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“There’s no reason in the world that those states should go forward so early, because they’re not representative of what 90 percent of the country’s all about,” said former Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, a Nevada Democrat who remains influential in party politics. “America looks different than it did 50 years ago, when these traditions were put in place, and the Democratic electorate looks really different.”

He added, “It’s no longer palatable, as far as I’m concerned, for those states to take precedence over states like South Carolina and Nevada.”

The legislation marked the first real offensive in what is likely to be a drawn-out war over the outline of the 2024 presidential nominating process. In Iowa, the state’s Democratic Party chair, state Rep. Ross Wilburn, said he is “prepared to do whatever it takes to keep Iowa first in the nation.” And in New Hampshire, Bill Gardner, the longtime secretary of state, said neither the Democratic National Committee nor the Republican National Committee will dictate to his state when it can vote.

“The status of the primary was not given to New Hampshire by the parties,” Gardner said, referring to the state law that requires New Hampshire to hold its primary at least seven days before any “similar election” in another state. “We have a law, and we’ll comply with our law.”

Iowa has a similar law on its books, stating that it must hold its caucuses at least eight days before any other nominating contest.

Nevada’s move this week intensified conversations among top Iowa and New Hampshire operatives and activists eager to prepare their defense, and privately, several Iowa Democrats acknowledged that their status was in serious jeopardy. But changing the presidential nominating calendar — bound up by state laws, party committee rules and an interest in syncing it up with Republicans — isn’t an easy or straightforward process. And key players, like the White House and DNC Chair Jaime Harrison, haven’t weighed in on it yet.

“There have been attempts to replace Iowa from both sides, and we’ve been able to stay together [with Iowa Republicans] and work through these challenges,” said Jeff Link, an Iowa-based Demcoratic consultant. “We’re going to have to do it again because there’s a very real threat.”

This time, though, the fallout may be fatal. Tom Perez, the former DNC chair, has blasted the tradition of Iowa and New Hampshire going first. In Nevada, Reid has been calling since last year for his state to both do away with its caucus system — which would appease national Democrats — and go first in the nominating process. The bill introduced this week, in addition to switching the state’s caucus to a primary, would set the date for the second-to-last Tuesday in January.

Nevada’s Democratic Assembly Speaker, Jason Frierson, suggested the bill was a starting point for a “national conversation about what makes sense.”

“It would not be ideal to just have a back-and-forth and just have a leapfrog exercise,” he said, “so the hope is that we can coordinate with the national party as well as our states, and work something out.” Frierson said he “certainly [is] not trying to start some dispute between states,” adding that “this is the beginning of the conversation.”

But Frierson, like many other Democrats outside of Iowa and New Hampshire, suggested that instead of presidential candidates focusing for a year or more on Iowa and New Hampshire — two heavily white states — it would “behoove” them “to be speaking to a diverse population” more reflective of the electorate at large.

Nevada, in addition to fitting that bill with its sizable Hispanic population, also shares an advantage that Iowa and New Hampshire have — being small enough in population that a candidate without massive resources can compete there. So, too, does South Carolina, the fourth state in the “early carve-out” states before Super Tuesday.

It’s unclear when the Democratic National Committee will formally take up the calendar issue. David Bergstein, a DNC spokesperson, said in an email that “the DNC’s Rules and Bylaws Committee will continue to evaluate all areas of our nominating process and make recommendations for any changes.” No meeting has been set, though, and Wilburn said he has been told the Rules and Bylaws Committee will likely meet in August.

Wilburn, who was recently elected as the state party’s first Black chair, expressed confidence in Iowa’s standing. Every four years, he said, “the threats, the jockeying for position occurs when the calendar is set. … I’m confident we can make our case.”

Like other Iowa loyalists, Wilburn points to the face-to-face campaigning that candidates can do with a spectrum of constituencies in his small state, and to the geographic and demographic diversity achieved by the first four nominating states together.

President Joe Biden — who, as the head of the party, will have enormous influence over the 2024 calendar — has not yet signaled his preference. Earlier this month, Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, said it was “too soon” to talk about the lineup of states for the next election.

Psaki, while noting that “Nevada is a little warmer,” said they are “all great states” and that the White House is “not focused on — on the next political campaign here quite yet.”

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Notably, though, Biden’s path to the presidential nomination didn’t include Iowa or New Hampshire, where he landed in fourth and fifth place, respectively. Instead, “the only place I’d guess that’s absolutely safe in its early-status position is South Carolina,” said one national Democratic operative, highlighting Rep. Jim Clyburn as a key champion for the state that delivered Biden to the White House.

