Fox News 2024-02-10 12:03:20


Hawley says attorney general faces big choice after special counsel rejects Biden charges

Senator Josh Hawley, R-Mo., said that Attorney General Merrick Garland is at a crossroads after Justice Department Special Counsel Robert Hur declined to charge President Joe Biden for mishandling classified documents because of his mental state. 

Hur’s report, which was made public on Thursday, found that after a months-long investigation, Biden “willfully retained and disclosed classified materials,” but he concluded that no criminal charges were warranted, because based on “direct interactions with and observations of” the president, Hur and his team said “[i]t would be difficult to convince a jury that they should convict him — by then a former president well into his eighties — of a serious felony that requires a mental state of willfulness.”

Hawley, who also served as attorney general of Missouri from 2017 to 2019, said Friday that Garland “can’t have it both ways” by not charging the president and also declining to recommend invoking Section 4 of the 25th Amendment, which authorizes the vice president and a majority of the president’s cabinet or Congress to decide whether the president is unable to perform their duties. 

“I’m calling on [Garland] publicly now to do what I think is required under the law in the Constitution . . . either charge the president, or he will go to the cabinet and tell them, ‘I believe we have to invoke the 25th Amendment.’ He’s got to do one or the other,” Hawley told Fox News Digital in an interview. 

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“If he doesn’t, it will just confirm what everybody thinks, which is that there are two tiers of justice and that Garland himself is completely complicit in the corruption of this administration,” Hawley said. 

Hawley noted that every prosecutor has to weigh whether they can get a conviction, which ultimately informs the charging decision. 

But in Hawley’s view, what is “unique” in Hur’s case is that he concluded that the elements of a crime were present, but chose not to charge based on the president’s mental state.

“He concluded that the elements of a crime were present, namely that the president had willfully retained and disclosed classified information, so he knew it. I mean, the report makes it very clear he knew that it was classified information, this was done over years and decades — not just a couple of months — and he willfully did it,” says Hawley. 

“But he ultimately recommends against prosecution, not because he didn’t do it, but because, basically, Biden is mentally unfit to be prosecuted. Because he doesn’t think that he can get a jury to ultimately convict, because the president is so mentally unstable,” Hawley added. 

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Garland has ultimate authority over whether to agree with Hur’s recommendations or to pursue charges against the president. 

The Justice Department did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. 

Hawley says that Garland’s “only recourse,” should he decide not to press charges — noting that DOJ brought charges against former president Donald Trump on “precisely the same grounds — is to go to the rest of Biden’s cabinet members to invoke the 25th amendment. 

“It can’t be that . . . ‘He’s totally fit to continue in office, but we’re not going to prosecute him.’ I mean, that’s just — that would be the most brazen miscarriage of justice and degradation of the rule of law,” Hawley charged. 

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President Biden in a press conference late Thursday night addressed the report, saying his memory is “fine,” and defended his re-election campaign, adding that he is “the most qualified person in this country to be president.”

Hur described Biden as a “sympathetic, well-meaning, elderly man with a poor memory.” 

Biden said Thursday night that he agreed. 

“I’m well-meaning, and I’m an elderly man, and I know what the hell I’m doing,” Biden said. “I’ve been president. I put this country back on its feet. I don’t need his recommendation.”

Biden added: “My memory is fine.”

Meanwhile, Hur said in the report that Biden, during his interview with the special counsel’s team, could not remember key details, such as when he was vice president. 

“In his interview with our office, Mr. Biden’s memory was worse,” the report states. “He did not remember when he was vice president, forgetting on the first day of the interview when his term ended (‘if it was 2013 — when did I stop being Vice President?’), and forgetting on the second day of the interview when his term began (‘in 2009, am I still Vice President?’).”

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“He did not remember, even within several years, when his son Beau died,” the report continued. “And his memory appeared hazy when describing the Afghanistan debate that was once so important to him. Among other things, he mistakenly said he ‘had a real difference’ of opinion with General Karl Eikenberry, when, in fact, Eikenberry was an ally whom Mr. Biden cited approvingly in his Thanksgiving memo to President Obama.”

“In a case where the government must prove that Mr. Biden knew he had possession of the classified Afghanistan documents after the vice presidency and chose to keep those documents, knowing he was violating the law, we expect that at trial, his attorneys would emphasize these limitations in his recall,” the report said.

The White House did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment. 

Hawley’s comments come after Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., sent a letter to Garland Thursday night, sharing her “grave concerns” following Hur’s report.

