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Crowded field of potential McConnell successors emerges in Senate

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Crowded field of potential McConnell successors emerges in Senate

Several potential successors are being eyed to fill outgoing Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell’s role as the party faces growing division between more mainstream Republicans and a faction of hardline conservative members.

Among those who are being floated as a potential replacement for the leadership position are senators John Cornyn, R-Texas; John Thune, R-N.D.; John Barrasso, R-Wyo.; Rick Scott R-Fla.; Tom Cotton, R-Ark.; and Steve Daines, R-Mont. 

McConnell, who turned 82 last week, announced in a floor speech Wednesday he will step down from leadership in November. The Kentucky Republican is the Senate’s longest-serving party leader in history.

Speculation about Thune, Barrasso or Daines taking over as leader stems from their current roles in GOP leadership. They serve as Republican whip, Senate Republican Conference chairman and National Republican Senatorial Committee chairman, respectively. 

MITCH MCCONNELL STEPPING DOWN AS REPUBLICAN LEADER

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There are several potential successors for Republican Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. (Getty Images)

“Chairman Daines is laser-focused on taking back the Senate majority,” NRSC communications director Mike Berg told Fox News Digital.

One source familiar with Senate Republican conference discussions shared that the “three Johns” — Thune, Cornyn and Barrasso — are not of the same political stripe. Barrasso is considered the most conservative out of the three, the source said. Barrasso is also believed to be a more palatable option for the various factions of Republicans in the Senate who don’t always see eye to eye. He notably endorsed former President Trump early last month.

SEN. COTTON PROBES DOD HOW US AIRMAN WHO LIT HIMSELF ON FIRE WAS ‘ALLOWED TO SERVE ON ACTIVE DUTY’

“What I’m focused on is the election,” Barrasso told reporters shortly after McConnell’s announcement.

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As for decisions regarding leadership, he said, “I’m going to talk to members of the conference, hear what they have to say, listen to them in terms of what direction that they want to take with us.”

Both Cornyn and Thune also endorsed Trump after Barrasso. Thune had initially endorsed fellow Sen. Tim Scott R-S.C., who ultimately dropped out and endorsed Trump. 

Sen. Rick Scott was more pointed in his statement following McConnell’s surprise announcement, saying in a statement, “I have been very clear and have long believed that we need new leadership in the Senate that represents our voters and the issues we were sent here to fight for.”

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has long been an opponent of Russian geopolitical machinations.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has long been an opponent of Russian geopolitical machinations. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

When Scott challenged McConnell for the position, Sen. Mike Braun, R-Ind., told reporters McConnell received 37 votes from conference members, while Scott received 10. One Republican voted “present.” Some of those who reportedly voted against McConnell were senators Josh Hawley, R-Mo; Ted Cruz, R-Texas; Braun; Ron Johnson, R-Wis.; and Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. 

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who supported Scott in 2022, would welcome Scott’s leadership if he were to take over, a staffer in Lee’s office told Fox News Digital.

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MCCONNELL SAYS SENATE TRIAL FOR MAYORKAS IMPEACHMENT IS THE ‘BEST WAY FORWARD’

The source also shared that Cotton was being mentioned as a potential contender for the position. Cotton’s office couldn’t immediately be reached for comment. 

Cornyn, who does not hold a leadership position in the GOP and is poised to launch a potential bid for leader, said in a statement Wednesday that “today is about Mitch McConnell.”

“But I’ve made no secret about my intentions,” he added.

Cornyn on his timeline: “Not today.”

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Cornyn also endorsed former President Trump to be the Republican presidential nominee, and some lawmakers have begun looking to the likely GOP candidate for guidance about who should replace McConnell.

Donald Trump wearing a red make america great again hat

A new article from The Atlantic warned that House Democrats may vote against certifying former President Trump’s election if the U.S. Supreme Court doesn’t rule whether he is eligible for office beforehand. (Sean Rayford/Getty Images)

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., told reporters Wednesday the next person “absolutely” needs to have a more positive relationship with Trump, adding, “He’s going to be the next president, we have to work together.”

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., agreed. 

“It’s so important that the next leader have a very positive relationship with the president,” Marshall told Fox News Digital in an interview Wednesday. “I think that this next leader needs to have a little bit more, maybe a lot more of a populist view.”

