President Joe Biden
President Joe Biden has all but announced he's running for reelection, but key questions about the 2024 campaign are unresolved: Who will manage it? Where will it be based? When will he finally make it official? Advisers have long said he planned to wait until after March, when the year's first fundraising period wraps up. That was an effort to help manage expectations because many donors who gave generously to Democratic causes during last fall's elections were looking for a break. But an announcement isn't imminent even now, aides insist, and probably won't come until at least after Biden returns from an expected trip to Ireland in mid-April. Working on his own timeline could counter Biden’s low approval ratings and questions about his age — the 80-year-old would turn 86 before the end of a second term. It also means Biden won’t be hurried by pressure from former President Donald Trump, who's already announced his 2024 campaign, or other top Republicans who may enter the race, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis or former Vice President Mike Pence. “He’s earned the luxury of making the timetable,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic strategist in Washington. “The longer he can keep this thing focused on his duties in the White House, and less about the campaign back-and-forth, the better off he’s going to be.” That said, Biden aides are mindful that Trump has been indicted for his role in the payment of hush money to a porn actor, and they say Biden will look to time his announcement to a point when he won't share the political spotlight with the man he beat in the 2020 election. Biden's inner political circle is ready to begin executing on the campaign's strategy from Day One and sees no drawbacks to the president taking his time. Biden faces no significant Democratic challenger for the nomination. The self-help guru Marianne Williamson is the sole contender at this point in the primary race. It will also be up to Biden to decide where next year's Democratic National Convention is held among the three finalist cities of Atlanta, Chicago and New York. But with the logistical groundwork mostly laid, there is little pressure for that decision until the president is ready to make it, organizers say. Much of the reelection effort will be run from the White House, where Biden's most senior advisers are expected to remain. Still, the campaign manager and top staff will be responsible for raising vast sums of money, reaching millions of voters and making the case for Biden at Americans’ doors and online while he is still occupied with governing. One top Biden adviser, who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss a reelection campaign that hasn't yet been announced, noted that Biden's 2020 bid was a $1.7 billion operation and that the effort this time would be larger. The adviser said a key will be finding “validators,” or non-Washington voices who can spread the campaign's message at a time when many people have lost faith in everything political. Aides and allies are discussing how to build the appropriate 2024 race infrastructure. The circumstances are different from 2020 for Biden, whose race then was conducted while the country was largely shut down by the COVID-19 pandemic. Read more: How Biden leaves wiggle room to opt against reelection bid The political environment is different, too, as technological and cultural shifts have continued to change how people communicate. Biden's advisers are preparing a new model of campaigning fit for the moment to activate his base and identify and woo the persuadable center — essentially a customized communication strategy for each target voter. Aba Blankson, chief marketing and communications officer for the NAACP, said her organization is nonpartisan but found success mobilizing Black voters — an important part of Biden's base — before last November's elections using similarly targeted political messaging. That included text messages, radio ads and knocking on doors to promote “peer-to-peer” organizing in areas capable of swinging pivotal races. “I think his timing is what his timing is," Bankson said. "But, for us, it is an every-year reality.” The choice of Biden's campaign headquarters has been narrowed to Philadelphia, the 2020 location, and Wilmington, Delaware, where his home is and where the president spends many weekends away from the White House. While Biden tends to prefer Delaware on all matters, some top Democrats worry that recruiting top campaign talent to Wilmington will be difficult. The Biden adviser downplayed the importance of choosing between the two immediately. And Biden waited until weeks after the start of his 2020 campaign to announce that he had settled on Philadelphia, making a commitment to an important battleground state. More challenging has been filling the job of campaign manager. Some potential candidates view it as a thankless task, with so much of the decision-making confined to the White House, though the adviser said whomever is ultimately chosen will be empowered with wide latitude to run 2024. Jen O’Malley Dillon, Biden’s 2020 campaign manager, is now a deputy White House chief of staff and plans to remain in her job. Many potential candidates have expressed interest in the campaign manager position, but among those on the short list are Julie Chavez Rodriguez, director of the White House Office of Intergovernmental Affairs and a deputy campaign manager of Biden’s 2020 campaign, and Sam Cornale, executive director of the Democratic National Committee. Quentin Fulks, campaign manager for Georgia Sen. Raphael Warnock’s reelection victory last fall, has been mentioned. Biden led Democrats to a stronger than expected midterm performance in 2022 by urging voters to reject “extreme” adherents to Trump’s “Make America Great Again” movement. So bringing in an outsider who ran successful Democratic campaigns last fall is a possibility. But party leaders acknowledge that breaking into Biden’s famously tight inner circle has at times been challenging. An exception is O’Malley Dillon, who was a late 2020 entrant to Biden’s orbit after leading former Texas Rep. Beto O’Rourke’s failed presidential bid. Trump hasn’t named a campaign manager despite announcing his candidacy months ago. But others aren't waiting to staff up. Republican Nikki Haley, Trump's U.N. ambassador and a former South Carolina governor, picked Betsy Ankney, executive director of Haley's Stand for America political action committee, to manager her presidential campaign . The super PAC linked to DeSantis brought on former Trump aide Matt Wolking and strategist Jeff Roe, the architect of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz’s 2016 presidential campaign and Republican Glenn Youngkin winning campaign for Virginia governor in 2021. Even with the unanswered questions about his campaign structure, the outlines of Biden’s pitch to voters are forming. Read more: US midterm election: Democrats repel Republicans backed by Trump in several left-leaning states From the State of the Union address in February to speeches to donors, the president has begun making the case that Americans should let him “finish the job” he started. He's also tried framing the race as a choice between himself and “MAGA Republicans” who, he argues, will undermine the nation's core values. Biden has spent recent months traveling to promote what he sees as his administration's key policy accomplishments, including a bipartisan public works package, and plans more of the same going forward. That would let him use this year to test political messaging that can best resonate in 2024, aides said. “He's not going to win reelection or lose reelection based on what happens in his campaign," Bannon predicted. "He's going to win it based on his performance as president and the performance of his opponent, whoever it is.”
