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U.S. appeals court grants Justice Dept expedited appeal in Trump case

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A U.S. appeals court on Wednesday granted the Justice Department’s request to expedite its appeal of an order appointing a special master to review records the FBI seized from former President Donald Trump’s Florida estate.

(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch and Ismail Shakil; Writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by Tim Ahmann)


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Biden disappointed by ‘shortsighted’ cut by OPEC+, White House says

By Jarrett Renshaw

WASHINGTON (Reuters) -U.S. President Joe Biden is calling on his administration and Congress to explore ways to boost U.S. energy production and reduce OPEC’s control over energy prices after the cartel’s “shortsighted” production cut, the White House said on Wednesday.

Biden will also continue to direct releases from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve “as necessary,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said in a statement.

Previously, the White House had committed to ending releases from the Strategic Petroleum Reserves in the coming weeks, but said on Wednesday it will continue to release them “as appropriate.” Earlier this year, Biden ordered up to 180 million barrels released from the reserve.

OPEC+ at a Vienna meeting on Wednesday ignored pleas from the White House to keep oil flowing and agreed to cut output by 2 million barrels per day, its deepest cuts in production since the 2020 COVID pandemic.

“The President is disappointed by the shortsighted decision by OPEC+ to cut production quotas while the global economy is dealing with the continued negative impact of Putin’s invasion of Ukraine,” the statement said.

(Reporting by Susan Heavey and Jarrett Renshaw; editing by Tim Ahmann and David Gregorio)


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White House: Biden disappointed by ‘shortsighted’ cut by OPEC+ (AUDIO)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden is calling on his administration and Congress to explore ways to boost U.S. energy production and reduce OPEC’s control over energy prices after the cartel’s “shortsighted” production cut, the White House said on Wednesday.

Biden will also continue to direct releases from the nation’s Strategic Petroleum Reserve as necessary, national security adviser Jake Sullivan and National Economic Council Director Brian Deese said in a statement.

 

(Reporting by Susan Heavey; editing by Tim Ahmann)


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Republican LePage says he would veto 15-week abortion ban

PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Former Republican Gov. Paul LePage, who’s seeking his old job back, said he’d veto a bill banning abortions at 15 weeks, delivering disappointing news to abortion opponents.

LePage provided the answer in a labored exchange Tuesday evening during the first debate of the governor’s race with current Democratic Gov. Janet Mills and independent Sam Hunkler.

Mills is an unequivocal supporter of the right to an abortion, and Democrats have hammered LePage on the issue, seeking to energize voters after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion.

LePage, who has generally avoided the issue, said during the debate that he supports current state law that bans abortions after a fetus becomes viable outside the womb, at roughly 24 weeks.

But when pressed by Mills and moderators, he answered “yes” and nodded when asked if he would veto a bill banning abortions before 15 weeks.

Karen Vachon, executive director of Maine Right to Life, said Wednesday she was disappointed by LePage’s answer. “It is very disturbing that he wouldn’t support a ban after 15 weeks,” she said.

Democrats have been attacking LePage after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled there is no constitutional right to an abortion, allowing states to decide the issue themselves. Maine’s abortion law went into place in 1993.

As governor, LePage, who was raised as a Roman Catholic, participated in the “Hands Around The Capitol” event protesting the Supreme Court Roe v Wade decision that legalized abortion.

But abortion never arose as a political issue during LePage’s two terms in office. He’s now seeking to unseat Mills in one of a dozen or so competitive governor’s races across the country.

It’s a thorny topic.

In Arizona, a spokesperson had to clarify remarks made by the Republican candidate for Arizona governor, Kari Lake, after she said abortions should be “rare and legal” before saying they should be “rare and safe.” The spokesperson said Lake is not calling for changes to abortion laws after a judge ruled that prosecutors can enforce a near-total ban on abortions.

During the debate exchange in Maine, LePage insisted he wasn’t interested in pressing for a bill to restrict or ban abortions, but lawmakers could act on their own. Democrats currently control both chambers.

Mills has stated repeatedly that she supports keeping abortions legal in Maine. “My veto pen will stand in the way of any restrictions on the right to abortion,” Mills said Tuesday evening.

While LePage said he supports the current law, he said he opposes taxpayer-funded abortions, meaning he opposes abortions provided through the state’s MaineCare program.

On a different topic, LePage was asked if he considered the election of President Joe Biden to be legitimate. LePage, who previously expressed concerns about voter fraud, answered yes. All three candidates also said they’d accept the outcome in November.