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Marshall, who positioned himself alongside conservative hardliners who were critical of McConnell and voted against the bipartisan border deal in the national security supplemental package this month, added that the names being floated for leadership have been “interviewing for the job since I got here.”

“I watch how they vote. I watch what their priorities are. I’ve been watching their volume on what issues they’re championing,” he said. “All the names … have great qualities. They would do a fine job. But I’ve not even started a process of weeding them out. And I tell you, it’ll be one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever made.”

Fox News’ Chad Pergram contributed to this report. 

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With federal fraud trial looming, George Santos drops out of New York House race

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With federal fraud trial looming, George Santos drops out of New York House race

Former Republican Rep. George Santos of New York has dropped his bid to return to the U.S. House.

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Alex Brandon/AP


Former Republican Rep. George Santos of New York has dropped his bid to return to the U.S. House.

Alex Brandon/AP

Another chapter in the scandal-plagued career of New York Republican George Santos sputtered to an end this week as he abandoned his independent bid for a U.S. House seat on Long Island.

“I don’t want to split the ticket and be responsible for handing the house to Dems,” Santos wrote in a social media post. “Staying in this race all but guarantees a victory for the Dems.”

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Santos won his election in New York’s 3rd Congressional District in the 2022 midterms. He was part of a red wave in New York that helped give Republicans a razor-thin majority.

But his personal and professional narratives quickly unraveled.

It turned out Santos, who was initially supported by many of New York’s most prominent GOP leaders, lied about his family’s religion, his education and his business experience.

Santos even claimed falsely to have been a competitive college volleyball player.

In May 2023, while facing a House ethics probe, Santos was arrested on federal fraud charges that accuse him of bilking political donors. Santos has pleaded not guilty. The Justice Department eventually expanded the criminal counts against Santos to 23 charges.

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“Santos is charged with stealing people’s identities and making charges on his own donors’ credit cards without their authorization,” U.S. Attorney Breon Peace said in an October 2023 statement.

Santos’s trial on Long Island is expected to get underway in September. His former campaign treasurer has already pleaded guilty in the case.

Ousted from Congress, Santos tried for a comeback

In December 2023, with his scandals and legal troubles deepening and political allies abandoning him, Santos was expelled from Congress in a 311-114 vote. Many Republicans joined the effort to purge him from office.

In the months since, Santos has emerged as a far-right gadfly and influencer, firing political salvos at Democrats and at moderate Republicans.

Santos initially said he would run in the Republican primary in New York’s 1st Congressional District but later shifted to run as an independent.

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In his social media post announcing that he’s abandoned his campaign, Santos again blasted the “abysmal” voting record of Rep. Nick LaLota, the Republican who currently holds the seat.

LaLota played a key role in the bipartisan effort to force Santos from office.

John Avlon, who is running in the 1st Congressional District’s Democratic primary, expressed his disappointment at the end of the three-way race: “Gotta say: I was really looking forward to the debates.”

Since Santos’s numerous lies were revealed, he has become a political pariah in New York City. But Santos’ post suggested that even now his political career may not yet be over:

“It’s only goodbye for now, I’ll be back.”

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Boeing burns through $4bn in first quarter after door plug blowout

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Boeing burns through $4bn in first quarter after door plug blowout

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Boeing burnt through almost $4bn of cash in the first quarter, reflecting slower 737 Max production and compensation to customers as the US plane maker grappled with the aftermath of the mid-air accident in January.

The $3.9bn of free cash outflow is slightly lower than the $4bn-4.5bn the company had warned in March, but compares with an outflow of $786mn for the same period last year. Boeing reported a $355mn net loss in the first quarter.

The company’s financial results “reflect the immediate actions we’ve taken to slow down 737 production to drive improvements in quality”, said chief executive Dave Calhoun.

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There has been a 500 per cent increase in reports to Boeing’s internal safety hotline compared with last year.

The company is working to improve processes including training, inspection and how “travelled work” where jets that move through the production line with problems addressed later in the assembly process, is handled in the 737 factory in Renton, Washington. Boeing also is attempting to stabilise its supply chain.

“Near term, yes, we are in a tough moment,” said Calhoun in a letter to staff on Wednesday. “Lower deliveries can be difficult for our customers and our financials. But safety and quality must and will come above all else.”

