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Speaker Mike Johnson's appearance at Trump's felony trial marks a remarkable moment in US politics

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Speaker Mike Johnson's appearance at Trump's felony trial marks a remarkable moment in US politics

U.S. House Speaker Mike Johnson assailed the U.S. judicial system on Tuesday as he became the highest-ranking Republican to attend court with Donald Trump, echoing unsubstantiated or disproven arguments made by the former president and his allies.

It was a remarkable moment in modern American politics. The powerful House speaker signaled a turn of his political party against the federal and state legal systems and demonstrated further loyalty toward Trump, who is accused of having arranged secret payments to a porn actress to hide negative stories during his successful 2016 campaign for president.

Johnson, a lawyer who is second in line for the presidency, called the court system “corrupt” and the case against Trump a “sham,” while alleging without proof that the special counsel who’s charged Trump in two separate cases has doctored evidence. He also attacked the credibility of Michael Cohen, Trump’s former lawyer and fixer who began his second day of testimony in the former president’s hush money trial.

Trump’s campaign has lined up allies in recent days to appear at the New York courthouse to attack witnesses and others whom Trump is barred by a judge’s gag order from criticizing himself.

Also with the presumptive GOP presidential nominee on Tuesday were U.S. Rep. Byron Donalds of Florida and North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum — both considered possible vice presidential candidates — as well as former GOP candidate Vivek Ramaswamy, one of Trump’s current top surrogates.

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U.S. Sens. JD Vance of Ohio and Tommy Tuberville of Alabama were among those who attended court on Monday.

Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said Monday that he appeared last week at the invitation of Trump senior advisor Susie Wiles. The campaign has said others volunteered to come to New York.

Their presence and comments critical of the process and its participants have let Trump and his allies to amplify their message without risking another explicit violation of a gag order.

Johnson specifically criticized three people Trump is prohibited from insulting. He assailed Cohen as “a man who is clearly on a mission for personal revenge,” said lead prosecutor Matthew Colangelo “recently received over $10,000 in payments from the Democratic National Committee” and said the daughter of Judge Juan M. Merchan has made “millions of dollars” doing online fundraising for Democrats.

What to know about Trump’s hush money trial:

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Johnson has been using the pulpit of the speaker’s office in Washington to attack the U.S. judicial system, criticizing the courts as biased against the former president, claiming the case is politically motivated by Democrats and insisting Trump has done nothing wrong.

And Johnson, who is dependent on support from Trump to keep the speaker’s gavel, is far from alone. A growing number of Republicans have been turning against the U.S. system of justice in a stark assault as they trek to the courthouse to stand with the indicted former president.

Johnson has aimed to strengthen his alliance with Trump as the speaker has come under fire from his own caucus in the House, including a failed effort at his removal by a fellow Trump backer, U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia.

Johnson made an appearance with the former president at his Mar-a-Lago club last month to announce new House legislation to require proof of citizenship for voting, echoing Trump’s baseless claims that Democrats are abetting immigrants entering the U.S. illegally to swing elections.

There isn’t any indication that noncitizens vote in significant numbers in federal elections or that they will in the future.

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Kinnard reported from Columbia, South Carolina. Lisa Mascaro in Washington and Jill Colvin in New York contributed to this report.

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Meg Kinnard can be reached at http://twitter.com/MegKinnardAP

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Former spy chief expected to be new prime minister of the Netherlands

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Former spy chief expected to be new prime minister of the Netherlands

It has taken months of post-election negotiations to form a right-wing government.

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A former spy chief was tipped as the new Prime Minister of the Netherlands.

Former head of the Dutch spy agency and counter-terrorism office Dick Schoof was tipped on Tuesday to become the nation’s new Prime Minister.

The 67-year-old will lead a coalition dominated by Geert Wilders’ radical right-wing Freedom Party.

The coalition is also made up of the centre-right People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy, centrist New Social Contract and the Farmer-Citizen Movement.

Schoof is currently the top civil servant at the Ministry of Security and Justice.

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Wilders congratulated him in a post on X, saying he “has a great track record, is non-partisan and therefore above the parites, has integrity and is also very likeable.”

Anti-Islam firebrand Wilders, who topped the polls in last year’s elections, struck a deal with the other party leaders earlier this month – capping months of negotiations that left it unclear who would become the new Dutch prime minister.

The new agreement, framed with the slogan “Hope, courage and pride”, includes plans to impose strict measures on asylum seekers, scrap family reunification for refugees and reduce the number of international students studying in the country.

At one point, the 26-page document says the government will seek to “deport people without a valid residence permit as much as possible, even forcibly”.

Wilders’s preferred candidate for prime minister withdrew last week following allegations he had been involved in medical patent fraud.

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South Africa's ANC support around 42% days before election, poll finds

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South Africa's ANC support around 42% days before election, poll finds
Support for South Africa’s governing African National Congress (ANC) has settled around 42% in the days leading up to Wednesday’s election, an opinion poll showed, suggesting that an increase in support seen earlier this month has fizzled out.
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Operating company of Fukushima to use robot to remove melted nuclear fuel from destroyed reactor

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Operating company of Fukushima to use robot to remove melted nuclear fuel from destroyed reactor
  • A company demonstrated a remote-controlled robot for retrieving melted fuel debris at Japan’s destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.
  • The plan involves deploying an extendable pipe robot into the reactor to begin debris removal by October.
  • Approximately 880 tons of highly radioactive melted nuclear fuel remain in the three damaged reactors.

The operator of Japan’s destroyed Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant demonstrated Tuesday how a remote-controlled robot would retrieve tiny bits of melted fuel debris from one of three damaged reactors later this year for the first time since the 2011 meltdown.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings plans to deploy a “telesco-style” extendable pipe robot into Fukushima Daiichi No. 2 reactor to test the removal of debris from its primary containment vessel by October.

That work is more than two years behind schedule. The removal of melted fuel was supposed to begin in late 2021 but has been plagued with delays, underscoring the difficulty of recovering from the magnitude 9.0 quake and tsunami in 2011.

DRONE AIMS TO EXAMINE JAPAN’S DAMAGED FUKUSHIMA NUCLEAR REACTOR FOR THE FIRST TIME

During the demonstration at the Mitsubishi Heavy Industries’ shipyard in Kobe, western Japan, where the robot has been developed, a device equipped with tongs slowly descended from the telescopic pipe to a heap of gravel and picked up a granule.

Tokyo Electric Power Company Holdings, also known as TEPCO, the operator of Japan’s wrecked Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant, reveals a robot to be used to retrieve debris at the power plant in Kobe, western Japan, on May 28, 2024. (Kyodo News via AP)

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TEPCO plans to remove less than 1 ounce of debris in the test at the Fukushima plant.

“We believe the upcoming test removal of fuel debris from Unit 2 is an extremely important step to steadily carry out future decommissioning work,” said Yusuke Nakagawa, a TEPCO group manager for the fuel debris retrieval program. “It is important to proceed with the test removal safely and steadily.”

About 880 tons of highly radioactive melted nuclear fuel remain inside the three damaged reactors. Critics say the 30- to 40-year cleanup target set by the government and TEPCO for Fukushima Daiichi is overly optimistic. The damage in each reactor is different, and plans must accommodate their conditions.

Better understanding the melted fuel debris from inside the reactors is key to their decommissioning. TEPCO deployed four mini drones into the No. 1 reactor’s primary containment vessel earlier this year to capture images from the areas where robots had not reached.

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