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What to know: Columbia University student protests against Israel-Gaza war continue

Fatih Aktas/Anadolu via Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Columbia University has been thrust into turmoil in the last week, reeling from a congressional hearing on antisemitism with President Nemat Shafik and NYPD’s arrest of more than 100 protesters in support of Palestinians on the university’s lawn.

Now, Columbia University’s classes are being held remotely due to the ongoing protests citing safety concerns and increased security on campus.

Here’s a timeline of the events as they continue to unfold:

Protests begin

On the morning of April 17, student protesters opposed to Israel's war in Gaza have camped out throughout the Columbia University campus.

Columbia University Apartheid Divest, which states that it’s a coalition of more than 100 student groups, says it is calling for the university to financially divest from companies and institutions that “profit from Israeli apartheid, genocide and occupation in Palestine,” according to an online statement.

In March, the Columbia College Student Council approved a student referendum on the issue, according to the Columbia Daily Spectator.

“As a diverse group united by love and justice, we demand our voices be heard against the mass slaughter of Palestinians in Gaza,” the group stated.

Tensions have been high on college campuses nationwide since the start of the Israel-Hamas war on Oct. 7, when Hamas terrorists invaded Israel. The Israeli military then began its bombardment of the Gaza Strip.

In the Gaza Strip, at least 33,000 people have been killed and more than 76,000 others have been wounded by Israeli forces since Oct. 7, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Ministry of Health.

In Israel, at least 1,200 people have been killed and 6,900 others have been injured by Hamas and other Palestinian militants since Oct. 7, according to Israeli officials.

Multiple United Nations organizations have warned that Gaza is also experiencing "catastrophic" levels of hunger amid an ongoing humanitarian crisis.

Protesters camping on the university lawn say they believe the war in Gaza amounts to “genocide” of Palestinians.

“I’m here continuing the Jewish tradition of standing against oppression and injustice, especially as we approach Passover, a holiday that celebrates our own liberation and commits us to fighting for everyone else’s,” the Jewish Voices for Peace at Columbia said in an online statement.

The congressional testimony

On the same day as the protests, Columbia President Shafik testified before the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which has been investigating antisemitism on college campuses. The hearing comes after two of Shafik's counterparts at other elite colleges resigned amid a backlash over their responses at a previous hearing of the same panel.

In her opening statement, Shafik, who was appointed president of the Ivy League school in July 2023, told the committee that Columbia "strives to be a community free of discrimination and hate in all forms and we condemn the antisemitism that is so pervasive today."

She said a "major challenge" has been reconciling free speech with the rights of Jewish students to go to school in an environment free of discrimination and harassment.

"Regrettably, the events of Oct. 7 brought to the fore an undercurrent of antisemitism that is a major challenge and, like many other universities, Columbia has seen a rise in antisemitic incidents," Shafik said.

Shafik said she has taken actions since Oct. 7, including enhancing Columbia's reporting channels, hiring staff to investigate complaints and forming an antisemitism task force.

Concerns from other student groups

Some other groups on Columbia’s campus, including Students Supporting Israel, say their needs for safety are not being met on campus.

The group described instances they say some Jewish, Israeli and Zionist students have faced, including intimidation and verbal attacks, saying the situation has become “untenable.”

“Students’ rights to peacefully attend their university courses without fear of being accosted or assaulted on their way to class were denied,” an online statement read.

An Arab-Israeli activist, Yoseph Haddad, was set to speak at the student group’s event on April 18 when he was allegedly punched by a protester just outside the campus. The event was canceled, the group said.

“It’s time we end this narrative and aim for a future where both Israelis and our Palestinian neighbors can accept each others’ fundamental right to live freely and without terrorism or war,” the group stated.

Student protesters have released a statement saying that “inflammatory individuals who do not represent us” have distracted from the group’s intentions.

“At universities across the nation, our movement is united in valuing every human life,” the statement from Columbia University Apartheid Divest continued.