But in Iowa and New Hampshire, the shadowboxing has already begun. In Iowa, the release of a report in December that apportioned blame for the state’s chaotic caucus at least partly on meddling from the DNC was widely viewed as an effort to defend itself from the coming onslaught. And in New Hampshire, the Nevada legislation was taken as an affront.

“It looks like they’ve thrown down the gauntlet,” Bill Shaheen, the state’s Democratic national committeeman, told WMUR in New Hampshire this week. “It’s on. … Let’s get it on.”

“The reaction I saw after Nevada was — we need to be ready for the fight, and we will be,” said Norm Sterzenbach, an Iowa-based Democratic consultant. “Their move forced a conversation on the national level [and] it also kicks people in Iowa into gear about what our system could look like under different scenarios.”

But Doug Herman, an Iowa native who was a lead mail strategist for Barack Obama’s 2008 and 2012 campaigns, said he “can’t imagine that they get the opportunity to present a caucus in 2024.”

Caucuses, he said, “served their time” but are “anachronistic and exclusionary in terms of voting … antithetical to everything the Democratic Party is trying to do.”

Several Iowa Democrats discussed a range of potential solutions to maintain their status: grouping several early states on a single day; hosting an unsanctioned caucus or a party-run primary; and removing the state’s viability threshold in the caucuses, turning it into a “firehouse” caucus. But all those potential solutions run headlong into logistical, legal and legislative challenges, should any of them be attempted.

As for the calendar, Herman said, “There’s going to have to be a compromise, and my guess is that a regional grouping is what becomes the play.” That could mean four states from four different regions holding primaries in successive weeks, potentially beginning with the four states that kick off the process now — Iowa, New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada.

Iowa and New Hampshire could also choose to buck the party. States have done that before, as Florida and Michigan did with early primaries in 2008 in defiance of party rules. Asked whether Iowa could hold an unsanctioned caucus — daring candidates not to campaign there — Dave Nagle, the former congressmember and Iowa state Democratic Party chair, said, “Sure.”

For every state that has tried to move ahead of Iowa or New Hampshire, he said, “it generally does not have a happy ending. … The one thing they’re ignoring, and it shows their inexperience out there [in Nevada], the one thing is Bill Gardner in New Hampshire. Bill will go to July of 2021 if he has to to keep the first primary.”

Nagle, while defending Iowa’s place as a voice for rural voters and voters in the Midwest, suggested that at a minimum, the Nevada legislation was straining relationships between states. For years, he said, the four early nominating states had resolved to “stand together, not get in a contest against each other.” The legislation, he said, “has a tendency to break down the alliance.”

Some Iowa activists argue that Democrats should focus more on regaining ground in congressional and statewide races, after sustaining serious electoral losses in 2020, rather than trying to put on a complicated and expensive presidential contest. Others hope that the party eliminates caucuses altogether — arguing that they limit peoples’ access to vote — even if it means risking their first-in-the-nation status.

“The big question for Iowa Democrats, being talked about in sotto voce, is, does the DNC ban caucuses altogether?” said John Deeth, a Johnson County, Iowa, Democratic activist who supports eliminating the caucuses and replacing them with a primary. “If they do that, Republicans, however, hold on to a trifecta of the legislature and the governor’s office [in Iowa], and they are not interested in passing a primary bill for Democrats … and that leaves us with only bad options.”

Another looming challenge comes in timing the presidential calendar with Republicans, or “have we reached the point where they break apart and do things differently?” said Craig Robinson, an Iowa GOP consultant and former state party official. “I think that may be more likely now.”

Robinson noted that Republicans, unlike Democrats, already have eyes on 2024 and “candidates want to know where the game is going to be played, so that’s to Iowa and New Hampshire’s advantage.”

Iowa Republican Party Chair Jeff Kaufmann said that he was confident that his state, alongside Iowa Democrats, would maintain its status, “but I never take anything for granted,” he added. “Am I going to sleep until it’s official? Nope.”


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Queen sits alone at funeral for Prince Philip to set example

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Other royals who are in family bubbles are sitting together.

The service began with Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby entering the chapel ahead of the coffin, followed by Philip’s children and three of his eight grandchildren, as a four-member choir sang “I am the resurrection and the life.”

Inside the Gothic chapel, the setting for centuries of royal weddings and funerals, the service was to be simple and somber. There will be no sermon, at Philip’s request, and no family eulogies or readings, in keeping with royal tradition. But Dean of Windsor David Conner will say the country has been enriched by Philip’s “unwavering loyalty to our queen, by his service to the nation and the Commonwealth, by his courage, fortitude and faith.”

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Philip spent almost 14 years in the Royal Navy and saw action in the Mediterranean Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Pacific during World War II. Several elements of his funeral have a maritime theme, including the hymn “Eternal Father, Strong to Save,” which is associated with seafarers and asks God: “O hear us when we cry to thee/For those in peril on the sea.”

