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Vice President Kamala Harris: 'Immense scale of suffering' in Gaza demands temporary cease-fire

Leigh Vogel/UPI/Bloomberg via Getty Images

(SELMA, Ala.) -- Vice President Kamala Harris spoke on Sunday afternoon in Selma, Alabama, to mark the 59th anniversary of a milestone moment in the civil rights movement -- "Bloody Sunday."

At the top of her remarks, however, Harris addressed something else: She called on the Israelis to, in her words, do more for the people in Gaza who are "dying of malnutrition and dehydration" amid the Israeli military's bombardment as it targets Hamas in the wake of Hamas' terror attack.

"The Israeli government must do more to significantly increase the flow of aid. No excuses," she said. "They must open new border crossings. They must not impose any unnecessary restrictions on the delivery of aid. They must ensure humanitarian personnel, cities and convoys are not targeted, and they must work to restore basic services and promote order in Gaza so more food, water and fuel can reach those in need."

Citing "the immense scale of suffering in Gaza," Harris also called for Israel and Hamas to agree to a much-negotiated proposal in which there would be a four- to six-week cease-fire in exchange for Hamas releasing vulnerable hostages.

U.S. officials said this weekend that Israel has agreed to that deal and "the onus right now is on Hamas."

Since Hamas' Oct. 7 attack sparked the war, more than 28,000 people have been killed in Gaza, according to Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry.

Harris and President Joe Biden have sought to balance their support for Israel's campaign against Hamas -- which the vice president did again on Sunday, saying the threat from Hamas "must be eliminated" -- with concern for civilians being killed. Progressives have increasingly spoken out against the administration for not pressuring Israel to end the war.

The U.N. says that more than 570,000 people in Gaza are on the brink of experiencing famine levels of hunger due to the continuing conflict.

Israeli officials insist they take steps to curb civilian deaths and have pushed back on the widespread humanitarian concerns for those in the Palestinian territory.

Ophir Falk, an adviser to Israel's prime minister, said in an interview with ABC News' Tom Soufi Burridge that Israel "is enabling thousands of trucks to get into Gaza."

He also challenged the U.N. warnings of famine but Harris, in her remarks on Sunday, said, "People in Gaza are starving."

"The conditions are inhumane and our common humanity compels us to act," she said.

Marking civil rights

In addition to her speech, the vice president also participated in the annual crossing jubilee of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, originally named after a Confederate general, where Alabama state troopers infamously attacked Black demonstrators as they marched for voting rights on March 7, 1965.

The brutality stunned many across the country and galvanized support for the landmark Voting Rights Act.

Harris' visit on Sunday also comes in an election year as she and President Joe Biden seek to cement their standing with Black voters and tout their continued focus on voting rights, which has largely been stalled in Congress -- drawing some progressive criticism.

Senate Democrats last month reintroduced a major proposal to strengthen voting rights, named in honor of the late congressman and civil rights icon John Lewis, who was beaten to the point of a skull fracture while marching across the bridge in Selma 59 years ago.

Harris once again called on Congress to act, as she did two years ago in Selma, also on the anniversary of "Bloody Sunday."

Rep. Jim Clyburn, D-S.C., Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Ala., whose district includes Selma, Attorney General Merrick Garland and the Rev. Al Sharpton also attended Sunday's bridge crossing along with second gentleman Doug Emhoff.

Selma is also working to expand its high-speed fiber broadband access, which local officials told ABC News is important for empowering residents.

"To be able to circulate factual information quickly, succinctly, that creates a more educated community," Selma Mayor James Perkins Jr. said in an interview.

Selma University's president, Stanford Angion, echoed that, saying, "I'm excited because digital equity and being able to reach people in real time is really going to be significant, I think, in increasing voter participation."

Harris, the nation's first Black vice president, is a key figure in the administration's efforts to pass more voting rights legislation -- which that hasn't moved out of the Senate because it lacks the support of 10 Republicans to overcome the body's filibuster rule.

Democrats say the bill would restore a provision requiring states and municipalities with a history of voter discrimination to obtain federal "preclearance" before changing voting laws.

Conservatives oppose what they call federal intrusion into state-run elections.

Biden and Harris have made democracy and individual rights key parts of their campaign message while seeking to draw a contrast with former President Donald Trump, who has been hammering the White House over inflation, immigration and foreign policy.

The Biden-Harris campaign has fired back, arguing Trump, who looks likely to soon clinch the 2024 Republican nomination, is an anti-democratic candidate and pointing to his role in ending Roe v. Wade's gaurantees to abortion access.

Perkins, the Selma mayor, called out the scrutiny of diversity and inclusion efforts and new restrictions on ballot access.

"This is really a dangerous time. And this is a very disenfranchising moment for us," he said. "I don't know that people really fully understand how critical this is. But it is something that we really need to be paying attention to."

The vice president's appearance in Selma comes a day after a New York Times and Siena College poll continued to show trouble for Biden in a hypothetical rematch with Trump, the latest in a long string of poor polling for him -- but his campaign threw cold water on that.

"Polling continues to be at odds with how Americans vote, and consistently overestimates Donald Trump while underestimating President Biden," Biden-Harris communications director Michael Tyler said in a statement.

In addition to spearheading voting rights for the Biden administration, Harris has become its main messenger on abortion rights wake of the Supreme Court reversing Roe two years ago could raise the issue given the relevancy in Alabama after the state Supreme Court upended access to in vitro fertilization by ruling that embroys are children under the law.

Harris launched a "reproductive rights tour" on the 51st anniversary of the Roe decision in battleground Wisconsin, where First Lady Jill Biden was on Sunday to promote the "Women for Biden-Harris" program and warn against Trump by name.

Alabama is one of 16 states and territories that will vote on Super Tuesday. It's also the home state of Sen. Katie Britt, who will deliver the State of the Union response for Republicans on Thursday.

