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Timeline: Hunter Biden under legal, political scrutiny

Marilyn Nieves/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Five years into a federal probe of his personal and professional life, President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, is facing additional legal exposure in the coming months after a summer punctuated by setbacks.

U.S. Attorney David Weiss, a Trump-era appointee who has since been elevated to special counsel, has indicted the younger Biden on felony gun charges after a plea deal between the two parties fell apart in a Delaware courtroom in July.

Meanwhile, on Capitol Hill, House Speaker Kevin McCarthy this week said he would initiate an impeachment inquiry against President Biden over his alleged role in his son's influence-peddling, despite a dearth of concrete evidence.

Here's a timeline of Hunter Biden's legal and political scrutiny.

Dec. 10, 2020

A month after Joe Biden wins the 2020 presidential election, Hunter Biden announces that federal prosecutors in Delaware are investigating his "tax affairs."

A source with knowledge of the investigation tells ABC News that the tax probe began in 2018, but that the U.S. attorney's office in Delaware waited to notify Hunter Biden's legal team due to sensitivities around the election.

Investigators are looking into Hunter's business dealings in China and elsewhere, including scrutinizing whether he may have committed tax crimes stemming from those overseas business dealings, sources tell ABC News.

Dec. 21, 2020

Outgoing Attorney General William Barr says he doesn't intend to appoint a special counsel to investigate Hunter Biden, as President Donald Trump and others have suggested.

April 2, 2021

In a new memoir, Hunter Biden addresses many of the topics that emerged as fodder for his father's political foes during the presidential campaign, including his struggles with substance addiction, his dealings in China, and his seat on the board of a Ukrainian oil and gas firm during his father's tenure as vice president -- a role that later led to then-President Donald Trump's first impeachment trial on charges that Trump pressured Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy to investigate Hunter Biden's position on the board. Trump was subsequently acquitted.

The memoir, titled "Beautiful Things," also offers lurid details as it chronicles the younger Biden's repeated relapses into drug and alcohol abuse.

March 30, 2022

ABC News reports that the federal investigation into Hunter Biden over his tax affairs has intensified, according to sources.

Sources say a number of witnesses have appeared before a grand jury Wilmington, Delaware, in recent months, and have been asked about payments Hunter Biden received while serving on the board of directors of Ukrainian natural gas company Burisma, as well as about how he paid off tax obligations in recent years.

Nov. 17, 2022

Fresh off the GOP regaining control of the Senate in the midterm elections, congressional Republicans say they're poised to push ahead with an investigation into President Joe Biden's family, including Hunter Biden, in the coming session.

Reps. Jim Jordan of Ohio and James Comer of Kentucky, two high-ranking members expected to helm powerful committees when Republicans take control of Congress in January, pledge to "pursue all avenues" of wrongdoing, calling investigations into the president's family a "top priority."

Dec. 21, 2022

Ahead of an expected deluge of Republican probes, Hunter Biden retains high-powered defense lawyer Abbe Lowell to help navigate congressional oversight.

March 1, 2023

Testifying in his annual oversight hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee, Attorney General Merrick Garland says that U.S. Attorney David Weiss has been told he has "full authority" to make any charging decisions stemming from the Hunter Biden investigation, even if that would involve bringing a case in a district outside of Delaware.

Garland also says he has pledged to Weiss any resources necessary to conduct his investigation, and has received no reports thus far of the his investigation being stymied in any way by personnel at the main Justice Department.

March 17, 2023

Attorneys for Hunter Biden file counterclaims alleging invasion of privacy in response to a defamation lawsuit brought by Delaware-based computer repairman John Paul Mac Isaac, who they say triggered the infamous laptop controversy in the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election.

The counterclaim is in response to an ongoing defamation lawsuit against Hunter Biden and others that was filed in October 2019 by Mac Isaac, who Hunter Biden's attorney say obtained and later disseminated data from a laptop allegedly belonging to the younger Biden.

April 20, 2023

ABC News reports that a supervisor at the IRS has told lawmakers that he has information that suggests the Biden administration could be mishandling the investigation into Hunter Biden, according to sources.

In a letter to lawmakers obtained by ABC News, the lawyer for the IRS whistleblower says his client is an IRS criminal supervisory special agent "who has been overseeing the ongoing and sensitive investigation of a high-profile, controversial subject since early 2020 and would like to make protected whistleblower disclosures to Congress."

The letter says that "The protected disclosures: (1) contradict sworn testimony to Congress by a senior political appointee, (2) involve failure to mitigate clear conflicts of interest in the ultimate disposition of the case, and (3) detail examples of preferential treatment and politics improperly infecting decisions and protocols that would normally be followed by career law enforcement professionals in similar circumstances if the subject were not politically connected."

May 3, 2023

ABC News reports that the GOP-led House Oversight Committee has issued a subpoena demanding the FBI produce a record related to an alleged "criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Joe Biden and a foreign national."

The subpoena seeks an unclassified FD-1023 document, which is generally defined as a report from an informant. The White House denounces the contents of the document as "anonymous innuendo."

May 16, 2023

Attorneys for the IRS whistleblower inform key members of Congress that their client -- along with his "entire investigative team" -- has been removed from the probe into the president's son. The Justice Department defers comment to U.S. Attorney David Weiss, who does not comment on the claim.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer announces his intention to initiate contempt of Congress hearings over FBI Director Chris Wray's refusal to physically turn over the FD-1023 document that Republicans believe is related to President Joe Biden.

June 20, 2023

Hunter Biden agrees to plead guilty to a pair of tax-related misdemeanors and enter into a pretrial diversion agreement that would enable him to avoid prosecution on one felony gun charge, potentially ending the yearslong probe.

According to the agreement, the younger Biden will acknowledge his failure to pay taxes on income he received in 2017 and 2018, until they were paid in 2020 by a third party, identified by ABC News as attorney and confidant Kevin Morris. In exchange, prosecutors will recommend probation, meaning Hunter Biden will likely avoid prison time. For the gun charge, he will agree to pretrial diversion, with the charge being dropped if he adheres to certain terms.

June 21, 2023

U.S. Judge Maryellen Noreika sets a court date of July 26 for Hunter Biden to make his initial court appearance related to the plea deal he has agreed to.

June 22, 2023

The GOP-led House Ways and Means Committee releases transcripts of their interviews with two IRS whistleblowers that they say show that senior Biden administration officials stymied U.S. Attorney David Weiss' investigation into Hunter Biden. In their testimony, the whistleblowers claim that senior Justice Department officials blocked prosecutors' attempts to bring charges against Hunter Biden in Washington and California, and refused to grant Weiss special counsel status.

Justice Department officials dispute the claim, saying, "As both the Attorney General and U.S. Attorney David Weiss have said, U.S. Attorney Weiss has full authority over this matter, including responsibility for deciding where, when, and whether to file charges as he deems appropriate. He needs no further approval to do so."

June 23, 2023

ABC News reports that House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer has been given access the redacted FD-1023 document that allegedly contains claims about what Comer calls a "criminal scheme involving then-Vice President Biden and a foreign national relating to the exchange of money for policy decisions." But Comer tells reporters that reading the document was "a total waste of my time," as more than half of the document was redacted. Rep. Jamie Raskin, the ranking Democrat on the Oversight panel, says the Trump-era Justice Department investigated the claims and, "in August 2020, Attorney General [William] Barr and his hand-picked U.S. Attorney signed off on closing the assessment."

Congressional Republicans have also seized on a July 2017 WhatsApp message in which the younger Biden purportedly threatened a Chinese business associate by invoking his father's political connections, allegedly writing, "I am sitting here with my father and we would like to understand why the commitment made has not been fulfilled. Tell the director that I would like to resolve this now before it gets out of hand, and now means tonight."

"And, Z, if I get a call or text from anyone involved in this other than you, Zhang, or the chairman, I will make certain that between the man sitting next to me and every person he knows and my ability to forever hold a grudge that you will regret not following my direction," the message continues. "I am sitting here waiting for the call with my father."

