Nikki Haley hints at presidential run; Tim Kaine seeking another term … – USA TODAY

While congressional Republicans start zeroing in on the Biden administration, the president prepares to meet the nation’s mayors on an issue he loves to talk about: infrastructure.
President Joe Biden speaks Friday with members of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, and delivers remarks on his administration’s record. Elsewhere in Washington, D.C., anti-abortion activists hold their annual march. 
Here are some of the latest political developments:
Former South Carolina governor and U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Nikki Haley, teased a potential presidential bid in 2024 this week. 
“When you’re looking at a run for president, you look at two things. You first look at: ‘Does the current situation push for new leadership?’” Haley explained in an interview with Fox News’ Bret Baier that aired Thursday. “The second question is: ‘Am I that person that could be that new leader?’”
“And can I be that leader? Yes I think I can be that leader,” Haley continued.
More: ‘May the best woman win’: Former S.C. Governor Nikki Haley hints at 2024 presidential bid:
Haley’s statements come ahead of what could be an intensely competitive 2024 Republican primary. Former President Donald Trump has already announced his candidacy and is seen as the frontrunner in the race.
“If I run, I’m running against Joe Biden,” Haley said. “That’s what I’m focused on because we can’t have a second term of Joe Biden.”
— Ken Tran
The race for the White House: Donald Trump announces his 2024 presidential campaign as GOP debates future: recap
It’s a question that’s swirled around the Supreme Court since court officials released a report Thursday on the probe into last year’s leak of a draft opinion overturning Roe v. Wade: Were the justices themselves investigated as possible leakers?
The answer, which arrived late Friday: Sort of.
Supreme Court Marshal Gail Curley, who led the investigation, said in a statement that she “spoke with each of the justices” and that they “actively cooperated in this iterative process.” None of the leads she followed implicated the justices themselves or their spouses, she said. 
But Curley also said the justices were not asked to sign sworn affidavits denying they had leaked the draft opinion. Other court employees did sign those affidavits. Because none of the leads implicated the justices, Curley said, “I did not believe that it was necessary to ask the justices to sign sworn affidavits.”
– John Fritze
More: Supreme Court says investigators have been unable to identify leaker of draft abortion opinion
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden assured a group of mayors at the White House on Friday that his administration does not support efforts to defund the nation’s police departments.
“When it comes to public safety, we know the answer is not to defund the police,” Biden said. “It’s to retain the police, to make sure there’s accountability.”
Biden met with the bipartisan group of mayors at the conclusion of the U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting in Washington. The group’s president, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez, told Biden the time has come to “bring the defund the police movement to an end in words and deeds.”
Biden said police need more funding and “ancillary help,” citing major investments that some cities have made in community violence intervention programs.
– Michael Collins
BLM b: Biden’s ‘fund the police’ comment draws backlash from some BLM activists,
British documentarian Nick Quested, who embedded with the Proud Boys ahead of the Capitol riot, testified this week in the seditious conspiracy trial of five members of the extremist group, revealing new details about their actions ahead of Jan. 6, 2021. 
Quested said the day he met former Proud Boys national chairman Henry “Enrique” Tarrio and the other four members now on trial – Dec. 11, 2020 – ended on the National Mall, where Tarrio gave a “pep rally”-like speech disputing the 2020 election results and expressing a desire to resist the “stolen election.”
“If you want a war, then you’ve got one,” Quested recounted Tarrio saying in his speech.
A month later on Jan. 5, 2021, Quested said he picked Tarrio up from a D.C. jail where he had been held after burning a church’s Black Lives Matter banner and then ordered out of the city. Tarrio told a group of hecklers: “I don’t need to be in D.C. to keep the fight going.”
That night, Tarrio, Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes and other affiliates met in a parking garage. The right-wing extremist group leaders discussed standing as a united front on Jan. 6.
 “It’s inevitable; it’s going to happen,” an unidentified man with the group said, according to government video evidence. “We just have to do it strong, fast, together.”
The video was played while the jury was not present, as defense and government counsel litigated whether the panel should see that evidence. It was decided they will not. 
– Ella Lee
Jan. 6 trial: Documentarian embedded with Proud Boys ahead of Jan. 6 testifies at trial. What he said.
