AFP USA

The kindness of strangers keeps migrants warm on US-Mexico border

Rosa Falcon has turned her Texas home into a shelter for desperate migrants crossing from Mexico, whose numbers have swelled as the United States prepares for the possible lifting of rules that have kept the border effectively shut.

The sight of hundreds of people huddling against the freezing winter weather on the streets of El Paso was just too much for her to bear.

“With everything they have lived through, to leave them like that, adrift, on the street, seems illogical and inhumane to me,” said Falcon as she made her nightly rounds through the city which neighbors Mexico’s Ciudad Juarez.

The southern border of the United States has been officially closed to immigrants without visas for more than two years under a controversial health measure invoked by then-president Donald Trump during the Covid-19 pandemic.

Title 42 prevents asylum seekers from presenting themselves at ports of entry, allowing border patrol officers to turn them away without starting an asylum application.

Its stated purpose is to prevent the entry to the United States of people carrying a contagious disease.

But critics charge that with Covid endemic in the country — the United States has logged around 100 million confirmed cases — it is meaningless. Its true purpose, they say, is to keep migrants out.

But it’s never been very good at doing that.

Knowing that ports of entry are closed to them, would-be asylum seekers instead seek out gaps in the fence and other well-used crossing locations.

Once across, they present themselves to under-resourced border officials who take them to facilities where their cases are considered, and, if accepted, release them with a date when their bid for asylum will be considered.

In El Paso those with relatives wait for money transfers from friends and family that will allow them to buy a bus ticket.

Many sleep rough, the clothes they wear their only possessions.

“It’s heartbreaking, especially when there are children,” said Falcon, a school teacher, who has built a support network with other volunteers and local churches. 

– State of emergency –

More than 53,000 migrants surrendered to border authorities after illegally crossing this section of the border in October alone, a 280 percent increase on the same month last year.

Many arrive in desperate poverty, hungry and exhausted after an arduous struggle through the Darien jungle in Panama, or wet and dirty after wading across the Rio Grande, the river that separates Mexico from the United States.

Recent days have seen a spike in the number of people who have made it to El Paso after sneaking over the border.

So great are the numbers that Mayor Oscar Leeser has declared a state of emergency, to free up resources to help them.

On Saturday night, after his announcement, a bus arrived at a station in downtown El Paso, a frequent stop for poverty-stricken migrants looking to make their way to other cities.

“Anyone who doesn’t have a ticket by tomorrow can come with us,” a municipal official said, explaining people would be taken to a hotel to sleep.

Most of those at the bus station refused to move.

“We have heard so many things,” said Santiago, a 23-year-old Colombian. “How can we trust them? What if they take us to another state?”

– Lapse –

Title 42 had been due to lapse at midnight between December 20 and 21, but on Monday the US Supreme Court issued an administrative stay to allow the bench to consider an appeal by Republican Party-led states against its expiration.

In the meantime, the desperate migrants continue to cross.

President Joe Biden’s administration is at pains to stress they have control of the border, and that it is not a free-for-all.

“It would be wrong to think that the border is open,” White House spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre said Monday.

“It’s not open.”

An AFP team at the border on Monday watched 10 people squeeze through a hole in the fence in around 10 minutes.

They, and the many others that cross, will surrender to officials. If their cases qualify they will then be sent back out onto the streets, where for a few days they will survive on the mercy of strangers unwilling to watch them shiver.

On a recent chilly evening, Falcon, her mother, daughter and son-in-law drove around El Paso offering help to anyone who needed it.

There are usually four or five people sleeping in her living room, strangers she feeds — and sometimes clothes — from her own pocket.

“Even though I don’t know them, I feel like they are part of my family,” she said. 

Twitter users vote to oust Elon Musk as CEO

Twitter users voted on Monday to oust owner Elon Musk as chief executive in a highly unscientific poll he organized and promised to honor, just weeks after he took charge of the social media giant.

A total of 57.5 percent of more than 17 million accounts voted for him to step down. Musk, who also runs car maker Tesla and rocket firm SpaceX, has not yet reacted publicly to the results.

“The question is not finding a CEO, the question is finding a CEO who can keep Twitter alive,” the South African-born billionaire tweeted before the vote closed.

In a response to another tweet, he added: “No one wants the job who can actually keep Twitter alive. There is no successor.”