At the time of the message, Joe Biden's term as vice president had already ended and he held no political office. But Republicans say the message undercuts President Biden's claim that he never discussed overseas business endeavors with his son. Ian Sams, a White House spokesperson, reiterates that "the president was not in business with his son."

Meanwhile, Attorney General Merrick Garland disputes outright the IRS' whistleblowers' claim that Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney David Weiss had requested to be named a special counsel but was turned down, saying, "Mr. Weiss never made that request to me."

June 26, 2023

House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, regarding the IRS whistleblowers' claim that Garland turned down Weiss' request to be named a special counsel in the Hunter Biden probe, tells Fox News, "If it comes true what the IRS whistleblower is saying, we're going to start impeachment inquiries on the attorney general."

July 12, 2023

ABC News reports that Weiss has pushed back on the IRS whistleblowers' allegations, writing in a letter to Sen. Lindsey Graham of the Senate Judiciary Committee: "To clarify an apparent misperception and to avoid future confusion, I wish to make one point clear: in this case, I have not requested Special Counsel designation."

Separately, in an appearance before the House Judiciary Committee, FBI Director Christopher Wray is asked by Rep. Matt Gaetz, "Are you protecting the Bidens?"

"Absolutely not," Wray answers.

July 13, 2023

Hunter Biden's attorney Abbe Lowell sends a cease-and-desist letter to Trump's legal team claiming that Trump's rhetoric on social media and elsewhere "could lead to [Hunter Biden's] or his family's injury."

"This is not a false alarm," Lowell writes. "You should make clear to Mr. Trump -- if you have not done so already -- that Mr. Trump's words have caused harm in the past and threaten to do so again if he does not stop."

July 19, 2023

In congressional testimony, the two IRS whistleblowers -- 14-year IRS veteran Gary Shapley and IRS investigator Joseph Ziegler, who has previously been unidentified -- reiterate their claims that Justice Department officials stymied Weiss' probe of Hunter Biden.

"It appeared to me, based on what I experienced, that the U.S. Attorney in Delaware in our investigation was constantly hamstrung, limited and marginalized by DOJ officials," Ziegler says. "I still think that a special counsel is necessary for this investigation."

July 20, 2023

In an unusual move, Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, releases the FD-1023 document containing a confidential FBI informant's unverified claim that, years ago, the Biden family "pushed" a Ukrainian oligarch to pay them millions of dollars.

The document cites an unnamed source who says that in 2015, Mykola Zlochevsky, the chief executive of Burisma -- the Ukrainian energy firm that hired Hunter Biden as a board member in 2013 -- claimed that he was "forced" to pay Joe and Hunter Biden $5 million each, apparently in exchange for orchestrating the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor named Viktor Shokin who was purportedly investigating Burisma at the time.

The assertion that the elder Biden, who was then vice president, acted to have Shokin removed in an effort to protect Burisma has been undercut by widespread criticism of the former Ukrainian prosecutor that led the U.S. State Department itself to seek Shokin's ouster.

A White House spokesperson, responding to the document's release, says "congressional Republicans, in their eagerness to go after President Biden regardless of the truth, continue to push claims that have been debunked for years."

July 24. 2023

Under questioning from reporters, White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre reiterates that President Biden "was never in business with his son."

July 26, 2023

Hunter Biden appears before U.S. Judge Maryellen Noreika to formally agree to the plea deal negotiated in June -- but during a contentious hearing, Judge Noreika defers the deal after taking issue with the structure of the arrangement.

Noreika requests additional briefings from the parties before she'll determine next steps. In the meantime, Hunter Biden enters a plea of not guilty.

July 31, 2023

Former Hunter Biden associate Devon Archer testifies before the House Oversight panel, telling legislators that Burisma, through Hunter Biden, benefitted by its association with the so-called "Biden brand" -- but that Hunter Biden only provided the "illusion of access" to his father and did not discuss his business dealings with him, according to committee members who participated in the closed-door hearing.

Aug. 3, 2023

House Republicans release the complete transcript of Devon Archer's testimony before the Oversight panel, which include his recollection that Hunter Biden put his father on speakerphone or referenced his father being on the phone in front of business associates "maybe 20 times" in the 10 years that Archer and Hunter Biden were business associates -- which included a period when Biden was vice president -- but that Joe Biden's interactions with Hunter Biden's associates were "not related to commercial business" and that Joe Biden had no involvement with Burisma or took any actions to benefit Burisma or Hunter Biden, according to the fully transcribed interview with the committee.

Archer confirms that he was not aware of any wrongdoing by President Biden, according to the transcription.

Aug. 11, 2023

Attorney General Merrick Garland appoints Delaware U.S. Attorney David Weiss as special counsel in his investigation of Hunter Biden, after the Trump appointee asked Garland to be appointed special counsel in the case.

Weiss says in court documents filed within minutes of his appointment that plea negotiations have reached "an impasse" and that he intends to drop the misdemeanor tax charges against Hunter Biden in Delaware and instead bring them in California and Washington, D.C., where prosecutors say the alleged misconduct occurred.

Aug. 14, 2023

Attorneys for Hunter Biden say in a court filing that federal prosecutors reneged on the plea deal that would have resolved tax and gun charges against Hunter Biden.

Despite their acknowledgement that the plea agreement on tax charges is "moot," attorneys for Hunter Biden argue that the second part of the deal -- a diversion agreement on a separate gun charge -- remains in effect, since it is a separate contract negotiated and entered into by the parties outside the judge's purview.

Aug. 15, 2023

In court filings, prosecutors for Weiss push back on Hunter Biden's assertion that they "reneged" on the ill-fated plea deal, and dispute defense counsel's claim that the diversion agreement on a gun possession charge remains "valid and binding."

Sept. 6, 2023

Court documents filed by special counsel David Weiss say that Weiss intends to bring an indictment against Hunter Biden by the end of the month, pertaining to the felony gun charge that was previously brought under the pretrial diversion agreement brokered by the two parties.

Hunter Biden's legal team argues that the pretrial diversion agreement remains in effect.

"We believe the signed and filed diversion agreement remains valid and prevents any additional charges from being filed against Mr. Biden," says Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Hunter Biden. "We expect a fair resolution of the sprawling, 5-year investigation into Mr. Biden that was based on the evidence and the law, not outside political pressure."

Sept. 14, 2023

Hunter Biden is indicted by special counsel David Weiss on felony charges that he lied on a federal form when he said he was drug-free at the time that he purchased a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver in October 2018. His legal team maintains that the pretrial diversion agreement from July remains in effect, though Weiss' team says it's null and void.

"As expected, prosecutors filed charges today that they deemed were not warranted just six weeks ago following a five-year investigation into this case," Hunter Biden attorney Abbe Lowell says in a statement. "We believe these charges are barred by the agreement the prosecutors made with Mr. Biden, the recent rulings by several federal courts that this statute is unconstitutional, and the facts that he did not violate that law, and we plan to demonstrate all of that in court."

Sept. 18, 2023

Hunter Biden files a lawsuit against the IRS over alleged "unlawful disclosures" made by the pair of whistleblowers who accused government prosecutors of mishandling their investigation into him.

Sept. 19, 2023

Hunter Biden's attorney files court papers seeking to have his client's arraignment, scheduled for Oct. 3 in a Delaware court, take place via video conference instead of in person.

Sept. 20, 2023

A judge denies Hunter Biden's effort to avoid appearing in person at his arraignment on federal gun charges, ordering him to appear at a hearing scheduled for Oct. 3.

The same day, Attorney General Merrick Garland, testifying for five hours before the House Judiciary Committee, is grilled by GOP lawmakers about his department's handling of criminal probes into Hunter Biden and others. Garland pushes back on GOP claims that he's taken any directives from the White House, saying, "I am not the president's lawyer. I am not Congress' prosecutor. The Justice Department works for the American people. Our job is to follow the facts and the law, and that is what we do."

