Ghislaine Maxwell, who is charged with recruiting teenage girls for financier Jeffrey Epstein to sexually abuse in the 1990s, asked a judge Monday to dismiss the case on multiple grounds, including that a deal years ago not to prosecute Epstein and others should shield her from prosecution.
Lawyers for the British socialite said the indictment against their client was obtained unjustly and doesn’t allege crimes specific enough to bring before a jury.
But they listed first among 12 separate arguments attacking the indictment that a non-prosecution deal Epstein reached with the federal government a dozen years ago should shield Maxwell from prosecution too.
The agreement sought to protect Epstein and those around him, but Maxwell was not identified by name in the document that was signed as Epstein agreed to plead guilty to state charges in Florida that forced him to register as a sex offender afterward.
Lawyers for Epstein had planned to argue that the deal with federal prosecutors in Florida in 2008 protected him against sex trafficking charges lodged against him in July 2019 in New York City.
Mitch McConnell, the US Senate Republican leader, said on Monday he would agree to a power-sharing agreement with Democrats, dropping demands that had held up the basic organisation and daily work of the 50-50 chamber for days.
Democrat Chuck Schumer, now the majority leader thanks to Vice President Kamala Harris’ tie-breaking vote, and Mr McConnell had been at odds over the Republican’s request that Democrats promise to protect the filibuster, which requires a 60-vote supermajority to advance most legislation.
Mr Schumer has refused to guarantee the filibuster would stay. But in a statement, Mr McConnell cited comments from moderate Democratic Senators Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, who said they would not favour eliminating the filibuster.
“The legislative filibuster was a key part of the foundation beneath the Senate’s last 50-50 power-sharing agreement in 2001,” Mr McConnell said. “With these assurances, I look forward to moving ahead with a power-sharing agreement modeled on that precedent.”
A spokesman for Mr Schumer, Justin Goodman, said in a statement, “We’re glad Senator McConnell threw in the towel and gave up on his ridiculous demand. We look forward to organising the Senate under Democratic control and start getting big, bold things done for the American people.”
Some liberal Democrats have suggested killing the filibuster to help advance President Joe Biden’s agenda, though Mr Biden has not signaled support for such a move. In recent years, the 60-vote threshold has brought the Senate nearly to a halt on major legislation.
With Ms Harris unable to attend every Senate session, the two party leaders have been discussing an arrangement to govern day-to-day operations, similar to one struck the last time the Senate was equally split two decades ago.
Senate committees have still not been reorganised under Democratic control.
Democrats could unilaterally change the rules to require only a simple majority to approve bills, a move sometimes called the “nuclear option”, if all 50 members voted together and Ms Harris provided the tie-breaking vote.
By declining to guarantee as part of the deal that the filibuster will be protected, Mr Schumer preserves the threat as leverage in negotiations over Mr Biden’s priorities, such as a new round of coronavirus relief.
Donald Trump opened an office in Florida on Monday that will handle his duties as a former US president and seek to further his administration’s agenda.
“The Office will be responsible for managing President Trump’s correspondence, public statements, appearances, and official activities to advance the interests of the United States and to carry on the agenda of the Trump Administration through advocacy, organising, and public activism,” a statement said.
The announcement came on the same day the House of Representatives delivered to the Senate an impeachment article charging MR Trump with inciting insurrection in a speech to supporters before the deadly attack on the Capitol on Ja. 6. The Senate trial is expected to start on Feb 9.
In farewell remarks on his last day as president last Wednesday, Mr Trump told supporters: “We will be back in some form.”
Mr Trump has made no public appearances since flying that day to his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida.
Before leaving office, Mr Trump talked with associates about forming a political party called the “Patriot Party,” the Wall Street Journal reported.
Before leaving office, he pursued unsuccessful legal challenges to overturn his Nov. 3 election loss to Democrat Joe Biden, falsely claiming there had been widespread electoral fraud.
Democrats in the House of Representatives delivered an article of impeachment against Donald Trump to the Senate on Monday night, formally triggering the first-ever impeachment trial of a former president.
The article accuses Mr Trump of “incitement of insurrection” over the deadly Capitol riots on January 6.
Shortly before the breach of the Capitol, Mr Trump told thousands of his supporters at a rally near the White House to “fight like hell” against the election results that Congress was certifying.
A mob marched down to the Capitol and rushed in, interrupting the count. Five people died in the unrest, including four of Mr Trump’s supporters and a Capitol Police officer.
The impeachment article was delivered in person by nine House impeachment managers to the Senate in a formal ceremony shortly after 7 pm (midnight GMT).
The move by Nancy Pelosi, the Democratic House Speaker, sets on course the second Senate trial for Mr Trump, the only US president to be impeached twice, and the first to face trial after leaving office.
Democratic congressman Jamie Raskin, one of the authors of the impeachment article, read the charges on the Senate floor.
California appears to be battling a homegrown coronavirus strain which could be to blame for the recent surge and mounting death toll that has gripped the Golden State.
Scientists spotted a mutation, named B.1.426, while looking to see whether the highly transmissible United Kingdom variant had taken hold on the West coast of the United States.
The mutation occurs in the spike protein, the part of the virus that attaches itself to cells and causes illness, and the part targeted by Covid-19 vaccines.
It did not cause alarm when it was first recorded in July, until it began tearing through the populations in both Northern and Southern California during late November and December.
Now, two separate laboratories now believe that the acceleration in occurrences of the new variant may be to blame for California’s deadly Thanksgiving and Christmas surge because of its troubling mutations.
California is inching toward a crisis, with more than 3.1m cases and at least 36,790 deaths – figure that has doubled in less than three months. Los Angeles has emerged as one of America’s Covid-19 hotspots with two-thirds of its cases added since the beginning of November.
