Afghan President Ashraf Ghani speaks at the parliament in Kabul, Afghanistan August 2, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

Afghan President Ashraf Ghani seen in Kabul, Afghanistan, on August 2, 2021. REUTERS/Stringer

Afghan president Ashraf Ghani spent months holed up in a five-star hotel in the United Arab Emirates after fleeing his country as the Taliban began to take control, The Wall Street Journal reported.

Ghani fled Kabul on August 15 following a months-long surge by the Taliban in which the militant group took over swathes of the country from his government after US forces left.

When they reached Kabul, the city was given up without a fight.

Ghani’s whereabouts were unknown for several days. He eventually surfaced in the UAE, which said at the time that it had let in Ghani on humanitarian grounds. 

Once in the UAE Ghani took up residence in a luxury suite at the five-star St. Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi along with his wife, according to The Journal.

Ghani stayed there for months, The Journal reported, while his wife selected a private villa for their permanent residence that was provided by the Emirati government.

St regis abu dhabi
The St Regis Hotel in Abu Dhabi. 
MARWAN NAAMANI/AFP via Getty Images)

After feeling Kabul, Ghani said in a statement that he fled to prevent bloodshed and “keep the guns silent.”

However, Russia accused Ghani of fleeing with four cars and a helicopter, and alleged that he took large amounts of cash with him.

An investigation led by the US Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction said it could not say for sure whether Ghani took money with him.

But the official did confirm that at least $5 million went missing from the presidential palace and that tens of millions of dollars were taken from the National Directorate of Security.

How an unlikely pair of incumbents in South Carolina fare in Tuesday’s primaries could go a long way toward defining survival strategies for Republicans — at least so long as Donald Trump retains dominance.

Both Rep. Nancy Mace and Rep. Tom Rice earned themselves Trump-backed primary challengers after their breaks with the former president. That includes their refusal to embrace false claims about the 2020 election that are back in public consciousness via Jan. 6 committee hearings this week.

But how they have handled their races make for different case studies in attempts to find viable paths inside Trump’s GOP.

PHOTO: Rep. Tom Rice attends a hearing in Longworth Building in Washington, March 17, 2022.
Rep. Tom Rice attends a hearing in Longworth Building in Washington, March 17, 2022.
CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images, FILE

Mace cast one of her first votes in Congress to certify President Joe Biden’s victory — warning, just hours before the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, of the “unconstitutional precedent” of doing otherwise. Since then, she has leaned on an unusual assembly of boldfaced conservative names (Nikki Haley, Paul Ryan, Mick Mulvaney) to make a case about electability and the danger of her district going back to the Democrats.

Mace responded to attacks by the former president by filming an appeal to voters in front of New York’s Trump Tower earlier this year. No such videos have come from Rice, a low-key conservative in a deep-red district who is defiant in defending his vote to impeach Trump in the wake of Jan. 6.

“I did it then. And I would do it again tomorrow,” Rice told ABC’s Jonathan Karl in a recent interview on “This Week,” adding that he remained “livid” over Trump’s actions and inactions on Jan. 6.

The partisan makeup of their districts could mean different things in their primary races, with Rice in particular in danger of being forced into a runoff in an area where Trump remains popular.

But for Republicans looking for further signs of Trump’s influence, they’re likely to again see some of its limits — and will have some notes for themselves on how to navigate Trump-friendly forces going forward.

As evidence against false claims of election fraud take center stage in the Jan. 6 hearings, the fallout of those baseless conspiracies is still looming over primaries in battleground states like Nevada, where voters will cast ballots in primary races on Tuesday.

Despite losing in Nevada twice, Trump remains a popular figure among state Republicans and made notable endorsements in this year’s Senate and gubernatorial primaries by respectively backing former state Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo. In a twist, Laxalt, who served as Trump’s 2020 Nevada campaign chair, now faces criticism from his opponents for not doing enough to prevent alleged election fraud under his watch as the state’s top law enforcement official.