Musk has fully owned Twitter since October 27 and has repeatedly courted controversy as CEO, sacking half of its staff, readmitting far-right figures to the platform, suspending journalists and trying to charge for previously free services.

Analysts have also pointed out that the stock price of Tesla has slumped by one-third since Musk’s Twitter takeover. The share price briefly rallied by 3.3 percent on Monday before fading.

“It’s hard to ignore the numbers since [the Twitter] deal closed,” tweeted investment expert Gary Black, saying he reckoned Tesla’s board was putting pressure on Musk to quit his Twitter role.

In discussions with users after posting his latest poll, Musk renewed his warnings that the platform could be heading for bankruptcy.

– ‘Won’t happen again’ –

Resorting to Twitter’s polling feature has been a favorite strategy of Musk’s to push through policy decisions, including the reinstatement of the account of former president Donald Trump.

Paris-based Reporters Without Borders, which defends press freedom around the world, said the polls were a “crude and cynical” ploy.

“These methods appear to be democratic procedures, but in reality they are… the opposite of democracy,” said the group’s head, Christophe Deloire.

Unpredictable entrepreneur Musk posted his latest poll shortly after trying to extricate himself from yet another controversy.

On Sunday, Twitter users were told they would no longer be able to promote content from other social media sites.

But Musk seemed to reverse course a few hours later, writing that the policy would be limited to “suspending accounts only when that account’s *primary* purpose is promotion of competitors.”

“Going forward, there will be a vote for major policy changes. My apologies. Won’t happen again,” he tweeted.

The attempted ban had prompted howls of disapproval and even bemused Twitter cofounder Jack Dorsey, who had backed Musk’s takeover.

Dorsey questioned the new policy with a one-word tweet: “Why?”

– ‘Perfect storm’ –

Musk has generated a series of controversies in his short reign, one which analyst Dan Ives from Wedbush described as a “perfect storm.” 

He noted that “advertisers have run for the hills and left Twitter squarely in the red ink potentially on track to lose roughly $4 billion per year.”

Shortly after taking over the platform, Musk announced it would charge $8 per month to verify account holders’ identities, but had to suspend the “Twitter Blue” plan after an embarrassing rash of fake accounts. It has since been relaunched.

On November 4, with Musk saying the company was losing $4 million a day, Twitter laid off half of its 7,500-strong staff.

Musk also reinstated Trump’s account — though the former US president indicated he had no interest in the platform — and said Twitter would no longer work to combat Covid-19 disinformation.

In recent days, he suspended the accounts of several journalists after complaining some had published details about the movements of his private jet, which he claimed could endanger his family.

Employees of CNN, The New York Times and The Washington Post were among those affected in a move that drew sharp criticism, including from the European Union and the United Nations.

Washington Post executive editor Sally Buzbee said the suspension of journalist Taylor Lorenz’s account “further undermines Elon Musk’s claim that he intends to run Twitter as a platform dedicated to free speech.”

Some of the suspended accounts have since been reactivated.

On Monday, the head of the European Parliament, speaker Roberta Metsola, sent a letter to Musk inviting him to testify before the legislature, her spokesman said.

The parliament has no power to compel Musk to turn up, and his response was not immediately known.

Harvey Weinstein guilty of Hollywood rape, jury finds

Disgraced US movie titan Harvey Weinstein was convicted Monday of the rape and sexual assault of a woman a decade ago, in what prosecutors said was part of his “reign of terror” over aspiring young actresses in Hollywood.

The 70-year-old “Pulp Fiction” producer, who was once one of the most powerful men in the film industry, faces up to 24 years in jail, in addition to a sentence he is already serving for sex crimes in New York.

His victim in the Los Angeles case said Monday she hopes he “never sees the outside of a prison cell during his lifetime.”

“Harvey Weinstein forever destroyed a part of me that night in 2013 and I will never get that back,” the woman, identified during the trial as Jane Doe #1, said in a statement.

A weeks-long trial heard graphic descriptions of encounters between the once-powerful producer and women who were trying to make their way in the world of movies.

Prosecutors painted a picture of a predatory ogre, who for years used his physical size and his professional prowess to rape and abuse women with impunity.

His victims were left terrorized and afraid for their careers if they spoke out against a man who dominated Tinseltown, prosecutors said.

Rumors of Weinstein’s impropriety had circulated in Hollywood for years, but his position at the apex of the industry meant few were prepared to challenge him.