Several hundred people marched through the streets of El Paso Saturday afternoon, and when they arrived at a group of migrants huddling outside a church, they sang to them “no estan solos” — “you are not alone.” Around 300 migrants have taken refuge on sidewalks outside Sacred Heart Church, some of them afraid to seek more formal shelters, advocates say, amid new restrictions meant to crack down on illegal border crossings. This is the scene that will greet President Joe Biden on his first, politically thorny visit to the southern border Sunday. The president announced last week that Cubans, Nicaraguans, Haitians and Venezuelans will be expelled to Mexico if they enter the U.S. illegally — an expansion of a pandemic-era immigration policy called Title 42. The new rules will also include offering humanitarian parole for up to 30,000 people a month from those four countries if they apply online and find a financial sponsor. Biden is scheduled to arrive in El Paso Sunday afternoon before traveling on to Mexico City to meet with North American leaders on Monday and Tuesday. Read more: Biden agenda, lithium mine, tribes, greens collide in Nevada Dylan Corbett, who runs the nonprofit Hope Border Institute, said the city is experiencing an increasing “climate of fear.” He said immigration enforcement agencies have already started ratcheting up deportations to Mexico, and he senses a rising level of tension and confusion. The president’s new policy expands on an existing effort to stop Venezuelans attempting to enter the U.S., which began in October. Corbett said many Venezuelans have since been left in limbo, putting a strain on local resources. He said expanding those policies to other migrants will only worsen the circumstances for them on the ground. “It’s a very difficult situation because they can’t go forward and they can’t go back,” he said. People who aren’t processed can’t leave El Paso because of U.S. law enforcement checkpoints; most have traveled thousands of miles from their homelands and refuse to give up and turn around. “There will be people in need of protection who will be left behind,” Corbett said. The new restrictions represent a major change to immigration rules that will stand even if the U.S. Supreme Court ends a Trump-era public health law that allows U.S. authorities to turn away asylum-seekers. El Paso has swiftly become the busiest of the Border Patrol’s nine sectors along the U.S. border with Mexico, occupying the top slots in October and November. Large numbers of Venezuelans began showing up in September, drawn to the relative ease of crossing, robust shelter networks and bus service on both sides of the border, and a major airport to destinations across the United States. Venezuelans ceased to be a major presence almost overnight after Mexico, under Title 42 authority, agreed on Oct. 12 to accept those who crossed the border illegally into the United States. Nicaraguans have since filled that void. Title 42 restrictions have been applied 2.5 million times to deny migrants a right to seek asylum under U.S. and international law on grounds of preventing the spread of COVID-19. Read more: Biden intends to make his first visit to US-Mexico border U.S. authorities stopped migrants 53,247 times in November in the El Paso sector, which stretches across 264 miles of desert in West Texas and New Mexico but sees much of its activity in the city of El Paso and suburban Sunland Park, New Mexico. The most recent monthly tally for the sector was more than triple the same period of 2021, with Nicaraguans the top nationality by far, followed by Mexicans, Ecuadoreans, Guatemalans and Cubans. Many gathered under blankets outside Sacred Heart Church. The church opens its doors at night to families and women, so not all of the hundreds caught in this limbo must sleep outside in the dropping temperatures. Two buses were available for people to warm up and charge their phones. Volunteers come with food and other supplies. Juan Tovar held a Bible in his hands, his 7-year-old daughter hoisted onto his shoulders. The 32-year-old was a bus driver in Venezuela before he fled with his wife and two daughters because of the political and financial chaos that has consumed their home country. He has friends in San Antonio prepared to take them in, he said. He’s here to work and provide an education for his daughters, but he’s stuck in El Paso without a permit. “Everything is in the hands of God,” he said. “We are all humans and we want to stay.” Another Venezuelan, 22-year-old Jeremy Mejia, overheard and said he had a message he’d like to send to the president. “President Biden, I ask God to touch your heart so we can stay in this country,” Mejia said. “I ask you to please touch your heart and help us migrants have a better future in the U.S.”
