1/ Trump defied the judge presiding over his $370 million civil fraud trial and delivered a brief courtroom speech claiming that he’s an “innocent man” and that the lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James is “a fraud on me.” Judge Arthur Engoron had previously denied Trump’s request to give his own closing statement because Trump wouldn’t agree to refrain from personal attacks. Nevertheless, Trump’s attorney asked Engoron to allow Trump to speak for two to three minutes during closing arguments. Engoron then asked Trump if he would agree to stick to case-related subjects, which prompted Trump to begin his diatribe. For roughly five minutes, Trump claimed that James “hates Trump and uses Trump to get elected,” that the case was a “political witch hunt,” and demanded that prosecutors “should pay me for what I’ve gone through.” Trump then attacked Engoron, remarking that “You have your own agenda […] You can’t listen for more than one minute.” Engoron then instructed Trump’s lawyer to “control your client,” who didn’t appear to make any effort to do so. The trial has now concluded and Engoron said he plans to issue his ruling later this month. James has asked Engoron to impose $370 million in penalties and permanently bar Trump from running a business in New York. Hours before the trial’s final day began, police responded to a “swatting incident” at Engoron’s home. The bomb squad was called to investigate, but nothing was found. (Associated Press / New York Times / NBC News / CNN / Washington Post / Axios)
2/ South Africa formally accused Israel of committing genocide in Gaza. South Africa called on the International Court of Justice to order Israel to immediately suspend its “continuous bombing” of the Gaza Strip, where more than 23,400 people have been killed since the war began, according to the Palestinian Health Ministry. More than 59,600 have been injured, and thousands more are missing and presumed dead. South Africa condemned Hamas’ attacks, but said “nothing” could justify Israel’s response. Lawyers representing South Africa argued that Israel’s military campaign was intended to “bring about the destruction” of the Palestinian population, noting that comments by Israeli leaders – calling Palestinians “human animals” – and actions – imposing a “complete siege” on the Gaza Strip – signaled “genocidal intent.” Israel dismissed the accusation as “absurd blood libel,” “atrocious and preposterous,” and called the case “one of the greatest shows of hypocrisy in history.” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, meanwhile, described the case as “meritless,” and called it “particularly galling given that those who are attacking Israel – Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis, as well as their supporter of Iran – continue to openly call for the annihilation of Israel and the mass murder of Jews.” The court is expected to rule on South Africa’s request to stop the violence in Gaza within weeks, but a verdict on the question of genocide could take years. While the court’s rulings are legally binding, enforcement can be difficult. (CNN / New York Times / NBC News / Washington Post / Associated Press)
Looming Starvation in Gaza Shows Resurgence of Civilian Sieges in Warfare. “A U.N.-affiliated panel said the territory could tip into famine very soon. International laws to protect people from human-made famines offer little help.” (New York Times)
American intel officials warn of risk of Hezbollah attacking U.S. “U.S. officials assess that there’s a rising risk Lebanese Hezbollah militants will strike Americans in the Middle East — and even potentially hit inside the United States.” (Politico)
3/ The House Freedom Caucus continued to hold the chamber hostage while pressuring Speaker Mike Johnson to renege on the bipartisan spending deal to avert a government shutdown. Yesterday, members of the far-right group and their allies revolted against the bipartisan spending deal, openly criticized Johnson, and blocked a procedural vote on an unrelated bill in protest over the $1.66 trillion bipartisan spending deal. The ultra-conservative group is demanding the top-line budget number be at least $70 billion less, and include new border security. Some frustrated Republican centrists and appropriators are calling on Johnson to stick to the bipartisan deal and punish the conservatives. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, meanwhile, plans to introduce a short-term stopgap spending plan in order to give Congress more time to work out the details of the bipartisan spending agreement. (Politico / NBC News / Bloomberg)
4/ The Pentagon failed to properly track $1 billion worth of military equipment sent to Ukraine for its defense against Russia, according to a report by the Defense Department’s inspector general. The report, however, offered no evidence that any of the items – including night vision devices, air defense missiles, anti-tanks missiles, launch equipment, and kamikaze drones – have been misused or stolen. The new report comes as Congress debates whether to authorize a supplemental package of more than $60 billion in aid for Ukraine amid significant Republican opposition. (CNN / Bloomberg / New York Times)
✨ Well, That’s Fantastic!
U.S. carbon emissions shrank in 2023 for the first time since the coronavirus pandemic. Last year, U.S. greenhouse gas pollution from energy and industrial activities fell by 1.9% despite the economy growing by about 2.4%. To put that into perspective: in 2023, the U.S. emitted as much carbon as it did in 1991, when the economy was about a quarter of its current size. (Heatmap / NBC News)
The world’s capacity to generate renewable electricity grew by 50% in 2023 – the fastest rate in the past 25 years. The International Energy Agency reported that the global energy systems’ renewable energy capacity reached nearly 510 gigawatts last year – enough to power nearly 51 million homes for a year. About 75% of the growth was in increased solar capacity. (Associated Press / The Hill / International Energy Agency)
U.S. battery storage capacity could double in 2024 if all of the planned energy storage systems are brought online on schedule. Since 2021, battery storage in the U.S. has been growing, ending last year with around 16 gigawatts utility-scale battery capacity. Developers plan to add another 15 GW in 2024 – an 89% increase(!) – and around another 9 GW in 2025. Meanwhile, 12 GW of coal-fired capacity is expected to retire in 2024 and 2025. (Power Engineering / Energy Information Administration)
The Biden administration announced $623 million in grants to support electric vehicle charging infrastructure across the country. The grants will support 47 projects in 22 states and Puerto Rico, with an emphasis on rural areas and underserved communities, and lead to the construction of about 7,500 new EV charging ports. (Wired / ABC News)
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