Ted Cruz rails against Fauci as CPAC panelists joke about killing journalists – live

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CPAC crowd boos Anthony Fauci during cable news compilation on Covid origins

Criticism of Joe Biden’s administration, the Chinese surveillance balloon, attacks on transgender Americans and “wokeness” are recurrent themes at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, a four-day gathering for right-wing activists and Republican officials from across the US.

In a joint appearance, Ted Cruz and JD Vance elevated the “lab leak” theory concerning the origins of Covid-19 and raged against Dr Anthony Fauci as the crowd chanted “lock him up”. Other panelists repeatedly returned to familiar conservative grievances and took aim at fentanyl overdoses and immigration, waged anti-trans attacks and criticised the “liberal media,” with several panelists joking about “hunting the media for sport.”

Donald Trump will be Saturday night’s headliner once again, seeking to re-establish his grip over the Republican Party. Meanwhile, American Conservative Union chair Matt Schlapp, whose organisation runs the conference and who has served as a key figure elevating the former president and his movement, faces accusations of sexual misconduct from a former Republican campaign aide.


DeSantis and Pence are too boring for CPAC, according to Trump

Trump says he’s preparing a “monster speech” to cap off 2023’s CPAC conference at his Saturday appearance.

His potential 2024 GOP rivals, Ron DeSantis and Mike Pence, won’t be there. They’re too boring to make an appearance, accordingto the former president.

“The only reason certain ‘candidates’ won’t be going to CPAC is because the crowds have no interest in anything they have to say. They’ve heard it all before, and don’t want to hear it again,” he wrote on Truth Social on Thursday.

Alex Woodward3 March 2023 10:00


ICYMI: Fentanyl panic stories hit the stage at CPAC

In a panel on US-Mexico border security and the import of fentanyl, Republican US Rep Mark Green revived a familiar and false trope about the synthetic opioid on CPAC panel on Thursday.

News outlets have repeatedly picked up local police warnings about dollar bills laced with fentanyl, and police agencies have repeatedly claimed that officers have experienced overdoses or faced some kind of exposure illness after coming in contact with the drug.

Multiple assessments from toxicologists, public health experts, drug policy researchers and law enforcement agencies’ own guidance when it comes to fentanyl have debunked those claims, which continue to make headlines despite their spurious contents.

“Pick up a dollar, and it’s got fentanyl on it, and you’re dead,” Mr Green said at CPAC on Thursday. That is false; it is not possible to experience such a reaction from merely touching the drug.

“Every American,” he claimed, “is at risk” from fentanyl.

Alex Woodward3 March 2023 09:00


ICYMI: Trump-era ICE director says he does not ‘give a s***’ about being sued over family separation policy

Republican officials suddenly concerned with the mounting crisis facing people fleeing South American and Central American regimes at the US-Mexico border after Trump left the White House are calling for the impeachment of Homeland Security secretary Alejandro Mayorkas.

Former ICE director Tom Homan – who said that Mr Mayorkas has “blood on his hands” for fentanyl deaths – repeatedly, falsely suggested that there were fewer acts of violence against people crossing the southern border under the Trump administration.

Human rights watchdogs uncovered “massive human rights violations against migrants and asylum seekers” after Trump implemented the so-called “Remain in Mexico” policy in 2019. Nearly 70,000 people were impacted by the policy, but fewer than 53,000 people – less than one percent – were granted relief.

Advocates and government agencies also uncovered chaos from the Trump-era Title 42 policy, which prevented people from seeking asylum under US and international accords, and a family separation policy that removed hundreds of children from their families at border crossings.

“I’m sick and tired of hearing about the family separation. And I’m still being sued about that. I don’t give a s****,” he said.

Deaths from synthetic opioids soared under Trump’s presidency, from 28,659 annual overdose-related deaths in 2017 to more than 56,000 in his final full year in office in 2020. Deaths have continued to climb, with 71,238 in 2021, the most recent data from the CDC, which notes the increase was half of what it was a year earlier, when overdose deaths rose by 30 per cent from 2019 to 2020.

“No one did more, bottom line” on immigration than Trump, Mr Homan claimed. He said he offered to work for free because he is so “p***** off”.

Alex Woodward3 March 2023 08:00


Brick suits, lawsuits, insults and pillows: The otherworldly atmosphere at CPAC

While celebrations of Donald Trump and a rallying cry for 2024 were clearly a central part of day one of the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), they were far from the only emotions in the air.

There was also a deep anger at the mainstream news press, which they argued was nothing more but a tool of the Democratic Party. There was frequent griping from many in attendance about the apparent blacklisting of election deniers by the biggest right-wing networks like Fox News and Newsmax.

Some, like podcaster and noted sidewalk-parker Sebastian Gorka were utterly hamfisted in their critiques. Mr Gorka was spotted yelling at The Bulwark’s Tim Miller that he was “f***ing fake news” and should “go to hell”, before he told The Independent’s correspondent minutes later that he should “get a real job”.