President Joe Biden will sit down with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Monday for their first in-person meeting since the U.S. president took office nearly two years ago, amid increasing tensions between the two superpowers as they compete for global influence. Both men are coming into the highly anticipated meeting — held on the margins of the Group of 20 summit of world leaders in Indonesia — with bolstered political standing at home. Democrats triumphantly held onto control of the Senate, with a chance to boost their ranks by one in a runoff election in Georgia next month, while Xi was awarded a third five-year term in October by the Community Party's national congress, a tenure that broke with tradition. “We have very little misunderstanding,” Biden told reporters in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, where he participated in a gathering of southeast Asian nations before leaving for Indonesia. “We just got to figure out where the red lines are and ... what are the most important things to each of us going into the next two years.” Read more: Biden, Xi coming into highly anticipated meeting with bolstered political standing at home Biden added: “His circumstance has changed, to state the obvious, at home.” The president said of his own situation: “I know I’m coming in stronger.” White House aides have repeatedly sought to play down any notion of conflict between the two nations and have emphasized that they believe the two countries can work in tandem on shared challenges such as climate change and health security. But relations between the U.S. and China have become increasingly strained during Biden's presidency. Before leaving Washington, Biden said he planned to raise with Xi the differences in their approach to the self-governing island of Taiwan, trade practices and China's relationship with Moscow amid its nearly nine months-old invasion of Ukraine. Chinese officials have largely refrained from public criticism of Russia's war, although Beijing has avoided direct support such as supplying arms. Taiwan has emerged as one of the most contentious issues between Washington and Beijing. Multiple times in his presidency, Biden has said the U.S. would defend the island — which China has eyed for eventual unification — in case of a Beijing-led invasion. But administration officials have stressed each time that the U.S.'s posture of “strategic ambiguity” toward the island has not changed. Read more: Biden-Xi meeting: US trying to understand where China really stands Tensions flared even higher when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., visited Taiwan in August, prompting China to retaliate with military drills and the firing of ballistic missiles into nearby waters. The Biden administration also blocked exports of advanced computer chips to China last month — a move meant to bolster U.S. competition against Beijing and one that was quickly condemned by Chinese officials. And though the two men have held five phone or video calls during Biden's presidency, White House officials say those encounters are no substitute for Biden being able to meet and size up Xi in person. That task is all the more important after Xi strengthened his grip on power through the party congress, leaving U.S. officials seeking direct engagement with Xi as lower-level officials have been unable or unwilling to speak for the Chinese president. Many of Biden’s conversations and engagements during his three-country tour — which took him to Egypt and Cambodia before he landed on the island of Bali on Sunday — were, by design, preparing him for his meeting with Xi and sending a signal that the U.S. would compete in areas where Xi has also worked to expand his country's influence. In Phnom Penh, Biden sought to assert U.S. influence and commitment in a region where China has also been making inroads and where many nations feel allied with Beijing. He also sought input on what he should raise with Xi in conversations with leaders from Japan, South Korea and Australia. Read more: Biden to meet China's Xi on Monday for Taiwan, Russia talks The two men have a history that dates to Biden's time as vice president, when he embarked on a get-to-know-you mission with Xi, then China's vice president, in travels that brought Xi to Washington and Biden through travels on the Tibetan plateau. The U.S. president has emphasized that he knows Xi well and he wants to use this in-person meeting to better understand where the two men stand. Biden was fond of tucking references to his conversations with Xi into his travels around the U.S. ahead of the midterm elections, using the Chinese leader's preference for autocratic governance to make his own case to voters why democracy should prevail. That view was somewhat validated on the global stage, as White House aides said several world leaders approached Biden during his time in Cambodia to tell him they watched the outcome of the midterm elections closely and that the results were a triumph for democracy. Biden planned to deliver public remarks and take questions from reporters after his meeting with Xi.
President Joe Biden will meet Monday with President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of next week’s Group of 20 Summit in Bali, Indonesia, a face-to-face meeting that comes amid increasingly strained U.S.-China relations, the White House announced Thursday. It will be the first in-person meeting between the leaders of the world’s two biggest economies since Biden became president in January 2021 and comes weeks after Xi was awarded a norm-breaking third, five-year term as the Chinese Communist Party leader during the party’s national congress. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement the leaders will meet to “discuss efforts to maintain and deepen lines of communication between” the two countries and to "responsibly manage competition and work together where our interests align, especially on transnational challenges that affect the international community.” The White House has been working with Chinese officials over the last several weeks to arrange the meeting. Biden on Wednesday told reporters that he intended to discuss with Xi growing tensions between Washington and Beijing over the self-ruled island of Taiwan, trade policies, Beijing’s relationship with Russia and more. “What I want to do with him when we talk is lay out what each of our red lines are and understand what he believes to be in the critical national interests of China, what I know to be the critical interests of the United States,” Biden said. “And determine whether or not they conflict with one another.” Read more: Biden, Trump to make final appeals ahead of crucial midterms The White House sought to downplay expectations for the meeting, telling reporters there was no joint communique or deliverables anticipated from the sit-down. “I don’t think you should look at this meeting as one in which there’s going to be specific deliverables announced," White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said. "Rather the two leaders are going to give direction to their teams to work on a number of areas, both areas where we have differences and areas where we can work together.” Biden and Xi traveled together in the U.S. and China in 2011 and 2012 when both leaders were serving as their respective countries' vice presidents, and they have held five phone or video calls since Biden became president in January 2021. But the U.S.-China relationship has become far more complicated since those getting-to-know-you talks in Washington and on the Tibetan plateau a decade ago. As president, Biden has repeatedly taken China to task for human rights abuses against the Uyghur people and other ethnic minorities, Beijing’s crackdowns on democracy activists in Hong Kong, coercive trade practices, military provocations against self-ruled Taiwan and differences over Russia’s prosecution of its war against Ukraine. Weeks before Vladimir Putin launched his invasion of Ukraine, the Russian president met with Xi in Beijing and the two issued a memorandum expressing hopes of a “no limits” relationship for their nations. China has largely refrained from criticizing Russia’s war but thus far has held off on supplying Moscow with arms. Read more: Amidst recession fears, Biden has to convince Americans job gains mean better days ahead “I don’t think there’s a lot of respect that China has for Russia or Putin,” Biden said Wednesday. “And in fact, they’ve been sort of keeping the distance a little bit.” The leaders were also expected to address U.S. frustrations that Beijing has not used its influence to press North Korea to pull back from conducting provocative missile tests and to abandon its nuclear weapons program. Biden was set to discuss threats from North Korea with the leaders of South Korea and Japan a day before sitting down with Xi. Sullivan said Biden would meet with Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida and South Korean President Yoon Seok Yeol on Sunday on the margins of the East Asia Summit in Cambodia, where North Korea's saber rattling is expected to be the focus of talks. Xi’s government has criticized the Biden administration’s posture toward Taiwan — which Beijing looks eventually to unify with the communist mainland — as undermining China’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The Chinese president also has suggested that Washington wants to stifle Beijing’s growing clout as it tries to overtake the U.S. as the world’s largest economy. Tensions over Taiwan have grown since House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan in August. Biden said that he’s “not willing to make any fundamental concessions” about the United States’ Taiwan doctrine. Under its “One China” policy, the United States recognizes the government in Beijing while allowing for informal relations and defense ties with Taipei. It takes a stance of “strategic ambiguity” toward the defense of Taiwan — leaving open the question of whether it would respond militarily were the island attacked. Asked about the anticipated meeting, China’s foreign ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said at a Thursday news briefing that China was looking for “win-win cooperation with the U.S.” while reiterating Beijing’s concerns about the U.S. stance on Taiwan. “The U.S. needs to stop obscuring, hollowing out and distorting the One China principle, abide by the basic norms in international relations, including respecting other countries’ sovereignty, territorial integrity and noninterference in other countries’ internal affairs,” he said. Biden caused a stir in Asia in May when at a news conference in Tokyo, said “yes” when asked if he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded. The White House and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin were quick to clarify that there was no change in U.S. policy. Beijing sees official American contact with Taiwan as encouragement to make the island’s decades-old de facto independence permanent, a step U.S. leaders say they don’t support. Pelosi is the highest-ranking elected American official to visit since then-Speaker Newt Gingrich in 1997. Xi has stayed close to home throughout the global COVID-19 pandemic, where he has enforced a “zero-COVID” policy that has resulted in mass lockdowns that have roiled the global supply chains. He made his first trip outside China since start of the pandemic in September with a stop in Kazakhstan and then onto Uzbekistan to take part in the eight-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization with Putin and other leaders of the Central Asian security group. U.S. officials were eager to see how Xi approaches the meeting after being newly empowered with a third term and consolidating his position as the unquestioned leader of the state, saying they would wait to assess whether that made him more or less likely to seek out areas of cooperation with the U.S. They emphasized that party congress results reinforced the importance of direct engagement with Xi, rather than lower level officials whom they’ve found unable or unwilling to speak for the Chinese leader. Sullivan says it “remains to be seen” what impact Xi's cementing another five years as Communist Party leader will have on his approach to the U.S.-China relationship.
An election year that unfolded against the backdrop of economic turmoil, the elimination of federal abortion rights and broad concerns about the future of democracy is concluding with a final full day of campaigning in which leaders of both parties will issue urgent appeals to their supporters. President Joe Biden is holding a Monday evening rally in Maryland, where Democrats have one of their best opportunities to reclaim a Republican-held governor's seat. The appearance is in line with Biden's late-campaign strategy of sticking largely to Democratic strongholds rather than stumping in more competitive territory, where control of Congress may ultimately be decided. His predecessor, former President Donald Trump, will hold his final rally of the campaign in Ohio. As he readies another run for the White House, Ohio holds special meaning for the former president because it was one of the first places where he was able to prove his enduring power among Republican voters. His backing of JD Vance was crucial in helping the author and venture capitalist — and onetime Trump critic — secure the GOP's nomination for a Senate seat. Read more: Biden slams GOP, Trump warns of 'tyranny' ahead of midterms With more than 41 million ballots already cast, Monday's focus will be ensuring that supporters either meet early voting deadlines or make plans to show up in person on Tuesday. The results will have a powerful impact on the final two years of Biden's presidency, shaping policy on everything from government spending to military support for Ukraine. In the first national election since the violent Jan. 6 insurrection, the final days of the campaign focused on fundamental questions about the nation's political values. Campaigning in New York for Gov. Kathy Hochul on Sunday, Biden said Republicans were willing to condone last year’s mob attack at the Capitol and that, after the recent assault of Paul Pelosi, husband of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, some in that party made “light of it” or were “making excuses.” “There’s never been a time in my career where we’ve glorified violence based on a political preference,” the president said. Meanwhile, a Sunday evening Trump rally in Miami, a reference to Nancy Pelosi prompted changes of “Lock her up!" — a stark reminder of the nation's deep divide. Trump was campaigning for Florida Sen. Marco Rubio's reelection, but also focused on his own political future. After telling a crowd in Iowa last week that he's “very, very, very probably” going to run for president again, he again teased the possibility on Sunday and encouraged supporters to watch his Ohio rally. “I will probably have to do it again, but stay tuned,” Trump said, teasing the Monday event. “We have a big, big rally. Stay tuned for tomorrow night.” Read more: Amidst recession fears, Biden has to convince Americans job gains mean better days ahead Not attending the Miami event was Florida’s Republican governor, Ron DeSantis, who is running for reelection against Democrat Charlie Crist and is widely considered Trump’s most formidable challenger if he also were to get into the White House race. DeSantis held his own, separate events Sunday in other parts of the state where he stuck to the centerpieces of his reelection campaign, including railing against COVID-19 vaccine mandates. The governor’s counter political programing avoided antagonizing Trump — meaning it didn’t deliver the dueling 2024 events that could be in his and Trump’s near future. Trump said Sunday that Florida would “reelect Ron DeSantis as your governor.” But he was more confrontational during a Pennsylvania rally on Saturday, referring to Florida’s governor as “Ron DeSanctimonious.” It’s a rivalry that’s been simmering for more than a year as DeSantis has taken increasingly bold steps to boost his national profile and build a deep fundraising network — even as Trump remains unquestionably the party's most popular leader. For national Democrats, meanwhile, the focus is on their narrow control of the House and Senate, which could evaporate after Tuesday. Voters may rebuke the party controlling the White House and Congress amid surging inflation, concerns about crime and pessimism about the direction of the country. History suggests the party in power will suffer significant losses in the midterms. Biden has made the case that the nation's very democracy is on the ballot and the first lady went to Texas on Sunday to sound a similar alarm. “So much is at stake in this election,” Jill Biden said in Houston. “We must speak up on justice and democracy.” Traveling in Chicago Vice President Kamala Harris said, “These attacks on our democracy will not only directly impact the people around our country, but arguably around the world.” Trump has long falsely claimed he lost the 2020 election only because Democrats cheated and has even begun raising the possibility of election fraud this year. Federal intelligence agencies are warning of the possibility of political violence from far-right extremists. Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, said Democrats were “inflation deniers,” trying to deflect the other side’s branding of her party as anti-democracy for rejecting the results of 2020’s free and fair presidential election simply because Trump lost it. “If we win back the House and the Senate, it’s the American people saying to Joe Biden, we want you to work on behalf of us and we want you to work across the aisle to solve the problems that we are dealing with,” McDaniel told CNN.