A Texan teenager who tipped off the FBI about his father’s alleged involvement in the Capitol riots said he would “do it again”, despite claiming his father threatened to shoot him for being a “traitor”.
Jackson Reffitt, 18, said he felt a moral obligation to report his father to the authorities after watching him participate in the violent riots on live TV.
His father, Guy, 48, was arrested at his home in Wylie, Texas on January 16 and faces charges of obstruction of justice and knowingly entering a restricted building.
According to court documents, Mr Reffitt had allegedly threatened his wife and children, saying: “If you turn me in, you’re a traitor and you know what happens to traitors … traitors get shot”.
The younger Mr Reffitt said he was “afraid” of what his father might think of him, but told local station Fox 4 that he had acted according to his “moral compass”.
Joe Biden has overturned a controversial ban on transgender people serving in the US military, saying “America’s strength is found in its diversity”.
The US president had vowed to reverse the ban, imposed by his predecessor Donald Trump, during the 2020 election campaign.
“President Biden believes that gender identity should not be a bar to military service, and that America’s strength is found in its diversity,” the White House said in a statement.
“Allowing all qualified Americans to serve their country in uniform is better for the military and better for the country because an inclusive force is a more effective force. Simply put, it’s the right thing to do and is in our national interest,” it said.
President Barack Obama moved in 2016 to allow trans people to serve openly and receive medical care to transition genders, but Mr Trump’s ban had essentially put an end to the initiative. Transgender people already serving in the military were allowed to remain in the service.
China’s Xi Jinping’s pitch for moral world leadership has reached the point of surrealist absurdity.
His online speech to the World Economic Forum on Monday would have been fine if uttered by New Zealand’s Jacinda Ardern or some paragon of the West. Such implausible rhetoric from the mouth of the Wolf Warrior strongman crosses into parody.
It is hard for the Chinese leader to recapture the magic moment in 2017 when he swept into the sanctum sanctorum of globalist liberalism, cheered by star-struck delegates as the new champion of free trade and the guardian of the international order.
Everybody was shell-shocked by America’s retreat into bad-tempered isolationism. They were appalled by Donald Trump’s attacks on the global institutions, most of them created by Washington after the Second World War and managed with such success for 70 years.
“Pursuing protectionism is just like locking oneself in a dark room: wind and rain might be kept outside but so are light and air. China will keep its door wide open and not close it,” he told them.
China would not do as others and “bend the rules as they see fit”, or “walk away from their commitments”, or “blame globalisation for the chaos of our world”. The gullible loved it. The better-informed winced.
This time one can only imagine how Xi’s digital pieties are being received. His speech had all the usual catchphrases: “The strong should not bully the weak, or threaten and intimidate others.”
He extolled the UN Charter and pledged to be a “resolute champion of the international rule of law”, lest the world “falls back to the law of the jungle”. And, as always, China will strive to build a “beautiful world”.
Sarah Sanders, Donald Trump’s former press secretary, announced on Monday that she is running to be governor of Arkansas, setting up a potential Republican primary battle centered around Mr Trump and his legacy.
Ms Sanders left the White House in 2019 to return to her home state and is still a strong supporter of the former president.
She launched her campaign for governor less than a week after the end of Mr Trump’s time in office and as he faces an impending impeachment trial.
Ms Sanders said she expected voters in solidly red Arkansas to embrace the former president.
In a video announcing her campaign for the Republican nomination, she said: “With the radical left now in control of Washington your governor is your last line of defence.
“In fact, your governor must be on the front line. So today I announce my candidacy for governor of Arkansas.”
Her video featured photographs of Mr Trump and criticisms of socialism, “cancel culture,” and the Green New Deal.
Ms Sanders is the daughter of former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee.
She had been widely expected to run for the office after leaving the White House, and Mr Trump publicly encouraged her to do so.
Last year, she laid the groundwork for her candidacy, speaking to various Republican groups around the state.
The current Republican governor Asa Hutchinson cannot run again due to term limits and will leave office next year.
Ms Sanders will face several other candidates in the Republican primary, including the state’s lieutenant governor Tim Griffin and attorney general Leslie Rutledge.
Mr Trump won Arkansas by 28 percentage points in the presidential election last year.
During her time as press secretary Ms Sanders was staunch defender of Mr Trump.
In her video she recalled being the first White House press secretary to require Secret Service protection because of a credible violent threat against her.
She condemned the US Capitol riots, which led to Mr Trump’s impeachment.
Ms Sanders said: “We’ve seen violence in our streets, at a Congressional baseball practice, and our Capitol. This is not who we are as Americans.
“To remain free we must have law and order and resolve our differences peacefully. The radical left’s ‘solution’ is to impose government control and censorship from the top down. But their socialism and cancel culture will not heal America. It will only further divide and destroy us. I will defend your right to be free of socialism and tyranny.”
American and Russian researchers are reported to be working on Covid-19 vaccines for mink after the animals proved highly susceptible to the coronavirus pandemic.
Two US firms are already testing vaccines and seeking to license their products with the US Department of Agriculture, the New York Times reported.
The commercially-farmed, weasel-like animals have suffered large outbreaks of disease in several countries and then passed mutated strains back into the human population.
The risk that mink farms could become a reservoir for virulent new variants saw Denmark in November order a cull of its entire farmed mink population of more than 15 million animals.
The rushed cull decision turned into a national scandal after prime minister Mette Frederiksen’s government acknowledged that it had no legal right to order a cull of minks not contaminated by the Covid-19 variant. Putrefying mink bodies then began to re-emerge from hastily dug mass graves as they were forced upwards by the pressure of gasses from decomposition.