National

Cal State Los Angeles protesters enter administration building, staff told to shelter in place

KABC-TV

(LOS ANGELES) — Pro-Palestinian protesters at Cal State Los Angeles entered a campus building on Wednesday, taking over the ground floor, as “a small number” of administrators still inside were asked to shelter in place, campus officials said.

“I can confirm that there are still a small number of administrators in the building,” said Erik Frost Hollins, a school spokesperson. “We are working through options to bring this fluid situation to the best resolution possible.”

The offices in the Student Services Building include much of the campus administration, along with the eighth-floor office of President Berenecea Johnson Eanes. It was not immediately clear which staff members were sheltering in place in the building’s upper floors.

“We have asked building employees to shelter in place and other employees have been asked to leave the campus,” Frost Hollins said.

Protesters had moved chairs and other objects in front of the doors at the building, barricading the entrance, according to video from ABC News’ Los Angeles station KABC-TV. The building appeared to have been marked with pro-Palestinian graffiti.

All classes and operations on the main campus were to be held remotely until further notice, the university said in an alert on its website.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

National

Eight climate protesters arrested during Congressional Baseball Game: Police

ABC News

(WASHINGTON) — Eight climate protesters were arrested on Wednesday after being tackled on the field during the Congressional Baseball Game, U.S. Capitol Police said in a statement.

The self-described “youth-led group,” Climate Defiance, took credit for the protest and shared videos on X of protesters rushing the field, calling the “Chevron-sponsored” game “unconscionable.”

During the second inning, over half a dozen protesters hopped the fence to the field, wearing shirts stating, “END FOSSIL FUELS.”

Chants from the crowd of “USA!” drowned out the protesters.

“The eight people are being charged with federal charges – Interference with a Member of the U.S. Capitol Police,” authorities said in a statement.

The group was protesting outside of the stadium prior to the game’s start and had been vocal for days leading up to the game about the planned protest.

“Before the charity game, we were aware that some people planned to possibly protest. This was discussed during our planning meetings and put in our comprehensive action plan to ensure we had plenty of resources to swiftly respond,” Capitol police said in a statement on X.

Before the first pitch of the game had even been thrown, shouts rang out in the stands as roughly a dozen pro-Palestinian protesters began a demonstration opposing the U.S. government’s support of Israel, which is more than eight months into the war with Hamas in Gaza.

The demonstration, which began during the colors presentation, continued into the singing of the national anthem, prompting loud counter-chants of “USA” that originated in the Republican fan section before spreading throughout the stadium.

As they unfurled posters and Palestinian flags, security promptly removed the protesters, several of whom were clad in keffiyehs, the traditional Palestinian scarves that have become icons of the movement.

In an interview given through an exterior fence of the stadium, one of the protesters spoke with ABC News, stating, “We’re here to shame Congress for participating and sponsoring and funding a genocide.”

The Congressional Baseball Game is a bipartisan tradition dating back to 1909, with proceeds supporting D.C.-area charities. The annual game has been under threat before. In 2017, at a practice for Republican lawmakers, then-House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La., and Capitol Police officer Crystal Griner were shot.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

National

New video shows interrogation of Florida woman accused of fatally shooting neighbor

Getty Images – STOCK

(OCALA, Fla.) — The Marion County Sheriff’s Office released video of detectives questioning Susan Lorincz, the Florida woman charged in the fatal shooting of Ajike “AJ” Owens, a Black mother of four who lived across the street from Lorincz.

The video, released on Monday, showed the moment Lorincz, who is white, was arrested after an almost two-hour long interrogation four days after the fatal incident. Following the shooting, Lorincz told detectives she was acting in self-defense when she shot Owens, who was with her 10-year-old son, through the closed door of Lorincz’s home on June 2, 2023, according to the video.

“She was saying ‘I’m going to kill you,'” Lorincz told detectives about Owens during the interrogation.

“There was banging. There was yelling. I thought she was going to just break down the door,” she said. “My heart was pounding and I thought, ‘she’s really going to kill me.'”

According to detectives, no other witnesses heard Owens shouting threats during the dispute. “No one that we’ve interviewed so far has made any statements about her saying that she wanted to kill you,” one of the detectives told Lorincz.

Lorincz was charged with first-degree manslaughter in Owens’ death and a trial is expected to begin on August 12. She pleaded not guilty and remains in custody.

