Pence says he will fight subpoena as far as Supreme Court

Former Vice President Mike Pence greets supporters after speaking at a parents rights rally on Feb. 15, 2023, in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. (AP)
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Updated 16 February 2023
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Pence says he will fight subpoena as far as Supreme Court

  • The Justice Department, which had earlier declined to comment on Pence’s subpoena, is expected to oppose the former vice president’s efforts and make the case that his cooperation is essential

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa: Former Vice President Mike Pence said Wednesday that he will challenge a subpoena by the special counsel overseeing Trump investigations to compel his testimony before a grand jury — pursuing it to the Supreme Court if necessary.
Special counsel Jack Smith, appointed by the Justice Department, is investigating efforts by former President Donald Trump and his allies to overturn the results of the 2020 election. Trump spent the days before Jan. 6, 2021, aggressively pressuring Pence to reject the outcome, even though Pence had no power to do so. Pence was at the US Capitol presiding over a joint session of Congress as Trump’s supporters violently stormed the building that day.
“Let me first be clear: I’m going to fight the Biden DOJ subpoena for me to appear before the grand jury because I believe it’s unconstitutional and it’s unprecedented,” Pence told reporters in Iowa, the state that will hold the first contest of the 2024 nominating sequence.
“Never before in American history has a vice president been summoned to appear in court to testify against the president with whom they serve,” he said.
Pence said he was prepared to take the case “as far as it needs to go, if needs be to the Supreme Court of the United States.”
The posture marks an aggressive turn for Pence, who has been laying the groundwork for a likely presidential run. While it remains unclear whether Pence will succeed in delaying or limiting the scope of his testimony, the posture gives the former vice president a new opening to attack the Justice Department, which has become increasingly unpopular among conservatives, in part due to Trump’s constant attacks.
Indeed, Pence repeatedly criticized the department Wednesday, complaining of a “two-tiered justice system that Republicans have been dealing with throughout the Biden administration.”
The Associated Press previously reported that Pence was ready to contest Smith’s demand for his appearance on constitutional grounds. He argues that because he was serving in his role as president of the Senate on Jan. 6, he is protected under the Constitution’s “speech or debate” clause from being forced to testify. That provision is intended to protect members of Congress from questioning about official legislative acts.
A spokesman for Smith declined to comment. The Justice Department, which had earlier declined to comment on Pence’s subpoena, is expected to oppose the former vice president’s efforts and make the case that his cooperation is essential.
Pence noted during an earlier stop in Minneapolis that he had written and spoken extensively about Trump’s efforts to pressure him to overturn the results of the election — something he did not have power to do — and has repeatedly denounced Trump’s efforts as “reckless” and “dangerous.”
“I have nothing to hide and I’m proud of what we accomplished. But for me, this is a moment where you have to decide where you stand, and I stand on the Constitution of the United States,” he said.
He added that he expects Trump to try to assert executive privilege to block his own testimony. “That’s not my fight. My fight is on the separation of powers,” Pence said.
Pence made his remarks after headlining events in Minneapolis and Cedar Rapids aimed at rallying conservative parents opposed to transgender-affirming policies in public schools. The events came as a federal appeals court was expected to hear oral arguments in St. Paul, Minnesota, in a case brought last summer by a national group representing parents of students in Linn-Mar Community School District in Marion, Iowa, near Cedar Rapids.
Parents Defending Education is trying to overturn a policy adopted by the school board last year allowing transgender students to request a gender support plan to begin socially transitioning at school without the permission of their parents. Pence’s advocacy group, Advancing American Freedom, has filed an amicus brief in the case, as have dozens of mostly conservative groups and several conservative states.
“Across the country, parents’ rights are being trampled by a politically correct nanny state that’s ruining our schools and telling our parents that they have no role in their children’s most important decisions,” Pence said in Minneapolis, where he argued that parents must be informed of such decisions. “You do not craft a gender transition plan for my child without my knowledge or consent,” he said.
Though Pence says he has yet to make a decision about 2024, he has visited leadoff Iowa several times since the 2020 election. And his Wednesday event had the look and feel of a campaign stop, held in a pizza restaurant where candidates commonly hold court with voters.
Pence is hoping to draw the support of social and religious conservatives in what could be a crowded primary contest that already includes Trump and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, who formally launched her campaign Wednesday.
To that end, Pence’s advocacy group launched a new campaign last week on the schools issue, a flashpoint for many on the right, as Haley and other presidential prospects, including South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott, prepare for their own visits to the state this month.


