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Speaker Johnson tells Republicans campaigning against each other in primaries to ‘cool it’: report

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Speaker Johnson tells Republicans campaigning against each other in primaries to ‘cool it’: report

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Speaker of the House Mike Johnson is telling Republicans who are going after sitting GOP lawmakers in contentious primaries to “knock it off,” in order to tamp down on divisions within the party, according to a report. 

Johnson, R-La., attended the House Republicans’ annual member retreat at the Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, last week to unify the often-fractious conference as at least four sitting Republicans in South Carolina, Illinois, Texas and Virginia are going to battle against Republican challengers.

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“I’ve asked them all to cool it,” Johnson told CNN during the retreat. “I am vehemently opposed to member-on-member action in primaries because it’s not productive. And it causes division for obvious reasons, and we should not be engaging in that.”

Johnson is trying to figure out how to guide his razor-thin majority through a series of legislative hurdles that divide Republicans, including how to provide military aid for Ukraine, finish government funding and reauthorize a federal surveillance program – all while trying to make a case that voters should re-elect a GOP House majority.

SPEAKER JOHNSON AIMS TO STAY LEADER OF HOUSE GOP IN 2025, VOWS ‘VERY AGGRESSIVE FIRST 100 DAYS’

Speaker Johnson is asking Republicans to stop going after incumbents as the party looks to mend recent divisions, according to a report. (AP/J. Scott Applewhite)

“So I’m telling everyone who’s doing that to knock it off,” Johnson told the outlet, referring to challenging incumbents within the GOP. “And both sides, they’ll say, ‘Well, we didn’t start it, they started it.’”

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Johnson took the speaker’s gavel late last year after former Speaker Kevin McCarthy was ousted from office in a historic move that left Republicans deeply divided and mired in dysfunction.

Mike Johnson points

Johnson attended an annual House Republican retreat in West Virginia last week. (Getty Images)

HOUSE SPEAKER JOHNSON SAYS WHITE HOUSE DOESN’T ‘CALL THE SHOTS’ ON WHEN IMPEACHMENT IS OVER

Johnson told Fox News Digital last week that he is aiming to stay at the helm of the House GOP next year regardless of whether they keep the House majority.

Congressional building Capitol Hill

Johnson told Fox News Digital last week that he aims to stay at the head of the House Republicans next year. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

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“I have not given a lot of thought about the next Congress, because I’m so busy with my responsibility right now,” Johnson said. “My intention is to stay as speaker, stay in leadership, because we’re laying a lot of important groundwork right now for the big work that we’ll be doing.”

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Fox News’ Elizabeth Elkind and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Trump will be first ex-president on criminal trial. Here's what to know about the hush money case

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Trump will be first ex-president on criminal trial. Here's what to know about the hush money case
  • When Donald Trump’s hush money case opens on Monday, he will become the first former president to stand trial on criminal charges.
  • Trump, while juggling his presidential campaign, will defend himself against charges that involve a scheme to bury allegations of marital infidelity.
  • He is being charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records — a charge that carries up to 4 years in prison.

NEW YORK (AP) — Donald Trump will make history as the first former president to stand trial on criminal charges when his hush money case opens Monday with jury selection.

The case will force the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to juggle campaigning with sitting in a Manhattan courtroom for weeks to defend himself against charges involving a scheme to bury allegations of marital infidelity that arose during his first White House campaign in 2016.

TRUMP REQUEST TO DELAY HUSH-MONEY TRIAL DENIED FOR THIRD TIME

It carries enormous political ramifications as potentially the only one of four criminal cases against Trump that could reach a verdict before voters decide in November whether to send him back to the White House.

Here’s what to know about the hush money case and the charges against Trump:

WHAT’S THIS CASE ABOUT?

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The former president is accused of falsifying internal Trump Organization records as part of a scheme to bury damaging stories that he feared could hurt his 2016 campaign, particularly as Trump’s reputation was suffering at the time from comments he had made about women.

The allegations focus on payoffs to two women, porn actor Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal, who said they had extramarital sexual encounters with Trump years earlier, as well as to a Trump Tower doorman who claimed to have a story about a child he alleged Trump had out of wedlock. Trump says none of these supposed sexual encounters occurred.