Biden also traveled to Selma last year to mark the anniversary and cross the Edmund Pettus Bridge and tweeted about the anniversary on Sunday.

"Fifty-nine years ago, brave Americans sought to cross a bridge named after a Klansman in Selma, Alabama, to reach the other side of justice," Biden wrote. "Today and every day, we honor that legacy by fighting to protect the right to vote and uphold the integrity of our elections."

While there have been calls over the years to rename the site, the late Congressman Lewis co-authored an article with Sewell in The Selma Times-Journal in 2015 in favor of keeping the name.

"Keeping the name of the bridge is not an endorsement of the man who bares its name but rather an acknowledgment that the name of the bridge today is synonymous with the Voting Rights Movement which changed the face of this nation and the world," they said.

ABC News' Tesfaye Negussie and Dhanika Pineda contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Chef José Andrés pushes back on criticism of airdrops into Gaza: Bring food 'any way we can'

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Chef and humanitarian José Andrés, whose nonprofit World Central Kitchen has been sending significant aid into Gaza amid the Israel-Hamas war, on Sunday pushed back on criticism that airdrops into the Palestinian territory are wrong because they are hypocritical and insufficient compared to broader solutions.

"We need to bring food into Gaza any way we can," Andrés told ABC News "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl, calling the situation there "desperate."

According to the U.N., more than 570,000 people in Gaza are on the brink of experiencing famine levels of hunger due to the continuing conflict.

While Andrés said the broader goal should be to simply allow a "daily, constant and massive" flow of trucks into Gaza, "I don't think we need to be criticizing that Jordan, America are doing airdrops. If anything, we should be applauding any initiative that brings food into Gaza."

He was responding to a recent statement from an official with the anti-poverty group Oxfam opposing the airdrops.

The Oxfam statement this weekend said the airdrops "mostly serve to relieve the guilty consciences of senior US officials whose policies are contributing to the ongoing atrocities and risk of famine in Gaza."

Andrés dismissed that on Sunday, saying, "This is probably written by somebody that doesn't have -- who has a lot of time on his hands."

Three U.S. Air Force cargo planes dropped 66 bundles containing about 38,000 meals into Gaza on Saturday in a joint operation with the Jordanian Air Force.

This comes as the Biden administration -- which is supporting Israel in its military campaign against Hamas after Hamas' Oct. 7 terror attack -- is continuing to push for more support to reach civilians in Gaza.

Gaza's Hamas-run health ministry says that more than 100 people were killed late last week in a chaotic scene as they surged around a convoy of aid trucks in northern Gaza amid Israeli military gunfire. (Israel insists its forces only opened fire when people got too close to one of their tanks.)

"This is the perfect example that shows you that really people are in need of food and water, they are desperate," Andrés said on "This Week." "Mothers, fathers they want to feed their children. So, what you saw there is exactly the example of their desperation."

World Central Kitchen has provided more food aid to Gaza than any other nongovernmental organization, delivering more than 350,000 meals a day.

"The men and women of World Central Kitchen, they don't follow a plan, they always adapt," Andrés told Karl, adding, "We had more than 62, 63 kitchens functioning every day. Each one with its bakery, making bread from scratch. We've been able to bring thousands of kitchens that allow us to cook without the need to be cutting trees. It's just simple logistics."

"The north is where the main need is right now," he said of Gaza.

The Palestinians "are surrounded by the sea and by three big walls. They have nowhere to go," he said.

Andrés also called for more pathways for aid to be opened -- not just by air and by truck convoys but by sea, which is something U.S. officials have said they are considering.

"I hope it's going to happen soon, where we can be bringing hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of meals," Andrés said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Haley hedges on whether she'd eventually endorse Trump as Republican nominee

Sophie Park/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley hedged on Sunday on whether or not she would make good on her pledge to support the eventual Republican presidential nominee if she does not win the GOP primary over rival Donald Trump.

Haley signed the so-called loyalty pledge last year in order to participate in party debates. Trump, who did not debate, refused.

Since then, Haley has become increasingly critical of the former president and in an appearance on NBC's "Meet the Press" on Sunday wouldn't definitively say whether or not she would endorse Trump if he wins the GOP nomination.

"If you talk about an endorsement, you're talking about a loss. I don't think like that. When you're in a race, you don't think about losing. You think about continuing to go forward. What I can tell you is: I don't think Donald Trump or Joe Biden should be president," Haley said on "Meet the Press" when asked if she'd support the former president.

When pressed by moderator Kristen Welker specifically on the pledge she signed, Haley suggested she signed the vow simply to make the debate stage and that the Republican National Committee, which is in the midst of a leadership change, isn't the same body it was when the promise was crafted.

"The RNC pledge -- I mean, at the time of the debate, we had to take it to where, 'Would you support the nominee?' And in order to get on that debate stage, you said 'yes.' The RNC is now not the same RNC," Haley said.

"I think I'll make what decision I want to make," she said when asked if she felt she was still "bound" by her pledge.

"But that's not something I'm thinking about," she added, noting she plans on competing in multiple primaries being held this week on Super Tuesday.

"I don't look at what ifs," she said.

Trump has trounced Haley in every early primary so far and is expected to continue doing so, though she has argued that the notable minority she is winning -- more than 40% in some states -- shows many voters want a Trump alternative.

Polling indicates she's unlikely to win many, if any, primary states to come.

Haley has previously been bullish that she will stay in the race through Super Tuesday, though she has been more speculative about what's in store for her beyond that day.

While she has become more ambivalent about ultimately backing Trump if he wins the nomination, she wouldn't be the first Trump rival to harshly criticize him and then support his White House bid.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz said during the 2016 Republican National Convention that conservatives should "vote your conscience" -- without endorsing Trump -- but then said later that year that he had changed his mind "after many months of careful consideration."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


McConnell's successor must work with Trump but 'stand his own ground,' Rounds says

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Mitch McConnell's successor as Republican leader of the Senate must be able to both work with the next president, including if it's Donald Trump, and also "stand his own ground," Sen. Mike Rounds said Sunday.

Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, is backing colleague and fellow South Dakotan John Thune to take McConnell's role after the latter steps down in November. (Sens. John Barrasso and John Cornyn have either said they want the job or are expected to as well.)

"John Thune is the right guy at the right time. Great moral character," Rounds told ABC News "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl, adding, "I think he will be independent enough to where -- he will look out also, just like Mitch did, for the institution of the Senate itself. So I'm optimistic."

McConnell, the longest-serving Senate leader in history, announced on Wednesday his decision to step down as his party's leader in November.

In his role, McConnell was a close legislative ally of Trump's while Trump was president -- including helping engineer the 6-3 conservative-leaning majority on the U.S. Supreme Court -- but broke with Trump over the events of Jan. 6 and has been repeatedly attacked by the Trump-led wing of the Republican Party.

More recently, the two have sharply divided on major issues like a bipartisan Senate immigration and foreign aid bill.

Rounds indicated on "This Week" that Senate Republicans going forward want to partner with Trump while maintaining their independence.

"We also know that we need leadership changes in the White House. And we're prepared for that. Whoever the [2024] Republican nominee is, we're going to get behind them and we're going to make sure that this thing happens where we get back to actually building this economy again," Rounds said.

Another priority will be the cost of living, he said.

Pressed by Karl on the role Trump will have in selecting the next GOP Senate leader, particularly given his criticism of McConnell and McConnell's allies like Thune, Rounds acknowledged that "he's going to have a voice in it, we recognize that."

"But we also know that in the Senate we've got a lot of independent thinkers ... The former president will have the opportunity to influence a number of my colleagues, but we also want to be able to have a good working relationship with him if he becomes the next president of the United States. We've got things we've got to get done," Rounds said.

"I think you're going to find that a lot of folks in the Senate will take their own time in terms of how they work through and, on a vote-by-vote basis, when they're going to support the president and when they're not," he added.

Karl noted that Rounds himself has been on the receiving end of some Trump attacks.

"I understand you say everybody needs to be on board in the general election, but how important is it to do what McConnell did, which is be willing to stand up to Trump?" Karl asked.

"That's what I'm looking for in a leader," Rounds said.

"As a Senate, our obligation is to look long term. We're elected from every single state and we want to take care of our individual states, but we've also got the bigger picture of constitutionally what is right and also, in terms of national defense, we've always got to be looking at national defense as our primary responsibility," he said.

Karl separately asked Rounds about Trump's legal argument that he should be granted complete immunity from prosecution for actions taken while he was president. The dispute is currently before the Supreme Court.

"Do you agree?" Karl asked.

"I do not," Rounds said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden has to 'go on the offense' on immigration and not let Republicans 'divide us,' Sen. Murphy says

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) -- Sen. Chris Murphy is urging President Joe Biden and his fellow Democrats to "go on the offense" on immigration after a bipartisan border deal he helped negotiate was tanked by Republicans, led by former President Donald Trump, who called it insufficient.

"The vast majority of the country believes that we should have robust legal immigration but they want tighter control of the border. And right now, there's only one party that can deliver that -- only the Democrats support pathways to citizenship, support expanding legal pathways into the country and a tough border law," Murphy, a Connecticut lawmaker, told ABC News "This Week" co-anchor Jonathan Karl.

Murphy also lauded Biden for visiting the border last week, where Biden publicly urged Trump to drop his opposition to the border agreement, as polls show immigration remains top of mind for some Americans at the same time that Biden's handling of it is widely disapproved of.

"Republicans use the issue of immigration to try to divide us from each other," Murphy argued, "and now, on the record, [they're] opposing the toughest border reform bill, the toughest border security bill, in decades."

The Senate proposal would have tied billions of dollars in new foreign aid for Ukraine, Israel and Taiwan to funds for enhancing security at the southern border -- as well as an overhaul of immigration laws, including conservative priorities around restricting who can cross into the U.S. in certain situations.

But Republicans quickly shot down the bill, claiming its changes didn't go far enough and wouldn't adequately improve the situation.

Since then, Biden has been looking at the possibility of taking executive action to tighten asylum restrictions, ABC News previously reported.

Murphy told Karl on "This Week" that "I can't tell you whether President Biden is going to move forward on executive action. What I can tell you is that the bipartisan bill had $20 billion of new resources. He can't conjure $20 billion with an executive order that that bill gave him to shut down the border in between the ports of entry. I don't think he can do that by executive action."

He also downplayed the potential for Biden himself to be able to change the rules around asylum: "The president can't modify those statutes with executive orders. And Republicans know this."

"The reality is President Biden needs that legislation because it is just not true that he has the existing authority to issue executive actions that get the border under control," Murphy said, reiterating the Democratic view that Republicans should be to blame for the border.

"Donald Trump and the Republicans decided that they want the border to be chaotic. It helps them politically, and polls show that if Democrats just tell that story, if the president tells that story, Republicans' political advantage on the border is erased," Murphy said.

However, ABC News/Ipsos polling show voters trust former President Trump more than Biden on the issue of immigration.

Karl pressed Murphy about Biden's poor poll numbers on immigration and he deflected by pointing to issues at the border under the Trump administration.

Karl also pressed Murphy on Biden's handling of the Israel-Hamas war in Gaza and whether he believes Democrats should be "concerned" at anger with the president for not pushing for a permanent cease-fire or curbing military aid to Israel.

More than 100,000 people voted "uncommitted" in Michigan's Democratic primary last week in protest of Biden's stance, underscoring frustration with the way he has approached Israel's prosecution of its operations against Hamas in the wake of Hamas' terror attack.