“After concluding that President Biden knowingly and willfully removed, mishandled, and disclosed classified documents repeatedly over a period of decades, Mr. Hur nevertheless recommended that charges not be brought against him,” Tenney wrote. “Special Counsel’s reasoning was alarming.”

Fox News Digtial’s Brooke Singman contributed to this report.

Quick-thinking snowboarder escapes mountain lion attack with just a few scratches

A man in Utah used his handy snowboard to defend himself after a mountain lion attacked him on the snowy slopes.

Charlie Duffy wrote in an Instagram post of his near-death experience at a ski resort in Beaver Mountain, Utah on Sunday, Feb. 4.

Duffy told local station, KSL-TV, that he was walking along when he noticed fresh paw prints that immediately put him “on edge.”

“A little less than halfway through, I started to see some fresh paw prints,” Duffy said. “And that just got me, you know, on edge. Aware of my surroundings, just constantly looking around.”

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Moments later, the snowboarder said that he looked up and noticed a mountain lion just steps away.

“I looked over my left shoulder and, you know, five or six feet behind me, about three or four feet up I saw a mountain lion,” he told the local outlet.

In his social media post, Duffy said that the mountain lion looked like it was “getting ready to pounce.”

The young man acted quickly, and swung his snowboard “with full force” at the mountain lion that was jumping towards him.

“My fight response instantly kicked in, and I grabbed my board in my right hand and swung with full force at the jumping mountain lion,” he wrote on Instagram.

Duffy said that the large cat “barely” grazed his neck before it got knocked to the ground by his handy snowboard.

He said that his brush with death was not over, and the mountain lion proceeded to get back up and lumber towards him.

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Duffy wrote that he noticed that the cat was “starving to death” and was injured from the snowboard-induced blow.

“I kept pushing it back, and it eventually ran off very disoriented,” Duffy wrote. “I am lucky to be here today and to only receive a couple of small scratches from the cat.”

Photos posted on Instagram showed Duffy’s torn jacket where the mountain lion attacked him. 

After sharing his story on Instagram, snowboard brands Nitro and 686 pledged to send Duffy some new snowboarding gear.

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“Insane! We gotta send you a new board!!! Glad you are okay,” Nitro Snowboards commented.

“INSANE. We’re gonna get that repaired for you,” 686 wrote.

Former chief strategist for Obama sounds alarm after Biden’s press conference

Former Obama advisor and CNN senior political analyst David Axelrod recently claimed that President Biden’s “angry” press conference in response to Special Counsel Robert Hur’s report on him “reinforces the meme” that the president is too old.

Axelrod told CNN anchor Anderson Cooper that the president’s defiant response Thursday night to Hur’s findings that he has “poor memory” and thus should not be charged for illegally holding classified documents, probably did not solve the “problem” of the majority of voters thinking he’s too old and too incompetent for the job.

The analyst, who has been critical of Biden’s age and fitness for office for months now, made his comments shortly after Biden finished the press conference where he dinged Hur for characterizing him as elderly and forgetful and sparred with reporters asking him about the special counsel’s points.

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Axelrod began by stating he understands why Biden had the press conference, noting that Hur’s report was “red-hot and out there and list people felt he needed to – and his people felt he needed respond to it.”

However, he added, “Whether the response was adequate, or whether it creates more problems, I think is another question.”

“He did contradict elements of the special counsel’s report. And that undoubtedly will go on,” he said, adding, “And then he was quite angry, not just at the release, or the characterizations of the special counsel, but of what some of the reporters were asking him.”

Axelrod stressed that the age and mental fitness issue is “a problem for the president” and warned that Biden seems to be “reinforcing” people’s impression of him as too old.

“Anderson, the most damaging things that can happen in politics – there are things that reinforce a meme that’s out there that is hurting you. And the central meme that is hurting the president is this issue of age. It’s a big barrier.”

He continued, stating, “People don’t give him credit for what he’s done. They blame him for everything that happens and a lot of it has to do with their feelings about his age. So it’s not wise to say to a reporter, ‘That’s your interpretation.’ It’s not. There’s reams of polling material about this.”

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Axelrod concluded his point, saying, “But I’m not sure that he solved his problem tonight.”

Later in the segment, the former Obama official responded to arguments saying that Biden’s gaffes at the presser – like getting the President of Egypt confused with the President of Mexico – are mistakes anyone can make when public speaking. 