A federal appeals court late Friday issued an administrative stay temporarily blocking President Joe Biden’s plan to cancel billions of dollars in federal student loans, throwing the program into limbo just days after people began applying for loan forgiveness. The Eighth Circuit Court of Appeals issued the stay while it considers a motion from six Republican-led states to block the program. The stay ordered the Biden administration not to act on the program while it considers the appeal. It’s unclear what the decision means for the 22 million borrowers who already applied for the relief. The Biden administration had promised not to clear any debt before Oct. 23 as it battled the legal challenges, but the soonest it was expected to begin erasing debt was mid-November. White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre encouraged borrowers to continue to apply for the relief, saying the court’s temporary order did not prevent applications or the review of applications. “We will continue to move full speed ahead in our preparations in compliance with this order,” she said in a statement. “And, the Administration will continue to fight Republican officials suing to block our efforts to provide relief to working families.” The crucial question now is whether the issue will be resolved before Jan. 1, when payments on federal student loans are expected to restart after being paused during the pandemic. Millions of Americans were expected to get their debt canceled entirely under Biden’s plan, but they now face uncertainty about whether they will need to start making payments in January. Biden has said his previous extension of the payment pause would be the final one, but economists worry that many Americans may not have regained financial footing after the upheaval of the pandemic. If borrowers who were expecting debt cancellation are asked to make payments in January, there’s fear that many could fall behind on the bills and default on their loans. A notice of appeal to the Eighth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals was filed late Thursday, hours after U.S. District Judge Henry Autrey in St. Louis ruled that since the states of Nebraska, Missouri, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas and South Carolina failed to establish standing, “the Court lacks jurisdiction to hear this case.” Separately, the six states also asked the district court for an injunction prohibiting the administration from implementing the debt cancellation plan until the appeals process plays out. Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, one of the six attorneys general leading the effort to block the debt relief program, praised the court’s decision. “We are pleased the temporary stay has been granted,” Peterson said in a statement. “It’s very important that the legal issues involving presidential power be analyzed by the court before transferring over $400 billion in debt to American taxpayers.” Speaking before Friday’s ruling at Delaware State University, a historically Black university where the majority of students receive federal Pell Grants, Biden touted the number of applicants who have applied for the loan relief in the week since his administration made its online application available. The plan, announced in August, would cancel $10,000 in student loan debt for those making less than $125,000 or households with less than $250,000 in income. Pell Grant recipients, who typically demonstrate more financial need, will get an additional $10,000 in debt forgiven. The Congressional Budget Office has said the program will cost about $400 billion over the next three decades. James Campbell, an attorney for the Nebraska attorney general’s office, told Autrey at an Oct. 12 hearing that the administration is acting outside its authorities in a way that will cost states millions of dollars. The cancellation applies to federal student loans used to attend undergraduate and graduate school, along with Parent Plus loans. Current college students qualify if their loans were disbursed before July 1. The plan makes 43 million borrowers eligible for some debt forgiveness, with 20 million who could get their debt erased entirely, according to the administration. The announcement immediately became a major political issue ahead of the November midterm elections. Conservative attorneys, Republican lawmakers and business-oriented groups have asserted that Biden overstepped his authority in taking such sweeping action without the assent of Congress. They called it an unfair government giveaway for relatively affluent people at the expense of taxpayers who didn’t pursue higher education. Many Democratic lawmakers facing tough reelection contests have distanced themselves from the plan. Biden on Friday blasted Republicans who have criticized his relief program, saying “their outrage is wrong and it’s hypocritical.” He noted that some Republican officials had debt and pandemic relief loans forgiven. The six states sued in September. Lawyers for the administration countered that the Department of Education has “broad authority to manage the federal student financial aid programs.” A court filing stated that the 2003 Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act, or HEROES Act, allows the secretary of education to waive or modify terms of federal student loans in times of war or national emergency. “COVID-19 is such an emergency,” the filing stated. The HEROES Act was enacted after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks to help members of the military. The Justice Department says the law allows Biden to reduce or erase student loan debt during a national emergency. Republicans argue the administration is misinterpreting the law, in part because the pandemic no longer qualifies as a national emergency. Justice Department attorney Brian Netter told Autrey at the Oct. 12 hearing that fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic is still rippling. He said student loan defaults have skyrocketed over the past 2 1/2 years. Other lawsuits also have sought to stop the program. Earlier Thursday, Supreme Court Justice Amy Coney Barrett rejected an appeal from a Wisconsin taxpayers group seeking to stop the debt cancellation program. Barrett, who oversees emergency appeals from Wisconsin and neighboring states, did not comment in turning away the appeal from the Brown County Taxpayers Association. The group wrote in its Supreme Court filing that it needed an emergency order because the administration could begin canceling outstanding student debt as soon as Sunday.
