LIVE – Updated at 20:42
President talks up economic gains in first stop after State of the Union speech – get the latest.
The US Navy has released dramatic photos of the suspected Chinese spy balloon that was shot down on Saturday.
In a Facebook post, the US Fleet Forces Command wrote:
“Sailors assigned to Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group 2 recover a high-altitude surveillance balloon off the coast of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, Feb. 5, 2023.
EODGRU 2 is a critical part of the Navy Expeditionary Combat Force that clears explosive hazards to provide access to denied areas; secures the undersea domain for freedom of movement; builds and fosters relationships with trusted partners, and protects the homeland.
At the direction of the President of the United States and with the full support of the Government of Canada, U.S. fighter aircraft under U.S. Northern Command authority engaged and brought down a high altitude surveillance balloon within sovereign U.S. airspace and over U.S. territorial waters Feb. 4, 2023.
Active duty, Reserve, National Guard, and civilian personnel planned and executed the operation, and partners from the U.S. Coast Guard, Federal Aviation Administration, and Federal Bureau of Investigation ensured public safety throughout the operation and recovery efforts.”
A top White House cybersecurity adviser is set to retire next week, according to reports.
On Wednesday, CNN reported that Chris Inglis is expected to depart the White House on February 15. Inglis is currently the National Cyber Director.
Sworn into office in July 2021, Inglis, who has over forty years of national security experience, currently heads an office which was created in 2021 by Congress to advise the president on cybersecurity matters and to track how federal agencies manage their cybersecurity.
In a statement to CNN, Inglis said that the office is “is viable and valuable – in its capabilities, its people, and its influence on issues that matter: protecting our Nation’s critical infrastructure, strengthening and safeguarding our technology supply chain, expanding pathways to good-paying cyber jobs, and so many more.”
Accused 1998 Lockerbie bombing man pleads not guilty to three federal charges
The accused Libyan man behind the deadly 1988 Lockerbie bombing which killed 190 Americans has pleaded not guilty to three federal criminal charges in Washington DC.
On Wednesday, 71-year old Abu Agila Mohammad Mas’ud pleaded not guilty to two charges of an aircraft resulting in death and one charge of destruction of a vehicle used in foreign commerce, resulting in death.
If found guilty, Mas’ud, who is believed by US prosecutors to have built the bomb, faces life imprisonment.
The bombing, which occurred on Pan Am Flight 103 on December 21, 1988 above Lockerbie, Scotland, killed 259 people aboard the Boeing 747 and another 11 people on the ground. The flight was traveling from London to New York. It is considered one of the deadliest terror attacks in American history.
Last month, Scotland and US authorities announced that Mas’ud was in American custody.
A detention hearing has been set for later this month.
Former Twitter executives testify in Congress on handling of Hunter Biden laptop reporting
Former senior staff at Twitter began testimony on Wednesday before the House oversight committee about the social media platform’s handling of reporting on Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden.
The hearing has set the stage for the agenda of a newly Republican-controlled House, underscoring its intention to home in on longstanding and unsubstantiated allegations that big tech platforms have an anti-conservative bias.
Recently departed Twitter employees speaking include Vijaya Gadde, the social network’s former chief legal officer, former deputy general counsel James Baker, former head of safety and integrity Yoel Roth and former safety leader Anika Collier Navaroli.
The hearing centers on a question that has long dogged Republicans – why Twitter decided to temporarily restrict the sharing of a story about Hunter Biden in the New York Post, released in October 2020.
The Post said it received a copy of a laptop hard drive from Donald Trump’s then-personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, that Hunter Biden had dropped off 18 months earlier at a Delaware computer repair shop and never retrieved. Twitter initially blocked people from sharing links to the article for several days, citing concerns over misinformation and spreading a report based on potentially hacked materials.
“Americans deserve answers about this attack on the first amendment and why big tech and the swamp colluded to censor this information about the Biden family selling access for profit,” said the Republican committee chairman James Comer ahead of the hearing, referring to Trump’s characterization of the Democratic political establishment as a swamp. “Accountability is coming,” he added.
