INDEPENDENT 2024-02-10 12:04:12


Trump scored four ‘wins’ in a single day. That means chaos for everyone else

For what felt like the first time in weeks, Thursday was a day of “good news” for the former president, who has spent years baselessly portraying himself as a victim of a Democratic conspiracy to keep him out of the White House.

He was satisfied with his attorney’s case in front of the US Supreme Court. He won another primary election. A federal judge overseeing his classified documents case seems to be ignoring prosecutors’ fears about his harassment campaign. And President Joe Biden’s US Department of Justice gave the former president enough validation to keep the “sleepy Joe” narrative alive through Election Day.

Even when his rivals get the same treatment, Mr Trump tells his supporters he’s the victim of a “weaponized” Justice Department and a “two-tiered system of justice,” ignoring thousands of pages of evidence against him. He’ll take the victories in elections he won and call any loss “rigged” against him. His own attorney stood in front of the nation’s highest court to call a violent attack that risked tossing out millions of Americans’ votes “criminal,” and none of the justices blinked.

Seen another way, a firehose of news on a “good” day for the likely Republican nominee for president – leaning into his autocratic campaign built on “retribution” – is a big red flashing light for our deteriorating democracy, its institutions too slow or ill-equipped to respond.

Supreme Court justices, including the three he appointed, appeared ready to reject a Colorado decision that Mr Trump, under the “insurrection” clause of the 14th Amendment, is disqualified from public office.

The justices weren’t interested in having a working definition of “insurrection” let alone deciding if “engaging” in one should disqualify him from office. That whole question, which is both central to the case before the court and an otherwise straight-forward clause in the Constitution to keep people out of government who try to overturn it, was largely an afterthought, and the court’s chief justice wasn’t even open to debating what it means.

Colorado courts agreed that Mr Trump’s actions on 6 January 2021 – when a mob of his supporters, hopped up on his election lies, stormed the halls of Congress and stopped the certification of 2020 results – “constituted overt, voluntary, and direct participation in the insurrection”.

Mr Trump’s attorney told the Supreme Court that it was merely a “riot,” even a “criminal” one. But if it was “insurrection,” only Congress can decide to remove him, and only after he is elected, he said. A vote would then be in the hands of the same body controlled by a party that right now is putting forward a resolution claiming that the former president “did not engage in insurrection”.

The justices were more concerned with legally irrelevant, hypothetically messy complications that could follow a decision to disqualify a candidate who “engaged” in insurrection, with Justice John Roberts – with no sense of irony whatsoever – wondering aloud that an election could “come down to a handful of states that will determine the presidential election”.

What if Republicans decide that a Democratic candidate engaged in something they’d consider an insurrection, he asked, dismissing the Colorado attorney’s argument that “frivolous” attempts to invoke the 14th Amendment shouldn’t be treated the same as the one in front of them – that is an actual event that happened a few years ago just down the street.

A few mere hours after the Supreme Court hearing, the Justice Department’s special counsel investigating the president’s mishandling of classified documents released its report.

The report notably questioned Mr Biden’s mental fitness, feeding into right-wing attacks that Mr Trump has weaponised for his base. The results of the investigation – which didn’t yield any criminal charges – gave the former president ample ammunition for his campaign, which has raised tens of millions of dollars with a narrative of political persecution he tells his supporters is also coming for them.

Special counsel Robert Hur correctly made the distinction in his report that the president’s conduct was far different than the former president’s in the Mar-a-Lago case largely absent in the media frenzy, which Republicans are eager to exploit in bad-faith attacks. Prosecutors are supposed to stay out of partisan politics, yet Mr Hur’s report is now being sharpened into a lethal weapon by the same people throwing democracy under the bus for Mr Trump’s second coming.

That same night, special counsel Jack Smith – who is leading the two federal investigations into the former president – blasted a federal judge who has ignored repeated warnings that Mr Trump is using his indictments to bully and threaten witnesses and anyone else in his way.

He criticised US District Judge Aileen Cannon for ordering prosecutors to submit documents in the Mar-a-Lago case without redacting witness names and other information that could present “significant and immediate risks of threats, intimidation, and harassment”.