That all changed in 2017 with the publication of bombshell allegations against him, ushering in the #MeToo movement and opening the floodgates for women to speak out against sexual violence in the workplace.

Dozens of women have since alleged they were victims of Weinstein. 

His convictions in New York, which landed him with a 23-year jail term, were followed by charges in Los Angeles, ultimately relating to four women.

On Monday after two weeks of deliberation, a jury convicted him of three of the seven counts he faced — forcible rape, forcible oral copulation and sexual penetration by a foreign object — all relating to Jane Doe #1 in a Beverly Hills hotel room in February 2013. 

The eight men and four women on the panel acquitted him of one charge of sexual battery by restraint involving another woman.

They did not reach a verdict on charges relating to the alleged assaults of two other women, one of whom was identified by her lawyers as Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the wife of California Governor Gavin Newsom.

Los Angeles Superior Court Judge Lisa Lench declared a mistrial on those counts.

Weinstein faces up to 18 years in prison for the counts on which he was convicted, but aggravating factors could increase that to 24 years.

Attorneys will be back in court Tuesday for arguments as to sentencing.

– ‘Despicable behavior’ –

Siebel Newsom welcomed the verdicts.

“Harvey Weinstein will never be able to rape another woman,” she said.

“He will spend the rest of his life behind bars where he belongs. Harvey Weinstein is a serial predator and what he did was rape.”

Siebel Newsom said that “throughout the trial, Weinstein’s lawyers used sexism, misogyny and bullying tactics to intimidate, demean and ridicule us survivors. This trial was a stark reminder that we as a society have work to do.”

The Oscar-winning producer had denied all the charges, with his attorney seeking to portray accusers either as liars who never had sex with his client, or as women who willingly lay on the casting couch, swapping sex for a leg up in the competitive world of filmmaking.

Weinstein, who was credited with making the careers of household names like Matt Damon, Ben Affleck and Gwyneth Paltrow, used his power to prey on and silence women, said prosecutor Marlene Martinez.

The jury heard testimony from women who said they had been tricked into being alone with Weinstein in his hotel room.

Several described how they had begged him to stop as he forced himself on them, made them perform oral sex on him, or watch him masturbate, sometimes as he groped them.

“We know the despicable behavior the defendant engaged in,” Martinez told the jury in her closing argument, adding Weinstein believed he was so powerful that people would excuse his behavior.

“‘That’s just Harvey being Harvey. That’s just Hollywood.’ And for so long that’s what everyone did. Everyone just turned their heads,” Martinez said.

“It is time for the defendant’s reign of terror to end,” she added. “It is time for the kingmaker to be brought to justice.”

Biden says 'will not be silent' over rising anti-Semitism

Joe Biden on Monday promised he will not remain silent in the face of growing anti-Semitism in the United States, as the president hosted a White House reception celebrating Hanukkah, the Jewish festival of lights.

“I recognize your fear, your hurt, your worry that this vile and venom is becoming too normal,” Biden said as he stood next to a menorah, a traditional Jewish candelabra, lit by guests to mark the second of the festival’s eight nights. 

“Silence is complicity,” said the president. “We must not remain silent… I will not be silent. America will not be silent.”

Among the guests were Holocaust survivor Bronia Brandman, and Charlie Cytron-Walker, the rabbi at Congregation Beth Israel, a synagogue in Colleyville, Texas that was the scene of a hostage-taking in January.

According to the Anti-Defamation League, the United States experienced a record 2,717 anti-Semitic acts such as assaults, verbal attacks and property damage in 2021, a year-on-year increase of 34 percent.

In its own report, the American Jewish Committee, one of the country’s oldest Jewish advocacy organizations, said that 39 percent of US Jews acknowledged they had “changed their behavior, limiting their activities and concealing their Jewishness due to concerns about anti-Semitism,” while about one in four had themselves been a victim of anti-Semitism over the past year.

Experts have voiced concern they are witnessing a trivialization of anti-Jewish rhetoric, highlighted by public figures including the rapper Kanye West, who recently blurted out “I like Hitler” during an online interview with a conspiracy theorist.

For his part, former president Donald Trump sparked a wave of outrage for dining with a known white supremacist and Holocaust denier last month at his Mar-a-Lago home in Florida.

