troubled Trump

S.C. Exit Poll: One Third Of GOP Voters Won't Back Convicted Trump

WASHINGTON, Feb 24 (Reuters) - Some 32 percent of voters in South Carolina's Republican presidential primary contest think Donald Trump would not be fit for the presidency if he were convicted of a crime, according to the preliminary results of an exit poll conducted on Saturday by Edison Research.The poll gathered responses from 1,508 voters in the Republican contest. Updated results will be available as more responses are gathered.

Reporting by Jason Lange in Washington and Helen Coster, editing by Ross Colvin

New York Trump Judge Is Latest Target Of Threats Aimed At US Officials

New York Trump Judge Is Latest Target Of Threats Aimed At US Officials

By Andrew Goudsward

WASHINGTON, January11 (Reuters) - A threat against the judge overseeing Donald Trump’s civil fraud trial in New York on Thursday is the latest in a string of incidents targeting prominent U.S. officials that have raised worries in the U.S. Justice Department.

Justice Arthur Engoron, a frequent target of the former U.S. president’s ire, was threatened hours before he was due to preside over closing arguments, a court spokesperson confirmed. It was not clear if any arrests were made.U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland last week warned of a “deeply disturbing spike in threats against those who serve the public.” Prosecutors have recently brought cases against those accused of threatening FBI agents, federal judges, presidential candidates, members of Congress, members of the military and election workers, Garland said.

“These threats of violence are unacceptable,” Garland told reporters. “They threaten the fabric of our democracy.”Security incidents in the first weeks of 2024 have generated added concern in a year when a presidential election and progressing legal cases against Trump, the frontrunner for the Republican nomination, are poised to put the nation’s divisions on vivid display.

The threat against Engoron came days after Judge Tanya Chutkan, who is assigned to the election interference case against Trump in Washington federal court, was the subject of an apparent “swatting” incident, in which people report fake emergencies to trigger a police response to a specific address.Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is prosecuting the two federal criminal cases against Trump, and Republican U.S. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a stalwart Trump ally, were both subjects of “swatting” incidents on Christmas Day, according to media reports.

A spate of hoax bomb threats on Jan. 3 briefly forced the evacuation of several U.S. statehouses. Authorities said there was no credible threat.

Federal prosecutors recently indicted a New Hampshire man accused of sending texts threatening the lives of three presidential candidates and charged a 72-year-old Florida man with leaving voicemails threatening to kill Democratic U.S. Representative Eric Swalwell and his children.

Reporting by Andrew Goudsward; Editing by Scott Malone and Bill Berkrot

President Joe Biden

As Biden Market Hits Record High, Trump's Predictions Crash (And He Whines)

By Tim Reid

(Reuters) - Donald Trump, who predicted three years ago that if Democratic President Joe Biden won the White House in 2020 markets would crash, said on Sunday that stock markets hitting record highs were just making "rich people richer."

Trump, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination, often took credit for a rising stock market when he was president between 2017 and 2021. He was mocked by Biden last week for wrongly predicting a crash when they campaigned against each other in 2020.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average hit a record high last week, topping 37,000 and surpassing the previous record set in 2022. In a 2020 debate with Biden, Trump said that if Biden won the election, "the stock market will crash."

Biden defeated Trump in the 2020 election.

In an attempt to give a populist and anti-Biden twist on the new record stock market high, Trump, a self-described billionaire, told a crowd of supporters in Reno, Nevada: "The stock market is making rich people richer."

Turning on Biden, he changed the subject to high prices, a hallmark of Biden's three years in office.

"Biden's inflation catastrophe is demolishing your savings and ravaging your dreams," Trump said, as he looks ahead to a likely rematch with Biden in the November 2024 White House contest.

Despite decreasing inflation in recent months, an increase in wages and low unemployment, Trump added: "We are a nation whose economy is collapsing into a cesspool."

Republican voters begin picking their 2024 White House standard-bearer on January 15 in Iowa, the state that kicks off the nominating process.

Trump was holding a rally in Nevada, where Republicans vote on February 8.

Trump enjoys commanding leads over his Republican rivals in state and national polls, despite his myriad legal problems and more than 90 criminal charges bought against him this year.

In a CBS News/YouGov poll released Sunday, however, one of Trump's Republican rivals - former United Nations Ambassador Nikki Haley - had narrowed the gap on Trump in New Hampshire, the second GOP primary state that will hold its primary on January 23.

Trump has 44 percent support of likely Republican primary voters in the Granite State, while Haley has increased her support to 29 percent.

In a clear sign Trump sees Haley as emerging as his closest rival for the nomination, rather than Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who has fallen in many polls all year, Trump went after Haley in his Nevada speech.

Citing other polls where he has bigger leads over Haley, Trump said: "Nikki Haley - where's the surge?"

Reporting by Tim Reid; Editing by Mary Milliken and Deepa Babington

Dispatches From Moscow And Kyiv Dispute Ukraine Counter-Offensive

Dispatches From Moscow And Kyiv Dispute Ukraine Counter-Offensive

By Guy Faulconbridge

MOSCOW (Reuters) -Russia said on Monday its forces had thwarted a major Ukrainian offensive at five points along the front in the Ukrainian region of Donetsk and killed hundreds of troops while Ukraine accused Moscow of spreading lies.

It was not immediately clear whether or not the attack represented the start of a Ukrainian counteroffensive which Kyiv has been promising for months to drive out Russian forces after the invasion of February 2022.

Russia's defense ministry said Ukraine had attacked on Sunday morning with six mechanized and two tank battalions in southern Donetsk, where Moscow has long suspected Ukraine would seek to drive a wedge through Russian-controlled territory.

"On the morning of June 4, the enemy launched a large-scale offensive in five sectors of the front in the South Donetsk direction," the defence ministry said in a statement posted on Telegram at 1:30 a.m. Moscow time (2230 GMT).

"The enemy's goal was to break through our defences in the most vulnerable, in its opinion, sector of the front," it said. "The enemy did not achieve its tasks, it had no success."

Reuters was unable to immediately verify the Russian statement and the Ukrainian defence ministry and military did not immediately respond to written requests for comment.

The commander of Ukraine's ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said on Monday that Ukrainian forces continued "moving forward" near the long-contested city of Bakhmut in northern Donetsk. He made no comment on the counter-offensive.

The daily report from Ukraine's General Staff said only that there were 29 combat clashes in the Donetsk and Luhansk regions of eastern Ukraine.

