Trump indicted for fourth time in Georgia election meddling case

Donald Trump and 18 allies were indicted in Georgia on Monday over their efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state, with prosecutors using a statute normally associated with mobsters to accuse the former president, lawyers and other aides of a “criminal enterprise” to keep him in power

The nearly 100-page indictment details dozens of acts by Trump or his allies to undo his defeat, including beseeching Georgia’s Republican secretary of state to find enough votes for him to win the battleground state; harassing a state election worker who faced false claims of fraud; and attempting to persuade Georgia lawmakers to ignore the will of voters and appoint a new slate of electoral college electors favourable to Trump.

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In one particularly brazen episode, it also outlines a plot involving one of his lawyers to tamper with voting machines in a rural Georgia county and steal data from a voting machine company.

“The indictment alleges that rather than abide by Georgia’s legal process for election challenges, the defendants engaged in a criminal racketeering enterprise to overturn Georgia’s presidential election result,” Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, whose office brought the case, said at a late-night news conference.

Other defendants include former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows; Trump’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani; and a Trump administration Justice Department official, Jeffrey Clark, who advanced the then-president’s efforts to undo his election loss in Georgia. Multiple other lawyers who devised legally dubious ideas aimed at overturning the results, including John Eastman, Sidney Powell and Kenneth Chesebro, were also charged.

Willis said the defendants would be allowed to voluntarily surrender by noon on 25 August. She also said she plans to ask for a trial date within six months and that she intends to try the defendants as a group.

The indictment bookends a remarkable crush of criminal cases – four in five months, each in a different city – that would be daunting for anyone, never mind someone like Trump who is simultaneously balancing the roles of criminal defendant and presidential candidate.

It comes just two weeks after the Justice Department special counsel charged him in a vast conspiracy to overturn the election, underscoring how prosecutors after lengthy investigations that followed the 6 January 2021 riot at the US Capitol have now, two-and-a-half years later, taken steps to hold Trump to account for an assault on the underpinnings of American democracy.

The Georgia case covers some of the same ground as Trump’s recent indictment in Washington, DC, including attempts he and his allies made to disrupt the electoral vote count at the US Capitol on 6 January 2021. But its sprawling web of defendants – 19 in total – stands apart from the more tightly targeted case brought by special counsel Jack Smith, which so far only names Trump as a defendant.

In charging close Trump aides who were referenced by Smith only as unindicted co-conspirators, the Georgia indictment alleges a scale of criminal conduct extending far beyond just the ex-president.

The charging document, in language conjuring up the seedy operations of mob bosses and gang leaders, accuses the former president of the United States, the former White House chief of staff, Trump’s attorneys and the former mayor of New York as members of a “criminal organisation” who were part of an “enterprise” that operated in Georgia and other states.

The indictment capped a chaotic day at the courthouse caused by the brief but mysterious posting on a county website of a list of criminal charges that were to be brought against the former president. Reuters, which published a copy of the document, said the filing was taken down quickly.

A Willis spokesperson said in the afternoon that it was “inaccurate” to say that an indictment had already been returned but declined to comment further on a kerfuffle that the Trump legal team rapidly jumped on to attack the integrity of the investigation.

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Trump and his allies, who have characterized the investigation as politically motivated, immediately seized on the apparent error to claim that the process was rigged. Trump’s campaign aimed to fundraise off it, sending out an email with the since-deleted document embedded.

In a statement after the indictment was issued, Trump’s legal team said: “the events that have unfolded today have been shocking and absurd, starting with the leak of a presumed and premature indictment before the witnesses had testified or the grand jurors had deliberated and ending with the District Attorney being unable to offer any explanation.”

The lawyers said prosecutors presenting their case “relied on witnesses who harbour their own personal and political interests – some of whom ran campaigns touting their efforts against the accused.”

Many of the 161 acts by Trump and his associates outlined in the Georgia indictment have already received widespread attention. That includes a Jan. 2, 2021, call in which Trump urged Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger to “find” the 11,780 votes needed to overturn his election loss. That call, prosecutors said, violated a Georgia law against soliciting a public official to violate their oath.

It also charges Trump with making false statements and writings for a series of claims he made to Raffensperger and other state election officials, including that up to 300,000 ballots “were dropped mysteriously into the rolls” in the 2020 election, that more than 4,500 people voted who weren’t on registration lists and that a Fulton County election worker, Ruby Freeman, was a “professional vote scammer.”

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Giuliani, meanwhile, is charged with making false statements for allegedly lying to lawmakers by claiming that more than 96,000 mail-in ballots were counted in Georgia despite there being no record of them having been returned to a county elections office, and that a voting machine in Michigan wrongly recorded 6,000 votes for Biden that were actually cast for Trump. A lawyer who has represented him declined to comment.

Also charged are individuals prosecutors say helped Trump and his allies on the ground in Georgia influence and intimidate election workers.

One man, Stephen Cliffgard Lee, was charged by prosecutors for allegedly traveling to Freeman’s home “with intent to influence her testimony.” Freeman and her daughter Shaye Moss testified to Congress last year about how Trump and his allies latched onto surveillance footage from November 2020 to accuse both women of committing voter fraud – allegations that were quickly debunked, yet spread widely across conservative media.

Both women, who are Black, faced death threats for several months after the election.

The indictment also accuses Powell and several co-defendants of tampering with voting machines in Coffee County, Georgia, and stealing data belonging to Dominion Voting Systems, a producer of tabulation machines that has long been the focus of conspiracy theories.

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According to evidence made public by the congressional committee investigating the Jan. 6 riot, Trump allies targeted Coffee County in search of evidence to back their theories of widespread voter fraud, allegedly copying data and software.

Besides the two election-related cases, Trump faces a separate federal indictment accusing him of illegally hoarding classified documents as well as a New York state case charging him with falsifying business records.

As indictments mount, Trump – the leading Republican candidate for president in 2024 – often invokes his distinction as the only former president to face criminal charges. He is campaigning and fundraising around these themes, portraying himself as the victim of Democratic prosecutors out to get him.

Republican allies once again quickly rallied to Trump’s defence. “Americans see through this desperate sham,” House Speaker Kevin McCarthy wrote on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter.

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Arrests highlight the growing ‘criminalisation’ of LGBT+ people in Venezuela

Thirty-three people were arrested in a popular spot among the LGBT+ community in Valencia, Venezuela on July 23. After the arrest, the people’s names, photos and ID cards were shared in the media and online. Since being released, they are still awaiting legal proceedings. Venezuelan associations have denounced what they see as a growing trend of “criminalisation” of LGBT+ individuals and institutionalised homophobia in Venezuela.

Issued on:

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On July 23, police arrested 33 people at the Avalon Man Club, a private sauna and spa frequented by the LGBT+ community in Valencia, in the northern Venezuelan state of Carabobo. The operation was allegedly carried out after an anonymous tip-off.

The people were taken to the police station, where they were photographed lined up along a wall. Police photographed their belongings, including identity papers, mobile phones and condoms. These images were shared in the local media and on social networks with their identities left unredacted. Their names and ages were shared publicly as well.

These photos of the 33 people arrested in Valencia, Venezuela, on July 23 were distributed without redaction (black bars added by the FRANCE 24 Observers team). Observers

This photo showed the mobile phones and identity documents of the people arrested in Valencia, Venezuela, on July 23, as well as condoms. Blurring added by the FRANCE 24 Observers team.
This photo showed the mobile phones and identity documents of the people arrested in Valencia, Venezuela, on July 23, as well as condoms. Blurring added by the FRANCE 24 Observers team. Observers

‘The police and local media have stigmatised and criminalised them’

Jau Ramírez is the director of SOMOS, a movement working for the rights of sexual minorities in Venezuela.

