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GOP renews push to arm federal judges amid rising threats of violence

GOP renews push to arm federal judges amid rising threats of violence

House Republicans are proposing a change to the law that would make it easier for federal judges to arm themselves as they enter and exit the courthouse, a change they say is needed because judges are seeing more threats to their safety.Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., introduced the Firearm Lockbox Protection Act, which would allow judges who are licensed to carry a firearm in their state to securely store that firearm in the courthouse. It would set up a system that lets judges check these weapons into a secure facility as they arrive and check them out as they leave, which Cole said would help them defend themselves from threats.FIREARM SALES EXPLODE AS OREGON AWAITS JUDGE’S DECISION ON GUN CONTROL LAW
House Rules Committee Chairman Tom Cole, R-Okla., proposed a bill that would make it easier for federal judges to arm themselves as they enter and exit the courthouse. (Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images)

Minnesota Gov. Walz makes Juneteenth state holiday, bans ‘hair discrimination’

Minnesota Gov. Walz makes Juneteenth state holiday, bans ‘hair discrimination’

Juneteeth will become a state holiday in Minnesota, under a bill signed by Gov. Tim Walz on Friday in a state where it’s now illegal to discriminate on the basis of hair texture or style.The Democratic governor made Minnesota the 26th state to recognize June 19th as a holiday. It’s the date in 1865 viewed as the final abolition of slavery in the U.S. even though it came two years after President Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Emancipation Proclamation. It became a federal holiday in 2021, and many local governments and companies already observe it.WHAT IS JUNETEENTH? THE HISTORY BEHIND THE OLDEST COMMEMORATION OF THE ABOLISHMENT OF SLAVERY IN THE USWalz also held a ceremonial signing Friday of a bill known as the CROWN Act, which he formally signed Wednesday. It stands for “Creating a Respectful and Open World for Natural Hair,” and explicitly prohibits racial discrimination based on natural hair texture and hairstyles such as braids, locs, and twists.
Democratic Minnesota Gov. Tim Walz signed into law bills making Juneteenth a state holiday and banning so-called “hair discrimination.”
(Stephen Maturen/Getty Images)Flanked by a crowd of mostly female Black lawmakers and community leaders, Walz joked about “the irony of an older white bald guy signing this bill,” but said it addresses a real problem.The lead House author, Democratic Rep. Esther Agbaje, of Minneapolis, said the legislation was necessary because the U.S. Supreme Court in 2017 “declined to weigh in on whether natural hair was an immutable part of race.”CONNECTICUT PASSES CROWN ACT TO BAN DISCRIMINATION AGAINST NATURAL HAIRNineteen other states and several cities have enacted similar protections since 2019.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APP”With this law we are saying that we will not allow hair discrimination as a proxy for race discrimination,” Agbaje said. “We are also saying it is perfectly fine to show up as you are.”

Missouri Sen. Eric Schmitt calls for investigation into Biden admin’s ‘alarming’ handling of Chinese balloon

Missouri Sen. Eric Schmitt calls for investigation into Biden admin’s ‘alarming’ handling of Chinese balloon

