First Thing: Two Democrats expelled from Tennessee house over gun control protest | US news

Good morning.

Two Democratic lawmakers have been expelled from Tennessee’s GOP-dominated House, an extraordinary act of political retaliation for their role in a gun control demonstration after the killings at a Nashville elementary school last week.

Thousands of protesters have flocked to the Tennessee state capitol to support three Democratic members who were facing removal. Only two of the three were ultimately forced out.

Joe Biden called the move “shocking, undemocratic and without precedent” in a statement. “Three kids and three officials gunned down in yet another mass shooting. And what are GOP officials focused on? Punishing lawmakers who joined thousands of peaceful protesters calling for action.”

The banishment of representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson was a move the chamber has used only a handful of times since the civil war. Most state legislatures possess the power to expel members, but it is generally reserved as a punishment for lawmakers accused of serious misconduct, not used as a weapon against political opponents.

  • What has Barack Obama said about the expulsion? The former president joined in the condemnation, tweeting: “This nation was built on peaceful protest. No elected official should lose their job simply for raising their voice – especially when they’re doing it on behalf of our children.”

Clarence Thomas faces impeachment calls after reports of undisclosed gifts

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez condemns ‘shocking corruption’ after ProPublica report details luxury items from top Republican donor.Pin
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez condemns ‘shocking corruption’ after ProPublica report details luxury items from top Republican donor. Photograph: Olivier Douliery/AFP/Getty Images

Clarence Thomas, the most conservative justice on the US supreme court, is facing renewed calls for impeachment after it was reported that for two decades he has accepted undisclosed luxury gifts from a Republican mega-donor.

Thomas may have violated financial disclosure rules when he failed to disclose travel on yachts and jets and other gifts funded by the property billionaire Harlan Crow and uncovered by ProPublica.

It found that Thomas flies on Crow’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet and holidays on Crow’s 162ft super-yacht. He has enjoyed holidays at Crow’s ranch in Texas and joined him at an exclusive all-male California retreat. The justice usually spends about a week each summer at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondack mountains in New York.

The revelations prompted sharp criticism by Democrats of Thomas, who after 31 years is the longest-serving justice and an influential voice in the rightwing majority that last year ended the right to abortion. ProPublica wrote that Thomas did not respond to a detailed list of questions from the organization.

  • What have Democrats said? The progressive New York congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez tweeted: “This is beyond party or partisanship. This degree of corruption is shocking – almost cartoonish. Thomas must be impeached. Barring some dramatic change, this is what the [chief justice John] Roberts court will be known for: rank corruption, erosion of democracy, and the stripping of human rights.”

‘The king has been dethroned’: Stormy Daniels speaks on Trump indictment

Stormy Daniels told Piers Morgan that one in 10 messages she now received were death threats, and that the tone hasdbecome increasingly violent.Pin
Stormy Daniels told Piers Morgan that one in 10 messages she now received were death threats, and that the tone hasdbecome increasingly violent. Photograph: TALKTV

In her first major interview since Donald Trump’s indictment, Stormy Daniels has said that while she wants the former president to be “held accountable”, she doesn’t believe he should go to prison.

“I don’t think that his crimes against me are worthy of incarceration. I feel like the other things that he has done, if he is found guilty, absolutely,” Daniels, 44, said in an interview with Fox Nation’s Piers Morgan released on Thursday.

Daniels sat down with Morgan for a 90-minute interview, which she called her most extensive yet. She thanked people for “love and support” in a tweet, saying that the segment “laid to rest a lot of misinformation”.

When asked by Morgan how it felt to see Trump appear in court, Daniels said she was “shocked”. “I thought he was going to get away with not being accountable,” she said. “The king has been dethroned – he’s no longer untouchable. Nobody should be untouchable, doesn’t matter what your job description is – whether you’re the president – you should be held responsible for your actions.”

  • What else did she say? Daniels, who postponed the original timing of her interview with Morgan last week citing “security concerns”, said she was also regularly receiving threats. She told Morgan that one in 10 messages she now received were death threats, and that the tone had become increasingly violent. “It’s like a suicide bomber,” she said. “In the depths of their soul, they feel like they’re doing the right thing.”