US Supreme Court freezes removal of policy blocking migrants

The US Supreme Court halted Monday the imminent scrapping of a key policy used since Donald Trump’s administration to block migrants at the southwest border, amid worries over a surge in undocumented immigrants.

An order signed by Chief Justice John Roberts placed an emergency stay on the removal planned for Wednesday of Title 42, which allowed the government to use Covid-19 safety protocols to summarily block the entry of millions of migrants.

Roberts placed government immigration policy on temporary hold in response to a last-minute petition from 20 states arguing that ending Title 42 would create a gush in migrants that would overwhelm their services.

They cited the Department of Homeland Security predicting that border crossings, mostly by Mexicans and other Latin Americans asking for asylum, could triple to 18,000 every day.

“The greatly increased number of migrants resulting from this termination will necessarily increase the States’ law enforcement, education, and healthcare costs,” the states argued.

The move came after an appeals court in Washington ruled last Friday that there was no longer justification for using Title 42 to sweepingly reject asylum-seekers.

The policy was put in place in March 2020, in Trump’s final year in office, as the coronavirus pandemic swept into the United States.

In their petition, the mostly Republican-led states — which include border states Texas and Arizona as well as Missouri, Ohio and Virginia — asked that beyond the stay, the court take on the full case over the law.

Roberts gave the parties 24 hours to respond. That left open the possibility that Title 42 could still end this week, or, conversely, that the court could decide to keep it in place while it reviews the case more broadly.

The administration of President Joe Biden had previously accepted a lower court ruling that Title 42 was no longer justified to block asylum seekers and other migrants.

Last week the White House said the Department of Homeland Security was prepared to deal with the expected surge, but gave few details on how it would do that.

“We have an intensive all-of-government effort underway to prepare,” said White House Spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre.

DHS said in a statement that Title 42 will remain in effect as a result of the high court’s stay order, and that “individuals who attempt to enter the United States unlawfully will continue to be expelled to Mexico.”

While litigation proceeds, “we will continue our preparations to manage the border in a safe, orderly, and humane way when the Title 42 public health order lifts,” the department said.

Conservative lawmakers swiftly commended the stay, with some urging that Title 42 be codified in US law.

Top House Republican Kevin McCarthy said he was “glad to see the Supreme Court inject some temporary sanity into the situation.”

US lawmakers call for criminal charges against Trump

Lawmakers investigating last year’s assault on the US Capitol recommended Monday that Donald Trump be charged with multiple offenses including insurrection — raising the stakes in a parallel criminal investigation that could put the former president in jail.

The House of Representatives select committee called for the indictment — as well as charges of obstruction of an official proceeding and conspiracy to defraud the United States — after an 18-month probe into the storming of Congress on January 6, 2021.

At least five people died after a mob whipped up by Trump’s false claims of a stolen election, and directed to march on Congress by the defeated president, ransacked the seat of US democracy in a thwarted bid to prevent the transfer of power to President Joe Biden.

The bipartisan committee voted unanimously to refer the charges to the Justice Department after opening remarks by vice-chair Liz Cheney in which she accused Trump of “a clear dereliction of duty” in failing to immediately attempt to stop the riot and called him “unfit for any office.”

“No man who would behave that way at that moment in time can ever serve in any position of authority in our nation again,” she said.

The referrals are seen as largely symbolic, as the panel has no control over charging decisions, which rest with the Justice Department.

Jack Smith, a largely independent special prosecutor appointed by Attorney General Merrick Garland, is leading his own investigation into Trump related to the 2020 election.

– Major blow –

Trump issued a statement claiming that the purpose of the investigation was to “keep me from running for president because they know I’ll win” and that any prosecution would be “a partisan attempt to sideline me.”

Trump’s approval ratings are underwater — at minus-20 percentage points in the RealClearPolitics average, compared with minus-eight percent for Biden.

But the lawmakers’ move is nevertheless historic, as Congress has never made a criminal referral against a sitting or former president, and it will add to the clamor among Trump’s opponents for prosecution.

It is also a major blow to Trump amid a series of missteps in the weeks since he announced a comeback bid for the White House — including the Republicans’ poor midterm election showing in states where the tycoon endorsed candidates.

Charges could result in a ban from public office for the 76-year-old Republican, who still wields considerable power in the Republican Party, and even prison time.

“To cast a vote in the United States is an act of faith and hope,” committee chairman Bennie Thompson said.