Along with Philip’s children and grandchildren, the 30 funeral guests include other senior royals and several of his German relatives. Philip was born a prince of Greece and Denmark and, like the queen, is related to a thicket of European royal families.


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FBI says it interviewed FedEx mass shooter last year

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The shooter was identified as Brandon Scott Hole, 19, of Indianapolis, Deputy Police Chief Craig McCartt told a news conference. Investigators searched a home in Indianapolis associated with Hole and seized evidence, including desktop computers and other electronic media, McCartt said.

Hole began firing randomly at people in the parking lot of the FedEx facility late Thursday, killing four, before entering the building, fatally shooting four more people and then turning the gun on himself, McCartt said. He said he did not know if Hole owned the gun legally.

“There was no confrontation with anyone that was there,” he said. “There was no disturbance, there was no argument. He just appeared to randomly start shooting.”

McCartt said the slayings took place in a matter of minutes, and that there were at least 100 people in the facility at the time. Many were changing shifts or were on their dinner break, he said. Several people were wounded, including five who were taken to the hospital.

“You deserved so much better than this,” a man who identified himself as the grandson of Johal tweeted Friday evening. Johal had planned to work a double shift Thursday so she could take Friday off, according to the grandson, who would not give his full name but identifies himself as “Komal” on his Twitter page. Johal later decided to grab her check and go home, and still had the check in her hand when police found her, Komal said.

“(What) a harsh and cruel world we live in,” he added.

Smith, the youngest of the victims, was last in contact with her family shortly before 11 p.m. Thursday, family members said in social media posts late Friday. Dominique Troutman, Smith’s sister, waited hours at the Holiday Inn for an update on her sister. “Words can’t even explain how I feel. … I’m so hurt,” Troutman said in a Facebook post Friday night.

Weisert had been working as a bag handler at FedEx for four years, his wife, Carol, told WISH-TV. The couple was married nearly 50 years.

President Joe Biden said he had been briefed on the shooting and called gun violence “an epidemic” in the U.S.

“Too many Americans are dying every single day from gun violence. It stains our character and pierces the very soul of our nation,” he said in a statement. Later, he tweeted, “We can, and must, do more to reduce gun violence and save lives.”

A FedEx employee said he was working inside the building Thursday night when he heard several gunshots in rapid succession.

“I see a man come out with a rifle in his hand and he starts firing and he starts yelling stuff that I could not understand,” Levi Miller told WTHR-TV. “What I ended up doing was ducking down to make sure he did not see me because I thought he would see me and he would shoot me.”

Paul Keenan, special agent in charge of the FBI’s Indianapolis field office, said Friday that agents questioned Hole last year after his mother called police to say that her son might commit “suicide by cop.” He said the FBI was called after items were found in Hole’s bedroom but he did not elaborate on what they were. He said agents found no evidence of a crime and that they did not identify Hole as espousing a racially motivated ideology. A police report obtained by The Associated Press shows that officers seized a pump-action shotgun from Hole’s home after responding to the mother’s call. Keenan said the gun was never returned.

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McCartt said Hole was a former employee of FedEx and last worked for the company in 2020. The deputy police chief said he did not know why Hole left the job or if he had ties to the workers in the facility. He said police have not yet uncovered a motive for the shooting.

Police Chief Randal Taylor noted that a “significant” number of employees at the FedEx facility are members of the Sikh community, and the Sikh Coalition later issued a statement saying it was “sad to confirm” that at least four of those killed were community members.

The coalition, which identifies itself as the largest Sikh civil rights organization in the U.S., said in the statement that it expected authorities to “conduct a full investigation — including the possibility of bias as a factor.”

Varun Nikore, executive director of the AAPI Victory Alliance, a national advocacy group for Asian Americans and Pacific Islanders, said in a statement that the shootings marked “yet another senseless massacre that has become a daily occurrence in this country.”

Nikore remarked that gun violence in the U.S. “is reflective of all of the spineless politicians who are beholden to the gun lobby.”

FedEx Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Frederick Smith called the shooting a “senseless act of violence.”

“This is a devastating day, and words are hard to describe the emotions we all feel,” he wrote in an email to employees.

The killings marked the latest in a string of recent mass shootings across the country and the third mass shooting this year in Indianapolis. Five people, including a pregnant woman, were shot and killed in the city in January, and a man was accused of killing three adults and a child before abducting his daughter during at argument at a home in March. In other states last month, eight people were fatally shot at massage businesses in the Atlanta area, and 10 died in gunfire at a supermarket in Boulder, Colorado.

Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said the community must guard against resignation and “the assumption that this is simply how it must be and we might as well get used to it.”