The plane maker is building fewer than 38 Maxes per month, reducing deliveries that are necessary to bring in cash in order to improve the quality of its manufacturing following the mid-air blowout of a door plug on an Alaska Airlines flight.

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Boeing faces investigations by aviation regulators and the US Justice Department. Though no one was killed, the explosive loss of cabin pressure injured some on board and recalled the two fatal crashes that led to the worldwide grounding of the Max for nearly two years.

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that four bolts meant to fasten the panel to the fuselage were missing.

A US Federal Aviation Administration audit of Boeing found “multiple instances” where it allegedly failed to meet manufacturing and quality control requirements. Regulators have given the company until the end of May to submit a plan to improve.

Boeing said on Wednesday it was “implementing a comprehensive action plan” to address the audit’s findings.

The company did not issue any financial guidance for the year on Wednesday. It initially declined to issue guidance in January, with Calhoun saying “now is not the time”.

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The 737’s troubles have led to a shake-up in Boeing leadership. Calhoun said last month he would step down as Boeing chief executive at the end of the year, with the chair of the board Larry Kellner leaving after the annual meeting in May. Stan Deal, head of Boeing’s commercial plane division, departed immediately.

Boeing shares rose 3.6 per cent in pre-market trading after closing on Tuesday at $169.28.

Baird analyst Peter Arment said the stock represented “a buying opportunity”. “The kitchen sink quarter was not bad as feared, with progress expected on production, deliveries and [free cash flow] in the coming quarters coupled with a management change,” he said.

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U.S. tourist faces 12 years in prison after bringing ammunition to Turks and Caicos

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U.S. tourist faces 12 years in prison after bringing ammunition to Turks and Caicos

An Oklahoma man faces up to 12 years in prison on a Caribbean island after customs officials found ammunition in his luggage.

Ryan Watson traveled to Turks and Caicos with his wife, Valerie, to celebrate his 40th birthday on April 7. They went with two friends who also turned 40.

The vacation came to an abrupt end when airport staff found a Ziploc containing bullets in the couple’s carry-on luggage. Watson said it was hunting ammunition he had accidentally brought with him — but a strict law in Turks and Caicos may still see a court imposing a mandatory 12-year sentence.

“They were hunting ammunition rounds that I use for whitetail deer,” Watson told NBC Boston in an interview conducted last week that aired after their first court appearance Tuesday.

“I recognized them and I thought, ‘Oh man, what a bonehead mistake that I had no idea that those were in there,’” he said.

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The couple were arrested and charged with possession of ammunition. Authorities seized their passports and explained the penalties they faced.

“When I heard that, I immediately was terrified because I was like, we can’t both be in prison for 12 years. We have kids at home and this is such an innocent mistake,” Valerie Watson said in the interview.

The charges against her were dropped and she returned home to Oklahoma City on Tuesday after the court hearing to be reunited with her two young children.

“Our goal is to get Ryan home because we can’t be a family without Dad,” she said.

The couple also spoke of the financial burden of a much longer-than-planned trip. “This is something that we may never recover from,” Ryan Watson said.

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The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas issued a warning to travelers in September about a law that strongly prohibits possession of firearms or ammunition in Turks and Caicos, an overseas British territory southeast of the Bahamas.

It said: “We wish to remind all travelers that declaring a weapon in your luggage with an airline carrier does not grant permission to bring the weapon into TCI [Turks and Caicos Islands] and will result in your arrest.”

The embassy added: “If you bring a firearm or ammunition into TCI, we will not be able to secure your release from custody.”

NBC News has contacted the embassy and the government in Turks and Caicos for comment.

The same thing happened to another American, Bryan Hagerich, from Pennsylvania, who was arrested after ammunition was found in his luggage before he attempted to board a flight out of Turks and Caicos in February. He said he accidentally left it in his bag.

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Hagerich was on a family vacation with his wife and two young children but has now been in the country for 70 days. He spent eight days in prison before posting bail.

“It’s incredibly scary. You know, you just don’t know what the next day may bring. You know, what path this may take,” Hagerich told NBC Boston.

“You know, it’s certainly a lot different than packing your bags and going away with your family for a few days. It’s been the worst 70 days of my life,” he said.

Once a professional baseball player, Hagerich was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the MLB 2007 June Amateur Draft from the University of Delaware.

His case goes to trial on May 3.

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