In a defiant speech to reporters, New Jersey’s Democratic senator Robert Menendez rejected charges brought against him by federal prosecutors, who claimed he illegally used his position to help the Egyptian government in exchange for bribes. Menendez made clear he would not step down, but remained vague about whether he’d run for re-election, while saying the cash investigators turned up at his house was merely for emergencies. Joe Biden’s spokeswoman, meanwhile, declined to say if the president believes the senator should resign, but an increasing number of Democratic lawmakers think he should.
Here’s what else happened today:
The president welcomed the leaders of Pacific island nations to the White House, in a bid to build alliances against China’s influence.
John Fetterman, the first senator to call for Menendez to resign, gave back money the New Jersey lawmaker donated to his campaign.
Biden cheered a tentative agreement to end the Hollywood writers’ strike, ahead of his visit planned for tomorrow to a United Auto Workers picket line in Michigan.
Trump will skip Wednesday’s debate of Republican presidential candidates to make his own visit to striking autoworkers in Michigan.
During a campaign speech in South Carolina, Donald Trump attempted to shout out the state’s Republican senator Lindsey Graham, only to find his name attracted boos:
It’s unclear what the boos were about. Graham is one of the more well-known conservatives in the Senate, though he has broken with some in the Trump wing of the party with his steadfast support for continued American aide to Ukraine.
House Republicans say they'll release new Hunter Biden whistleblower testimony on Wednesday – report
Punchbowl News reports that a Republican-controlled House panel plans to vote on Wednesday on releasing new whistleblower documents concerning Hunter Biden:
The House will hold their first hearing of their impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden that day, which centers on unverified allegations of corruption against the president. His son’s business activities have been at the heart of those claims, but despite months of investigation, the GOP has yet to turn up proof that the elder Biden was involved in or benefited from his son’s overseas business dealings.
In July, two Internal Revenue Service whistleblowers told the House oversight committee the Biden administration meddled in a Donald Trump-appointed US attorney’s investigation of Hunter Biden, however CNN reports that other IRS and FBI officials who spoke to investigators have disputed those claims.
A Charleston Post and Courier reporter who attended Donald Trump’s campaign event today reports the former president did not go through with his purchase of a Glock pistol:
Thus sidestepping the potential violation of federal law – or perhaps, newly permissible activity made possible by the supreme court’s conservative majority and its friendliness to public gun carrying – that would have followed.
Donald Trump, campaigning in South Carolina, appears to have bought a Glock pistol – which may or may not be illegal under federal law.
The former president and current frontrunner in the race for the GOP’s presidential nomination is on a successful swing through the Palmetto state, where he today announced he had received the endorsements from several of its top Republicans, including attorney general Alan Wilson, state House majority leader Davey Hiott and secretary of state Mark Hammond. The state’s governor Henry McMaster and its lieutenant governor have already endorsed him, in something of a blow to two other South Carolinians in the presidential race, senator Tim Scott and former governor Nikki Haley.
In a now-deleted post on X, formerly known as Twitter, Trump’s campaign spokesman Steven Cheung posted a video where the former president poses with the pistol and says he wants to buy one.
As NBC News reports, if he went through with the purchase, that would seem to break a federal law banning people who are under indictment – like Trump – from buying a weapon. But because of a supreme court decision last year expanding the ability of people to carry concealed weapons, judges have lately said that law is no longer valid:
Joe Biden today welcomed the leaders of Pacific island nations to the White House in a bid to counter China’s courtship of the strategically important region. Here’s more on the visit’s significance, from the Guardian’s Siosifa Pomana and Julian Borger:
Joe Biden has offered $40bn in economic aid to Pacific islands at a White House meeting with leaders from the region aimed at bolstering US engagement in the face of growing a growing Chinese presence.
The president also announced formal US recognition of two new island nations, the Cook Islands and Niue, at the start of the Pacific Islands Forum, two days of Washington meetings with leaders from the group’s 18 members.
“The United States committed to ensuring an Indo-Pacific region that is free, open, prosperous and secure. We’re committed to working with all the nations around this table to achieve that goal,” Biden said at the forum’s welcoming ceremony.
The visiting leaders having been feted by the administration, brought down from New York where most attended the UN general assembly, on a special train to Baltimore where they were take to an American football game at the Baltimore Ravens’ stadium. There they were brought out on field and celebrated for “for their roles as American friends in the Indo-Pacific”.
