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When the indictment against him was read out in a courtroom in New York City on Tuesday, the former US president Donald Trump gained a new title: criminal defendant.
Americans saw a quiet and tense Trump walk into the courtroom under the guard of both the Secret Service and New York City police department – whose officers stood behind him during his appearance before a judge, as they do with any other defendant, writes Chris Stein. There, he learned he was facing 34 felony counts of falsifying business records related to hush money payments and “catch and kill” attempts to suppress negative news coverage about his affair with the adult film star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 election.
As unprecedented as that was, it has become clear in the hours after his appearance that the fundamental political calculus has not changed for Trump, who is running for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024. He remains the most popular man in the GOP, and the break his enemies have long sought between him and the rest of the Republican party seems as distant as ever.
“For those who think this will harm President Trump’s chances at running for the White House in 2024, I have news for you: it won’t,” Kevin Hern, who leads the Republican Study Committee, the influential conservative body that is the largest ideological caucus in Congress.
Who is Karen McDougal, the other woman in Trump’s hush money case? McDougal, a former Playboy model, told CNN in 2018 that she had an affair with the former president that began in 2006. Trump, who denies the affair ever occurred, married his third wife, Melania Trump, in 2005. Despite his denials, the New York prosecution team has cited evidence of payments made to McDougal by Trump.
Trump boasts about “great family” amid legal troubles – but where’s Melania? The former US president cut a solitary figure when he was photographed entering his Trump Tower skyscraper on Monday evening. And as he flew back on his private jet to Florida on Tuesday after pleading not guilty, Melania Trump was also nowhere to be seen. She was not even mentioned in his rambling but defiant speech, prompting people to wonder: “Where’s Melania?”
Liberal judge’s win in Wisconsin supreme court race points to a shake-up in US politics
Judge Janet Protasiewicz’s victory in the Wisconsin supreme court race on Tuesday amounted to a political earthquake in Wisconsin, one of the most volatile political battlegrounds in the US.
Her victory underscores the continued political salience of abortion rights for Democrats. Her election means the state’s abortion ban, first enacted in 1849, will be struck down (a case is already coming through the courts). Just as they did across the country in 2022, Democrats made abortion rights a central issue in the Wisconsin supreme court campaign and voters turned out.
“Wisconsin voters have made their voices heard. They’ve chosen to reject partisan extremism,” Protasiewicz said during her election-night party in Milwaukee. “It means our democracy will always prevail.”
When Protasiewicz is seated in August, the ideological balance of Wisconsin’s seven-member supreme court will shift from conservative to liberal. As well as the abortion ban, a challenge is expected to Wisconsin’s electoral maps, which are so heavily distorted in favor of Republicans that it is virtually impossible for Democrats to ever win a majority. Protasiewicz has said the maps are “rigged” and the court is likely to strike them down, making elections much more competitive in the state.
What could this mean? These two significant consequences show how Democrats may have finally been able to catch up to Republicans when it comes to focusing on so-called down-ballot races – little-known contests for offices like state legislatures and supreme courts that can have huge policy consequences.
Mike Pence will not appeal order to testify to January 6 grand jury
The former vice-president Mike Pence will not appeal an order compelling him to testify in the US justice department investigation of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election result that culminated in the deadly January 6 attack on Congress.
The order was handed down last week. A spokesperson for Pence announced the decision on Wednesday, clearing the way for him to appear before a grand jury in Washington.
Other former Trump administration officials have testified in the investigation, as well as in a separate inquiry into the former president’s retention of classified documents. Pence would be the highest-profile witness to appear before a grand jury.
The closed-door testimony could offer a first-hand account of Trump’s state of mind in the weeks after he lost to Joe Biden and further expose a rift in Trump’s relationship with Pence.
What did Pence’s spokesperson say? Devin O’Malley said: “Having vindicated that principle of the constitution, vice-president Pence will not appeal the judge’s ruling and will comply with the subpoena as required by law.”
What has Pence said about what happened during the January 6 attack? Last month, he told the Gridiron dinner in Washington: “President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election, and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.”