These 33 people were arrested arbitrarily, without a judicial warrant or search warrant. What’s more, the police and local media then spread personal information about them and declared that one of them had HIV, in order to stigmatise them, criminalise them, give the impression that they were a danger to society, and thus justify the violation of their rights. At first, it was even said that they were taking part in an orgy and filming pornographic scenes…

A number of journalists’ organisations have also criticised the way in which certain media outlets have handled the case, adopting all the information provided by the police.

On Twitter, the National College of Journalists (CNP) said that “reproducing information that stigmatises and denigrates the people involved” was a “violation of human rights”, and pointed out that the media should “respect the presumption of innocence and protect the identity of anyone accused of illegal acts”.


In this video broadcast on July 26, the men arrested in Valencia are transported by the police in pick-ups.

Charged with, among other things, public indecency

On July 26, the 33 people were taken to the Valencia courthouse. The court upheld three charges brought by the public prosecutor against them: public indecency – an offence punishable by several months in prison – as well as unlawful association and noise pollution. At the end of the hearing, 30 of them were released, but with the obligation to report to the authorities every 30 days.


“Justice, justice”, chanted people gathered outside the Valencia courthouse as the arrested men got off a bus on July 25, the date initially scheduled for the hearing.


“There is no crime”, shout the protesters gathered outside the Valencia courthouse on July 26 to demand the release of the 33 men.

On August 2, the three others – the owner of the establishment and two employees – were also released. They too have to report back every 30 days.

But things did not end there. The charges against them have not been dismissed, despite demands from activists. On August 1, the public prosecutor announced that the case could possibly be dismissed.

‘The current situation sets a legal precedent’

Jau Ramírez continued:

Between January 2021 and December 2022, we documented 11 arbitrary arrests of LGBTIQ+ people, carried out by the security forces. In four cases, they were accompanied by extortion, physical, verbal and psychological violence and acts of torture. There were also four police raids on LGBTIQ+ leisure facilities in Caracas, Maracaibo and Mérida.

So the case of the 33 people arrested is not a first. But in previous cases, the people were released after a few hours, without being reported to the police or charged with any offence. In this case, the people have remained in detention for a long time, without any justification, and the charges against them are unclear and questionable.

We therefore consider that the current situation set a legal precedent. We haven’t seen anything like this in Venezuela since the late 1990s. Since the beginning of this case, the police and judiciary have acted in a homophobic manner, with the aim of criminalising LGBTIQ+ people.

This escalation of repression is a threat to the fundamental rights and sexual and personal freedoms of everyone in Venezuela.


Rally on July 28 in Caracas to ” demand an end to the criminalisation of people from the #LGBTIQ+ community in Venezuela”.

Closer links between the authorities and evangelicals

For Jau Ramírez, this repression goes hand in hand with “the interference of ultra-religious groups and their dogmatism in state institutions”. He cites a few examples:

In 2019, President Nicolás Maduro created the National Day of the Evangelical Pastor. In 2022, his son was appointed vice president of religious affairs within the United Socialist Party of Venezuela, a new position. In 2023, Nicolás Maduro also created the “My well-equipped church” programme [Editor’s note: equipping evangelical groups with seats, fans, microphones, etc.].

Nicolás Maduro has recently forged closer ties to certain evangelical sectors, which have been very active in opposing the rights of the LGBT+ community. In July, the government decided that religious groups would be consulted on any legislative initiative involving the family. This rapprochement is part of a “political strategy” with a view to 2024 and the presidential election, according to the Spanish daily El País.

Venezuela’s LGBT+ community has been fighting for years against discrimination and for access to equal rights, including marriage for all. In March 2023, the courts overturned a provision that provided for a prison sentence of between one and three years for military personnel accused of “unnatural sexual acts”.



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Macron walks tightrope as French police protest challenges rule of law

French President Emmanuel Macron has declined to condemn the country’s top police chiefs for appearing to suggest officers were above the law, seeking to stave off unrest among security forces wearied by repeated bouts of street violence. Critics, however, lament a missed opportunity to reassert the state’s authority over an increasingly restless police force.

Just weeks after the police killing of 17-year-old Nahel M. kicked off massive riots across France, the country’s top police official sparked a fresh row on Sunday by slamming the decision to jail an officer whose actions during the unrest are being investigated.

The controversial remarks by national police chief Frédéric Veaux were aimed at staving off a revolt in the southern city of Marseille, where officers have staged a rare walkout in protest at a court decision to remand one of their colleagues in custody.

Police clash with protesters in the streets of Nanterre, near Paris, on June 30, 2023, following the fatal shooting of 17-year-old Nahel M. © Gonzalo Fuentes, Reuters

The jailed policeman is one of four officers placed under investigation over the alleged beating of a 21-year-old man of North African origin, who has undergone multiple surgical procedures and had part of his skull removed after what he said was a deliberate attack by police using an LBD blast-ball gun.

“Knowing that (the officer) is in prison stops me from sleeping,” Veaux said in an interview with French daily Le Parisien, after travelling to Marseille to bring a message of support to police from Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin.

“In general, I believe that ahead of a possible trial, a police officer should not be in prison, even if he may have committed serious faults or errors in the course of his work,” Veaux added in remarks backed by Paris police chief Laurent Nunez, France’s second-highest-ranking officer.

The comments promptly raised eyebrows among members of the judiciary, who denounced an attack on their independence and the principle of equality before the law.

Cécile Mamelin, the vice president of the Union of Magistrates, described Veaux’s words as “scandalous” and “extremely serious in a state of law”, while Marseille’s top judge Olivier Leurent issued a statement urging “restraint so that the judiciary can pursue the investigation (…) free from pressure and in complete impartiality”.

Macron on the police in France


Meanwhile, the left-wing opposition blasted the government for failing to rein in “a police hierarchy that places itself above the law”.

Macron’s balancing act

France’s latest policing dispute caught up with Macron as he touched down in the French Pacific territory of New Caledonia on Monday, some 16,000 kilometres away, for the start of an Indo-Pacific tour.

The French president steered clear of commenting both on Veaux’s remarks and the judicial decision to remand the officer in custody. Pressed for a response, he stressed that “no one in the Republic is above the law” and that the police “obviously (…) fall under the law”.

Above all, Macron praised police in the face of “an unprecedented surge of violence” during the riots, in which some 900 law enforcement officers were injured. He said he understood “the emotions of our officers”, adding that they “must be heard while respecting the rule of law”.

Read moreMacron government shifts stance on police violence to quell unrest after death of teen

His choice of words reflected the government’s concern at the mounting anguish voiced by police after a gruelling year marked by rioting and sometimes violent protests, said Jean-Marc Berlière, a historian of the French police.

“There is widespread discontent and a sense of injustice among police officers who feel that they are sacrificing their lives and well-being to maintain public order – while being finger-pointed and reprimanded in return,” Berlière said.

He cited the increasingly vocal criticism of police’s heavy-handed tactics, both at home and from abroad, which has seen rights groups, the Council of Europe and the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Association each voice their concern at French police’s “excessive use of force” in tackling protests against Macron’s deeply unpopular pension reform, which the government rammed through parliament in March without a vote.

While police cannot go on strike, Berlière added, “the government is also well aware of the risk of further roiling a police force that is still perfectly capable of paralysing law enforcement.”


Over the past week, several hundred police officers in Marseille have gone on sick leave in protest over their colleague’s detention, according to unnamed union sources. Others have put themselves under so-called “code 562”, which means that they only respond to emergency and essential missions.