The White House on Friday condemned Gov. Ron DeSantis’ decision to block an Advanced Placement course on African American studies from being taught in Florida public schools.
“It is incomprehensible,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said.  “Let’s be clear. They didn’t block AP European history. They didn’t block our art history. They didn’t block our music history.”
The Florida Department of Education rejected adding AP African American studies to the state’s list of courses, saying it is “inexplicably contrary” to Florida law and “significantly lacks educational value” in a Jan. 12 letter to the College Board, which oversees AP courses.
– Joseph Garrison
Death penalty: Gov. Hobbs, Attorney General Mayes pause death penalty in Arizona pending review process
Special counsels, the prosecutors appointed to investigate potential crimes in the executive branch independent from the Justice Department, used to be rare, usually operating one at a time. But now three are running at once into inquiries of the last three administrations.
Robert Hur just got started scrutinizing President Joe Biden’s handling of classified documents. Jack Smith is investigating former President Donald Trump’s role in the Capitol attack on Jan. 6, 2021, and classified documents seized at Mar-a-Lago. And John Durham has been looking at the origins of the Russia investigation into Trump’s campaign during the Obama administration.
The inquiries are open-ended, often last years and cost millions of dollars. For a comparison, special counsel Robert Mueller spent about $16 million on his 22-month inquiry into Russian interference in the 2016 election while Durham has spent $7 million since October 2020 probing what led to Mueller.
– Bart Jansen
George Santos: George Santos’ college education is a myth. Is he the only one lying? We checked
More: No more white bread, American cheese under Iowa GOP proposal to limit SNAP
WASHINGTON – President Joe Biden issued a proclamation on Friday commemorating the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade and affirming his commitment to protecting reproductive rights.
“The court got Roe right 50 years ago,” Biden said, calling the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling that established a constitutional right to abortion “a balanced decision with broad national consensus.”
Sunday marks the 50th anniversary of the ruling, which the Supreme Court overturned last summer. That decision, which held there is no right to abortion in the Constitution, shifted one of the nation’s most divisive debates back to the states. At least 13 states have banned abortion outright, while others have restricted access to the procedure.
Biden used his proclamation to call again for Congress to pass legislation enshrining into federal law the right to access abortion.
— Michael Collins
Abortion politics: Post-Roe abortion battle draws attention to state judicial elections, new legal strategies
Virginia Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine announced he will be running for reelection, an announcement that comes as a relief for Democrats as they face a difficult map in the 2024 elections.
“I am happy to announce that I will seek reelection in 2024 to keep delivering results for Virginia,” Kaine told reporters. “I’m a servant. I love Virginia. I’m proud of what I’ve done.”
Thirty-four Senate seats will be up for reelection in 2024 where Democrats will have to play heavy defense – 23 of those seats are currently held by Democrats. 
– Ken Tran
They cost millions and last years: Biden documents probe means US has 3 special counsel investigations at once. What are they?
The White House still has not answered key questions about classified documents found at the home and former personal office of President Joe Biden more than a week after announcing the first discovery of classified material.
Revelations about his retention of the documents have turned into a White House crisis, blunting the president’s momentum from the midterm elections and handing Republicans new lines of attack.
Complicating matters has been the inability – or unwillingness – of the White House to provide more answers. Administration officials have said they don’t want to interfere with the Justice Department’s investigation of what happened.
— Joey Garrison 
5 questions on the Biden documents: 5 key questions we still don’t know about Biden documents
Former South Carolina governor and U.N. ambassador Nikki Haley dismissed former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s claims that she plotted to replace Mike Pence as vice president in the 2020 election.
“It’s really sad when you’re having to go out there and put lies and gossip to sell a book,” Haley told Fox News. “It was gossip, it was never discussed. If somebody else discussed it, they certainly didn’t discuss it with me.”
In his new book, “Never Give an Inch: Fighting for the America I Love”, Pompeo accused Haley of scheming with former White House advisors Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump to replace Pence, the Guardian reported after obtaining a copy of the memoir.