In opening statements on Wednesday, the former Twitter staffers described the process by which the story was blocked, stating that it triggered Twitter’s rules against sharing hacked materials.
The article had been greeted with skepticism due to questions about the laptop’s origins, and Twitter policy restricted the sharing of unlawfully accessed materials. While the company explicitly allowed “reporting on a hack, or sharing press coverage of hacking”, it blocked stories that shared “personal and private information – like email addresses and phone numbers” – which the Post story appeared to include. The platform amended these rules following the Biden controversy.
Roth, the former head of safety and integrity, said Twitter had acknowledged that censoring the story was a mistake.
“Defending free expression and maintaining the health of the platform required difficult judgment calls,” he said. “There is no easy way to run a global communications platform that satisfies business and revenue goals, individual customer expectations, local laws and cultural norms and get it right every time.”
Full story here:
Related: Twitter: ex-executives begin testimony on handling of Hunter Biden laptop case
Joe Biden is drawing pantomime-type laughs and boos from the crowd in Wisconsin as he chuckles about sparring with “my Republican friends” during their heckling when he delivered the state of the union address last night.
The US president is referring to the uproar that ensued among Republicans in the House last night when, as he said, “they sure didn’t like me calling them on it” when he referred to some Republican members who want to cut the long-standing benefits programs Social Security and Medicare, the popular retirement and health insurance programs for seniors.
There is no doubt that Biden is feeling confident. The event just ended and he stepped gingerly off the platform at the gathering in DeForest. He noticeably walks like a relatively fit 80-year-old – rather slowly – but has had fire in his speech last night and this afternoon.
Such are the signs that he is preparing to announce that he’ll run for president again in 2024, surely with vice president Kamala Harris on the ticket once again?
Related: Kamala Harris lauds ‘bold, vibrant’ Biden and attacks Republican ‘theatrics’
He’s now mingling with workers at the event, smiling, chuckling, taking selfies with them.
‘We are building an economy where no-one is left behind’ – Biden
Joe Biden is on a roll in Wisconsin this afternoon, touting the US economy and expanding on his theme at the state of the union address last night that, half way through his term, he wants to “finish the job.”
Inflation is still high but most experts believe it’s peaked and the most recent jobs figures, the Democrats’ performance in last November’s midterm elections and the US president’s performance in his address last night were better than expected,
“We are building an economy where no-one is left behind,” Biden said.
He is pledging to “restore the dignity of work” the “pride and self esteem” that come with well-paid employment.
Joe Biden is speaking now in DeForest, Wisconsin, on the outskirts of the state capital Madison.
The US president is on a high after a strong performance at the state of the union address last night.
He’s speaking on the economy, already touting the low unemployment rate of 3.4%.
He’s also talking about the bipartisan Inflation Reduction Act, passed last year, and how funds from that going into infrastructure are going to refurbish crumbling bridges and other structures in Wisconsin and across the country, boosting jobs and middle class incomes.
Hello again, it’s been a lively day so far in US politics news as the ripples from Joe Biden’s state of the union address, and the Republicans’ response, continue across the reflecting pools of Washington and the sensibilities of the nation.
The US president is due to make a fresh speech in Wisconsin at the top of the hour, where he will talk about the economy. We’ll have that for you live so stick with us.
Here’s where things stand:
Right-wing Florida Republican congressman Matt Gaetz has been appointed by House speaker Kevin McCarthy to a new select committee created since the GOP won a slim majority in the House, investigating the ‘weaponization’ of the government.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden put the Republicans who heckled during his SOTU address last night “on the defense.”
A new proposal by Missouri Republicans seeks to ban nearly all discussion of LGBTQ people, making it far more restrictive than Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law passed last year.
A tense exchange between Republican congressman George Santos and Republican senator Mitt Romney was caught on video last night as Biden was due to deliver his address. The Utah senator thinks con artist Santos should be tossed out of congress.