"I don't think we should be concerned about this as a political matter, because this is such a critical issue relative to America's national security and the security of the Middle East," Murphy said. "I would hope that the president doesn't make decisions about what to do in Gaza or the Middle East based upon how the votes line up."

"Listen, I think it is time for the president to use all the levers that he has to get a long-term cease-fire. I think if that cease-fire doesn't come in, it's in Israel's interest for them to pause military activity to solve the humanitarian crisis," Murphy continued.

The stakes for the Palestinians were too high, he said: "I think this is a critical moment where social order is unraveling inside Gaza."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Michigan 2024 Republican convention results

Stefania Pelfini, La Waziya Photography/Getty Images/STOCK

(GRAND RAPIDS, Mich.) -- Though Republicans held a presidential primary election in Michigan on Tuesday, their delegates to the Republican National Convention will officially be allocated on Saturday at a state convention.

Former President Donald Trump is running against former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley for the delegates, though he beat her by double digits in Tuesday's primary.

Thirty-nine of Michigan’s 55 Republican National Convention delegates will be awarded at the state party's congressional district caucuses on Saturday, when party members (chosen by their local parties) from across the state will caucus by groups split into 13 districts.

Three delegates per congressional district will be awarded. A candidate can take all three if they receive the majority of votes, or just two if they earn a plurality with one going to whoever is in second place.

The results of Tuesday’s GOP primary determine 16 of the party’s delegates, but those will be formally awarded based on a resolution to be determined at Saturday’s convention.

The gathering plays out against the backdrop of the state Republican Party being enmeshed in a controversial leadership squabble that came to a head this week, when a county circuit court judge affirmed the removal of Kristina Karamo as the chairperson.

Former Rep. Pete Hoekstra, who also served as ambassador to the Netherlands under Trump, has taken over the party and is recognized by the national party as the new state chair.

However, Karamo is still planning on hosting her own convention to allocate delegates on Saturday, in Detroit, but Hoekstra’s separate convention in Grand Rapids is the one that will count in the eyes of the Republican National Committee, which has encouraged representatives to attend in Grand Rapids.

The party, while Karamo was lawfully chair, said it pursued this split delegate allocation process because the Democratic-led state Legislature, at the recommendation of President Joe Biden, passed a bill that moved the state's primary up in the calendar.

The new Feb. 27 primary date conflicted with party rules that bar state parties from holding a nominating contest prior to March 1, except for Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, so Michigan was at risk of losing most of their delegates.

As a solution, and with the blessing of the national party, state Republicans devised a duel primary-convention plan system, which some have said could benefit Trump by limiting selection of the majority delegates to an especially involved group of caucus-goers who are expected to be friendly to the former president

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


FBI to examine possible balloon debris recovered by Alaska fisherman

Peter Zay/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- The FBI will examine what may be debris from a balloon found by fishermen off the coast of Alaska, multiple sources familiar with the matter said Friday.

The fishing vessel carrying the debris is expected to return to shore sometime this weekend, sources said, at which time the FBI will get its first look at what was recovered.

"The FBI is aware of debris found off the coast of Alaska by a commercial fishing vessel. We will work with our partners to assist with the logistics of the debris recovery," the agency said in a statement.

Officials cautioned that because they do not have possession of the materials, it is too early to make any determination about what was recovered, where it came from and whether it part of any foreign surveillance operation.

Once the FBI gets custody of the materials, other agencies within the U.S. government will likely be consulted about next steps.

On Jan. 28, 2023, a Chinese surveillance balloon entered U.S. airspace north of the Aleutian Islands in Alaska, according to a senior military official, before being eventually shot down on Feb. 4, 2023, off the coast of South Carolina.

The prospect of China spying on the U.S. undetected created a political firestorm.

Sources said no decision has been made about taking the materials to the FBI lab at Quantico, Virginia or anywhere else.

Such a decision would only be made after a preliminary examination of the collected debris, they said.

The discovery of the possible balloon was first reported by CNN.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


University of Florida eliminates all DEI positions due to new state rules

Rick Ulreich/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

(GAINESVILLE, Fla.) -- The University of Florida has eliminated all diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) positions at the university, according to an administrative memo that was released Friday.

The memo cites a recent state ban on the use of public funds for diversity, equity and inclusion programs, activities and policies -- as well as activities for "political or social activism" -- in the public college system. The Florida Board of Governors passed this restriction in January, shortly after the Florida Board of Education passed a similar ban.

The University of Florida has closed the Office of the Chief Diversity Officer, "eliminated DEI positions and administrative appointments, and halted DEI-focused contracts with outside vendors," the memo states.

The Board of Governors defines DEI as "any program, campus activity, or policy that classifies individuals on the basis of race, color, sex, national origin, gender identity, or sexual orientation and promotes differential or preferential treatment of individuals on the basis of such classification."

DEI, as defined by DEI professionals, is aimed at correcting inequities within an organization -- this could include implementing accessibility measures for people with disabilities, correcting discriminatory hiring practices, addressing gender and racial pay inequities, anti-bias training, and more.

DEI practices have their roots in the anti-discrimination legislative movement of the 1960s of which the Civil Rights Act and Age Discrimination in Employment Act were born, according to ABC News' past interviews with DEI professionals.

The Board of Governors restriction also defines political or social activism as "any activity organized with a purpose of effecting or preventing change to a government policy, action, or function, or any activity intended to achieve a desired result related to social issues, where the university endorses or promotes a position in communications, advertisements, programs, or campus activities."

The United Faculty of Florida union's president Andrew Gothard criticized DeSantis' anti-DEI legislation, calling it "censorship and exclusion" in an interview with local news outlet WLRN.

"This is all about silencing students," Gothard said. "It's about silencing faculty. It's about withholding funding from individuals who have beliefs, speak ideas, or take actions that would disagree with the politics of elected leaders."

Florida Commissioner of Education Manny Diaz, Jr. defended the new rules in a statement at the time.