Ukraine's Centre for Strategic Communications did not address the Russian statement directly but said, without providing evidence, that Russia would seek to spread lies.

"To demoralize Ukrainians and mislead the community (including their own population), Russian propagandists will spread false information about the counteroffensive, its directions, and the losses of the Ukrainian army," it said.

Ukrainian Defence Minister Oleksii Reznikov published a cryptic message on Twitter on Sunday, quoting Depeche Mode's track "Enjoy the Silence".

Russian war bloggers reported fighting at several points across the front, particularly around Vuhledar, some 150 km (93 miles) southwest of Bakhmut.


Russia's defence ministry released video of what it said showed several Ukrainian armoured vehicles in a field blowing up after being hit.

Russian forces killed 250 Ukrainian troops as well as destroying 16 tanks, three infantry fighting vehicles and 21 armoured combat vehicles, the ministry said.

Russian Chief of the General Staff Valery Gerasimov, who is in charge of Moscow's military operation in Ukraine, was in the area at the time of the Ukrainian attack, the ministry said.

Prominent Russian military blogger Semyon Pegov, who blogs under the name War Gonzo, said Ukrainian forces were attacking near Velyka Novosilka, a village west of Vuhledar.

"There is a tough fight going on."

Other Russian military bloggers reported also heavy fighting on Monday morning near Bakhmut, nearby Soledar and Vuhledar. Reuters could not independently verify the reports.

Counter-Offensive Beginning?

For months, Ukraine has been preparing for a counter-offensive against Russian forces which officials in Kyiv and CIA Director William Burns have said will pierce Russian President Vladimir Putin's hubris.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Wall Street Journal in an interview published on Saturday that he was ready to launch the counteroffensive but tempered a forecast of success with a warning that it could take some time and come at a heavy cost.

"I don't know how long it will take," he told the Journal. "To be honest, it can go a variety of ways, completely different. But we are going to do it, and we are ready."

After seeking tens of billions of dollars of Western weapons to fight Russian forces, the success or failure of the counter-offensive is likely to influence the shape of future Western diplomatic and military support for Ukraine.

Ukraine has in recent weeks sought to weaken Russian positions but its specific plans have been shrouded in secrecy as it seeks to strike yet another blow against the much larger military of Russia.

Moscow was last month struck by drones which Russia said was a Ukrainian terrorist attack while pro-Ukrainian forces have repeatedly crossed into Russia proper in recent days in the Belgorod region.

After a two-month lull, Russia has launched hundreds of drones and missiles on Ukraine since early May, chiefly on Kyiv, with Ukraine saying it was targeting military facilities but also hitting residential areas.


Putin sent troops into Ukraine on February 24 last year in what the Kremlin expected to be swift operation but its forces suffered a series of defeats and had to move back and regroup in swathes of eastern Ukraine.

Russia now controls at least 18% of what is internationally recognized to be Ukrainian territory, and has claimed four regions of Ukraine as Russian territory.

For months, tens of thousands of Russian troops have been digging in along a front line which stretches for around 600 miles (1,000km), bracing for a Ukrainian attack which is expected to try to cut Russia's so-called land bridge to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia annexed in 2014.

Ukraine vows to eject every last Russian soldier from its territory, and casts the invasion as an imperial-style land grab by Russia.

Russia says the West is fighting a hybrid war against Russia to sow discord and ultimately carve up Russia's vast natural resources, allegations that Western leaders deny.

(Writing by Guy Faulconbridge in Moscow, Lidia Kelly in Melbourne and David Ljunggren in Ottawa; editing by Diane Craft, Lincoln Feast and Philippa Fletcher)

Chuck Schumer

Senate Passes Bipartisan Debt Limit Bill, Averting Catastrophic Default

By Richard Cowan and Gram Slattery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Senate on Thursday passed bipartisan legislation backed by President Joe Biden that lifts the government's $31.4 trillion debt ceiling, averting what would have been a first-ever default.

The Senate voted 63-36 to approve the bill that had been passed on Wednesday by the House of Representatives, as lawmakers raced against the clock following months of partisan bickering between Democrats and Republicans.

The Treasury Department had warned it would be unable to pay all its bills on June 5 if Congress failed to act by then.

"We are avoiding default tonight," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Thursday as he steered the legislation through his 100-member chamber.

Biden praised Congress' timely action. "This bipartisan agreement is a big win for our economy and the American people," the Democratic president said in a statement, adding that he will sign it into law as soon as possible. He said he would make an additional statement on Friday at 7 p.m. EDT (2300 GMT).

Biden was directly involved in negotiations on the bill with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy.

While this bitter battle has ended, Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell wasted no time flagging the next budget fight.

"In the coming months, Senate Republicans will continue working to provide for the common defense and control Washington Democrats’ reckless spending," he said in a statement.

McConnell was referring to 12 bills Congress will work on over the summer to fund government programs in the fiscal year beginning October 1, which will also carry out the broad instructions of the debt limit bill.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen, meanwhile, issued some pointed advice saying, "I continue to strongly believe that the full faith and credit of the United States must never be used as a bargaining chip," as Republicans did over the past several months.

Before the final vote, senators tore through nearly a dozen amendments - rejecting all of them during a late-night session in anticipation of Monday's deadline.

With this legislation, the statutory limit on federal borrowing will be suspended until January 1, 2025. Unlike most other developed countries, the United States limits the amount of debt the government can borrow, regardless of any spending allocated by the legislature.

"America can breathe a sigh of relief," Schumer said in remarks to the Senate.

Republicans had blocked passage of any debt limit increase until they locked in some wide-ranging spending cuts in a move they said would begin addressing a rapidly escalating national debt.

Biden instead pushed for tax increases on the wealthy and corporations to help address the growing debt. Republicans refused to consider any sort of tax hikes.

Both parties walled off the sprawling Social Security and Medicare retirement and healthcare programs from cuts, and McCarthy refused to consider reducing spending on the military or veterans.

That left a somewhat narrow band of domestic "discretionary" programs to bear the brunt of spending cuts. In the end, Republicans won about $1.5 trillion in reductions over 10 years, which may or may not be fully realized. Their opening bid was for $4.8 trillion in savings over a decade.

Treasury technically hit its limit on borrowing in January. Since then it has been using "extraordinary measures" to patch together the money needed to pay the government's bills.

Biden, Yellen and congressional leaders all acknowledged that triggering a default for lack of funds would have serious ramifications. Those included sending shock waves through global financial markets, possibly triggering job losses and a recession in the United States and raising families' interest rates on everything from home mortgages to credit card debt.

