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5 PM ET: Oath Keepers leader sentenced, GOP debt ceiling demands, Petito family lawsuit & more - CNN 5 Things - Podcast on CNN Audio

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5 PM ET: Oath Keepers leader sentenced, GOP debt ceiling demands, Petito family lawsuit & more

CNN 5 Things

May 25, 2023

4 mins

Oath Keepers leader Stewart Rhodes has been sentenced in a Jan. 6 seditious conspiracy case. Plus, we'll tell you what some Republicans are saying they want in exchange for raising the nation's debt ceiling. A bill banning most abortions as early as six weeks in South Carolina is now law. Fighters in the Russian mercenary group Wagner claim to be leaving a key Ukrainian city as the war continues. And, in a civil lawsuit brought by the parents of Gabby Petito, we'll tell you about a letter Brian Laundrie's mom wrote to her son marked "burn after reading."

Hello from CNN. I'm Ifeoma Dike with the five Things you Need to Know for Thursday, May 25th. The founder and leader of the Oath Keepers has been sentenced to 18 years in prison. Stewart Rhodes led a plot to keep then-President Donald Trump in power after he lost the 2020 election. A Washington, D.C. jury convicted Rhodes of seditious conspiracy in November before handing down the sentence. The judge said Rhodes expressed no remorse and continues to be a threat. He wrote Rhodes His actions amounted to domestic terrorism. Before the sentencing, Rhodes called himself a, quote, political prisoner and defended his followers actions during the Capitol insurrection on January six, 2021. Here's one of his lawyers at Ed Tarpley speaking to reporters afterwards.

Ed Tarpley, Stewart Rhodes' lawyer


I think that this case was all about the weaponization of speech by the Department of Justice, and I think that essentially they have used Stewart Rhodes words against him. He never went into the Capitol, he never assaulted anyone. He never destroying a property. We think that ultimately this is going to be about free speech. We think that we have a good appeal coming on this.

A group of hardline Republicans sent a letter to House Speaker Kevin McCarthy. They outlined new demands in the talks to raise the nation's debt ceiling. They urged McCarthy to include provisions to beef up border security and called on the speaker to force the Treasury secretary to prove that the default deadline is June 1st. Some House Republicans are signaling that they could reject the deal if some spending cuts are dropped. A source familiar with the talks says the White House and the House GOP are talking about raising the debt ceiling through 2024 in exchange for caps on the annual spending bills that Congress must pass by the end of the year. Here's how McCarthy responded when CNN's Manu Raju pressed him about the default deadline.

CNN's Manu Raju and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy


How are you going to get this done by June 1st? How's that possible? One thing you didn't say in there, there is a bill that has passed the House that sits in the Senate. They're not moving that. You know that. So, I mean, there's not going able to get this done by June 1st. We passed a bill in April long before they ever said the debt time was June 1st. Republicans have done everything they can.

South Carolina's governor signed a bill into law today that will limit most abortions as early as six weeks into a pregnancy. That's before many women know they're pregnant. The law goes into effect immediately, but it's already facing a legal challenge from Planned Parenthood, South Atlantic and others. South Carolina now joins a list of GOP led states that have moved to restrict abortion in the wake of last year's Supreme Court ruling overturning Roe versus Wade. That includes all of the south except Virginia. Ukrainian authorities say Russia launched a new wave of drone strikes overnight across multiple cities, including Kyiv. Ukraine says it repelled all 36 drones. In western Ukraine, the country's Air force command says Russians had targeted critical infrastructure and military bases. This as the head of Russia's mercenary group. Wagner says his fighters have started pulling out of black market in eastern Ukraine and aim to be completely out by June 1st. He says fighters have captured the city and will turn it over to the Russian military. Ukrainian officials have insisted that its forces still control some areas in and around the city. Coming up, new developments in a lawsuit filed by Gabby Petito's parents. We're learning more about the letter written by the mother of Brian Laundrie, the man who killed his fiancee, Gabby Petito, and later himself in 2021. CNN's Jean Casarez breaks down what's in the undated letter.

CNN's Jean Casarez


The beginning of the letter is where Roberta Laundrie says that she loves her son. You are my big boy. I will always love you forever. And then she says, quote, If you are in jail, I will bake a cake with a file in it. If you need to dispose of a body, I will show up with a shovel and garbage bags.

An attorney for Roberta Laundrie said she wrote the letter before her son's trip with the Petito and that it wasn't related to Petito at all. But her family has challenged that, pointing out that it was found in Landrie's backpack where his remains were discovered, and that the letters envelope said "burn after reading." Petito's family argues that the letter is relevant to their lawsuit against Landrie's parents and former attorney for emotional distress and should be admitted as evidence which the judge has not yet ruled on. Thanks for listening. We'll be back at 10 p.m. Eastern.

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