Simmering with anger and defiance, Donald Trump returned to the safe space of Mar-a-Lago and his loyal supporters last night, seeking to turn his status as an accused criminal into a political war cry. The former president ignored a plea from the judge in the case to refrain from inflammatory rhetoric, even launching a broadside at the judge’s daughter over her political connections.
Trump flew back to Florida from New York, where prosecutors had accused him of orchestrating hush-money payments to cover up claims of affairs before the 2016 election. Sitting in a Manhattan court, Trump pleaded not guilty to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records.
But on the evening of a sombre day for America and its judicial system, the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination walked into the opulent ballroom at the Mar-a-Lago estate to the familiar strains of Lee Greenwood’s God Bless the USA, a staple of his campaign rallies.
Wearing a blue suit, white shirt and red tie, and standing behind a lectern that said “Text Trump to 88022” amid an array of US flags, he portrayed himself as a political martyr.
What did he say in his speech? “I never thought anything like this could happen in America,” Trump said. “I never thought it could happen. The only crime that I have committed is to fearlessly defend our nation from those who seek to destroy it.”
What was he charged with? He pleaded not guilty to 34 felony charges of falsifying business records in what prosecutors alleged was a conspiracy to influence the 2016 presidential election by silencing claims of extramarital affairs. In a 13-page statement of facts, the district attorney accused Trump of having “orchestrated a scheme” with the intent “to influence the 2016 presidential election by identifying and purchasing negative information about him to suppress its publication and benefit the defendant’s electoral prospects”.
Trump arraignment at a glance: what we know so far
Liberal judge wins Wisconsin supreme court election, flipping ideological balance
In a historic election, the liberal judge Janet Protasiewicz is projected to win her race for a seat on Wisconsin’s supreme court. Her victory will flip the ideological balance of the state’s highest court, which has been controlled by a conservative majority for 15 years.
Elections and democracy observers have called this election the most consequential one of the year, with abortion rights, redistricting and election rules at stake. The race pitted Protasiewicz, a Milwaukee circuit court judge and former prosecutor, against Dan Kelly, a former Wisconsin supreme court justice with ties to election deniers and the far right.
Protasiewicz will replace the conservative justice Patience Roggensack on 1 August; the court will be controlled by a narrow liberal majority.
The race smashed campaign finance records for state judicial elections, drawing more than $45m, according to a WisPolitics analysis. By comparison, in Wisconsin’s last supreme court race in 2020, donors brought in about $10m. Political groups and wealthy individuals across the country have opened their coffers on both sides of the race, with Protasiewicz raising nearly $9m from the Democratic party and outside groups pledging more than $6m on pro-Kelly advertisements.
Why did Protasiewicz decide to run? In a March interview with the Guardian, she said the future of democracy in Wisconsin and at the national level motivated her to run. “I thought about our democracy, and our democracy being at stake. And that’s why I decided to do it. All the issues that we care about are going to come in front of this court. But primarily, primarily, our democracy is on the line.”
Progressive candidate Brandon Johnson elected Chicago’s new mayor
Progressive candidate and Cook county board commissioner Brandon Johnson won the election for Chicago mayor yesterday evening after pulling ahead of his opponent, Paul Vallas, in the evening.
At 10pm, with 91% of the votes in, Johnson led at 51.4% to Vallas’s 48.6%. That amounted to almost 16,000 votes.
The election had pit two Democrats from the furthest ends of their party’s spectrum against each other. Public safety has been the number 1 issue and Democrats across the country were watching to see if Johnson, a progressive who has previously supported the defund-the-police movement, could defeat Vallas, who nabbed the endorsement of Chicago’s police union and once described himself as a Republican.
At Vallas’s campaign party in downtown Chicago on Tuesday evening, the once buoyant party had deflated as the results rolled in. At about 8pm, a bagpipe band loudly rehearsing in a hotel banquet hall was interrupted by Alderman Brian Hopkins, who said the mood in the room was so grim that the group should pack it up and go home.
What was the turnout? Despite high rates of early voting, election day turnout was reportedly “sleepy”. Even so, young voters seemed to have outpaced previous election records, possibly spurring the boost for Johnson.
In other news …
Democrats in Florida are attempting to use a state law that censors books in public schools against the governor who signed it, Ron DeSantis, by asking schools to review or ban the Republican governor’s own book, The Courage to be Free. Opponents say the memoir violates the law the governor signed last year.
At least 14 Palestinians have been injured and hundreds arrested in an Israeli police raid on Jerusalem’s al-Aqsa mosque, triggering clashes in the West Bank, cross-border strikes in the Gaza Strip and fears of wider escalation over the holiday period.
