc on this country and he must be impeached."

"He must be impeached because he is a public official who has lost public trust and is an imminent threat to the United States of America," Biggs said at a Capitol Hill news conference.

Biggs, who previously introduced articles in 2021, said he would be filing the articles while standing alongside fellow conservative GOP members, including Reps. Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Bob Good and others. The presser began as House Speaker Kevin McCarthy's first in-person meeting with President Joe Biden since winning the gavel was slated to begin.

"Secretary Mayorkas has failed to faithfully uphold his oath and has instead presided over a reckless abandonment of border security and immigration enforcement, the expense of the Constitution and the security of the United States," the articles read.

Biggs did not provide a hard timeline for when the articles would be moved forward in committee.

When asked if Speaker McCarthy supported the effort to impeach Mayorkas, Biggs didn't answer directly, but said he was hopeful, adding, "We start this hopefully at the Judiciary Committee."

Greene made it clear she intends to target President Biden, once again calling to impeach him as well: "It's also President Biden's responsibility. I've called for his impeachment because of his failure to protect our country as well. And I'll continue to call to impeach President Biden for that reason as well."

The articles also come as Republicans held their first hearing on the border crisis, highlighting the issue at the House Judiciary Committee earlier on Wednesday.

The move follows months of conservative Republicans vowing to impeach Mayorkas and even with Speaker McCarthy holding an event on the border weeks back calling for an investigation into the DHS secretary.

Biggs's announcement also comes weeks after Rep. Pat Fallon, R-Texas, introduced his own impeachment articles against Mayorkas on Jan. 10. Fallon accused Mayorkas of failing to maintain operational control, providing false testimony to Congress and misleading the public. A DHS official said at the time they believed Fallon's impeachment articles had no factual grounds.

Biggs said Wednesday he and Fallon will co-sponsor each other's impeachment resolutions.

Mayorkas said in January, just after Republicans took control of the House, that he was ready for any congressional investigations and that he had no intention of resigning.

"I've got a lot of work to do, and we're going to do it," Mayorkas told ABC News' George Stephanopoulos on "This Week."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Veteran who claimed George Santos stole money for his dying dog says FBI has reached out to him

Al Drago/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The FBI has contacted a Navy veteran, Richard Osthoff, as part of an investigation into embattled Rep. George Santos and a GoFundMe campaign to raise money for Osthoff's sick service dog.

Osthoff confirmed the call from the FBI, and sources familiar with the matter confirmed the nature of the investigation -- which adds to the growing list of legal issues and controversies Santos, R-N.Y., is facing.

The freshman lawmaker insists he isn't a "criminal" and has said he will leave office if he isn't reelected. He has acknowledged and apologized for lying about parts of his background while maintaining that he was only embellishing his resume.

According to previous ABC News reporting, a source familiar said Santos, using the name Anthony Devolder, ran a GoFundMe account in 2016 under the auspices of a charity, Friends of Pets United, and raised some $3,000 to ostensibly help Osthoff pay for surgery to remove a tumor from his dog.

MORE: Investigations and complaints facing George Santos could bring serious penalties
Osthoff told ABC News that Santos did not come through with the money and ignored text messages about it. Osthoff says his dog, Sapphire, ultimately died from her condition.

"I don't ever want to see another person, especially another veteran, go through this again," Osthoff said.

Osthoff told ABC News that he was "glad to get the ball rolling with the big-wigs," with the FBI involvement.

"I was worried that what happened to me was too long ago to be prosecuted," he added.

A spokesperson for GoFundMe would not comment on any specifics but said the company will cooperate with any investigations.

Santos' campaign previously described Friends of Pets United as a 501(c)(3) nonprofit, but IRS records do not list a charity under that name.

Santos told ABC News on Wednesday that he was unaware of the FBI probe and said of Osthoff, "I have no recollection of ever meeting him." Osthoff previously provided a local news outlet with texts that he said were between him and Santos.

When asked if he was worried about being prosecuted, Santos responded, "I have no clue, I don't know what it's about."

He also told ABC News he had not been contacted by anyone regarding the investigation. "I haven't been reached out by them. So I can't comment," he said.

Federal prosecutors in Brooklyn are investigating Santos, including the charity, which is also part of an investigation by the New York attorney general's office, according to sources familiar with both investigations.

Spokespeople for both the U.S. attorney's office for the Eastern District of New York and the FBI's New York field office declined to comment on the ongoing investigation.

The FBI outreach to Osthoff was first reported by Politico.

In December, as reports emerged about Santos fabricating some of his life story, he told The New York Post that he was sorry for "embellishing" but said: "This [controversy] will not deter me from having good legislative success. I will be effective. I will be good."

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


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