In other news …
Emmanuel Macron has met Xi Jinping in Beijing, telling his Chinese counterpart: “I know I can count on you to bring back Russia to reason.” The French president, who arrived on Wednesday for a three-day state visit, shook hands with Xi outside the Great Hall of the People.
A woman has died after pushing her fellow ice climber to safety as they tried to climb a frozen waterfall in Utah, according to authorities. The climber, identified as 41-year-old Meg O’Neill in the New York Post, pushed her fellow 21-year-old climber out of the way, “which probably saved her life”.
Israeli police have raided Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque for a second time, hours after the arrest and removal of more than 350 Palestinians in a raid at the compound and despite a US appeal to ease tensions. The earlier confrontations, during Ramadan, triggered a cross-border exchange of fire.
A Kansas bill to impose some of America’s broadest restrictions on access to public bathrooms and ban trans people from changing the name or gender on their driver’s licenses have cleared the state legislature by margins that suggest backers could override the Democratic governor’s expected veto.
Stat of the day: revealed – British royals took more than $1.2bn income from controversial estates
King Charles and the late Queen Elizabeth II have received payments equivalent to more than $1.2bn (£1bn) from two land and property estates that are at the centre of a centuries-old debate over whether their profits should be given to the public instead. An investigation by the Guardian has established the full scale of income extracted by the royals from the duchies of Lancaster and Cornwall, which run giant portfolios of land and property across England. The duchies operate as professionally run real-estate empires that manage swathes of farmland, hotels, medieval castles, offices, shops and some of London’s prime real estate. They also have substantial investment portfolios, but pay no corporation tax or capital gains tax. Ever since the advent of parliamentary democracy, however, generations of MPs have challenged the arrangement and called for duchy profits to be paid to the Treasury instead.
Don’t miss this: my week with ChatGPT – can it make me a healthier, happier, more productive person?
According to a recent open letter, society needs to immediately pause development of “giant” AI models, or risk apocalyptic outcomes, writes Alex Hern. Massive job losses, the destruction of consensus reality and even the end of all organic life on Earth have all been mooted as risks of pressing forward with development of these systems before we understand their intricacies. The high-water mark of these is GPT-4, the AI that underpins the latest version of the breakthrough ChatGPT service. “I decided to spend some time with the new ChatGPT myself. Not just to find out about its risks to civilisation, but also to see what it could and couldn’t do to help me with my life. I’ve never had an assistant, a life coach, a chef or a personal trainer – could ChatGPT be all those things for me? I gave it a week to find out.”
Climate check: ice sheets can collapse at 600 metres a day, far faster than feared, study finds
Ice sheets can collapse into the ocean in spurts of up to 600 metres (1,970ft) a day, a study has found, far faster than recorded before. Scientists said the finding, based on sea-floor sediment formations from the last ice age, was a “warning from the past” for today’s world in which the climate crisis was eroding ice sheets. The discovery showed some ice sheets in Antarctica, including the “Doomsday” Thwaites glacier, could suffer periods of rapid collapse in the near future, further accelerating the rise of sea levels. The rising oceans are among the greatest long-term impacts of global heating because hundreds of major cities around the world are on coastlines and are increasingly vulnerable to storm surges and flooding. The West Antarctic ice sheet may already have passed the point at which major losses are unstoppable.
Last Thing: US teen to cycle across Europe after completing perilous ride from Alaska to Argentina
A US teenager, who reported being robbed and even hospitalized while spending more than a year bicycling from northern Alaska to southern Argentina, is now considering a similar trip from Europe to Asia. Liam Garner and his trip across the Americas, which he completed in January, has drawn headlines from international news outlets including CNN, Insider and the BBC. But he insists he is not done with his efforts, which he says demonstrate that people did not have to be rich to travel internationally. He told Insider in an interview published earlier this week that he embarked on his Pan-American journey when he was 17 because he “wanted to do something so absurd” after graduating from high school.
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First Thing: Trump most popular Republican despite indictment | Reported Crime
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