The debate was sponsored by the Portland Press Herald, Sun Journal and Maine Public. The candidates tackled issues including inflation and the economy, the state’s opioid crisis, and education.

___

Follow David Sharp on Twitter @David_Sharp_AP


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In Wisconsin, Michels’ shift on abortion isn’t 1st reversal

MADISON, Wis. (AP) — Republican Tim Michels was talking to a roomful of party activists in early September when he fielded a question about his position on abortion. Michels vowed he would never change, and said he was “winning” his race against Democratic Gov. Tim Evers precisely because people saw him as “a man of conviction, a man who doesn’t waffle.”

Two weeks later, Michels retreated from his unqualified support for Wisconsin’s 1849 law banning abortion except to save the life of the mother, saying if elected he would sign legislation to grant exceptions for rape and incest.

It wasn’t the first time Michels changed course on a significant issue. Since getting into the race in April, Michels endorsed Donald Trump for a 2024 run, after first declining to support anyone; said the state’s bipartisan election commission should be eliminated, after first saying he wanted to keep it; and began welcoming big-dollar donations after earlier saying he wouldn’t take any larger than $500.

Michels and Evers are in a close race with broad implications for national politics in 2024 and beyond. Evers has highlighted his status as the only barrier to total GOP control, including his vetoes this year of Republican legislation that would have made it more difficult for some voters to cast ballots in the key battleground state. A Michels victory would give the GOP free rein to pass those changes and more.

It’s the most expensive governor’s race in the nation in terms of ad spending, with both sides spending about $55 million on TV so far, according to AdImpact Politics, which tracks spending by major campaigns.

Michels declined an interview request. But when asked about his change in position at a campaign stop Tuesday, Michels said, “I’ve been very clear and consistent throughout that I am pro-life, and I make no apologies for that.”

Michels said he would sign a bill creating abortion exceptions in cases of rape and incest because if the Legislature passes it, that means “the people have spoken.”

It’s not clear whether Michels will pay any price with voters for his evolving position on abortion or other issues. Brandon Scholz, a Republican strategist, said he doubted it. Most voters have already decided whom they support, he said.

“The independents that started in this race after the primary have picked their sides,” Scholz said. “Republicans have made up their minds on Michels. I don’t see anything out there that would move Republicans to vote for Tony Evers.”

That hasn’t stopped Evers from seeking to batter Michels on the abortion issue.

“It’s not surprising he would make a last-minute, dishonest attempt to hide his radical record on abortion, education, and more,” Evers said in a statement to The Associated Press.

Michels is in his first campaign since an unsuccessful run for U.S. Senate 18 years ago. Barry Burden, a political science professor and director of the Elections Research Center at the University of Wisconsin, said such candidates “make mistakes sometimes.”

“They say things that commit then to a position or a path that they eventually don’t want to be on so that creates inconsistencies with their positions as they try to walk back earlier views,” he said.

Michels’ abortion shift came after a primary fight where his chief rival, former Lt. Gov. Rebecca Kleefisch, also opposed the rape and incest exceptions. After winning, Michels clearly came under pressure to soften his position, Burden said.

A Marquette University Law School poll taken shortly before Michels’ reversal found 83% of respondents — including 70% of Republicans — supported exceptions for rape and incest.

“Abortion is a little bit of a worrying sign for Republicans as an issue and it might be the only thing that ends up saving some Democrats who are having a tough go of it,” Burden said.

To push back, Michels accuses Evers of breaking promises with voters on a variety of issues, including changes in approach to fighting COVID-19 in 2020. He also points out that Evers proposed tax increases, after saying he didn’t intend to raise taxes, and then later took credit for tax cuts passed by the GOP-controlled Legislature that he signed into law.

As part of his strategy to make the race about crime and safety, Michels has also attacked Evers over his administration paroling people convicted of murder and rape and said that Evers has broken his promise made in 2018 not to release violent offenders.

Evers does not determine who is granted parole, something that has occurred routinely under both Republican and Democratic governors for decades.

___

Follow AP for full coverage of the midterms at https://apnews.com/hub/2022-midterm-elections and on Twitter at https://twitter.com/ap_politics


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U.S. awards $75 million loan to California county to extend high occupancy vehicle lanes

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Transportation Department on Wednesday awarded a $75 million low-interest loan to a California county to construct a 7.5-mile extension of the High Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes.

The Santa Barbara County Local Transportation Authority will use the loan to expand the lanes on busy U.S. 101. The county’s $456 million highway project also includes rebuilding interchanges and other improvements and is expected to be completed in 2025. Southern California has among the most congested highways in the United States.