The Pacific leaders were also taken onboard a US Coast Guard cutter in Baltimore Harbor and they were briefed by the Coast Guard commandant, Adm Linda Fagan, on operations to combat illegal fishing and manage maritime domains. Over the next two days they will meet top members of the administration. The secretary of state, Antony Blinken, and ambassador to the UN, Linda Thomas-Greenfield will host a dinner for the visitors on Monday night, and on the second night, the Australian embassy will host a barbecue.
“I think what the Biden administration has been able to do is to step up our game considerably in a short period of time in the Indo-Pacific,” a senior administration official said. “We have deep moral, strategic and historic interests here. And I think we’re reaffirming that promise.”
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre dodged the question when asked whether Joe Biden believes Bob Menendez should resign his Senate seat.
From her press conference today:
Far-right Republican congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene has drawn ridicule for using an image of a Hanukah menorah in an attempt to commemorate the unrelated Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur.
Green on Sunday posted a message on X – previously known as Twitter – on Sunday wishing observers a meaningful fast for Monday’s observation of Yom Kippur. She tried to add a traditional Yom Kippur greeting but misspelled it: “Gamar Chasima Tova!”
Critics noted that Greene’s use of a menorah in her message recognized a completely unrelated Jewish holiday observed in December. Past comments of hers which alluded to antisemitic tropes also undermined her message to Jewish observers.
Greene subsequently deleted the original post without an apology and reposted the original text without the menorah image.
John Fetterman, the first senator to call for Robert Menendez to resign, said he plans to give back the $5,000 that he received from the New Jersey senator towards his 2022 campaign.
The Pennsylvania senator wants to return the donation in envelopes full of hundred-dollar bills, the Messenger reported.
“We are in process of returning the money,” said a spokesperson for Fetterman, “in envelopes stuffed with $100 bills.”
Gavin Newsom and Ron DeSantis to debate in November
Republican Florida governor Ron DeSantis and Democratic California governor Gavin Newsom will take part in a televised debate on 30 November.
The 90-minute debate will be moderated by Fox News host Sean Hannity and air on Hannity’s 9pm prime-time program.
In a statement issued through the network, Hannity said he is “looking forward to providing viewers with an informative debate about the everyday issues and governing philosophies that impact the lives of every American.”
DeSantis is also scheduled to also participate in the second GOP primary debate on Wednesday. Donald Trump, the clear frontrunner in the Republican race, will not attend.
In a statement, Andrew Bates, White House deputy press secretary, said:
To abuse presidential power and violate the constitutional rights of reporters would be an outrageous attack on our democracy and the rule of law. Presidents must always defend Americans’ freedoms – never trample on them for selfish, small and dangerous political purposes.
Elsewhere, Paul Farhi, media reporter for the Washington Post, pointed to Trump’s symbiotic relationship with outlets he professes to hate, given that only last week Trump was “the featured interview guest last week on Meet the Press, the signature Sunday morning news program on … NBC”.
Others noted that on Monday night, the former White House aide Cassidy Hutchinson, a key witness for the House committee that investigated the January 6 attack on Congress, which Trump incited, was due to be interviewed on MSNBC.
Donald Trump said Comcast, the owner of NBC and MSNBC, “should be investigated for its ‘Country Threatening Treason’” and promised to do so should he be re-elected president next year.
In response, one progressive group said the former US president and current overwhelming frontrunner in the Republican 2024 presidential nomination race had “gone full fascist”.
The Biden White House said Trump threatened “an outrageous attack on our democracy and the rule of law”.
The US media was “almost all dishonest and corrupt”, Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform on Sunday, “but Comcast, with its one-side and vicious coverage by NBC News, and in particular MSNBC … should be investigated for its ‘Country Threatening Treason’.”
Listing familiar complaints about coverage of his presidency – during which he regularly threatened NBC, MSNBC and Comcast – Trump added:
I say up front, openly, and proudly, that when I win the presidency of the United States, they and others of the lamestream media will be thoroughly scrutinized for their knowingly dishonest and corrupt coverage of people, things, and events.
Trump also used familiar terms of abuse for the press: “the enemy of the people” and “the fake news media”.
The day so far
In a defiant speech to reporters, New Jersey’s Democratic senator Robert Menendez rejected charges brought against him by federal prosecutors, who claimed he illegally used his position to help the Egyptian government in exchange for bribes. He made clear he would not step down, but remained vague about whether he’d run for re-election, and said the cash investigators turned up at his house was merely for emergencies.