"These actions today ensure that we will not spend taxpayers' money supporting DEI and radical indoctrination that promotes division in our society," Diaz said.

This move by the Board follows the decision by a judge to block the Gov. Ron DeSantis-backed "Stop WOKE" Act that restricted race-related curriculum in K-12 schools, colleges, and universities.

The judge temporarily blocked the bill from impacting higher education institutions, arguing that the First Amendment protects speech in the classroom and that the law's vague restrictions are unenforceable.

The memo stated university employees who were eliminated will receive UF’s "standard twelve weeks of pay" and "are allowed and encouraged to apply, between now and Friday, April 19, for expedited consideration for different positions currently posted with the university."

The memo states that approximately $5 million in funds will be reallocated into a faculty recruitment fund.

DeSantis applauded the decision, saying on X: "DEI is toxic and has no place in our public universities. I’m glad that Florida was the first state to eliminate DEI and I hope more states follow suit."

ABC News' Davi Merchan contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Pentagon to lift grounding order on V-22 Osprey, 3 months after deadly crash

Alexander Welscher/picture alliance via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- The Pentagon is expected to lift its flight ban on V-22 Osprey as early as next week, clearing the way for the services to fly the tilt-rotor aircraft once again after nearly three months after it was grounded.

The decision was briefed to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Friday, a U.S. official confirmed to ABC News.

The Naval Air Systems Command grounded the aircraft last December following a crash off Japan that killed eight airmen. Earlier in the year, three Marines died in a separate crash involving the Osprey during a training exercise off the northern coast of Australia.

The decision meant that all versions of the Osprey flown by the Marine Corps, Air Force and Navy were grounded.

It’s unlikely the services will be flying the V-22 right away. It’s expected that once a ground bulletin is lifted, the services will be given instructions on specific action items to take before putting the Osprey in the air again.

Then, it will be up to each service to decide how to use the aircraft.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Biden says US to carry out airdrops of aid into Gaza in coming days

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden on Friday said the U.S. would carry out airdrops of humanitarian aid into Gaza in the coming days.

Speaking in an Oval Office meeting with Italy's Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, he referred to what he called the "tragic and alarming event" in North Gaza on Thursday in which more than 100 people died as they rushed food aid trucks and Israeli forces guarding the trucks opened fire.

"The loss of life is heartbreaking. People are so desperate that innocent people got caught in a terrible war unable to feed their families, and you saw the response when they tried to get aid in," he said. "And we need to do more in the United States, will do more. In the coming days, we’re going to join with our friends in Jordan and others in providing airdrops ..." but he mentioned Ukraine when he meant Gaza.

"In addition to expanding deliveries by land, as I said, we're gonna -- we're gonna insist that Israel facilitate more trucks and more routes to get more and more people the help they need. No excuses because the truth is, aid flowing to Gaza is nowhere nearly enough," he said. "Now, it's nowhere nearly enough. Innocent lives are on the line, and children's lives on the line and we won't stand by and let -- until they -- until we get more aid in there. We should be getting hundreds of trucks in, not just several.

"I won't stand by and we won’t let up," he said.

"There's few military operations that are more complicated than humanitarian assistance air drops. This is----this is a tough military mission to do because so many parameters have to be exactly right. We're going to pursue this the way we would pursue any such operation -- carefully," White House National Security Communications Advisor John Kirby said at a briefing afterward.

He said the planning would be robust. "I know that we will learn from the first airdrops, and this will be a part of a sustained effort. This isn't going to be one and done," he said.

"There will be additional airdrops planned and executed. And with each one, I think we'll learn more and we'll get -- we'll get better at them. It's very difficult. It is extremely difficult to do an airdrop in such a crowded environment as is Gaza. Very, very densely populated. A lot of people confined to small spaces. So, you want to do it in a way that you can get it to close -- as close as you can to the people in need, but not in a way that puts them in any danger. And so, the Pentagon will be doing a raft of planning on this."

He said the first airdrops would likely involve pallets of MREs -- Meals Ready to Eat -- and that the U.S. would work with international aid organizations on distribution.

"I can tell you that this first one coming in -- in a few days, will not be the last one. It will be part of a larger, longer, sustained effort to increase the flow of humanitarian assistance," he said.

He also said the administration also is in the “early stages” of exploring options for a maritime aid delivery corridor.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Haley vows to stay in race 'as long as we're competitive'; says No Labels isn't tenable for her

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former Gov. Nikki Haley on Friday morning reiterated her promise to stay in the presidential primary race through Super Tuesday and said running as an independent on the third-party presidential movement No Labels ticket wouldn't work for her.

Haley -- who has recently lost to former President Donald Trump in primaries in Michigan and her home state of South Carolina -- told reporters that she has raised $12 million just in February to fuel her bid through Super Tuesday. But she hinted that decisions beyond Tuesday will be based on whether she's still "competitive" in primaries and caucuses, while not defining exactly what that would look like.

"My approach has always been, as long as we're competitive," Haley said. "Super Tuesday we're going to try to be competitive. I hope we go forward. But this is all about how competitive we can be."

"As long as you've got 70 percent of Americans saying they want something different [than President Joe Biden and Trump], we're going to give them something different."

She again deflected on whether she would drop out after Tuesday or run as an independent on a No Labels ticket. She again pointed out that she has had no contact with No Labels, and that the group's stated vow to have a unity ticket with a Republican presidential candidate and a Democratic vice presidential candidate would not appeal to her.

"I haven't talked to anybody about that. I know that they have sent like smoke signals that they want me to talk about that. But I'm a Republican," she said. "If I were to do No Labels, that would require a Democrat vice president. I can't do what I want to do as president with a Democrat vice president."

She also pointedly would not commit to staying in the race beyond Super Tuesday.

"I don't have an answer for you. I can say we're going to go forward," she said.

Haley wouldn't put any thresholds on what vote share she needs to get in states, but said "30 to 40 percent is not a small number."