The Republican-controlled House passed the bill on Wednesday evening in a 314-117 vote. Most of those who voted against the bill were Republicans.

"Time is a luxury the Senate does not have," Schumer said on Thursday. "Any needless delay or any last-minute holdups would be an unnecessary and even dangerous risk."

Among the amendments debated were ones to force deeper spending cuts than those contained in the House-passed bill and stopping the speedy final approval of a West Virginia energy pipeline.

Republican Senator Roger Marshall offered an amendment to impose new border controls as high numbers of immigrants arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border. His measure, he said, would "put an end to the culture of lawlessness at our southern border."

The Senate defeated the amendment, however. Democrats said it would strip away protections for child migrants and rob American farmers of needed workers.

Some Republicans also wanted to beef up defense spending beyond the increased levels contained in the House-passed bill.

In response, Schumer said the spending caps in this legislation would not constrain Congress in approving additional money for emergencies, including helping Ukraine in its battle against Russia.

"This debt ceiling deal does nothing to limit the Senate's ability to appropriate emergency supplemental funds to ensure our military capabilities are sufficient to deter China, Russia and our other adversaries, and respond to ongoing and growing national security threats, including Russia's evil ongoing war of aggression against Ukraine," Schumer said.

The bill was cobbled together over weeks of intensive negotiations between senior aides for Biden and McCarthy.

The main argument was over spending for the next couple of years on discretionary programs such as housing, environmental protections, education and medical research that Republicans wanted to cut deeply.

The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office estimated the bill would save $1.5 trillion over 10 years. That is below the $3 trillion in deficit reduction, mainly through new taxes, that Biden proposed.

The last time the United States came this close to default was in 2011. That standoff hammered financial markets, led to the first-ever downgrade of the government's credit rating and pushed up the nation's borrowing costs.

There was less drama this time as it became clear last week that Biden and McCarthy would find a deal with enough bipartisan support to get through Congress.

(Reporting by Richard Cowan, David Morgan, Moira Warburton and Gram Slattery; editing by Scott Malone, Alistair Bell, Diane Craft, Kieran Murray and William Mallard)

Far Right In Retreat As McCarthy Secures GOP Maority To Pass Debt Deal

Far Right In Retreat As McCarthy Secures GOP Maority To Pass Debt Deal

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Kevin McCarthy secured his position as Republican Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday night, navigating fierce hardline opposition in his own caucus to pass a debt ceiling bill containing federal spending limits that President Joe Biden for months vowed to resist.

Six months after he endured 15 humiliating floor votes just to be elected speaker, McCarthy proved capable of dragging Biden into negotiations over spending and other Republican priorities, and then marshalling two-thirds of his often fractious House Republican majority to enact bipartisan legislation.

"It's not how you start, it's how you finish," McCarthy told reporters after the vote, repeating one of his comments from the January night he was finally confirmed as speaker. The House approved by a 314-117 margin the bill, which lifts the government's $31.4 trillion debt ceiling in exchange for cutting non-defense discretionary spending and stiffening work requirements in assistance programs.

Yet it was a bruising victory for McCarthy. The bill gained 165 votes from Democrats, outnumbering the 149 from members of McCarthy's own Republican party.

The bill now goes to the narrowly Democratic-controlled Senate, which must enact it and get it to Biden's desk by June 5 to avoid a crippling U.S. default.

Republican Rep. Dusty Johnson, a McCarthy ally who helped craft the Republican debt-ceiling legislation that buttressed the speaker in negotiations, said the vote proved wrong Democratic predications that the 58-year-old Californian would have little chance of holding his caucus together.

"They said he would never become speaker, and of course they were wrong. They said he would never be able to manage the floor effectively and we haven't had a single bill fail," Johnson said in an interview. "They said he wouldn't be able to cut a deal with the president, and they were wrong about that."

McCarthy has so far succeeded in passing the bill without drawing direct verbal attacks from former President Donald Trump, who urged Republicans to push for a default if they were not able to extract sufficient concessions from Democrats.

Trump, who is seeking a return to the White House in 2024, had blasted top Senate Republican Mitch McConnell for agreeing to raise the debt ceiling during Biden's first year in office. McConnell largely stayed in the background during these talks, which began to move forward after Biden agreed to one-on-one negotiations on May 9.

Avoiding Trump's ire appears to have protected McCarthy's standing with Republican voters nationally, some 44% of whom told a Reuters/Ipsos poll in May that they approve of his job performance, notably higher than McConnell's 29% approval rate.

The bill approved by the House on Wednesday would suspend the debt limit - essentially meaning that it no longer applies - through Jan. 1, 2025. That sets the stage for another showdown in the weeks following the 2024 presidential election.

Republican lawmakers and analysts say McCarthy's masterstroke in getting Biden to the negotiating table was his decision to bring a debt ceiling bill to the floor and pass it in April with only the support of his own party members.

Up to that point, Biden had refused McCarthy's requests to negotiate over the debt ceiling, insisting that House Republicans enact their own budget for fiscal 2024 as a prerequisite for spending talks.

But in getting the April measure passed, House Republicans became the only body in Washington that had acted to raise the debt ceiling.

"Once the House passed a bill, 'no negotiations' was a clearly unsustainable place to be," said Rohit Kumar, a former top aide to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell who is now co-leader of PwC's national tax office in Washington.

The White House, for its part, contends that the talks between Biden and McCarthy were not a negotiation on the debt ceiling.

"The debt ceiling had to be lifted, and it had to be lifted for a long period of time," White House budget director Shalanda Young told a Tuesday press conference. "You see this bill lift the debt ceiling until 2025. You can call it a negotiation; I call it a declarative statement."

House Republicans say McCarthy has succeeded as speaker, because of an inclusive leadership style, cultivating support from a majority of caucus members by working through major party caucuses, known as the "Five Families," a reference to the warring organized crime clans of The Godfather movie.

"Speaker McCarthy's done an incredible job," said Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus. "And I think he's proved over and over again that he defies the odds, and he also defies people's expectations."

McCarthy also expanded his influence through trusted friends and longtime associates such as Reps. Patrick McHenry and Garret Graves, who became his lead negotiators with the White House.

But McCarthy is not quite out of the woods. After stirring the ire of far rightists who decried the compromise bill as a sellout, he could face the prospect of ouster at the hands of any single member.

