House Republicans drop Jim Jordan as their nominee for speaker, stumbling back to square one

House Republicans drop Jim Jordan as their nominee for speaker, stumbling back to square one
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Rep. Jim Jordan talks to reporters after dropping out of the race for Speaker of the House after he lost a secret ballot vote by members of the Republican conference on October 20, 2023. (REUTERS)
House Republicans drop Jim Jordan as their nominee for speaker, stumbling back to square one
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House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries thanks his fellow Democrats as his name was placed in nomination for speaker against Rep. Jim Jordan at the Capitol in Washington on Oct. 20, 2023. (AP)
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Updated 21 October 2023
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House Republicans drop Jim Jordan as their nominee for speaker, stumbling back to square one

House Republicans drop Jim Jordan as their nominee for speaker, stumbling back to square one
  • The combative Trump ally lost 25 Republican colleagues on his third attempt for the speakership, worse than in his earlier bid
  • Chaos erupted on Oct. 3 when a small band of eight pro-Trump hard-liners orchestrated the removal of Kevin McCarthy as House Speaker

WASHINGTON: Republicans abruptly dropped Rep. Jim Jordan on Friday as their nominee for House speaker, making the decision during a closed-door session after the hard-edged ally of Donald Trump failed badly on a third ballot for the gavel.
The outcome left Republicans dejected, frustrated and sinking deeper into turmoil, another week without a House speaker bordering on a full-blown crisis. House Republicans have no realistic or working plan to unite the fractured GOP majority, elect a new speaker and return to the work of Congress that has been languishing since hard-liners ousted Kevin McCarthy at the start of the month.
Afterward, Jordan said simply of his colleagues, “We put the question to them, they made a different decision.”
The hard-charging Judiciary Committee chairman said House Republicans now need to come together and “figure out who our speaker is going to be.”
Their majority control floundering, Republicans left the private session blaming one another for the divisions they have created. Next steps were highly uncertain, as a wide range of Republican lawmakers started pitching themselves for speaker.
But it appears no one at present can win a GOP majority, leaving the House without a speaker and unable to function for the foreseeable future, an embarrassing blow to a central US seat of government.
“We’re in a very bad place right now,” McCarthy said.
Majority Leader Steve Scalize said they would “start over” on Monday. New nominees are to come forward for a candidate forum and internal party votes.
Exasperated with no easy solutions in sight, Rep. Mark Alford, a freshman from Missouri, was far from alone in expressing his anger and disappointment.
“I gave up my career to come here to do something for America, to rebuild our military, to get spending under control, to secure our border — and here we are in this quicksand,” he said.
In a floor vote Friday morning, Jordan’s third reach for the gavel, he lost 25 Republican colleagues, worse than he had fared earlier in the week, and far from the majority needed.
A founder of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, Jordan’s run essentially collapsed in large part because more centrist Republicans are revolting over the nominee they view as too extreme and the hardball tactics being used to win their votes. They have been bombarded with harassing phone calls and even reported death threats.
To win over GOP colleagues, Jordan had relied on backing from Trump, the party’s front-runner in the 2024 election, and groups pressuring rank-and-file lawmakers for the vote. But they were not enough and in fact backfired on some.
Friday’s vote was 194 for Jordan, his lowest tally yet, and 210 for Jeffries, with two absences on each side.
In fact, the Jordan lost rather than gained votes despite hours spent trying to win over holdouts, no improvement from the 20 and then 22 Republicans he lost in early rounds this week.
McCarthy himself rose in the chamber to nominate Jordan, portraying him as a skilled legislator who reaches for compromise. That drew scoffs of laughter from the Democratic side of the aisle.
Democrats nominated Leader Hakeem Jeffries, with Rep. Katherine Clark calling Jordan, who refused to certify the 2020 presidential election results, “a threat to democracy.”
For more than two weeks the stalemate has shut down the US House, leaving a major part of the government severely hobbled at a time of challenges at home and abroad. While Democrats have offered to broker a bipartisan deal to re-open the House, the Republican majority appears to have no idea how to end the political turmoil and get back to work.
With Republicans in majority control of the House, 221-212, any candidate can lose only a few detractors. It appears there is no Republican at present who can win a clear majority, 217 votes, to become speaker.
One extraordinary idea, to give the interim speaker pro tempore, Rep. Patrick McHenry, more powers for the next several months to at least bring the House back into session and conduct crucial business, was swiftly rejected by Jordan’s own ultra-conservative allies and brushed back by McHenry himself.
Republicans predict the House could essentially stay closed until the mid-November deadline for Congress to approve funding or risk a federal government shutdown.
“We’re trying to figure out if there’s a way we can get back with a Republican-only solution,” said veteran legislator Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma
“That’s what normal majorities do. What this majority has done is prove it’s not a normal majority.”
What’s potentially more unsettling is that it’s not at all clear what the House Republicans are even fighting over any more — let alone if any GOP leader can fix it.
The Republican chaos that erupted Oct. 3 when a small band of eight hard-liners led by Rep. Matt Gaetz of Florida orchestrated McCarthy’s historic ouster, has cascaded into angry grievances, new factions and untested alliances.
Gaetz and the hard-liners wanted to punish McCarthy for a number of perceived wrongs, including passing legislation with Democrats to keep the government funded and prevent a federal shutdown.
But when Majority Leader Steve Scalize won the nomination to replace McCarthy, Jordan’s allies broke from party rules and blocked the Louisianan’s rise. Scalize abruptly withdrew his nomination.
Angry that Scalize didn’t seem to get fair treatment, more mainstream Republicans staged their own revolt against hard-liner Jordan, saying he didn’t deserve the gavel.
Weeks of heated, fiery meetings later, Republicans have drifted far off track from what had been their House majority’s stated priorities of cutting spending and other goals.
Democratic Leader Jeffries reiterated that his party was “ready, willing and able” to work with more traditional Republicans on a path to re-open the House — particularly as Congress is being asked to consider President Joe Biden’s aid package for Israel, Ukraine and other needs.
Jordan has been a top Trump ally, particularly during the Jan. 6 Capitol attack by the former president’s backers who were trying to overturn the 2020 election he lost to Biden. Days later, Trump awarded Jordan a Medal of Freedom.
First elected in 2006, Jordan has few bills to his name from his time in office. He also faces questions about his past.
Some years ago, Jordan denied allegations from former wrestlers during his time as an assistant wrestling coach at Ohio State University who accused him of knowing about claims they were inappropriately groped by an Ohio State doctor. Jordan has said he was never aware of any abuse.