While the exact numbers are not known, they are sufficiently high to alarm the authorities in Paris, said Berlière.

“In recent months, the government has already seen its legitimacy challenged by street protesters and parts of the opposition,” he said. “It cannot afford a challenge from the police, too.”

Seeking to stave off further unrest in the ranks, France’s interior minister on Thursday said he understood the frustration and anger voiced by overworked security forces after repeated bouts of street violence.

“I want to say that I can understand this fatigue, sadness and emotion,” Darmanin said before heading into a meeting with police union representatives. He also urged police not to let down the population and serve the public interest.

A crisis of authority

Critics of Macron’s cautious response have argued that it trivialises what amounts to a serious challenge to the rule of law.

In an editorial on Wednesday, French daily Le Monde described the president’s stance as an “admission of weakness” in the face of a police force that “is becoming increasingly difficult to control”.

A noted police expert, Sebastian Roché, tweeted his concern about what is at stake, warning that the police chiefs’ comments undermined the “cardinal principle” of equality before the law.

In an interview with investigative weekly Mediapart, Roché said Macron’s words left the impression that “he doesn’t really know, or at best doesn’t appreciate, the extent of this unprecedented transgression under the Fifth Republic”.

The president’s refusal to comment on Veaux’s remarks “reflects his political weakness and fragility”, he added. “It’s as if he were saying ‘I’m not in charge’.”

Speaking to FRANCE 24 at the height of the pension unrest earlier this year, Roché described the police crackdown on protests as a consequence of both a French policing tradition and the government’s fragility.

Heavy-handed policing stems from the “crisis of authority” undermining Macron’s minority and deeply unpopular government, Roché explained. “When a government chooses force it is always because its authority is weakened,” he added.

Read moreUse of force signals ‘crisis of authority’ as France’s pension battle turns to unrest

Echoing such views, political analyst Emmanuel Blanchard argued in an interview with left-leaning daily Libération that the government’s reliance on law enforcement to quell social unrest “has weakened its position in relation to the police”.

“It’s a cyclical trend: the less popular legitimacy the government enjoys, the more it relies on the forces of law and order, which it needs to suppress social movements,” Blanchard explained. “So it gives them (the police) guarantees. This leads to forms of empowerment, which can lead to protests like the one we are currently seeing.”

A history of unrest

France has a long history of police protests and unrest – one governments are well aware of.

“Contrary to what is commonly assumed, the police are not always a passive and obedient instrument in the hands of the executive power,” Berlière noted. “One doesn’t have to be a historian to have some idea of the perils for a government of alienating law enforcement.”

In 1958, widespread police unrest helped precipitate the fall of the troubled Fourth Republic, a parliamentarian regime that was replaced by the current presidential system instituted by World War II hero Charles de Gaulle.

Decades later, in March 1983, some 2,000 officers marched on the justice ministry in Paris calling for the removal of Robert Badinter, the justice minister who helped abolish the death penalty and whom they deemed soft on crime. That move backfired, however, as then-president François Mitterrand swiftly moved to dismiss France’s top police chiefs and punish union leaders.

“If certain police officers, an active minority, have failed in their duty, the duty of those in charge of the Republic is to strike and ensure that the authority of the state is respected,” Mitterrand said in televised remarks that have resurfaced on social media in recent days, posted by critics of Macron’s more cautious approach.

Such comparisons have little pertinence, Berlière argued, pointing to widely differing contexts.

“Back in 1983 there were no riots and no street protests to be wary of,” he said. “And while the revolt against Badinter was led by a fringe, far-right union, Macron and his government are aware that hardline unions are more powerful today and that the officers’ protest in Marseille is broadly supported.”

One thing that hasn’t changed is the longstanding animosity between the police and the judiciary, which has underpinned this and other disputes.

In May 2021, police unions vented their anger at the justice system during a rally outside the National Assembly in Paris, attended by politicians of all stripes. Union leaders could be heard stating that “the police’s problem is the judiciary” and calling for “constitutional constraints” to be “breached”.

Police protesters rally outside the National Assembly in Paris on May 19, 2021, venting their anger at a judiciary they deem too lax.
Police protesters rally outside the National Assembly in Paris on May 19, 2021, venting their anger at a judiciary they deem too lax. © Thomas Coex, AFP

Police unions routinely accuse the judges of being too lenient with criminals and too harsh with officers. Magistrates’ unions, meanwhile, accuse police authorities of “hijacking” the judiciary to repress protest movements, notably through the use of arbitrary or “preventive” arrests that seldom lead to prosecution.

The comments by Veaux and Nunez, France’s most senior police officials, take the dispute to a new level, reflecting the police hierarchy’s concern to appear in step with an increasingly disgruntled – and radicalised – base.

“Many in the police perceive the decision to jail their colleague in Marseille as a case of judges abusing their powers and seeking to settle scores,” said Berlière, noting that officers are seldom remanded in custody pending a trial.

“As for magistrates, they see the police action as a form of interference with the judiciary and of disregard for the separation of powers,” he added.

‘Worrying silence’

In its editorial on Wednesday, Le Monde said Veaux’s remarks threatened to open “a new chapter in the war between police and the judiciary”, while also “calling into question the principles of the rule of law, namely the independence of the judiciary, the separation of powers and equality before the law”.

In such a context, the newspaper expressed concern at the government’s “worrying silence”.

Éric Dupond-Moretti, the justice minister, waited until Macron’s comments before tweeting that the independence of judicial officials is “an indispensable condition for respect of the rule of law”.

His colleague at the interior ministry, who is Veaux’s direct boss, waited a full week before breaking his silence on the matter. In his comments on Thursday, Darmanin expressed support for the police chief, whose remarks in Le Parisien had been approved by the minister’s cabinet.

“Police officers cannot be the only people in France for whom presumption of innocence (…) is replaced by a presumption of guilt,” the minister told reporters outside a police station in Paris, in remarks that a representative body of French magistrates promptly described as an “alarming” attack on the judiciary’s “impartiality”.

Darmanin later told police unions he would examine their demands for greater protection for officers, including those facing legal investigations. He also pledged to visit Marseille in the coming days to express support for police in the southern city plagued by gang violence.

Overall, Macron and his ministers appear more concerned to “calm things down” than to reassert the state’s authority over the police, Le Monde wrote, pointing to a delicate balancing act as France prepares to host a series of major sporting events.

With the country set to host the Rugby World Cup from September and the Olympic Games next year, Macron “certainly cannot afford the luxury of an open crisis with those who maintain public order”, the paper noted.

But the president’s decision to shirk a fight will do little to appease the wider nation and address the root causes of urban riots in France, Le Monde cautioned, noting that the worst cases of rioting this century have been triggered by police blunders and that the country “is suffering from a very poor relationship between the police and a section of the population”.



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Israel takes first major step in judicial reform, deepening divisions

Israel’s parliament on Monday approved the first major law in Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s contentious plan to overhaul the country’s justice system, triggering a new burst of mass protests and drawing accusations that he was pushing the country toward authoritarian rule.

The vote, passed unanimously by Netanyahu’s governing coalition after the opposition stormed out of the hall, deepened the fissures that have tested the delicate social ties that bind the country, rattled the cohesion of its powerful military and repeatedly drew concern from Israel’s closest ally, the United States.

It came just hours after Netanyahu was released from the hospital, where he had a pacemaker implanted, adding another dizzying twist to an already dramatic series of events.

As Netanyahu’s allies celebrated their victory and vowed to press ahead with more changes, thousands of protesters took to the streets of Jerusalem and Tel Aviv and opponents said they would challenge the new law in the Supreme Court.