On the night of the incident, Lorincz called 911 at 8:54 pm to report Owens’ kids trespassing on her property in Ocala, Florida, according to records obtained by detectives. After approximately five minutes on the phone, the 911 dispatcher informed Lorincz that deputies were on their way.

At 9:01 pm, less than two minutes after hanging up with 911 dispatchers, Lorincz called again to say she had shot Owens, according to police records.

Police said Owens had gone to Lorincz’s home to speak with her about the dispute involving Owens’ children playing near her home.

Detectives later questioned Lorincz about her online search history, according to the video of the interrogation, asking her if she’d looked up self-defense laws in Florida. She told detectives she’d done so earlier that day after seeing an article on Facebook.

“I know what you’re thinking. Did I look up the law so that I could do something? No,” Lorincz told detectives in the video.

During the interrogation, Lorincz told detectives she’d only communicated with Owens about two or three times since the mother of four moved across the street and repeatedly denied ever using racial slurs towards Owens and her children on the night of the shooting.

Body camera footage released last July by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office showed seven incidents between Feb. 25, 2022, and April 25, 2023, in which Lorincz called sheriff’s deputies to complain about neighborhood children, including Owens’ children, playing near her home.

The body camera videos show a child alleging in comments to sheriff’s deputies that Lorincz called the children in the neighborhood racial slurs and another who accused Lorincz of being “racist.” Lorincz admitted to calling children in the neighborhood racial slurs and other derogatory terms in the past, according to a police report.

“I feel that there was a level of fear,” one of the detectives told Lorincz about the night of the shooting. “But from everything I’ve seen, it doesn’t rise to the level for you to justify shooting through a closed door with a firearm, and I think you know that wasn’t reasonable.”

“But there were times I called and deputies never showed up,” Lorincz responded. The detective responded by saying, “it was two minutes” and she said, “to me, it wasn’t two minutes.”

“I’m not taking away how you were treated,” the detective told Lorincz. “But those are children nonetheless, and now they don’t have a mother to go home to and I think you know what you did was wrong and I think you know there were already deputies on the way.”

Lorincz initially refused arrest after detectives brought in a Marion County deputy to transport her to jail, the video showed. After repeated attempts to persuade her to cooperate, she told detectives, “I don’t care. Kill me,” the video shows.

Before Lorincz was arrested, detectives gave her an opportunity to write a letter to Owens’ children, according to the video.

“I am so sorry for your loss. I never meant to kill your mother. I was terrified your mom was going to kill me. I shot out of fear,” Lorincz wrote, according to detectives in the video.

Attorneys for Lorincz and Owens’ family did not immediately respond to ABC News’ requests for comment.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

National

Gov. DeSantis declares state of emergency in South Florida as heavy rain leads to ‘major flooding’

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

(FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla.) — Parts of southern Florida continued to get inundated with heavy rainfall Wednesday, with Gov. Ron DeSantis declaring a state of emergency tonight for several counties, including Broward, Collier, Lee, Miami-Dade and Sarasota.

The National Weather Service in Miami said Wednesday evening that portions of Broward and Miami-Dade counties — including Hallandale and Hollywood — are continuing to see “life-threatening flooding” impacting homes, businesses and roads.

Fort Lauderdale Mayor Dean Trantalis had previously declared a state of emergency due to “ongoing heavy rainfall” that has flooded major roadways.

“Our emergency management staff is actively monitoring the situation and mobilizing resources across the City,” Trantalis said on social media.

Trantalis said high-water vehicles have been deployed throughout the city to respond as needed, and the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission will be sending boats and buggies, but urged people to stay off the roads if possible.

Miami-Dade County Mayor Daniella Levine Cava had also declared a state of emergency due to the weather.

“As our departments work to keep residents and business[es] safe, this is a necessary step to protect the health, safety, and welfare of our entire community,” she said.

Up to seven inches of rain had already fallen across Broward and Miami-Dade counties by Wednesday afternoon, with several more inches expected to fall.

Rainfall rates in the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood area reached four inches per hour Wednesday afternoon. Sarasota also saw a rainfall rate of nearly four inches per hour.

More than 10 inches of rain had already fallen across Broward and Miami-Dade counties on Wednesday, with several more inches expected to fall.

Rainfall rates in the Fort Lauderdale/Hollywood area reached six inches per hour Wednesday afternoon. Sarasota also saw a rainfall rate of nearly four inches per hour.