EXCLUSIVE: Missouri GOP Sen. Eric Schmitt sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin regarding the Chinese spy balloon that is hovering over the state, saying the Biden administration’s “lack of transparency is alarming” and called for an investigation into the matter.”As I write, a Chinese asset hovers over the great State of Missouri. This is potentially a grave threat to national security that the Biden Administration is allowing to violate U.S. airspace, while failing to provide critical details for the American people,” Schmitt wrote. “The lack of transparency is alarming. The Department of Defense has told the public very little about the Chinese asset. The Department of Defense has said it is a Chinese balloon; it is over the central United States; it is carrying surveillance gear as well as a payload; it has the ability to maneuver; and a decision was made to not shoot it down. The Department of Defense has said that ‘instances of this activity have been observed over the past several years, including prior to this administration.’”Schmitt, who previously served as attorney general of Missouri and was elected to the Senate last November, blamed the Pentagon for refusing to answer questions about the balloon’s exact location.BIDEN ADMIN OFFERED ‘ZERO COMMUNICATION’ ABOUT SUSPECTED CHINESE SPY BALLOON, MISSOURI GOV. PARSON SAYS
Missouri GOP Sen. Eric Schmitt and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
(Kyle Rivas, Thomas Lohnes via Getty Images)”Without answers to these critical questions, it is difficult to understand why the Biden Administration decided to allow an asset from a foreign adversary ot invade U.S. airspace,” he added. “The Department of Defense says that this Chinese asset ‘has violated U.S. airspace and international law, which is unacceptable.’ But despite this violation of our nation’s airspace, the Department of Defense has taken no action to stop the Chinese asset from proceeding to pass over, and likely surveil, some of our most sensitive military sites.”Noting the importance of the situation, Schmitt pointed out in his letter to Lloyd that Whiteman Air Force Base, the home of the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber, is located in Missouri.”The Chinese asset appears to have passed close to Whiteman. Yet nothing was done to stop the asset from reaching Missouri,” Schmitt wrote.”I request an immediate briefing for my colleagues so that we can provide constitutional oversight,” he added. “The fact that a Chinese spy balloon is able to fly in American airspace completely undeterred is absolutely ridiculous,” Schmitt told Fox News Digital. “The Biden Administration needs to answer why this Chinese spy balloon was not taken down over a sparsely populated area before it moved deep into the United States interior, or why they continue to allow it to fly.”Schmitt said one would “be naive not to think China is attempting to observe critical military installations across the country and in Missouri, such as Whiteman Air Force base – a vital asset in ensuring America’s nuclear preparedness and home to the B-2 Spirit stealth bomber.” “We need answers from President Biden, Secretary Austin, and this administration immediately,” he added.’RISK TO SAFETY’? MONTANA CONGRESSMAN REJECTS PENTAGON’S REASON FOR NOT SHOOTING DOWN CHINESE SPY BALLOON
“We need answers from President Biden, Secretary Austin, and this administration immediately,” said Schmitt.
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)Defense Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said Friday that the Chinese surveillance balloon, which China claims is a civilian reconnaissance airship that inadvertently drifted off course and was first reported to be hovering over Montana, had “changed its course” and moved to the central part of the country. But he declined to get into specifics about its location.The National Weather Service in Kansas City, Missouri, posted photos of a large balloon visible from its office in Pleasant Hill that appeared to be headed southeast. “We have confirmed that it is not an NWS weather balloon,” NWS Kansas City said.In a Friday statement, Missouri Republican Gov. Mike Parson said he has had “zero communication” from the Biden administration about the balloon.Fox News Digital reached out to the White House about Parson’s remarks, but did not receive an immediate response. The Pentagon did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Schmitt’s letter.Hours before Ryder’s remarks, officials said the balloon sat above Billings, Montana, potentially giving the Biden administration ample time to act on the situation before it moved into more populated areas of the country. The Pentagon said that it considered taking down the possible threat from China, but ultimately decided against any action due to “the risk to safety and security of people on the ground from the possible debris field.”
A balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, on February 1, 2023 in this picture obtained from social media.
(Chase Doak/via Reuters)CLICK TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPSenior State Department officials have called the incident “unacceptable,” and Secretary of State Antony Blinken has indefinitely postponed a planned trip to China to meet President Xi Jinping in light of the circumstances.A senior U.S. Defense official told Fox News the balloon was launched from mainland China. “This was intentional,” the senior U.S. official said.Fox News’ Chris Pandolfo contributed to this article.

