Georgia DA: “Decisions imminent” on possible prosecution of Trump, allies for election meddling.
Classified documents found at Indiana home of former VP Mike Pence.
Doomsday Clock at 90 seconds to midnight.
Georgia DA: “Decisions imminent” on possible prosecution of Trump, allies for election meddling
In a hearing yesterday, Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis hinted at the possibility that former President Trump or his allies will face charges for interfering in the 2020 election. The hearing before judge Robert McBurney was to determine whether a special grand jury report should be made public. For months, the grand jury subpoenaed and interviewed prominent figures in Trump’s orbit. These included Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani and Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC). The grand jury did not call Trump himself to testify.
The probe focused on efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn Biden’s 2020 win in Georgia. Among other things, the panel examined the plan to appoint 16 “fake electors” to declare before Congress that Trump had won Georgia. The panel also called Georgia’s Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to testify. On Jan. 2, 2021, just days before the Capitol riot, Trump called Raffensperger and demanded that he “find” the roughly 11,000 votes Trump needed to overturn Biden’s election win.
The grand jury finalized its report earlier this month. Several news outlets argued before Judge McBurney that the report should be made public. Willis argued against publishing the report as it might make it difficult to give potential defendants a fair trial. “We have to be mindful of protecting future defendants’ rights,” Willis said. “We want to make sure that everyone is treated fairly, and we say [that] for future defendants to be treated fairly, it’s not appropriate at this time to have this report released”. Willis then added that “decisions are imminent” on potential criminal prosecutions.
McBurney adjourned the hearing yesterday without issuing a decision on the release, saying he needed more time to consider it.
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Classified documents found at Indiana home of former VP Mike Pence
A lawyer for Donald Trump’s former VP Mike Pence announced that boxes containing classified material were found in Pence’s Indiana home. Pence’s lawyer Greg Jacob wrote a letter to the National Archives (NARA) saying the records “appear to be a small number of documents bearing classified markings that were inadvertently boxed and transported to the personal home of the former vice president at the end of the last administration”. Like President Biden, who’s recently had his own travails with classified documents gone astray, Pence’s attorneys immediately notified the National Archives and the Justice Department of the discovery. The FBI has taken custody of the documents.
Both the Biden and Pence cases contrast sharply with Trump’s handling of classified documents. When Trump left office, his aides carried off at least 300 documents. After months of bad faith negotiations, during which Trump returned some documents and withheld others, the FBI finally raided his home in August last year. That search turned up over 100 more classified documents Trump had lied about having. Since then, Trump’s attorneys have argued (unsuccessfully) in court that the classified documents were Trump’s personal property and demanded their return.
Once news broke about the documents in Biden’s home and private office, Trump’s reaction on social media was gleeful. However, Trump has been quick to defend his former VP. “Mike Pence is an innocent man” Trump wrote. “He never did anything knowingly dishonest in his life. Leave him alone!!!”.
Given Pence and Trump’s falling out over the events of Jan. 6, and the fact that Pence is plotting to challenge Trump for the 2024 Republican Presidential nomination, Trump’s defense of Pence is surprising and, in an odd way, rather touching.
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Doomsday Clock at 90 seconds to midnight
The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists has moved the Doomsday Clock 10 seconds forward, meaning the world is closer than it has ever been to “global catastrophe”.
“We are living in a time of unprecedented danger, and the Doomsday Clock time reflects that reality,” Bulletin president and CEO Rachel Bronson said. “Ninety seconds to midnight is the closest the clock has ever been set to midnight, and it’s a decision our experts do not take lightly.”
The experts at BAS periodically assess global risk and adjust the Doomsday Clock accordingly. For the last 3 years, it has been at 100 seconds to midnight. A number of global issues factored into the decision to bring it 10 seconds forward, including the failure of world leaders to act decisively to head off the worst effects of climate change. But the most important factor is the war in Ukraine, which is closing in on a year. The conflict has created food and gas shortages, and repeatedly put nuclear energy sites in peril. The conflict has also deepened ideological divides between the world’s superpowers and created ramped up militarism. The war has raised “profound questions about how states interact, eroding norms of international conduct that underpin successful responses to a variety of global risks”.
“And worst of all,” the announcements says, “Russia’s thinly veiled threats to use nuclear weapons remind the world that escalation of the conflict—by accident, intention, or miscalculation—is a terrible risk. The possibility that the conflict could spin out of anyone’s control remains high.”
US, Germany agree to send tanks to Ukraine
It may or may not be a coincidence that the BAS announced this change on the same day that reports emerged indicating that the US and Germany would be sending their most advanced battle tanks to Ukraine. Germany has long resisted calls by Ukraine and its allies to supply its state-of-the-art Leopard tanks, just as the US has demurred on sending Abrams tanks.
Although Germany is one of the world’s leading weapons manufacturers, a post-Cold War ethos against militarization has made Germany reluctant to export their most advanced weaponry to active conflict zones. They do happily sell the tanks to other countries for defense. However, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz has vowed to spend about $100 billion to expand the country’s military, a growth in militarism not seen in the country since WWII. Despite this, Scholz fears furnishing Russia with a justification to act more aggressively against Germany. He so far hasn’t sent Leopard tanks to Ukraine or to allowed other countries to send Leopard tanks purchased from Germany.
At the recent Davos summit, German officials hinted that they’d be willing to give Ukraine Leopards if the US would also send some of its Abrams tanks. Within minutes of the reports that Germany would send Leopard tanks to Ukraine, reports emerged that the US would be sending Abrams tanks as well.
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