Cocaine residue was found on Hunter Biden’s gun pouch in 2018 case, prosecutors say

WASHINGTON — Federal prosecutors urged a judge on Tuesday to reject Hunter Biden’s efforts to dismiss the gun charges against him, revealing that investigators last year found cocaine residue on the pouch the president’s son used to hold his gun.

In pressing for the case against President Joe Biden’s son to proceed, prosecutors said “the strength of the evidence against him is overwhelming” and pushed back against Hunter Biden’s claims that he is being singled out for political purposes.

In addition to “incriminating statements” Hunter Biden made about his drug use in his 2021 memoir, investigators found a white powdery substance on the brown leather pouch he used to store the gun after pulling it from the state police vault last year, prosecutors wrote. An FBI chemist determined it was cocaine, they said.

“To be clear, investigators literally found drugs on the pouch where the defendant had kept his gun,” prosecutors said.

Hunter Biden has pleaded not guilty to charges accusing him of lying about his drug use in October 2018 on a form to buy a gun that he kept for about 11 days. He has acknowledged struggling with an addiction to crack cocaine during that period in 2018, but his lawyers have said he didn’t break the law. Hunter Biden has since said that he’s stopped using drugs and has worked to turn his life around.

His attorneys didn’t immediately respond to requests for comment on the prosecutors’ filing Tuesday.

These criminal proceedings could have been avoided with a plea deal last year, but an agreement with federal prosecutors fell apart and now the president’s son is facing the spectacle of a trial this year while his father is campaigning. He was indicted after the plea deal broke down when a judge who was supposed to sign off on the agreement instead raised a series of questions about the deal.

He had initially agreed to plead guilty to misdemeanor tax charges and would have also avoided prosecution on the gun charges had he stayed out of trouble for two years. It was the culmination of a years-long investigation by federal prosecutors into the business dealings of the president’s son.

His lawyers have urged the judge to dismiss the gun case, alleging he was “selectively charged” for improper political purposes. They have argued that special counsel David Weiss — who also serves as U.S. attorney for Delaware and was originally appointed by former President Donald Trump — “buckled under political pressure” to bring more severe charges amid criticism of the deal from Trump and other Republicans.

Prosecutors, however, said there is no evidence “to support his allegation that the Executive Branch, led by his father, President Biden, and its Justice Department, led by the Attorney General appointed by his father, authorized prosecution by the U.S. Attorney and Special Counsel of their choosing for an ‘improper political purpose.’”

“The charges in this case are not trumped up or because of former President Trump — they are instead a result of the defendant’s own choices and were brought in spite of, not because of, any outside noise made by politicians,” prosecutors wrote.

Hunter Biden’s criminal proceedings are also happening in parallel to so far unsuccessful efforts by congressional Republicans to link his business dealings to his father. Republicans are pursuing an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, claiming he was engaged in an influence-peddling scheme with his son. But House Republicans on Tuesday halted plans to hold Hunter Biden in contempt of Congress for defying a congressional subpoena in their ongoing investigation, citing negotiations with his attorneys that could end the standoff.

No evidence has emerged so far to prove that the president, in his current or previous office, abused his role or accepted bribes, though questions have arisen about the ethics surrounding the Biden family’s international business dealings.

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Kentucky Supreme Court upholds congressional boundaries passed by GOP-led legislature

Kentucky’s Supreme Court on Thursday upheld Republican-drawn boundaries for state House and congressional districts, rejecting Democratic claims that the majority party’s mapmaking amounted to gerrymandering in violation of the state’s constitution.

The court noted that an alternative proposal would have resulted in nearly the same lopsided advantage for Republicans in Kentucky House elections and would not have altered the GOP’s 5-1 advantage in U.S. House seats from the Bluegrass State.

The new district boundaries were passed by the GOP-dominated legislature over Democratic Gov. Andy Beshear’s vetoes in early 2022. The new maps were used in last year’s election.

The justices referred to redistricting as an “inherently political process” assigned to the legislature.

“An expectation that apportionment will be free of partisan considerations would thus not only be unrealistic, but also inconsistent with our constitution’s assignment of responsibility for that process to an elected political body,” Justice Angela McCormick Bisig wrote in the majority opinion.

The court concluded that the once-a-decade mapmaking did not violate Kentucky’s constitution. It upheld a lower court ruling that had concluded the new boundaries amounted to “partisan gerrymanders,” but said the constitution doesn’t explicitly forbid the consideration of partisan interests during redistricting.

The new maps were challenged by the state Democratic Party and several individuals, including Democratic state Rep. Derrick Graham. Their lawsuit contended the new boundaries reflected “extreme partisan gerrymandering” in violation of the state constitution. It claimed the state House map divided some counties into multiple districts to “dilute the influence” of Democratic voters.