A widespread six to 10 inches of rain had already fallen from Sarasota to Miami over the past few days as the region continued to get drenched on Wednesday. Sarasota saw record rainfall Tuesday; more than half a foot fell, most in just a few hours, causing significant flash flooding on streets.

The flood watch continues for southern Florida through Friday evening, with rain totals potentially reaching potentially 15 to 20 inches.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

National

Man killed in Georgia bus hijacking shot by suspect with his own gun: Police

ABC

(ATLANTA) — The suspect in a bus hijacking that prompted a police chase in Georgia allegedly got into a fight with a passenger before fatally shooting him with the victim’s own gun, authorities said.

The incident began at approximately 4:35 p.m. ET Tuesday in downtown Atlanta, when police responded to a report of gunfire on a Gwinnett County Transit bus and a “possible hostage situation,” the Atlanta Police Department said.

“Upon the officers’ arrival at the scene, the bus fled the location, and a pursuit ensued,” the Atlanta Police Department said in a press release.

The suspect — identified as 39-year-old Joseph Grier, of Stone Mountain — allegedly got into an argument with a male passenger after boarding the bus in downtown Atlanta, according to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. The two got into a fight when the passenger then pulled out a gun, GBI said.

Grier allegedly took the man’s gun and “began threatening passengers with it” before shooting him, GBI said in a statement Wednesday.

“Grier then shot the passenger and ordered the bus driver to flee the scene while threatening passengers with the gun,” GBI said.

The suspect held the bus driver at gunpoint during the hijacking, according to Atlanta Mayor Andre Dickens.

There were 17 people on the bus at the time, including the bus driver, according to Atlanta Police Chief Darin Schierbaum.

During the pursuit, police received a 911 call from a family member of an occupant of the bus “saying he was receiving text messages that there had been a hijacking and that individuals were being held hostage against their will,” Schierbaum told reporters during a press briefing Tuesday evening.

Police then received another 911 call made from the bus, which remained open throughout the pursuit and provided information that helped “craft an end of this hostage situation,” the chief said.

The ensuing pursuit spanned multiple jurisdictions, during which police attempted “various tactics” to stop the bus, police said. The bus hit several police vehicles during the pursuit, GBI said.

The vehicle was ultimately disabled in Stone Mountain in DeKalb County, approximately 16 miles northeast of where the incident began, police said.

A Georgia State Patrol trooper fired his patrol rifle into the engine compartment of the bus, causing it to malfunction and stop running, according to GBI.

Once the bus stopped, DeKalb County SWAT officers positioned a Bearcat armored vehicle “to prevent any avenues of escape,” the DeKalb County Police Department said in a statement.

Grier was taken into custody without further incident, police said.

SWAT officers found the gunshot victim while clearing the bus, DeKalb County police said. The victim — identified as 58-year-old Earnest Byrd Jr. — was transported in critical condition to a local hospital, where he died, Atlanta police said.

Grier is accused of “knowingly and intentionally” shooting the victim in the leg and causing his death, according to the arrest affidavit. He has been charged with murder, as well as 14 counts of aggravated assault, 14 counts of kidnapping, hijacking a motor vehicle, possession of a firearm during the commission of a felony and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, police said Wednesday.

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said her office is unable to prosecute the case because one of her employees was on the bus, according to a letter she sent Wednesday to the Prosecuting Attorneys Council of Georgia requesting substitute counsel.

No other injuries were reported.

The investigation remains ongoing, Atlanta police said. GBI said it is also investigating the use of force by the state trooper.

A shaken passenger on the hijacked bus said the ordeal was “traumatic” and she is “thankful to be alive.”

“It was something that we’d never forget,” Paulette Gilbert, 60, told Atlanta ABC affiliate WSB, adding she has ridden the bus for many years without incident.

The bus shooting and hijacking occurred after a separate, unrelated incident where gunfire broke out at a food court at a downtown Atlanta shopping center on Tuesday afternoon, officials said. Three people were injured, and an off-duty Atlanta police officer shot the armed suspect, police said.

The suspect in the bus hijacking boarded the bus near the shopping center but was not involved in that shooting, Schierbaum said. The suspects in both incidents are convicted felons, he said.

Dickens decried the spate of gun violence that occurred Tuesday and said it is the “result of too many people having guns in their hands.”

“We all have to say enough is enough when it comes to too many people having guns in their hands and using them in violence,” he said. “I’m thankful for the men and women of the Atlanta Police Department and all these agencies here that minimized what could have been even more dangerous.”