In other news …

Armoured personnel carriers drive along the road from Bakhmut as heavy fighting in and around the town continues.Pin
Armoured personnel carriers drive along the road from Bakhmut as heavy fighting in and around the Ukrainian town continues. Photograph: Oleg Petrasyuk/EPA
  • Russia appears to have made important gains in Bakhmut, the British defence ministry says. The UK Ministry of Defence says in its daily update that Russian forces have “highly likely advanced into the [Bakhmut] town centre, and has seized the West Bank of the Bakhmutka River.

  • The Oscar-nominated actor Jeremy Renner has said he was at fault in a New Year’s Day snowplough accident that left him close to death and apologised to his family for putting them through the ordeal. “It’s my responsibility,” Renner said. “I feel bad that my actions caused so much pain.”

  • The Biden administration has released a proposal that would forbid schools and colleges across the US from enacting outright bans on transgender athletes. But teams could create some limits in certain cases – for example, to ensure fairness. If finalized, the proposal would become enshrined as a provision of Title IX.

  • China has imposed sanctions on US figures linked to the Taiwan president’s visit to the US this week, as well as further restrictions on Taiwan’s de facto ambassador to the US. Four US nationals were listed, including the chair and director of the Hudson Institute, and the current head and former director of the Reagan Foundation.

Stat of the day: A US city received $500,000 to remove lead pipes – and still hasn’t spent it

A view of Broadway in downtown Troy, New YorkPin
A view of Broadway in downtown Troy, New York. Photograph: Drew Angerer/Getty Images

In 2018, almost 30 cities across New York state received federal money to carry out a specific, urgent task: removing lead service lines that poison drinking water. The city of Troy – which sits across the Hudson River and just north of Albany – was among them, receiving $500,000. But five years later, city leaders have failed to spend a single dollar of that money, and have yet to remove a single lead pipe. The revelation emerged at a city council meeting this winter, raising all sorts of questions. Chief among them is why the city hasn’t spent the money. Troy’s failure illustrates the challenges small cities face when trying to address environmental injustices like lead pipes, writes Mike De Socio.

Climate check: Rains bring California lake back from the dead – ‘We’re surrounded by water’

Flooding at Tulare LakePin
Flooding at the site of the once huge Tulare Lake, which was the largest freshwater lake in the western US. Photograph: David McNew/Getty Images

Just a few months ago, this landscape in California’s Central Valley was a dry basin filled with pistachio and almond groves, writes Katharine Gammon. Then a winter of historic rain and snow brought Tulare Lake – a huge freshwater body drained a century ago by agricultural canals – rushing back from the dead. Workers from state agencies have brought sandbags in by helicopter, rebuilt levees and constructed walls to hold the deluge back. In Allensworth, a historically Black community on the shores of Tulare Lake, the return has brought concerns about the future, and who will get flooded first. The rising waters now threaten tens of thousands of people in Kings county and the surrounding San Joaquin Valley, a huge agricultural area that grows nuts, fruit and vegetables. Allensworth’s 600 residents have been keeping the floods at bay with sandbags, gravel, plywood and large rocks.

Last Thing: 30 under 30-year sentences – why so many of Forbes’ young heroes face jail

Charlie Javice leaves Manhattan federal court on Tuesday.Pin
Charlie Javice leaves Manhattan federal court on Tuesday. Photograph: Lawrence Neumeister/AP

Just a few years ago, Charlie Javice was riding high. In 2019, the tech CEO landed a spot on Forbes’s 30 Under 30 list for her work on a startup called Frank, which helped students navigate the financial aid process, writes Arwa Mahdawi. It was apparently so successful at doing this that JPMorgan Chase acquired the company for $175m in 2021 after Javice said Frank had grown to serve “over 5 million students at over 6,000 colleges”. Turns out those numbers might have been just a teeny bit exaggerated and she now faces criminal charges. She denies all allegations but she is not the first Forbes 30 Under 30 alum to suddenly be looking at decades in jail. “The Forbes 30 Under 30 have collectively raised $5.3B in funding,” the tech entrepreneur Chris Bakke tweeted on Tuesday. “The Forbes 30 Under 30 have also been arrested for frauds and scams worth over $18.5B. Incredible track record.”

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