Here’s what else has been happening today:
Joe Biden cheered a tentative agreement to end the Hollywood writers’ strike, ahead of his visit planned for tomorrow to a United Auto Workers picket line in Michigan.
Another House Democrat, Pennsylvania’s Summer Lee, says Menendez should resign.
Donald Trump will skip Wednesday’s debate of Republican presidential candidates to make his own visit to striking autoworkers in Michigan.
Speaking of the 2024 election, here’s the Guardian’s Adam Gabbatt with a look at the political situation in New York, a state that could prove crucial to Democrats’ efforts to retake the House next year:
In Anthony D’Esposito’s New York congressional district, Democrats are licking their lips.
The Republican won an unexpected election to the House of Representatives in 2022, styling himself as a moderate in a historically Democratic district that Joe Biden had easily won by 14 points two years earlier.
But last week D’Esposito, along with other self-styled moderates, gave his tacit approval to the impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden, an inquiry championed by the far-right members of the Republican party.
The inquiry, into Hunter Biden’s business affairs and unsubstantiated accusations of corruption by the president, has become a symbol of the vengeful, extremist politics of far-right Republican figures like Marjorie Taylor-Greene. Sensing a chance, Democrats in D’Esposito’s Long Island district, just east of New York City, are now planning to tie him to his more rabid colleagues and win back the seat.
“We’re certainly going to make it an issue and it’s a liability for him here,” said Jay Jacobs, the chair of the local Democratic party in Nassau county, which makes up much of the fourth congressional district, which D’Esposito represents.
One thing to note about Robert Menendez’s statement to the press today: he did not explicitly say he was running for re-election.
Rather, he said he would be exonerated and “still will be New Jersey’s senior senator”. That’s as good a signal as any that he doesn’t plan to resign, as several fellow Democratic lawmakers have called for him to do, but he didn’t specify what his future would be beyond next year, when his current term in office expires.
John Fetterman was the first senator to call for Robert Menendez to resign, and appears to be rolling his eyes at his colleague’s assertion that the cash at his house was merely for emergencies:
Here’s the moment from today’s press conference in which Robert Menendez addressed the bundles of cash investigators found in his house:
The senator did not, however, comment on the gold bars investigators say they turned up, and which they allege were proceeds from his illicit assistance to Egypt.
As Menendez was speaking, another Democratic lawmaker called on him to step down.
“Senator Menendez must resign. Corruption is corruption. Bribery is bribery,” freshman House representative Summer Lee of Pennsylvania said in a statement.
She likened the allegations against the senator to concerns surrounding conservative supreme court justices Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas and their ties to parties with interests in the court’s decisions:
We can’t talk about holding Thomas and Alito accountable for selling out our freedoms for luxury vacations and private jet flights if we fail to hold a Senator accountable for selling out his chairmanship to a dictator gifting gold bars and cash to keep military aid flowing to Egypt as its government violates human rights. Menendez is of course owed due process, but the American people are owed trust in our institutions. Our fight against right-wing fascism depends on that trust.
Menendez says money found in search was for personal use
One of the most striking aspects of Robert Menendez’s indictment was photos showing bundles of cash that investigators found in his home during a search last year.
Prosecutors say the senator and his wife accepted bribes from agents of the Egyptian government, and investigators found a total of $480,000 stuffed in a safe, clothing and closets throughout his home.
In his press conference, the senator addressed the money. “For 30 years, I have withdrawn 1000s of dollars in cash from my personal savings accounts, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,” said Menendez, whose parents are from the island.
“Now this may seem old fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings accounts based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years. I look forward to addressing other issues in trial.”
Menendez also indirectly hit out at those who have called for him to step down from the Senate following his indictment, accusing them of a rush to judgment.
“The court of public opinion is no substitute for our revered justice system”, the senator said.
Those who rushed to judgment, you have done so based on a limited set of facts framed by the prosecution to be a salacious as possible. Remember, prosecutors get it wrong.
Menendez says he expects to be exonerated 'when all the facts are presented'
In his press conference, Democratic senator Robert Menendez said he believes he is innocent of the charges brought against him by federal prosecutors for allegedly using his position to aid the government of Egypt, and will stay in the Senate.
“Everything I’ve accomplished, I’ve worked for despite the naysayers and everyone who has underestimated me. I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet, but as I have stated throughout this whole process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator.”