“It is true, all of us make mistakes at times, and misstate things. We’re human beings,” Axelrod said, adding, “The problem is this has become a real thing. Now, every time the president does that, it becomes a story. It becomes the thing and it goes viral on social media, where he’s getting pounded on this age issue, particularly among younger people.”

He concluded, “So that is a stubborn problem that is an obstacle to get, you know, in his campaign moving forward.”

Axelrod made similar comments to The New York Times following the release of Hur’s report, saying, “Fair or not, you can’t unring the bell.” He noted that report “goes to the core of what is plaguing Biden politically now, which is a widespread fear that he’s not up to it.”

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Woman’s refusal to watch Super Bowl with boyfriend’s family over Swift sets internet ablaze

A young woman who calls herself a “huge” Taylor Swift fan is refusing to join her boyfriend at his parents’ house on Sunday night to watch the Super Bowl — the biggest football game of the year, to put it mildly — because the boyfriend’s father can’t stand Swift and has been going on wild “rants” against the pop star, according to a social media post that’s prompted hundreds of people to chime in on the dispute.

The young woman said she’s “prepared to possibly upset some people” by sharing her story, according to her written post, but indicated she believes strongly in her point of view and wanted to know others’ perspectives on it.

She wrote that her boyfriend — they’re both 23, according to her post — have been together “since high school (about five years) and we live together,” the young woman wrote on the Reddit page known as “AITA” (“Am I the a–hole?”). 

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She added that the couple “are very solid” and the standoff between them isn’t “a relationship-jeopardizing issue.”

However, wrote the woman, who goes by the username “throwRAfiba,” she “would simply just like to know” if she’s in the wrong for her opinion, she said.

“I love Taylor Swift,” the woman wrote.

“I’ve loved her for as long as I can remember, [ever] since she released her first album when I was like five,” said the woman. 

“Her music has been a part of my life for my whole life, and if you listen to her, you know that it can really resonate.”

She said she’s simply looking for some respect for the way she feels.

She added, “I can’t express enough — I am a huge fan. Everyone knows this about me.”

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But her boyfriend’s father, she wrote, “has a tendency to be quite misogynistic.”

And “maybe,” the young woman also said, “what you could call ‘old school.’”

She said the father has been going off on long “tangents” about Taylor Swift’s connection to the Super Bowl this football season and her presence at playoff games. 

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“It’s not just that she’s being shown” at games that’s bothering the father, wrote the young woman — “but that her music sucks, she sucks, she’s this, she’s that.”

The young woman said she’s simply looking for some respect for the way she feels.

“I feel like you don’t even have to like her or her music to respect that someone is a fan,” she said.

“And before anyone tells me to ‘just ignore it,’” she noted that the father’s angry “rants” about Swift potentially could go on for the entire game

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The woman reported that her boyfriend asked her “today if I’d want to watch the Super Bowl at his parents’ house. Normally it would be an immediate yes,” she said — but she replied that she’d go only if the father kept quiet about Taylor Swift.

She said her boyfriend “agrees” the behavior is “overboard” but thinks she’s a fool “for making it a condition because that’s ‘just how he is.’”

Said the woman of her boyfriend’s father, “He can be pretty intimidating, so I’m not about to start conflict over Taylor Swift. I just simply won’t go.”

She asked others about her stance, “Am I being petty?”

Fox News Digital reached out to a psychologist for insights into the situation.

“It’s a good test of the relationship with her boyfriend to be able to set gentle but firm boundaries with her potential future father-in-law.” 

“This young woman has a right to her feelings and her tastes but doesn’t have a right to try to change her boyfriend’s father’s feelings,” said Erica Komisar, a New York-based psychoanalyst, parenting authority and author, to Fox News Digital.

“She does have the right to have her boundaries respected,” Komisar added. “It’s a good test of the relationship with her boyfriend to be able to set gentle but firm boundaries with her potential future father-in-law.” 

She added, “By using an ‘I’ statement and telling the future father-in-law how his criticism of Swift makes her feel, she builds a relationship with her boyfriend’s dad, whereas if she skips the Super Bowl, it’s a missed opportunity to address issues that will persist throughout her relationship.”

Said Komisar, “She may even earn her father-in-law’s respect by setting limits.”

One commenter wrote on the subreddit about the story, addressing the remarks directly to the young woman, “Not sure why you’d want to subject yourself to a predictable 3-hour long session of comments you’ll find cringy and enraging — and there’s no way your [boyfriend] will defend you if it happens, given that he’s already minimizing his father’s actions.”

Added the commenter in this top “upvoted” comment, “So I’d take a pass if I were you.”