Former President Donald Trump arrives for a press conference at Manhattan criminal court, March 25, 2024, in New York. Trump will make history as the first former president to stand trial on criminal charges when his hush money case opens with jury selection. The case will force the presumptive Republican presidential nominee to juggle campaigning with sitting in a Manhattan courtroom for weeks to defend himself against charges involving a scheme to bury allegations of marital infidelity that arose during his first White House campaign in 2016.  (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen, paid Daniels $130,000 and arranged for the publisher of the National Enquirer supermarket tabloid to pay McDougal $150,000 in a journalistically dubious practice known as “catch-and-kill” in which a publication pays for exclusive rights to someone’s story with no intention of publishing it, either as a favor to a celebrity subject or to gain leverage over the person.

Prosecutors say Trump’s company reimbursed Cohen and paid him bonuses and extra payments, all of which were falsely logged in Trump Organization records as legal expenses. Cohen has separately pleaded guilty to violating federal campaign finance law in connection with the payments.

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WHAT ARE THE CHARGES?

Trump is charged with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records. The charge carries up to four years in prison, though whether he will spend time behind bars if convicted would ultimately be up to the judge.

The counts are linked to a series of checks written to Cohen to reimburse him for his role in paying off Daniels. Those payments, made over 12 months, were recorded as legal expenses in various internal company records.

To win on the felony charge, prosecutors must show that Trump not only falsified or caused business records to be entered falsely — which would be a misdemeanor — but that he did so with intent to commit or conceal a second crime. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office has said that Trump was trying to conceal violations of federal campaign finance laws — an unusual legal strategy some experts argue could backfire.

HOW WILL JURY SELECTION WORK?

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The process to choose 12 jurors, plus six alternates, will begin with Judge Juan M. Merchan bringing scores of people into his courtroom to begin weeding out people for potential biases or other reasons they cannot serve. The judge has said he will excuse anyone who indicates by a show of hands that they can’t serve or can’t be fair and impartial before calling groups of those who remain into the jury box to answer 42 questions. Potential jurors will be known only by number, as the judge has ordered their names to be kept secret from everyone except prosecutors, Trump and their legal teams.

Among the questions potential jurors will be asked: Whether they follow the former president on social media, have ever worked for a Trump organization and have ever attended a Trump rally — or anti-Trump organizations or rallies and whether potential jurors are supporters or followers of far-right groups, such as the Proud Boys and Oath Keepers, whose members were among the pro-Trump mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, or of the far-left-leaning collective known as antifa, which resists fascists and neo-Nazis, especially at demonstrations.

WHO’S EXPECTED TO TESTIFY?

Cohen, a Trump loyalist turned critic, is expected to be a key prosecution witness, as he was the one who orchestrated the payoffs. Before testifying in front of the grand jury that brought the indictment last year, Cohen said his goal was “to tell the truth” and insisted he is not seeking revenge but said Trump “needs to be held accountable for his dirty deeds.” Cohen served prison time after pleading guilty in 2018 to federal charges, including campaign finance violations, for arranging the payouts to Daniels and McDougal.

Other expected witnesses include Daniels, whose real name is Stephanie Clifford. Daniels alleges that she had a sexual encounter with Trump in 2006 that she didn’t want, but didn’t say no to. Trump says it never happened.

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WHAT WILL TRUMP’S DEFENSE BE?

Trump has denied any wrongdoing and has slammed the case as an effort to hurt his 2024 presidential campaign. Trump has acknowledged reimbursing Cohen for the payment and that it was designed to stop Daniels from going public about the alleged encounter. But Trump said in 2018 it had nothing to do with the campaign.

Trump’s lawyers will likely attack the case by trying to undermine the credibility of prosecution witnesses like Cohen and Daniels. Trump has described the two as liars, testing the limits of a gag order that the judge imposed. It seeks to curtail the president’s inflammatory rhetoric about the case. Trump’s lawyers are expected to paint Cohen as a con man and point to his conviction on multiple federal crimes as well as his disbarment to try to persuade jurors that he can’t be believed.

Trump recently posted on social media a picture of a 2018 written statement from Daniels, in which she denied they had a sexual relationship. Not long after, Daniels recanted the statement and said that a sexual encounter had occurred. She said her denials were due to a non-disclosure agreement and that she signed the statement because the parties involved “made it sound like I had no choice.”

WHAT ABOUT TRUMP’S OTHER CASES?