“It’s a sad day,” opposition leader Yair Lapid said after the vote. “This is not a victory for the coalition. This is the destruction of Israeli democracy.”

The overhaul calls for sweeping changes aimed at curbing the powers of the judiciary, from limiting the Supreme Court’s ability to challenge parliamentary decisions to change the way judges are selected.

Netanyahu and his allies say the changes strengthen democracy by limiting the authority of unelected judges and giving elected officials more powers over decision-making.

But protesters see the overhaul as a power grab fueled by personal and political grievances of Netanyahu – who is on trial for corruption charges – and his partners.

His allies, who include ultra-nationalist and ultra-religious parties, have called for increased West Bank settlement construction, annexation of the occupied territory, perpetuating military draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men, and limiting the rights of LGBTQ+ people and Palestinians.

The White House, which has repeatedly urged Netanyahu to pause his overhaul plan until he has a broad consensus, expressed regret. “It is unfortunate that the vote today took place with the slimmest possible majority,” it said.

Under the Israeli system, the prime minister governs through a majority coalition in parliament, giving him control over the executive and legislative branches of government.

As a result, the Supreme Court plays a critical oversight role. Critics say that by seeking to weaken the judiciary, Netanyahu and his allies are trying to erode the country’s checks and balances and consolidate power over the third, independent branch of government.

In a televised address Monday night, Netanyahu rejected such criticism. “Today we did a necessary democratic act, an act that is intended to return a measure of balance between the branches of government,” he said.

He vowed to seek renewed dialogue with the political opposition and called for national unity. “Let us reach agreements,” he said. “I extend my hand in a call for peace and mutual respect between us.”

As he spoke, Israel’s Channel 13 TV showed a split screen with a police water cannon spraying crowds of protesters.

In Monday’s vote, lawmakers approved a measure that prevents judges from striking down government decisions on the basis they are “unreasonable.”

The government’s critics say removing the standard of reasonability opens the door to corruption and improper appointments of unqualified cronies to important positions. The Supreme Court, for instance, this year struck down Netanyahu’s appointment of a key ally for interior and finance minister as unreasonable because of past convictions for bribery and tax cheating.

With the opposition out of the hall, the measure passed by a 64-0 margin.

Justice Minister Yariv Levin, the architect of the plan, said parliament had taken the “first step in an important historic process.”

“This is just the beginning,” added National Security Minister Itamar Ben-Gvir.

Opposition lawmakers chanted “shame” and “government of destruction” before leaving the chamber.

The chant was a reference to the upcoming Jewish day of mourning, the Ninth of Av, which marks the destruction of two ancient Temples in Jerusalem. According to Jewish tradition, the Roman Empire succeeded in destroying the Second Temple because of Jewish infighting.

The grassroots protest movement, which has regularly drawn tens of thousands of people into the streets for the past seven months, condemned Monday’s vote by Netanyahu’s “government of extremists” and vowed to press ahead.

“No one can predict the extent of damage and social upheaval that will follow the passage of the legislation,” it said.

Thousands of people, many waving blue-and-white Israeli flags, gathered outside the Knesset, or parliament, and the Supreme Court, and jammed Jerusalem’s main highway. Walls and fences were plastered with stickers reading “We won’t serve a dictator,” “Democracy or rebellion” and “Save Israel from Netanyahu.”

Police tried to clear the crowds with water cannons spraying skunk-scented water. Many protesters put plugs in their noses or held up sprigs of rosemary plucked from nearby bushes to try to control the stench.

“This puts us on the way to dictatorship,” said protester Danny Kimmel, a 55-year-old program manager. “You don’t do this to people who are protesting. It’s their right.”

Thousands of people also demonstrated in central Tel Aviv – the epicentre of months of anti-government protests. Scuffles took place between police and protesters, with at least eight people arrested and protesters lighting bonfires. Police said they arrested a driver who hit a group of protesters in central Israel, injuring three people

The overhaul has exposed deep divisions in Israeli society – much of it along religious, ethnic and class lines.

While protesters represent a cross-section of society, they come largely from the country’s secular middle class. At the same time, Netanyahu’s supporters tend to be poorer, more religious and live in West Bank settlements or outlying rural areas.

Many of his supporters are working-class Mizrahi Jews, with roots in Middle Eastern countries, and have expressed hostility toward what they say is an elitist class of Ashkenazi, or European, Jews.

Israel’s Palestinian Arab minority has largely stayed away from the protests, with many saying they do not feel like they have a stake.

The protests have largely avoided Israel’s 56-year occupation of lands the Palestinians seek for their hoped-for-independent state, fearing the issue might alienate supporters. Critics accuse the protesters of harbouring a significant blind spot.

Further ratcheting up the pressure on Netanyahu, thousands of military reservists have declared their refusal to serve under a government they see as setting the country on a path to dictatorship – prompting fears that the military’s preparedness could be compromised.

In his address, Netanyahu urged reservists to continue to serve and “leave army service out of the political debate.”

Yohanan Plesner, president of the Israel Democracy Institute, a Jerusalem think tank, said Monday’s vote had exposed long-running weaknesses in Israel’s system of government.

“The immediate outcome will be to escalate internal divisions within Israeli society and undermine Israeli security,” he said. Increased uncertainty, he added, “will also have a negative economic impact.”

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Netanyahu to push ahead with judicial plan after ’emergency’ surgery

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was rushed to the hospital early Sunday for an emergency implantation of a heart pacemaker, plunging Israel into deeper turmoil after widespread protests over his contentious judicial overhaul plan.

A physician at the Sheba Medical Center said later that the procedure went well and Netanyahu felt fine.

In announcing the hospitalization, Netanyahu’s office said that he would be sedated and that a top deputy, Justice Minister Yariv Levin, would stand in for him while he underwent the procedure. In a brief video statement before the implantation, Netanyahu said he “feels excellent” and planned to push forward with the judicial overhaul as soon as he was released.

Netanyahu’s announcement, issued well after midnight, came a week after he was hospitalized at Sheba for what was described as dehydration. It also came after a tumultuous day that saw some of the largest protests to date against the judicial overhaul plan.

Hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets across Israel on Saturday night, while thousands marched into Jerusalem and camped out near the Knesset, or parliament, ahead of a vote expected Monday that would approve a key portion of the overhaul.

Further ratcheting up the pressure on the Israeli leader, over 100 retired security chiefs came out in favour of the growing ranks of military reservists who say they will stop reporting for duty if the plan is passed.

Netanyahu and his far-right allies announced the overhaul plan in January, days after taking office. They claim the plan is needed to curb what they say are the excessive powers of unelected judges. Critics say the plan will destroy the country’s system of checks and balances and put it on the path toward authoritarian rule. US President Joe Biden has urged Netanyahu to halt the plan and seek a broad consensus.

Netanyahu, 73, keeps a busy schedule and his office says he is in good health. But over the years, it has released few details or medical records. On 15 July, he was rushed to Sheba with dizziness. He later said he had been out in the hot sun and had not drunk enough water.

His return for the pacemaker procedure indicated his health troubles were more serious than initially indicated. In the video, Netanyahu said that he was outfitted with a monitor after last week’s hospitalization and that when an alarm beeped late Saturday, it meant he required a pacemaker right away.

“I feel excellent, but I listen to my doctors,” he said.

Professor Roy Beinart, the senior physician and director at the Davidai Arrhythmia Center at Sheba’s Heart Institute, said in a video that Netanyahu was called in to get the pacemaker because he experienced “a temporary arrhythmia,” or irregular heartbeat, Saturday evening.

“The implantation went smoothly, without any complications. He is not in a life-threatening condition. He feels great and is returning to his daily routine,” Beinart said.