Major arrests at NYU campus as Gaza protests spread

Major arrests at NYU campus as Gaza protests spread
Updated 4 sec ago
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Major arrests at NYU campus as Gaza protests spread

Major arrests at NYU campus as Gaza protests spread
NEW YORK: More than 130 people were arrested overnight during pro-Palestinian protests at the New York University campus, as student demonstrations gather pace in the United States over the Israel-Hamas war.
Some of America’s most prestigious universities have been rocked by protests in recent weeks as students and other agitators take over quads and disrupt campus activities.
The demonstrations come amid sweeping debates over Israel’s assault on Gaza, following Hamas’s deadly invasion on October 7.
Such bastions of higher education — Harvard, Yale, Columbia and others — are grappling for a balance between students demanding free speech rights and others who argue that campuses are encouraging intimidation and hate speech.
On Tuesday, the New York Police Department told AFP that 133 people had been arrested at NYU and released after being issued with court summons, as protests also intensify at Yale, Columbia University and other campuses.
As the holiday of Passover began Monday night, police began detaining demonstrators at an encampment at NYU who had earlier refused orders to disperse.
A New York University spokesman said the decision to call police came after additional protesters, many of whom were not thought to be affiliated with NYU, suddenly breached the barriers erected around the encampment.
This “dramatically changed” the situation, the spokesman said in a statement on the school’s website Monday, citing “disorderly, disruptive and antagonizing behavior” along with “intimidated chants and several antisemitic incidents.”
“Given the foregoing and the safety issues raised by the breach, we asked for assistance from the NYPD. The police urged those on the plaza to leave peacefully, but ultimately made a number of arrests.”
The spokesman said the school continues to support freedom of expression and the safety of students.
But protests have grown large and disruptive enough — New York Police Department spokesmen have spoken of their officers facing violence when confronting protesters at NYU — to draw the attention of President Joe Biden and his administration.
“Anti-Semitic hate on college campuses is unacceptable,” US Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona posted on X on Tuesday, expressing concern about the unrest.
The protests began last week at Columbia University, also in New York, with a large group of demonstrators establishing a so-called “Gaza Solidarity Encampment” on school grounds.
But more than 100 protesters were arrested after university authorities called the police onto Columbia’s campus Thursday, a move that seemingly escalated tensions and sparked a greater turnout over the weekend.
Social media images late Monday appeared to show pro-Palestinian Jewish students holding traditional seder meals inside the protest areas on campuses including at Columbia.
There were also demonstrations at MIT, the University of Michigan, UC Berkeley and Yale, where at least 47 people were arrested Monday after refusing requests to disperse.

