Trump does not have presidential immunity – US court

This morning's top world news, in a nutshell - Wednesday, 7th February 2024

Former US President Donald Trump does not have presidential immunity and can be prosecuted on charges of plotting to overturn the 2020 election, a US court has ruled. Trump had claimed in the landmark legal case that he was immune from criminal charges for acts he said “fell within his duties as president”. But Tuesday’s unanimous ruling in Washington DC struck down that claim. It is a setback for Trump who has for years cited presidential immunity while battling multiple cases. “We cannot accept former President Trump’s claim that a president has unbounded authority to commit crimes that would neutralise the most fundamental check on executive power – the recognition and implementation of election results,” the three-judge appeals court panel wrote in its opinion. It added: “For the purpose of this criminal case, former President Trump has become ‘citizen Trump’, with all of the defences of any other criminal defendant.”

In a statement shortly after the ruling, Trump campaign spokesman Steven Cheung said the former president “respectfully disagrees with the DC Circuit’s decision and will appeal it”. If an appeal is filed, the case could ultimately go to the Supreme Court where conservatives hold a 6-3 majority. Mr Trump has until  February 12 tofile an appeal.

Biden wins Nevada presidential primary

President Biden hit the jackpot in Nevada, with a third straight ballot box victory in the 2024 Democratic presidential nomination race. The Associated Press on Tuesday projected that the president would win Nevada’s Democratic primary, with the news service making its call a little over 90 minutes after the polls closed. The projection came as no surprise, and Biden won the Democratic primary while votes were still being counted for Republican race. This was the second official Democratic primary of the 2024 cycle that will award delegates. A state-run Republican primary is being held that will not allocate delegates but delegates will be awarded based on the results of the party-run caucuses tomorrow, Thursday. Trump is not on the ballot and is only participating in tomorrow’s caucuses, where he’s expected to win the state’s delegates. His rival Nikki Haley is the only major candidate and she is not competing in the caucuses. Nevada Republican rules prevented candidates from participating in both contests, but eligible voters can vote in both.

US House rejects impeachment of Homeland Secretary

The US House has rejected the impeachment of Homeland Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, accused by Republicans of refusing to respect the law and violating public trust in managing the waves of migrants at the US-Mexico border. Thde vote was 216 against 2014. If ‘yes’ had prevailed, it would have been the first American minister impeached in nearly 150 years, since Secretary of War William Belknap in 1876.

The US House also rejected the Republican-sponsored Bill, to separate aid to Israel from that to Ukraine and Taiwan, as foreseen in President Biden’s package. The Bill provides $17.6 billion in military aid to Israel. This was the second defeat for the Grand old party in the Chamber in a few minutes after the failure of the impeachment of the Homeland Secretary. But 167 Democrats voted against it after Joe Biden warned that he would veto it, and 13 Republicans also opposed it because it did not contain the required budget compensation.

Female Anglican bishop in meeting with Pope’s Council of Cardinals

The Pope’s Council of Cardinals concluded a meeting at the Vatican yeterday with Pope Francis to reflect on “the role of women in the Church”. Three women also participated in the two-day meeting, notably including a female Anglican bishop, Jo Bailey Wells, mother of two children and known for her advocacy of “gender equality”. She had led an inter-faith meeting attended by Pope Francis in Kazakhstan in October 2022. In this most recent session, like the one held in December 2023, the members of the council delved deeper into the topic of the presence of women in the Church. During the 2023 meeting, the pontiff invited theologians to reflect on the Church as “woman and spouse” and said that “one of the sins committed” has been the tendency to “masculinize the Church”.

Hamas response “over the top” says Biden

US President Joe Biden says Hamas’s response to the hostage deal framework was “a little over the top” but that negotiations are ongoing. Asked by newsmen for a status update on the talks at the end of a news conference regarding the supplemental funding Bill stuck in Congress, Biden confirmed that Hamas had responded to the framework proposal and that there had been “some movement… but it seems to be a little over the top”, adding, “We’re not sure where it is. There’s a continuing negotiation right now.”