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The writer also said the boyfriend would not be kind if he “guilted you into going.” 

Wrote another person in a popular comment, “Why waste time there? If anything, find a friend you can enjoy it with instead. Turn the [boyfriend] down, and let him know you’d rather have fun.”

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Another responder took a completely different tack.

“Show up with snacks and say you’re here for the Taylor Swift Bowl.”

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Mom of American in alleged Bahamas sex attack reveals daughter’s bone-chilling text

EXCLUSIVE – The mother of one of the women allegedly raped at a Bahamas resort said she knew “something was not quite right” about two hours before her daughter sent a text that stopped her heart.

“Call us now we’ve been drugged and raped,” Dongayla Dobson texted her mom, Frankie King, who spoke to Fox News Digital in an exclusive interview.

“They were on a live video that they just posted or something. They were like falling all over the place,” King said. “They don’t drink a lot, but I’ve seen both of those girls drunk. I knew there was something else going on. Like something’s not quite right, but I couldn’t put my finger on it.”

That was around 9:30 to 10 a.m. Feb. 1, the day her daughter and best friend since fourth grade, Amber Shearer, were allegedly drugged with a laced cocktail and attacked. Two hours later, King received the bone-chilling text. 

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“It’s a parent’s worst nightmare,” King said. “Your child is in trouble, in danger and scared, and they’re 300, 500 miles away, or whatever, across the water, and I can’t get to them.”

A resort housekeeper found Shearer and Dobson unconscious in a bathroom of the Pirate’s Cove resort on Grand Bahama Island, King said. 

A nurse practioner helped saved the women’s lives, documented their injuries and has been checking up on them daily since their return to their home in Kentucky, the doting mom said. 

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But service was shoddy. It was difficult for King, her wife and their son-in-law to fully understand what was happening or when they were returning to the port in Jacksonville. And both women have children between the ages of 4 and 17. 

They all waited over 24 hours before the survivors were reunited with their families. 

“I never imagined how traumatized they actually were until I saw them at the airport,” King said. “It was like they were children again. They came running into me and jumped on me. I mean, they almost knocked me down.

“Everything came out all at once. We’re all just absolutely bawling. We stood there for I don’t know how long. They wouldn’t let go, and we’re just rubbing their backs and saying, ‘I’ve got you. You’re safe now.'”

Both women, who have been friends since the fourth grade, come from humble backgrounds. They saved money since March to take this “once-in-a-lifetime girl’s trip,” King said. 

A couple of sips into what the women allege were drug-laced cocktails, and the best vacation of their lives turned into a fight for survival. They said they lost consciousness, and that’s when they were allegedly sexually assaulted

“I vaguely remember glimpses of his face,” Dobson told “Good Morning America” Thursday. “I don’t remember everything. I remember enough that he was a staff worker, he had a goatee and he was a local.”

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Their toxicology results came back with a mix of drugs in their systems.

The Royal Bahama Police Force said in a Feb. 4 statement it arrested two men — ages 54 and 40 — in the alleged sexual assault. Their names were not released. 

Sexist comments and threats aimed at the survivors and their kids

Unaware of the State Department’s late January travel advisory to the Bahamas, the survivors took to social media to warn other women about the nightmare that they had been through. 

“That was their biggest thing when they started posting,” King said. “They wanted people to be aware that it’s a dangerous place because they felt like they had nobody. We didn’t know anything about this travel warning. No one said anything to us.”

There were a lot of encouraging and uplifting responses that supported the women, according to King, including people who shared their own horror experiences. 

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But others hid behind anonymity and responded with the most nauseating, venomous remarks. 

“There were a couple in particular that I remember,” King said. “One said like, ‘If you hadn’t been in those bikinis, maybe it wouldn’t have happened.’ They were on a beach, and it was 90 degrees. OK, sure. 

“And then another guy said, ‘Well, if I’d been there, I would’ve done the same thing.’ Some said, ‘They got what deserved.’ Nobody deserves that. Nobody asks for that.” 

The wretched responses, claims they’re faking and threats reached their kids, which prompted the women to shut down their social media accounts.

They’re all together with Dobson’s husband and their kids, trying to get through the mental trauma and navigate the costly medical expenses, including HIV prevention. 

“My daughter is afraid for her husband to leave,” King said. “We’re all supporting each other. I started the GoFundMe to try to get them some help and support. I’ve been a nurse for 30 years, but obviously the girls aren’t working, and right now my son-in-law is spending all this time with my daughter, so he’s not working right now.