The statement from Columbia University Apartheid Divest added that students have been misidentified, doxxed, arrested, locked out of campus housing and more, amid the protests.

“We have knowingly put ourselves in danger because we can no longer be complicit in Columbia funneling our tuition dollars and grant funding into companies that profit from death.”

Several university and local leaders have spoken out against instances of antisemitism amid the unrest.

"I have instructed the NYPD to investigate any violation of law that is reported," New York City Mayor Eric Adams said. "Rest assured, the NYPD will not hesitate to arrest anyone who is found to be breaking the law."

Arrests begin at Columbia

On April 18, one day after Shafik’s testimony, more than 100 protesters at Columbia University were arrested and an on-campus tent encampment was removed after the school's president gave the New York Police Department the green light to clear the protesters, officials said.

"Students have the right to free speech but do not have the right to violate university policies and disrupt learning on campus," Adams told reporters during a press briefing that evening.

Around 1:30 p.m. ET, police moved in and arrested dozens of pro-Palestinian protesters, placing their hands in zip ties and escorting them to buses. Other protesters chanted "Shame!" and "Let them go."

Some 108 people were arrested for trespass without incident, officials said. Among those, two were also arrested for obstruction of governmental administration, officials said.

Isra Hirsi, the daughter of Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., was among those arrested for trespass and will be getting a summons, officials said. Hirsi said she was among several students suspended from Columbia's Barnard College for participating in pro-Palestinian protests.

The terms of her suspension are unclear.

The tent encampment and protests have since resumed on campus in an ongoing, dayslong effort.

ABC News has reached out to Columbia University for comment.

Columbia cracks down

Columbia University announced Monday that all classes on Monday, April 22, would be held remotely and only essential personnel should report to work in person. She said campus tensions have been "exploited and amplified" by people unaffiliated with the university "who have come to campus to pursue their own agendas."

"The decibel of our disagreements has only increased in recent days," said Shafik. She said a group of administrators and faculty members will come together to come to a "resolution" on campus issues and also speak with student protesters. "We need a reset."

A university public safety announcement on April 21 also outlined new resources to address "considerable disruption and distress" caused by ongoing gatherings at the campus, located in Manhattan's Morningside Heights neighborhood.

The measures include increasing security patrol with 111 additional personnel -- including more personnel for campus escort services and campus access point security -- as well as improved ID checks at entry points and increased security at The Kraft Center, which houses aspects of Jewish life on campus, during the Passover holiday which begins on April 22.

NYPD told ABC News on Monday that there are no credible threats to any particular group or individual as a result of the protests at Columbia University.

The NYPD is working with the university to provide "safe corridors" for students -- locations where officers will be stationed off-campus.

The department says it has not received any reports of physical harm toward any students.

Hochul comes to Columbia

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul said she met with the Columbia University president and NYPD officials early Monday morning to discuss public safety initiatives as student protests and unrest continue to play out on campus.

"Students are scared, they're afraid to walk on campus, they don't deserve that," Hochul said in a video message posted to social media.

"I'm calling on everyone. People need to find their humanity, have the conversations, talk to each other, understand the different points of view. Because that's what college students should be doing," Hochul added.

ABC News' Bill Hutchinson, Meredith Deliso and Ahmad Hemingway contributed to the report.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Top four takeaways from Day 5 of Trump's hush money trial

Angela Weiss - Pool/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Day 5 of Donald Trump's criminal hush money trial was also the first day of legal arguments before jurors.

Proceedings lasted little more than three hours on Monday, but both parties delivered opening statements, lifting the veil on arguments they plan to present over the coming weeks.

The former president is on trial in New York on felony charges of falsifying business records to hide the reimbursement of a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Prosecutors on Monday framed the case as "election fraud, pure and simple" and implored jurors to exercise common sense as they digest the evidence. Defense attorneys sought to distance Trump from any alleged wrongdoing and laid the groundwork to undermine key government witnesses, including Cohen and Daniels.

