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US Supreme Court will hear Donald Trump presidential immunity appeal

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US Supreme Court will hear Donald Trump presidential immunity appeal

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The US Supreme Court has agreed to take up an appeal over whether Donald Trump is immune from criminal prosecution for acts committed in office, putting another potentially blockbuster case involving the former president on the high court’s docket ahead of the 2024 election.

The order on Wednesday will further delay a trial in a criminal case filed by the Department of Justice accusing Trump of seeking to overturn the results of the 2020 election. It will also give the high court — three of whose members were appointed by the former president — the chance to issue a landmark ruling on a question that could have major consequences for the upcoming election and for the presidency more broadly.

The Supreme Court set oral arguments in the matter for the week of April 22, with a decision expected in the case by the end of its term, which usually concludes in late June.

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It had previously refused a request from Jack Smith, the DoJ special counsel overseeing federal criminal cases against Trump, to bypass the US Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, an intermediate appeals court, and hear the presidential immunity matter immediately last year.

Earlier this month, that court handed down a unanimous ruling that barred Trump from using presidential immunity as a shield against the DoJ indictment.

Lawyers for Trump subsequently asked the Supreme Court to put the appeals court order on hold while he appealed against the decision. They argued that a “claim that presidents have absolute immunity from criminal prosecution for their official acts presents a novel, complex, and momentous question that warrants careful consideration on appeal”.

The Supreme Court on Wednesday said the appellate court’s order would remain on hold until it resolves the issue. The federal elections trial was originally set to begin on March 4 but has been postponed.

Had the court not taken the case, the lower appeals court’s ruling would have remained in place and proceedings in the trial court could have resumed imminently. It is unclear now whether Trump will face trial in the case before the election in November, when he is likely to face Joe Biden in a rematch of 2020.

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Smith had warned the Supreme Court that a “delay in the resolution of [the election] charges threatens to frustrate the public interest in a speedy and fair verdict”.

Trump reacted to the decision with satisfaction, suggesting he sees it as a big legal victory. “Legal Scholars are extremely thankful for the Supreme Court’s Decision today to take up presidential immunity,” he said, adding: “Without presidential immunity, a president will not be able to properly function, or make decisions, in the best interest of the United States of America.” 

Democrats were extremely critical both because of the delay that the decision would bring to Trump’s trial, and concern that some justices on the court, with a 6-3 conservative majority, may be sympathetic to the former president’s argument that he is immune from prosecution for his official actions while in office. 

“The Supreme Court is placing itself on trial with this decision to hear the former president’s total immunity claim,” Nancy Pelosi, the California congresswoman and former House speaker, wrote on X. “It remains to be seen whether the justices will uphold the fundamental American value that no one is above the law — not even a former president.”

The high court has previously ruled on presidential immunity against civil claims, but it has yet to address the issue in relation to criminal charges.

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Daniel Richman, a professor at Columbia Law School, said that even if the high court decides the case speedily, “a determination that the prosecution can proceed will leave the district court hard-pressed to schedule a trial before the general election”.

“Arguments that Trump and the people have a strong first amendment interest in presenting his views to the electorate are substantial, and may well counsel against requiring him to sit in the courtroom instead of campaigning,” he added.

The DoJ declined to comment.

Trump’s latest presidential campaign has been unfolding alongside a jam-packed legal calendar as he faces cases in courts across the country. Most recently he was slammed with a penalty of more than $450mn, including interest, in a civil lawsuit in New York over “blatant” fraud committed by his real estate empire. An appeals court judge in New York on Wednesday declined to pause enforcement of that judgment while Trump appeals.

He faces a total of 91 criminal charges across four separate cases. The DoJ and the state of Georgia have separately charged Trump with meddling in the 2020 election. Another federal indictment accused him of mishandling sensitive government documents.

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The first case to reach trial will be one brought by Alvin Bragg, Manhattan district attorney, who alleged that Trump made “hush money” payments to porn actress Stormy Daniels in the lead-up to the 2016 election. Proceedings are set to start on March 25.

According to recent polling, Americans see the federal case related to the 2020 polls as the most serious for Trump, and a conviction in the case could lead to a drop in support for him in the general election.

The Supreme Court has also taken up another politically sensitive case involving Trump. It is poised to decide whether he can be barred from Colorado’s primary ballot in the presidential election, after a ruling from that state’s high court determined he was ineligible to hold office. It heard oral arguments in the case earlier this month.

An Illinois court on Wednesday joined Colorado and Maine in throwing Trump off the state’s presidential primary ballot on the basis that he engaged in insurrection. The evidence in the case is linked to the January 6 2021 attack when his supporters stormed the US Capitol in an attempt to halt the certification of Biden’s victory. The order remains on hold pending a potential appeal and the Supreme Court’s decision in the Colorado case.