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“And, you know, a gallon of milk is like six bucks now, so it’s, it’s hard. Insurance covers only so much, and I still have to pay my bills. So, I can only support them so much. But the financial support is just a small part of it. 

“The biggest thing that we’re working on is emotional support. When you still have to stay in the same room with your best friend because you’re afraid of being separated.”

WATCH FRANKIE KING’S FULL INTERVIEW

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The resort’s denial

The resort, Pirate’s Cove, said in a statement the women’s allegations of drug-laced cocktails and sexual assaults “conflict” with its 16 “time-stamped surveillance videos.”

Those “lengthy videos of all concerned” were handed over to local police, and the FBI confirmed it’s also part of the investigation. 

“I haven’t seen all the videos, but what we did see is of different women,” according to King, who said she’s more focused on making her daughter and “adopted” daughter whole again. “I know my daughter, and what I saw. That wasn’t her.”

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The resort’s statement goes on to say it took “swift” action by firing two resort employees for violating resort policy.

“We have a zero-tolerance policy for fraternizing with guests or behaving in a manner that is unsafe,” the resort’s statement says. 

“We regret that our guests experienced this incident, and we remain steadfast in our commitment to aid police in the collection of evidence in response to these allegations, including providing police access to video where the assault of the two guests allegedly occurred.”

War of words and 70% of Bahamian economy at stake

As the resort fights the women’s allegations with its own statement, the United States Department of State and the Bahamian government exchanged cutting barbs over the department’s level-two travel advisory warning because of rising levels of crime.

“The majority of crime occurs on New Providence (Nassau) and Grand Bahama (Freeport) islands,” according to the State Department’s late January warning, which mentioned spikes in violent crimes like armed robberies and sexual assaults because of gang activity. 

Bahamian Prime Minister Philip Davis came out swinging by saying many tourism locations share the same level two designation. 

“The incidents described in the January 2024 U.S. Embassy crime alert do not reflect general safety in The Bahamas, a count of sixteen tourist destinations and many more islands,” Davis said Jan. 29, five days after the U.S. warning. 

He said the Bahamian government “is alert, attentive and proactive to ensure that The Bahamas remains a safe and welcoming destination.”

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Nearly the entire Bahamian economy is at stake when it comes to tourism, which accounts for approximately 70% of the country’s gross domestic product and employs just over half of the workforce, according to an October 2022 report by the International Trade Administration

The Bahamas was on track to welcome over 7 million American tourists by the end of 2023, according to the state department’s most recent Investment Climate Statement, which was released in 2023. 

Fox News Digital’s Jasmine Baehr contributed to this report.

Bill Maher says Biden can be switched out at the DNC convention

“Real Time” host Bill Maher suggested it’s not too late for Democrats to dump President Biden at the DNC convention this summer following the explosive special counsel report. 

During a panel discussion Friday night, Maher revived his nickname for the president, “Ruth Bader Biden,” following Special Counsel Robert Hur’s revelations about Biden’s cognitive abilities. 

“I said he was going to be the Ruth Bader Ginsburg of presidential politics… He stayed too long at the fair,” Maher said. “Bubbling up this week… he won’t do the Super Bowl interview, which is not a hard one, mixing up all the world leaders and then this report that came out.”

“Republicans are brilliant at using this. This is a little bit like the Comey letter, a little like the Starr report,” he later said. 

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Maher recalled comments Biden made during the 2020 election cycle when he referred to himself as a “bridge” for Democrats, insisting that was a “big hint” that he wasn’t intending to seek reelection. 

“He said ‘I see myself as a bridge’ that’s collapsing,” Maher quipped. “‘I see myself as a bridge.’ I read that as one term. And I guess the question now is, is it too late? And I don’t think it is because I still think you can do it at the convention. People have said to me, ‘Oh, that’s ridiculous. They’ll look like-‘ They’ll look like nothing. Nobody gives a f— what they do at the convention.”

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“You can switch him out at the convention… If a guy says ‘I can’t run,’ then you have to do it. Then it has to be somebody else. Then it’s an open convention. We’ve had open conventions many times… They make it up as they go along anyway. It’s politics,” Maher later added. 

While Maher was largely dismissive of the Hur probe, he did have some fun at the expense of the president during his opening monologue, first going after him over his decision to skip the Super Bowl interview for the second year in the row.

“We’re not asking him to go on ‘Dancing with the Stars,’” Maher joked. 