Mr Smith has repeatedly warned judges about what his team has previously called a “part of a pattern, stretching back years, in which people publicly targeted” are “subject to harassment, threats, and intimidation”.

Mr Trump “seeks to use this well-known dynamic to his advantage” and “it has continued unabated as this case and other unrelated cases involving the defendant have progressed,” Justice Department attorneys wrote last year.

Meanwhile, Thursday night also saw Mr Trump sweep the Nevada caucuses – an outcome that was all but guaranteed after Republicans in the state effectively made up a separate contest for him. He celebrated nonetheless.

This is likely the pace for the rest of 2024: an exhausting blast of “flood the zone” chaos to prove Mr Trump “right” at everyone else’s expense.

Ban on pavement parking ‘should be rolled out across England’

Powers to ban pavement parking should be extended across England to make streets safer, according to a report published by councils.

Wheelchair users, older people and parents with pushchairs are among those put at risk by having to navigate around vehicles mounted on kerbs, a study commissioned by the Local Government Association (LGA) warned.

The investigation found some vehicles cause “a complete obstruction to someone walking or wheeling”, meaning they have “no option but to enter the carriageway to continue their journey”.

Pavement parking can also damage the surface, creating trip hazards and leading to costly repairs, the report by active travel charity Sustrans and disability rights organisation Transport for All added.

The study recommended that pavement parking is banned across England, and urged the Government to “recommit to the principle that the function of the footway is to provide space for walking and wheeling”.

London is the only area in England where pavement parking is banned.

A Department for Transport (DfT) consultation on giving councils in the rest of the country the power to prohibit pavement parking ended in November 2020, but no announcement has been made.

The LGA said a change in the rules is “long overdue” and would help councils protect older and vulnerable people from injury, as well as support national targets to increase levels of walking and cycling.

LGA transport spokesman Darren Rodwell said: “Pavement parking is one of the biggest complaints from pedestrians, but three years on, councils outside of London still do not have the powers they need to tackle this scourge.

“Vulnerable and disabled people including wheelchair users, as well as parents with pushchairs, are forced into the road due to some drivers’ inconsiderate parking, presenting a real hazard and potential danger to life.

“Repairing kerbs and pavements damaged by pavement parking is also expensive and this funding could be better used to resurface our roads and pavements, support local buses and provide more suitable parking.

“If we are to meet the Government’s ambition for half of all trips in England’s towns and cities to be walked, wheeled or cycled by 2030, then it makes sense to give councils across the country the same powers as in the capital, making our streets safer and footpaths open for everyone.”

RAC head of policy Simon Williams said: “Pavement parking is at best inconvenient and at worst hazardous for pedestrians and those in wheelchairs, but in England there’s still a massive question about if and when controls will ever be introduced.

“Rather than an outright ban, we think it would be more effective if local authorities were given enforcement powers to prevent unnecessary pavement obstructions.

“This prevents the need for them having to survey all their roads to work out where exemptions need to be made.”

City of Edinburgh Council became the first in Scotland to enforce a nationwide ban on pavement parking on January 29.

Glasgow City Council said it will begin enforcement “in the near future”.

The Welsh Government is due to launch a consultation on restricting pavement parking this year.

A DfT spokesperson said: “Everyone should be able to navigate their streets without obstacles, and while local authorities already have powers to prohibit pavement parking through local regulation, we have consulted on further helping them take action.

“The response to this will be published in due course.”

Mother killed in police smash while heading for dream 40th birthday holiday

Tributes have poured in for a “much loved mum” who was killed in a horror crash on the M25, as her vehicle became caught up in a police car chase.

Zoe Hawes, from Canvey Island, had been looking forward to going on holiday to celebrate her 40th birthday when the incident occurred at around 4am between junctions 22 and 21A near St Albans.

Officers had been chasing a stolen white Citroen van which was then involved in a collision with three other vehicles, including the vehicle that Ms Hayes was in.

A second man, travelling in a different vehicle, was also killed, while a man in his twenties has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving.

No police cars were involved and the pursuit had been stood down prior to the collision.

