1/ The U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit reacted with skepticism to Trump’s unprecedented claim that a president could only be charged with a crime if they’ve been impeached and convicted by Congress first. Trump argued that prosecuting him for “official acts” unless first impeached by the House and convicted by the Senate would “open a Pandora’s box” of indicting other former presidents for actions they took while in office. At one point, when asked hypothetically if a president could face prosecution for ordering the SEAL Team Six to assassinate a political rival, Trump’s lawyer argued that such a case could only proceed “if he were impeached and convicted first.” If that’s the case, the Justice Department lawyer representing special counsel Jack Smith asked, “what kind of world are we living in” if a president can order a political assassination and avoid criminal charges by resigning before he can be impeached, adding that Trump’s view of immunity would mean an “extraordinarily frightening future.” All three judges appeared unlikely to dismiss Smith’s election subversion charges against Trump on claims of presidential immunity. Following the hearing, Trump warned of “bedlam” and declined to rule out political violence if the criminal charges against him hurt him in the 2024 election. [Editor’s Note: I typically avoid speculative reporting, prioritizing concrete events (i.e. it’s called “WHAT The Fuck Just Happened Today?” after all). However, the exceptional nature of this situation demands our attention as its outcome impacts democratic norms and necessitates a thorough examination.] (New York Times / Washington Post / CNN / Bloomberg / Wall Street Journal / NBC News / NPR / ABC News / Associated Press / Politico / The Guardian)
✨ Why should I care? The Constitution was designed to prevent the concentration of power and ensure accountability, including for the President. Granting immunity to a former president would conflict with these principles, potentially creating a dangerous precedent where presidential power is unchecked and unbalanced. The outcome will either affirm or challenge the foundational values of American democracy. If Trump is granted immunity, it could lead to a dangerous precedent where former presidents evade legal accountability, undermining the rule of law. Additionally, it serves as a reminder of the citizen’s role in democracy – to be informed, engaged, and critical of the actions of elected officials. This case demonstrates the necessity for a robust and independent judiciary as a check on executive power, emphasizing the importance of separation of powers in preserving democratic governance.
✏️ A federal court in Georgia is hearing a case on the security of the state’s voting machines. Despite Trump’s allegations, multiple audits and recounts in Georgia using these machines in 2020 and 2022 found no evidence of fraud. The trial is set to conclude by mid-2024, possibly affecting the general election. A ruling against the state could force changes in voting methods or increased security measures. (Politico)
2/ Trump said he hoped the economy would crash this year so the blame falls on Biden rather during his hypothetical second term. “And when there’s a crash, I hope it’s going to be during this next 12 months because I don’t want to be Herbert Hoover. The one president – I just don’t want to be Herbert Hoover,” Trump said. The U.S. stock market crashed during Hoover’s first year in office in 1929, which evolved into the Great Depression. “Donald Trump should just say he doesn’t give a damn about people, because that’s exactly what he’s telling the American people when he says he hopes the economy crashes,” Biden’s campaign manager said. “In his relentless pursuit of power and retribution, Donald Trump is rooting for a reality where millions of Americans lose their jobs and live with the crushing anxiety of figuring out how to afford basic needs.” The White House added: “A commander in chief’s duty is to always put the American people first; never to hope that hard-working families suffer economic pain for their own political benefit.” Trump’s comments came amid rising consumer confidence, cooling inflation, lower gas prices, rising wages, and optimism that the economy can achieve a so-called soft landing and avoid a recession. (CNN / Wall Street Journal / New York Times / CNN / CNBC)
3/ Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned Israel to “stop taking steps that undercut the Palestinians’ ability to govern themselves effectively.” Blinken met with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other top Israeli leaders in an effort to push the U.S. ally to moderate its assault on the Gaza Strip, defuse regional tensions to prevent a broader war, and to work with Palestinians and neighboring countries to rebuild and govern the territory. “Extremists settler violence carried out with impunity, settlement expansion, demolitions, evictions all make it harder – not easier – for Israel to achieve lasting peace and security,” Blinken said. “Israel must be a partner to Palestinian leaders who are willing to lead their people in living side by side in peace with Israel as neighbors.” Far-right members of the Israeli government, however, have called for the mass removal of Palestinian civilians from Gaza and dismissed American demands for a “revamped and revitalized” Palestinian Authority, which runs parts of the West Bank, to take control in a postwar, Hamas-free Gaza. (Washington Post / CNN / NBC News / New York Times / Associated Press)
4/ Last year was Earth’s hottest in recorded history. The European Union’s climate agency reported that global temperatures in 2023 were “exceptionally high,” and averaging 1.48 degrees Celsius (2.66 degrees Fahrenheit) above pre-industrial levels during 1850-1900. This year is predicted to be even hotter, with Earth’s 12-month average temperature likely to exceed 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) – the limit established by the 2015 Paris Agreement to limit warming to 1.5 degrees C (2.7 degrees F) above pre-industrial times to avert the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. (NBC News / Axios / Associated Press / Washington Post / New York Times)
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