France arrests eight in PKK financing probe

France arrests eight in PKK financing probe
Updated 20 min 33 sec ago
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France arrests eight in PKK financing probe

France arrests eight in PKK financing probe
  • The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said
  • French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts

PARIS: French police arrested eight men on Tuesday as part of an investigation into the finances of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), banned as a terror organization by Turkiye and its Western allies, anti-terrorism prosecutors told AFP.
The arrests took place in the Paris region and in southern France, the PNAT anti-terror unit said.
The PKK has been designated a terrorist organization by Turkiye, the United States and the European Union.
French prosecutors suspect the eight of preparing and financing terrorist acts, and of conspiring to extort, or attempt to extort, funds to finance a terrorist organistion between 2020 and 2024, the PNAT said.
Investigators believe the eight to be connected to a campaign to collect funds from Kurdish business people and other Kurds in France, a source close to the case added.
Police can hold the suspects for up to 96 hours for questioning, the source said.
Another source said the funds were destined for use in Belgium, where police on Monday raided Kurdish-run media as part of a probe undertaken at the request of a French anti-terror judge, the PNAT said.
The PKK has waged a decades-long insurgency for greater autonomy for the Kurdish minority of Turkiye in the southeast of the country, in a standoff with the Ankara government that remains unresolved to this day.


Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats

Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats
Updated 23 April 2024
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Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats

Dutch intelligence sees the wars in Gaza and Ukraine as triggers for terrorist threats
  • The Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and the destruction of a Qur’an outside parliament last year are “trigger events” for extremists
  • “The terrorist threat is serious at this moment,” the agency’s director-general, Erik Akerboom, told AP

ZOETERMEER, Netherlands: The Dutch national intelligence agency said Tuesday that threats targeting the Netherlands are increasingly connected to worldwide turmoil, including the wars in Gaza and Ukraine.
Although the number of terror attacks across Europe has been down in recent years, the General Intelligence and Security Service in its annual report said the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and the destruction of a Qur’an outside parliament last year are “trigger events” for extremists.
“The terrorist threat is serious at this moment,” the agency’s director-general, Erik Akerboom, told The Associated Press.
Akerboom said he is particularly concerned about big events, noting that the agency is working closely with French authorities to prevent incidents during the Paris Olympics this summer.
In December, the Dutch counterterrorism agency increased the country’s threat alert to its second-highest level because of concerns about the Daesh group’s Khorasan affiliates, Akerboom said. IS-K, a Central Asian affiliate, was responsible for the attack at a suburban Moscow concert hall that killed at least 133 people in March.
According to the new report, “global jihadism has been the greatest terrorist threat for years in the Netherlands.” Incidents such as the one last April, when an anti-Islam activist tore pages from the Qur’an in front of the Dutch parliament building, put the Netherlands on the map of targets.
About a dozen terror attacks were thwarted by authorities in Europe last year and in four cases, suspects were arrested in the Netherlands, the report said. None of those attacks was focused on the Netherlands, according to Akerboom.
The Dutch also see threats from China, in particular cyberattacks, as a major concern. Akerboom said China is producing more hackers to break into Dutch systems than the Dutch can produce to defend them. The security service has cited China as the biggest threat to the country’s economic security.
Russia also continues to pose a risk to the Netherlands amid Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. So-called peace protests in Amsterdam which call for the Dutch to stop sending arms to Ukraine have included demonstrators paid by Russian sources to attend and given prefabricated slogans, the security service has asserted.
The Netherlands is of particular interest to Moscow in part because of the international institutions housed here, including the International Criminal Court. The Hague-based court is investigating crimes in Ukraine and has issued arrest warrants for President Vladimir Putin and other Russians.


Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats

Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats
Updated 23 April 2024
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Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats

Sunak says UK to raise defense spending amid global threats
  • “In a world that is the most dangerous it has been since the end of the Cold War, we cannot be complacent,” Sunak told reporters
  • The increase in spending from 2.3 percent will see the UK become one of the highest spenders on defense in the 32-member defense alliance

WARSAW: Britain will raise defense spending to 2.5 percent of GDP by 2030 in a “most dangerous” world, Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said Tuesday during a visit to Poland.
The commitment came as NATO countries face pressure to raise defense spending in the face of global threats, particularly from Russia.
“In a world that is the most dangerous it has been since the end of the Cold War, we cannot be complacent,” Sunak told reporters in Warsaw, where he held a press conference with NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg.
The increase in spending from 2.3 percent will see the UK become one of the highest spenders on defense in the 32-member defense alliance after the United States, the British government said.
It means the UK is expected to spend £87 billion on defense in 2030-31, an increase of £23 billion over current levels.
“I believe we must do more to defend our country, our interests, and our values,” Sunak said, announcing “the biggest strengthening of national defense for a generation.”
Western nations are under pressure to boost defense funding following Moscow’s invasion of its neighbor Ukraine as well as the threat of escalation in the Middle East.
EU chief Ursula von der Leyen recently called for a “European awakening on defense and security.”
Brussels is set to come up with more proposals for financing the defense push by a summit of EU leaders in June.
Sunak has also faced calls from his Conservative Party to boost defense spending, with some calling for a level of three percent of GDP.
On Tuesday, Sunak also announced £500 million additional funding for Ukraine’s war effort against Russia.