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He later poked fun at Biden mixing up Egypt with Mexico during Thursday night’s press conference when talking about Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi. 

“In the middle of explaining that he’s perfectly fine and he doesn’t mix things up, he mixed up who the president of Egypt El-Sisi and said he was the president of Mexico. This is like claiming in front of your wife that you’re not a cheater when the burner phone goes off,” Maher joked. We knew he was old when we elected him, alright? Joe- he’s like that goldfish you get at the fair- don’t get attached.”

He continued, “And who hasn’t mixed up the president of Mexico and the and the president of Egypt? I once invited the leader of Egypt to a dinner party when I meant to invite the president of Mexico. Then it was like, ‘Oh, I hope you like tacos!” 

Contentious ranked choice voting process expanding across the US

Thousands of Americans planning to head to the polls this year will use a voting method that has been popularized in recent U.S. history and continues to face backlash from some critics over its effectiveness and fairness.

Ranked choice voting (RCV) comes in multiple forms and is used in a variety of states around the U.S.

Three states — Alaska, Hawaii and Maine — use RCV statewide. In Alaska and Maine, RCV is used for both federal and statewide elections. In Hawaii, RCV is used in certain statewide elections.

Additionally, 13 states have localities that either use or are slated to begin using RCV in municipal elections. While 27 states do not have laws addressing the voting method, five states — Florida, Tennessee, South Dakota, Montana and Idaho — have passed measures prohibiting the use of RCV. Virginia is the only state where RCV is authorized by state law but not in use.

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The most popular form of RCV is known as instant-runoff voting, which has been tested in several states, most notably Alaska.

This method of ranked choice vote counting operates normally on the first round, where only voters’ first choice is counted. But if no candidate reaches 50% of the vote, then election officials will begin counting the second choice candidates. 

The process involves eliminating the candidate with the least number of first-choice votes. From those ballots, election officials tally the second-choice candidate, adding to the total tally of the other candidates. The process is then repeated until a candidate in the race reaches the required 50% threshold.

Discussing the voting method with Fox News Digital, AJ Simmons, research director of the Center for State Policy and Leadership at the University of Illinois Springfield, said he believes more states and localities could pass legislation to opt in for various forms of RCV in the future.

“In November, Nevada is holding the second of two required referendums to adopt a similar system to what has recently been utilized in Alaska,” he said. “Idaho and Colorado might vote on adopting systems similar to the Alaska version of RCV as well. Oregon is also voting on a system that seems closer to how Maine has adopted it that keeps the current primary system in place.

“Other states are at the very least considering adopting some version of it too, either the Alaska or Maine flavor for general elections or only in their primaries,” he added. “You also have this really interesting approach in Utah, too, where the state is funding a pilot program at the local level to test out RCV locally before potentially deciding on it at the state level.”

Noting that a “number of localities utilize RCV and there are also a number of localities that have recently voted to adopt it starting in upcoming elections or are considering adopting it,” Simmons said he believes Americans will have a “better understanding” of RCV as it stretches to different regions in the U.S.

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Identifying potential issues with RCV, Simmons said, “When we are talking about how people vote, there are always going to be potential problems. With RCV in particular, there is something called ‘ballot exhaustion.’

“This happens when voters choose not to fill out their ballot fully, and their votes are not utilized in further rounds once the candidates they did rank have been eliminated,” he added. “However, voters in the traditional voting system utilized in America also leave ballots blank or vote for candidates who have dropped out of the race by Election Day, meaning that their votes aren’t counted either.”

Another complaint against RCV is its potential partisan impact on elections.

“The partisan impact of RCV may look different in different areas depending on which party loses more support to third-party candidates,” Simmons said. “In an area where the Republican Party loses some support to the Libertarian Party, for example, they may benefit from those Libertarian voters listing them as their second choice. The same is true with Democrats and the Green Party, for example.”

Despite that, Simmons, to his knowledge, said there is “no across-the-board evidence RCV only benefits one party or another.”

Adding to his point, Simmons insisted RCV is likely to enhance a moderate candidate’s chances of being elected.

“More broadly, there does seem to be some initial evidence that RCV may benefit more moderate candidates, or at least the candidate with the broadest amount of electoral appeal, regardless of party,” he said. “It’s possible that by promoting more candidates like this who may appeal to a broader set of voters, that a party may perform better electorally than they would otherwise. It’s not just academics saying this sort of stuff. The Virginia state GOP utilizes RCV to select their candidates because, in their own terms, it helps the candidate with the broadest electoral appeal.

