Happy Wednesday! According to seismologist Jackie Caplan-Auerbach, raucous Taylor Swift concertgoers at Lumen Field in Seattle recently registered seismic activity equivalent to a 2.3 magnitude earthquake.
If every TMD reader lets out a little “woo” when this email hits your inbox this morning, we’re sure we could reach at least 3.4.
Quick Hits: Today’s Top Stories
- Former President Donald Trump was indicted by special counsel Jack Smith on four felony charges Tuesday related to his efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, including conspiring to defraud the U.S., conspiring to obstruct and obstructing an official proceeding, and conspiring against the rights of voters. The indictment detailed six unnamed co-conspirators, but five of the six can be identified by their descriptions in the charging document: Trump lawyers Rudy Giuliani, John Eastman, and Sidney Powell, as well as Jeffrey Clark, a Justice Department official, and Kenneth Chesebro, a lawyer who helped devise the plan to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors. The sixth co-conspirator has yet to be identified and is described in the indictment as a “political consultant.”
- France began evacuating its citizens and other Europeans from Niger by air on Tuesday after the recent military coup, and a Pentagon spokesman confirmed yesterday the United States had suspended security cooperation and counterterrorism training with the country. The U.S. has not withdrawn any of its forces from the region, however, and does not currently have plans to evacuate Americans in the area. Neighboring Mali and Burkina Faso, meanwhile, have backed the coup leaders and said Monday they would consider any outside intervention to restore deposed President Mohamed Bazoum a declaration of war. Over the weekend, a coalition of African nations demanded Bazoum’s reinstatement, saying they would use force against the new junta if necessary.
- Fitch Ratings announced Tuesday it had downgraded the U.S. credit rating from AAA to AA+, citing “the expected fiscal deterioration over the next three years, a high and growing general government debt burden, and the erosion of governance”—a reference to repeated debt ceiling fights and a complex budget process. The move brings the United States’ credit rating with the agency in line with Canada, Finland, and New Zealand, but below countries like Australia, Germany, and Switzerland.
- The Labor Department reported Tuesday that job openings fell from 9.62 million in May to 9.58 million in June, reaching the lowest level since April 2021. The decline—which came largely from the transportation and warehousing industries as well as public sector jobs—comes on the heels of the Federal Reserve’s decision last week to raise interest rates to a 22-year high after a brief hike in the efforts to slow inflation.
- The U.S.’ first entirely new nuclear reactor in decades went online this week, seven years late and $17 billion over budget. The Georgia-based Plant Vogtle reactor is expected to provide energy to 500,000 homes in Georgia, Florida, and Alabama.
- Preliminary Customs and Border Patrol data shows arrests of migrants making illegal crossings of the southern border rose by more than 30 percent in July, reaching 130,000, the Washington Post reported yesterday. Illegal border crossings had hit their lowest level in two years in June following a crackdown by the Biden administration in May.
- The U.S. imposed new travel restrictions on Hungarian citizens Tuesday, concerned Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s policy change nine years ago to grant citizenship to ethnic Hungarians outside the country resulted in passports being issued “without stringent identity verification mechanisms.” About 1 million people have received passports through the program, and yesterday’s move will limit travel under the American Visa Waiver Program—which allows citizens from certain countries to travel to America for up to 90 days without a visa so long as the travelers have an Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA). Hungarians’ ESTA validity will be reduced from two years to one and each traveler will only be allowed to enter the U.S. once through the system.
- The Department of Homeland Security banned imports from two China-based firms on Tuesday in an effort to further crack down on forced labor practices. Ninestar Corp—a printer manufacturer—and Xinjiang Zhongtai Chemical Co. will be added to the list of imports banned under the Uyghur Forced Labor Prevention Act, which Congress passed in 2021.
- GOP Rep. Tom Tiffany of Wisconsin ruled out a 2024 Senate run yesterday, turning down the chance to challenge Democratic Sen. Tammy Baldwin and saying he will instead seek reelection for his House seat. No prominent Republican candidates in the state have announced a challenge to Baldwin—Rep. Mike Gallagher, another rising Wisconsin Republican, announced in June he wouldn’t run.
- The Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America group criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis for not supporting a national abortion ban after the GOP presidential candidate waffled over the question in a recent interview and suggested states have the primary jurisdiction over the issue. “Gov. DeSantis’s dismissal of this task is unacceptable to pro-life voters,” Marjorie Dannenfelser, the group’s president, said in a statement. SBA also criticized Donald Trump’s position on abortion earlier this spring, but Dannenfelser had a “terrific” meeting with the former president a few weeks later.
- A biotechnology company settled a lawsuit brought by the descendants of Henrietta Lacks, a black woman whose cells were taken without her consent for scientific research in the 1950s. The lawsuit alleged Thermo Fisher Scientific profited off of Lacks’ cervical cells—which it harvested while she was being treated for cancer—and used them to aid in the development of several vaccines and therapeutic treatments.
- New Jersey Lt. Gov. Sheila Oliver died on Tuesday after being hospitalized earlier this week with an unspecified illness. Oliver was serving as acting governor while Gov. Phil Murphy was on a family vacation in Italy, but her unexpected death leaves the president of the state senate to fill the role until Murphy returns.
‘Conspiracy S— Beamed Down from the Mothership’
On February 13, 2021, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell delivered a speech that offered cold comfort to the majority of Americans who wanted him—and the Senate—to convict former President Donald Trump in the post-January 6 impeachment trial that had just concluded. “Justice [Joseph] Story specifically reminded that while former officials were not eligible for impeachment or conviction, they were ‘still liable to be tried and punished in the ordinary tribunals of justice,’” McConnell argued. “We have a criminal justice system in this country. We have civil litigation. And former presidents are not immune from being held accountable by either one.”
Nearly two-and-a-half years later, federal prosecutors are attempting to do exactly that, indicting Trump yesterday via a grand jury on four counts related to his behavior after losing the 2020 election: conspiracy to defraud the United States, conspiracy to obstruct an official proceeding, obstruction of an official proceeding, and conspiracy against rights. The charges are the second set brought by special counsel Jack Smith this summer, and rely on far shakier legal theories than the classified documents case that even Trump’s former White House counsel conceded is “tight” and “overwhelming” in the evidence against Trump. But years in the making, the indictment—and ensuing trial—will thrust one of the most tumultuous times in recent American political history back to the forefront of our collective consciousness, just as Trump’s third Republican presidential nomination looks increasingly likely.