Menendez expected to strike defiant tone in press conference
We’re awaiting a press conference from Robert Menendez scheduled for 11.30am, where the Democratic senator will reportedly vow not to leave office and instead run for re-election next year, despite being indicted last week for using his position to assist the government of Egypt.
We’ll follow the press conference live, and let you know what he says.
Despite everything, Donald Trump’s devotees remain numerous nationwide, the Guardian’s David Smith reported over the weekend:
Wearing a shirt festooned with countless images of Donald Trump, Leverne Martin was looking cheerful for a man who had set off from Poplar Bluff, Missouri, at 9pm and driven through the night, arriving in Dubuque, Iowa, at 5.30am. When did he intend to sleep?
“As soon as President Trump is back in the White House,” the 55-year-old handyman replied without missing a beat. “If we don’t get him back in 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, where he belongs, we’re in a mess, man. That’s why I’m voting for President Trump. That’s why I drove nine hours.”
On a grey, rainy day, Martin was near the head of a long and winding queue outside a cavernous conference centre overlooking the Mississippi River. Like so many fans in so many towns and cities over nearly a decade, an overwhelmingly white crowd had come to cheer on Trump, elected US president in 2016, beaten by Joe Biden in 2020 and clear frontrunner for the Republican nomination in 2024.
What is striking about the traveling circus is not what has changed over that time but what has stayed the same. Hawkers still move up and down the line selling Trump calendars, keychains and other regalia with captions such as “Gun rights matter”, “Fight for Trump”, “Jesus is my savior, Trump is my president”, “No more bullshit”, “Trumpinator: I’ll be back” and “Fuck Biden and fuck you for voting for him”.
Trump, 77, still puts on a show unlike anyone else in politics. Twentieth-century music from Abba, Celine Dion, Elvis Presley and Whitney Houston booms from loudspeakers. Video clips of allies such as the broadcaster Tucker Carlson and Hungarian autocrat Viktor Orbán receive cheers and those of foes such as Biden and the Florida governor, Ron DeSantis, elicit boos and jeers.
Not one to miss out on a trip to Michigan, Donald Trump will also visit striking auto workers in the state on Wednesday, the Associated Press reports.
It’s unclear what kind of reception he’ll receive from United Auto Workers strikers. Union members are traditionally Democratic, but ever since his 2016 election victory, Trump and other Republicans have made inroads among the white, non-college-degree-holding demographic, much to Democrats’ consternation. The former president actually managed to carry Michigan in that election, the first time a GOP candidate has done so since 1988, though Joe Biden won it back in 2020 and it has seen a string of Democratic victories since then.
Trump’s visit to the strike will come in lieu of his participation in the second Republican presidential debate, which is set for that evening. He’s decided to skip it, much as he did the first debate held last month.
Joe Biden has just released a statement applauding yesterday’s announcement of a tentative agreement to end the five-month-long Hollywood writers’ strike.
The deal came amid a wave of strikes in major American industries, including the auto sector. Tomorrow, Biden is expected to visit a United Auto Workers picket line in Michigan, in what will be a historic show of solidarity with striking workers for a president who campaigned on his friendliness to organized labor.
Commenting on the agreement to resolve one of two major strikes facing Hollywood, Biden said:
This agreement, including assurances related to artificial intelligence, did not come easily. But its formation is a testament to the power of collective bargaining. There simply is no substitute for employers and employees coming together to negotiate in good faith toward an agreement that makes a business stronger and secures the pay, benefits, and dignity that workers deserve. I urge all employers to remember that all workers - including writers, actors, and autoworkers - deserve a fair share of the value their labor helped create.
Robert Menendez press conference set for 11.30am
Senator Robert Menendez’s first press conference since being indicted on federal charges related to corruptly using his position to aid Egypt’s interest is set for 11.30am in Union City, New Jersey.
We’ll cover it live here as it happens.
The Guardian’s Ruth Michaelson reports today that advocacy groups want Washington to rethink its aid to Egypt, citing Robert Menendez’s alleged use of his office to override concerns about Cairo’s human rights record:
The indictment of Senator Bob Menendez on charges of corruptly aiding the Egyptian government has set the stage for a week of renewed pressure on US lawmakers to withhold military aid to Egypt.
Menendez stepped town temporarily from his position as head of the Senate foreign relations committee on Friday after he was indicted by New York’s southern district court on a set of explosive and detailed charges.