Trump’s campaign called the Illinois ruling “unconstitutional” and vowed to “quickly” appeal against it.

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Additional reporting by James Politi

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Boeing burns through $4bn in first quarter after door plug blowout

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Boeing burns through $4bn in first quarter after door plug blowout

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Boeing burnt through almost $4bn of cash in the first quarter, reflecting slower 737 Max production and compensation to customers as the US plane maker grappled with the aftermath of the mid-air accident in January.

The $3.9bn of free cash outflow is slightly lower than the $4bn-4.5bn the company had warned in March, but compares with an outflow of $786mn for the same period last year. Boeing reported a $355mn net loss in the first quarter.

The company’s financial results “reflect the immediate actions we’ve taken to slow down 737 production to drive improvements in quality”, said chief executive Dave Calhoun.

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There has been a 500 per cent increase in reports to Boeing’s internal safety hotline compared with last year.

The company is working to improve processes including training, inspection and how “travelled work” where jets that move through the production line with problems addressed later in the assembly process, is handled in the 737 factory in Renton, Washington. Boeing also is attempting to stabilise its supply chain.

“Near term, yes, we are in a tough moment,” said Calhoun in a letter to staff on Wednesday. “Lower deliveries can be difficult for our customers and our financials. But safety and quality must and will come above all else.”

The plane maker is building fewer than 38 Maxes per month, reducing deliveries that are necessary to bring in cash in order to improve the quality of its manufacturing following the mid-air blowout of a door plug on an Alaska Airlines flight.

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Boeing faces investigations by aviation regulators and the US Justice Department. Though no one was killed, the explosive loss of cabin pressure injured some on board and recalled the two fatal crashes that led to the worldwide grounding of the Max for nearly two years.

A preliminary report by the National Transportation Safety Board found that four bolts meant to fasten the panel to the fuselage were missing.

A US Federal Aviation Administration audit of Boeing found “multiple instances” where it allegedly failed to meet manufacturing and quality control requirements. Regulators have given the company until the end of May to submit a plan to improve.

Boeing said on Wednesday it was “implementing a comprehensive action plan” to address the audit’s findings.

The company did not issue any financial guidance for the year on Wednesday. It initially declined to issue guidance in January, with Calhoun saying “now is not the time”.

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The 737’s troubles have led to a shake-up in Boeing leadership. Calhoun said last month he would step down as Boeing chief executive at the end of the year, with the chair of the board Larry Kellner leaving after the annual meeting in May. Stan Deal, head of Boeing’s commercial plane division, departed immediately.

Boeing shares rose 3.6 per cent in pre-market trading after closing on Tuesday at $169.28.

Baird analyst Peter Arment said the stock represented “a buying opportunity”. “The kitchen sink quarter was not bad as feared, with progress expected on production, deliveries and [free cash flow] in the coming quarters coupled with a management change,” he said.

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U.S. tourist faces 12 years in prison after bringing ammunition to Turks and Caicos

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U.S. tourist faces 12 years in prison after bringing ammunition to Turks and Caicos

An Oklahoma man faces up to 12 years in prison on a Caribbean island after customs officials found ammunition in his luggage.

Ryan Watson traveled to Turks and Caicos with his wife, Valerie, to celebrate his 40th birthday on April 7. They went with two friends who also turned 40.

The vacation came to an abrupt end when airport staff found a Ziploc containing bullets in the couple’s carry-on luggage. Watson said it was hunting ammunition he had accidentally brought with him — but a strict law in Turks and Caicos may still see a court imposing a mandatory 12-year sentence.

“They were hunting ammunition rounds that I use for whitetail deer,” Watson told NBC Boston in an interview conducted last week that aired after their first court appearance Tuesday.

“I recognized them and I thought, ‘Oh man, what a bonehead mistake that I had no idea that those were in there,’” he said.

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The couple were arrested and charged with possession of ammunition. Authorities seized their passports and explained the penalties they faced.

“When I heard that, I immediately was terrified because I was like, we can’t both be in prison for 12 years. We have kids at home and this is such an innocent mistake,” Valerie Watson said in the interview.

The charges against her were dropped and she returned home to Oklahoma City on Tuesday after the court hearing to be reunited with her two young children.

“Our goal is to get Ryan home because we can’t be a family without Dad,” she said.

The couple also spoke of the financial burden of a much longer-than-planned trip. “This is something that we may never recover from,” Ryan Watson said.

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The U.S. Embassy in the Bahamas issued a warning to travelers in September about a law that strongly prohibits possession of firearms or ammunition in Turks and Caicos, an overseas British territory southeast of the Bahamas.