With the new districts in effect in last November’s midterm election, Republicans increased their legislative supermajorities. Several Democratic state House members lost their reelection bids after having Republican-friendlier territory tacked onto their districts.

Democrats’ biggest objection to the redrawn congressional boundaries focused on an extension of the sprawling 1st Congressional District, situated mostly in western Kentucky, to include Franklin County, home of the capital city of Frankfort in central Kentucky.

The 1st District is represented by powerful Republican Rep. James Comer. Comer has been at the center of the House GOP’s impeachment inquiry of President Joe Biden as chairman of the House Oversight Committee.

Comer and his wife have homes in Monroe and Franklin counties in Kentucky. They purchased the Franklin County home when he was state agriculture commissioner, when his work was based in Frankfort.

For decades, Democrats wielded complete control in setting legislative boundaries, and then shared that power once the GOP took control of the state Senate. Last year was the first time the legislature had redrawn districts since Republicans consolidated their control of the legislature. The GOP took control of the state House after the 2016 election.

In last year’s election, the GOP won 80 of the 100 state House seats. Under an alternative plan relied upon by the plaintiffs, Republicans were projected to win at least 77 seats, the Supreme Court said.

“We note that every seat is important,” Bisig wrote. The court concluded that a difference of three seats in the 100-seat Kentucky House didn’t rise to the level of a “clear, flagrant and unwarranted” violation of constitutional rights.

State GOP spokesperson Sean Southard said the high court rightfully rejected “a pathetic attempt” by Democrats to throw out Kentucky’s congressional and state House maps.

Kentucky House Democratic leaders said they disagreed with the ruling. “It gives legislative majorities much more authority to protect themselves at the expense of many voters while guaranteeing more political polarization for decades to come,” they said in a statement.

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Bid to censure Romney for Trump impeachment votes fails

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah Republicans booed Sen. Mitt Romney but ultimately rejected a motion to censure him Saturday for his votes at President Donald Trump’s impeachment trials.

The measure narrowly failed, 798 to 711, in a vote by delegates to the state GOP convention, The Salt Lake Tribune reported.

Romney drew heavy boos when he came to the podium earlier in the day.

Davis County delegate Don Guymon, who authored the resolution, said Romney’s votes to remove Trump from office “hurt the Constitution and hurt the party.”

“This was a process driven by Democrats who hated Trump,” Guymon said. “Romney’s vote in the first impeachment emboldened Democrats who continued to harass Trump.”

The proposal, among several platform changes debated Saturday, also sought to praise the other members of Utah’s congressional delegation for their support of the former president.

Others warned supporting the censure risked defining the party around Trump instead of the conservative principles most delegates treasure.

“If the point of all this is to let Mitt Romney know we’re displeased with him, trust me, he knows,” said Salt Lake County delegate Emily de Azavedo Brown. “Let’s not turn this into a Trump or no Trump thing. Are we a party of principle or a party of a person?”

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GOP’s Thune says Trump allies engaging in ‘cancel culture’

PIERRE, S.D. — U.S. Sen. John Thune is criticizing Republican activists and party leaders for engaging in “cancel culture” by rushing to censure GOP senators who found former President Donald Trump guilty of inciting an insurrection.

In his first interview since he voted to acquit Trump, the Senate's No. 2 Republican on Thursday defended fellow Republicans who sided with Democrats on the “vote of conscience” and warned against shutting out dissenting voices in the party.

“There was a strong case made,” Thune said of the Democrats' impeachment presentation. “People could come to different conclusions. If we’re going to criticize the media and the left for cancel culture, we can’t be doing that ourselves.”

Thune's remarks were his first explaining his vote in Trump's trial and assessing the turbulent GOP politics the former president has left behind. Thune, who is facing reelection next year in deeply conservative South Dakota, is among several establishment Republicans grappling with how to reclaim control of a party dominated by Trump and his most ardent supporters for years.

The senator only rarely criticized Trump while he was in office. But he called the former president's actions after the election “inexcusable" and accused him of undermining the peaceful transfer of power.

Still, Thune last week sided with most Republican senators and GOP Senate leader Mitch McConnell in voting to acquit anyway. Thune and others argued that Trump could not be impeached because he was already out of office. Thune said after his vote that he was concerned with the idea of “punishing a private citizen with the sole intent of disqualifying him from holding future office.” Democrats fell 10 votes short of the 67 need to convict.

Since then, Trump has lashed out at McConnell and repeated the baseless claim that he won the election. The comments have inflamed a feud that is likely to play out in GOP primaries between Trump-backed candidates and those supported by the establishment wing.