UK minister accused of ‘witch hunt’ against pro-Palestine movement

Updated 21 May 2024
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UK minister accused of ‘witch hunt’ against pro-Palestine movement

  • Michael Gove: University encampments represent ‘antisemitism repurposed for Instagram age’
  • Palestine Solidarity Campaign: Britain ‘complicit’ in ‘genocide in Gaza’

LONDON: The UK’s secretary of state for leveling up, housing and communities has been accused of conducting a “witch hunt” after accusing pro-Palestinian demonstrators of antisemitism.
Political parties and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign condemned Michael Gove, with the Revolutionary Communist Party calling his accusations an attempt to distract from the Conservatives’ “support for genocide” in Gaza.
The Socialist Workers Party said he is conducting a “witch hunt (against) the Palestine solidarity movement.”
Gove announced plans to make protest organizers foot the cost of policing at pro-Palestinian demonstrations, saying they are not doing enough to stop some attendees spreading anti-Jewish messages.
“Many of those on these marches are thoughtful, gentle, compassionate people — driven by a desire for peace and an end to suffering. But they are side by side with those who are promoting hate,” he added.
“The organizers of these marches could do everything in their power to stop that. They don’t.”
Gove also said pro-Palestinian university encampments across the UK represent “antisemitism repurposed for the Instagram age,” and their presence has facilitated hostility against Jewish students on campuses.
Ben Jamal, PSC director, said in a statement: “Apologists for Israel’s genocidal violence and system of apartheid have lost the democratic and legal arguments, but continue to attempt to delegitimize Palestinian solidarity. They will not succeed.
“At a moment when Israel is on trial in the world’s highest court for the crime of genocide and the day after its Prime Minister has been threatened with ICC (International Criminal Court) arrest warrants for war crimes, it is grotesque that these smears continue.
“The real issues are that the UK government continues to arm Israel, refuses to resume funding to UNRWA (the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees), and is attempting to protect Israel from legal accountability.
“Far from stopping the genocide in Gaza as required under international law, the UK is complicit.”


NGOs seek climate trial of French oil giant TotalEnergies

Updated 21 May 2024
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NGOs seek climate trial of French oil giant TotalEnergies

  • The complaint was filed at Paris judicial court days before TotalEnergies holds annual shareholders meeting
  • The offenses carry prison sentences ranging between one year to five years and fines of as much as $163,000

PARIS: NGOs filed a criminal complaint against French oil giant TotalEnergies and its top shareholders in Paris on Tuesday, seeking a trial for involuntary manslaughter and other consequences of climate change “chaos.”
The case targets the company’s board, including chief executive Patrick Pouyanne, and major shareholders that backed its climate strategy, including US investment firm BlackRock and Norway’s central bank, Norges Bank.
In a statement, the three NGOs and eight individuals said they accused the group of “deliberately endangering the lives of others, involuntary manslaughter, neglecting to address a disaster, and damaging biodiversity.”
The complaint was filed at the Paris judicial court, which has environmental and health departments, three days before TotalEnergies holds its annual shareholders meeting.
The prosecutor now has three months to decide whether to open a judicial investigation, the NGOs said. If it does not go ahead, the plaintiffs can take their case directly before an investigative judge.
The offenses carry prison sentences ranging between one year to five years and fines of as much as 150,000 euros ($163,000).
“This legal action could set a precedent in the history of climate litigation as it opens the way to holding fossil fuel producers and shareholders responsible before criminal courts for the chaos caused by climate change,” the NGOs said.
The plaintiffs include “victims or survivors of climate-related disasters” in Australia, Belgium, France, Greece, Pakistan, the Philippines and Zimbabwe.
TotalEnergies did not immediately return a request for comment.
Oil and gas companies, other corporations and governments are facing a growing number of legal cases related to the climate crisis worldwide.
TotalEnergies is facing other legal cases in France related to climate change.
Outside the Paris judicial court, the NGOs held a banner reading “climate change kills” and “let’s put shareholders behind bars” — with the “share” in shareholders crossed out and replaced by the “death.”
The latest complaint aims to “recognize the deadly consequences of their decisions, their stubbornness in voting for fossil projects which threaten the stability of the climate and therefore of all living things,” Claire Nouvian, founding director of conservation group Bloom, said at a news conference.
Fossil fuels — oil, gas and coal — are the biggest contributors to heat-trapping greenhouse gas emissions.
One of the plaintiffs in the Paris case is Benjamin Van Bunderen Robberechts, a 17-year-old Belgian whose friend Rosa died in flash floods in Belgium at the age of 15 in 2021.
In Paris to file the complaint, he said he had come to “demand justice” against those “who choose profit over human lives and climate.”
In their statement, the plaintiffs said “TotalEnergies has known the direct link between its activities and climate change” since at least 1971.
“TotalEnergies followed a climate skeptic line in order to waste time, delay decision-making and protect its increasing investments in fossil fuels,” they added.
They said they hope to set a legal precedent “whereby opening new fossil fuel projects would be considered criminal.”
While the case was filed on Tuesday, TotalEnergies announced a deepwater project off the coast of Angola, with production set to start in 2028 to extract 70,000 barrels per day.


