Pence, Trump attorney clash over what Trump told his VP ahead of Jan. 6, 2021

Pence, Trump attorney clash over what Trump told his VP ahead of Jan. 6, 2021
Former US President Donald Trump and former Vice President Mike Pence attending a campaign rally in Traverse City, Michigan, on November 2, 2020. (REUTERS/File Photo)
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Updated 07 August 2023
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Pence, Trump attorney clash over what Trump told his VP ahead of Jan. 6, 2021

Pence, Trump attorney clash over what Trump told his VP ahead of Jan. 6, 2021
  • Attorney: Trump only wanted the former VP to “pause” the certification of votes on Jan. 6, 2021, to allow states to investigate his claims of election fraud
  • Pence: Trump seemed “convinced” as early as December that the VP had the right to reject or return votes"

WASHINGTON: Donald Trump’s defense attorney says the former president never asked Mike Pence to overturn the will of the voters in the 2020 election, but only wanted the former vice president to “pause” the certification of votes to allow states to investigate his claims of election fraud. Those baseless claims had already been rejected by numerous courts.

Speaking on several Sunday morning news shows, Trump attorney John Lauro said Trump was within his First Amendment rights when he petitioned Pence to delay the certification on Jan. 6, 2021.
“The ultimate ask of Vice President Pence was to pause the counts and allow the states to weigh in,” Lauro said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.” He added that Trump was convinced there were irregularities in the election that needed to be investigated by state authorities before the election could be certified.
Pence, who like Trump is seeking the Republican nomination for president in 2024, flatly rejected that account during an interview Sunday, saying Trump seemed “convinced” as early as December that Pence had the right to reject or return votes and that on Jan. 5, Trump’s attorneys told him “’We want you to reject votes outright.”
“They were asking me to overturn the election. I had no right to overturn the election,” Pence said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
Pence’s role in certifying Joe Biden’s win over Trump in the 2020 election makes him a central figure in the prosecution against Trump on charges that he sought to overturn the will of the voters and remain in office even after the courts had roundly rejected his claims of electoral fraud. Federal and state election officials and Trump’s own attorney general also had said there were was no credible evidence the election was tainted.
Last week’s indictment chronicles how Trump and his allies, in what special counsel Jack Smith described as an attack on a “bedrock function of the US government,” repeatedly lied about the results in the two months after he lost the election and pressured Pence and state election officials to take action to help him cling to power. Those efforts culminated on Jan. 6, 2021, when Trump supporters violently stormed the Capitol in an effort to stop the certification.
Trump pleaded not guilty to those charges. Separately, he also faces charges that he falsified business records relating to hush money payments to a porn actor in New York and improperly kept classified documents at his Palm Beach, Florida, resort and obstructed an investigation into their handling.
Speaking on ABC’s “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” Lauro said Pence’s testimony will show Trump believed the election was rigged and that he was listening to the advice of his attorneys when he sought to delay the certification. Pence, who appeared before the grand jury that indicted Trump, said he will comply with the law if asked to testify.
“I cannot wait until I have the opportunity to cross examine Mr. Pence,” Lauro said. “He will completely eliminate any doubt that President Trump firmly believed that the election irregularities had led to an inappropriate result.”
The 45-page indictment details how people close to Trump repeatedly told him he had lost and that there was no truth to his claims of fraud. In one encounter days before the riot, Trump told Pence he was “too honest” after the vice president said he didn’t have the authority to reject electoral votes, the indictment says.
Former allies of Trump have said Trump knew he lost but spread false claims about fraud anyway. After he failed to convince state officials to illegally swing the election, Trump and his allies recruited fake electors in swing states to sign certificates falsely stating Trump had prevailed.
“He knew well that he had lost the election,” Trump’s former Attorney General Bill Barr told CNN last week.
Lauro said Trump’s defense team will seek to move the case from Washington because it wants a more diverse jury. He said he would support televising the trial, and dismissed speculation that it could wrap up before the 2024 election.
“In 40 years of practicing law, on a case of this magnitude, I’ve not known a single case to go to trial before two to three years,” Lauro said on CBS’ “Face the Nation.”
Responding to questions about whether Trump can get a fair trial in the nation’s capital, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a former federal prosecutor and a Republican, said he can.
“Yes, I believe jurors can be fair. I believe in the American people,” Christie said Sunday on CNN.
A slew of people charged in the Jan. 6 riot have tried to get their trials moved out of Washington. Yet judges have rejected those motions in every case, saying fair jurors can be found with proper questioning.
Trump’s legal team has until 5 p.m. Monday to respond to the prosecution’s request for a protective order limiting Trump’s ability to publicly disclose information about the case. The decision is up to US District Court Judge Tanya Chutkan.
Protective orders are common in criminal cases, but prosecutors said it’s “particularly important in this case” because Trump has posted on social media about “witnesses, judges, attorneys, and others associated with legal matters pending against him.”
Prosecutors pointed specifically to a post on Trump’s Truth Social platform from Friday in which Trump wrote, in all capital letters, “If you go after me, I’m coming after you!”