It was not immediately clear what the hospitalization meant for the judicial overhaul, which has bitterly divided the nation. Netanyahu said he expected to be released in time to go to the Knesset for Monday’s vote. In the meantime, his office said the weekly meeting of his Cabinet, usually held each Sunday morning, had been postponed.

A pacemaker is used when a patient’s heart beats too slowly, which can cause fainting spells, according to the National Institutes of Health. It can also be used to treat heart failure. By sending electrical pulses to the heart, the device keeps a person’s heartbeat at a normal rhythm. Patients with pacemakers often return to regular activities within a few days, according to NIH.

The procedure normally involves a doctor inserting the pacemaker near the collarbone, according to Mayo Clinic. A hospital stay of at least a day is usually required.

As Netanyahu spoke, thousands of Israelis camped out in Jerusalem’s main park, just a short walk from the Knesset, after completing a four-day march from Tel Aviv to rally opposition to the judicial overhaul. Late Saturday, hundreds of thousands of Israelis took to the streets in Tel Aviv and other cities in a last-ditch show of force hoping to head off the judicial overhaul.

In scorching heat that reached 33C, the procession into Jerusalem turned the city’s main entrance into a sea of blue and white Israeli flags as marchers completed the last leg of a four-day, 70-kilometre trek from Tel Aviv.

The marchers, who grew from hundreds to thousands as the march progressed, were welcomed in Jerusalem by throngs of cheering protesters before they set up camp in rows of small white tents.

The proposed overhaul has drawn harsh criticism from business and medical leaders, and a fast-rising number of military reservists in key units have said they will stop reporting for duty if the plan passes, raising concern that Israel’s security could be threatened. An additional 10,000 reservists announced they were suspending duty Saturday night, according to “Brothers in Arms,” a protest group representing retired soldiers.

More than 100 top former security chiefs, including retired military commanders, police commissioners and heads of intelligence agencies, joined those calls on Saturday, signing a letter to Netanyahu accusing him of compromising Israel’s military and urging him to halt the legislation.

The signatories included Ehud Barak, a former Israeli prime minister, and Moshe Yaalon, a former army chief and defence minister. Both are political rivals of Netanyahu.

“The legislation is crushing those things shared by Israeli society, is tearing the people apart, disintegrating the IDF and inflicting fatal blows on Israel’s security,” the former officials wrote.

In his statement, Netanyahu said he would continue to seek a compromise with his opponents. He paused the plan in March after widespread demonstrations, but he revived it last month after compromise talks collapsed.

Israel Katz, a senior Cabinet minister from Netanyahu’s Likud party, said the bill would pass one way or another Monday and rejected the pressure from the ranks of the military, the most respected institution among Israel’s Jewish majority. “There is a clear attempt here to use military service to force the government to change policy,” he told Channel 12 TV.

The overhaul measure would limit the Supreme Court’s oversight powers by preventing judges from striking down government decisions on the basis that they are “unreasonable.”

Proponents say the current “reasonability” standard gives judges excessive powers over decision-making by elected officials. Critics say removing the standard, which is invoked only in rare cases, would allow the government to pass arbitrary decisions, make improper appointments or firings and open the door to corruption.

Monday’s vote would mark the first major piece of legislation to be approved.

The overhaul also calls for other sweeping changes aimed at curbing the powers of the judiciary, from limiting the Supreme Court’s ability to challenge parliamentary decisions, to changing the way judges are selected.

Protesters, who come from a wide swath of Israeli society, see the overhaul as a power grab fueled by personal and political grievances of Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, and his partners, who want to deepen Israel’s control of the occupied West Bank and perpetuate controversial draft exemptions for ultra-Orthodox men.

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Defiant Netanyahu vows to press ahead with key vote on contentious judicial reform

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday vowed to press ahead with his contentious judicial overhaul, despite unprecedented mass protests at home, growing defections by military reservists and appeals from the U.S. president to put the plan on hold.

Netanyahu’s message, delivered in a prime time address on national television, set the stage for stepped-up street protests in the coming days leading up to a fateful vote expected Monday. Thousands of people marched through central Tel Aviv on Thursday night, while others continued a roughly 70 kilometer (roughly 45 mile) march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

Netanyahu was at times conciliatory during his address, saying he understands the differences of opinion that have bitterly divided the country and offering to seek a compromise with his political opponents.

But he was also defiant, saying his opponents were bent on toppling him and lashing out at the scores of military reservists who say they will stop reporting for duty if the plan is passed. Some have already quit.

“The refusal to serve threatens the security of every citizen of Israel,” he said.

Parliament is expected to vote Monday on a bill that would curtail the Supreme Court’s oversight powers by limiting its ability to strike down decisions it deems “unreasonable.” The reasonability standard is meant as a safeguard to protect against corruption and improper appointments of unqualified people.

The bill is one of several keystone pieces of the Netanyahu government’s judicial overhaul plan. Netanyahu and his allies — a collection of ultranationalist and ultra-Orthodox parties — say the plan is needed to curb what they consider excessive powers of unelected judges.

Critics say the legislation will concentrate power in the hands of Netanyahu and his far-right allies and undermine the country’s system of checks and balance. They also say Netanyahu, who is on trial for corruption charges, has a conflict of interest.

The proposal has bitterly divided the Israeli public and attracted appeals from U.S. President Joe Biden for Netanyahu to slow down and forge a broad national consensus before passing any legislation.

After Netanyahu’s speech, opposition leader Yair Lapid urged Netanyahu to defy his coalition allies and halt the legislation.

“This extremist group has no mandate to turn Israel into a messianic and non-democratic state,” Lapid said. “The Netanyahu government is waging a war of attrition against the citizens of Israel.”

Perhaps the biggest threat to the plan are growing calls by military reservists who say they will stop reporting for duty in key units. They include fighter pilots, commandos and cyberwar officers.

Israeli leaders and military commanders have expressed growing alarm, saying the refusals to serve could hurt the country’s security. Reservists, whose service is voluntary, make up the backbone of Israel’s military.

On Thursday, the former head of Israel’s Shin Bet internal security agency, Nadav Argaman, voiced support for the reservists.

“We need to stop this legislation by any means,” he told the Army Radio station, saying the reservists “are very concerned and fearful for the security of the state of Israel.”

Argaman was appointed head of the Shin Bet by Netanyahu in 2016 and stepped down in 2021.

Netanyahu said the refusals to serve undermined Israel’s democratic institutions, in which the army is subordinate to the government and not the other way around. “If they succeed in carrying out their threats, that is a blow to democracy,” he said.

Tens of thousands of Israelis have joined mass protests against the overhaul since it was proposed in January, and business leaders have said that a weaker judiciary will drive international investors away.

In Tel Aviv, movement leaders staged a “night of resistance,” marching through the city’s streets, beating drums and blaring horns. Police used water cannons to clear protesters from a major highway.

The movement has also begun to shift its focus from Tel Aviv, where weekly demonstrations draw tens of thousands, to Jerusalem, where the parliament is set to vote next week.

Hundreds of protesters packed up rows of small white tents and continued a march from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, where they plan to camp outside parliament ahead of the vote.

Protesters flocked outside the home of the chairman of the Histadrut, Israel’s national labor union. The Histadrut ordered a strike in March, leading Netanyahu to freeze the overhaul. Netanyahu revived the plan last month after talks seeking compromise with opposition lawmakers failed. But the union has yet to authorize another strike.

After Netanyahu’s statement, movement leaders vowed further escalation. “We call on all those who care about Israel’s future as a democracy to take to the streets,” said Josh Drill, a protest spokesman.