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

National

Body of skier missing since May recovered from Washington park

Getty Images – STOCK

(PARADISE, Wash.) — Park rangers have recovered the body of a dead female skier from the base of Pebble Creek’s Moraine Falls above Paradise at Mount Rainier National Park.

Rangers had been searching for the missing skier after she was last heard from on May 18, before she set out on a ski tour above Paradise.

MORE: 23-year-old hiker missing in Rocky Mountain National Park
The park’s contract helicopter found an unresponsive person who appeared to have fallen approximately 200 feet to the base of a waterfall, according to the National Park Service.

The area was surrounded by a large, unstable snow moat that was subject to rock and ice fall, posing a risk to recovery teams, according to the NPS.

“Rangers were able to recover the body using traditional crevasse rescue methods during another period of favorable weather,” according to the NPS.

The park’s contract helicopter transported the body to Kautz Creek Helibase for evaluation by the Pierce County Medical Examiner.
 

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

National

Oklahoma girl becomes 1st pediatric patient to undergo robotic deep brain stimulation

Getty Images – STOCK

(BETHANY, Okla.) — An Oklahoma girl has become the first pediatric patient in the world to have robotic deep brain stimulation performed on her, two hospitals have announced.

The patient, 8-year-old Karliegh Fry, suffers from rapid-onset primary dystonia, a neurological movement disorder that causes involuntary muscle contractions.

Karleigh’s condition initially left her paralyzed, unable to walk, eat or sit up on her own. She was put on several medications, which improved her condition slightly, but she was also left at times with involuntary movements that caused her to injure herself.

A joint team at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital OU Health and Bethany Children’s Health Center began exploring options and decided she might be a good candidate for deep brain stimulation (DBS).

“This marked the global debut of using a robot from our operating rooms to perform DBS in a child, setting a precedent not only in Oklahoma but also across the United States and worldwide,” Dr. Andrew Jea, a pediatric neurosurgeon at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital, said in a press release.

Deep brain stimulation is a procedure in which a surgeon implants one or more small wires knows as electrodes, or leads, in the brain. The electrodes are connected to a small device called a neurostimulator implanted in the upper chest.

It is used in the treatment of neurological conditions including Parkinson’s disease, epilepsy and Tourette’s syndrome. These conditions are caused by disorganized electrical signals in the parts of the brain that control movement, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

DBS works by interrupting the irregular signals that causes tremors or other involuntary movements. It does not cure these conditions but can improve a patient’s quality of life.

Using a robot to perform the procedure enhances “surgical precision and safety,” according to OU Health.

“So it was like trying to decide if we thought that the surgery would be worth the risk … but I think anything to give her her best shot,” Karleigh’s mother, Trisha Fry, said in an interview with OU Health.

Karleigh’s surgery was split into two separate parts, according to her mother. The surgery was performed at Oklahoma Children’s Hospital and Karleigh was transferred to Bethany Children’s Health Center for post-operative care and pediatric rehabilitation.

Within a few minutes of the neurostimulator being activated, OU Health said Karleigh was able to lower and relax her arms, which she couldn’t do prior to the procedure.

She is able to exhibit more control over her movements and her speech is also improving, the hospital said.

“Her arms used to lock up to the point we would put socks on her hands because she would scratch her neck,” Trisha Fry said. “There’s definitely been some improvements, even from the moment they turned it on. She is even using her voice a little bit more, and we can make out some of her words. I think she’s going to have a great future for sure.”

The team said Karleigh is continuing to show progress and that this could pave the way for more robotic DBS procedures performed on pediatric patients.
 

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

National

Parkland’s 1200 building will be torn down this week. Two grieving moms say it’s long overdue.

Joe Raedle/Getty Images

(PARKLAND, Fla.) — For more than six years, the 1200 building at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School sat untouched like a time capsule, with its classrooms still filled with dried blood and students’ strewn papers.

This week, the site of the Parkland, Florida, mass shooting will be torn down — a move two grieving moms say is long overdue.

The demolition will start Thursday, timed for immediately after the last day of school, which was on Monday, according to Broward County Public Schools.

Seventeen students and staff members were killed in the Feb. 14, 2018, massacre. Victims’ families were permitted to go inside the 1200 building for the first time last summer, following the conclusion of the trials of gunman Nikolas Cruz, who was sentenced to life in prison, and former school officer Scot Peterson, who was acquitted of child neglect after he had allegedly retreated while students were being shot.

