Boris Johnson is to submit a dossier of evidence ahead of an interrogation by MPs over whether he lied to Parliament about the partygate scandal.
The former prime minister will provide information in his defence as he prepares for a lengthy televised grilling by the Commons privileges committee on Wednesday, where he faces a fight for his political life.
In an interim report, the panel said the evidence strongly suggested breaches of coronavirus rules in No 10 should have been “obvious” to Mr Johnson.
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They are examining evidence around at least four occasions when he may have deliberately misled MPs with his assurances that lockdown regulations were followed.
Mr Johnson, who was fined by the Metropolitan Police for breaching his own COVID-19 laws, has denied deceiving the Commons.
Allies of the ex-Tory leader said he would provide a “detailed and compelling” account to the committee before his appearance, showing that he “did not knowingly mislead the House”.
The Sunday Times reported he will point to a series of previously undisclosed WhatsApp messages from senior civil servants and members of his No 10 team showing that he had relied upon their advice when he made his statements to Parliament.
He will also publish messages which show that other senior figures in Downing Street believed the gatherings were covered by the “workplace exemption” in the lockdown rules.
A committee spokesperson said: “The committee has invited Mr Johnson to provide written evidence to the inquiry, should he wish, in advance of the oral evidence session.
“Any such response will be published.
“The committee has said that Mr Johnson may publish his own written evidence, if he chooses, but any such evidence must also be formally submitted to the committee which will itself publish it as soon as is practicably possible after receiving it, after initial analysis (to make sure no redactions of witness names needed, etc).
“The committee would publish on the website in the usual way.”
The panel’s investigation is being chaired by Labour’s Harriet Harman, although the cross-party group has a Tory majority.
The seven-strong committee will decide whether Mr Johnson committed a contempt of Parliament and recommend any punishment, although the final say would fall to the full House of Commons.
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Cabinet minister Oliver Dowden told Sky News Sophy Ridge On Sunday programme: “I’m sure Boris Johnson will give a robust defence of himself and then it will be for the committee to to determine the outcome of it.”
Prime Minister Rishi Sunak has said he would not seek to influence MPs on the committee and indicated he would grant a free vote to the Conservative ranks on any sanction that may be proposed.
Asked if he was concerned a suspension of more than 10 days could trigger a by-election in Mr Johnson’s Uxbridge and South Ruislip seat, Mr Sunak added: “This is a matter for Parliament, for the House. It’s not right for the government to get involved.”
In recent days, Commons leader Penny Mordaunt warned against intimidation of members on the privileges committee.
She said they must be “permitted to get on with their work without fear or favour” and emphasised they were are “doing this House a service”.
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Mr Johnson and his supporters have raised concerns over partygate investigator Sue Gray’s pending move to Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer’s office from the civil service.
However, the committee has denied its inquiry is based on the Gray report.
Instead, the inquiry has taken evidence from witnesses’ WhatsApp messages, emails and pictures from a Downing Street photographer.
Russia says it scrambled fighter jet to intercept two US bombers over Baltic Sea
A Russian Su-35 fighter jet was scrambled to intercept two US strategic bombers over the Baltic Sea, Russia’s defence ministry has said.
“Two air targets flying in the direction of the state border of the Russian Federation” were detected by radar on Monday, it said in a statement on the social media platform Telegram.
The aircraft were identified as two US Air Force B-52 strategic bombers “flying in the direction of the Russian Federation’s state border”.
A Su-35 fighter jet took to the air to prevent a border violation, the ministry continued.
“After the foreign military aircraft moved away from the Russian Federation state border, the Russian fighter returned to its base airfield,” it added.
The National Defense Center of the Russian Federation said: “The flight of the Russian fighter was carried out in strict accordance with the international rules for the use of airspace.
“Violations of the state border of the Russian Federation are not allowed.”
The US has not yet responded to the claim.
It comes after the crash of a US military surveillance drone into the Black Sea on 14 March after it was intercepted by Russian jets.
The US Air Force released a video it said showed a Russian jet intercepting the drone and dumping fuel on it over the Black Sea.
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It said two Russian Su-27 jets flew close to the MQ-9 Reaper before one hit its propeller and forced remote operators to crash it into the ocean.
The incident highlighted the increasing risk of direct confrontation between the superpowers as fighting continues in nearby Ukraine.
American officials accused the Russian pilots of flying in a “reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional manner”.
Moscow denied the jets behaved dangerously and said they didn’t come into contact with the drone, claiming it crashed due to “sharp manoeuvring”.
Gwyneth Paltrow ski crash court case starts in US after man accused her of seriously injuring him in ‘hit-and-run’
Gwyneth Paltrow has appeared in court in the US over claims she seriously injured a man in a “hit-and-run” skiing crash in 2016.