Sept. 26, 2023

Hunter Biden files a lawsuit against Rudy Giuliani, accusing the former Trump attorney of computer fraud over his role in obtaining and sharing the alleged contents of the infamous laptop. In a statement responding to the suit, Giuliani adviser Ted Goodman says, "I'm not surprised he's now falsely claiming his laptop hard drive was manipulated by Mayor Giuliani, considering the sordid material and potential evidence of crimes on that thing."

Oct. 3, 2023

Hunter Biden, appearing in the same Delaware courthouse where his federal plea deal with prosecutors fell apart over the summer, formally enters a plea of not guilty to the three felony gun charges that were part of the original plea agreement.

Nov. 3, 2023

ABC News reports that Hunter Biden is urging the Justice Department to investigate his former business associate Tony Bobulinski over claims that Bobulinski lied to federal investigators during an interview in the weeks leading up to the 2020 presidential election when he alleged that the Bidens had lied to the public about the nature of then-candidate Joe Biden's involvement in Hunter Biden's proposed overseas business ventures.

Nov. 8, 2023

Hunter Biden is subpoenaed by House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer to appear before the committee, along with his former business associate Rob Walker, President Biden's brother James Biden, and other members of the Biden family.

Nov. 15, 2023

Hunter Biden's attorneys file a motion seeking court approval to issue subpoenas to former President Donald Trump, former Attorney General William Barr, and two ex-Justice Department officials for documents they say could shed light on whether the federal gun charges Hunter Biden is facing were the result of "a vindictive or selective prosecution arising from an unrelenting pressure campaign beginning in the last administration."

Nov. 16, 2023

ABC News reports that special counsel David Weiss is using a Los Angeles-based federal grand jury to pursue the investigation into Hunter Biden's tax affairs, according to sources. The grand jury has issued a subpoena to James Biden, the brother of President Joe Biden, as part of the probe, a source says.

Nov. 28, 2023

Responding to his subpoena to appear before the House Oversight Committee, Hunter Biden, in a letter from his attorney to Republican lawmakers, says he is willing to testify before the panel -- but only in a public forum.

Dec. 7, 2023

Special counsel David Weiss files nine tax-related charges against Hunter Biden, accusing him of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes from 2016 to 2020. The indictment alleges that the younger Biden earned millions of dollars from foreign entities and "spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle at the same time he chose not to pay his taxes."

Hunter Biden's attorney, Abbe Lowell, claims the 56-page indictment includes "no new evidence" and says, "Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter's last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought."


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ABC News to host GOP presidential debate before New Hampshire primary

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(MANCHESTER, N.H.) -- ABC News, partnering with WMUR-TV, announced Thursday it will host a Republican presidential primary debate in New Hampshire next month, just days ahead of its first-in-the-nation GOP primary election.

Held in coordination with the New Hampshire Republican State Committee, the Thursday Jan. 18 debate will take place at Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire.

The broadcast will come just three days behind the Iowa caucuses, the first electoral test of the GOP primary field, which includes former President Donald Trump, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley, tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson.

The debate also comes five days ahead of the New Hampshire primary election.

More details about the debate, format, qualifications, moderators, as well as ABC News' coverage will be announced at a later time.

"ABC News is excited to host this Republican debate with our partners in the nation's first primary state of New Hampshire," said ABC News President Kim Godwin in a statement. "Our powerhouse political team has been working hard on this debate to provide our audience with the opportunity to hear from the candidates at this decisive moment in the primary race."

The first four debates, which aired on Fox, Fox Business, NBC News and NewsNation, were Republican National Committee-sanctioned debates. ABC News' debate is "subject to RNC guidelines," according to Chris Ager, chairman of the New Hampshire Republican State Committee.

"The New Hampshire Republican State Committee is looking forward to working with our partners at ABC News, WMUR and St. Anselm's College for a New Hampshire Republican presidential primary debate subject to RNC guidelines," said Ager in a statement.

CNN also announced on Thursday it will also host GOP presidential debates next month in New Hampshire, along with Iowa.

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Special counsel files nine tax-related charges against Hunter Biden

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(NEW YORK) -- Special counsel David Weiss leveled a nine-count indictment against Hunter Biden late Thursday, accusing President Joe Biden's son of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes from 2016 to 2020.

The charges, which carry a penalty of up to 17 years in prison, include six misdemeanor charges and three felonies, including alleged tax evasion and filing a false return.

The sprawling 56-page indictment alleges that Hunter Biden earned millions of dollars from foreign entities in Ukraine, Romania and China and "spent millions of dollars on an extravagant lifestyle at the same time he chose not to pay his taxes."

Prosecutors sought to demonstrate that Hunter Biden had the means to pay his taxes from 2016 to 2020, but instead chose to spend his money elsewhere, including $683,212 in "Payments -- Various Women," another $397,530 on "Clothing & Accessories," and $188,960 on "Adult Entertainment."

Hunter Biden "also used the business line of credit to make $27,316 in payments to an online pornography website, which in total accounted for one fifth of all of the business line of credit expenditures," prosecutors wrote.

ABC News previously reported that Hunter Biden borrowed $2 million from his lawyer and confidant Kevin Morris to pay the IRS for back taxes, penalties and liens that he owed.

Abbe Lowell, an attorney for Hunter Biden, framed the indictment as including "no new evidence" and a result of Weiss "[bowing] to Republican pressure."

"Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter's last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought," Lowell said in a statement.

Prosecutors signaled their intention to bring tax-related charges against the president's son months ago after plea negotiations broke down. A Los Angeles-based grand jury has since issued a subpoena to James Biden, the brother of President Biden, as part of their work investigating Hunter Biden, a source familiar with the matter said.

Weiss' office filed a felony gun indictment against Biden in September. He has pleaded not guilty to those charges.

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Ramaswamy defends debunked conspiracy theories he shared at Republican debate

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(WASHINGTON) -- Entrepreneur and Republican presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy shared multiple conspiratorial or controversial claims at Wednesday night's debate, amplifying them to a new level of prominence in the 2024 race.

Ramaswamy touted himself as an outsider willing to speak "truth" on stage. But most of his assertions on hot-button topics like Jan. 6, the 9/11 terror attacks and demographic changes in the U.S. were groundless or elevated ideas that have been repeatedly debunked.

He told ABC News at a campaign event the following day that he was "proud" of having stirred discussion of the issues, he said. He also said he didn't believe the theories had, in fact, been debunked.

"I think it is important to speak to the hard truths and I would love to have a strong discussion on the merits of it," he insisted.

Jan. 6, 2021, riot at Capitol wasn't 'inside job'

"Why am I the only person on this stage, at least, who can say that Jan. 6 now does look like it was an inside job?" Ramaswamy said at one point in the debate.

That baseless idea has become popular among fringes on the far-right and on social media, at times even winning support from lawmakers, including Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who last month claimed without evidence that there were "undercover federal agents disguised" in the crowd during the rioting at the U.S. Capitol, as Congress had gathered to certify Donald Trump's election defeat.

More than 700 people have admitted to a variety of charges in connection with Jan. 6 -- 210 of those people having pleaded to felonies -- according to the Department of Justice; and more than 130 people have been convicted at trial.

In multiple hearings, convicted rioters have put forward a range of different excuses for their actions -- with many pointing the finger at Trump and conservative media outlets who pushed lies about a stolen election while framing the Electoral College certification as the final opportunity to prevent Trump's removal from office.

'Great replacement theory'

Ramaswamy also boosted the "great replacement theory," the white nationalist belief that immigration policies are designed specifically to dilute the political power of white Americans by making them a smaller share of the population.

The idea has been elevated by media figures like Tucker Carlson and inspired mass violence, including the 2015 Charleston, South Carolina, church massacre and the 2019 shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.