South Dakota Republicans move to pass sweeping election security bills

Lead Republicans in South Dakota are advancing a package of bills that they say would strengthen security of the 2024 elections, with hearings that began this week.The package of bills announced last week by Republican House and Senate leaders addresses issues such as runoff elections, recounts and ballot legitimacy. While lawmakers say they believe South Dakota elections are among the most secure in the country, they also say the system could be made stronger, and they are hoping the new proposals will help alleviate distrust.”South Dakota has an excellent election system but we can always be better,” said Republican Rep. Tony Venhuizen, who proposed that the timing of runoff elections for general elections should be extended to 10 weeks instead of eight, to avoid conflict with the deadline to certify ballots. “It’s a pretty small piece of the puzzle in the scheme of things but I think it’s a good issue to head off if we can.”MARYLAND LAWMAKERS DEBATING BILL TO REQUIRE CURBSIDE VOTINGThe package of bills from Rep. Will Mortenson and Sen. Casey Crabtree includes language changes that would also allow candidates outside the primary election to run. In addition, candidates tied for second place would be required to run in the runoff election alongside the first-place candidates if the margin is less than 35%.When it comes to recounts, Rep. Amber Arlint proposed establishing partisan recount boards that would ensure the state’s dominant party has more representation. Registered Democrats would comprise a Democratic candidate’s recount board and a registered Republicans would comprise a Republican’s board.This modification stems from Arlint’s personal experience. She won her position against two Democrats by so close a margin that a recount took place. Two registered Democrats and one registered Republican were among those counting her ballots.
South Dakota Republicans have introduced a series of elections bills addressing runoffs, recounts, and other election security concerns.

Dem congressman compares Chinese spy balloon to DHS blimp monitoring US-Mexico border

Dem congressman compares Chinese spy balloon to DHS blimp monitoring US-Mexico border

A Democratic congressman made a comparison on Friday between the balloon being flown over the U.S. by the Chinese communist regime, and the move by the Department of Homeland Security to fly blimps over over the Arizona border to monitor smuggling and trafficking along the southern border.”People are outraged by a Chinese surveillance balloon, but when @DHSgov puts up a surveillance blimp in Arizona border communities without community consultation,” Rep. Raul Grijalva, D-Ariz., tweeted, followed by a silenced emoji and a “sssh” emoji.He later edited the tweet to clarify that people are “rightfully” outraged.Grijalva’s tweet came as the balloon, which Chinese officials have claimed is a civilian craft that went adrift, remained over the continental U.S. at approximately 60,000 feet.WHITE HOUSE: BIDEN CHOSE NOT TO SHOOT DOWN CHINESE SPY BALLOON, BUT KEEPING ‘ALL OPTIONS ON TABLE’ CHINA CONFIRMS BALLOON IS THEIRS, AS SPOKESPERSON CLAIMS IT IS CIVILIAN RESEARCH AIRSHIPThe Biden administration has condemned the balloon, canceling a planned trip by Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Beijing and calling it a “clear violation of our sovereignty, as well as international law.”The Democratic congressman, who is the ranking Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, compared the craft to the operation of tethered aerostat blimps operated by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).Those blimps are used by authorities along the border — including in Texas and Arizona — to counter drug and human trafficking and other forms of smuggling.CHINESE SPY BALLOON ENTERS US AIRSPACE: WHAT WE KNOW In 2020 the Trump administration issued a $277 million dollar contract to extend the contract with the main company that provides the drones for an additional five years.CLICK TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPThe use has continued under the Biden administration, CBP putting a balloon up in Nogales, Arizona last year. A spokesman told local media that the technology has been used along the border since 2013, that the blimp in question has a range of 3,000 feet above ground level and allows Border Patrol to “maintain visual awareness of border activity in the United States for longer periods of time.”Meanwhile, Republican lawmakers have been calling on the Biden administration to shoot down the drone as well as to hold hearings on the continued presence of the drone. A spokesman for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told Fox News that the Biden administration will brief the “Gang of 8” congressional leaders next week on the situation.Fox News’ Tyler Olson contributed to this report.