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“What also may matter is if a party, or candidate, chooses to lean into the system or not,” he added. “For example, there is some evidence that suggests candidates who are willing to ask supporters of other candidates in the race to rank them as an additional choice may benefit electorally from doing so, in comparison to candidates who choose not to do that.”

Discussing RCV’s partisan impact, Alaska congressional candidate Nick Begich described his frustrations with the “disingenuous voting process” in comments to Fox News. Begich is a Republican who is making another run this year to represent the state’s at-large congressional district after his defeat in the state’s 2022 midterm election, which used RCV.

“A traditional election allows you to have a primary so that each side of the aisle can determine who is the best representative for their point of view and who represents their perspective best. After that, you have an opportunity to move into a general election where you can truly contrast one set of ideas and ideals with the other set of ideas and ideals. Under this ranked choice voting system in Alaska, you’re not given that opportunity because, effectively, the primary is delayed until the general election,” he said.

“If the Democrats didn’t believe that, they would run multiple candidates on their side of the aisle. But they don’t. They only run one,” he added. “The reason that they only run one is because they recognize that if in a state like Alaska, their candidate had to run to the left in order to prove to their voters that they were the most progressive, they’d lose the general election. So they don’t, they don’t do that. They run a very moderately messaged campaign with a single candidate in a red state, attempting to show voters that this person is a true moderate.”

Alaska has an open primary, meaning every voter sees all the candidates of every party, not just the Republican or Democratic candidates seeking their party’s nomination. Unlike party-specific primary ballots, which have only one party’s candidates, every candidate can be ranked.

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Specifically referencing the outcome of Alaska’s last congressional election, in which Democrat Mary Peltola came out ahead of him and former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, Begich said the voting process is “disingenuous” because Peltola went on to vote in lock-step with other Democrats in Congress.

“It’s a disingenuous voting process that allows a disciplined party to game the system, and that’s not what elections should be about. It shouldn’t be about who can best game the system. It should be about who best represents their district. We don’t get that with ranked choice voting,” Begich added.

Fox News’ Thomas Phippen contributed to this report.

GOP senator sounds alarm on Biden admin regulation that could crush farming families

FIRST ON FOX: Iowa GOP Sen. Joni Ernst has penned a bipartisan letter with fellow senators to the Biden administration expressing concern that farmers and their families are being subjected to significant financial harm by a lengthy delay in updating the process of applying for college financial aid.

“We write to express continued concern with the impact the delayed Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) rollout will have for students and families, in particular those from family farm and small business backgrounds,” Ernst and 13 other senators, including Montana Democratic Sen. Jon Tester, wrote to Education Secretary Miguel Cardona this week.

“The FAFSA Simplification Act was signed into law on December 27, 2020, and yet the Department of Education (Ed) released an incomplete and confusing ‘soft launch’ of the new form exactly three months delayed from the typical October 1 release date,” the letter continued. “In addition, Ed announced on January 30, Institutional Student Information Records (ISIRs) would not be sent to colleges and universities until early March. This creates an untenable timeline for students to review aid offers and compare their school options, with schools already pushing aid offers back to late April or early May.”

The senators wrote that Question 22 on the FAFSA form, related to student assets, requires “each student report the net worth of their family’s businesses or for-profit agricultural operations,” which the senators say doesn’t take into account the financial complexities of operating a farm.

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“This question fundamentally misunderstands how farm families operate, as the stream of revenue for crops and livestock varies significantly year-over-year, and assets cannot be cashed out to support a loan in the same capacity as traditional investments,” the letter states. 

“As defined by Ed, these reported assets may include, ‘fair market value of land, buildings, livestock, unharvested crops, and machinery.’ These assets can range well into the millions of dollars, with the price of a combine harvester alone often exceeding $400,000. This, in combination with projected declines in revenue for nearly every agricultural sector for 2023 harvest, indicates Ed lacked critical insight needed to develop this asset reporting requirement.”

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The senators say that a farming family with a $60,000 annual income and $1 million in farming assets was previously paying $7,626 annually toward their child’s tuition and that under the new formula, that same family would have to pay up to $41,056.

“In this economy, asking Iowa farm families to pay five times more to send their kids to college is a nonstarter,” Ernst told Fox News Digital. 

“As a farm kid myself and a recipient of a Pell Grant, I understand how critical federal student aid can be for Iowans. That’s why I’m leading the charge to force Biden’s Department of Ed to reevaluate their FAFSA form and ensure folks of all backgrounds can pursue higher education if they choose to do so. Rural students will not be pushed to the side and ignored under my watch.”