Victim Scott Beigel’s mother, Linda Beigel Schulman, was adamant about going in the building — and she said she was not prepared for what she saw.

“It was horrible,” she told ABC News last year. “All the glass being shot out … seeing the bullet holes in the walls.”

Beigel, a geography teacher and cross-country coach, was shot to death while ushering his students to safety in his third floor classroom.

Inside Beigel’s room, Schulman saw her son’s notes and his open laptop, covered in dust.

One year later, the images are just as vivid in her mind.

“I could draw Scott’s room,” Schulman told ABC News last week. “I see Scott’s desk, I see as you walk into Scott’s room where he was when he was murdered.”

As hard as it was to witness, Schulman said she’s glad she did.

“I came out very different after the trial than I went in, and it took me awhile to process [the details the trial provided]. And going back into Scott’s classroom was really the same,” Schulman explained. “I was definitely not the same when I came out of there.”

“It’s just a body-shaking experience,” she said. “That’s where he worked and that was his happy place — and that’s where Scott was murdered.”

Patricia Oliver, whose fun, athletic 17-year-old son Joaquin was among those killed, never stepped foot in the 1200 building. She said it’d be too painful.

“Walking through the area where he was found, surrounded by blood, that I can’t handle — I really can’t handle it,” she told ABC News last week.

Seeing “every single piece of evidence [at Cruz’s trial], to me, was more than enough,” Oliver said. “I need my well-being in the right place.”

“I know more than enough of what happened to him — and his absence is absolutely painful every single day,” she added.

After the families’ visits, politicians went to the 1200 building to see the bullet-ridden walls for themselves, including Vice President Kamala Harris and some members of Congress.

“It’s important to see, unfortunately, what it looks like when a mass shooting comes to your high school,” Rep. Jared Moskowitz, D-Fla., who graduated from Stoneman Douglas, said at the time. “Every backpack that was dropped, every shoe that fell off … is exactly as it was on that very day.”

Schulman supported the tours and said witnessing the inside of that building should’ve been mandatory for lawmakers to help open their eyes to the realities of gun violence.

But, Oliver said, “I wasn’t comfortable seeing they were using the building as an exhibition.”

“This is not a circus,” Oliver said. “It is a crime scene.”

“Every parent reacts in a different way, and that doesn’t mean it’s good or bad,” Oliver added. “I think everyone is carrying this emptiness, that, you don’t know how to handle it. It’s not for me to judge anyone.”

Neither Oliver nor Schulman will go witness the demolition. But both mothers say it’s overdue.

Oliver drives by the school frequently and she said it’ll bring her relief to not have the “physical reminder.”

Schulman lives in New York, but she said on each trip to Parkland, she feels nauseous passing by the building.

“I think it’s a long time coming,” Schulman said. “We can never forget — we just don’t need that.”

Demolition will likely take several weeks, and will involve dismantling the structure in pieces, starting with the top floor, the school district said.

“Survivors of the tragedy, families of victims, as well as teachers and staff had any items they desired returned to them,” according to the district.

District officials have not revealed any future plans for the site.

Schulman said she hopes it’ll be transformed into a place for students to have fun and laugh, like a baseball field.

“Something that brings joy. Because it’s done nothing in the last six years but bring horror,” Schulman said.

Oliver said she’d like the space to be filled with whatever would bring comfort and peace to current students, like a garden or patio.

The district said in a statement last month, “We understand this is a sensitive and difficult time for the families of those who were killed, those who were injured, and all of those who are forever impacted by the tragedy. … We will continue to keep the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School community informed and updated as we navigate this process together.”

In the wake of their tragedies, both moms are finding ways to honor their sons’ lives.

Schulman and her husband started the Scott J. Beigel Memorial Fund, which sends at-risk kids touched by gun violence to camp.

“They can actually leave their cares behind — they can just be kids,” she said.

Oliver and her husband have become advocates for gun control through their organization Change the Ref.

Each summer, they ramp up their efforts with events honoring Joaquin’s Aug. 4 birthday. This year, he would’ve turned 24.

Joaquin was always looking ahead, his mom said. Now, “he’s the one who pushes us,” she said.