Rotting fish and garbage lie scattered in Sanibel Island’s streets. On the mainland, debris from washed-away homes is heaped in a canal like matchsticks. Huge shrimp boats sit perched amid the remains of a mobile home park. “Think of a snow globe. Pick it up and shake it — that’s what happened,” said Fred Szott. For the past three days, he and his wife Joyce have been making trips to their damaged mobile home in Fort Myers, cleaning up after Hurricane Ian slammed into Florida’s Gulf Coast. As for the emotional turbulence, he says: “You either hold on, or you lose it.” The number of storm-related deaths rose to at least 101 on Thursday, eight days after the storm made landfall in southwest Florida. According to reports from the Florida Medical Examiners Commission, 92 of those deaths were in Florida. Five people were also killed in North Carolina, three in Cuba and one in Virginia. Ian is the second-deadliest storm to hit the mainland U.S. in the 21st century behind Hurricane Katrina, which left more than 1,800 people dead in 2005. The deadliest hurricane ever to hit the U.S. was the Great Galveston Hurricane in 1900 that killed as many as 8,000 people. Residents of Florida’s devastated barrier islands are starting to return, assessing the damage to homes and businesses despite limited access to some areas. Pamela Brislin arrived by boat to see what she could salvage. Brislin had stayed through the storm, but is haunted by what happened afterward. When she checked on a neighbor, she found the woman crying. Her husband had passed away, his body laid out on a picnic table until help could arrive. Another neighbor’s house caught fire. The flames were so large that they forced Breslin to do what the hurricane could not — flee with her husband and a neighbor’s dog. Ian, a Category 4 storm with sustained winds of 150 miles per hour (240 kilometers per hour), unleashed torrents of rain and caused extensive flooding and damage. The deluge turned streets into gushing rivers. Backyard waterways overflowed into neighborhoods, sometimes by more than a dozen feet (3.5 meters), tossing boats onto yards and roadways. Beaches disappeared, as ocean surges pushed shorelines far inland. Officials estimate the storm has caused billions of dollars in damage. The broken causeway to Sanibel Island might not be passable until the end of the month. Officials on the island had ordered a complete curfew after the storm passed, allowing search and rescue teams to do their work. That meant residents who evacuated were technically blocked from returning. The city of about 7,000 started allowing residents back from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. on Wednesday. City manager Dana Souza told residents in a Facebook Live stream that he wished the municipality had resources to provide transportation but that, for now, residents would have to arrange visits by private boat. Pine Island is closer to the mainland than Sanibel, and temporary repairs to its causeway were finished on Wednesday. But the island was hit hard by the storm. Cindy Bickford’s house is still standing. Much of the damage was from flooding, which left a thick layer of rancid muck on her floors. She’s hopeful that a lot can be salvaged. “We’ll tear the home apart so we can live in it,” said Bickford, who wore a T-shirt that said “Relax,” “Refresh” and “Renew.” “It’s not our stuff we’re worried about. It’s our community. Pine Island is extremely close-knit,” said Bickford, who arrived Thursday for the first time. Jay Pick said the island still feels cut off from the outside, and a bit chaotic. “People are trying to do the right thing and help people, and yet other people are stepping up and taking their gas cans and stealing generators,” he said. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, at a news conference Thursday in the Sarasota County town of Nokomis, praised the widespread restoration of running water through the storm-hit zone and the work toward restoring power. Some 185,000 customers remain without electricity, down from highs above 2.6 million across the state. He said rescue workers have conducted around 2,500 missions, particularly on barrier islands on the Gulf coast as well as in inland areas that have seen intense flooding. More than 90,000 structures have been inspected and checked for survivors, he said. He said residents areas devastated by the hurricane had been showing great resilience over the past week. President Joe Biden toured some of Florida’s hurricane-hit areas on Wednesday, surveying damage by helicopter and then walking on foot alongside DeSantis. The Democratic president and Republican governor pledged to put political rivalries aside to help rebuild homes, businesses and lives. Biden emphasized at a briefing with local officials that the effort could take years.