Joe Biden’s strong performance at the State of the Union address last night was a blow to critics on the right – and within his own party – and seemed a certain boost to the chances of him running for a second term in the White House in the 2024 election – with vice president Kamala Harris on the ticket, too.
Republican Matt Gaetz appointed to committee investigating government ‘weaponization’
Florida Republican congressman Matt Gaetz has been appointed by House speaker Kevin McCarthy to a select committee investigating the ‘weaponization’ of the government, NBC reports.
Gaetz, who was one of the far-right Republicans that opposed McCarthy’s nomination as House speaker, replaced Texas Republican Chip Roy, according to the outlet.
Roy said that he spoke with McCarthy last night after Biden’s State of the Union address.
“We had a conversation. I thought it made sense for me to balance my life and to do what I need to do,” Roy said, NBC reports.
“I would like to be on it but I’ve got just way too much going on… I decided it would be better for everybody and for the cause to free that up,” he said.
Meanwhile, a spokesperson for Gaetz told NBC that he “is honored to serve on the Weaponization Subcommittee and will be working very hard.”
During a press conference on Wednesday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Biden put the Republicans who heckled during his SOTU address last night “on the defense.”
“He called members out on live television in front of millions of Americans and effectively put them on the defense… That’s what the president did is put them on the defense,” Jean-Pierre said, referring to several Republicans who jeered at Biden’s assertions that Republicans want to slash social security and Medicare costs.
“They keep saying they want to cut Medicare and social security. They want to put it on the chopping block. And so he’s going to defend it with them on the defense again,” she said.
In response to criticisms from public health advocates who felt that Biden did not thoroughly address the opioid crisis and threat of fentanyl in his address, Jean-Pierre said:
“You heard last night a powerful call to action…for members of both parties to step up, come together and fight the flow of fentanyl…which is something that you’ve seen from this president…
He understands we have homework to do…but this cannot be a political issue. It’s a matter really, truly, as we’re seeing in communities, a matter of life or death. So that includes additional actions to go after traffickers, tougher penalties, expanding access to life-saving treatments…
But what we saw from Republicans was jeers and casting blame and Republicans…should come together to find solutions to can to tackle the same exact issues the president wants to tackle.”
A new proposal in Missouri seeks to ban nearly all discussion of LGBTQ people, making it far more restrictive than Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law passed last year.
Republican state senator Mike Moon’s bill would only allow licensed mental healthcare providers to talk to students about LGBTQ issues and gender identity in K-12 public schools, and only if guardians grant permission first.
“This is protecting vulnerable children and attempting to protect them from conversations that need to be had with the approval of the parent and potentially at home,” Moon told a Senate education committee, the Associated Press reports.
Meanwhile, North Carolina senators on Tuesday passed their own limits on LGBTQ education in schools. Under the new bill, public school teachers would be required in most circumstances to notify parents before they address a student by a different name or pronoun.
Georgia Republican representative Marjorie Taylor Greene who heckled at Biden last night pushed back against claims that far-right Republicans took the apparent bait from Biden whose calls for political unity was met with boos.
“I didn’t take any bait… As a matter of fact, I got so many messages from people in my district and people across the country, it was like I won my election again. You know what, people are pissed off,” she told CNN this morning.
During Biden’s SOTU address last night, Greene booed Biden and called him a “liar” following his assertion that some Republicans have proposed to cut social security and Medicare.
During her interview with GMA on Wednesday morning, vice president Kamala Harris defended Biden’s actions towards China’s high-altitude balloon, which has been criticized by numerous Republicans.
“We invite competition with China, but we do not seek conflict. We do not seek confrontation. What the president did…it’s consistent with our perspective and our commitment, which is we are prepared to compete, but at the same time, if there’s any violation of our sovereignty, we’re going to act. And that’s what the president did,” she said.
