Trump to be arraigned in New York.
Tennessee GOP lawmakers seek to expel 3 Dems who took part in gun protest.
Finland joins NATO, angering neighbor Russia.
Trump to be arraigned in Manhattan
After flying up from his home in Florida yesterday, former President Trump spent the night at his apartment in Trump Tower in Manhattan. A short while ago, Trump arrived to Manhattan criminal court to surrender to authorities. He’s had his fingerprints taken and will learn the charges against him later this afternoon.
The charges won’t be made public until Trump’s first court appearance. However, some reporting suggests there could be as many as 30 charges against him, each pertaining to falsifying business documents. That would mean there are several charges each for various payments Trump made to his former attorney Michael Cohen. In the ledger, the payments were falsely recorded as legal fees. They were, in fact, reimbursement for a $130,ooo hush money payment to adult entertainer Stormy Daniels in the days before the 2016 election. Daniels and Trump had an affair in the early 2000s, shortly after Trump’s wife Melania gave birth to their son.
Following the arraignment, Trump is expected to return to Florida. His team has said that Trump plans to address supporters at his home in Mar-a-Lago.
Potential gag order
There has been speculation (and only speculation) among legal commentators that the presiding Judge Juan Merchan may impose a gag order to bar Trump from discussing the case publicly. This is because of various statements from Trump questioning the legitimacy of the charges against him as well was personally attacking both District Attorney Alvin Bragg and Judge Merchan.
If the judge were to impose such an order, Trump will be in contempt of court if he discusses the case in public remarks. That would mean either a fine of $1300 or 30 days in jail, at the judge’s discretion. Trump watchers think it unlikely that Trump would abide by the gag order, if there is one.
Trump’s legal team and his supporters in the media and public office have condemned the possibility of a gag order as “despicable” and an infringement of Trump’s First Amendment rights. However, gag orders in cases likely to draw a lot of public attention are commonplace.
Trump objects to cameras in court
In what must be a first for Trump, his legal team sought to bar recording devices (including cameras) from the courtroom. Judge Merchan has ruled to allow only some still photographs before the arraignment begins. There will be no video cameras in the courtroom during today’s proceeding. However, members of the press will be in court to make notes and later report on the proceedings.
There have been arguments on both sides about whether cameras should record or even televise the proceeding. Some say the presence of cameras will only contribute to the heated politics surrounding the case. Others fear that whether Trump wins or loses, the lack of transparency in the courtroom could give rise to conspiracy theories either way.
Tennessee GOP lawmakers seek to expel 3 Dems who took part in gun protest
Last week, three Democratic state lawmakers in Tennessee took led a protest on the floor of the House along with a group of supporters in the gallery of the chamber. Reps. Gloria Johnson, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson led chants in an urgent call gun control legislation in the GOP-dominated state.
Now, GOP lawmakers have initiated a procedure to have the elected lawmakers expelled for taking part in the protest. The resolution calling for their expulsion claims that Reps. Johnson, Jones, and Pearson engaged in “disorderly behavior” and “did knowingly and intentionally bring disorder and dishonor to the House of Representatives.”
While GOP-led House largely supported the resolution, but supporters of the Democratic lawmakers jeered loudly from the gallery. A scuffle then broke out on the floor, during which Jones claims a GOP lawmaker assaulted him and tried to take his phone.
Calls for gun reform ignored
Last week, hundreds of protesters packed into the statehouse demanding gun reforms in the state. This followed last month’s deadly shooting at a Christian school in Nashville last month. The shooting claimed the lives of three 9-year-old children and three adult members of staff.
The shooter in that case, Audrey or Aiden Hale, 28, had been planning the attack for months and had legally purchased seven firearms from five different gun stores in the area. Hale’s parents have said Hale was under a physician’s care for an unspecified mental health issue. The parents apparently did not want their child, who lived with them, to have firearms and had previously removed one from the home. However, unbeknownst to Hale’s parents, Hale had hidden several guns throughout the house, including the three used in the shooting.
Tennessee has no “red-flag” laws as other states do. Red-flag laws empower close family members or members of law enforcement to remove firearms from individuals who pose a danger to themselves or others. If Tennessee had such a measure in place, it’s likely this tragedy could have been prevented.
Finland joins NATO, angering neighboring Russia
As of today, Finland has been formally admitted into NATO. Both Finland and Sweden applied to join the alliance last year in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. For several months, member nations Turkey and Hungary sought to block the Nordic countries from joining the bloc. Turkey recently withdrew its objection to Finland joining, but is still blocking Sweden.
Finland shares an 800-mile border with Russia. Their admission has now doubled the length of NATO’s border with Russia. Russia is suspected of violating Finland’s airspace and territorial waters several times since the Ukraine invasion began in February last year.
Russian President Vladimir Putin has repeatedly cited NATO’s eastward expansion as a provocation which justified his decision to invade Ukraine. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned today that NATO’s expansion constituted a “violation of our security and our national interests” and that Russian leadership would be “watching closely”.