Biden admin to brief ‘Gang of Eight’ on Chinese spy balloon after Speaker McCarthy’s request

Biden admin to brief ‘Gang of Eight’ on Chinese spy balloon after Speaker McCarthy’s request

The Biden administration will brief the “Gang of Eight” next week on the Chinese spy balloon hovering over the continental United States, according to a spokesperson for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer.Multiple lawmakers, including House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, asked for a “Gang of Eight” briefing after the balloon was discovered.”China’s brazen disregard for U.S. sovereignty is a destabilizing action that must be addressed, and President Biden cannot be silent. I am requesting a Gang of Eight briefing,” McCarthy said on Twitter.CHINESE SPY BALLOON: BLINKEN CALLS OUT CHINA FOR ‘IRRESPONSIBLE ACT’ IN PHONE CALL WITH CCP OFFICIAL
President Biden, left, sits next to Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy, R- Calif., during the National Prayer Breakfast at the U.S. Capitol Feb. 2, 2023, in Washington, D.C.
(Kevin Dietsch)The “Gang of Eight” consists of eight Republican and Democrat congressional leaders from the House and Senate who are briefed on classified matters from the executive branch.During a briefing Thursday afternoon, Pentagon spokesperson Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said the U.S. government detected a high-altitude surveillance balloon over the continental U.S.A senior defense official added that the U.S. government is “confident” the surveillance balloon belongs to the People’s Republic of China.
A high-altitude balloon floats over Billings, Mont., Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2023. 
(Larry Mayer/The Billings Gazette via AP)The defense official said the balloon was recently over Montana, adding the government considered shooting it down but decided against doing so because of the potential risks.President Biden was briefed on the situation and asked for military options, the official said.CHINESE BALLOON FLYING OVER US ‘INTENTIONAL,’ NOT WEATHER CRAFT THAT BLEW OFF COURSE, US OFFICIAL SAYS
A balloon flies in the sky over Billings, Montana, Feb. 1, 2023, in this picture obtained from social media.
(Chase Doak/via Reuters)”You did see reports yesterday of a ground stop at Billings Airport and the mobilization of a number of assets, including F-22,” the official said. “The context for that was that we put some things on station in the event that a decision was made to bring this down while it was over Montana. “So, we wanted to make sure we were coordinating with civil authorities to empty out the airspace around that potential area. But, even with those protective measures taken, it was the judgment of our military commanders that we didn’t drive the risk down low enough. So, we didn’t take the shot.”A Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson responded to U.S. government officials Friday, claiming the balloon is a “civilian airship” being used for meteorological purposes and deviated from its planned course.”The airship is from China. It is a civilian airship used for research, mainly meteorological, purposes,” the spokesperson said. “Affected by the Westerlies and with limited self-steering capability, the airship deviated far from its planned course.”
This map shows the approximate path of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over Montana Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.
(Fox News)A senior U.S. defense official told Fox News the balloon initially took off from mainland China. The Pentagon doesn’t believe claims that the object is a weather balloon that flew off course.”This was intentional,” the senior U.S. official said.As a result of the balloon’s discovery, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to China.
Red flags flutter in front of the Great Hall of the People before the annual two sessions March 4, 2022, in Beijing, China.
(VCG/VCG via Getty Images)CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPThe balloon was seen over Kansas City, Missouri, Friday. Department spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder told reporters the balloon will probably hover over U.S. airspace “a few days.”Fox News’ Chris Pandolfo and Jennifer Griffin contributed to this report.

Chinese spy balloon: Republican demands for Biden to counter CCP ‘provocation’ escalate

Chinese spy balloon: Republican demands for Biden to counter CCP ‘provocation’ escalate