Asked about how her campaign would wind down, she said, "I don't know that I'm ending my bid for president. If you're in a race, the last thing you think about is not being in the race."


Asked specifically about trying to contest the Republican National Convention, Haley deflected: "The focus now, again, I'm just going to keep saying, it's Super Tuesday… I know y'all love to think about that. That is not something I'm thinking about."

More broadly, she rejected the idea that she's leading an "anti-Trump movement," instead casting her campaign as an effort to elevate issues around national security, fiscal discipline, security and safety, parents and their kids, and the climate of "anger and hatred" that she says Trump has been a big part of.

"In all the narratives, everybody pretty much assumes that this is an anti-Trump movement. And it's actually not. This is a movement where people want to be heard," Haley said. "These crowds are not anti-Trump crowds. These crowds are about people who want to see America and feel good about again."


"They want something new, they want something different, they want something to be hopeful about," she said. "I get why Democrats are leaving the Democrat Party, because of how far left they've gone, and I get why Republicans are leaving the Republican Party. Because we were just always about small government and freedom -- economic freedom and personal freedom."

She also complained repeatedly about media coverage of the race, suggesting that Trump's controversial comments (about Black people most recently) have not gotten as much attention or follow-up as some of her unfortunate moments (like her comments on the Civil War).

"If I can be candid, the reason it hasn't resonated is because all of you have made this race about Trump," she said. "I'm trying to make it about policy, with the Republican Party."

She said there should have been more outrage in the media about Trump's takeover of the Republican National Committee, where he plans to install his daughter-in-law as a co-chair.

"Like, where is everybody?" Haley asked. "This is not normal. None of this is normal."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Senate passes short-term funding bill to avert government shutdown

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(WASHINGTON) -- The Senate on Thursday passed a short-term funding bill that averts a partial government shutdown that was expected late Friday night.

The final vote tally was 77-13. The measure now heads to the president's desk.

The new funding deadlines for the government spending bills are now March 8 and March 22.

President Joe Biden said the passage of a short-term funding bill – while good for Americans – "is a short-term fix—not a long-term solution."

The president urged Congress to work in the coming days to pass a full-term funding bill as well as the national security supplemental.

"During my meeting with Congressional Leaders this week, we all agreed on the vital importance of supporting Ukraine. That understanding must now be backed with action," Biden said in a written statement Thursday night. "In addition to arming Ukraine as they defend against Russian attacks every single day, this bill will help ensure that Israel can defend itself against Hamas and other threats. And it will provide critical humanitarian aid to the Palestinian people and those impacted by conflicts around the world."

In the House, Democrats helped Speaker Mike Johnson to pass the funding bill in the House. The House voted 320-99 in bipartisan fashion to approve the CR. Only two Democrats opposed the vote, joining 97 Republicans who voted against it.

The measure, brought up under "suspension of the rules," required a two-third majority vote to pass -- which meant Johnson needed Democrats' votes to pass it. Similar actions by Johnson's predecessor, Kevin McCarthy put him in hot water and contributed to his ouster last year.

On Wednesday, House and Senate leaders reached a bipartisan deal to avert the partial government shutdown of roughly 20% of the government, and create new funding deadlines: March 8 for that 20% and March 22 for the remaining 80%.

Johnson hoped that an additional week could give Congress more time to pass all remaining appropriations bills to fully fund the government through the end of FY2024. It comes after Johnson previously promised there would be no more short-term funding bills.

ABC News' Sarah Beth Hensley, Amanda L. Maine and Jay O'Brien contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How do Americans feel about Biden and Trump on immigration issues?

Qian Weizhong/VCG via Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- President Joe Biden and former President Donald Trump are both visiting the southern border on Thursday, with the issue of the border and high rates of illegal immigration as a flashpoint between them in the race for the White House.

The Biden campaign slammed Trump in a statement ahead of his border visit for "playing games for his own political gain," a spokesperson said, after Trump told Senate Republicans not to support a bipartisan border security deal, which Trump has criticized as ineffective.

A Trump campaign spokeswoman, meanwhile, said in her own statement that Trump is visiting "the crime scene of Biden's open border … he will outline his plan to put America first and secure the border immediately upon taking office."

Here's how Americans feel about the issues of immigration and the border and about which front-runner candidate would handle it better, according to some recent polling.

How important is immigration and the border to Americans?

According to February polling from Gallup, more American adults thought immigration is the most important problem facing the country than other issues -- but that concern was driven mostly by Republicans.

Gallup found that 28% of Americans overall said immigration is the United States' most important problem, up from 20% in January and 9% last August in their polling.

But there has been little movement among Democrats, only 10% of whom cited immigration as the most important problem in February and 9% in January.

By contrast, 57% of Republicans did, up from 37% in Gallup's January polling.

Independents were in the middle: 22% said immigration was the most important problem facing the nation in February, up from 16% in January.

A separate poll by Quinnipiac University released in February found that immigration was the third-ranked most important problem among registered voters -- with 17% of those polled saying it was the most urgent issue -- behind "preserving democracy in the United States" (21% of registered voters) and the economy (20% of registered voters).

When broken down by party, Republicans were more likely than Democrats to say immigration was their choice of top issue. Among Republicans, 35% called it their most urgent issue but only 4% of Democrats did the same, while 16% of independents felt that way.

Biden's handling of immigration and the U.S.-Mexico border

Biden's job approval ratings on immigration issues are overall relatively low, although an analysis of polls by 538 found that his average approval rating on immigration and the border has ticked down by only about 5 points since spring 2023.

According to the most recent polling on Biden's job approval on these issues conducted by ABC News/Ipsos, from mid-January, his rating for handling immigration at the U.S.-Mexico border was especially low -- just 18% approved, about half what it was in spring 2021, while 63% disapproved.

Biden also has the lowest rating on immigration for any president in past ABC News/Washington Post polls to ask the question since January 2004 (with various changes over time in question wording).