“We need to keep going, we need to keep fighting,” she said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

National

Trump cites Biden’s ‘disturbing grin’ in effort to terminate limited gag order in hush money case

Eva Marie Uzcategui/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) — Donald Trump’s lawyers are continuing their push to terminate the limited gag order in his New York hush money case, arguing that Trump’s “political opponents” — including President Joe Biden, Robert DeNiro, Michael Cohen, and Stormy Daniels — are using the gag order as a “sword” to attack the former president.

In a 21-page filing this week, Trump’s lawyers argued that the gag order was an “extraordinary, unprecedented, and unwarranted restriction” on Trump’s speech that has caused irreparable harm.

“These violations have harmed not only President Trump, but also the constitutional rights of all American people to receive and engage with President Trump’s protected campaign speech,” the filing said.

Trump in May was found guilty on all 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to a hush money payment to Daniels, an adult film actress, in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Last week, Trump’s lawyers asked Judge Juan Merchan to terminate the gag order, which prohibits Trump from making public comments about witnesses, jurors, and other participants in the proceedings. The gag order does not impact Trump’s ability to make comments about the judge, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, or Biden. During the trial, Judge Merchan held Trump in criminal contempt 10 times for violating the limited gag order, which does not apply to President Biden.

Bragg responded last week by arguing that the gag order should remain in place at least until Trump’s sentencing — scheduled for July 11 — in order to protect the integrity of the proceedings. Judge Merchan asked for further briefings on the topic.

Trump’s filing this week renewed their main argument that the gag order is no longer necessary since the trial has ended, arguing that Trump’s remarks no longer present a clear danger to the proceedings. Defense lawyers argued that Trump should be able to respond to “attacks” from his political opponents, citing a Biden campaign event on May 28 featuring DeNiro as well as remarks from Biden himself following the verdict.

“On May 31, following carefully scripted remarks about the verdict at a press conference, President Biden offered a disturbing grin to the gathered media cameras when asked whether President Trump is his ‘political prisoner,'” the filing said.

Defense lawyers also argued that Cohen, Trump’s former attorney and the trial’s star witness, repeatedly “mocked” Trump following the verdict and that Daniels suggested in a interview that Trump’s wife Melania should leave him.

“President Trump’s opponents and adversaries are using the Gag Order as a political sword to attack President Trump with reference to this case, on the understanding that his ability to mount a detailed response is severely restricted by the Gag Order,” the filing said.

Trump’s lawyers also argued, without providing evidence, that Bragg’s push to keep the gag order in place was part of a coordinated “lawfare strategy” with “President Biden and their overlapping cast of associates” to silence the former president in the runup to the election.

“Such an unlawful restraint would be egregious here, where District Attorney Bragg is seeking to help President Biden and his political associates by asking the Court to silence President Trump during and after the upcoming presidential debate,” the filing said. “Worse still, the District Attorney is pursuing that strategy in a case he claims, falsely, is about influencing the 2016 election by allegedly withholding information from voters. The irony is palpable.”

The filing was docketed the same day that a top Department of Justice official confirmed that an extensive search of Justice Department records found no contacts between Bragg’s office and senior DOJ officials related to the Trump case, discrediting the former president’s repeated claim that federal officials coordinated the prosecution.

Speaking a day after Trump was found guilty, President Biden said the case “was a state case, not a federal case.”

“Now he’ll be given the opportunity, as he should, to appeal that decision, just like everyone else has that opportunity,” Biden said. “That’s how the American system of justice works, and it’s reckless, it’s dangerous, it’s irresponsible for anyone to say this was rigged just because they don’t like the verdict.”
 

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.

National

Why Hunter Biden’s conviction will be harder for Republicans politically: ANALYSIS

Kevin Dietsch/Getty Images

(WILMINGTON, Del.) — “Apples to ORANGE,” read a text back from one campaign staffer for President Joe Biden reacting to news that Hunter Biden, the president’s only surviving son, had been found guilty on all three felony gun charges on Wednesday.

It was a dig at former President Donald Trump, mocking his fake tan. But also a clear summary of how the Biden campaign viewed this new verdict. In a campaign punctuated by courtroom trials, their job was to show this one was different from that of the former president, who was found guilty two weeks ago in a Manhattan criminal court on 34 felony counts of falsifying business documents.

And it is different.

First, Hunter Biden is not running for anything. His name will not be on any ballot in November. But more, this case could be harder for Republicans to exploit for partisan gain.