Ramaswamy alleged during the debate that the theory "is not some grand right-wing conspiracy theory but a basic statement of the Democratic Party’s platform."

He subsequently said on CNN, "I don't care about skin color ... Do you share the ideals of this country?"

He also said that he did not to stir violence. "I want to be careful in the way that I speak about this," he said.

But he added, "As a leader, it is important to give people the permission to say in public what they'll otherwise say in private."

While it is true that Democrats have historically adopted more liberal immigration policies and that the country's demographics are becoming less white and more racially diverse over time, there is no evidence that those changes are being engineered by politicians to ensure they can win power with those voters.

More specifically, although non-white voters have favored Democrats in presidential elections, they do not all vote as a uniform bloc.

In fact, Trump made small but noticeable gains with Latino and Black voters from 2016 to 2020, according to exit polling; and other Republicans have seen major success with some of those voters, too.

In the 2022 race, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis won Latino voters over Democratic challenger Charlie Crist, exit polls showed.

Reviving claims over 9/11

Ramaswamy revived his claims about 9/11 terrorist attacks, carried out by al-Qaida, and the groups truly behind it. He argued Wednesday that "the government lied to us for 20 years about Saudi Arabia's involvement in 9/11."

Unlike his other theories on the debate stage, Ramaswamy's comment about Sept. 11 reflects -- at least partially -- well-known suspicions that were investigated by authorities. Fifteen of the 19 terrorists were Saudi citizens.

Families of 9/11 victims and 9/11 survivors have for years been embroiled in a legal battle against Saudi Arabia's government, claiming it has some responsibility.

The kingdom, a key U.S. ally in the Middle East, has long denied any involvement.

The 2004 the 9/11 Commission report reads, in part, "It does not appear that any government other than the Taliban financially supported al Qaeda before 9/11, although some governments may have contained al Qaeda sympathizers who turned a blind eye to al Qaeda's fundraising activities."

"Saudi Arabia has long been considered the primary source of al Qaeda funding, but we have found no evidence that the Saudi government as an institution or senior Saudi officials individually funded the organization. (This conclusion does not exclude the likelihood that charities with significant Saudi government sponsorship diverted funds to al Qaeda)," the report goes on to say.

ABC News' Alexander Mallin contributed to this report.

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House censures Rep. Jamaal Bowman for falsely pulling fire alarm

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(NEW YORK) -- The House voted Thursday to censure Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman of New York for falsely pulling a fire alarm in a House office building in September.

The final vote was 214-191 with five members voting present. Three Democrats voted with Republicans to censure Bowman.

After the vote, Bowman stood in the well of the House surrounded by a large group of Democrats.

The New York congressman was caught on video pulling the fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building on Sept. 30 -- the day the House voted on funding the government. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for falsely triggering the alarm.

Thursday vote happened after a Democratic motion to table -- or kill -- the censure resolution failed by a vote of 201-216 Wednesday evening.

Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., introduced the censure resolution as privileged on Tuesday -- giving the House two legislative days to vote on it.

Bowman is the fifth House member censured in the 21st century, joining Reps. Charles Rangel, Paul Gosar, Adam Schiff and -- most recently -- Rashida Tlaib. Bowman would become the 27th House member censured in U.S. history, according to the Office of the House Historian.

Historically, censuring a House member is rare, but has been more recently used as a political tool.

During fiery House floor debate on the censure resolution Wednesday evening, House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries defended Rep. Jamaal Bowman and called the resolution "fraudulent and fictitious."

"The behavior of the extreme MAGA Republicans – censuring member after member after member has brought disgrace to the institution. To the House of Representatives," Jeffries said.

Jeffries said the House is "wasting time talking about fire alarms."

Jeffries even dared House Republicans to censure him.

"Going after Democrats repeatedly week after week after week, because you have nothing better to do -- then I volunteer. Censure me next. Censure me next. That's how worthless your censure effort is. It has no credibility, no integrity, no legitimacy. Censure me next. And I'll take that censure and I'll wear it -- next week, next month, next year -- like a badge of honor," Jeffries said.


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House Republicans to move forward on formalizing Biden impeachment inquiry next week

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(NEW YORK) -- The House Rules Committee announced Thursday it will consider a resolution next week to formalize Republicans' impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden.

House Speaker Mike Johnson said earlier this week that he believes that Republicans would get the votes they need to formalize their inquiry.

House Republicans have alleged, without proof, that Biden was directly involved in and benefited from his family's business dealings. The White House has called the inquiry "extreme politics at its worst."

Lawmakers have held one public hearing, which offered several contentious moments but no new evidence.

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


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Five takeaways from the latest Republican presidential debate

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(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) -- Four Republican presidential candidates took the stage in Alabama on Wednesday night for one last chance to trade attacks and stake out policy positions before voting starts in the 2024 primary, in Iowa and New Hampshire, next month.

The debate, the smallest yet, featured former U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and tech entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy.

Knives seemed to be out for Haley amid her continued rise in the primary polls. She and DeSantis stood center stage as they vied for a distant second place spot to former President Donald Trump -- who once again skipped sparring with his challengers, spending the night fundraising in Florida instead as he remains the polling front-runner.

On the sidelines of the stage, Christie took on Trump while Ramaswamy took on everyone else.

Here are five takeaways from the latest Republican debate:

Haley takes brunt of attacks

Haley, who has earned high marks in past debates, according to polling, was the main target of the attacks on Wednesday night.

From the start, Ramaswamy and DeSantis took on the former ambassador for her stance on China, social media, transgender rights and more.

"She caves any time the left comes after her," DeSantis said as he slammed her record. "Any time the media comes after her."

Haley responded: "I love all of the attention fellas."

One opponent on stage, however, took a moment to defend her from Ramaswamy's personal digs at her foreign policy chops.

"He has insulted Nikki Haley's basic intelligence. Not her positions, her basic intelligence," Christie said, adding, "Look, if you want to disagree on issues, that's fine. Nikki and I disagree on some issues. I've known her for 12 years ... and while we disagree about some issues and we disagree about who should be president of the United States, what we don't disagree on is this is a smart accomplished woman. You should stop insulting her."

DeSantis defends record as campaign stagnates

The first question of the night went to DeSantis and it was about electability.

Moderator Megyn Kelly asked him for his response to voters who, according to the poll numbers that show his support his flatlined in second place, seem to be telling him: "Not no, but not now."

Like he did throughout much of the night, DeSantis made the case that he's got a list of conservative wins as governor compared with Trump's past defeats.

"So we have a great idea in America that the voters actually make these decisions, not pundits or pollsters," he responded. "I'm sick of hearing about these polls, 'cause I remember those polls in November of 2022. They said there was going to be a big red wave. It was going to be monumental, and that crashed and burned. The one place it didn't crash and burn was in the state of Florida."

"They weren't predicting that I would win the way I did, and I won the greatest Republican victory in the history of the state of Florida," he said, referring to his double-digit election in a famous swing state. "I'm looking forward to Iowa and New Hampshire. The voters are going to be able to speak and we're going to earn this nomination."

Christie takes on Trump: 'An angry, bitter man'

Moderators frequently posed their Trump-related questions to Christie, who has built his campaign on attacking the former president, unlike the other candidates.

Some of his sharpest comments came when asked about Trump's "dictator" comments to Fox News host Sean Hannity on Tuesday night. Christie said the remarks were "completely predictable" and called Trump an "an angry, bitter man."

"So do I think he was kidding when he said he was a dictator? All you have to do is look at the history, and that's why failing to speak out against him, making excuses for him, pretending that somehow he's a victim -- empowers him," Christie said.

"You want to know why those poll numbers are where they are? Because folks like these three guys on the stage make it seem like his conduct is acceptable. Let me make it clear. His conduct is unacceptable," Christie said. "He's unfit, and be careful what you're gonna get if you ever got another Donald Trump term. He's letting you know .... He will only be his own retribution. He doesn't care for the American people, it's Donald Trump first," he said, drawing some boos.