Rupert Murdoch has abruptly ended his engagement with the wedding only months away, according to sources close to the 92-year-old media mogul. The wedding was set for this summer, less than a year after Murdoch finalized his divorce from his fourth wife, the model Jerry Hall.
Twitter has been accused of bowing to government pressure in India by blocking scores of prominent journalists, politicians and activists from its platform in recent weeks. The Indian government issued notices to Twitter to remove people during the search for a fugitive Sikh separatist leader.
Mike Hill, a 61-year-old custodian who was one of six people shot dead at a Nashville elementary school last week, was remembered for his loving nature, his culinary skills and his faith. Hundreds of people turned out for Hill’s funeral at Stephens Valley church.
Stat of the day: Johnson & Johnson agrees to pay $8.9bn over alleged cancer-causing talc claims
Johnson & Johnson has agreed to pay $8.9bn to settle tens of thousands of lawsuits alleging that talc in its iconic Baby Powder and other products caused cancer, the company said. The amount dwarfs J&J’s original offer of $2bn. The agreement follows a January appeals court ruling invalidating J&J’s controversial “Texas two-step” bankruptcy maneuver, in which it sought to offload the talc liability on to a subsidiary that immediately filed for Chapter 11. That J&J subsidiary, LTL Management, filed for bankruptcy protection late on Tuesday for a second time with the intent to present a reorganization plan containing the proposed settlement to a judge as soon as 14 May, the subsidiary said in a court filing. J&J said in a statement that about 60,000 talc claimants had agreed to the proposal.
Don’t miss this: Swipe, like, vote: the organizers using dating apps to boost turnout
Kristi Johnston, like many young people, spends a good deal of time swiping left and right on various dating apps. But unlike most people looking for love, this is her job. Johnston, 26, is the national press secretary for NextGen, an organization dedicated to getting out the youth vote.
For the past few weeks, Johnston has been playing the field to help the Wisconsin supreme court race which culminated yesterday. Earlier this year, she crafted a Hinge profile that included her age, flattering selfies and pictures with friends, and prompts such as “The key to my heart is being pro-choice”. The premise was simple: to increase voter turnout in an important election like yesterday’s Wisconsin supreme court race, Johnston, would match with guys on dating apps, and when they slid into her DMs, she made sure they were registered and pledged to vote.
… or this: ‘I love nothing more than making people cry’: author Cheryl Strayed on her hugely moving TV show
Profound, big-hearted, and raw, the adaptation of Cheryl Strayed’s bestselling book Tiny Beautiful Things is powerful television. Released on Disney+ later this month, it is a gorgeous drama, writes Hollie Richardson. Produced by Reese Witherspoon’s company, Hello Sunshine, it is at once heart-wrenching and a balm for the soul – with spurts of smart humour.
It follows a frazzled writer in her 40s, Clare, whose life is unravelling. But look closer and it is the ghosts of Clare’s past – her absent father, her dead mother, her estranged brother – that are unsettling her as she tries to resolve unfinished emotional business. One way she tries to take back control is by becoming an anonymous online agony aunt, Dear Sugar, calling on her own experiences to help others. It is, of course, inspired by Strayed’s real life.
Climate check: Revealed – UAE plans huge oil and gas expansion as it hosts UN climate summit
The United Arab Emirates, which is hosting this year’s UN climate summit, has the third biggest net zero-busting plans for oil and gas expansion in the world, the Guardian can reveal. Its plans are surpassed only by Saudi Arabia and Qatar. The CEO of the UAE’s national oil company, Adnoc, has been controversially appointed president of the UN’s Cop28 summit in December, which is seen as crucial with time running out to end the climate crisis. But Sultan Al Jaber is overseeing expansion to produce oil and gas equivalent to 7.5bn barrels of oil, according to new data, 90% of which would have to remain in the ground to meet the net zero scenario set out by the International Energy Agency.
Last Thing: YouTuber prankster shot and wounded by target of practical joke
A popular US YouTube creator who prides himself on making videos in which he displays odd behavior to put people off intends to keep at it, even after one of his targets allegedly nearly shot him dead. Tanner Cook – who regularly makes videos of himself pranking strangers for nearly 40,000 subscribers of the channel Classified Goons – was reportedly playing a practical joke on a man at a mall in the Washington suburb of Dulles, Virginia, at about midday on Sunday. A friend was recording him when things took an almost deadly turn, according to authorities as well as an interview Cook gave to the local TV station WUSA. Cook, 21, survived the shooting and had to undergo surgery after first responders brought him to a hospital in a critical condition.
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