Experience day one of CPAC 2023 with John Bowden:

The otherworldly atmosphere at CPAC as Trump waits in the wings

The increasingly rightward-tilting conservative conference boasts a disjointed mix of suited lawmakers and Trump fans in fancy dress amid a circus vibe familiar to events featuring the former president. John Bowden reports from National Harbor, Maryland

John Bowden3 March 2023 07:00


GOP congressman calls Mark Milley a ‘traitor’ and claims children are ‘not safe’ in school

During a CPAC panel on Thursday, far-right congressman Ralph Norman of South Carolina called Joint Chiefs of Staff chair Mark Milley – a decorated service member and highest-ranking military officer in the nation’s armed forces – “a traitor”.

Moments earlier at his CPAC appearance alongside US Rep Scott Perry, Mr Norman dismissed Vice President Kamala Harris as “the giggler” as he mentioned the possibility of impeaching Joe Biden and lambasted the Biden administration and its response to the Chinese surveillance balloon.

Mr Perry said breaches into American airspace should be “met with maximum force” against China.

In his closing remarks on the panel, Mr Norman claimed that “our children are not safe” in America’s schools, amplifying right-wing moral panic involving teachers, LGBT+ rights and discussion of race and racism in classrooms and workplaces.

“What’s happening to them … is evil,” he said.

Alex Woodward3 March 2023 06:00


Trump can be sued by police over Jan 6, Justice Department says

Attorneys for the Justice Department’s civil rights division determined that the realm of protected speech from the president “does not include incitement of imminent private violence” as a group of US Capitol Police officers and Democratic lawmakers seek to hold Mr Trump accountable for the Capitol riot in a lawsuit.

An appeals court reviewing the lawsuit turned to the Justice Department for an opinion in December.

“Presidents may at times use strong rhetoric. And some who hear that rhetoric may overreact, or even respond with violence,” attorneys for the Justice Department said on Thursday.

“Just as denying First Amendment protection to incitement does not unduly chill speech in general, denying absolute immunity to incitement of imminent private violence should not unduly chill the President in the performance of his traditional function of speaking to the public on matters of public concern,” they added.

Alex Woodward3 March 2023 04:00


America’s Frontline Doctors, the Covid denialist organisation sponsoring CPAC

This year’s CPAC is sponsored by one of the “top purveyors” of Covid-19 misinformation, accotding to a member of Congress, and has been compared to a modern snake-oil salesman.

The group, called America’s Frontline Doctors , passes itself as any other medical organisation, but public health experts and critics say it has promoted pseudoscientific Covid cures like using horse dewormer, fostered anti-vaccine sentiment, and abused donor funds.

The Independent’s Josh Marcus reports:

Alex Woodward3 March 2023 03:00


House Republicans hang Oversight chair James Comer out to dry after shocking Beau Biden remarks

Oversight Committee chairman James Comer drew outrage from the White House and veterans groups after he suggested that Beau Biden, the late Delaware attorney general and son of President Joe Biden, should have faced criminal charges over a Delaware political scandal in which he was found to have done nothing wrong.

House Republicans at CPAC declined to defend – or condemn – the congressman during Thursday’s events.

Several Republicans, including Matt Gaetz and Ralph Norman, told The Independent’s Andrew Feinberg that they hadn’t seen Comer’s comments.

Alex Woodward3 March 2023 01:00


‘In a really embarrassing CPAC speech, cool dads Ted Cruz and JD Vance tell it like it is’

The Independent’s Holly Baxter writes:

Where else does Jair Bolsonaro, former far-right Brazilian president known for Covid denialism and selling off the rainforest, speak alongside ex-con Steve Bannon and Jewish space laser believer Marjorie Taylor Greene? In other words, where else can conservatives in this country — and by conservatives, obviously, I mean the extreme right of the right-wing Republican Party which only sometimes believes in democracy and definitely doesn’t believe your diabetic child has the right to $35 insulin — truly be free?

CPAC is the only place.

Alex Woodward3 March 2023 00:00


Trump and DeSantis to visit Iowa within days of one another

On 10 March, Ron DeSantis is set to visit Iowa, long considered the benchmark for presidential candidates’ political viability with its “first in the nation” primary election status.

The Florida governor will visit Davenport and Des Moines to promote his new book, The Courage to Be Free, according to the Associated Press.

Three days later, Donald Trump will be there.

DeSantis will not be at this year’s CPAC; Trump is headlining on Saturday.

Underscoring the division over the GOP’s future, the governor is expected to attend a Club for Growth’s private retreat in Florida, where Mike Pence, Senator Tim Scott, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem and New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu are expectedto attend. None are on the CPAC schedule.

Alex Woodward2 March 2023 23:05

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