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Gaetz ex-girlfriend feared alleged sex-trafficking victim taped call for feds

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Gaetz’s former girlfriend has played a bit role in the unfolding public drama — she is the woman who sent the lawmaker a nude video of her performing a hula hoop dance that he showed to other members of Congress.

But two of her friends, who declined to be identified publicly because of the sensational nature of the case, say she now suspects she was being set up when the alleged victim and another woman involved in the case called her to discuss the lawmaker in what she fears might have been a recorded conference call. The call took place sometime after Greenberg was indicted for the sex crime in August.

The friends did not provide details about exactly what was discussed, but one recounted that Gaetz’s ex-girlfriend said she was opposed to talking to authorities and is now worried that prosecutors might try to charge her with obstructing justice in order to get to Gaetz.

Tim Jansen, an attorney for Gaetz’s former girlfriend, declined to comment about his client. Greenberg’s lawyer, Fritz Scheller, also declined to talk. Gaetz has strongly denied allegations he engaged in any sex crimes.

The three women on the call were all present on a September 2018 trip to the Bahamas that authorities think may shed light on the allegations against Gaetz. Also present on that trip: Gaetz and two other Florida Republican political players, former Orlando-area aviation authority member and Gov. Ron DeSantis fundraiser Jason Pirozzolo and former state Rep. Halsey Beshears.

POLITICO is withholding the names of the women who went to the Bahamas, including his ex-girlfriend, because of the sensitive nature of the case and the allegations that while there, some of the women engaged in prostitution.

As the investigation intensified this winter, Beshears abruptly resigned in January as Florida Department of Business and Professional Regulation Secretary — a post that made him the state’s top business regulator — noting he had contracted Covid-19. About that time, federal authorities seized the iPhones of Gaetz and his former girlfriend.

Federal authorities are examining the Bahamas trip to see if it violated the Mann Act, which forbids transporting people across state lines to engage in prostitution. One woman on the trip told POLITICO that no one engaged in prostitution.

The alleged victim in the sex-trafficking case had turned 18 almost nine months before the Bahamas trip. But Gaetz has acknowledged he’s the subject of a federal investigation into whether he had improper involvement with her as a 17-year-old.

A source familiar with the investigation wouldn’t say whether the alleged victim was cooperating with authorities. But when asked if she has been talking for months with the federal government, the source said “100 percent.”

While the alleged sex-trafficking victim is key to the case against Greenberg and the allegations against Gaetz, the lawmaker’s ex-girlfriend could play a pivotal role in the investigation of the trip, as well as other related controversies.

Gaetz was criticized for allegedly showing the hula hoop video to congressional colleagues, and he was also accused of engaging in revenge porn against his former girlfriend. But two of her friends say the woman, in her early 20s, did not object to him showing it to friends — provided he didn’t send it to others or post it on social media — because she was proud of her appearance and performance.

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“This is the best I will ever look in my life,” a friend who saw the video recalled her saying. “That’s how she is. It’s not revenge porn.”

The former girlfriend first met Gaetz while she attended college in the Orlando area in 2017. Greenberg, who established contact with her on the SeekingArrangement website — a dating website that connects women with so-called sugar daddies — made the connection. Soon after, she began dating Gaetz, although the relationship was not exclusive, friends said.

Gaetz later got her a job interning in the office of another Republican member of Congress, but that member let her go when it was discovered she was a Democrat, according to Democratic Rep. Darren Soto of Orlando, who promptly hired her when Gaetz told him of the matter.

Soto, who is not involved in the investigation, would not name the Republican lawmaker or comment about the case. But he said the woman was a hard worker in his office and that he had no complaints about her, other than some inquiries about whether Gaetz’s relationship with the intern was inappropriate.

“We wanted to protect her privacy from the media. She was just an intern,” Soto said. “I’ll also say she was fired by a Republican for being a Democrat. I found it offensive that she was fired for her political beliefs.”

Gaetz and the ex-girlfriend continued to date until well after the Bahamas trip in 2018. Friends said the two remained on good terms, although she was a source of friction between the lawmaker and Beshears. Beshears had apparently been taking her out on dates in Tallahassee, including a trip to the Florida State University president’s skybox at Doak Campbell Stadium, mutual friends said.

At the time, Beshears had recently been left by another girlfriend after she learned about the Bahamas trip. Beshears, then a state legislator, had flown several of the women on his private plane, which was briefly detained by U.S. Customs upon its return to Florida for questioning about the ages of several of the young women on the trip.

“Here was Halsey with three young women who could have been his daughters, and a Customs agent was like, ‘Whoa, what’s going on here?‘” said a source who was familiar with the incident.

Speaking to the partying group and the drama surrounding them, a different mutual friend said: “Tallahassee is like high school. But no one ever graduates.”


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