Christie also called out DeSantis for not giving a straight answer when asked if Trump is "mentally fit" for office, accusing DeSantis of being "afraid to answer."

Ramaswamy keeps up fiery antics

While Ramaswamy's campaign has faded to the background as his polls remain at 5% nationally, the entrepreneur reprised his role as disruptor on the debate stage.

He was relentless as he went after everyone else. He again called Haley a female "Dick Cheney" and held up a sign that read "Nikki=Corrupt" as he questioned her authenticity. He was booed repeatedly.

At one point, Christie had enough.

"This is the fourth debate that you would be voted in the first 20 minutes as the most obnoxious blowhard in America," Christie said as he pointed a finger at Ramaswamy in one of the most heated exchanges of the night. "So shut up for a little while."

Narrow policy differences

Ramaswamy was a lone voice advocating for the U.S. to take a less prominent role in the Israel-Hamas war, calling his approach "pro-American" and "pro-Israel."

"As your next president, my sole moral duty is to you, the people of this country," he said.

Referring to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, he added, "That's how I'm going to lead. So I’ll tell Bibi, 'You smoke the terrorists on your southern border, you go ahead, and we're rooting for you. We're going to smoke the terrorists on our southern border,' and that's how I'm going to lead this country."

Slight differences were also apparent when it came to immigration and border policies.

Haley didn't endorse Trump's plan to revive his ban on travel from majority-Muslim countries and said instead there should be a review of countries that have terrorist activity and represent a threat to the U.S. DeSantis hit back, saying he'd go further in imposing limits on immigration to countries "hostile" to America.

On transgender health care, Christie offered a divergent stance than his opponents, saying he believes gender-affirming care for minors should be decided by parents and not the government. The other candidates all voiced opposition to medical treatment for those under 18.

"I'm sorry, but as a father of four, I believe there is no one who loves my children more than me," Christie said. "There is no one who loves my children more than my wife. There is no one who cares more about their success in health, in life than we do, not some government bureaucrat."

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Senate Republicans reject Biden's call to urgently approve Ukraine aid

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(WASHINGTON) -- Hours after President Joe Biden on Wednesday called on Congress to urgently approve a stalled package of aid to Ukraine, Republicans blocked a key Senate procedural vote over demands for new restrictions to bolster U.S. border security.

Biden called it "stunning" that Congress has taken as long as it has to pass his request for $61 billion in additional funding for Ukraine, laying out a stark warning of what could happen if more funds are not approved, and saying Republicans will give Russian President Vladimir Putin "the greatest gift he could hope for" if the U.S. ends its global leadership now.

"The Congress has to uphold the national security needs of the United States and quite frankly, of our partners as well," Biden said, speaking from the White House.

"This cannot wait," he said, saying lawmakers had to act before the holiday recess and money runs out at the end of the year.

"Republicans in Congress are willing to give [Russian President Vladimir] Putin the greatest gift he could hope for, and abandon our global leadership, not just Ukraine, but beyond that," he said.

"Make no mistake, today's vote is going to be long remembered. History is going to judge harshly those who turn their back on freedom's cause -- because we can't let Putin win. Say it again. We can't let Putin win," he said.

But Biden's call did no good -- as a vote to move forward on the measure failed 49-51. It needed 60 votes to advance.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer called it a "sad night in the history of our country."

Biden reminded Americans of the atrocities Russia has allegedly carried out so far, including the targeting of civilians, kidnapping of children and attacks on their electrical grid last winter so they'd be without heat and electricity.

He said this is more than just what could happen in the immediate future, but the long run. Biden warned of U.S. troops possibly joining the fight if Putin were to take over Ukraine and invade a NATO ally, which would trigger Article 5 in which an attack on one NATO member is consider an attack on all.

"If Putin attacks a NATO ally, if he keeps going, and then he attacks a NATO ally, when we've committed as a NATO member, so we defend every inch of NATO territory, then we'll have something that we don't seek and that we don't have today: American troops fighting Russian troops. American troops fighting Russian troops, if he moves into other parts of NATO," he said.

The president said, "I'm not prepared to walk away, and I don't think the American people are either."

The delay comes amid Republican demands for what he called far-right border policies to be included in the supplemental package. Biden accused Republicans of "playing chicken with our national security" by "holding Ukraine's funding hostage to their extreme partisan border policies."

He said he's "willing to do significantly more" to change border policy, including billions of dollars for border agents, immigration judges and asylum officers, but said the GOP is unwilling to compromise.

"This has to be a negotiation. Republicans think they get everything they want, without any bipartisan compromise. That's not the answer. That's not the answer. And now they're willing to literally kneecap Ukraine on the battlefield. And damage our national security in the process," Biden said.

Biden said he's already laid out with Oklahoma Republican Sen. James Lankford and other GOP senators what he's willing to compromise on, saying it's "significantly more," and includes "substantive changes," though claimed the GOP are "unwilling to do it."

He called on Congress to "do something and do the right thing to stand with the people in Ukraine."

"We're the reason Putin has not totally overrun Ukraine and move beyond that," he said. "This is critical. Petty partisan, angry politics can't get in the way of our responsibility as a leading nation in the world. And literally the entire world is watching."

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Colorado Supreme Court hears Trump 14th Amendment eligibility arguments

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(DENVER) -- The Colorado Supreme Court heard oral arguments Wednesday in the historic challenge to Trump's ballot eligibility in Colorado under Section 3 of the 14th Amendment.

During the two-hour hearing in Denver, the seven-justice court posed sharp questions central to the case, including on the definition of insurrection; whether the Capitol riot that occurred on Jan. 6, 2021 was an insurrection; and whether the "insurrectionist ban" applies to a U.S. president.

It is unclear when Colorado's Supreme Court will issue a ruling.

A Colorado district court decided on Nov. 17 that Trump should appear on the state's Republican primary ballot despite finding that he engaged in an insurrection in the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021.

In doing so, District Court Judge Sarah B. Wallace ruled against a group of six Republican and unaffiliated voters in Colorado, represented by the watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW).

CREW filed a lawsuit in September that sought to bar Trump from the state's Republican primary ballot under the amendment's "insurrectionist ban" clause, which disqualifies people from running for office if they've engaged in "insurrection or rebellion" against the U.S. The plaintiffs argue Trump's activity around Jan. 6 was covered by that clause.

But Wallace also issued a historic set of findings, including the first legal ruling that the former president had incited insurrection through his actions on Jan. 6. It was also the first time a court has found a presidential candidate had engaged in insurrection.

Both CREW's legal team and Trump's lawyers appealed Wallace's ruling and findings to the Colorado Supreme Court: CREW, because of the final decision on Trump's ballot eligibility, and Trump's team over the judge's opinion that the former president engaged in insurrection.

The petitioners made the the case on Wednesday that Section 3 of the 14th Amendment was one of the most important guardrails for safeguarding American democracy.

"Our Constitution, as we talked about, it's just a document. It's a promise to each other that we must enforce to protect our shared democracy. The rule of law comes with real fragility, because our Constitution commands no armies, has no police force. All it has is very limited self-defense mechanisms that my colleague mentioned, and that is Section Three," said CREW lawyer Eric Olson.

CREW's legal team also pushed back on the Trump team's claims that it would be anti-democratic to disqualify a leading presidential candidate from 2024 ballots.

"Trump's argument that because he's popular, that should affect how we interpret Section Three here could not be more dangerous. Jefferson Davis would have gotten a lot of popular support right after the Civil War. And the application of Section Three is at its most urgent when a person who has desecrated their oath to the Constitution already seeks to become our commander in chief again, if we say that this conduct by this person is not enough under the Constitution, what we do is empower Trump and others to use more political violence to attack our democracy," Olson added.