Gunmen kill around 40 people in attack in northcentral Nigeria: official

Updated 21 May 2024
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Gunmen kill around 40 people in attack in northcentral Nigeria: official

  • Armed men invaded Zurak community, shooting sporadically and torching houses
  • Local youth leader Shafi’i Sambo also said at least 42 people had been killed in the raid

LAGOS: Gunmen riding motorbikes killed around 40 people in a raid on a mining community in northcentral Nigeria, opening fire on residents and torching homes, the local government said on Tuesday.
The attack late on Monday on Wase district in Plateau state was the latest violence in an area which has long been a flashpoint for disputes over resources and for outbreaks of intercommunal clashes.
Armed men invaded Zurak community, shooting sporadically and torching houses, Plateau state commissioner for information Musa Ibrahim Ashoms told AFP by telephone.
“As we speak, about 40 people have been confirmed dead. Zurak is a popular mining community,” he said.
Local youth leader Shafi’i Sambo also said at least 42 people had been killed in the raid.
Wase has deposits of zinc and lead, while Plateau as a whole is known for its tin mining industry.
Sitting on the dividing line between Nigeria’s mostly Muslim north and predominantly Christian south, Plateau often sees outbreaks of violence sparked by disputes between nomadic herders and pastoral farmers.
Climate change has also helped escalate tensions over grazing land, water access and other resources such as the state’s metal reserves.
Parts of northwest and northcentral Nigeria have also been terrorized by heavily armed criminal gangs, who raid villages to loot and carry out mass kidnappings for ransom.
In January, intercommunal clashes erupted in Plateau’s Mangu town that left churches and mosques burned, more than 50 people dead and thousands displaced.


Over 3,000 Ukrainian inmates seek to join military

Updated 21 May 2024
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Over 3,000 Ukrainian inmates seek to join military

  • Ukraine is suffering critical ammunition and manpower shortages on the battlefield
  • “We predicted this before the adoption of this law,” Deputy Minister of Justice Olena Vysotska said

KYIV: Thousands of Ukrainian inmates are seeking to join the military, Kyiv said Tuesday, following a decision by lawmakers enabling some categories of prisoners to join the armed forces.
The move echoes a policy in Russia, where tens of thousands of prisoners have been sent to Ukraine with the promise of amnesty and were killed in gruelling battles that produced few gains.
Ukraine is suffering critical ammunition and manpower shortages on the battlefield that have allowed Russian forces to advance on the eastern and northern front lines.
“This is more than 3,000 people. We predicted this before the adoption of this law,” Deputy Minister of Justice Olena Vysotska said, referring to the number of prisoners who have submitted applications to join the military.
She said authorities had identified 20,000 eligible prisoners and that of them, 4,500 had “expressed interest” in joining. She added that the figure was likely to fluctuate.
Only prisoners with fewer than three years left on their sentence can apply. Mobilized prisoners are granted parole rather than a pardon.
Among those not eligible to serve include those found guilty of sexual violence, killing two or more people, serious corruption and former high-ranking officials.
Russia has recruited prisoners to serve on the front lines since the first days of its invasion, initially offering presidential pardons for six months’ service.


EU states push for June start to Ukraine membership talks

Updated 21 May 2024
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EU states push for June start to Ukraine membership talks

  • To actually begin the negotiations the bloc’s member states still have to sign off on a formal framework for the process
  • At a meeting in Brussels, France’s EU affairs minister Jean-Noel Barrot called for “the effective opening of negotiations“

BRUSSELS: Several EU countries on Tuesday called for the bloc to start membership negotiations with Ukraine and Moldova in June, but Hungary threatened to throw a spanner in the works.
The 27-nation EU took the landmark step in December of agreeing to open talks on its war-torn neighbor — and fellow ex-Soviet state Moldova — joining the club.
But to actually begin the negotiations the bloc’s member states still have to sign off on a formal framework for the process, proposed in March by Brussels.
At a meeting in Brussels, France’s EU affairs minister Jean-Noel Barrot called for “the effective opening of negotiations” before Belgium’s rotating presidency concludes at the end of June.
That statement was echoed by other ministers — including from Ireland and Sweden.
The push to move Ukraine onto the next step in its quest for EU membership comes amid fears that Hungary, the friendliest country with Moscow in the bloc, could stall progress when it takes over the presidency after Belgium.
Budapest has been hostile to Kyiv’s bid to join, arguing that Ukraine is getting pushed ahead in the queue without meeting the required criteria.
“There can be no exception on the basis of political or ideological considerations,” Hungarian minister Zoltan Kovacs said.
“There is very little, if any, progress. Again, I can repeat to you that membership, approval should be a merit based process. No exceptions.”
Another possible hurdle could come from a new right-wing government being formed in The Netherlands opposed to any new enlargement of the bloc.
Ukraine applied to join the EU shortly after Russia launched all-out invasion in February 2022.
Starting the negotiations would put Ukraine still only at the start of what is likely to be a years-long process of reforms before it can finally become a member.