As a matter of course, the incident has been referred to the Independent Office for Police Conduct which is now investigating.

In a tribute, Ms Hawes’ family said: “Zoe was the heart of our blended family. She was a role model to everyone and the centre of our family.

“She was a very much loved mum, step mum, sister, aunt and lovely young nanna. She was a friend to many. She was very much looking to go on holiday to celebrate her 40th with her husband. Sadly a holiday and birthday she didn’t get to celebrate.

“We are all trying to pull together as a family and are devastated to lose Zoe in this tragic way.

“We wouldn’t have changed her for the world and she leaves an enormous hole in our family that will never be filled.

“We love you and will miss you forever xx”

IOPC Regional Director Charmaine Arbouin said: “Our thoughts are with all those affected by this tragic incident.

“Given that police officers were pursuing one of the vehicles before the fatal collision, it’s important that we independently investigate the actions and decision-making of the officers involved.

“We will ensure that our enquiries do not impede the police investigation, and we will keep those involved regularly updated.”

Anyone with information regarding the incident is being encouraged to come forward by contacting the police on 999 or by emailing Essex Police at CollisionAppeal@essex.police.uk.

Police begin search of River Thames for body of Clapham chemical suspect

Police have begun their search in the River Thames for the man suspected of carrying out the Clapham chemical attack, as he is believed to have died after jumping or falling into the water.

The Metropolitan Police confirmed that police boat searches had commenced at low tide on Saturday morning near Chelsea Bridge and the surrounding area of the river.

Abdul Ezedi, 35, was last seen on Chelsea Bridge just before 11:30pm on 31 January – four hours after the attack in south London.

He was seen pacing up and down the bridgebefore leaning over the railing. No CCTV captured him leaving the area so the force say they now believe he went into the water.

Detectives say his death is the “most probable outcome”, but officers warned it may take months for a body to be recovered – or it may never be found.

In a briefing at Scotland Yard, Commander Jon Savell said: “It is quite likely that if he has gone in the water, he won’t appear for maybe up to a month and it’s not beyond possibility that he may never actually surface.”

Man City v Everton LIVE: Latest Premier League updates

Man City eye top spot in the Premier League when they take on Everton in the Saturday lunchtime fixture.

Pep Guardiola has warned his side to be ready for the Toffees, who fought back to snatch a point against Tottenham last week.

Phil Foden produced a scintillating hat-trick on Monday as City eased past Brentford to send a message to title rivals Liverpool and Arsenal.

Everton took a point away from the Etihad last season, thanks to a Demarai Gray strike, but any result here will be a bonus in their battle to beat the drop.

Follow all the build-up and breaking team news below plus check out the latest football betting odds and tips for the match here.

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We must hope this optimistic voice speaks for Israel’s future

Ehud Olmert’s is a voice from Israel’s past – but we have to hope that his is a voice of Israel’s future, too. The former prime minister, speaking exclusively to The Independent, is savagely critical of Benjamin Netanyahu, his successor, accusing him of pursuing “impossible” war aims in the conflict with Hamas in order to prolong his own survival in office.

Mr Olmert describes the Hamas attack on 7 October as “probably the greatest military defeat in the history of the state of Israel”, and holds Mr Netanyahu responsible for the intelligence failures that allowed it to happen.

But Mr Olmert argues – rightly, in our view – that the Hamas atrocities were different from the “similar surprise” of the 1973 Yom Kippur war, because “that attack was against soldiers, not civilians, and the outcome was very different when the army fought back quickly and aggressively”.

After the great U-turn, what exactly is Labour’s green policy now?

As the smoke clears from the burning rubber of Labour’s U-turn in its plans to deal with the climate crisis, a more robust set of policies has emerged.

The party put out a statement on Thursday that said: “As part of the party’s finalisation of policies for a general election campaign, Labour has reconfirmed its commitment to the policies announced through the Green Prosperity Plan, to create jobs, cut bills and unlock investment.”

This is striking for two things: one, its pretence, almost worthy of Theresa May, that nothing has changed; two, that it doesn’t mention the climate crisis or net zero or anything to do with the environment apart from the word “green”.