Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Former President Donald Trump pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court on Tuesday to 34 felony counts of falsifying business records in the first degree, marking the first time a former or sitting president has been criminally indicted. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg alleged Trump concealed hush money payments to adult film star Stormy Daniels as part of a larger effort to skirt federal and New York election law, but the charges rely on an untested legal theory and a conviction is far from a slam dunk.
- A three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals on Tuesday denied Trump’s effort to block former aides from testifying before special counsel Jack Smith’s grand jury investigating his efforts to subvert the 2020 election results. The sealed order follows several rulings in favor of Smith compelling testimony from multiple high-profile figures, including former Vice President Mike Pence.
- The Biden administration announced a new $2.6 billion security assistance package for Ukraine on Tuesday, tapping into previously approved congressional aid to send Ukraine HIMARS ammunition, air defense interceptors, artillery and tank ammunition, grenade launchers, trucks, and mortars. The air defense systems will help Ukraine defend itself against the uptick of missile attacks from Russia ahead of Ukrainian forces’ likely spring counteroffensive.
- Finland officially joined NATO Tuesday, more than doubling the alliance’s border with Russia and prompting the Kremlin to take unspecified “countermeasures” to bolster its security. Turkey still opposes Sweden’s accession to NATO over accusations it fosters groups Ankara considers terrorists.
- U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) announced Tuesday it carried out a strike in Syria earlier in the day that killed a senior ISIS leader, Aydd al-Jabouri, allegedly responsible for organizing terrorist attacks in Turkey and Europe. CENTCOM didn’t specify the strike’s location but said no civilians were killed or injured.
- The Labor Department reported Tuesday job openings fell from 10.6 million in January to 9.9 million in February, dropping below 10 million for the first time in two years in a sign demand for workers is easing despite a still-tight labor market.
- The United Kingdom’s Information Commissioner’s Office—a data watchdog agency—fined TikTok $15.9 million dollars Tuesday, accusing the company of breaking U.K. data protection laws by allowing children under 13 to use the app despite its own age limits. According to the ICO, Tik Tok didn’t do enough to screen for underage users.
- Brandon Johnson, a progressive county commissioner and teachers’ union organizer, won Chicago’s mayoral runoff with 51.4 percent of the vote on Tuesday, besting Paul Vallas, the former CEO of Chicago Public Schools. Just north, liberal Judge Janet Protasiewicz was elected to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in a runoff election, garnering 55.5 percent of the vote to beat conservative Judge Daniel Kelly and flip the ideological balance of the state’s Supreme Court.
- Axios reported Tuesday that Democratic North Carolina State Rep. Tricia Cotham is expected to flip her party affiliation to Republican, giving the GOP a supermajority in the middle of a legislative session to oppose Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s agenda. The new veto-proof majority could impose new abortion limits previously halted by the threat of the governor’s veto.
- Former JPMorgan vice president Kellen Curry, a Republican, announced plans to run for New York’s 3rd Congressional District—becoming GOP Rep. George Santos’ first 2024 primary challenger.
- Meanwhile, Scott Parkinson—a former chief of staff to then-Rep. Ron DeSantis—announced Monday he is seeking the GOP nomination to oppose incumbent Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine next year in Virginia.
- The super PAC backing Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ prospective presidential bid has reportedly raised $30 million since March 9—more than half of it from donors outside Florida. A state-level pro-DeSantis PAC reportedly has an additional $82 million that could also be transferred to fund a presidential campaign.
- Roy McGrath, former chief-of-staff to Larry Hogan when he was Maryland’s governor, died Monday in a confrontation with the FBI following a 21-day manhunt after he failed to appear at a federal court in Baltimore. Whether McGrath shot himself or was shot by an FBI agent is not yet clear, but he faced embezzlement and wire-fraud charges over a roughly $250,000 severance package he received when he left his post as the head of the Maryland Environmental Service to join Hogan’s office.
Is There a There There?
Of all the days to have a quiet City Hall wedding in lower Manhattan, these two certainly picked the loudest.
The happy couple emerged from City Hall next to a crowd that included three members of Congress, a man decked in MAGA gear spinning basketballs on an American flag, Times Square’s infamous naked cowboy, and a New York-based member of your TMD team—all waiting for the arrival and arraignment of former President Donald Trump. Congratulations to the newlyweds! May you have better timing on future life milestones.
As expected—and relentlessly documented by hours of cable news footage featuring planes flying, cars driving, and police officers standing around—Trump traveled to a Manhattan courthouse yesterday and pleaded not guilty to 34 low-level felonies related to alleged hush money paid to porn star Stormy Daniels ahead of the 2016 presidential election. District Attorney Alvin Bragg still needs to prove his case in court, but the indictment and statement of facts released yesterday broadly matched earlier reporting—and generally failed to convince even anti-Trump legal analysts that the charges will stick.