But the plaintiffs also fielded difficult questions from the seven justices, including inquires about the lower court's embrace of the definition of insurrection -- a definition that the district court found Trump as having been covered by when she wrote that he engaged in the act.

"I guess I'm expressing a concern about the definition of insurrection that the District Court adopted, it strikes me as somewhat or potentially broad– so let me ask you to address that," Chief Justice Brian D. Boatright asked.

The justices also posed pointed questions to Trump's lawyer Scott Gessler, including inquiries into the definition of insurrection and if the president is considered an "officer of the United States."

Gessler also said the definition of insurrection as adopted by the district court was far too broad.

"What if we narrowed it to say prevent the peaceful transfer of power of the United States government? Would that be an insurrection -- to prevent the peaceful transfer?" asked Justice Richard L. Gabriel.

"I don't think so," responded Gessler.

Ahead of oral arguments on Wednesday, amicus briefs supporting the petitioners have been filed by experts, including Professors Martha Minow, Erwin Chemerinsky and Carol Anderson and former Colorado Secretary of State Mary Estill Buchanan on topics including the history of the amendment's Section 3, the president as an "officer" under Section 3 and arguing the inapplicability of a First Amendment defense for inciting insurrection.

For Trump, a number of experts filed amicus briefs, along with a group of 19 attorneys general from GOP-controlled states led by Indiana AG Todd Rokita and West Virginia AG Patrick Morrisey who urged the court to take note of the rejection of similar legal challenges in Minnesota and Michigan and to reject the petitioners' lawsuit.

Republican secretaries of state in Ohio, Missouri and Wyoming filed a brief that argues Trump was "wrongfully" accused of engaging in an insurrection. The secretaries of state argue the ruling "sets an unfair and dangerous legal precedent that could potentially impact election administration in other states."

A group of 14 state Republican parties, led by the Kansas Republican Party, and the Republican National Committee, also filed briefs in support of Trump.

Dozens of lawsuits arguing Trump should be disqualified from running for president in 2024 under Section 3 have been filed in states across the nation. All have failed in court thus far, including in Minnesota, where the challenge was heard by the state's Supreme Court.

The case in Colorado could be an outlier, however, as all seven justices on Colorado's Supreme Court were appointed by Democratic governors. Both CREW's lawyers and Trump's legal team have said they may appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, depending on the outcome of this case.

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House advances GOP resolution to censure Democratic Rep. Bowman over pulling fire alarm

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(WASHINGTON) -- The House on Wednesday advanced a Republican resolution to censure Democrat Rep. Jamaal Bowman for pulling a fire alarm, teeing up a final vote on Thursday.

A Democratic motion to table the censure resolution failed by a vote of 201-216.

Bowman has admitted pulling a fire alarm before the House voted on a spending measure to avert a government shutdown in September.

Rep. Lisa McClain, R-Mich., introduced the censure resolution as privileged on Tuesday -- giving the House two legislative days to vote on it. McClain's resolution says if Bowman is censured, he must appear in the well of the House to be publicly reprimanded.

“Nobody is above the law, Congressmen included,” McClain said in a statement on X.

Bowman was caught on video pulling a fire alarm in the Cannon House Office Building on Sept. 30 -- the day the House voted on funding the government. He later pleaded guilty to a misdemeanor charge for falsely triggering the fire alarm.

A censure resolution is a formal reprimand by the House for violations of the House code of conduct. A vote to censure a member of the House does not hold any power beyond a public condemnation of the member’s behavior. It does not deny the member privileges.

Censuring House members has been historically rare, but lately members from both political parties have used it as a political tool.

To date, only four House members have been censured in the 21st century and 26 members total have been censured in U.S. history, according to the Office of the House historian.

Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., was censured for her inflammatory comments about Israel in November by a vote of 234-188.

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Trump raises new alarms, saying he wouldn't be a 'dictator' except on 'Day One'

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(WASHINGTON) -- Donald Trump is raising new alarms about what he would do if he makes it back to the White House, even referring to himself in an interview Tuesday night as a "dictator," but only, he said, on "Day One."

At a town hall in Iowa with Fox News host Sean Hannity, the former president declined to rule out abusing power when asked repeatedly whether he would do so during a second term.

"I want to be very, very clear on this -- to be clear," Hannity asked, citing criticism of Trump's previous comments, including that he would seek "retribution."

"Do you in any way have any plans whatsoever if reelected president to abuse power, to break the law, to use the government to go after people?" he said.

"You mean like they're using right now?" Trump said, dodging the question.

Minutes later, Hannity pressed him again for an answer.

"Under no circumstances -- you are promising America tonight -- you would never abuse power as retribution against anybody?" Hannity asked.

"Except for Day One" Trump responded.

"Meaning?" Hannity asked.

"I want to close the border and I want to drill, drill, drill...," Trump said.

"That's not retribution," Hannity interjected.

"We love this guy," Trump said, referring to Hannity. "He says, 'You're not going to be a dictator, are you?' I said, 'No, no, no, other than Day One. We're closing the border, and we're drilling, drilling, drilling. After that, I'm not a dictator.'"

Trump's comment comes as President Joe Biden is making what he calls the threat Trump poses to democracy a big part of his campaign message.

During a closed-door fundraiser Tuesday, Biden told donors, "If Trump wasn't running, I'm not sure I'd be running. But we cannot let him win."

The president later walked that back, telling reporters he'd still run even if Trump dropped out. A senior Biden campaign adviser told ABC News Biden is trying to underscore what's at stake in 2024.

Biden is facing low approval ratings -- and a slew of polls showing him neck-and-neck with Trump even with the former president facing multiple criminal indictments.

A new court filing in one of those cases makes it clear that special counsel Jack Smith is going to try to place the blame for the violence on Jan. 6 squarely on Trump -- making the case that rioters were doing essentially what Trump wanted them to do.

Smith plans to use Trump's own words to argue the former president is not only responsible for the violence on Jan. 6 -- but that "the rioters' disruption of the certification proceeding is exactly what the defendant intended."

Smith points to Trump's embrace of those who have been convicted and sentenced to prison for storming the Capitol.

"I call them the J6 hostages, not prisoners. I call them the hostages, what's happened – and it's a shame," he said at a rally in Houston.

Smith cites how Trump and his campaign have elevated the so-called J6 choir -- a group of prisoners who recorded a version of the national anthem from behind bars.

Trump played their recording -- with video images of the violence of Jan. 6 running in the background -- at the very first campaign rally of his 2024 campaign.

Smith also says he will present evidence Trump had enormous influence over the rioters, that he could stopped the violence but did not -- something Trump seemed to acknowledge in an interview not long after Jan. 6.

"I was thinking about going back during the problem to stop the problem, doing it myself," he said in March 2021. "Secret Service didn't like that idea too much. I could have done that and, you know what, I would have been very well received. Don't forget the people that went to Washington that day, in my opinion, they went because they thought the election was rigged. That's why they went."

Smith says Trump statements like that show these individuals acted as he directed them to, arguing it's proof of his intent that day to disrupt the certification and stop Biden from taking office.

Trump has pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The Trump campaign responded to Smith's filing by attacking Biden as well as the special counsel's team, accusing them of attempting to interfere in the 2024 election, claiming they are "perverting justice by trying to include claims that weren't anywhere to be found in their dreamt up, fake indictment," spokesperson Steven Cheung wrote in a statement to ABC News.

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Kevin McCarthy resigning from Congress after being ousted as House speaker

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(WASHINGTON) -- Former House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, who was ousted from his role by a faction of his own party earlier this year, will resign from Congress at the end of the month, he said on Wednesday.

"I have decided to depart the House at the end of this year to serve America in new ways," McCarthy wrote in an op-ed published in The Wall Street Journal. "I know my work is only getting started."

The announcement caps off McCarthy's fall from GOP leadership after rising to the speakership in a historic 15-round vote earlier this year. Speculation over McCarthy's future spiked after a band of eight Republican backbenchers engineered his historic ouster less than two months ago over personal and policy disputes. After his defeat, he sent conflicting messages over whether or not he would seek reelection, serve out the rest of his term set to end in January 2025 or leave the House early.