One of the conditions he agreed to in January to win the speakership was allowing for any one member to call for a "motion to vacate the chair," in essence a vote on whether to depose the speaker.

Senior members of the Freedom Caucus have said they would consider next steps in coming weeks.

One of their number, Ralph Norman, said McCarthy should have forced Democrats to accept the House-passed bill.

"I think it weakens him. Whether it's permanent or temporary, I don't know," Norman said.

But Norman said he would not support an immediate effort to oust McCarthy as speaker, adding "To threaten to kick him out now, that's not right."

A similar threat triggered the resignation of former House Speaker John Boehner in 2015.

"This is where the honeymoon can definitely end," said Republican strategist Ron Bonjean, a one-time aide to former House Speaker Dennis Hastert.

Asked this week whether he expects to keep his speakership, McCarthy told a reporter: "What do you think? You guys ask me all the time, and I'm still standing."

His allies say they will defend him against any potential threat to his position.

"We'll have to deal with the internal politics of a hard-fought fight. Tempers are short and emotions are raw right now. But we'll deal with it," Representative Kelly Armstrong, a McCarthy adviser, told Reuters.

(Reporting by David Morgan, additional reporting by Steve Holland and Jason Lange; Editing by Scott Malone and Suzanne Goldenberg)

'Utter Capitulation': How Will McCarthy Sell Debt Deal To Angry Far Right?

'Utter Capitulation': How Will McCarthy Sell Debt Deal To Angry Far Right?

By Moira Warburton, Katharine Jackson and Gram Slattery

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - After tough negotiations to reach a tentative deal with the White House on the U.S. borrowing limit, the next challenge for House Speaker Kevin McCarthy is pushing it through the House, where it may be opposed by both hardline Republicans and progressive Democrats.

As Democratic and Republican negotiators iron out the final details of an agreement to suspend the federal government's $31.4 trillion debt ceiling in coming days, McCarthy may be forced to do some behind-the-scenes wrangling.

A failure by Congress to deal with its self-imposed debt ceiling before June 5 could trigger a default that would shake financial markets and send the United States into a deep recession.

Republicans control the House by 222-213, while Democrats control the Senate by 51-49. These margins mean that moderates from both sides will have to support the bill, as any compromise will almost definitely lose the support of the far left and far right wings of each party.

To win the speaker's gavel, McCarthy agreed to enable any single member to call for a vote to unseat him, which could lead to his ouster if he seeks to work with Democrats.

Hours before the deal was announced, some hardline Republicans balked at McCarthy cooperating with the White House.

"If Speaker's negotiators bring back in substance a clean debt limit increase ... one so large that it even protects Biden from the issue in the presidential ..., it's war," Representative Dan Bishop, a Freedom Caucus member, tweeted.

The deal does just that, sources briefed on it say: it suspends the debt ceiling until January 2025, after the November 2024 presidential election, in exchange for caps on spending and cuts in government programs.

Bishop and other hardline Republicans were sharply critical of early deal details that suggest Biden has pushed back successfully on several cost-cutting demands on Saturday, signaling McCarthy may have an issue getting votes.

"Utter capitulation in progress. By the side holding the cards," Bishop said.

Progressive Democrats in both chambers have said they would not support any deal that has additional work requirements. This deal does, sources say, adding work requirements to food aid for people aged 50 to 54.

The deal would boost spending on the military and veterans' care, and cap it for many discretionary domestic programs, according to sources familiar with the talks. But Republicans and Democrats will need to battle over which ones in the months to come, as the deal doesn't specify them.

Republicans have rejected Biden's proposed tax increases, and neither side has shown a willingness to take on the fast-growing health and retirement programs that will drive up debt sharply in the coming years.

Several credit-rating agencies have said they have put the United States on review for a possible downgrade, which would push up borrowing costs and undercut its standing as the backbone of the global financial system.

(Reporting by Moira Warburton in Washington; Editing by Heather Timmons and Kim Coghill)

Texas House Votes To Impeach Election-Denier Attorney General Paxton

Texas House Votes To Impeach Election-Denier Attorney General Paxton

By Brad Brooks and Maria Caspani

LUBBOCK, Texas (Reuters) -The Texas House on Saturday voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton, a conservative firebrand and ally of former President Donald Trump who has been accused by his fellow Republicans of abuse of office.

In historic proceedings, the 149-member House voted 121-23 to impeach Paxton after hours of debate during which the chamber heard speeches from supporters and opponents of impeachment. Two members were present but not voting while three were absent.

Paxton will now be temporarily removed from office pending a trial in the Senate, where his wife, Angela Paxton, is a senator. The Texas Senate is in recess until 1 p.m. CDT (1800 GMT) on Sunday, according to its website.

Paxton has denied the accusations and denounced the proceedings as "illegal, unethical, and profoundly unjust" in a statement on Twitter after Saturday's vote.

"I look forward to a quick resolution in the Texas Senate, where I have full confidence the process will be fair and just," he said.

In a message on his social media channel Truth Social ahead of the vote, Trump, who is seeking re-election in 2024, vowed to "fight" Texas House Republicans if Paxton were to be impeached.

The 20 articles of impeachment presented by a Republican-led House committee accuse Paxton of improperly aiding a wealthy political donor, conducting a sham investigation against whistleblowers in his office whom he fired, and covering up his wrongdoing in a separate federal securities fraud case against him, among other offenses.

Paxton's impeachment proceedings laid bare the rift among Texas Republicans. Some spoke passionately in support of impeaching the state's top law enforcement official.

"Attorney General Paxton continuously and blatantly violated laws, rules, policies and procedures," Representative David Spiller said ahead of the vote.

Others vehemently opposed it. John Smithee, a long-serving conservative member of the chamber, said he was not speaking in Paxton's defense but criticized the process and said there was insufficient evidence.

"There is not a word, not one sentence in the testimony before you that would be admissible in any Texas court of law," Smithee said. "It is hearsay within hearsay within hearsay."

Paxton has staked out a position on the far right on divisive cultural issues. He has sued the Biden administration nearly 50 times attempting to halt what has he labeled as "unlawful tyrannical policies" on issues including immigration, gun rights and business regulation.

The five-member Texas House General Investigating Committee voted unanimously on Thursday to recommend that Paxton be impeached and removed from office.

Paxton easily won re-election last year after fending off a Republican primary challenge from George P. Bush, a scion of two former presidents.