Presidents of major Israeli universities said they would hold a strike Sunday to protest the bill, according to reports from Israeli media. Doctors held a two-hour “warning strike” Wednesday to protest the overhaul, which they said would wreak havoc on the healthcare system by granting politicians greater control over public health.

They vowed more severe measures if the bill is voted through.

The judicial overhaul plan was announced shortly after Netanyahu took office as prime minister following November’s parliamentary elections. It was Israel’s fifth election in under four years, with all of the votes serving as a referendum on his leadership while facing legal charges.

Critics say removing the reasonability standard would allow the government to appoint unqualified cronies to important positions without oversight. They also say that it could clear the way for Netanyahu to fire the current attorney general — seen by supporters as a bulwark against the overhaul plan — or appoint legal officials who could ease his way out of the corruption charges he is facing in an ongoing trial.

Netanyahu now heads the country’s most ultranationalist and religiously conservative government in Israel’s 75-year history.

(AP)

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Trump took classified documents, risked national security, alleges indictment

Former U.S. President Donald Trump faces 37 criminal counts that include charges of unauthorized retention of classified documents and conspiracy to obstruct justice after he left the White House in 2021, according to federal court documents made public on Friday.

The Justice Department made the charging documents public on a tumultuous day in which two of Trump‘s lawyers quit the case and a former aide faces charges as well. The charges stem from Trump’s treatment of sensitive government materials he took with him when he left the White House in January 2021.

Trump is due to make a first court appearance in the case in a Miami court on Tuesday, a day before his 77th birthday.

According to the indictment, those documents include some of the most sensitive U.S. military secrets, including information on the U.S. nuclear program and potential domestic vulnerabilities in the event of an attack.

One document concerned a foreign country’s support of terrorism against U.S. interests.

Materials came from the Pentagon, the Central Intelligence Agency, the National Security Agency and other intelligence agencies, the indictment said.

According to the indictment, Trump showed another person a Defense Department document described as a “plan of attack” against another country.


The indictment of a former U.S. president on federal charges is unprecedented in American history and emerges at a time when Trump is the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination next year.

Investigators seized roughly 13,000 documents from Trump’s Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Florida, nearly a year ago. One hundred were marked as classified, even though one of Trump’s lawyers had previously said all records with classified markings had been returned to the government.

“I AM AN INNOCENT MAN!” Trump wrote on his Truth Social platform on Thursday after announcing he had been indicted.

Trump has previously said he declassified those documents while president, but his attorneys have declined to make that argument in court filings.

CNN reported on Friday that Trump said after leaving office that he had retained military information that he had not declassified. Those comments, captured on audio, could be a key piece of evidence in the case.

U.S. District Judge Aileen Cannon has been initially assigned to oversee the case, said a source who was briefed on the matter. She could preside over the trial as well, said the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Cannon, appointed by Trump in 2019, made headlines last year when she decided in favor of the former U.S. president at a pivotal stage of the case and was later reversed on appeal.

Cannon would determine, among other things, when a trial would take place and what Trump’s sentence would be if he were found guilty.

It is the second criminal case for Trump, who is due to go on trial in New York next March in a state case stemming from a hush-money payment to a porn star.

If he wins the presidency again, Trump, as head of the federal government, would be in a position to derail the federal case, but not the state one in New York.

Also on Friday, Trump said on his Truth Social platform that his former military valet, Walt Nauta, had been charged in the case. Nauta worked at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort after serving in the Trump White House.

Nauta’s lawyer, Stanley Woodward, declined to comment. A spokesperson for Special Counsel Jack Smith, who is leading the prosecution, could not be reached immediately.

In an earlier post, Trump said he would be represented in the case by white collar defense lawyer Todd Blanche, who is representing him in a separate criminal case in Manhattan.

Trump made that announcement after his lawyers John Rowley and Jim Trusty quit the case for reasons that were not immediately clear.

“This morning we tendered our resignations as counsel to President Trump,” the two lawyers said in a statement. “It has been an honor to have spent the last year defending him, and we know he will be vindicated.”

Trump and his allies have portrayed the case as political retaliation by Democratic President Joe Biden, but Biden has kept his distance.

The White House said he did not find out about the indictment ahead of time, and he declined to comment when asked by reporters in North Carolina about the indictment.

Attorney General Merrick Garland has sought to minimize the perception of political interference by appointing Jack Smith as special counsel, giving him a degree of independence from Justice Department leadership to head the prosecution.

The case does not prevent Trump from campaigning or taking office if he were to win the November 2024 presidential election. Legal experts say there would be no basis to block his swearing-in even if he were convicted and sent to prison.

Popular with Republicans

Trump’s legal woes have not dented his popularity with Republican voters, according to Reuters/Ipsos polling. His main Republican rivals have so far lined up behind him to criticize the case as politically motivated.

Trump served as president from 2017 to 2021, and he has so far managed to weather controversies that might torpedo other politicians. He describes himself as the victim of a witch hunt and accuses the Justice Department of partisan bias.

Special Counsel Smith is leading a second criminal probe into efforts by Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss to President Joe Biden, a Democrat.

Trump also faces a separate criminal probe in Georgia related to efforts to overturn his loss to Biden in that state.

Smith convened grand juries in both Washington and Miami to hear evidence, but has opted to bring the case in the politically competitive state of Florida, rather than the U.S. capital, where any jury would likely be heavily Democratic.

Under federal law, defendants have a right to be charged where the activity in question took place. A Florida prosecution, legal experts say, could head off a drawn-out legal challenge from Trump’s team over the proper venue.

The Republican state-by-state presidential nominating contest kicks off early next year, and the party is due to choose its nominee for the November 2024 election in July of that year.

(Reuters)

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US access to abortion pills in limbo after conflicting judicial rulings

Access to the most commonly used method of abortion in the U.S. plunged into uncertainty Friday following conflicting court rulings over the legality of the abortion medication mifepristone that has been widely available for more than 20 years.

For now, the drug the Food and Drug Administration approved in 2000 appeared to remain at least immediately available in wake of two separate rulings that were issued in quick succession by federal judges in Texas and Washington.

U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee, ordered a hold on federal approval of mifepristone in a decision that overruled decades of scientific approval. But that decision came at nearly the same time that U.S. District Judge Thomas O. Rice, an Obama appointee, essentially ordered the opposite and directed U.S. authorities not to make any changes that would restrict access to the drug in at least 17 states where Democrats sued in an effort to protect availability.

The extraordinary timing of the competing orders revealed the high stakes surrounding the drug nearly a year after the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and curtailed access to abortion across the country. President Joe Biden said his administration would fight the Texas ruling.

The whiplash of the conflicting decisions is likely to put the issue on an accelerated path to the Supreme Court.

“FDA is under one order that says you can do nothing and another that says in seven days I’m going to require you to vacate the approval of mifepristone,” said Glenn Cohen of Harvard Law School.

Abortion providers slammed the Texas ruling, including Whole Woman’s Health, which operates six clinics in five states and said it would continue to dispense mifepristone in person and by mail over the next week as they review the rulings.

The abortion drug has been widely used in the U.S. since securing FDA approval and there is essentially no precedent for a lone judge overruling the medical decisions of the Food and Drug Administration. Mifepristone is one of two drugs used for medication abortion in the United States, along with misoprostol, which is also used to treat other medical conditions.

‘Political attack’

Kacsmaryk signed an injunction directing the FDA to stay mifepristone’s approval while a lawsuit challenging the safety and approval of the drug continues. His 67-page order gave the government seven days to appeal.

“The Court in this case has substituted its judgment for FDA, the expert agency that approves drugs,” Biden said. “If this ruling were to stand, then there will be virtually no prescription, approved by the FDA, that would be safe from these kinds of political, ideological attacks.”

