1/ Roughly six hours after pleading not guilty to 34 counts of filing false business records, Trump called the judge overseeing the case “a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family.” Judge Juan Merchan had asked Trump during his arraignment to “please refrain from making statements that are likely to incite violence or civil unrest, or jeopardize the safety or well-being of any individuals.” Nevertheless, Trump went ahead and singled out Judge Merchan and Merchan’s daughter, who is president of a digital campaign strategy agency that’s work with Biden, Harris, and other Democrats. Trump also called the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg, a “criminal” for, he claims, leaking information about the case. “I never thought anything like this could happen in America,” Trump told supporters at Mar-a-Lago. “The only crime that I’ve committed has been to fearlessly defend our nation against those who seek to destroy it.” (Washington Post / ABC News / New York Times / Reuters)
2/ Pence will not appeal a court order requiring him to testify before the grand jury investigating Trump’s effort to overturn the 2020 election. Pence’s decision to not appeal means he will likely testify under oath about Trump’s unsuccessful attempts to pressure him into blocking the certification of the 2020 presidential election. Trump could still pursue an appeal to try to block Pence from testifying about their communications ahead of the Jan. 6 election certification. Trump, however, has lost similar cases previously. (NBC News / Politico / CNN / Washington Post)
3/ Wisconsin voters elected a liberal candidate to the State Supreme Court, flipping majority control from conservatives. Janet Protasiewicz’s victory means that the court is likely to reverse the state’s abortion ban and end the use of gerrymandered legislative maps drawn by Republicans. Protasiewicz’s victory also ends 15 years of conservative control of the Wisconsin Supreme Court. (NBC News / New York Times / CNN / Washington Post / NPR)
4/ A North Carolina Democratic state lawmaker switched party affiliation, giving Republicans a veto-proof supermajority in the state’s legislature. Tricia Cotham claimed she had been “bullied” for not toeing the party line, saying “They have pushed me out. They’ve made it very clear they do not want me.” Cotham said the turning point came when she was criticized for using the American flag and a prayer-hands emoji on social media and on her vehicles. North Carolina Democrats, meanwhile, called for Cotham’s resignation for her “deceit” and “betrayal.” Republicans now have a veto-proof majority in the middle of the legislative session, giving them the ability to bypass Gov. Roy Cooper, a Democrat, and enact their agenda. (Washington Post / New York Times / Axios / Associated Press)
5/ The EPA proposed stricter rules for pollutants from coal- and oil-fired power plants, updating standards imposed more than a decade ago. The proposed rules aim to limit the mercury emissions and other toxic air pollutants from coal-fired power plants by up to 70%. The EPA said the new rules would also reduce nickel, arsenic, and lead pollution. Together, the pollutants can cause “significant health impacts including fatal heart attacks, cancer and developmental delays in children.” (New York Times / CNN / Associated Press / Washington Post)
6/ The Florida Senate passed a plan that would ban gender-affirming care for children diagnosed with gender dysphoria. The bill, SB 254, prohibits anyone under the age of 18 from undergoing surgeries or hormone therapies associated with gender-affirming care. The legislation comes after the Florida Board of Medicine and the Florida Board of Osteopathic Medicine – at the urging of Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis – adopted rules that barred all doctors from treating minors with the surgeries and prescription treatments in November. Those rules went into effect last month. Florida is one of 13 states that have enacted bans on transgender care. (Politico / Miami Herald)
7/ Elon Musk labeled NPR’s Twitter account as “state-affiliated media,” a tag typically used for foreign media outlets that represent the official views of the government, like the Russian-government-owned RT and the Chinese Communist Party’s People’s Daily newspaper. NPR operates independently of the U.S. government. While the nonprofit media company receives federal money, the total amounts to less than 1% of its annual budget. As a result of being in the same category as propaganda outlets, Twitter “will not recommend or amplify” NPR’s posts on the platform. According to Twitter’s company policy, state-affiliated media is defined as “outlets where the state exercises control over editorial content.” Twitter’s policy previously stated that the label did not apply to state-financed organizations with editorial independence, specifically citing NPR and the BBC as examples. In his role as Twitter’s new owner, Rocket Man has banned journalists from the platform and revoked the New York Times’ verification after the news organization declined to pay to use Twitter. Musk, meanwhile, weighed in on NPR’s new label, responding to a post of Twitter’s rules, saying “seems accurate.” (Washington Post / Bloomberg / Semafor / Forbes / NPR)
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