The committee has heard testimony from its investigators about several years of alleged abuse of office by Paxton, including that he provided friend and donor Nate Paul, a Texas real estate developer, with FBI files related to the bureau's investigation into Paul.

The impeachment articles also allege Paxton engaged in bribery when Paul hired a woman with whom Paxton was having an extramarital affair.

(Reporting by Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas, Daniel Trotta in Carlsbad, California, and Maria Caspani in New York; Editing by Tom Hogue, David Gregorio and Daniel Wallis)

DeSantis Challenges Trump On Six-Week Abortion Ban In Political Shift

DeSantis Challenges Trump On Six-Week Abortion Ban In Political Shift

By James Oliphant

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said on Tuesday he was proud to have signed a six-week abortion ban, after seeming initially reluctant to embrace the recently passed law in Florida that outlaws almost all abortions in the state.

As DeSantis prepares to formally announce a 2024 White House run in the coming weeks, he is increasingly trumpeting the measure to help him draw more of a contrast with former President Donald Trump, the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination.

At a news conference on Tuesday, DeSantis said he was “proud” to have signed the legislation and fired back at Trump, who suggested in an interview this week that the six-week ban is overly restrictive.

“He will not answer whether he would sign it or not,” said DeSantis, who is a leading contender for the Republican nomination. The nominee will take on President Joe Biden, a Democrat, in next year’s general election.

In an interview with online news site the Messenger posted on Monday, Trump said, “If you look at what DeSantis did, a lot of people don’t even know if he knew what he was doing. But he signed six weeks, and many people within the pro-life movement feel that was too harsh.”

DeSantis seized upon that at his news conference.

“Protecting an unborn child when there’s the detectable heartbeat is something that almost, probably, 99% of pro-lifers support,” he said.

He cited a similar law in Iowa, which will hold the first Republican presidential nominating contest early next year and is a state with a large bloc of evangelical voters.

Bob Vander Plaats, a leading evangelical advocate in Iowa, criticized Trump’s remarks on Twitter.

“No, Mr. President, many in the #ProLife community do not believe saving babies is too harsh,” Vander Plaats wrote.

He praised DeSantis for “leading on life” and in a later tweet, contended the Iowa nominating contest, known as the Iowa caucuses, is now “wide open.”

During the recent Florida legislative session, DeSantis did not expressly advocate for the six-week abortion ban, and he signed it last month without fanfare to replace what had been a 15-week ban. In speeches afterward, he largely avoided highlighting it.

While DeSantis’ abortion stance could help garner him votes among hard-right conservatives, some Republican donors have expressed unease with his position.

In an interview with Reuters last week, Republican donor Andy Sabin said he could not support DeSantis after he signed the abortion law.

(Reporting by James Oliphant in Washington; Additional reporting by Rich McKay in Atlanta; Editing by Ross Colvin and Matthew Lewis)

Surprise Victory For Public Interest Groups In Supreme Court Class-Action Decision

Surprise Victory For Public Interest Groups In Supreme Court Class-Action Decision

By Andrew Chung

(Reuters) -The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to hear a dispute involving a lawsuit against Bayer AG's Monsanto Co that could rein in a common form of settlement in class action cases under which money is awarded to charities and third parties unrelated to the litigation.

The justices turned away an appeal by Anna St. John, an attorney who opposed an agreement for Monsanto to pay more than $39 million to settle claims that the company deceptively labeled certain Roundup weedkiller products. Lower courts rejected the challenge by St. John, who had objected to the settlement because $14 to $16 million of the award would go to consumer non-profit groups and a university that were not injured by the company's alleged misconduct.

At issue in the case are so-called cy pres awards in class action cases that direct money that may go unclaimed or cannot be feasibly distributed to class members to unrelated entities as long as it would be in the interests of the plaintiffs.

Critics have said such awards encourage frivolous lawsuits and excessive fees going to class action attorneys who may seek to benefit their own interests instead. Proponents have said these settlements can put otherwise low-value awards per person to good use by benefiting groups that work for the public good or support underfunded entities.

The Supreme Court in 2019 sidestepped resolving a challenge to cy pres awards in a case involving Google. Conservative Justice Clarence Thomas, dissenting in that case, called cy pres settlements "unfair and unreasonable."

The plaintiffs sued in 2019 on behalf of a proposed nationwide class of individuals who bought certain of the company's Roundup weedkiller products with the allegedly deceptive labeling. Monsanto and the plaintiffs defend the settlement because both sides extended efforts to reach out to as many consumers as possible to file a claim - even increasing compensation to generate more claims - before any leftover money would be used for cy pres distribution.

Class members filed more than 240,000 claims worth more than $13 million. The settlement proposed three cy pres recipients, including the National Consumer Law Center, the National Advertising Division of the Better Business Bureau, and the Center for Consumer Law & Economic Justice at the University of California, Berkeley.

St. John, the sole individual who opposed the settlement, is an attorney at the Hamilton Lincoln Law Institute's Center for Class Action Fairness, which is also representing her in the case. Monsanto has called the group, which advocates against what it considers abusive class action procedures, a "serial objector to class-action settlements."

The group said in court papers that further steps could have taken to distribute the settlement award to class members. In addition, it said the cy pres distribution would infringe St. John's right to free speech under the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment because the chosen recipients would subsidize "left-leaning organizations" that "work against her political beliefs."

A federal judge rejected St. John's objections and approved the settlement, a ruling that the St. Louis, Missouri-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld last year.

(Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham)

Sanders Will Grill Pharma Chiefs Today In Senate Hearing On Insulin Prices

Sanders Will Grill Pharma Chiefs Today In Senate Hearing On Insulin Prices

By Ahmed Aboulenein

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The leaders of major insulin makers and pharmacy benefit managers (PBMs) are set to blame each other on Wednesday in their testimonies during a U.S. Senate committee hearing on making the life-saving drug more affordable.

PBMs negotiate with drugmakers for rebates and lower fees on behalf of employers and other clients, and reimburse pharmacies for prescriptions they dispense. Both sides blame each other for high drug prices.

The CEOs of the major insulin manufacturers, Eli Lilly and Co, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi, which together control 90 percent of the U.S. market, and top PBM executives from CVS Health Corp, Cigna Group's Express Scripts, and UnitedHealth Group Inc's Optum RX, which control 80 percent of the prescription drug market, will testify.

Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT), who chairs the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, is a fierce critic of both industries and will likely grill the executives.

"The United States cannot continue to pay, by far, the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs while drug companies and PBMs make billions in profits. That's what this hearing is all about," Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, said in a statement.