As the Biden administration on Friday dealt with an incursion of a Chinese surveillance balloon into the continental U.S., calls for more action escalated from Republicans, demanding briefings and for the balloon to be shot out of the sky.Officials confirmed on Thursday they detected the balloon, and that the government “acted immediately to protect against the collection of sensitive information.”On Friday, Chinese officials confirmed that the balloon was Chinese, but said it was a civilian airship that drifted off course. U.S. officials have rejected that characterization, and senior State Department officials called the balloon “a clear and unacceptable violation of U.S. sovereignty.”Meanwhile, Secretary of State Antony Blinken canceled a planned trip to Beijing due to the balloon.CHINESE SPY BALLOON ENTERS US AIRSPACE: WHAT WE KNOW
Map shows approximate path of a suspected Chinese surveillance balloon over Montana, Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.
(Fox News)”The presence of this balloon in our airspace is a clear violation of our sovereignty, as well as international law,” an official said. “We have concluded that the conditions are not right at this moment for Secretary Blinken to travel to China.”But with the balloon hovering at approximately 60,000 feet over the continental U.S. and moving through Montana and toward Kansas, Republicans have been accusing the Biden administration of inaction — and have been urging the administration to shoot it down, as well as calling for briefings on the matter in Washington D.C.”Shoot. It. Down,” Rep. Ryan Zinke, R-Mont., tweeted Thursday. “The Chinese spy balloon is clear provocation. In Montana we do not bow. We shoot it down. Take the shot.”Rep. Matt Rosendale, also of Montana, expressed his concern in a letter that the balloon flew over the Malmstrom Air Force Base, and called on the administration to “do more to prevent the Chinese Communist Party from targeting Americans””I am writing to request a security briefing on this situation as soon as possible to hear why the balloon penetrated so far into our country before it was identified, what the true purpose of it was, and how we can prevent this invasion from taking place in the future,” Rosendale wrote to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. “I look forward to hearing from the Department of Defense and I urge the Biden Administration to do everything in its power to ensure that the American people are safe and secure.”HAWLEY DEMANDS HOMELAND SECURITY INVESTIGATION INTO BIDEN’S ‘BAFFLING’ RESPONSE TO CHINESE SPY BALLOON Former President Donald Trump and former U.N. Ambassador Nikki Haley were among the voices demanding the administration shoot the craft down. “Shoot down the balloon. Cancel Blinken’s trip. Hold China accountable. Biden is letting China walk all over us. It’s time to make America strong again,” Haley said.However, officials have cautioned that the craft is the weight of two school buses and would hit the ground at significant speed, putting civilians and buildings at potential risk.In the Senate as well, Republicans accused the administration of not doing enough. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, said there must be a “strong response” and described the administration’s current response as passive.”If u r puzzled by Biden admin passive reaction to Chinese spy balloon hovering over our military bases that makes 2 of us Glad Scty Blinken postponed his trip but r we really going 2 just let it sail all the way across U.S.??? Need strong response 2 this provocation.Meanwhile, Republicans on both Homeland Security committees demanded answers.Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., demanded an immediate investigation into what he called a “baffling response” from the administration.”I write to request that you expeditiously convene a hearing on troubling reports that the Chinese government has launched a surveillance balloon over the United States to spy on our nuclear capabilities,” Hawley wrote in a letter to Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Chairman Sen. Gary Peters, D-Mich.He was similarly unimpressed by comments by a Defense Dept. spokesman that the balloon will “probably be over the United States for a few days.””Yet rather than shooting down or otherwise disabling this high-altitude balloon, the Biden Administration is merely ‘monitoring the situation’ and referring reporters to the Chinese government for answers,” Hawley wrote.Meanwhile, House Committee Chairman Mark Green told Fox News Digital that the committee had found out about the balloon from the news, rather than from the administration.”The Biden administration owes us, and the American people, answers — now! Our adversaries around the world see a weak president in Joe Biden and are testing their boundaries. Time and time again, the President has failed in countering, curbing, and competing with Beijing,” Green told Fox News Digital.Rep. Jim Jordan, Chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, compared Biden’s performance to how he believes past presidents would have acted.”Would Trump have let China fly a spy balloon over our country? Would Reagan? JFK? Truman?” he tweeted.CLICK HERE TO GET THE FOX NEWS APPNo, no, no, and no. So why’s Biden letting China off the hook?” he asked.In a press briefing on Friday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre defended the administration’s handling of the balloon, saying it does not present a military or physical threat to Americans on the ground. She added that it was the strong recommendation of Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley not to take kinetic action “because of the risk to safety and security of the people on the ground.””Clearly, the president will always put the safety of the security of the American people first. And as my colleague said over at the Department of Defense earlier today, we are tracking closely and keeping all options on the table,” she said.Fox News’ Jennifer Griffin and Kelly Laco contributed to this report.