The letter asks who the Department of Education consulted in the farming community about the regulation and whether a discussion took place about how it would impact families.

“How should families reasonably calculate the value of their family farm holdings i.e., recent appraisals, commensurate value?” the senators asked. “Given that Ed has not provided guidance on a number of important questions involving farm assets.”

The senators also asked the Department of Education if it will “conduct an in-depth impact analysis of data throughout the 2024-2025 application process to understand the year-over-year impact of transitioning from the EFC formula to SAI formula?”

Ernst was joined on the letter by Sens. John Tester, D-Mont.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Pete Ricketts, R-Neb.; Thom Tillis, R-N.C.; James Risch, R-Idaho; Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss.; Deb Fisher, R-Neb.; Roger Marshall, R-Kan.; Roger Wicker, R-Miss.; Mike Crapo, R-Idaho; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Kevin Cramer, R-N.D.; and John Hoeven, R-N.D. 

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Earlier this month, Ernst and Grassley released a factsheet in a press release that explained how the Education Department’s delayed rollout of the streamlined FAFSA system has made it more difficult for students to apply to school and could send the financial contributions of farming families “skyrocketing.”

“Prospective college students and their families ought to have ready access to their financial aid offerings. But this year’s FAFSA launch has created more headaches than it’s helped,” Grassley said. “Senator Ernst and I will continue working with the Department of Education to iron out wrinkles in the new FAFSA, so that when the time comes for young Iowans to choose their college, they’ll have the financial information they need.” 

The Department of Education did not respond to a request for comment from Fox News Digital.

Regional bank hit with 3rd credit downgrade as crisis concerns linger

New York Community Bank (NYCB) was hit with its third credit downgrade as fears linger that the regional bank could be in peril nearly a year after the regional banking sector was hit by a crisis that triggered some of the largest bank failures in U.S. history.

Morningstar DBRS on Thursday downgraded NYCB’s credit rating and cited “outsized” exposure to commercial real estate (CRE) that the bank has pledged to reduce in the months ahead. CRE borrowers have been under pressure due to the higher interest rate environment as well as lower occupancy rates due to the rise of remote work.

The downgrade comes after rating agencies Fitch and Moody’s also lowered NYCB’s ratings in the last week. Last Friday, Fitch cut NYCB’s rating from BBB to BBB-, its lowest investment grade rating, while Moody’s lowered NYCB’s rating to Ba2, a non-investment grade or “junk” tier, on Wednesday. 

“Liquidity appears sufficient, but given the bank failures last spring, we remain cautious given that the adverse headline risk, including a significant decline in NYCB’s stock price, could eventually spook customer and depositor confidence,” Morningstar DBRS said of its downgrade.

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Investors’ concerns about NYCB came to a head last week after the company posted a surprise loss and announced a dividend cut to boost reserves required by banking regulations, along with its exposure to the CRE market. Those worries sent the bank’s stock plunging to its lowest level since 2000.

Ticker Security Last Change Change %
NYCB NEW YORK COMMUNITY BANCORP INC. 4.90 +0.71 +17.08%

NYCB’s management has tried to bolster investor confidence as the company’s stock has fallen over 59% in the last month, including a more than 6% decline during Thursday’s trading. Newly-appointed executive chairman Alessandro DiNello said Wednesday that NYCB will consider the sale of loans in its commercial real estate portfolio or let them run off the balance sheet naturally.

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The lender also indicated that if necessary, it would consider shrinking its balance sheet by selling non-core assets to shore up its common equity tier 1 ratio, a key measure of financial strength.

Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said during a hearing Thursday that she expects additional stress and some financial losses due to weakness in the CRE market, but that banking regulators are working with banks to address those risks.

NYCB set aside more capital to meet regulatory requirements for capital and liquidity that came into effect after the bank surpassed the $100 billion in total assets threshold.

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NYCB was founded in 1859 and has long served as a small regional bank. Between 2000 and 2023, it completed 13 acquisitions to grow to its current size. 

Among those acquisitions was Signature Bank, which failed during last year’s regional banking crisis. It also recently acquired Flagstar Bank, which allowed it to expand its footprint around the country.

Last year’s regional banking crisis saw some of the largest bank failures in U.S. history. First Republic Bank’s failure became the second largest, trailing only Washington Mutual’s failure in 2008 and surpassing the 2023 failures of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.

Reuters contributed to this report.