“That faith in our system is the foundation of American democracy. If the faith is broken, so is our democracy. Donald Trump broke that faith.”

The seven Democratic and two Republican panel members are winding down their work before the end of the year, and have compiled their findings into an eight-chapter report set to be released on Wednesday. 

The committee’s case is that Trump “oversaw and coordinated a sophisticated seven-part plan to overturn the presidential election and prevent the transfer of presidential power.”

– ‘Trump knew he lost’ –

Investigators say the plot began with Trump’s campaign to spread allegations he knew were false that the election was marred by widespread fraud.

He is accused of trying to corrupt the Justice Department and of pressuring his vice president Mike Pence, as well as state election officials and legislators, to overturn the vote by violating the Constitution and the law.

Trump is also accused of summoning and assembling the mob in Washington, and directing it toward the Capitol despite knowing it was armed with assault rifles, handguns and numerous other weapons. 

And for hours he ignored pleas from his team to take action to stop the violence, lawmakers say.

Democratic panel member Zoe Lofgren said Trump’s false fraud claims — far from being spontaneous — were part of a deliberate attempt to sow distrust in democracy that began long before the insurrection.

Lofgren repeated the panel’s suggestion that Trump allies had engaged in witness tampering, alleging that someone linked to the former president had offered potential employment to a witness prior to their testimony.

Lofgren said a witness was also told by a lawyer linked to Trump that she could pretend to not remember facts as she was giving evidence.

Lofgren also returned to an accusation previously leveled by the panel that Trump had “raised hundreds of millions of dollars with false representations made to his online donors.”

FTX founder Bankman-Fried back in jail after hearing

Sam Bankman-Fried, wanted in the United States for fraud after the collapse of his FTX cryptocurrency group, remained in a Bahamas prison Monday after an abortive court hearing that was to consider his possible extradition.

One week after the former billionaire was arrested in Nassau, US and local media had reported that the 30-year-old onetime cryptocurrency wunderkind was preparing to accept extradition to stand trial in New York.

Bankman-Fried was seen arriving at the Nassau magistrate court from the Fox Hill prison, and then leaving nearly three hours later without immediate comment from him or his attorneys.

But local media reported that the hearing was ended shortly after it began amid confusion of why it was called. 

According to the Nassau Guardian, the magistrate, Shaka Serville, permitted Bankman-Fried to speak by phone with his US attorneys before sending him back to the prison.

After Bankman-Fried returned to prison, the Nassau Guardian and the local Eyewitness News cited his local attorneys as saying he had agreed to be voluntarily extradited to the United States.

That could not be immediately confirmed with his US attorneys.

If he maintains his right to fight extradition, he is scheduled to appear for a hearing on the issue in early February.

Last week the US Justice Department and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) filed criminal and civil charges against Bankman-Fried, alleging that he cheated investors in FTX and misused funds that belonged to FTX customers.

FTX rose spectacularly from 2019 to become a leading player in the virtual currency industry while based in the Bahamas.

Bankman-Fried appeared on the covers of finance and tech magazines, and drew in huge investments from prominent fund managers and venture capitalists.

He was also lionized in the halls of politics, becoming a spokesman for the industry on tough issues such as regulation and risk in Washington. 

He also contributed tens of millions of dollars to political campaigns of both Republicans and Democrats.  

But his shooting star snuffed out dramatically in November when the company and its sister trading firm Alameda Research collapsed into insolvency.

After reaching a valuation of $32 billion, the group imploded following a November 2 media report that Alameda’s balance sheet was heavily built on the FTT currency — a token created by FTX with no independent value — and exposed Bankman-Fried’s companies as being dangerously interlinked.

Bankman-Fried was arrested at his Nassau apartment on December 12 at the request of federal prosecutors in New York.

He was charged in the United States with eight counts including conspiracy, wire fraud, money laundering and election finance violations.

Separately the SEC accused him of violating securities laws.

Bankman-Fried “was orchestrating a massive, years-long fraud, diverting billions of dollars of the trading platform’s customer funds for his own personal benefit and to help grow his crypto empire,” US prosecutors said.

US attorney general in hot seat as Trump's legal woes grow

Filing criminal charges against Donald Trump would be a long and complex process ultimately requiring US Attorney General Merrick Garland to weigh the enormous legal and political implications of placing a former president on trial.