Whereas Republicans had no doubt planned to have a field day should Hunter have been acquitted, his guilty conviction cut against their narrative that the legal system is rigged against them. Plus, the spotlight on addiction in Hunter’s case is both sensitive and salient for millions of American families.

Sources and allies to the president tell ABC News that he sees this less as a political liability, and more as a deeply personal issue. The president flew to Delaware after the verdict on Tuesday and was seen embracing his son on the tarmac in Wilmington.

Unlike Trump, Biden has said repeatedly he will respect the jury’s decision even if it was devastating for his family. He has consistently urged all Americans to respect the country’s legal system during his volatile election season.

Hunter Biden was convicted for lying about his drug use when filling out a federal form to purchase a gun and then for possessing that gun while an addict. But the fact of his dark struggle with addiction was not a surprise, salacious discovery or something anyone in the Biden family has not talked about already at length. Just the opposite — Hunter has been brutally honest in the past about his dependence on illegal drugs and effort to get clean.

More than 40 million Americans, one in six adults over 12, reported a substance use disorder, according to the 2022 United States National Survey on Drug Use and Health. Of those, more than 22% had severe cases characterized by “impairment caused by the recurrent use of alcohol or other drugs (or both), including health problems, disability, and failure to meet major responsibilities at work, school, or home.”

Nearly 108,000 people in the U.S. died from drug-involved overdoses in 2022, including from illicit or prescription drugs, according to the National Institutes of Health.

This reality means Republican attempts to bash the Bidens over this conviction could backfire in the court of public opinion. American voters know their country is drowning in addiction and have loved ones struggling too. They are looking for leaders who sympathize and have solutions.

Speaking to the public after the verdict, special counsel David Weiss said, “Ultimately this case was not just about addiction, a disease that haunts families across the United States, including Hunter Biden’s family. This case was about the illegal choices the defendant made while in the throes of addiction, his choice to lie on a government form when he bought a gun and the choice to then possess that gun.”

That might be true in terms of the law, the jury findings and Hunter Biden’s eventual sentencing. But even the Trump campaign seemed to acknowledge that politically this case was tricky for them.

Normally, quick to speak and verbose, Trump himself was noticeably more muted on Tuesday. He posted nothing about Hunter Biden, who has long been a Republican punching bag, on Truth Social.

In one short statement Trump’s campaign called this case against Hunter “a distraction.” If it were up to them, Hunter Biden and his father would be investigated further based on Hunter’s business practices instead. Republicans have long accused Hunter of illegal influence peddling abroad.

Of course, special counsel Weiss, who was originally nominated by Trump, has looked into Hunter Biden’s finances extensively and so far, found no evidence of foreign corruption. Though he has charged Hunter on two tax-related misdemeanor counts. That trial is set to start in September

A Republican-led House impeachment inquiry launched 10 months ago also has produced no evidence of wrongdoing by President Biden.

“The politics of this are not going to be clean for Donald Trump and for the Republicans,” Kate Bedingfield, former Biden White House communications director, said on CNN on Wednesday after Hunter Biden’s verdict. “You have somebody here who has been very vocal and eloquent about his struggles with addiction, in Hunter … I do think for people who have this struggle in their family seeing this play out in this way, I think gives them a link to the Biden family in a way that I think is powerful.”

Last week, during an interview with Fox’s Sean Hannity, Trump said of Hunter Biden, “I feel very badly for him in terms of the addiction part of what they have right now, because I understand the addiction world.” Trump has shared personal stories of his experience with addiction through his brother Fred, who struggled with alcohol.

One of the jurors who handed down the guilty verdict, told ABC News’ Terry Moran, “I just think [Hunter] needs help. He needs rehab. In my opinion this is a waste of taxpayers’ dollars. They should have fined him.”

Ironically, not only do Republicans talk often on the campaign trail about the prevalence of drugs and addiction in the country, but have also pushed for looser restrictions on guns. Many conservatives would like to see courts scrap those federal regulations Hunter Biden violated.

And there is the matter of whether or not to trust and respect the justice system.

The case against Hunter was a federal one, brought by a prosecutor who does actually report to Attorney General Merrick Garland. Even if as a special prosecutor, he is given more leeway and latitude. The hush-money case against Trump was brought and prosecuted locally in New York state court.

As Biden has said, “you can’t only respect the results when you win.” Or, in this case, it is harder for Republicans to argue the system is fundamentally broken only when their candidates loses.
 

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.