McCarthy insisted Wednesday that he'll remain involved, helping recruit and fundraise for House Republican candidates -- exercising one of his greatest strengths as a House leader.

"I will continue to recruit our country's best and brightest to run for elected office. The Republican Party is expanding every day, and I am committed to lending my experience to support the next generation of leaders," he wrote in The Journal.

Still, his departure will again diminish the power of one of his party's strongest fundraisers.

"Kevin McCarthy's contributions to our country and to growing the House Republican majority are unparalleled. A razor-sharp political mind, Kevin personally raised hundreds of millions of dollars and recruited hundreds of diverse candidates that led us from deep in the minority to the majority. This devotion to building our party is born from a strong love of country and a heart for service that motivates Kevin at his core," said Rep. Richard Hudson, R-N.C., who chairs House Republicans' campaign arm.

More immediately, his departure from Congress will shrink Republicans' already slim margin, which shrank after former Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., was expelled from the House last week in the wake of a scathing ethics report and a slew of federal charges. Santos has pleaded not guilty and defended himself.

Speaker Mike Johnson will only be able to lose three GOP votes on each measure before falling below a simple majority.

Johnson downplayed the impact of McCarthy's upcoming resignation, dismissing concerns that the former speaker's looming exit weakens the GOP majority.

Asked by ABC News whether McCarthy's resignation will have any adverse impact on his ability to run the House, Johnson said it wouldn't.

"No," Johnson said. "We're going to keep moving forward and I'm optimistic about that."

Johnson said he isn't concerned about losing McCarthy's vote and the potential that it could make it harder to pass votes.

"Our conference is working well together. And I'm confident in that," Johnson said.

Johnson praised McCarthy for his leadership in a post on X Wednesday. He said McCarthy and his wife Judy "have served faithfully and sacrificed substantially for the good of our country and our cause." Johnson told ABC News he is "sad to see [McCarthy] go."

One of McCarthy's rivals, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., who brought the so-called motion to vacate McCarthy as speaker, celebrated the California congressman's upcoming departure in a one-word post on X: "McLeavin'."

President Joe Biden "appreciates" the work he did alongside McCarthy despite their differences, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday.

"The president wishes Speaker McCarthy well and congratulates him on a career of service. While they have important differences about policy, the president appreciates that they were able to work across the aisle on important priorities for the American people,” Jean-Pierre said in the White House press briefing.

McCarthy's announcement before California's Dec. 8 campaign filing deadline is likely to open the floodgates for candidates to run for his ruby red congressional district, which includes a large part of the state's Central Valley. California Gov. Gavin Newsom will have to call a special election to replace McCarthy.

McCarthy is the third lawmaker who will resign from the 118th Congress rather than serve out the full two-year term. He joins Democrat Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island and Republican Rep. Chris Stewart of Utah, who both resigned earlier this year.

McCarthy's resignation ends his 16-year career in the House. He was first elected to Congress in 2006 and about four years later was elected to majority whip. He served as majority leader and House Republican leader before his historic rise to the speakership earlier this year.

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Five things to watch in the latest Republican debate

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(TUSCALOOSA, Ala.) -- Four Republican presidential candidates will face off in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, on Wednesday for the fourth debate of the 2024 primary.

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley, entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy and former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie will all appear on stage together for the last time before next month's Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary.

Former President Donald Trump, the heavyweight in the primary polls, will again skip the debate, this time hosting a fundraiser for his campaign.

Here are five things to watch on Wednesday:

Will a smaller stage make a difference?

Wednesday's four-person stage will be the smallest yet, after past debate participants like former Vice President Mike Pence, South Carolina Sen. Tim Scott and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum suspended their campaigns.

The most recent debate, last month, which featured Wednesday's four as well as Scott, featured longer answers on policy and noticeably less arguing and crosstalk, though the event was still interrupted by clashes between some of the contenders, especially Ramaswamy. The focus on policy, which allows candidates more time to make their pitches to the public, could be even greater with a smaller field.

Still, it's far from certain if voters' opinions will change in the final weeks before the primary begins: So far this year, Trump has maintained his double-digit lead even since he started skipping the debates, over the objections of his rivals.

The former president held counter-programming events to all three debates before Wednesday and does not appear to have paid a price for it in the eyes of the GOP base.

What will the big policy topics of the night be?

The Israel-Hamas war is anticipated to again be a major topic of the night after a cease-fire and hostage exchange deal fell apart and fighting resumed in Gaza, now nearly two months since Hamas' terror attack..

All of the candidates on stage Wednesday have voiced support for Israel, though Ramaswamy in the past has suggested ultimately curtailing the support Washington offers Jerusalem.

The debate also comes as Congress is still working to pass a sprawling bill proposed by the Biden administration that would provide funding for Israel, Ukraine, allies in the Indo-Pacific and beefed-up resources on the southern border.

The candidates are likely to be asked about health care, too, after Trump last week floated repealing the Affordable Care Act, an erstwhile Republican priority that the GOP largely forsook after multiple failed efforts to repeal the law, also known as Obamacare.

The remarks from the primary front-runner could spotlight how other candidates view the country's health care system.

"Here's what I will do: What I think they're going to need to do is have a plan that will supersede Obamacare, that will lower prices for people so that they can afford health care while also making sure that people will preexisting conditions are protected. And we're going to look at the big institutions that are causing prices to be high: Big Pharma, big insurance and big government," DeSantis said Sunday on Meet the Press.

Do DeSantis and Haley target each other or Trump?

Haley has surged into a battle for distant second place with DeSantis in the wake of three straight debate performances that all polled well, though both she and DeSantis remain far behind Trump in most surveys.

The two have traded barbs in recent weeks as DeSantis has faced stagnating poll numbers and key turnover at the main super PAC supporting his campaign.

Still, it's unclear if the two will aim more at each other on Wednesday to try to cement their hold on second place in the hopes of emerging as the chief Trump alternative or target Trump more directly to try and narrow the polling deficit both face.

DeSantis has called out Trump more directly, including over his absence from the past debates, while Haley has more obliquely referenced the "drama" of the Trump administration in which she served.

Christie squeaks in

Christie appears to have been the final candidate to qualify for the fourth debate, narrowly meeting the polling threshold with a last-minute survey that went into the field just before the Republican National Committee's deadline.

The New Jersey Republican's explicitly anti-Trump message is a stark difference from the other candidates and is thought to be likely resulting in a lower ceiling of support among the GOP primary electorate, with whom he has polled relatively poorly except in New Hampshire.

Christie is largely hinging his campaign on a strong showing in the primary there, with a group of voters who famously see themselves as more independent-minded.

Still, Haley has passed him, prompting calls from Republicans for him to drop out to try to consolidate support in the state, which holds its primary right before South Carolina, Haley's home state.

Ramaswamy could reprise role as disruptor

On the debate stage so far, Ramaswamy has said he has embraced his role as a provocateur, calling out candidates and moderators alike -- and often drawing sharp criticism as a result.

Clashes with Ramaswamy became personal at the last debate, when Haley accused him of being "scum" after he raised her daughter's past use of TikTok.

Still, his disruptive style has failed to produce an ongoing level of voter support despite also ramping up his campaign infrastructure in Iowa.

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Jan. 6 attack was 'exactly' what Trump intended, special counsel claims in court filing

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(WASHINGTON) -- Special counsel Jack Smith, in a court filing Tuesday, detailed additional evidence he plans to introduce at the trial of former President Donald Trump on charges of unlawfully trying to overturn the results of the 2020 election, including evidence of Trump's alleged state of mind as his supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

"This evidence shows that the rioters' disruption of the certification proceeding is exactly what the defendant intended on January 6," Smith said in the filing.