The House committee that investigated the January 6, 2021 storming of the US Capitol by Trump supporters recommended Monday that Trump be prosecuted for his efforts to overturn the 2020 election won by Joe Biden.

The bipartisan panel voted unanimously to refer Trump to the Justice Department for insurrection, obstruction of an official proceeding, conspiracy to defraud the United States and making false statements.

Trump, who has announced plans to run for the White House again in 2024, is already the target of a probe by a special counsel appointed by Garland last month to oversee the various investigations into the former president.

One probe is focused on Trump’s maneuvers surrounding the 2020 election and the other is an investigation into a cache of classified government documents seized in an FBI raid on his Mar-a-Lago residence in Florida in August.

Special counsel Jack Smith will decide whether Trump, who has denounced the probes as a “witch hunt” by vengeful Democrats, should be indicted, but it will be Garland, as the nation’s top law enforcement official, who would have to sign off on any charges.

Legal analysts said it is not a foregone conclusion that the 76-year-old Trump will ever face the inside of a courtroom.

“We have not prosecuted a former president,” said John Dean, who served as White House legal counsel to president Richard Nixon, who resigned and was pardoned by Gerald Ford before he could face charges connected with the Watergate scandal.

“And there are all kinds of political fallout from that,” Dean told CNN. “There are practical fallouts from that and there are legal fallouts from it.”

“So it’s a very complex and very interesting and very historic event.”

– ‘No one’ above the law –

While Dean was cautious, Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi lawmaker who chaired the House committee, said he was “convinced” the Justice Department will charge Trump.

“No one, including a former president, is above the law,” Thompson said.

Playing a pivotal role will be the 70-year-old Garland, who was denied a lifetime seat on the Supreme Court by Senate Republicans only to be named attorney general by Biden, a Democrat.

Throughout his career which includes years as a federal court judge, Garland has scrupulously avoided becoming enmeshed in politics, and an indictment of Trump would likely ratchet up tensions even further in a country already bitterly divided along Democratic and Republican lines.

Garland’s decision to appoint an independent prosecutor to oversee the Trump probe was seen in Washington as a bid to rebuff charges that it is politically motivated.

Garland said a special counsel was in the public interest because both the Republican Trump and Democrat Biden have stated their intention to run in 2024, although only Trump has officially declared for now.

A graduate of Harvard Law School, the professorial and soft-spoken Garland is no stranger to high-profile investigations.

As a federal prosecutor, he notably led the probe into the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing by far-right extremists that left 168 people dead. He also prosecuted Ted Kaczynski, the “Unabomber.”

Garland went on to serve as chief judge on the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia and was nominated to the Supreme Court by president Barack Obama in March 2016.

But the Republican majority in the Senate declined to hold a vote on his nomination and it was the next president — Donald Trump — who filled the vacant seat.

Amber Heard agrees to pay Johnny Depp $1m in defamation case

Johnny Depp and Amber Heard have settled their acrimonious defamation case, they said Monday, with the actress agreeing to pay her former husband $1 million over claims he physically abused her.

In a post on Instagram, Heard said she was dropping an appeal against the $10 million payout she had been ordered to make by a jury because she “simply cannot go through” another trial.

“After a great deal of deliberation I have made a very difficult decision to settle the defamation case,” she said.

“I make this decision having lost faith in the American legal system, where my unprotected testimony served as entertainment and social media fodder,” the 36-year-old said.

“Now I finally have an opportunity to emancipate myself from something I attempted to leave over six years ago and on terms I can agree to,” she said. “I have made no admission. This is not an act of concession.”

In a legal battle involving suits and countersuits, a Virginia jury found Depp and Heard both liable for defamation — but sided more strongly with the “Pirates of the Carribean” star following an intense six-week trial riding on bitterly contested allegations of domestic abuse.

The jury awarded $10.35 million in damages to Depp, and $2 million to Heard.

Lawyers for 59-year-old Depp on Monday hailed the settlement.

“We are pleased to formally close the door on this painful chapter for Mr. Depp, who made clear throughout this process that his priority was about bringing the truth to light,” attorneys Benjamin Chew and Camille Vasquez said.

“The jury’s unanimous decision and the resulting judgement in Mr. Depp’s favor against Ms. Heard remain fully in place.