A Russian strike on Kharkiv’s TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine’s Zelensky says

A Russian strike on Kharkiv’s TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine’s Zelensky says
Updated 23 April 2024
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A Russian strike on Kharkiv’s TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine’s Zelensky says

A Russian strike on Kharkiv’s TV tower is part of an intimidation campaign, Ukraine’s Zelensky says
  • Kharkiv region straddles the approximately 1,000-kilometer front line where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been locked in battle for more than two years
  • “Four priorities are key: defense of the sky, modern artillery, long-range capacity, and to ensure that packages of American aid arrive as soon as possible,” Zelensky said

KYIV: Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said a Russian missile strike that smashed a prominent skyline television tower in Kharkiv was part of the Kremlin’s effort to intimidate Ukraine’s second-largest city, which in recent weeks has come under increasingly frequent attack.
The strike sought to “make the terror visible to the whole city and to try to limit Kharkiv’s connection and access to information,” Zelensky said in a Monday evening address.
The northeastern Kharkiv region straddles the approximately 1,000-kilometer (600-mile) front line where Ukrainian and Russian forces have been locked in battle for more than two years since Moscow’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine. The front line has changed little during a war of attrition, focused mostly on artillery, drones and trenches.
Since late March, Russia has stepped up the pressure on Kharkiv, apparently aiming to exploit Ukraine’s shortage of air defense systems. It has pounded the local power grid and hit apartment blocks.
On Monday, a Russian Kh-59 missile struck Kharkiv’s 250-meter (820-foot) -high TV tower, breaking it roughly in half and halting transmissions.
A Washington think tank said Russia may be eyeing a ground assault on Kharkiv.
“The Kremlin is conducting a concerted air and information operation to destroy Kharkiv City, convince Ukrainians to flee, and internally displace millions of Ukrainians ahead of a possible future Russian offensive operation against the city or elsewhere in Ukraine,” the Institute for the Study of War said in an assessment.
The expected arrival in Ukraine in coming weeks of new military aid from its Western partners possibly has prompted Russia to escalate its attacks before the help arrives, the ISW said, adding that trying to capture Kharkiv would be “a significant challenge” for the Kremlin’s forces.
Instead, the Russian military command “may attempt to destroy Kharkiv City with air, missile, and drone strikes and prompt a large-scale internal displacement of Ukrainian civilians,” it said.
The US Senate was returning to Washington on Tuesday to vote on $61 billion in war aid to Ukraine after months of delays. Zelensky said US President Joe Biden assured him the aid would include long-range and artillery capabilities.
“Four priorities are key: defense of the sky, modern artillery, long-range capacity, and to ensure that packages of American aid arrive as soon as possible,” Zelensky said.
Also Tuesday, Britain pledged 500 million pounds ($620 million, 580 million euros) in new military supplies for Ukraine, including 400 vehicles, 60 boats, 1,600 munitions and 4 million rounds of ammunition.
The shipment will also include British Storm Shadow long-range missiles, which have a range of about 150 miles (240 kilometers) and have proven effective at hitting Russian targets, the British government said.
British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke with Zelensky on Tuesday morning to confirm the new assistance. He was due to announce the aid later Tuesday during a visit to Warsaw where he was meeting with Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg.
Less cheering news came from the European Union, however. EU countries that have Patriot air defense systems gave no clear sign Monday that they might be willing to send them to Ukraine, which is desperately seeking at least seven of the missile batteries.
Ukraine’s army is also heavily outnumbered in the fight, and expanding the country’s mobilization has been a delicate issue.
Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba on Tuesday signaled that authorities plan to clamp down on young men of conscription age who have moved abroad, with details of the specific measures to be made public soon.
“Staying abroad does not relieve a citizen of his or her duties to the homeland,” Kuleba said on the social media platform X.
Meanwhile, Russia launched 16 Shahed drones and two Iskander-M ballistic missiles over Ukraine’s southern and central regions, the Ukrainian air force said Tuesday morning. It said all but one of the drones were intercepted.
In Odesa, an overnight attack injured nine people, regional Gov. Oleh Kiper said. Among those injured were two infants and two children aged nine and 12, Kiper said. City mayor Hennadii Trukhanov said 58 apartments in 22 buildings were damaged.
In other developments:
A Russian missile strike near Dnipro, Ukraine’s fourth-largest city, injured four people who were admitted to hospital, regional Gov. Serhii Lysak said.
Russian forces dropped a guided aerial bomb in Kostiantynivka, a city in the eastern Donetsk region, injuring five people who were riding in a car, police said. Two of them were in critical conditions.