Clinics and doctors that prescribe the two-drug combination have said that if mifepristone were pulled from the market, they would switch to using only the second drug, misoprostol. That single-drug approach has a slightly lower rate of effectiveness in ending pregnancies, but it is widely used in countries where mifepristone is illegal or unavailable.


The lawsuit in the Texas case was filed by the Alliance Defending Freedom, which was also involved in the Mississippi case that led to Roe v. Wade being overturned. At the core of the lawsuit is the allegation that the FDA’s initial approval of mifepristone was flawed because it did not adequately review its safety risks.

Courts have long deferred to the FDA on issues of drug safety and effectiveness. But the agency’s authority faces new challenges in a post-Roe legal environment in which abortions are banned or unavailable in 14 states, while 16 states have laws specifically targeting abortion medications.

Since the Texas lawsuit was filed in November, legal experts have warned of questionable arguments and factual inaccuracies in the Christian group’s filing. Kacsmaryk essentially agreed with the plaintiffs on all of their major points, including that the FDA didn’t adequately review mifepristone’s safety.

“The Court does not second-guess FDA’s decision-making lightly.” Kacsmaryk wrote. “But here, FDA acquiesced on its legitimate safety concerns — in violation of its statutory duty — based on plainly unsound reasoning and studies that did not support its conclusions.”

Mifepristone has been used by millions of women over the past 23 years, and complications from mifepristone occur at a lower rate than that seen with wisdom teeth removal, colonoscopies and other routine medical procedures, medical groups have recently noted.

19th century law

Elsewhere, Kacsmaryk sided with plaintiffs in stating that the FDA overstepped its authority in approving mifepristone, in part, by using a specialized review process reserved for drugs to treat “serious or life-threatening illnesses.” The judge brushed aside FDA arguments that its own regulations make clear that pregnancy is a medical condition that can sometimes be serious and life-threatening, instead calling it a “natural process essential to perpetuating human life.”

His order also agreed with plaintiffs in invoking a controversial 19th century law that anti-abortion groups are now trying to revive to block sending abortion medications through the mail. Originally passed in 1873 and named for an “anti-vice crusader,” the Comstock Act was used to prohibit the mailing of contraceptives, “lewd” writings and “instruments” that could be used in an abortion. The law was seldom invoked in the 50 years after Roe established a federal right to abortion.

Kacsmaryk, though, agreed with plaintiffs that the law — as literally interpreted — prohibits mailing mifepristone.

His order, if upheld, would also dismantle a number of recent FDA actions intended to ease access to the drug.

In late 2021 the FDA — under the Biden administration — dropped a requirement that women pick up the drug in person, opening the door to delivery by mail-order pharmacies. In January the agency dropped another requirement that prevented most brick-and-mortar pharmacies from dispensing the pill.

Anti-abortion groups, which are newly encouraged about their ability to further restrict abortion and prevail in court since last’s year’s reversal of Roe v. Wade, embraced the Texas ruling.

“The court’s decision today is a major step forward for women and girls whose health and safety have been jeopardized for decades by the FDA’s rushed, flawed and politicized approval of these dangerous drugs,” said March for Life President Jeanne Mancini.

Legal experts warned that the ruling could upend decades of precedent, setting the stage for political groups to overturn other FDA approvals of controversial drugs and vaccines.

“This has never happened before in history — it’s a huge deal,” said Greer Donley, a professor specializing in reproductive health care at the University of Pittsburgh Law School. “You have a federal judge who has zero scientific background second guessing every scientific decision that the FDA made.”

Still, because of the contradictory nature of the rulings, Donley and other experts said there would be little immediate impact.

“In the short term, nothing’s going to change,” Donley said. “This is the time to be preparing for the fact that in a week, potentially, mifepristone becomes an unapproved drug in this country.”

(AP)

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Biden’s rebuke of a bold, reform-minded crime law makes all Americans less safe

President Joe Biden’s support for a Republican-led effort to nullify the Washington D.C. City Council’s revision of its criminal code, signed into law on Monday, plays into the fear narrative that is being increasingly advanced across the U.S.

Biden could have used his platform and clout to clarify the actual substance of the carefully crafted District of Columbia proposal — and adhere to his campaign commitment to reduce the number of incarcerated Americans.

Instead, the president ignored the glaring problems in D.C.’s existing criminal code, which the 275-page long package of revisions was designed to address. This included reforming the draconian and inflexible sentencing requirements that have swelled the District’s incarceration rate and wasted countless resources imprisoning individuals who pose no danger to public safety. By rejecting this decade-plus effort, the president decided that D.C. residents have no right to determine for themselves how to fix these problems.

There are communities across the U.S. that see virtually no violent crime, and it isn’t because they’re the most policed.

Biden’s decision is the latest backlash to U.S. justice reform coming from both sides of the political aisle.

Instead of doubling down on failed tough-on-crime tactics, Americans need to come together to articulate and invest in a new vision of public safety. We already know what that looks like because there are communities across the country which see virtually no violent crime, and it isn’t because they’re the most policed.

Safe communities are places where people (even those facing economic distress) are housed, where schools have the resources to teach all children, where the water and air are clean, where families have access to good-paying jobs and comprehensive healthcare, and where those who are struggling are given a hand, not a handcuff.

This is the kind of community every American deserves to live in, but that future is only possible if we shift resources from carceral responses to communities and shift our mindset from punishment to prevention.

Too often it’s easier to advocate for locking people up than it is to innovate and advance a new vision for public safety. 

In the wake of particularly traumatic years, as well as growing divisiveness that has politicized criminal justice reform, it is not surprising that many people believe their communities are less safe. While public perceptions of crime have long been disconnected from actual crime rates and can be heavily influenced by media coverage, the data tells a mixed story. Homicide rates did increase in both urban and rural areas in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and record levels of gun sales.

While early available data suggests these numbers are trending down, it’s too soon to tell, especially given the nation’s poor crime data infrastructure. What is clear is that there is no evidence that criminal justice reform is to blame for rising crime, despite well-funded attempts by those resistant to change and who are intent on driving a political agenda to make such a claim stick.

Yet fear often obscures facts; people are scared for their safety and want reassurance. Too often it’s easier to advocate for locking people up than it is to innovate and advance a new vision for public safety.

We need leaders who can govern with both empathy and integrity – who can provide genuine compassion to those who feel scared while also following the data about how to create safer communities. And all the data points to the need for reform.

Mass incarceration costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1 trillion annually.

Mass incarceration costs U.S. taxpayers an estimated $1 trillion annually, when you factor in not only the cost of confinement but also the crushing toll placed on incarcerated people and their families, children, and communities. Despite this staggering figure, there’s no real evidence that incarceration works, and in fact some evidence to suggest it actually makes people more likely to commit future crimes. Yet we keep pouring more and more taxpayer dollars into this short-sighted solution that, instead of preventing harm, only delays and compounds it.

We have to stop pretending that reform is the real threat to public safety and recognize how our over-reliance on incarceration actually makes us less safe.

Reform and public safety go hand in hand. Commonsense changes including reforming cash bail, revisiting extreme sentences and diverting people from the criminal legal system have all been shown to have positive effects on individuals and communities.

At a time of record-low clearance rates nationwide and staffing challenges in police departments and prosecutor’s offices, arresting and prosecuting people for low-level offenses that do not impact public safety can actually make us less safe by directing resources away from solving serious crimes and creating collateral consequences for people that make it harder to escape cycles of poverty and crime.