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said he would discuss Hamas’s response to the hostage deal with Israeli authorities today, Wednesday. In the news conference with the Prime Minister of Qatar, Blinken then reiterated that it was “essential” to reach the agreement on the hostages between Israel and Hamas.

Hamas wants release of largest number possible of prisoners

Senior Hamas official Ghazi Hamad has told Reuters that they aim for the release of the largest number possible of Palestinians imprisoned by Israel. Hamad’s comments come after Hamas earlier announced that it delivered a response to a framework agreement devised by Egypt and Qatar that aims to at least pause the fighting in Gaza and see the release of hostages. But Hamas is demanding a complete end to the war and a permanent ceasefire – non-starters for Israel, which is looking for temporary pauses and a phased release of hostages. Hamad told Reuters that it took Hamas over a week to issue a response because “many of [the agreement’s] issues were unclear and ambiguous”. In a statement carried by the Israeli Prime Minister’s Office, the Mossad – Israel’s national intelligence agency – said Hamas’s response was being evaluated by the relevant authorities.

Israel will not accept permanent ceasefire

Israel will not accept Hamas’s conditions for a permanent ceasefire as part of hostage release negotiations, an Israeli government source told the’ Kan’ public broadcaster. “We will not accept any conditions for ending the war,” says the source. Its response demanded a “comprehensive and complete ceasefire, and ending the aggression against our people, and guaranteeing relief, shelter, [and] reconstruction, [and] lifting the blockade of the Gaza Strip, and completing a prisoner exchange” – non-starter terms for Israel. ‘Kan’ reports that Hamas’s response is interpreted in Israel as a rejection of the proposed outline. Hamas has doubled down on its demand that the hostage talks must include a permanent ceasefire, an end to the Israeli-Egyptian blockade on Gaza, the reconstruction of the enclave, and the release of Palestinian security prisoners in exchange for 136 remaining hostages, at least 31 of whom are dead. This tally includes two soldiers who were killed in 2014 and whose bodies have been held by Hamas since then. The New York Times reported earlier that the Israeli military fears at least 20 more hostages may have been killed. Hamas’s condition for a permanent ceasefire has been repeatedly rejected by Israel, which has vowed to destroy the group following its October 7 massacre across southern communities. Israel has tentatively agreed to short pauses to the fighting and a phased hostage release agreement.

“Israel should be disqualified from Eurovision”

The organisers of the Eurovision Song Contest are under increasing pressure to exclude Israel from this year’s competition as it wages a war on Gaza. More than 20 politicians wrote to the European Broadcasting Union (EBU) on Tuesday saying Israel’s participation in the contest “whitewashes a regime that is carrying out ethnic cleansing in Palestine and committing war crimes and genocide”. European Parliament members and politicians from Spain’s left-wing Podemos party are among the signatories of the letter seen by Al Jazeera. Besides the European politicians, musicians in Sweden, artists in Finland, and protesters in Norway and Ireland have sent letters to the EBU urging public broadcasters to exclude Israel from the contest. Iceland, meanwhile, is reconsidering its participation if Israel is allowed to compete this year. The politicians behind the letter acknowledged that the EBU, which is a group of public media organisations, wants Eurovision to remain a non-political event. “However, the Eurovision Song Contest did veto Russia’s participation in the contest from 2022 in response to its invasion of Ukraine. Also, in 2019, Iceland was fined by the festival organisers because the Icelandic contestant displayed a Palestinian flag at the Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv,” they said. “Israel’s participation is in clear conflict with what the EBU claims to stand for, as it misinforms about Israel and conceals its genocidal behaviour,” they added. Israel became the first non-European country to participate in 1973 and hosted the pop culture event in Tel Aviv in 2019. Entry to the contest is open to all members of the EBU. This year’s contest is set to take place in May at Sweden’s Malmo Arena.

Houthis claim fresh Red Sea attacks on US, UK ships

Yemen’s Houthis say they have fired missiles at two civilian ships in the Red Sea. The attacks claimed by the Houthis on Tuesday, one on a British vessel and one on an American ship, are the latest in a campaign that they said is motivated by Israel’s war on Gaza. The Iran-aligned armed group has stated its determination to continue the attacks despite several air strikes by the US and its allies patrolling the Red Sea. The ongoing campaign is helping to stoke simmering tensions across the Middle East. It is also disrupting world trade because the Red Sea is a major route for container ships. Their campaign has caused major headaches for global shipping firms, forcing them to suspend transits through the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden and reroute over longer, more expensive journeys around Southern Africa.