President Joe Biden says U.S. forces would defend Taiwan if China tries to invade the self-ruled island claimed by Beijing as part of its territory, adding to displays of official American support for the island democracy. Biden said “yes” when asked during an interview broadcast Sunday on CBS News's “60 Minutes” program whether “U.S. forces, U.S. men and women, would defend Taiwan in the event of a Chinese invasion." CBS News reported the White House said after the interview U.S. policy hasn't changed. That policy says Washington wants to see Taiwan's status resolved peacefully but doesn't say whether U.S. forces might be sent in response to a Chinese attack. Tension is rising following efforts by Chinese President Xi Jinping's government to intimidate Taiwan by firing missiles into the nearby sea and flying fighter jets nearby and visits to Taipei by political figures including U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Taiwan’s foreign ministry on Monday expressed “sincere gratitude” to Biden for “affirming the U.S. government’s rock-solid promise of security to Taiwan.” Taiwan will “resist authoritarian expansion and aggression” and “deepen the close security partnership” with Washington and other governments “with similar thinking” to protect regional stability, the statement said. Washington is obligated by federal law to see that Taiwan has the means to defend itself but doesn't say whether U.S. forces would be sent. The United States has no formal relations with the island but maintains informal diplomatic ties. Taiwan and China split in 1949 after a civil war that ended with the Communist Party in control of the mainland. The two governments say they are one country but dispute which is entitled to be the national leader. Beijing criticizes official foreign contact with Taiwan's elected government as encouragement to make its de facto independence permanent, a step the mainland says would lead to war. Washington says it doesn't support formal independence for Taiwan, a stance Biden repeated in the interview broadcast Sunday. “Taiwan makes their own judgments about their independence,” the president said. “We’re not encouraging their being independent.” In May, Biden said “yes” when asked at a news conference in Tokyo whether he was willing to get involved militarily to defend Taiwan if China invaded.
Two Florida residents have pleaded guilty in a scheme to peddle a diary and other items stolen from President Joe Biden’s daughter to the conservative group Project Veritas for $40,000, prosecutors said Thursday. Aimee Harris and Robert Kurlander “sought to profit from their theft of another person’s personal property,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. Harris, a 40-year-old from Palm Beach, and Kurlander, 58, of nearby Jupiter, face the possibility of up to five years in prison. They pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport stolen property across state lines. Harris' lawyer, Sam Talkin, said she “has accepted responsibility for her conduct and looks forward to moving on with her life.” Kurlander’s lawyer, Florian Miedel, declined to comment. Also read: One year after Afghan war, Biden struggles to find footing While authorities didn’t identify anyone in the case except the defendants, the details of the investigation have been public for months. Ashley Biden, the president's daughter, was moving out of a friend's Delray Beach, Florida, home in spring 2020 when she stored the diary and other belongings there, prosecutors said in a court filing. They said Harris then moved into the same room, found the items and got in touch with Kurlander, who enthused in a text message that he would help her make a “ton of money” from selling it, adding an expletive before “ton.” The two initially aimed to sell some of the purloined property to then-President Donald Trump's campaign, but a representative turned them down and told them to take the material to the FBI, according to the court papers. The campaign “can't use this,” Kurlander explained to Harris in a September 2020 text message, adding: “It has to be done a different way.” Also read: Biden tests positive for COVID-19, returns to isolation Their next stop was Project Veritas, which paid for the two to bring some of the material — including the diary and a digital device with family photos — to a New York luxury hotel, prosecutors said. Project Veritas staffers met with Kurlander and Harris in New York and agreed to pay an initial $10,000, saying more money could come if they retrieved more of Ashley Biden’s items from the home, partly in order to authenticate the diary, according to the court filing. Back in Florida, Kurlander texted Harris a blunt assessment of what would come of the exchange, prosecutors said. “They are in a sketchy business and here they are taking what’s literally a stolen diary and info ... and trying to make a story that will ruin” Ashley Biden's life and possibly affect the impending presidential election, he wrote, according to the court papers. He added that the two needed “to tread even more carefully” and get “anything worthwhile” out of the Delray Beach house, according to the court papers. Prosecutors said Kurlander and Harris took Ashley Biden's stored tax documents, clothes and luggage as Kurlander pressed Project Veritas in a message to commit to a bigger payout: “We are taking huge risks. This isn't fair.” A Project Veritas staffer soon flew to Florida, the employee shipped the items to New York and the group paid Harris and Kurlander $20,000 apiece, prosecutors said. Project Veritas identifies itself as a news organization. It is best known for conducting hidden camera stings that have embarrassed news outlets, labor organizations and Democratic politicians. “Project Veritas’s news gathering was ethical and legal" in the diary affair, the group said in a statement Thursday. The organization said earlier that it turned the journal over to law enforcement after receiving it from “tipsters” who maintained that it had been abandoned in a room. "A journalist’s lawful receipt of material later alleged to be stolen is routine, commonplace and protected by the First Amendment,” Project Veritas added Thursday. Neither Project Veritas nor any staffers have been charged with a crime. The FBI searched the group's New York offices and the homes of some of its employees as part of the investigation. A court in New York appointed a former federal judge to review material that was seized in those searches, so as to ensure that investigators couldn’t look at material protected by journalistic or attorney-client privileges. Generally, media organizations aren’t culpable for receiving material that might have been stolen, if they weren’t involved in the theft. But there can be criminal liability for orchestrating theft and then knowingly paying for stolen material. “There is no First Amendment protection for the theft and interstate transport of stolen property,” the U.S. attorney’s office wrote in a court filing last year. O’Keefe has said that Project Veritas ultimately could not confirm that the diary belonged to Ashley Biden. The group did not publish information from it. He added that there was “no doubt Project Veritas acted appropriately at each and every step.” Ashley Biden, a 41-year-old social worker, is the daughter of the president and of first lady Jill Biden. His eldest daughter and his first wife were killed in a 1972 car accident.