She is accused of skiing “out of control” and hitting retired optometrist Terry Sanderson at Deer Valley Resort in Utah.
The lawsuit claimed that Paltrow crashed into him, “knocking him down hard, knocking him out, and causing a brain injury, four broken ribs and other serious injuries”.
Paltrow has alleged that Mr Sanderson is actually the culprit in the collision, and has been overstating his injuries.
The Hollywood star, also the founder and CEO of the wellness company goop, sat in the court wearing a high-necked cream jumper and brown trousers as opening statements in the case began.
Lawrence Buhler, representing Mr Sanderson, told jurors that Paltrow’s behaviour on the mountain in 2016 had been “reckless”.
Mr Sanderson first sued Paltrow in 2019, seeking $3.1m (£2.5m) in damages.
He is now seeking $300,000 (£245,000) after that claim was dropped.
The original 2019 claim stated that after hitting him, “Paltrow got up, turned and skied away, leaving Sanderson stunned, lying in the snow, seriously injured”.
It also said a Deer Valley ski instructor who had been training Paltrow saw Mr Sanderson had been injured but made no attempt to help him.
The instructor did not send for help and later accused Mr Sanderson of having caused the crash in a “false report to protect his client”, the claim said.
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The actress countersued for a symbolic $1, saying it was Mr Sanderson who had caused the crash and delivered a full “body blow”.
Paltrow’s claim said she was shaken by the collision and stopped skiing with her family for the day.
It added that Mr Sanderson apologised to her and said he was fine.
The trial is scheduled to last for eight days.
What happens if Donald Trump is arrested?
Donald Trump has claimed he is set to be arrested over an alleged hush money payment to adult film star Stormy Daniels.
If right in his assertion, the former US president could be charged by authorities in New York within days.
But what will happen if he is indicted – and how will both sides present their case?
What Trump has said
In a post on his Truth Social platform on Saturday, Mr Trump said he expected to be arrested on Tuesday and urged his supporters to protest against the authorities if he is detained and indicted.
He published a long statement describing the investigation as a “political witch-hunt trying to take down the leading candidate, by far, in the Republican Party”.
“I did absolutely nothing wrong,” he said, before criticising a “corrupt, depraved and weaponised justice system”.
However, it’s worth noting a spokesperson for Mr Trump said he had not been notified of any pending arrest.
The case – that the Republican made a payment to Ms Daniels towards the end of the 2016 presidential campaign in exchange for her silence over an alleged affair – is one of several related to Mr Trump.
Other ongoing cases include a Georgia election interference probe and two federal investigations into his role in the 6 January insurrection in the US Capitol.
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What Trump will do
Mr Trump has accused Manhattan’s district attorney Alvin Bragg, a Democrat, of targeting him for political gain, and may try to argue for the dismissal of the charges on those grounds.
He could also challenge whether the statute of limitations – five years in this instance – should have run out.
But in New York, the statute of limitations can be extended if the defendant has been out of state – Trump may argue that serving as US president should not apply.
Politically, how any possible indictment may affect Mr Trump’s chances in the 2024 presidential election is unclear.
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He could be the first former US president to face criminal prosecution – right as polls show him leading other potential rivals for the Republican nomination, including controversial Florida governor Ron DeSantis.
This could lead to the unprecedented situation in which Mr Trump would stand trial as he campaigns in 2024.
If elected, he would not have the power to pardon himself of criminal charges.
In any case, Mr Trump’s lawyer Joe Tacopina told CNBC on Friday that he would surrender if charged. If he refused to come voluntarily, prosecutors could seek to have him extradited from Florida, where he currently lives.
In an ironic twist, as governor, Mr DeSantis would typically have to give formal approval for an extradition.
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What prosecutors will do
The Manhattan District Attorney’s office has spent nearly five years investigating Mr Trump.
It has presented evidence to a New York grand jury that relates to a £114,000 ($130,000) payment to Ms Daniels during the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign.
It is alleged the payment was given in exchange for Ms Daniels’ silence about an affair between her and Mr Trump.
Mr Trump has denied the affair and accused Ms Daniels of extortion.
Any indictment by the district attorney’s office would require Mr Trump to travel to its New York office to surrender.
But Mr Trump’s lawyers will likely arrange a date and time with authorities, as it is a white-collar case. And then his mugshot and fingerprints would be taken before appearing for arraignment in court.
Mr Trump could also be charged with falsifying business records – typically classed as a misdemeanour – after he reimbursed his former attorney Michael Cohen for the payments, falsely recorded as legal services.
To elevate it to a felony, prosecutors would have to show Mr Trump falsified records to cover up a second crime.
In any case, legal experts have estimated that any trial of the former US president would be more than a year away.
That’s why if it happened, it could coincide with the final months of a 2024 election in which Mr Trump seeks a controversial return to the White House.
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