Sanofi CEO Paul Hudson will argue that drugmakers pay substantial rebates aimed at lowering costs but that PBMs and insurers are incentivized to choose drugs with higher prices because they lead to larger rebates, according to his written testimony.

Optum Rx CEO Heather Cianfrocco will say manufacturers alone set the drug prices and abuse patent protections to stifle competition, her written testimony shows.

Around 8.4 million of the 37 million people in the United States with diabetes use insulin, according to the American Diabetes Association.

Lilly, Novo Nordisk, and Sanofi all said in March they were cutting list prices by more than 70 percent for some insulin products.

The cuts could help around 2 million people pay for insulin. Although many people, including some 3.3 million on Medicare, pay $35 a month or less, about 1-in-5 with private insurance and the 17 percent of insulin users who are uninsured stand to benefit.

Uninsured people often have to pay full list prices, an average of $900 a month, forcing many to ration or skip doses.

Sanders has introduced a bill that caps all insulin list prices at $20 per vial and is working with Senator Bill Cassidy (R-LA), the ranking Republican on the HELP Committee, on a bipartisan bill that strengthens government oversight over PBMs, one of several bills aimed at reducing drug prices.

(Reporting by Ahmed Aboulenein; Editing by Shri Navaratnam)

Graphic Video Of Mall Shooting Goes Viral As Biden Calls For Gun Controls

Graphic Video Of Mall Shooting Goes Viral As Biden Calls For Gun Controls

By Maria Caspani

(Reuters) -President Joe Biden on Sunday called on Congress to pass gun control bills in the wake of yet another mass shooting that left nine people dead, including the gunman, at a Texas mall on Saturday.

The Democratic president renewed calls for Congress to ban assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, as well as to enact universal background checks and end immunity for gun manufacturers. There is little chance the narrowly divided House and Senate would pass such legislation, although polls show most Americans support background checks.

Biden, who has made similar pleas before, said the assailant at Allen Premium Outlets mall in Allen, a northern suburb of Dallas, wore tactical gear and was armed with an AR-15 style assault weapon.

The gunman killed eight people, including children, and wounded at least seven, before a police officer killed him, police said on Saturday.

Mass shootings have become commonplace in the United States, with at least 199 so far in 2023, the most at this point in the year since at least 2016, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The nonprofit group defines a mass shooting as any in which four or more people are wounded or killed, not including the shooter.

As of Sunday morning, law enforcement had not released details about suspect's identity or a possible motive. The identities of the victims had also not been released.

"We don't have anything that we're ready to release at this time," Sergeant Jonathan Maness of the Allen Police Department told Reuters. "It's a lot of moving parts here."

Officials said three people transported to area hospitals were in critical condition as of Saturday, while four had been stabilized.

A graphic 10-second video shared on Twitter on Saturday showed several dead bodies slumped against a planter and white wall bearing the sign of retailer H&M.

At least one of the individuals, lifeless and bloody, appears to be a young child. Reuters was able to verify that the video was taken at the mall where the shooting took place.

In past shootings, social media sites worked to take down links to such graphic images. An emailed request for comment to Twitter, which no longer has a communications team, returned an automated reply with a poop emoji.

Some Twitter users said people and politicians needed to see videos like this one to grasp the magnitude and horrific nature of gun violence.

Others said it should be taken down.

"There is nothing virtuous or ethical about showing easily indentifiable dead children and adults, whose families might not yet know they are dead," wrote Emily Bell, a professor and the director of the Tow Center for Digital Journalism at Columbia University. "It’s deeply unethical - it strips victims and their families of privacy and dignity in death. It serves only Musk’s click farm."

Tragedy Reignites Gun Control Debate

The tragedy in Allen, which happened just over a week after another deadly shooting in the Texas town of Cleveland, reignited the heated debate over gun control in the United States.

The U.S. Constitution's Second Amendment protects the right to bear arms, and that issue is a hot button one for many Republicans, who are backed by millions in donations from gun rights groups and manufacturers.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott, a Republican, called the shooting "devastating" in a Sunday morning interview on Fox News but said that the way to effectively tackle gun violence lies in addressing mental health.

"There has been a dramatic increase in the amount of anger and violence that's taking place in America," he said. "We are working to address that anger and violence by going to his root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it."

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and other Democrats stressed the need to pass stronger gun safety legislation to curtail gun violence.

On Saturday, TV aerials showed hundreds of people calmly walking out of the mall, located about 25 miles (40 km) northeast of Dallas, after the violence unfolded, many with their hands up as scores of police stood guard.

One unidentified eyewitness told local ABC affiliate WFAA TV that the gunman was "walking down the sidewalk just ... shooting his gun outside."

(Reporting by Maria Caspani in New York, Brad Brooks in Lubbock, Texas, Moira Warburton in Washington, and Brendan O'Brien in Chicago; Editing by Lisa Shumaker)


Fox Seeks Settlement In Defamation Case As Judge Delays Trial Start

By Helen Coster

WILMINGTON, Delaware (Reuters) -The start of Dominion Voting Systems' $1.6 billion defamation trial against Fox has been pushed back by a day, the judge said on Sunday, with a source familiar with the matter saying the media giant was pursuing settlement talks.

The source, who was not authorized to speak publicly, told Reuters that Fox was seeking a possible settlement. The Washington Post and the Wall Street Journal also reported that Fox was pursuing settlement talks, citing sources.

Dominion is suing Fox Corp and Fox News in a defamation lawsuit over the network's coverage of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

"The Court has decided to continue the start of the trial, including jury selection, until Tuesday, April 18, 2023 at 9:00 a.m.," Judge Eric Davis said in a statement, without providing a reason for the delay.

"I will make such an announcement tomorrow at 9:00 a.m. in Courtroom 7E," he added.

Davis had said on Thursday he expected to conclude jury selection on Monday and to proceed to opening statements.

Dominion and Fox declined to comment on the delay.

Davis on Wednesday sanctioned Fox News, handing Dominion a fresh chance to gather evidence after Fox withheld records until the eve of the trial.

The evidence includes recordings of Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump's lawyer, saying in pre-taped Fox appearances that he did not have any evidence to back up the false allegations of election rigging by Dominion in the 2020 race that are at the heart of the lawsuit.

The recordings were made by a former Fox employee who is currently suing the network.

Davis said he would also very likely tap an outside investigator to probe Fox's late disclosure of the evidence and take whatever steps necessary to remedy the situation, which he described as troubling.