Yet, tough-on-crime proponents repeatedly misrepresent justice reform by claiming that reformers are simply letting people who commit crimes off the hook. Nothing could be further from the truth. Reform does not mean a lack of accountability, but rather a more effective version of accountability for everyone involved.

Our traditional criminal legal system has failed victims time and again. In a 2022 survey of crime survivors, just 8% said that the justice system was very helpful in navigating the legal process and being connected to services. Many said they didn’t even report the crime because of distrust of the system.

When asked what they want, many crime survivors express a fundamental desire to ensure that the person who caused them harm doesn’t hurt them or anyone else ever again. But status quo approaches aren’t providing that. The best available data shows that 7 in 10 people released from prison in 2012 were rearrested within five years. Perhaps that’s why crime victims support alternatives to traditional prosecution and incarceration by large margins.

For example, in New York City, Common Justice offered the first alternative-to-incarceration program in the country focused on violent felonies in adult courts. When given the option, 90% of eligible victims chose to participate in a restorative justice program through Common Justice over incarcerating the person who harmed them. Just 7% of participants have been terminated from the program for committing a new crime.

A restorative justice program launched by former San Francisco District Attorney George Gascón for youth facing serious felony charges was shown to reduce participants’ likelihood of rearrest by 44 percent within six months compared to youth who went through the traditional juvenile justice system, and the effects were still notable even four years after the initial offer to participate.

Multnomah County District Attorney Mike Schmidt launched a groundbreaking program last year to allow people convicted of violent offenses to avoid prison time if they commit to behavioral health treatment. As of January, just one of 60 participants had been rearrested for a misdemeanor.

While too many politicians give lip service to reform, those who really care about justice are doing the work, regardless of electoral consequences. We need more bold, innovative leaders willing to rethink how we achieve safety and accountability, not those who go where the wind blows and spread misinformation for political gain.

Fear should not cause us to repeat the mistakes of the past. When politicians finally decide to care more about protecting people than protecting their own power, only then will we finally achieve the safety that all communities deserve.

Miriam Aroni Krinsky is the executive director of Fair and Just Prosecution, a former federal prosecutor, and the author of Change from Within: Reimagining the 21st-Century Prosecutor. Alyssa Kress is the communications director of Fair and Just Prosecution.  

More: Wrongful convictions cost American taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. Wrongdoing prosecutors must be held accountable.

Plus: Senate votes to block D.C. crime laws, with Biden’s support

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Graphic video released of US police officers beating Black motorist Tyre Nichols

The city of Memphis released shocking, graphic video footage on Friday of the violent encounter between Tyre Nichols, a 29-year-old Black man, and the five police officers charged with murder in his beating death after a traffic stop earlier this month.

One video clip shows officers dragging Nichols from the driver’s seat of his car as he yells, “Damn, I didn’t do anything … I am just trying to go home,” then force him to the ground as they order him to lay on his stomach and squirt him in the face with pepper spray.

Nichols then breaks free, scrambles to his feet and sprints away down a road with officers chasing him on foot; at least one fires a stun gun at him.

A separate video shows a subsequent struggle after officers catch up with Nichols again, and are beating him. Two officers are seen holding him down as a third one kicks him and a fourth delivers blows with what appears to be a rod before another punches Nichols.

Nichols is heard repeatedly screaming, “Mom! Mom!” as he struggles with officers. His mother has said her son was only about 80 yards (meters) from home when he was beaten. A stretcher is seen arriving 19 minutes after the first emergency medical personnel get to the scene.


The four segments of highly anticipated footage from police body-worn cameras and a camera mounted on a utility pole were posted online a day after the officers were charged with second-degree murder, assault, kidnapping, official misconduct and oppression.

The officers, all Black, had already been dismissed from the police department last Saturday following their Jan. 7 confrontation with Nichols after pulling him over.

He succumbed to his injuries and died three days later while hospitalised.

Outrage

Memphis police chief Cerelyn Davis and lawyers for Nichols’ family who watched the video with his relatives before it was released, warned that the images were brutal and likely to cause outrage, while appealing to the public for calm.

“You are going to see acts that defy humanity,” Davis told CNN in describing the footage.

As the video first appeared and was being aired on CNN and other news outlets, television images showed a large group of protesters gathering in Memphis, shouting, “no justice, no peace” and carrying signs that said “The people demand: End Police Terror.” The demonstrators appeared to be blocking traffic at one point on Interstate 55.

Civil rights attorney Ben Crump, representing Nichols’ family, called earlier in the day for the city police department to disband its SCORPIONS unit, a squad that is supposed to focus on violent street crime and to which at least some of the officers involved were assigned.

“No mother should go through what I am going through right now, no mother, to lose their child to the violent way that I lost my child,” Tyre Nichols’ mother, RowVaughn Wells, said on Friday.

U.S. President Joe Biden said he was “outraged” and “deeply pained” after watching the Memphis video.


The footage was likely to transform Nichols, the father of a 4-year-old described as an affable, accomplished skateboarder who recently enrolled in a photography class, into the next face of the US racial justice movement.

Raised in Sacramento, California, Nichols moved before the coronavirus pandemic to the Memphis area, where he lived with his mother and stepfather and worked at FedEx, taking a break each day to come home for a meal prepared by his mother.

Biden speaks to family

Nichols’ family and President Joe Biden have appealed for protests to stay peaceful in Memphis, a city of 628,000 where nearly 65% of residents are Black. Schools were scheduled to close early and Saturday morning events were canceled.

Biden spoke with RowVaughn Wells and Rodney Wells, Nichols’ stepfather, on Friday afternoon to express his condolences, the White House said, adding that it was coordinating with relevant government agencies in case protests turn violent.


Nichols’ death marked the latest high-profile instance of police officers accused of using excessive force in the deaths of Black people and other minorities in recent years. These have been publicly condemned as systemic racism in the U.S. criminal justice system.

Protests under the banner of the “Black Lives Matter” movement against racial injustice erupted globally following the May 2020 murder of George Floyd, a Black man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck for more than nine minutes.

Antonio Romanucci, another lawyer for Nichols’ family, told National Public Radio in an interview on Friday that Nichols was a strong supporter of the Black Lives Matter movement and “basically died for his own cause.”

US Attorney General Merrick Garland on Friday announced a federal civil rights investigation into Nichols’ death, while law enforcement agencies in some major cities, including New York, Atlanta and Washington, said they were preparing for possible protests following the video’s release.

Traffic stop began chain of events

Police have described the circumstances of Nichols’ arrest in vague terms. Even Shelby County District Attorney Steve Mulroy, who sought the officers’ indictment, was circumspect when announcing the charges.

After Nichols was pulled over for reckless driving, “an altercation” ensued in which officers doused him with pepper spray, and Nichols tried to flee on foot, Mulroy said. “There was another altercation at a nearby location at which the serious injuries were experienced by Mr. Nichols.”

Davis said her department has not yet been able determine whether there was probable cause for the officers to pull Nichols over for reckless driving, a traffic stop which set in motion the violent events that followed.

Crump said the speed at which the criminal charges were brought against the officers – fewer than three weeks after Nichols’ death – should be a standard for police-involved killings.

In some other high-profile cases, such as the police killing of Laquan McDonald in Chicago in 2014, more than a year elapsed before the release of police video and the filing of charges.

Crump compared the encounter to the 1991 videotaped beating of Black motorist Rodney King by four police officers whose subsequent acquittal of criminal charges sparked days of riots in Los Angeles.

Records show Justin Smith, Desmond Mills Jr., Emmitt Martin III, Demetrius Haley and Tadarrius Bean, who were fired along with one other officer after Nichols’ death, were released on bond after they were booked into the Shelby County Jail on Thursday morning.

(REUTERS)



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