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Trump flaunts “We broke Roe v Wade” as abortion hounds hope in Republican Party elections

Speaking to the press next to the Speaker of the House of Representatives, fellow Republican Mike Johnson, Donald Trump boasted: “We broke Roe v Wade.”

The former president made the grim admission about his dominant role in attacks on abortion rights at the end of a week in which Arizona’s right-wing Supreme Court ruled that an 1864 law that imposed a near-total ban could go back into effect.

Abortion rights were abolished at the federal level in 2022 when a US Supreme Court, to which Trump had appointed three justices, overturned Roe, which had stood since 1973. The issue has since fueled Democratic victories at the ballot box. This week, the Arizona ruling sent Republicans scrambling to minimize the damage.

Related: ‘Shame! Shame!’: Arizona Republican leaders block efforts to repeal abortion ban

Trump reiterated his claim that the issue should be up to the states and that there is no need for a national ban, a demand of the US political right. But he couldn’t resist the boast, which his opponents are sure to benefit from.

“We broke Roe v Wade,” Trump said. “No one thought this was possible. We gave it back to the states and the states are working very brilliantly, in some cases conservatively, in some cases not conservatively, but they are working. And it works as it should.

“Every…real legal scholar wanted it to go back to the United States,” Trump claimed without providing evidence. “Democrat, Republican, liberal, conservative. And we did that… and now the states are working through it.

‘And you will have, to be honest, a very, very beautiful harmony. You have, well, you have some cases like Arizona going back to 1864 or something like that. And a judge has ruled, but that will be changed by the government. They’re going to change that. I tend to disagree.”

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At the time of Trump’s comments, the vice president, Kamala Harris, was speaking in Arizona, hammering home Democratic attacks on Republican threats to reproductive rights. Her main message: Trump is to blame.

“And just a few minutes ago, Donald Trump, standing next to Speaker Johnson, just said that state gathering is, quote: ‘working as it shouldHarris said. “And no matter how much damage he has already done, a second Trump term would be even worse.”

Trump and Johnson appeared together at a time of great legal peril for the former president and great political peril for the Speaker of the House of Representatives, ensuring their intended message – a perceived need to focus on the canard of “election integrity” seemed to be drowned out.

On Monday, Trump will stand trial in New York for 34 of 88 pending criminal charges. The first-ever criminal trial of a former president involves hush-money payments to an adult film star who claimed an affair.

In Washington, Johnson must control Congress with a slim majority, under pressure from a restive Republican House caucus dominated by the pro-Trump right. Georgia extremist Marjorie Taylor Greene has filed a motion to remove him.

Opening the press conference at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Trump showed off his signature rhetoric on immigration, which has become increasingly inhumane and cruel.

Johnson said Republicans would try to introduce legislation that would “require proof of citizenship to vote,” claiming that if “hundreds of thousands” of migrants cast their ballots it could affect the outcome of the election.

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In reality, non-citizen voting isn’t even a problem.

Some cities allow non-citizens to vote in municipal and non-federal polls. But voting by non-citizens in federal elections is already illegal under a 1996 law. Violators can be fined and jailed for up to a year. Deportation is possible.

The Bipartisan Policy Center points to research by groups on the right and left showing that non-citizen voting is exceptionally rare, saying: “Every instance of illegally cast ballots by non-citizens has been investigated by the appropriate authorities, and “There is no evidence that these votes – or any other instances of voter fraud – were significant enough to affect the outcome of any election.”

Nevertheless, Johnson has long shown a willingness to support Trump’s election claims regardless of reality, and is playing a key role in supporting the former president’s efforts to overturn his 2020 defeat to Joe Biden.

In a recent memoir, anti-Trump Republican Liz Cheney said Johnson played bait-and-switch with colleagues to get them to support his legal efforts to throw out key state outcomes while misrepresenting himself as a constitutional lawyer.

Johnson said Cheney “did not provide an accurate picture.” His legal work failed, but even after the deadly Jan. 6 attack on Congress by Trump supporters in early 2021, he was among 147 Republicans who voted to object to the results in Pennsylvania and Arizona.

On Friday, a statement from the Trump campaign said Johnson had “agreed to hold a series of public committee hearings over the next two months… in anticipation of potential legislation to further protect our elections from interference.”

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Topics of concern included “mail-in voting processes and ballot handling,” “maintenance of voter registration lists and how states will… prevent illegal immigrants and noncitizens from voting in the 2024 presidential election”; and “general preparations” for Trump’s rematch with Biden.

Reporters raised other issues that have roiled Republican politics. Earlier in Washington, Johnson oversaw the passage of a bill to reauthorize the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (Fisa), including a key measure allowing unauthorized surveillance of U.S. citizens. Trump and his allies opposed the extension because of his complaints about investigations into Russian election interference on his behalf in the 2016 race that sent him to the White House.

Asked about the House bill, Trump said he still didn’t like Fisa and repeated his complaints about 2016. Johnson nodded behind him.

Trump also opposes new aid to Ukraine, which passed the Senate but is being maintained in the House of Representatives. Johnson has said he wants to approve aid to Ukraine, but that could bring about his downfall.

At Mar-a-Lago, Trump kept the topic at arm’s length, verbally taunting Biden and claiming that conflicts around the world would not have occurred on his watch.

He also denounced those who prosecuted him, including in the hush-money trial that was due to start on Monday in New York, about which he also complained to the judge. He was, he said, “absolutely” willing to testify in his own defense.

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