Fox said in a statement on Wednesday that it "produced the supplemental information" to Dominion "when we first learned it."

Most Closely Watched

The trial is one of the most closely-watched U.S. defamation cases in years, involving a leading cable outlet with numerous conservative commentators.

Murdoch is set to testify, along with a parade of Fox executives and on-air hosts, including Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Jeanine Pirro.

The trial is considered a test of whether Fox's coverage crossed the line between ethical journalism and the pursuit of ratings, as Dominion alleges and Fox denies.

Dominion has accused Fox of ruining its reputation by airing baseless and conspiracy-based claims that its machines secretly changed votes in favor of Democrat Joe Biden, who defeated then-President Trump, a Republican, in the 2020 presidential election.

Dominion is asking for $1.6 billion in damages, a figure Fox has said is unrealistic and based on flawed economic modeling.

An expert report commissioned by Dominion attributed scores of lost contracts to Fox's coverage, though much of the report remains under seal.

Fox Corp reported nearly $14 billion in annual revenue last year.

Dominion has said Fox's conduct was damaging to American democracy and that the network must be held accountable, while Fox said on Friday that Dominion's lawsuit is a threat to press freedom.

"While Dominion has pushed irrelevant and misleading information to generate headlines, Fox News remains steadfast in protecting the rights of a free press," the network said in a statement.

The primary question for jurors is whether Fox knowingly spread false information or recklessly disregarded the truth, the standard of "actual malice" that Dominion must show to prevail in a defamation case.

Dominion says defamatory statements were aired without correction on Fox shows including Sunday Morning Futures, Lou Dobbs Tonight and Justice with Judge Jeanine.

Dominion alleges that Fox staff, ranging from members of the newsroom to the board of directors, knew the statements were false but continued to air them to avoid losing viewers to even more far-right outlets.

Dominion also cites evidence that some hosts and producers thought the guests spreading the false statements, including former Trump attorneys Rudy Giuliani and Sidney Powell, could not back up their allegations or were even demented.

Fox had argued that coverage of the vote-rigging claims was inherently newsworthy and protected by the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment guarantee of press freedom.

Davis rejected that argument in a ruling last month on both parties' competing motions for summary judgment.

Fox has also said that Dominion cannot pin actual malice on the individuals whom the plaintiff says were responsible for the defamatory statements.

Fox has said Dominion must prove that a "superior officer" at the network or its parent company "ordered, participated in, or ratified" wrongdoing. The network has argued that doubts about the claims among certain individuals cannot be attributed to the organization as a whole.

(Reporting by Helen Coster and Dan Whitcomb; additional reporting by Leela de Kretser and Jack Queen; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Jamie Freed)

House Republicans Still In Disarray Over Budget And Debt Ceiling Strategy

House Republicans Still In Disarray Over Budget And Debt Ceiling Strategy

By David Morgan

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - U.S. House Republicans will try to agree on a plan to lift the federal $31.4 trillion debt ceiling and cut government spending when Congress returns this week, after being stymied for months by Democratic President Joe Biden's demands they do so without conditions.

House of Representatives Speaker Kevin McCarthy in a Monday speech at the New York Stock Exchange will lay out the conditions Republicans want Democrats to agree to in exchange for movement on the debt ceiling.

He has offered few specific details ahead of the talk, but Republicans have proposed holding annual spending growth to 1% for a decade, reducing regulation and boosting energy production.

Members of McCarthy's sometimes-fractious caucus, who hold a narrow 222-213 majority, have yet to agree on actual legislation. Any proposal Republicans introduce would need to be negotiated with Biden's Democrats, who control the Senate, before it could become law.

The White House, which is leading the Democrats' approach to the debt ceiling, has dismissed the Republican proposals as unrealistic.

Default Disaster Looms

Nonpartisan forecasters have warned the federal government could face a historic default this summer if Congress fails to act. A default could cripple the U.S. and world economies and force a downgrade of the U.S. credit rating, as occurred in a 2011 standoff over the debt.

But McCarthy's speech, which Republicans say is intended to draw Wall Street's support for negotiations on spending, could spark movement after months of inaction. Biden has insisted that Congress pass a "clean" debt hike without conditions, noting that it did so three times under his predecessor, Republican Donald Trump.

"At this point, I think there's no choice for Republicans and the speaker but to bring forward some type of proposal," Representative Tom Emmer, the No. 3 House Republican, told Reuters.

The prospective legislation, which conservatives hope to pass by the end of April, could lift the borrowing limit until May 2024, according to a source familiar with the matter. That would set the stage for another debt ceiling debate in the closing months of the 2024 presidential campaign.

But first, Republicans must agree on a proposal that can win the support of at least 218 of their 222 members.

"Getting us all on the same page is a challenge. But it's not impossible and I'm optimistic that we'll get there. This is an issue we've been talking about for some time," said Republican Representative Ben Cline.

Cline, a member of the hardline House Freedom Caucus, sits on both the House Budget and Appropriations Committees and is helping to craft a budget plan for the conservative Republican Study Committee, the biggest caucus in Congress.

The White House has dismissed the proposals so far.

"Speaker McCarthy is adopting the extreme MAGA House Republican position: threatening our economic recovery, hardworking Americans' retirement, and catastrophic default in order to force devastating cuts," said White House spokesperson Andrew Bates.

House Republicans maintain that their proposals would win enough public support to force Biden and the Democrats into negotiations, just as the party's bill to overturn changes in the Washington, D.C., criminal code passed Congress last month, despite initial Democratic opposition.

Biden and McCarthy met at the White House in February to discuss the standoff, but they have not held further talks as the administration has called on House Republicans to release a budget proposal.

The White House in March unveiled its own budget proposal that it said would cut U.S. deficits by $3 trillion over the next 10 years. But with the House Budget Committee not expected to produce a spending plan anytime soon, the Republican focus has shifted to the debt ceiling plan.

Republican Representative Garret Graves, a top McCarthy adviser who has led debt ceiling talks within the Republican conference, said legislation could follow the outline set in a March 28 McCarthy letter to Biden.

"We're continuing to discuss both strategy and putting a little more meat on the bones or translating the speaker's letter into legislation," Graves said in an interview.

While McCarthy's letter contained few details, Republicans are considering proposal that could reset nondefense discretionary spending to fiscal 2022 levels, hold annual spending at 1% for a decade, reduce regulation, boost energy production and reset the debt ceiling to a ratio of debt to gross domestic product.