Republicans have fired at the Biden administration over its wait to shoot down the Chinese balloon, arguing that the delay jeopardized US security and could have potentially endangered American citizens.
In response to a question about the prospect of bipartisanship amid tense relations with the GOP, Harris said, “The president, it’s his nature and it’s his commitment to the American people to work across the aisle. That’s not going to stop even if some people are cynical about it.”
Following Biden’s SOTU address last night where he called for universal preschool and teacher raises, the president tweeted on Wednesday, “Let’s give public school teachers a raise.”
During his address last night, Biden said:
“Restoring the dignity of work also means making education an affordable ticket to the middle class.
When we made 12 years of public education universal in the last century, it made us the best-educated, best-prepared nation in the world.
But the world has caught up.”
The country is currently facing a teacher shortage as a result of low wages, high stress and an increasingly divided educational culture war following conservative pushback against topics such as American history, racism, gender and sexuality, among others.
Strong State of Union speech signals greater chance of Biden 2024 rerun
Joe Biden’s strong performance at the State of the Union address last night was a blow to critics on the right – and within his own party – and seemed a certain boost to the chances of him running for a second term in the White House in the 2024 election.
And amid questions over his age as the oldest US president in history, at 80, vice president Kamala Harris praised him as bold and vibrant in an interview this morning, while he boosted her in a celebratory tweet.
The whole show appeared to amplify the steady drumbeat that Biden will run again – and put Harris on the ticket with him as he did in 2020.
The president presented his administration’s achievements at last night’s speech including record job growth. He also called on Republicans to help him “finish the job” of ensuring economic recovery and healing sociopolitical divides across the country.
“To my Republican friends, if we could work together in the last Congress, there is no reason we can’t work together in this new Congress,” said Biden, adding, “Pride is coming back because of the choices we made in the last two years.”
Biden also addressed other major issues including US-China relations, threats to social security and Medicare, police violence, gun control, reproductive rights, and political violence.
Notable guests at the address included Tyre Nichols’ family, Monterey Park shooting hero Brandon Tsay, U2 singer Bono, Paul Pelosi and Ukraine’s ambassador to the US Oksana Markarova.
Harris praised Biden, saying that he “did a great job.”
A tense exchange between Republican congressman George Santos and Republican senator Mitt Romney was caught on video last night as Biden was due to deliver his address.
“You ought to be embarrassed,” Romney told Santos, who is expected to face an investigation by the House Ethics Committee following revelations that the freshman congressman falsified large portions of his biography.
Romney later told reporters that Santos “shouldn’t have been there…”
“Given the fact that he’s under ethics investigation, he should be sitting in the back row and being quiet instead of parading in front of the president,” he said.
Biden’s strong State of the Union performance boosts chances of re-run for White House in 2024
Good morning, US politics readers. We are coming off the back of Joe Biden’s State of the Union address last night where he presented his administration’s achievements since taking office in 2021 and condemned Republicans seeking to cut social security and Medicare – to which a few responded with boos and heckling.
During what some saw as a “soft launch for his 2024 campaign,” Biden also addressed the US being in the “strongest position in decades” to challenge China, called for the need of meaningful policing as Tyre Nichols’ family watched on from the audience, and condemned rightwing threats to democracy.
In response to Biden’s address, Arkansas governor Sarah Huckabee Sanders delivered her own speech, calling the president “crazy” and “unfit to serve.” The former president Donald Trump’s White House press secretary also condemned his Democratic supporters, calling them the “woke mob” and “radical left”.
As we bring you the latest on today’s US politics, here’s what we can expect today:
Biden will deliver remarks on the economy later this afternoon in Madison, Wisconsin.
Vice-president Kamala Harris will travel to Atlanta, Georgia to participate in a conversation on climate change.
Three former Twitter executives will testify at the House oversight committee over the social media platform’s handling of the Hunter Biden laptop story.
Related: ‘Pride is coming back’: Biden touts victories on jobs and climate in State of the Union address