(Reporting by David Shepardson)


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Biden to tour storm-damaged Florida, meet with DeSantis (AUDIO)

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – President Joe Biden travels to Florida on Wednesday and will pledge support to help the state recover from the Hurricane Ian during a visit that includes a meeting with Governor Ron DeSantis, a possible rival in the 2024 presidential race.

The Democratic president and the Republican governor are at odds over scores of issues, including climate change, which experts blame for Florida’s increasingly wet, windy and intense hurricanes.

More than 100 people died and nearly 400,000 homes and businesses remained without power in Florida on Tuesday, five days after Hurricane Ian crashed across the state. On Monday, Biden visited Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory battered by Hurricane Fiona last month.

Biden will survey Florida’s badly damaged Fort Myers by helicopter, before meeting with residents and disaster-relief officials, as well as DeSantis, according to the White House.

Biden has been in regular communication with DeSantis during the crisis and the federal government picked up a significant share of the initial disaster relief. Last week, Biden said his relationship with DeSantis is “irrelevant” but “very fine.”

When Biden visited Florida in July after a condominium complex collapsed and killed nearly 100 people, he said, “we’re letting the nation know we can cooperate when it’s really important,” as he and DeSantis sat shoulder to shoulder.

On climate change, Biden has made reducing carbon emissions a focus of his presidency, while DeSantis backed funding to harden Florida’s defenses against flooding but also opposed some previous disaster-relief aid and pushed pension funds not to consider environmental impact when they invest.

Before Hurricane Ian hit, Biden had planned a rally in the political battleground state last week. Then, Democratic officials expected Biden to attack DeSantis’ approach, which has included shunning COVID-19 lockdowns, mocking Biden’s age and abilities, penalizing Walt Disney World Resort for opposing state laws limiting discussion of LGBTQ issues in schools and flying Venezuelan immigrants from Texas to Martha’s Vineyard.

 

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt. Editing by Gerry Doyle)


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Trump asks Supreme Court to intervene in Mar-a-Lago dispute

WASHINGTON (AP) — Lawyers for former President Donald Trump asked the U.S. Supreme Court on Tuesday to step into the legal fight over the classified documents seized during an FBI raid of his Florida estate, escalating a dispute over the powers of an independent arbiter appointed to inspect the records.

The Trump team asked the justices to overturn a lower court ruling and allow the arbiter, called a special master, to review the roughly 100 documents with classification markings that that were taken in the Aug. 8 search of Mar-a-Lago.

A three-judge panel from the Atlanta-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit last month limited the special master’s review to the much larger tranche of non-classified documents. The judges, including two Trump appointees, sided with the Justice Department, which had argued there was no legal basis for the special master to conduct his own review of the classified records.

But Trump’s lawyers said in their application to the Supreme Court that it was essential for the special master to have access to the classified records to “determine whether documents bearing classification markings are in fact classified, and regardless of classification, whether those records are personal records or Presidential records.”

“Since President Trump had absolute authority over classification decisions during his Presidency, the current status of any disputed document cannot possibly be determined solely by reference to the markings on that document,” the application states.

It says that without the special master review, “the unchallenged views of the current Justice Department would supersede the established authority of the Chief Executive.” An independent review, the Trump team says, ensures a “transparent process that provides much-needed oversight.”

The FBI says it seized roughly 11,000 documents, including about 100 with classification markings, during its search. The Trump team asked a judge in Florida, Aileen Cannon, to appoint a special master to do an independent review of the records.

Cannon subsequently assigned a veteran Brooklyn judge, Raymond Dearie, to review the records and segregate those that may be protected by claims of attorney-client privilege and executive privilege. She also barred the FBI from being able to use the classified documents as part of its criminal investigation.

The Justice Department appealed, prompting the 11th Circuit to lift Cannon’s hold on investigators’ ability to scrutinize the classified records. The appeals court also ruled that the department did not have to provide Dearie with access to the classified records.

Trump’s lawyers submitted the Supreme Court application to Justice Clarence Thomas, who oversees emergency matters from Florida and several other Southern states. Thomas can act on his own or, as is usually done, refer the emergency appeal to the rest of the court. Late Tuesday the court said the government was being asked to respond to the petition by Oct. 11.

 


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Lawmakers press U.S. Commerce for tougher checks on semiconductor chip subsidies

By David Shepardson

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A group of Democratic lawmakers wants the U.S. Commerce Department to take additional steps to ensure semiconductor companies do not use government subsidies to conduct stock buybacks.

In August, President Joe Biden signed legislation providing $52 billion in government funding to boost semiconductor manufacturing and research and a 25% investment tax credit for chip plants estimated to be worth $24 billion.