Before court adjourned, prosecutors called their first witness: David Pecker, the former publisher of the National Enquirer, who prosecutors allege engaged in a conspiracy with Trump and Cohen to help influence the election by killing negative stories about Trump.

Pecker is due to return to the stand Tuesday morning, after the judge in the case hears arguments about Trump's alleged violation of a court-imposed limited gag order.

Here are Monday's top four takeaways.

Prosecutors allege election fraud

Prosecutors presented a detailed overview of the case they plan to present to jurors, which they described as a "criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election."

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo described what he called a three-pronged scheme to promote Trump in the tabloid media, run negative stories about his opponents, and conspire to catch and kill negative stories about Trump.

Prosecutors said the release of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape, in which Trump bragged of grabbing women, had an "explosive" effect on the campaign, and called the campaign's efforts to quell potentially damning voices -- like Stormy Daniels and Karen McDougal -- "election fraud, pure and simple."

Defense says 'none of this was a crime'

Todd Blanche, the lead attorney for Donald Trump, argued that the alleged conduct described by prosecutors was nothing more than politics as usual.

"I have a spoiler alert," Blanche told jurors during his opening statement. "There is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It's called democracy."

"There is nothing illegal about entering into a nondisclosure agreement," he continued. "Period."

Blanche, over objections from prosecutors, argued repeatedly that Trump had done nothing wrong. He argued that, while the Trump Organization was paying Michael Cohen for his services, Trump was busy "in the White House while he was running the country."

Cohen's credibility is addressed

One major theme emerged in both parties' opening statements: the reliability of Michael Cohen.

How the jury perceives Cohen's testimony could dictate the outcome of this trial -- a reality that was reflected Monday in opening statements from both prosecutors and defense counsel.

"During this trial you're going to hear a lot about Michael Cohen," Colangelo said, in what was perhaps the biggest understatement of the day.

Prosecutors acknowledged that Cohen comes with "baggage" that includes lying under oath. But they encouraged jurors to put Cohen's allegations in the context of other evidence and testimony they will hear.

Blanche argued that the jury cannot convict Trump "by relying on the words of Michael Cohen."

"He has a goal, an obsession, with getting Trump. I submit to you he cannot be trusted," Blanche said.

Pecker testifies about 'checkbook journalism'

A smiling David Pecker took the stand as the government's first witness, to testify about his role in the alleged hush payment scheme supposedly orchestrated at Trump's behest.

Pecker, a longtime tabloid editor whom Trump has called a "close friend," described the editorial process at the National Enquirer as "checkbook journalism."

"I had the final say of the celebrity side of the magazine," Pecker said. "We used checkbook journalism. We paid for stories."

Pecker, who is testifying under subpoena and secured a non-prosecution agreement, will return to the stand on Tuesday.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Man facing federal hate crime charges for allegedly breaking into Rutgers Islamic Center during Eid

Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University (CILRU)

(NEW YORK) -- Federal prosecutors charged a man with hate crimes Monday for allegedly breaking into and vandalizing the Center for Islamic Life at Rutgers University during Eid al-Fitr two weeks ago.

Jacob Beacher, 24, was arrested after investigators said they determined he broke into the center on the New Brunswick, New Jersey, campus on April 10 and vandalized several items, including Turbah prayer stones and art pieces with Quranic verses.

Beacher, who is not affiliated with the university, also allegedly stole a charity box and a Palestinian flag from the center, according to investigators.

The charity box was found four days later in a park near the campus, the criminal complaint said.

Some Muslim members of the campus told New York ABC station WABC they were in shock and horror over the vandalism.

"It's so disheartening and scary because it just solidifies the fact that we aren't safe here," Nehad Ali told WABC a day after the incident.

The FBI used surveillance footage and cellphone data to determine Beacher was a suspect, according to the criminal complaint.