Gallup's polling in February found that among American adults, 28% approved of how Biden is currently handling immigration, while 67% disapproved. This was largely unchanged from Gallup's August 2023 polling on the issue, which found that 31% of Americans approved of Biden's handling and 66% disapproved.

Among the Republican adults Gallup polled in February, 97% said they disapproved of Biden's handling of immigration, while 37% of Democratic adults said the same. Fifty-five percent of Democrats told Gallup they approved of how Biden has handled the issue, while only 3% of Republicans felt that way.

Quinnipiac University's poll in February found similar trends: 29% of registered voters said they approved of how Biden "is handling the situation at the Mexican border," while 63% said they disapproved.

Among the Republican voters polled, 93% disapproved of Biden's handling of the issue, while 31% of Democrats said the same. Over a majority of Democrats, 58%, said they approved of how Biden has handled the issue, while only 4% of Republicans affirmed that way.

Biden versus Trump on the border

When Biden and Trump are pitted against each other in some polls on issues of immigration, Americans overall indicate they feel Trump is handling the issues better, with some polls again showing that Republicans overwhelmingly back Trump on the issue.

A poll from ABC News/Ipsos in February found that 26% of American adults trusted Biden to do a better job handling immigration and the situation at the U.S.-Mexico border, while 44% trusted Trump more.

About the same number of Americans also indicated they blamed Republicans in Congress (53%), Democrats (51%) and Biden (49%) on Congress' failure to pass legislation intended to decrease the number of illegal crossings at the U.S.-Mexico border while 39% of those polled blamed Trump.

According to a February poll from Marquette University Law School, when asked who was better on immigration and border security, 53% of registered voters said Trump was handling it better while 25% said Biden was.

A sizable number of registered voters polled by Marquette equivocated: 15% said neither was good with the issue, and 6% said they were both the same.

Once again, the approval for each candidate broke down largely among party lines. In Marquette University's poll, 92% of Republicans or Republican-leaning independents polled said Trump would do better, while 51% of Democrats or Democratic-leaning independents said Biden would.

Twenty-five percent of those Democrats polled said neither would be good with dealing with the issue, and 3% of Republicans said the same.

ABC News' Isabella Murray, Gary Langer, Christine Filer, and 538's Nathaniel Rakich contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Are the top candidates to replace McConnell MAGA enough?

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former President Donald Trump knows how to influence an election, that much is clear. In the last few years, he has championed down-ballot nominees, wielded extensive influence over primary races and had his fingerprints on the House leadership race.

But Trump is already beginning to leave his MAGA mark on a new sort of Republican race: the race to succeed Republican leader Mitch McConnell, who announced Wednesday that he is stepping down from his leadership role in November after nearly two decades. After the 2024 election, but before newly elected members are sworn in, there will be closed-door Senate Republican Conference meeting in which members will nominate and elect a new leader.

Trump has not yet publicly commented on McConnell's departure, but the former president's sway over the party as McConnell has waned in popularity is clear. Many Senate Republicans said on Thursday that they believe a candidate's ability to work with Trump, and in many cases align with him, is an essential factor in their consideration of who they'll back during the November contest.

Top-tier contenders cozy up to Trump

Already, top-tier contenders -- referred to as the "three Johns" -- are trying to cozy up to Trump, leaving many to speculate if they are MAGA enough for the job.

In a statement formally announcing his candidacy for Republican leader, Sen. John Cornyn, R-Texas, touted his Trump bona fides.

"As the Republican Whip, I helped President Trump advance his agenda through the Senate, including passing historic tax reform and remaking our judiciary -- including two Supreme Court Justices," Cornyn said.

In a gaggle with reporters, Cornyn said he spoke to Trump Wednesday -- the same day McConnell announced his plans to step down -- to make his "intentions" known.

Sen. John Thune, the South Dakota Republican and current GOP whip, has been slightly less overt about his intentions, but a spokesperson said Thursday that Thune is "reaching out to each of his colleagues directly to discuss the future of the Senate Republican Conference and what they would like to see in their next leader."

Thune issued an endorsement of Trump on Monday after speaking to the former president over the weekend.

"I worked closely with him when he was president last time. You know, I was one of the key negotiators on the Senate Finance Committee on the tax cuts and Jobs Act. We put through, I want to say, 15 judges when I was the whip on the floor under his administration, and so yeah -- we've got a record of accomplishment, of getting things done for the American people," Thune said Thursday.

Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., hasn't issued a formal statement on his intentions yet either. But on Wednesday he said he would "talk to members of the conference and hear what they have to say and listen to them in terms of what direction they want to take the conference."

Barrasso's ties to Trump are well-documented. He is the most outspoken Trump supporter of the "three Johns" and was the first to endorse him, which he did in January.

Other candidates are also expected to throw their hat in the ring in the coming months. Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., ran against McConnell for leader in late 2022, and may run again. Some of Scott's colleagues, including Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, have already said they'd back him.

Scott is still considering Trump when weighing a potential bid, too.

"President Trump, I'm sure he wants somebody he can work with, so that's probably what he'll do. He'll probably think about all the people who are considering running and whether he feels comfortable he can work with," Scott said.

Rank-and-file Republicans say Trump is a key factor

It's nine months until a leadership election -- that's quite a runway. But as contenders for the role begin jockeying for support within their conference, it's clear a key factor for many will be how closely the candidate is able to work with Trump.

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., said he'll be looking to ensure that Senate leadership aligns with the party leader -- presumptively Trump.

"I think it's really important that whoever our next Senate majority leader, shares the same priorities and goals as whoever the Republican president is," Marshall said. "So it's important that they share the same priorities."

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., said he expects Trump would be "very concerned" about who the eventual new leader is.

"He should be involved," Tuberville said of Trump.

Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., has asked for a special conference meeting to be called in March for contenders to outline their visions for the future of the conference.