Thune suggested he would be taking steps to assist candidates "who don’t go off and talk about conspiracies and that sort of thing.” He praised Rep. Liz Cheney, a Wyoming Republican, who was censured by the Wyoming GOP for voting to impeach Trump, for doing an “exceptional job on most issues" and said he was ready to jump into primary battles like the one she is sure to face.

“At the grassroots level, there’s a lot of people who want to see Trump-like candidates,” he said. “But I think we’re going to be looking for candidates that are electable.”

Thune himself was hit by Trump last year after he said efforts by some GOP members in the U.S. House to reject Electoral College results would “go down like a shot dog” in the Senate. Trump called Thune a “RINO,” meaning Republican In Name Only, and “Mitch’s boy,” in reference to McConnell. The attacks inspired some Trump loyalists in South Dakota to huddle for a primary challenge to the state's senior senator, whose candidacy has gone unchallenged in previous elections.

On Thursday, the senator attempted to downplay those attacks, likening them to “food fights within the family" that hurt Republicans' goals, He noted there was no evidence to support Trump's claim of voter fraud.

“You’ve got to face the music, and at some point, it’s got to be over and you’ve got to move on,” he said, adding, “I think it’s just important to tell people the truth. The most important responsibility of any leader is to define reality.”

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Former Sen. Paul Sarbanes of Maryland dies

Former Sen. Paul Sarbanes, who represented Maryland for 30 years in the Senate and helped write a landmark anti-fraud legislation and draft the first article of impeachment against Republican President Richard Nixon as a congressman, has died, his son said. He was 87.

The Democrat “passed away peacefully this evening in Baltimore,” said a Sunday statement by Rep. John Sarbanes, who represents Maryland’s 3rd Congressional District.

“Our family is grateful to know that we have the support of Marylanders who meant so much to him and whom he was honored to serve,” the congressman said.

His statement did not reveal the cause of Paul Sarbanes’ death. His office did not immediately reply to questions from The Baltimore Sun.

Sarbanes got into politics in 1966 with a successful run for Maryland’s House of Delegates, then won a seat in Congress four years later. He earned a spot on the House Judiciary Committee, where he drafted the first article of impeachment against Republican President Richard Nixon during the Watergate scandal, The Washington Post reported.

After three terms in the House, he unseated Republican Sen. J. Glenn Beall, and would be reelected four times in a Senate career notable for his lack of flash. Republicans called him a “stealth senator,” a label Sarbanes embraced.

Stealth, he said, was “one of the most important weapons in our military arsenal,” the former senator told The Baltimore Sun in 2005. “If you let somebody else take the credit, you can get the result,” he said.

As chairman of the Senate’s Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, Sarbanes did take credit for co-writing the 2002 Sarbanes-Oxley Act. The law reshaped corporate oversight after accounting scandals at Enron, WorldCom and other major corporations exposed inadequate internal controls and auditors who had become too cozy with the companies whose books they examined.

Those corporate scandals and others wiped out retirement accounts, cost investors billions and pushed people out of work. The U.S. Supreme Court in 2010 agreed that the law violated the Constitution’s separation of powers mandate, but its decision required only a slight change, allowing the removal of members of the oversight board.

Sarbanes did not seek reelection to a sixth term in the Senate in 2006.

The son of Greek immigrants, he attended Princeton University, Harvard Law school and studied in England as a Rhodes scholar before starting his career in politics.

He became a mentor to another Democrat, former Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski, who said Sarbanes helped her design a strategy for landing a seat on the powerful Appropriations Committee.

Sarbanes’ wife, Christine Sarbanes, died in 2009. Their survivors include their children John, Michael and Janet, and seven grandchildren, the newspapers reported. A private service is planned.

“Following state, local and public health guidance amid the COVID-19 pandemic, our family will hold a private service in the coming days,” John Sarbanes’ statement said.

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Former Sen. Slade Gorton dies at 92

SEATTLE — Slade Gorton, a patrician and cerebral politician from Washington state who served as a U.S. Senate Republican leader before he was ousted by the growing Seattle-area liberal electorate in 2000, has died. He was 92.

Gorton died Wednesday in Seattle, said J. Vander Stoep, who served as his chief of staff in the Senate.

Gorton was the Chicago-born scion of the New England frozen fish family. His 40-year political career began when he won a legislative seat within two years of arriving in Seattle as a freshly minted lawyer.

He went on to serve as state attorney general, a three-term U.S. senator and member of the 9/11 Commission.

Gorton was known for his aggressive consumer-protection battles as attorney general; his defeat in 1980 of the state’s legendary Democratic Sen. Warren Magnuson at the height of his power; and his work on the GOP inner team in the U.S. Senate.