Smith's office, in the filing, provided notice of a range of information and testimony prosecutors hope to introduce at trial that -- while not part of the actual charges against Trump -- will speak to his "motive, intent, preparation, knowledge ... and common plan," they say.

The evidence, according to the filing, includes statements from Trump dating back to 2012 in which he leveled baseless allegations of voting fraud, which prosecutors say "demonstrate the defendant's common plan of falsely blaming fraud for election results he does not like."

Prosecutors said they will also show the jury statements Trump made in the lead-up to both the 2016 and 2020 elections, where he refused to commit to a peaceful transition of power.

To support their allegation that Trump pressured state officials to overturn the election results, Smith's office says it will present evidence of an unnamed Trump campaign employee who sought to obstruct the vote count in Michigan on Election Day.

Smith said his office has texts from the unnamed employee showing the employee was encouraging "rioting and other methods of obstruction" at the convention center in Detroit when votes in the state began trending in support of Joe Biden. As Trump's supporters flooded the convention center to raise illegitimate challenges to votes being counted, Trump tweeted baseless allegations that there was illegal activity taking place there, further fueling the chaos, according to Smith.

Smith's office also said it will introduce evidence of Trump and a co-conspirator's efforts to retaliate against a former chief counsel of the Republican National Committee who publicly repudiated Trump's claims of a stolen 2020 election.

Smith additionally plans to present evidence of Trump and his allies' attacks against Georgia election workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, whose defamation case against former Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani is set to go to trial next week. The evidence will include disparaging posts Trump made immediately after the pair's testimony before the Jan. 6 select committee, where they detailed how Trump's supporters targeted them with death threats after his false attacks.

Trump's vocal support of Jan. 6 defendants and even specific members of the Proud Boys will also be used by Smith at trial, the filing says, to demonstrate what prosecutors say is Trump's awareness of how his followers respond to his rallying cries and his ongoing approval of their actions at the Capitol. This will include Trump's financial support to the so-called "Jan. 6 Prison Choir," which includes Jan. 6 defendants who attacked police. Smith plans to play video at trial of the choir singing in a recording before Trump began speaking at a rally, as well as comments he has made pledging to pardon many rioters.

"Evidence of the defendant's post-conspiracy embrace of particularly violent and notorious rioters is admissible to establish the defendant's motive and intent on January 6 -- that he sent supporters, including groups like the Proud Boys, whom he knew were angry, and whom he now calls 'patriots,' to the Capitol to achieve the criminal objective of obstructing the congressional certification," Smith says in the filing.

"In addition, his statements in this time period agreeing that he then held, and still holds, enormous influence over his supporters' actions is evidence of his knowledge and intent to obstruct the certification, as he chose not to exercise that influence to mitigate the violence on January 6," the filing says, adding that "evidence of the defendant's statements regarding possible pardons for January 6 offenders is admissible to help the jury assess the credibility and motives of trial witnesses, because through such comments, the defendant is publicly signaling that the law does not apply to those who act at his urging regardless of the legality of their actions."

Trump campaign spokesperson Steven Cheung wrote in a statement to ABC News that prosecutors are "getting so desperate to attack President Trump that they are perverting justice by trying to include claims that weren’t anywhere to be found in their dreamt up, fake indictment."

Trump in August pleaded not guilty to charges of undertaking a "criminal scheme" to overturn the results of the 2020 election by enlisting a slate of so-called "fake electors," using the Justice Department to conduct "sham election crime investigations," trying to enlist the vice president to "alter the election results," and promoting false claims of a stolen election as the Jan. 6 riot raged -- all in an effort to subvert democracy and remain in power.

The former president has denied all wrongdoing and denounced the charges as "a persecution of a political opponent."

The case is currently scheduled to go to trial on March 4.

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House will vote to formalize Biden impeachment inquiry next week, Johnson says

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(WASHINGTON) -- The House will hold a formal vote to authorize the ongoing Republican-led impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden, Speaker Mike Johnson announced Tuesday.

Johnson said the House is at an "inflection point" and accused the White House of "stonewalling" the investigation, which was launched by former Speaker Kevin McCarthy back in September.

"They're refusing to turn over key witnesses to allow them to testify as they've been subpoenaed," Johnson claimed of the Biden administration. "They're refusing to turn over thousands of documents for the National Archives. The House has no choice, if it's going to follow its constitutional responsibility, to formally adopt an impeachment inquiry on the floor so that when the subpoenas are challenged in court we'll be at the apex of our constitutional authority."

White House spokesperson Ian Sams, in a memo last week, refuted claims that the White House is obstructing the inquiry. Sams said House Republicans have had access to 35,000 pages of financial records, 36 hours of witness interviews and more.

Johnson made clear the vote, which he and other GOP leaders said will be held next week, is not a vote to impeach President Biden but one that will allow lawmakers to "continue on pace" with the inquiry.

McCarthy, later ousted from the speakership in a historic vote, was criticized for not holding a vote to open the inquiry -- as had been precedent. At the time, it wasn't clear McCarthy had the support necessary to win a vote on the full House floor.

Johnson said Tuesday he believed Republicans would get the votes they need, saying the moderates in the GOP conference "understand this is not a political decision."

"This is a legal decision. It's a constitutional decision," he said. "Whether someone is for or against impeachment is not of import right now. We have to continue our legal responsibility and that is only solely what this vote is about."

Other Republican leaders, including House Majority Leader Steve Scalise and Whip Tom Emmer, also told reporters to expect a vote next week but did not elaborate on what day it will take place. The House is scheduled to go on recess on Dec. 14.

Moderate Rep. John Duarte, a California Republican, said he is "ready to see this impeachment inquiry go forward as quickly as possible" but cautioned the vote to authorize the inquiry will be close.

"The only impeachment we are going to do is an impeachment based on very serious facts and very serious charges and allegations. If we have both of those then we need to move forward as quickly as possible," Duarte added.

House Republicans have alleged, without proof, that Biden was directly involved in and benefited from his family's business dealings. The White House has called the inquiry "extreme politics at its worst."

Lawmakers have held one public hearing which offered several contentious moments but no new evidence.

At that hearing, legal experts said they didn't believe there wasn't enough evidence yet to warrant bringing impeachment articles against Biden.

Since then, House Oversight Committee chairman James Comer has issued subpoenas for President Biden's son Hunter and his brother James, as well as subpoenas to individuals with connections to Hunter Biden.

The subpoenas instructed Hunter Biden to appear for a closed-door deposition on Dec. 13 and James Biden to appear on Dec. 6. Hunter Biden responded that he was willing to testify before Congress, but in a public setting. Comer and others are insisting on a closed-door interview first.

The White House slammed the subpoenas as "irresponsible" and "unjustified."

Fact-checking Comer's latest claims

Comer on Monday announced the latest revelation from his probe into the Biden family: bank records showing that Joe Biden accepted monthly payments from his son Hunter's company, Owasco PC.

Despite Comer's tightly choreographed rollout -- complete with a video monologue in which he describes the finding as further evidence of "blatant corruption" by the Biden family -- the committee released few details.

The panel tweeted out one bank record from September 2018, when Biden was out of office, showing a payment from Owasco PC to Joe Biden for $1,380 -- but it did not suggest how many monthly payments were made, what they were for, and how much money changed hands.

On Tuesday, an attorney for Hunter Biden added responded.

"The truth is Hunter's father helped him when he was struggling financially due to his addiction and could not secure credit to finance a truck," said Abbe Lowell. "When Hunter was able to, he paid his father back and took over the payments himself."

A person familiar with the arrangement said Hunter Biden sent around $4,000 to his father in three installments to repay him for car payments on a Ford Raptor truck, which the Daily Mail reported in 2021.

The person added that Hunter Biden's credit was low at the time -- a result of his drug addiction -- so his father helped him finance the vehicle.

"There Chairman Comer goes again," Lowell continued, "reheating what is old as new to try to revive his sham of an investigation."

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