These included accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes as well as gold bars, payments towards his mortgage and gifts including a luxury car, in exchange for using his influence and breaching his duties “in ways that benefited the government of Egypt”, while bolstering a halal meat certification business based in his New Jersey district linked to the Egyptian state.
The senator has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing, stating “those who believe in justice believe in innocence until proven guilty”.
The indictment also details the senator’s close relationships with members of the Egyptian intelligence services, including meetings in his office in Washington and in Cairo to discuss the $1.3bn in foreign military aid given to Egypt by the US each year, an area where Menendez possessed substantial control due to his position.
The Biden administration recently opted to withhold $85m of military aid for Egypt citing human rights concerns, substantially less than the amounts withheld in previous years. The move sparked criticism from observers who pointed to Egypt’s abysmal human rights record, citing tens of thousands detained under president Abdel-Fatah al Sisi including political prisoners and US green card holders.
From Friday, here’s the Guardian’s Maya Yang on the charges against Robert Menendez, and the senator’s vow not to step down:
Several Democrats including his own state governor are calling on their fellow party member Robert Menendez to resign after federal authorities charged the New Jersey US senator and his wife with accepting bribes. However, the defiant senator has rejected those claims and is refusing to step down.
Authorities on Friday revealed charges alleging that Robert and Nadine Menendez illegally accepted gold bars, cash, a luxurious Mercedes-Benz car and other gifts in exchange for favors benefiting three businessmen as well as influencing the Egyptian government.
In response, the Democratic congressman Dean Phillips of Minnesota told CNN he was deeply disappointed in Menendez and that the senator needed to resign. Phillips said that was his position despite his belief that everyone is presumed innocent until proven guilty.
“Yes, I am a Democrat and so is Senator Menendez, but based on what I have seen, I am disappointed and yes, I think he should resign,” Phillips said.
He continued: “I’m appalled. Anybody who pays attention – I don’t care [about] your politics, Democrat or Republican, you should be appalled.
“A member of Congress who appears to have broken the law is someone who I should believe should resign.”
Semafor meanwhile got ahold of Pennsylvania’s Democratic senator John Fetterman to ask him more about why he’s calling for Robert Menendez to step down:
And if you’re wondering what he means when he brings up hoodies and shorts, we have you covered.
Challengers line up to Menendez after corruption indictment
New Jersey Democrats wasted no time in announcing challenges to senator Robert Menendez after his indictment last week on charges related to corruptly aiding Egypt.
The most prominent so far is Andy Kim, a House representative and former White House aide under Barack Obama’s administration:
The New Jersey Globe reports that former Newark school board member and social justice advocate Lawrence Hamm will also challenge Menendez in the primary next year. It’ll be his second Senate run, after Hamm went up against New Jersey’s incumbent Democratic senator Cory Booker in 2020, but won a mere 12.4% of the vote.
New Jersey’s Democratic Senate primary is set for 4 June of next year.
Bob Menendez expected to say he will run for re-election as he will reportedly hold press conference
Senator Robert Menendez had a rough weekend after his indictment on charges related to using his position to corruptly aid Egypt. A fellow Democratic congressman announced he would run for Menendez’s seat representing New Jersey, while the calls to resign from fellow Democrats from the state and elsewhere continued to roll in. But the senator has no plans to go along.
This morning, the New Jersey Globe reports Menendez will hold a press conference where he’ll vow not to resign, and instead stand for re-election next year – even though he may be setting himself on a course to do so without the backing of the Democratic party.
There may be more immediate repercussions to the charges against Menendez, which accuse him of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gold bars to use his influence to Egypt’s benefit. As the Guardian’s Ruth Michaelson reports, groups in Washington are now calling to reassess foreign aid to Cairo, a major ally in the Middle East with a troubling human rights record, due to the allegations they illegally collaborated with the senator.
Here’s what else is going on today:
Congress is out for the Yom Kippur holiday, but a government shutdown is still on course to happen. Republican speaker Kevin McCarthy’s latest plan to stop it reportedly involves trying to get the House of Representatives to pass full-year spending bills, but there’s no guarantee it’ll placate the hard-right lawmakers that are crucial for him to win over.
Joe Biden hosts leaders of Pacific Islands Forum states at the White House at 10.30am eastern time, as part of Washington’s bid to build alliances against China.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre briefs reporters at 1.30pm.