When investigators interviewed Beacher on April 12, he admitted to being in the area of the center during the incident but denied breaking into it, the complaint alleged.

Beacher was awaiting arraignment in Newark federal court on one count of intentional or attempted obstruction of religious practice and one count of making false statements to federal authorities, according to federal prosecutors.

State charges against Beacher are also pending, according to investigators. Attorney information for the suspect wasn't immediately available.

The center received donations to help replace the damaged items, according to its administrators.

"We are humbled by the amazing and generous outpouring from the Rutgers community and the community at large," the center said in a statement released on its Facebook page Monday.

The center's administrators thanked law enforcement for their work and warned of a rise in anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian bigotry.

"This incident did not occur in a vacuum. We condemn those that are stoking lies and hate on our campus and those who are engaging in doublespeak that have led to this violence, other acts of hate and bigotry on our campus and in particular against our students," the center said in its statement.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Officer's gun taken in fatal shooting in Chicago: Sources

Chicago Police Department

(CHICAGO) --  A Chicago police officer who was gunned down Sunday outside his home after returning from his shift had his gun taken from him as well as his car in the attack, ABC station WLS reported Monday.

The slain 30-year-old officer, Luis M. Huesca, was shot multiple times in the Gage Park neighborhood on the southwest side of Chicago, police superintendent Larry Snelling said during a news conference Sunday.

Huesca was still in his uniform when he was fatally shot, Snelling said. He was killed two days shy of his 31st birthday, the superintendent said.

Citing multiple sources, WLS reported the officer's gun was taken after he was shot. The Chicago Police Department has not yet confirmed the report.

No arrests have been announced and investigators were working Monday to identify a suspect or suspects in the killing.

Snelling said the officer's vehicle, a gray 2018 Toyota 4runner with Illinois plates, was also taken in the incident.

Chicago Alderman Ray Lopez -- who represents Chicago's 15th Ward, which includes Gage Park -- told WLS that police found a car matching the description of Huesca's vehicle in an alley about a mile from where the officer was discovered suffering from multiple gunshot wounds.

"The vehicle found in the alley here, we believe it is the officer's," Lopez said. "If this was a carjacking, there might be evidence inside."

Chicago police did not comment Monday on the recovered vehicle.

Snelling said on Sunday that detectives are working to determine if the officer was killed during a carjacking.

"We can't confirm that right now, but detectives are working through it. What we do know is that the officer's vehicle was taken," Snelling said. "But to get to the total motive of what happened, we need more information and the detective division is working on that."

But John Catanzara, president of the Fraternal Order of Police Union in Chicago, suggested in a video statement that Huesca was the victim of a carjacking.

"They had to execute him because he was a Chicago police officer and they didn't want to get caught," Catanzara said in the video. "If they will do that to a Chicago police officer (why) does anybody think the average citizen stands a chance in any of these situations because you do not."

The shooting unfolded around 2:53 a.m. Sunday on West 56th Street near South Kedzie Avenue in the Gage Park neighborhood, according to a police statement. Officers responding to a gunshot detection alert found the mortally wounded officer lying outside on the ground suffering from several gunshot wounds, according to the statement.

Snell said Huesca, a six-year veteran of the CPD, was in his uniform, but with a jacket over it at the time he was shot.

"Our officer was headed home after his tour of duty," Snelling said. "While returning home, the officer was shot multiple times."

Huesca was shot outside his home, WLS reported.

According to police radio transmissions of the incident provided by Broadcastify.com, witnesses saw a brown Jeep Cherokee speeding from the scene of the shooting.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson said Huesca worked in the police department's 5th District as a member of the Priority Response Team. Snelling said the officer is survived by his mother and an uncle.

It was the second time in less than a year that an officer from the 5th District was shot to death under similar circumstances.

On May 6, 2023, officer Aréanah Preston had just finished her shift and was still in uniform when she was shot and killed while on her way home at about 1:42 a.m., according to Chicago police. Preston's gun was also taken after she was shot, police said.