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Trump’s three other criminal cases have gotten bogged down in legal fights and appeals, which may mean jurors won’t hear about them before the November election.

The 2020 election interference case brought by special counsel Jack Smith remains on hold while Trump pursues his claim that he is immune from prosecution for actions he took while in the White House. The U.S. Supreme Court is scheduled to hear arguments on the matter in late April.

The other case brought by Smith accuses Trump of illegally retaining classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago estate. The trial had been scheduled to begin in May, but the judge heard arguments last month to set a new trial date and has yet to do so.

No trial date has been set in the Georgia case accusing Trump and his allies of conspiring to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state. Prosecutors have suggested a trial date of August, but defense attorneys are now urging an appeals court to consider whether Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis should be disqualified from the prosecution over a romantic relationship she had with a former top prosecutor who recently withdrew from the case.

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Trump has pleaded not guilty in all three cases and says he did nothing wrong.

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Robert MacNeil, the stately journalist who brought news to PBS, dies at 93

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Robert MacNeil, the stately journalist who brought news to PBS, dies at 93

Robert MacNeil, whose coverage of the Watergate scandal led to the first nightly newscast for PBS, died Friday in Manhattan after a long illness. He was 93.

A PBS representative confirmed MacNeil’s death.

MacNeil was the founding anchor of “PBS NewsHour,” which was first launched in 1975 as “The Robert MacNeil Report” and later renamed “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour.” In the years before cable news and the internet, the program was the lone national TV alternative to the newscasts on ABC, CBS and NBC.

MacNeil was born in Halifax, Nova Scotia, on Jan. 19, 1931, the son of a member of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police. He dropped out of Dalhousie University in Halifax to pursue an acting career and became an announcer for CBC.

After moving to England in 1955, he turned to journalism, joining the news service Reuters. Five years later he became a London correspondent for NBC News.

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MacNeil was transferred to NBC’s Washington bureau in 1963 during the Kennedy administration and reported extensively from Dallas when President John F. Kennedy was killed by an assassin. Viewers who watched NBC News on Nov. 22, 1963, heard MacNeil call in from a phone booth to confirm the president’s death.

MacNeil became an anchor at NBC News and on the network’s local New York station, WNBC.

NBC News’ Washington correspondent Robert MacNeil in 1963.

(NBC/NBCUniversal via Getty Images)

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MacNeil was hired by PBS in 1971 to be the host its first public affairs program, “Washington Week in Review.” The service planned to team him with another former NBC News journalist, Sander Vanocur, to cover the 1972 presidential campaign.

But PBS plans to get into the news business met resistance from President Nixon’s administration. Nixon objected to the hiring of Vanocur, who was known to be close to Kennedy, who defeated him in the 1960 presidential race.

MacNeil believed the opposition was driven by Nixon’s general disdain for the media.

“I think it was primarily the fear of a fourth, as he saw it, ‘liberal’ network,” MacNeil said in a 2020 interview with The Times.

Vanocur didn’t take the job, and MacNeil was eventually teamed with Jim Lehrer, a former Dallas newspaper reporter who worked behind the scenes at PBS. They ended up providing coverage of the Senate hearings on Watergate.

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The coverage made the pair TV news stars.

The commercial networks were hesitant to preempt their game shows and soap operas to present the hearings. They rotated in providing gavel-to-gavel coverage.

But for noncommercial PBS, the hearings were a major opportunity. For 47 days and nights in 1973, the service covered every minute of the proceedings. They were repeated in prime time for viewers who missed the ongoing daytime saga in the era before DVRs and streaming.

Viewers enjoyed the dignified combination of MacNeil, who spoke in a clipped, erudite manner; and Lehrer, a Kansas native with a soft heartland drawl. Off-camera they became close friends and business partners. (Lehrer died in 2020).

Their Watergate coverage brought PBS big ratings. Financial contributions from viewers poured in.

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A year after the hearings, MacNeil was given his own nightly half-hour program, produced out of the studios of PBS New York flagship WNET. Lehrer reported from Washington, D.C., and his name was added to the program title in 1976 when it was offered to stations nationally.

In 1983, the program was renamed “The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” and became a signature series for PBS that still airs today as “PBS NewsHour.”

The anchor duo entered a unique arrangement when they formed a production company and became owners of the program in the mid-1980s. They produced the “PBS NewsHour” until 2014, when it was taken over by the service’s Washington station WETA.