Pentagon vows to keep weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces a renewed assault by Russia

Pentagon vows to keep weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces a renewed assault by Russia
Updated 4 sec ago
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Pentagon vows to keep weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces a renewed assault by Russia

Pentagon vows to keep weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces a renewed assault by Russia
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is committing to keep US weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces one of its toughest moments against a renewed assault by Russia
WASHINGTON: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin committed Monday to keeping US weapons moving to Ukraine as Kyiv faces one of its toughest moments against a renewed assault by Russia.
Austin and as many as 50 defense leaders from Europe and around the world were meeting Monday to coordinate more military aid to Ukraine, as Kyiv tries to hold off a Russian offensive in the northeast while launching its own massive assault on the Russia-occupied Crimean Peninsula.
“We’re meeting in a moment of challenge,” Austin said, noting that Russia’s new onslaught of Kharkiv showed why the continued commitment by the countries was vital to keep coming. Austin vowed to keep US weapons moving “week after week.”
The US announced no new aid packages Monday, even as Ukrainian forces continue to complain that weapons are just trickling into the country after being stalled for months due to congressional gridlock over funding. Pentagon officials have said that weapons pre-positioned in Europe began moving into Ukraine soon after the aid funding was approved.
It’s unclear how much of that has reached some of the front lines, where Russian troops have intensified their assault.
Russian President Vladimir Putin said on Friday during a visit to China that Moscow’s offensive in Ukraine’s northeastern Kharkiv region aims to create a buffer zone but that there are no plans to capture the city.
Ukrainian troops have been fighting to halt Russian advances in the Kharkiv region, while also increasing their offensive attacks in Crimea, including on military infrastructure sites on the Black Sea coast and in the Russian-occupied city of Sevastopol.
Ukraine has also struggled to get enough troops to the front lines, as the war drags on into its third year and fighting takes its toll. In an effort to increase troop numbers, President Volodymyr Zelensky signed two laws, allowing prisoners to join the army and increasing fines for draft dodgers fivefold. The controversial mobilization law goes into effect on Saturday.
In the three weeks since President Joe Biden signed the $95 billion foreign aid package, the US has sent $1.4 billion in weapons pulled from Pentagon stockpiles and announced it was providing $6 billion in funding through the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative. USAI pays for longer-term contracts with the defense industry and means that the weapons could take many months or years to arrive.
In recent packages the US has agreed to send High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) and rockets for them, as well as munitions for Patriot and National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, artillery, anti-aircraft and anti-tank munitions, and an array of armored vehicles, such as Bradley and Mine Resistant Ambush Protected vehicles.
The US is also providing additional coastal and riverine patrol boats, trailers, demolition munitions, high-speed anti-radiation missiles, protective gear, spare parts and other weapons and equipment.
The State Department has also approved a proposed emergency sale of High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS) to Ukraine for an estimated $30 million. State said Ukraine has asked to buy three of the rocket systems, which would be funded by the government of Germany.
The US has now provided about $50.6 billion in military assistance to Ukraine since Russia invaded in February 2022.

Bollywood celebrities head to polls as India’s giant election reaches Mumbai

Bollywood celebrities head to polls as India’s giant election reaches Mumbai
Updated 5 min 20 sec ago
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Bollywood celebrities head to polls as India’s giant election reaches Mumbai

Bollywood celebrities head to polls as India’s giant election reaches Mumbai

NEW DELHI: A-list actors in India called on voters to cast their ballots on Monday, as the country’s massive general election reaches Bollywood capital Mumbai, entering its fifth phase. 

More than 968 million people are eligible to vote in India, as the world’s largest electoral exercise began on April 19 in a seven-phase election spread out over over six weeks, with ballots set to be counted on June 4. 

Voter numbers have slumped compared to previous polls, with the first four phases of the election held on April 19, April 26, May 7 and May 13 seeing a turnout of 66.95 percent, 66.7 percent, 65.7 percent and 69.1 percent, respectively. 

In India’s financial capital Mumbai, located in Maharashtra state, Bollywood stars were among the voters queuing since early morning to cast their ballots on Monday, as millions vote in the fifth phase of the election, where 49 seats are up for grabs across six states and two federally administered territories. 

“I came here at 7 o’clock in the morning when the polling booth opened,” actor Akshay Kumar told reporters after casting his vote. 

“I want my India to be developed and strong. I voted, keeping that in mind. (Indians) should vote according to what they think is best for them.” 