It said: “We wish to remind all travelers that declaring a weapon in your luggage with an airline carrier does not grant permission to bring the weapon into TCI [Turks and Caicos Islands] and will result in your arrest.”

The embassy added: “If you bring a firearm or ammunition into TCI, we will not be able to secure your release from custody.”

NBC News has contacted the embassy and the government in Turks and Caicos for comment.

The same thing happened to another American, Bryan Hagerich, from Pennsylvania, who was arrested after ammunition was found in his luggage before he attempted to board a flight out of Turks and Caicos in February. He said he accidentally left it in his bag.

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Hagerich was on a family vacation with his wife and two young children but has now been in the country for 70 days. He spent eight days in prison before posting bail.

“It’s incredibly scary. You know, you just don’t know what the next day may bring. You know, what path this may take,” Hagerich told NBC Boston.

“You know, it’s certainly a lot different than packing your bags and going away with your family for a few days. It’s been the worst 70 days of my life,” he said.

Once a professional baseball player, Hagerich was drafted by the Florida Marlins in the MLB 2007 June Amateur Draft from the University of Delaware.

His case goes to trial on May 3.

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US Senate passes $95bn bill including aid for Ukraine

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US Senate passes $95bn bill including aid for Ukraine

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The US Senate has approved a $95bn bill to deliver security aid to Ukraine, Israel and the Indo-Pacific region with overwhelming bipartisan support, in a boost to Joe Biden’s top foreign policy priorities.

The final passage of the legislation in Congress on Tuesday ended a political logjam that had lasted for months and paved the way for Washington to quickly dispatch new weapons to Ukraine as it battles Russia’s full-scale invasion. US officials said some aid for Kyiv would be forthcoming within days.

The bill will also bolster US military assistance for Israel — which has exchanged drone attacks and missile strikes with Iran over the past 10 days — and comes despite mounting tensions between the White House and Israeli leaders over the country’s war in Gaza against Hamas and the heavy Palestinian civilian casualties.

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The approval represents a legislative victory for Biden as he faces an election match-up against Donald Trump in November and a defeat for foreign policy isolationists, particularly Republican lawmakers close to the former president, who had been holding up support for Kyiv for months.

The bill won support from 79 senators, with 18 voting against.

Biden immediately cheered the bill’s passage, saying he would sign it on Wednesday. Aid could start reaching Ukraine as early as this week. “Congress has passed my legislation to strengthen our national security and send a message to the world about the power of American leadership: we stand resolutely for democracy and freedom, and against tyranny and oppression.”

John Kirby, the White House National Security Council spokesperson, said: “Mr Putin thinks he can play for time, so we’ve got to try to make up some of that time.”

Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy also thanked the US Senate shortly after the vote, which he said “reinforces America’s role as a beacon of democracy and leader of the free world”.

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Zelenskyy emphasised the importance of long-range capabilities, artillery and air defence systems. Dwindling stocks of anti-air missiles have in recent weeks allowed Russian forces to launch wide-ranging missile attacks targeting Ukraine’s energy infrastructures.

The highest hurdle for the bill was cleared on Saturday after Mike Johnson, the Republican Speaker of the House of Representatives, decided to bring Ukraine aid up for a vote despite months of internal divisions and opposition from some rank-and-file lawmakers such as Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia, who threatened to oust him from his role.

Supporters of the legislation from both parties and in the White House saw its passage as a bittersweet victory because of the time it took for it to pass Congress.

“So much of the hesitation and short-sightedness that has delayed this moment is premised on sheer fiction,” Mitch McConnell, the Republican Senate minority leader, said on Tuesday, blaming Tucker Carlson, the former Fox News host who recently interviewed Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow, for “demonising” Ukraine.

“Make no mistake: delay in providing Ukraine the weapons to defend itself has strained the prospects of defeating Russian aggression. Dithering and hesitation have compounded the challenges we face,” McConnell said.

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Opponents of Ukraine aid continued to attack the legislation. JD Vance, the Ohio Republican senator close to Trump, likened the arguments in favour of the aid to those that led to the US invasion of Iraq in 2003. “It’s the same exact talking points 20 years later with different names,” Vance said.

Some leftwing lawmakers, meanwhile, criticised the bill for allowing Israel to keep receiving offensive weapons from the US. Bernie Sanders, the Vermont senator, pushed for an amendment to strip those measures from the legislation, but it was not considered.

Sanders joined two Democrats and 15 Republicans who opposed the package.

“I voted no tonight on the foreign aid package for one simple reason: US taxpayers should not be providing billions more to the extremist Netanyahu government to continue its devastating war against the Palestinian people,” he said.

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