GOP 'Five Families'

The Republican conference is divided by ideological caucuses known internally as "the five families," a reference to the warring mafia clans of "The Godfather" movies.

The five families, who are expected to take up the plan early next week, run the gamut from members of the bipartisan Problem Solvers Caucus, who have floated the idea of reaching a deal with Democrats to avoid default, to the hardline conservative House Freedom Caucus, whose members insist on deep spending cuts and say Biden will be responsible for any default.

Some Republicans also favor the clean debt ceiling increase that Biden has demanded.

(Reporting by David Morgan; Additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Scott Malone and Alistair Bell)

DeSantis Signs Six-Week Abortion Ban Voted By Florida GOP Legislators

DeSantis Signs Six-Week Abortion Ban Voted By Florida GOP Legislators

By Gabriella Borter

(Reuters) - Florida's Republican-led House of Representatives on Thursday gave final approval to a six-week abortion ban, setting the stage for abortion access to be drastically curtailed in the state and across the South -- and Gov. Ron DeSantis quietly signed the bill late on Thursday night.

Lawmakers in the Florida House approved the ban on abortions after six weeks of pregnancy in a 70-40 vote. The bill passed the state Senate by a vote of 26-13 on April 3. The legislation makes exceptions for abortions in cases of rape, incest and when the mother's life or health are at serious risk.

The Republican governor signed the state's current 15-week ban into law last year and has said he supports further limits.

Backing more severe restrictions could carry political risks for DeSantis, who is expected to seek the Republican nomination for president in 2024.

Abortion has emerged as a potent political issue in the U.S. since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, with polls showing that support for abortion rights helped Democrats outperform Republicans in November's midterm elections.

A Reuters/Ipsos poll completed on Wednesday found that about 50 percent of Americans strongly or somewhat oppose a national six-week abortion ban, including 44 percent of Republicans. The same poll showed that 43 percent of Republicans said they were less likely to vote for a politician who supports limiting access to abortion.

"The ban flies in the face of fundamental freedoms and is out of step with the views of the vast majority of the people of Florida and of all the United States," White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement.

Debate over the Florida measure lasted several hours on Thursday. Republican supporters of the bill said the law safeguarded women's health by making exceptions for dangerous pregnancies, and insisted doctors should not hesitate to perform life-saving abortions as the law allows.

"We have the opportunity to lead the national debate about the importance of protecting life and giving every child the opportunity to be born," said Republican Rep. Jenna Persons-Mulicka, a sponsor of the bill.

Democrats said the bill would harm women and that Republicans were prioritizing their religious beliefs and political gain over the health of their constituents.

"We are propping up a political agenda on the backs of women and birthing people," said Democratic Rep. Michele Rayner-Goolsby.

The fate of the ban will depend on the outcome of a court challenge to the state's 15-week abortion ban, which abortion providers have argued violates the state constitutional right to privacy.

If the Florida Supreme Court rules that the 15-week ban is constitutional, the six-week ban would take effect 30 days later.

Patients from across the U.S. Southeast have been traveling to Florida to end their pregnancies since the U.S. Supreme Court gutted federal abortion rights. Most other states in the region have already banned the procedure at early stages of pregnancy.

"It will turn Florida from one of the Southeast’s last access points for abortion to one that severely limits care," Alexandra Mandado, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida, said of the ban.

(Reporting by Gabriella Borter in Washington; Editing by Colleen Jenkins and Matthew Lewis)

Leaker Behind Grave Breach Of Security Identified As Young 'Gun Enthusiast' ​​

Leaker Behind Grave Breach Of Security Identified As Young 'Gun Enthusiast' ​​

(Reuters) - The person who leaked U.S. classified documents prompting a national security investigation is a gun enthusiast in his 20s who worked on a military base, the Washington Post reported on Wednesday, citing fellow members of an online chat group.

The person shared classified information to a group on the instant messaging platform Discord of about two dozen men and young boys who shared a "mutual love of guns, military gear and God," the Post said.

The Post based its report, which did not name the person, on interviews with two members of the Discord chat group.

Reuters was unable to verify details of the report.

Discord said in a statement earlier on Wednesday that it was cooperating with law enforcement.

The Department of Defense and the Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a Reuters request for comment.

The Department of Justice opened a formal criminal probe last week after the matter was referred by the Pentagon, which is assessing the damage done by what may be the most damaging release of classified U.S. information in years.

The person went by the handle OG, slang for Original Gangster, or an old school traditionalist. The person was described by one of the Post's sources as being in his early to mid-20s, and was looked up to by members of the group.

"He's fit. He's strong. He's armed. He's trained. Just about everything you can expect out of some sort of crazy movie," said one member of the chat group, who was under 18 and spoke on the condition of anonymity with the permission of his mother, the Post reported.

In what appears to be the gravest leak of U.S. secrets in years, pictures of sensitive documents were posed on Discord and other platforms including the online messaging board 4Chan, the encrypted Telegram global messaging app, and Twitter.

U.S. national security agencies and the Justice Department are investigating the release to assess the damage to national security and relations with allies and other countries, including Ukraine.

(Reporting by Daniel Trotta and Idrees Ali; Editing by Don Durfee and Raju Gopalakrishnan)

Trump Asks Delay In Rape Defamation Trial Over Media Coverage

Trump Asks Delay In Rape Defamation Trial Over Media Coverage

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Donald Trump has asked a federal judge to delay by four weeks a trial scheduled for April 25 over whether he defamed former Elle magazine columnist E. Jean Carroll by denying he raped her.

In a letter to U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in Manhattan, Trump's lawyers said the former president's right to a fair trial required a "cooling off" period, following the recent "deluge of prejudicial media coverage" of his indictment by the Manhattan district attorney's office.

Absent a delay, "many, if not most, prospective jurors will have the criminal allegations top of mind when judging President Trump's defense against Ms. Carroll's allegations," Trump's lawyers Joe Tacopina and Alina Habba said in the letter.

Prospective jurors, they added, "will have the breathless coverage of President Trump's alleged extra-marital affair with Stormy Daniels still ringing in their ears if [the] trial goes forward as scheduled."

Trump is seeking another White House term, and leading the Republican field.

Roberta Kaplan, a lawyer for Carroll, said she will respond to Trump's request in a letter to the judge, who is not related to her.

(Reporting by Jonathan Stempel in New York; Editing by Christian Schmollinger)