“Without strict controls, we are concerned that CHIPS funding may result in a subsidy for additional buybacks, enriching executives and stockholders at taxpayers’ expense while undermining the goals of the legislation,” said the letter signed by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Tammy Baldwin and Representatives Sean Casten, Jamaal Bowman, Pramila Jayapal

and Bill Foster.

Commerce has said it will “give preference in awards to companies who commit to make future investments that grow the domestic semiconductor industry … and not engage in stock buybacks.”

The letter to Commerce Secretary Gina Raimondo notes the largest U.S. semiconductor companies have spent hundreds of billions on stock buybacks in recent years, with Intel spending over $100 billion on buybacks since 2005.

Commerce hopes to begin seeking applications by February for $39 billion in semiconductor chips subsidies to build new facilities and expand existing U.S. production.

Commerce, which confirmed it received the letter, has said chips companies awards will be “no larger than is necessary to ensure the project happens here in the United States” and will discourage “race-to-the-bottom subsidy competitions between states and localities.”

Chipmaker Micron Technology said Tuesday it planned to invest up to $100 billion over the next 20-plus years to build a computer chip factory complex in upstate New York.

The lawmakers expect Commerce “to announce additional protections and to refine its existing guidance over the coming weeks and months” and ask if Commerce will require companies to attest on applications for chips funding “that they will not engage in buybacks for a set period of time.”

(Reporting by David Shepardson; Editing by Kim Coghill)


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As Florida tries to recover, Biden to tour the state and meet with DeSantis

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden will visit hurricane-ravaged Florida with a pledge that federal, state and local governments will work as one to help rebuild homes, businesses and lives — putting politics on mute for now to focus on those in need.

Hurricane Ian has resulted in at least 84 people confirmed dead, including 75 in Florida, as hundreds of thousands of people wait for power to be restored. Ian’s 150 mph winds and punishing storm surge last week took out power for 2.6 million in Florida. Many people are unable to access food and water.

Biden planned to meet Wednesday with residents and small business owners in Fort Myers, Florida, and to thank government officials providing emergency aid and removing debris.

With the midterm elections just a month away, the crisis had the potential to bring together political rivals in common cause at least for a time.

Joining Biden in Florida will be two of his most prominent Republican critics: Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Sen. Rick Scott, according to the White House and Scott’s spokesman. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre suggested Tuesday that it would be inappropriate for them to focus on political differences.

“There will be plenty of time, plenty of time, to discuss differences between the president and the governor — but now is not the time,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at a White House briefing. “When it comes to delivering and making sure that the people of Florida have what they need, especially after Hurricane Ian, we are one. We are working as one.”

Biden typically waits to visit the scene of a natural disaster, to ensure his presence and the fleet of vehicles that accompany him will not hinder the rescue efforts.

The hurricane changed the purpose and tone of Biden’s first trip to Florida this year.

DeSantis confirmed Tuesday he’d be meeting with Biden in the hurricane zone and he praised the administration’s Federal Emergency Management Agency for declaring an emergency before Ian made landfall.

“That was huge because everyone was full steam ahead. They knew they had the ability to do it,” DeSantis said. “We appreciate it. I think FEMA’s worked very well with the state and local.”

Politicians’ responses to natural disasters have the power to make or break political careers.

As Florida’s governor for eight years, Jeb Bush maintained a steady response to a parade of hurricanes and was rewarded with sky-high approval ratings. President George W. Bush and Louisiana lawmakers’ more troubled response to Hurricane Katrina in 2005 still hangs over their legacies.

Former New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, the Republican who welcomed President Barack Obama to his state to survey Hurricane Sandy damage just days before the 2012 general election, said that during natural disasters “the best political strategy is to have no political strategy, to do your job.”

Christie ended up the target of some in his own party who believed that his warm welcome for Obama helped cement the Democrat’s reelection, but he has no regrets.

“At core this is what government is there for, it’s to protect the safety and the welfare of the people,” Christie said in an interview Tuesday. “The only thing that should be on the president’s mind, on Gov. DeSantis’s mind, on (Sen.) Marco Rubio’s mind is the turmoil and the tragedy that’s happened to people’s lives and how we can make it better.”

Christie noted that the comparisons to Sandy aren’t exact — Biden is two years away from being a candidate himself, and DeSantis is weeks, not days, from facing voters in his reelection bid. But Christie said any attempts to score political points would be admonished at the polls.

“Playing games is not what this is about,” Christie said. “This is a pretty transparent time and people will get it — that’s not what they want, and they’ll punish you for it.”


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