More than 40 million Americans could see their student loan debt reduced — and in many cases eliminated — under the long-awaited forgiveness plan President Joe Biden announced Wednesday, a historic but politically divisive move in the run-up to the midterm elections. Fulfilling a campaign promise, Biden is erasing $10,000 in federal student loan debt for those with incomes below $125,000 a year, or households that earn less than $250,000. He’s canceling an additional $10,000 for those who received federal Pell Grants to attend college. It’s seen as an unprecedented attempt to stem the tide of America’s rapidly rising student debt, but it doesn’t address the broader issue — the high cost of college. Republicans quickly denounced the plan as an insult to Americans who have repaid their debt and to those who didn’t attend college. Critics across the political spectrum also questioned whether Biden has authority for the move, and legal challenges are virtually certain. Biden also extended a pause on federal student loan payments for what he called the “final time.” The pause is now set to run through the end of the year, with repayments to restart in January. “Both of these targeted actions are for families who need it the most: working and middle class people hit especially hard during the pandemic,” Biden said at the White House Wednesday afternoon. The cancellation applies to federal student loans used to attend undergraduate and graduate school, along with Parent Plus loans. Current college students qualify if their loans were issued before July 1. For dependent students, their parents’ household income must be below $250,000. Most people will need to apply for the relief. The Education Department has income data for a small share of borrowers, but the vast majority will need to prove their incomes through an application process. Officials said applications will be available before the end of the year. Biden’s plan makes 43 million borrowers eligible for some debt forgiveness, with 20 million who could get their debt erased entirely, according to the administration. About 60% of borrowers are recipients of federal Pell Grants, which are reserved for undergraduates with the most significant financial need, meaning more than half can get $20,000 in relief. Sabrina Cartan, a 29-year-old media strategist in New York City, is expecting her federal debt to get wiped out entirely. When she checked the balance Wednesday, it was $9,940. Cartan used the loans to attend Tufts University, and with Biden’s plan she will be able to help her parents repay the additional thousands they borrowed for her education. As a first-generation college student, she called it a “leveling moment.” “I know there are people who feel that this isn’t enough, and that is true for a lot of people,” said Cartan, who already has repaid about $10,000 of her loans. “I can say for me personally and for a lot of people, that is a lot of money.” For Braxton Simpson, Biden’s plan is a great first step, but it’s not enough. The 23-year-old MBA student at North Carolina Central University has more than $40,000 in student loans. As an undergraduate student she took jobs to minimize her debt, but at $10,000 a semester, the costs piled up. Also read: One year after Afghan war, Biden struggles to find footing As a Black woman, she felt higher education was a requirement to obtain a more stable financial future, even if that meant taking on large amounts of debt, she said. “In order for us to get out of a lot of the situations that have been systemically a part of our lives, we have to go to school,” Simpson said. “And so we end up in debt.” The plan doesn’t apply to future college students, but Biden is proposing a separate rule that would reduce monthly payments on federal student debt. The proposal would create a new payment plan requiring borrowers to pay no more than 5% of their earnings, down from 10% in similar existing plans. It would forgive any remaining balance after 10 years, down from 20 years now. It would also raise the floor for repayments, meaning no one earning less than 225% of the federal poverty level would need to make monthly payments. As a regulation, it would not require congressional approval. But it can take more than a year to finalize. Biden’s plan comes after more than a year of deliberation, with the president facing strong lobbying from liberals who wanted sweeping debt forgiveness, and from moderates and conservatives who questioned its basic fairness. Once a popular campaign promise during the presidential primary, the issue created an almost unwinnable situation. Some fellow Democrats criticized the plan Wednesday, saying it’s too costly and does little to solve the debt crisis. “In my view, the administration should have further targeted the relief, and proposed a way to pay for this plan,” said Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo. “While immediate relief to families is important, one-time debt cancellation does not solve the underlying problem.” Still, many Democrats rallied around it, including support from those who wanted Biden to go beyond $10,000. “I will keep pushing for more because I think it’s the right thing to do,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who had urged Biden to forgive up to $50,000 a person. “But we need to take a deep breath here and recognize what it means for the president of the United States to touch so many hard-working middle class families so directly.” Proponents see cancellation as a matter of racial justice. Black students are more likely to take out federal student loans and at higher amounts than their white peers. The NAACP, which pressed Biden to cancel at least $50,000 per person, said the plan is “one step closer” to lifting the burden of student debt. Derrick Johnson, the group’s president, urged Biden to cancel the debt quickly and without bureaucratic hurdles for borrowers. Biden’s decision to impose an income cap goes against objections from some who say adding the detailed application process to verify incomes could deter some borrowers who need help the most. The Biden administration defended the cap as a gate against wealthier borrowers. Politically, it’s designed to counter arguments from critics who call debt cancellation a handout for the wealthy. Republicans hit hard with that argument on Wednesday despite the cap. “President Biden’s inflation is crushing working families, and his answer is to give away even more government money to elites with higher salaries,” Senate GOP leader Mitch McConnell said. “Democrats are literally using working Americans’ money to try to buy themselves some enthusiasm from their political base.” One of the chief political sticking points has been the cost: Biden’s new plan, including debt cancellation, a new repayment plan and the payment freeze, will cost between $400 billion to $600 billion, according to the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget, a nonprofit that advocates for lower deficits. Asked about the cost Wednesday, Susan Rice, Biden’s domestic policy adviser, said, “I can’t give you that off the top of my head.” There are also lingering questions about the administration’s authority to cancel student loan debt. The Justice Department released a legal opinion concluding that the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act gives the Education secretary the “authority to reduce or eliminate the obligation to repay the principal balance of federal student loan debt.” The legal opinion also concluded that the forgiveness could be applied on a “class-wide” basis in response to the coronavirus pandemic, a national emergency.. Lawsuits are likely nonetheless. The Job Creators Network, which promotes conservative economic policies, said it was considering legal options, with president and CEO Alfredo Ortiz calling the president’s effort “fundamentally unfair” to those who never took out loans for college.