“The payment of $1 million — which Mr. Depp is pledging and will (actually) donate to charities — reinforces Ms. Heard’s acknowledgement of the conclusion of the legal system’s rigorous pursuit for justice.”

– ‘Defended my truth’ –

Depp sued Heard over an op-ed she wrote for The Washington Post in December 2018 in which she described herself as a “public figure representing domestic abuse.”

The Texas-born Heard did not name Depp in the piece, but he sued her for implying he was a domestic abuser and sought $50 million in damages.

Heard countersued for $100 million, saying she was defamed by statements made by Depp’s lawyer, Adam Waldman, who told the Daily Mail her abuse claims were a “hoax.”

The case, livestreamed to millions, featured lurid and intimate details about the Hollywood celebrities’ private lives.

Heard’s lawyers said following the trial that the actress did not have the resources to pay Depp the $10 million in damages.

In her Instagram post, Heard said she “defended my truth and in doing so my life as I knew it was destroyed.

“The vilification I have faced on social media is an amplified version of the ways in which women are revictimised when they come forward,” she said.

“I was exposed to a type of humiliation that I simply cannot relive.

“Even if my US appeal is successful, the best outcome would be a retrial where a new jury would have to consider the evidence again,” she said. “I simply cannot go through that for a third time.”

Entertainment outlet Variety said Heard had initially made claims of domestic abuse in 2016 during her divorce from the “Edward Scissorhands” star.

In a settlement she was granted $7 million and the issue was shelved, with the couple signing non-disparagement and non-disclosure agreements.

Five takeaways from congressional report calling for Trump charges

Much of the detail on Donald Trump’s alleged misconduct aired Monday by the panel probing the 2021 US Capitol insurrection had already been made public.

But a summary of the upcoming report on the congressional committee’s findings was full of tidbits that had not come out before. 

Here are five takeaways from the 154-page document.

– Trump was the ‘central’ cause of the violence –

“(The) evidence has led to an overriding and straightforward conclusion: the central cause of January 6th was one man, former president Donald Trump, who many others followed,” the summary reads.

“None of the events of January 6th would have happened without him.”

– Laws Trump and others allegedly broke –

The document explicitly sets out the multiple criminal statutes it says Trump violated his bid to cling to power — justifying its referrals for insurrection, conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to make a false statement and obstructing an official proceeding.

None of Trump’s aides was referred to the Justice Department under specific statutes but the summary suggests there could be sufficient evidence to charge Trump lawyer John Eastman and “others.”

The summary details 17 findings undergirding its reasoning for criminal referrals, alleging that Trump knew the fraud allegations he was pushing were false and that his decision to declare victory falsely “was premeditated.”

– Seditious conspiracy? –

The summary raises the possibility of additional “seditious conspiracy” charges against Trump similar to those leveled against members of the Oath Keepers militia over the insurrection.

“The Department of Justice, through its investigative tools that exceed those of this committee, may have evidence sufficient to prosecute President Trump under Sections 372 and 2384.” it reads.

“Accordingly, we believe sufficient evidence exists for a criminal referral of President Trump under these two statutes.”

Committee member Jamie Raskin said after the hearing any potential further charges, beyond the four it has recommended, would be “a judgment that the Department of Justice will have to make.”

– Ivanka Trump not ‘forthcoming’ –

The summary makes clear that several figures close to Trump were evasive or made claims of memory lapses that were not credible during testimony.

It specifically names the former president’s daughter and former advisor Ivanka Trump, saying she appeared to know more than she was acknowledging during questioning.

“Ivanka Trump was not as forthcoming as… others about President Trump’s conduct,” the document says, noting her “lack of full recollection of certain issues.”

The panel also notes that former White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany “seemed evasive, as if she was testifying from pre-prepared talking points.” 

“In multiple instances, McEnany’s testimony did not seem nearly as forthright as that of her press office staff, who testified about what McEnany said,” the summary states.

– Non-criminal referrals –

The summary says several Republican lawmakers are being referred to the House Ethics Committee for refusal to cooperate with the investigation.

They include House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, who is vying to be House Speaker in the next Congress, the third most powerful political position in Washington, and three hardline right-wingers. All four defied subpoenas to give evidence.

“If left unpunished, such behavior undermines Congress’s longstanding power to investigate in support of its lawmaking authority and suggests that members of Congress may disregard legal obligations that apply to ordinary citizens,” the text says.