Democratic Sen. Patty Murray, who overlapped with Gorton in the Senate, said they didn't always agree, but still worked together to strengthen clean-up efforts at the Hanford Nuclear Reservation in Washington state, toughen pipeline safety standards and expand health care for children.

Murray praised how Gorton “anchored his leadership in honesty and honor,” such as when he bucked his party to support the National Endowment for the Arts, voted to acquit President Bill Clinton of one of the charges against him during Clinton's impeachment trial, and supported the impeachment of President Trump.

“Throughout his career in both Washingtons, Slade defied convenient labels and stood on principle — we need more leaders in our country like Slade,” Murray said in an emailed statement.

Former Republican Gov. Dan Evans called Gorton an intellectual giant who was always the smartest person in the room and a strategic thinker who helped define the GOP in Washington state during a time when the party could still prevail in major, state-wide contests.

Gorton, runner-thin to the point of gaunt, struggled with an image of an icy, aloof Ivy Leaguer. He was sometimes compared to the frozen fish sticks his grandfather once sold, and he squired under the nickname “Slippery Slade.” At the 2000 state Republican convention, he acknowledged that he wasn't warm and fuzzy, a tough move for a politician in an era that valued personality and charm.

“I’ve always been different — I’m not a good politician like Bill Clinton,” Gorton said. “I’m not very good at feeling your pain. ...

“I’m more comfortable reading a book than working a room ... and my idea of fun is going to a Mariners game with my grandkids, keeping score and staying to myself.”

Gorton chalked it up to Yankee reserve, not disdain for people.

Once, when he was attempting a Senate comeback after suffering the first defeat of his long career, Gorton’s closest allies said if he didn’t knock off his know-it-all, aloof behavior, they were through campaigning for him.

A chastened Gorton made a point to listen better, set up sounding boards across the state and boned up on his people skills, said former top aide Tony Williams.

Thomas Slade Gorton III was born and grew up in the Chicago area, graduated Phi Beta Kappa from Dartmouth, got a law degree from Columbia and served in the Army and Air Force. He picked Seattle so he could enjoy sailing and skiing nearby — and break into law and Republican politics easier than in clubby, Democratic Boston.

He quickly landed a top law job, married former Seattle Times reporter Sally Clark, and within two years won a seat in the state House.

Seattle, now overwhelmingly Democratic, was then a two-party town. Gorton became friends with a liberal Republican set that included Evans, later the three-term governor and senator.

“Right from the beginning, it was clear he had brains to spare,” recalled Evans, two years his senior.

The young Republicans later took over the state House with help from a few Democrats. Gorton became majority leader.

Evans was elected governor in 1964, and Gorton began his own climb in 1968. First came three terms as attorney general, during which he broke with fellow Republicans in publicly calling for President Nixon's resignation. In 1980, he won a coveted U.S. Senate seat by knocking off the legendary “Maggie” — Warren G. Magnuson, appropriations committee chairman and Senate president.

Gorton was a youthful 52. Magnuson was mentally and politically agile but shuffled, mumbled and looked older than his 75 years — a difference that Gorton played up.

Aided by President Ronald Reagan's landslide, Gorton pulled off his upset. Within three years, he was writing the federal budget, working on Social Security and budget reforms, and winning a reputation as one the best of the new crop.

But a funny thing happened on his way to fame and glory: He lost the next election. Brock Adams, former congressman and Jimmy Carter’s transportation secretary, edged him by 26,000 votes.

Gorton retreated home, assuming he was washed up in politics. But within a year, Evans decided to vacate the other Senate seat, and Gorton launched his comeback, narrowly defeating liberal Democratic Rep. Mike Lowry in 1988.

Gorton easily won a third term in 1994. He rose in Senate seniority and was appointed to the leadership circle by then-Majority Leader Trent Lott, who praised Gorton’s “wise counsel.”

By 2000, Gorton was 72 and looking over his shoulder at a challenger 30 years his junior.

Democrat Maria Cantwell borrowed a page from Gorton’s playbook. She said, “It’s not about age,” but what she called “a 19th-century view of where we need to be.”

Cantwell, a dot-com millionaire, plowed $10 million into her campaign. It was a Democratic year, and Gorton, who had been in public life since 1958, the year Cantwell was born, lost.

He later served on the 9/11 Commission and on the National Commission on Federal Election Reform, as well as numerous civic boards and campaigns.

He was also a self-described baseball nut who twice went to bat to successfully keep the Mariners in Seattle.

Gorton and his wife had a son, Tod, and daughters Sara and Becky and their children.

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