Actor Rajkummar Rao said that voting was a “big responsibility” for the nation. 

“It’s very, very important. If, through us, people can get influenced, it’s the best we can do to make people aware of the importance of voting. It’s our moral responsibility toward the nation. I appeal to all of you to come out and vote,” he said. 

Bollywood superstar Shah Rukh Khan had also urged Indians to use their right to vote over the weekend, taking to X — where he has more than 44 million followers — to make the public call. 

“As responsible Indian citizens we must exercise our right to vote this Monday in Maharashtra. Let’s carry out our duty as Indians and vote keeping our country’s best interests in mind,” Khan said. 

This election sees Prime Minister Narendra Modi chasing a rare third straight five-year term in power, targeting 400 out of the 543 parliamentary seats for the National Democratic Alliance led by his Hindu nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party, which has been in power since 2014. 

Analysts say Maharashtra will likely be a swing state as it sends the second-highest number of representatives to the lower house of parliament after Uttar Pradesh, which sends 80 lawmakers. It may affect the BJP’s initial strong projections in the polls. 

“There are many social issues that are going to be crucial in the state. For instance there is an agrarian distress, the issue of  reservation for the local Maratha community, the general issues like price rise and unemployment that are going against the  establishment,” said Shailendra R Kharat, political science professor at Pune University. 

Though the BJP swept 42 seats in the state in the 2019 elections, Kharat said he expects the ruling party alliance to get only 30 at most. 

Ashok Wankhede, a political analyst based in Maharashtra, said the BJP has not been able “to carry the trust” of the people.

“Maharashtra is the state where the BJP-led alliance is losing the most. This is going to be a major swing state,” he told Arab News. 

“To talk about 400 seats is a war cry. The fight in this election is open and it’s not going to be easy for the BJP to form the government. The last four phases of the election have not been very promising for the BJP.”


Russian jailed for 25 years over army office arson bid

Russian jailed for 25 years over army office arson bid
Updated 27 min 41 sec ago
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Russian jailed for 25 years over army office arson bid

Russian jailed for 25 years over army office arson bid
  • Rights groups have called jail term against Ilya Baburin a record sentence, and stressed that the arson never happened
  • Prosecutors accused Baburin of seeking to help the Azov battalion

MOSCOW: A Russian court on Monday sentenced a man to 25 years in jail for planning to set fire to a Siberian military enlistment office in 2022, the year Moscow launched its military operation in Ukraine.
Rights groups have called jail term against Ilya Baburin a record sentence, and stressed that the arson never happened.
Russia saw a wave of arson attacks on army offices however after the Kremlin announced an unpopular military mobilization drive in September 2022.
A military court in Novosibirsk handed down the sentence. Prosecutors accused Baburin of seeking to help the Azov battalion, a branch of the Ukrainian military branded a terror organization in Russia.
Baburin “created a plan to set the military commissariat in Novosibirsk on fire,” prosecutors said.
They said he recruited somebody to throw a Molotov cocktail at the army office but the unnamed person instead reported him to the FSB security service.
Baburin was acting on Ukrainian orders and that he had “established contact” with members of the Azov battalion, prosecutors said.
TASS news agency published footage of Baburin in court, wearing a tracksuit and smiling inside a glass cage for defendants.
“I did not set anything on fire,” Baburin said in court, according to the independent Dozhd TV channel.
He accused the FSB of trying to “gain points” during Moscow’s Ukraine campaign and of “investigating absurd crimes.”
Baburin, who was arrested in September 2022, was found guilty of a string of offenses, including “terrorism” and “treason.”
His lawyer Vasily Dubkov argued in court this month that “nobody was harmed,” according to a transcript of a statement delivered in court and published by the Perviy Otdel rights group.
“Baburin does not look like a spy giving out state secrets and did not have or hand out state secrets,” Dubkov said.
Separately, a military court in Saint Petersburg on Monday sentenced a cadet to eight years in prison for attempting to set railway infrastructure on fire last year.
The court said Timur Kursanov was undergoing military service at an army institute and had taken orders from an unnamed person online who wanted to “involve him in arson acts in exchange for money aimed at destroying transport infrastructure.”
The court said he was arrested during a failed attempt to set fire to a railway intersection in Saint Petersburg in May last year.