"This is something for the Republican Senate Conference to accomplish," Johnson said, when asked about the impact Trump might have on that vision.

Johnson said he did not think it would be productive for Trump to weigh in now. But if no consensus is reached before the November election, "Trump might have some influence," Johnson said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


As Trump returns to the border, a closer look at what he's pledging to do on immigration if elected

Michael Gonzalez/Getty Images

(WASHINGTON) -- Former President Donald Trump has made immigration a central campaign message and spent nearly every appearance on the trail talking about the issue while touting what he would do about it should he win another term.

Both he and President Joe Biden are making competing trips to Texas on Thursday to visit the border, with each faulting the other's policies.

Biden is using his trip to make another push for the Republican-led House to pass a bipartisan Senate border security agreement -- a deal that Trump helped tank because he claimed that it wasn't truly effective or "great."

The Biden campaign fired back at Trump on Thursday, in part, by accusing him of "playing games for his own political gain," a spokesperson said.

More broadly, surveys show concern about immigration has been rising among some voters.

According to Gallup's February polling, 28% of Americans overall say immigration is the most important problem, up from 20% in January and 8% last June. But there has been little movement among Democrats, only 10% of whom cite immigration as the most important problem. By contrast, 57% of Republicans do -- up from 37% in January.

An ABC News/Ipsos poll from January found Biden had just an 18% approval rating for his handling of immigration at the southern border -- the lowest in two decades.

On Thursday, Trump is expected to take part in briefings with border officials and deliver remarks in Eagle Pass, Texas, as well as participate in an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity along with Texas lawmakers including Sen. Ted Cruz and Gov. Greg Abbott.

He has vowed to implement a series of policies including reinstating and expanding his controversial travel ban on people coming into the U.S. from certain majority-Muslim countries; conducting what he calls the largest deportation operation in the country's history; and -- in a revamp of his 2016 campaign -- continuing work on the southern border wall.

"We're gonna straighten things out," Trump said on Saturday in South Carolina.

He went on to boast that in 2016, "We had a bad border and I talked about the border a lot, talked about it a lot and said we're going to fix it. ...We fixed it very quickly."

He echoed that as he arrived in Texas on Thursday: "Nice weather, beautiful day, but a very dangerous border. We're going to take care of it."

What Trump has done and wants to do about immigration

The former president has made sweeping promises on immigration before, though he didn't fulfill some of those key pledges -- either because he faced legal roadblocks, Democratic-led resistance in Washington or he said he could achieve something highly unusual, such as having Mexico pay for the border wall.

Overall, there were fewer deportations during the Trump administration compared to his predecessor former President Barack Obama, according to data released by the Department of Homeland Security.

Under the Biden administration, the number of deportations further declined.

During his first presidential campaign, Trump made the ambitious vow that he was going to build a new wall along the southwest border; by the end of his term, however (and after various funding fights in Washington), he had only implemented about 450 miles of barriers -- much of which was just upgrading existing barriers that already existed.

Still, Trump continues to tout the barriers as one of his biggest accomplishments during his presidency, frequently reminding voters at 2024 campaign rallies that he built and renovated nearly 500 miles of the border wall. Supporters often bring up that rhetoric when asked why they back Trump.

Trump did implement a signature "travel ban" during his first term, rejecting visas to people coming from countries he claimed didn't have enough screening, including Iran, Syria, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and North Korea.

On Biden's first day as president, he ended Trump's restriction, which was criticized by advocates as unfairly targeting Muslim countries.

Thousands of migrant families were infamously separated under Trump's crackdown on unauthorized border crossings during the first two years of his presidency, with children and infants taken away from their parents and sent to shelters and other facilities while the adults were prosecuted.

Trump eventually ended the separations in the summer of 2018 amid widespread outcry, but the policy led to numerous lawsuits from migrant families alleging the government's negligence, abuse and harm.

Trump has projected that if he is elected again, he will deport millions of unauthorized immigrants and end so-called "catch and release" practice, in which migrants are arrested at the border and released from the government's custody to appear in court later.

While in the White House, Trump helped usher in new policy changes in the DHS to expedite deportations but for a while in 2019, his administration resorted to "catch and release" amid a drastic surge in arrivals of migrants at the border.

For his 2024 reelection bid, Trump has campaigned extensively on the message that he will "terminate every open border policy of the Biden administration" -- beginning with what he claims would be the "largest domestic deportation in American history." (The Biden administration has pushed back on such criticism, saying they seek to enforce all laws at the border.)

Trump's deportation plan has raised questions about the feasibility of such a project, as it would likely require the mobilization of numerous law enforcement officials and expanded detention facilities across the country -- just to process the new arrests.

To carry out his promise, Trump has vowed to direct "massive portions" of law enforcement toward immigration enforcement, including from federal agencies like the FBI and moving troops who are currently stationed overseas.

As he heads into a potential second term, Trump has said he is determined to fulfill the policies he started to implement on immigration during his first term -- while using disparaging language to describe unauthorized migrants.

Making claims about criminals and terrorists "pouring in" through the border, Trump has been campaigning on the promise of bringing back his "Muslim ban" and even implementing an ideological screening for those coming into the country.

Throughout the 2024 election cycle, the former president has repeatedly claimed some immigrants are "poisoning the blood" of the country, which echoes Adolf Hitler's use of similar language in his book "Mein Kampf."

The Trump campaign has rejected the comparison as "ridiculous."

In recent weeks, Trump has also labeled migrants in the country illegally as "violent criminals" and focused on "migrant crime," including by pointing to the recent killing of Georgia college student Laken Riley.

Police have charged Jose Ibarra with murder in connection with Riley's death, but he has not entered a plea. He was previously arrested by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for unlawful entry from Venezuela, officials said.

ABC News' Isabella Murray and Nathaniel Rakich contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


How many games will the Cardinals win this year?