Mother of school shooter guilty of involuntary manslaughter

A jury has found Jennifer Crumbley, the mother of Michigan school shooter Ethan Crumbley, guilty of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting deaths of four students at Oxford High School in November 2021. Crumbley was found guilty of four counts of involuntary manslaughter in connection with the shooting, one for each victim. The jury deliberated for 11 hours. Sentencing is scheduled for April 9. Jennifer and James Crumbley are a rare case of parents being charged in connection with a shooting carried out by their son. James Crumbley, who also faces four counts of involuntary manslaughter, will have a separate trial in March. Ethan Crumbley, who was 15 years old at the time of the shooting, has been sentenced to life in prison for killing the four students and injuring seven others at the school. He had pleaded guilty to 24 charges, including first-degree premeditated murder and terrorism causing death. In a dayslong trial, prosecutors presented damning evidence of the Crumbley parents – who bought their son the gun used in the shooting – failing to respond to warning signs exhibited by the shooter prior to the attack.

Tucker Carlson to interview Vladimir Putin’

After days of intense speculation, former Fox News star Tucker Carlson has confirmed he is in Moscow and claims he will “soon” interview Russian President Vladimir Putin. Carlson, who Fox News abruptly dumped last year, said in a post on X “there are risks to doing an interview like this” and his team had “thought about it over many months”. The interview would be a major score for Carlson, given it will be Putin’s first one-on-one with a Western journalist since Russia invaded Ukraine in February 2022. Carlson said the interview could be viewed for free on his website, TuckerCarlson.com, while Elon Musk promised he “will not block the interview when it is posted on X”.

737 Max door which blew off was not properly secured

The door of the Alaska Airlines Boeing 737 Max blew off on January 5 because it was not properly secured, according to the report of the US National Transportation Safety Board. In particular, the four bolts that should have closed the door were missing and it blew off 20 minutes after take-off, forcing the aircraft to make an emergency landing. The lack of bolts, the investigation reveals, meant that the door covering an unused emergency exit moved and then detached, creating a hole in the fuselage and consequently a sudden depressurisation. The piece was produced by the company Spirit AeroSystems, a Boeing supplier already under fire for other accidents. According to the reconstruction, the door had been removed at the factory due to a series of damages during production, and when it was reinstalled in the fuselage for delivery to the American company, at least three of the four bolts were missing.

Negotiations to form a government in the Netherlands fail

Leader of the Netherland’s New Social Contract Pieter Omtzigt, the balance of power for the formation of an executive with Geert Wilders’ far-right, has announced his intention to withdraw from the talks due to differences on public finances. Omtzigt’s party, which has a long history in the ranks of the Christian Democrats, however, leaves open the possibility of supporting a minority government. Negotiations had been ongoing since the end of November, after the political elections which had placed Wilders in first place.

Former Chile president Pinera dies in helicopter crash

Former Chilean president Sebastian Pinera died after the helicopter he was flying crashed. Local newspaper ‘La Tercera’ reported the helicopter crashed in Chile’s Lake Ranco. There were five people on board and three of them were saved. From the first testimonies of the survivors it was discovered that Pinera was driving the aircraft and would not have been able to swim to the shore of the lake after the accident.

Wonder Man crew member dies from fall

A crew member working on the upcoming Marvel TV series ‘Wonder Man’ has died on set after falling from high rafters. The incident took place at the Radford Studio Centre in Los Angeles. Filming was not occurring at the time. The man, who was working as a rigger – someone who sets up scaffolding on film and TV sets – later died of his injuries. An investigation into what happened has been launched. Filming of ‘Wonder Man’, which stars Yahya Abdul-Mateen II and Ben Kingsley, was due to restart next month after being delayed by the recent Hollywood strikes.

Main photo: AP/Andrew Harnik

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