Ship that caused deadly Baltimore bridge collapse has been refloated and is moving back to port

Ship that caused deadly Baltimore bridge collapse has been refloated and is moving back to port
Updated 43 min 36 sec ago
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Ship that caused deadly Baltimore bridge collapse has been refloated and is moving back to port

Ship that caused deadly Baltimore bridge collapse has been refloated and is moving back to port
  • The disaster killed six construction workers and snarled traffic into Baltimore Harbor
  • Several tugboats are escorting the Dali on its 2.5-mile path to the marine terminal

BALTIMORE: The container ship that caused the deadly collapse of Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge was refloated Monday and has begun slowly moving back to port.
The Dali has remained at the collapse site since it lost power and crashed into one of the bridge’s supporting columns on March 26, killing six construction workers and snarling traffic into Baltimore Harbor.
The ship appeared to start moving shortly after 6 a.m. as crews started to maneuver it out of the wreckage. It started and stopped a few times before slowly backing away from the collapse site.
Officials said it would move at about 1 mph on the roughly 2.5-mile (4-kilometer) trip, a fraction of the speed it was traveling when it lost power and crashed into the bridge. Pieces of the bridge’s steel trusses protruded from its bow, which remained covered in concrete from the collapsed roadway.
Officials have said they plan to unload the ship’s containers and complete some short-term repairs while it’s docked in Baltimore.
Monday morning’s high tide had been expected to bring the best conditions for crews to refloat and start moving the ship, according to a statement from the Key Bridge Response Unified Command.
Several tugboats were escorting the Dali on its path to the marine terminal. The work is expected to last at least 21 hours.
Crews conducted a controlled demolition on May 13 to break down the largest remaining span of the collapsed bridge.
The Dali experienced four electrical blackouts within about 10 hours before leaving the Port of Baltimore for Sri Lanka and hitting the bridge, according to a preliminary report issued by the National Transportation Safety Board.


Philippines blames China for loss of giant clams in disputed shoal and urges environmental inquiry

Philippines blames China for loss of giant clams in disputed shoal and urges environmental inquiry
Updated 50 min 36 sec ago
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Philippines blames China for loss of giant clams in disputed shoal and urges environmental inquiry

Philippines blames China for loss of giant clams in disputed shoal and urges environmental inquiry
  • Philippines has blamed Chinese fishermen for a massive loss of giant clams in a disputed shoal controlled by China’s coast guard
  • There was no immediate response from China

MANILA: The Philippines blamed Chinese fishermen on Monday for a massive loss of giant clams in a disputed shoal controlled by China’s coast guard in the South China Sea and urged an international inquiry into the amount of environmental damage in the area.
The Philippine coast guard presented surveillance photographs of Chinese fishermen harvesting large numbers of giant clams for a number of years in a lagoon at Scarborough Shoal, but said signs of such activities stopped in March 2019.
Parts of the surrounding coral appeared to be badly scarred, in what the coast guard said was apparently a futile search by the Chinese for more clams. The lagoon is a prominent fishing area which Filipinos call Bajo de Masinloc and the Chinese calll Huangyan Dao off the northwestern Philippines.
“Those were the last remaining giant clams that we saw in Bajo de Masinloc,” Philippine coast guard spokesperson Commodore Jay Tarriela said at a news conference.
“We are alarmed and worried about the situation that’s happening there,” National Security Council Assistant Director General Jonathan Malaya said. He said China should allow an independent inquiry by experts from the United Nations and environmental groups.
The Chinese Embassy in Manila did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Beijing has repeatedly asserted its sovereignty over much of the busy South China Sea. The territorial disputes involve China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan. The Indonesian navy has also been involved in skirmishes with the Chinese coast guard and fishing vessels in the Natuna waters in the margins of the South China Sea.
The Philippines has adopted a policy of publicizing China’s increasingly assertive actions in the contested waters to gain international support, and the news conference was its latest effort to condemn China’s stewardship of Scarborough Shoal.
China effectively seized the shoal in 2012 after a standoff that ended when Philippine government ships withdrew based on what Manila said was a deal brokered by American officials to ease the dangerous confrontation. China reneged on its promise to remove its ships and has since surrounded the shoal with coast guard and suspected militia ships, according to Philippine officials.
Since then, the Chinese coast guard has had a series of skirmishes with Philippine patrol ships and fishing boats, which have been prevented from entering the lagoon, ringed by mostly submerged coral outcrops. Three weeks ago, Chinese ships fired powerful water cannons that damaged Philippine coast guard and fisheries vessels.
“They’re preventing us from getting into the lagoon,” Malaya said. “We can ask third-party environmental groups or even the United Nations to do a fact-finding mission to determine the environmental situation.”
The Philippines has brought its territorial disputes with China to international arbitration and largely won. The 2016 ruling invalidated China’s expansive claims to much of the South China Sea, a key global trade route, on historical grounds and cited Chinese government actions that resulted in environmental damage in the offshore region.
China refused to participate in the arbitration, rejected its ruling and continues to defy it.
The territorial hostilities have sparked fears of a larger conflict that could involve the US, which has warned that it’s obligated to defend the Philippines, its long-time treaty ally, if Filipino forces, ships and aircraft come under an armed attack, including in the South China Sea.