According to Pompeo, Haley sidestepped Trump’s then chief of staff, John Kelly, and secured a personal meeting with Trump accompanied by Kushner and Ivanka Trump to present “a possible ‘Haley for vice-president’ option.”
The exchange is a sneak peek into what could be a heated 2024 Republican primary. Both Pompeo and Haley have suggested they will run for president in 2024. 
— Ken Tran
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The Biden and Trump classified document revelations are very different, even though both indicate U.S. national security could have been put at risk by sensitive government documents stored in unsecured personal locations.
But both cases underscore how the U.S. system of safeguarding classified presidential documents is in urgent need of improvement, security analysts say, especially during the critical period when one administration hands over the White House keys to another.
The massive volume of records generated or used by the president, vice president and their large National Security Council staff are among the most closely held secrets in the U.S. government. Yet problems with safeguarding such documents have been known for years, if not decades. And current and former government officials, security analysts and private watchdog groups have been pushing for reforms, with little success, according to Lauren Harper, the director of Public Policy and Open Government Affairs at the non-partisan National Security Archive in Washington, D.C.
— Josh Meyer
Biden and Trump documents expose wider problem: Missing classified records not uncommon
A federal judge in Florida has ordered Former President Donald Trump and his attorneys to pay nearly $1 million in sanctions for a lawsuit Trump filed against Hillary Clinton and many others over claims the 2016 presidential election was rigged.
“This case should never have been brought. Its inadequacy as a legal claim was evident from the start,” U.S. District Judge Donald Middlebrooks wrote in his order Thursday. “”No reasonable lawyer would have filed it.”
The order comes as Trump, who is kicking off another run for president, is facing an array of legal troubles and criminal investigations.
— Holly Rosenkrantz
Both the annual Women’s March and National March for Life are set to take place this weekend on what would have been the 50th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, establishing their very different worldviews on abortion.
Anti-abortion groups will march on Washington, D.C. Friday following an assortment of events in the days leading up to the march, including exhibitions for individuals to connect with pro-life organizations and “pro-lifers” from around the country. 
Unlike previous years, the Women’s March is set to take place in Madison, Wisconsin, on Sunday as the state has become home to a closely watched race for the state Supreme Court.The battle for abortion rights has shifted to the state level after the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade last year.
– Sarah Elbeshbishi
President Joe Biden is set to deliver remarks Friday to more than 175 mayors at the White House where he’s expected to tout federal funding for infrastructure and COVID-19 recovery efforts that’s flowed to cities during his administration.
Biden’s remarks, set for 2 p.m., will celebrate “the achievements of the past 18 months,” the White House said. Mayors across the country are in Washington for the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors Winter Meeting.
The president will also meet with a bipartisan group of mayors as some cities worry Republicans may try to take back the unspent portion of the $350 billion awarded to cities and states through the American Rescue Plan. Other mayors are expected to raise concerns about the influx of migrants on the southern border.
– Joey Garrison
Ultra-conservative members of the Republican caucus received appointments to two influential House committees that will spearhead investigations targeting the Biden administration, including the discovery of classified documents at the president’s private home and residence. 
And they’ve already started
Republicans, with control of the House, can leverage their investigatory power and launch probes into the Biden administration ahead of the 2024 presidential election, specifically into his family’s business dealings and the classified documents found in his Delaware home and private office in Washington.
– Rachel Looker
The Treasury Department Thursday began “extraordinary measures” to pay the nation’s bills after reaching a limit on how much it’s allowed to borrow, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen told Congress.
While the United States has been in this position before, fears are rising over whether political brinkmanship will prevent the limit from being raised as it has in the past, risking an economic calamity. 
The amount of time the Department can continue taking steps to avoid defaulting on the debt unless the $31.381 trillion limit is raised is uncertain, Yellen wrote in her letter to lawmakers. But the government is expected to be able to keep operating until at least June.
Women’s march: ‘We will not go quietly’: Women’s March organizes more than 650 marches nationwide for reproductive rights
Debt ceiling reached: U.S. hits debt ceiling. Amid fears of debt default, Treasury begins ‘extraordinary’ measures
Abortion opinion mystery: Supreme Court says investigators have been unable to identify leaker of draft abortion opinion

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