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Political Notebook

Sen. Tim Scott joins the race for GOP presidential nod

Senator Tim ScottCharlie Neibergall/Associated Press

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina made it official Friday: He’s running for president.

Scott, the Senate’s only Black Republican, filed paperwork with the Federal Election Commission declaring his intention to seek his party’s nomination in 2024. His candidacy will test whether a more optimistic vision of America’s future can resonate with GOP voters who have elevated partisan brawlers in recent years.

The deeply religious 57-year-old former insurance broker has made his grandfather’s work in the cotton fields of the Deep South a bedrock of his political identity. Yet he rejects the notion that racism remains a powerful force in society, and he has cast his candidacy and rise from generational poverty as the realization of a dream only possible in America.

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Scott, who last month formed an exploratory committee allowing him to raise and spend money while weighing a White House campaign, has scheduled a formal announcement on Monday at Charleston Southern University, a private Baptist college and Scott’s alma mater, in his hometown of North Charleston.

Scott already has scheduled TV ads to begin airing in the early voting states Iowa and New Hampshire early next week, the most significant advertising expenditure by a potential or declared candidate in the early stages of the 2024 nominating campaign.

Associated Press

Biden’s canceled trip costly for reporters

Every traveler dreads a sudden flight cancellation. But few travelers have been stuck with the kind of headache that White House reporters were left with this week.

In anticipation of covering President Biden’s trip to Japan and Australia, news organizations shelled out big bucks to charter a plane to carry journalists from Hiroshima to Sydney. But then Biden decided to skip the Australian leg of his trip to return to Washington for continuing negotiations with congressional Republicans over a debt ceiling increase.

The decision stuck media organizations with the tab for a trip that never happened. And some correspondents think it could prompt their bosses to pull back from covering the president on overseas trips, dooming future charter flights.

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The now-canceled charter flight, organized by the White House Travel Office, cost $760,000, or about $14,000 for each of the 55 journalists who’d booked seats on it. Journalists will immediately lose their deposits, about $7,700 each, and may be on the hook for the rest, according to a memo sent to reporters on Wednesday by Tamara Keith, the president of the White House Correspondents’ Association.

But a lengthy list of other costs — hotel reservations, ground transportation, a shared press-filing center, among them — may also be unrecoverable. And journalists will lose some or all of the cost of their return flights from Sydney to Washington, as they scramble for last-minute flights from Hiroshima to Washington.

Washington Post

Weisselberg could face more criminal charges

NEW YORK — One of former president Donald Trump’s longtime lieutenants, Allen Weisselberg, was recently released from the notorious Rikers Island jail complex after pleading guilty to a tax fraud scheme. Yet Weisselberg’s legal troubles are far from over.

The Manhattan district attorney’s office is now considering a new round of criminal charges against Weisselberg, 75, and this time he could be charged with perjury, according to people with knowledge of the matter.

The threat of new charges represents the latest effort in a two-year campaign to persuade Weisselberg to testify against Trump. It comes just weeks after District Attorney Alvin Bragg unveiled an indictment of the former president.

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Weisselberg has so far refused to turn against his former boss, but the prosecutors recently ramped up the pressure, warning his lawyers that they might bring the perjury charges if their client declined to testify against Trump, two of the people said.

The potential perjury charges stem from statements Weisselberg made under oath during a 2020 interview with the office of New York Attorney General Letitia James, who was conducting her own separate civil investigation into Trump and his family business. It is not clear which part of his testimony raised red flags for prosecutors and James, or how Bragg might prove that Weisselberg intentionally made a false statement.

As a trusted financial gatekeeper to Trump’s family for nearly a half-century, Weisselberg could help Bragg in the case unveiled against Trump last month — which stems from a $130,000 hush-money payment to a porn star during the 2016 presidential campaign — as well as with a separate investigation into whether Trump fraudulently inflated his own annual financial statements. James’ office is participating in that ongoing investigation.

If Weisselberg refuses to cooperate, he could face a range of new charges. In addition to pursuing the perjury case, the prosecutors have indicated to his lawyers that they are considering unrelated insurance fraud charges against him. They also appear to be weighing whether to charge Weisselberg with inflating the numbers on Trump’s financial statements.

There is no sign that Weisselberg, who recently retired from the Trump Organization with a hefty payout, is close to breaking, or that charges are imminent. Weisselberg’s lawyer, Seth L. Rosenberg, declined to comment, as did a spokesperson for Bragg and a lawyer for Trump.

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New York Times

DeSantis lists himself, Trump, Biden as only real candidates

Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida all but declared his presidential candidacy Thursday afternoon, telling donors and supporters on a call that only three “credible” candidates were in the race and that only he would be able to win both the Republican primary and the general election.

“You have basically three people at this point that are credible in this whole thing,” DeSantis told donors on the call, organized by the super PAC supporting him, Never Back Down. “Biden, Trump, and me. And I think of those three, two have a chance to get elected president — Biden and me, based on all the data in the swing states, which is not great for the former president and probably insurmountable because people aren’t going to change their view of him.”

The call, to which a New York Times reporter listened, came as the governor is expected to officially enter the presidential race next week, according to three people familiar with his intentions.

New York Times

Texas GOP pushes bills to give state more control of elections

Texas Republicans are advancing legislation that would allow state authorities to remove local election officials, designate marshals to investigate voting complaints, and single out the state’s most populous county by giving it its own election rules.

One bill would change who oversees elections in Harris County, a Democratic stronghold that includes Houston and its suburbs. Another would give the secretary of state the ability to order a new election in the county if ballots are temporarily unavailable.

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Republicans, who control the state legislature, say the measures are in part a response to problems last year in Harris, where about 10,000 ballots weren’t immediately counted in one election and in another community where the majority of residents are people of color.

“I think it would make a mockery of our democracy,” Harris County Commissioner Rodney Ellis, a Democrat, said of the legislation. “It would be a throwback to the ‘40s and ‘50s.”

Voting rights advocates say they are particularly concerned that one of the bills could cause chaos in future presidential elections by throwing the status of Texas’s electoral votes into doubt.

About 4.8 million people live in Harris County, making it more populous than 26 states. The sprawling county over recent decades has shifted from reliably Republican to solidly Democratic. Joe Biden won the county’s presidential vote by 13 points in 2020 even as Donald Trump triumphed by nearly six points statewide.

The elections measures are moving forward as Republicans in Texas and other red states seek to constrain officials on multiple fronts in overwhelmingly Democratic urban areas.

Washington Post