PHOTO: Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo attends a Republican primary debate for Nevada governor in Las Vegas, May 25, 2022.
Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo attends a Republican primary debate for Nevada governor in Las Vegas, May 25, 2022.
John Locher/AP, FILE

Although the Republican candidate for secretary of state, Jim Marchant, heads into the primary without Trump’s official endorsement, his campaign rhetoric is visibly based on Trumpian priorities. On the trail, Marchant has consistently focused on the false claim that the 2020 election was stolen from the former president, and at one point he even claimed that Nevada’s winning candidates had somehow been preselected while voters “haven’t had a choice.”

Nevada’s current secretary of state, Republican Barbara Cegavske, refuted the claims brought forward by members of her own party regarding allegations of election fraud. Cegavske is term-limited and cannot seek reelection this year.

Marchant’s candidacy follows the 2022 pattern of election-denying candidates seeking offices at all levels of government, including positions responsible for overseeing election administration. According to an ongoing analysis conducted by FiveThirtyEight, nearly 60 candidates for House, Senate and statewide offices deny the outcome of the 2020 election.

The TIP with Brittany Shepherd

Another interesting wrinkle in Tuesday’s primary race in South Carolina’s 1st District is the endorsement tug-of-war between conservatives rumored to be vying for the White House in 2024. Rep. Mace has a bench of former Trump-orbit Republicans backing her bid — most prominently Haley, a former U.N. ambassador and South Carolina governor, and former White House Chief of Staff Mulvaney. Mace’s challenger from the right, former state Rep. Katie Arrington, echoed Trump by admonishing Mace as a “terrible” letdown who is “despised by almost everyone.”

In sticking by Mace — who denounced Trump post-Capitol insurrection but has since softened her attacks — Haley has drawn something of a line in the sand in breaking from the de facto leader of her party, even though she’s said she would hold back if Trump threw his hat into the ring for 2024. (Granted, a lot can change from now until then.)

When asked how she fends off Trump’s abuses, Mace told ABC News on Monday afternoon that her slate of establishment endorsements, including from “good friend and mentor” Haley, helped build trust with the voters who delivered her to victory by just 1% in 2020 — flipping the seat from blue to red.

PHOTO: Rep. Nancy Mace speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 15, 2021.
Rep. Nancy Mace speaks during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington, Nov. 15, 2021.
Jacquelyn Martin/AP, FILE

“Endorsements are fantastic, I welcome it. I love having Nikki Haley here, but also it’s up to the candidate to work hard and win and that’s what we’re going to do tomorrow,” Mace said.

An expected win for the incumbent would also be a twist of the knife, of sorts, for Trump, who has been mostly unable to unseat Republican incumbents in the primary season despite his best efforts to the contrary.

ONE MORE THING

Three weeks after one of the deadliest school shootings in U.S. history, some relatives of students gunned down at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, say they’re hopeful about the federal anti-gun violence proposal announced by a bipartisan group of senators Sunday. But others say they’re dissatisfied with the extent of the proposed legislation and the lack of answers in their community. Amelia Sandoval, whose grandson Xavier Lopez was killed in the attack, told ABC News that she has not been watching news coverage while she processes her grandson’s death. But when briefed on the proposed legislation, she choked up, saying, “Praise God. This is just the beginning, but praise God.”

NUMBER OF THE DAY, powered by FiveThirtyEight

10. That’s the number of key races to watch in Nevada, South Carolina and Texas on Tuesday during primary night (we’re not expecting any close races in Maine or North Dakota). And as FiveThirtyEight’s Nathaniel Rakich and Alex Samuels write, Tuesday will once again be a test for Trump, especially in South Carolina given the two non-incumbent challengers he has backed. Nevada, though, will likely be the most important state of the evening as who advances in the Republican primary for both the Senate and governorship could have big ramifications come November. Three of Nevada’s House races should be competitive, too. Read more from Nathaniel and Alex on the key races to watch on Tuesday — including Texas’s special election for a House seat! — and be sure to follow along at FiveThirtyEight’s live blog.

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