“The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour” never deviated from its mandate to provide a more subdued and serious approach to covering the news of the day. When the trial of O.J. Simpson became a dominant TV news story in the mid-1990s, the “NewsHour” devoted scant attention to it outside the verdict.

After leaving the program, MacNeil continued to produce and host documentaries for PBS. He also wrote several books.

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“He was brilliant and urbane, but always with a delightful sense of irony,” said Judy Woodruff, who later served as a “PBS NewsHour” anchor. “I’m so grateful to have spoken with him in January on his birthday, when that iconic, deep Canadian baritone voice sounded exactly as it had when he last anchored the ‘NewsHour’ almost 30 years ago.”

MacNeil is survived by two children from his first marriage, Ian and Cathy MacNeil; two children from his second marriage, Alison and Will MacNeil; and five grandchildren.

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House passes FISA renewal without added warrant mandate for US data

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House passes FISA renewal without added warrant mandate for US data

A bill to renew a key federal government surveillance tool passed the House of Representatives on Friday, teeing it up for a Senate vote about a week before it’s set to expire.

A modified version of the original bill passed a procedural hurdle late on Thursday after a group of 19 conservative privacy hawks sunk the House GOP’s chance at passing it earlier this week.

The legislation is aimed at reforming Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA), which allows the government to surveil foreigners abroad with suspected terror links without a warrant. Section 702 allows the FBI to collect communications of a narrow list of foreign targets, even if the person on the other end of the suspect’s communications is an American. 

HOUSE COMMITTEE SETS UP VOTE TO EXPAND SECTION 702 OF FISA FOR 2 YEARS

Speaker Mike Johnson is leading the renewal of FISA Section 702. (Getty Images)

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The battle over its renewal has put Johnson in a tough spot between privacy and national security hawks within his conference, while he also navigates a razor-thin majority of just two seats.

National security hawks and members of the intelligence community have called it a critical tool for preventing another 9/11-style attack. However, critics, including both conservatives and progressives, have been seeking to limit its scope after reported instances of abuse to collect data on Americans.

To do that, the House Judiciary Committee backed an amendment that would have required a warrant to query Americans’ data that was collected in the Section 702 system. Opponents of the measure have said it would critically hamper the intelligence community’s ability to quickly detect major threats, and equated it to forcing police to get a warrant before running a license plate during a traffic stop.

It was tense in the House chamber on Friday when that amendment – which ultimately failed to pass in a 212 to 212 vote – was being considered. Johnson cast a critical and potentially decisive vote against the amendment.

An unusual political scene unfurled as members of the ultra-conservative House Freedom Caucus cheered for progressive Squad members voting in favor of the amendment.

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HOUSE REPUBLICANS BLAST ‘CRY WOLF’ CONSERVATIVES WHO TANKED FISA RENEWAL BILL

Chip Roy

Rep. Chip Roy was one of 19 conservative privacy hawks who sunk the bill earlier this week.

The Reforming Intelligence and Securing America (RISA) Act is a compromise effort between the House Judiciary and Intelligence committees aimed at narrowing who can access communications collected, and making it a crime to misuse that data.

But the conservatives who voted to tank the bill on Wednesday said it did not go far enough to protect Americans’ data. Many were also angry at the exclusion of an amendment by Rep. Warren Davidson, R-Ohio, that would have forced the federal government to seek a warrant before buying Americans’ data from third parties. 

HOUSE SINKS JOHNSON-BACKED FISA RENEWAL AFTER TRUMP PUSH

Opponents of the amendment argued it did not have to do with Section 702 and would have sunk the bill’s chances of passing in the Senate.

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They were also backed by former President Donald Trump, who pushed back on the RISA bill on Wednesday morning, declaring on Truth Social, “KILL FISA.”

Trump Mar-a-Lago

Republican presidential candidate and former President Donald Trump opposed the RISA Act earlier this week. (Win McNamee/Getty Images)

House GOP leaders assuaged conservatives’ concerns by promising a standalone vote on Davidson’s amendment, though the timing of that is still unclear.

 

The modified legislation also shrinks the Section 702 reauthorization window from five years to two years. 

It would give the opportunity for the next administration, likely a Trump or Biden White House, to reform the tool early in the next presidential term.

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