Four teenagers have been charged in the murder of 24-year-old Preston, according to court documents.

The four suspects "were out looking for victims" that night and are believed to be connected to multiple robberies and a car theft in the hours leading up to Preston's killing, police said.

Meanwhile, a video emerged of a tribute Huesca gave last year for officer Andres Vasquez-Lasso, 32, who was fatally shot on March 1, 2023, also in the Gage Park neighborhood. Vasquez-Lasso was killed after exchanging gunfire with a man who was allegedly chasing a woman down the street with a gun, police said.

"Whether it was at work or outside of work, he could take the time to help others. He's one of those guys that actually deserved this star. He's very proud to wear this star," Huesca said of Vasquez-Lasso in the video.

Huesca added, "I hate injustices and lawlessness as well. That's why I became a cop."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Five people, including at least two kids, mysteriously found dead at home in Oklahoma City: Police

Kali9/Getty Images

(OKLAHOMA CITY, Okla.) -- Five people -- including at least two children -- have been mysteriously found dead at an Oklahoma home, according to authorities.

Oklahoma City police said they were notified around 9:35 a.m. Monday and responding officers found the five bodies inside the house.

All five people had injuries consistent with homicide, police said, noting that "this wasn't a gas-type of situation or a fentanyl-type of situation."

"Very tragic, very sad situation," police said.

The relationship between the five people was not immediately clear, according to police.

"We're in the very early stages" of the investigation, police added.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Trump hush money trial live updates: Jury ready to hear opening statements

SimpleImages/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Former President Donald Trump is on trial in New York City, where he is facing felony charges related to a 2016 hush money payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels. It marks the first time in history that a former U.S. president has been tried on criminal charges.

Trump last April pleaded not guilty to a 34-count indictment charging him with falsifying business records in connection with a hush money payment his then-attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels in order to boost his electoral prospects in the 2016 presidential election.

Here's how the news is developing:

Apr 22, 1:28 PM
Trump, after court, says payments were correctly labeled

Moments after his criminal trial adjourned for the day, Donald Trump exited the courtroom and told reporters that his payments to Michael Cohen were appropriately labeled as legal expenses.

"Actually, nobody's been able to say what you're supposed to call it," Trump told the media. "If the lawyer puts in a bill or an invoice and you pay the bill ... that's a very small little line ... it's not like you could tell a life story."

"They marked it down for a legal expense. This is what I got indicted over," Trump said.

The former president also attempted to paint his former attorney Michael Cohen as an unreliable witness and said he "wasn't very good in a lot of ways" as an attorney.

Trump's motorcade then departed the courthouse.

-Michael Pappano

Apr 22, 12:52 PM
Court wraps for day, Pecker to return tomorrow

David Pecker stepped off the witness stand after his initial testimony. He is scheduled to return to the witness stand tomorrow at 11 a.m. ET.

During his brief testimony, Pecker suggested that former National Enquirer Chief Content Officer Dylan Howard -- an alleged participant in the catch-and-kill scheme alleged by prosecutors -- will be unable to testify due to a medical condition.

Pecker appeared to greet Trump and his lawyers as he exited the courtroom.

Court subsequently wrapped for the day.

Trump left the courtroom flanked by Secret Service agents and staffers, as well as Trump Organization General Counsel Alan Garten.

Judge Merchan is scheduled to hold a contempt hearing about Trump’s alleged violations of the case’s limited gag order tomorrow morning at 9:30 a.m. ET.

Apr 22, 12:27 PM
David Pecker takes the stand for prosecution

David Pecker, who once called Donald Trump "a personal friend of mine," flashed a big smile as he took the stand as the trial's first witness, belying the gravity of the moment.

Pecker cackled loudly into the microphone, jolting the room, when prosecutor Josh Steinglass, asked him about his various phone numbers that he struggled to remember.

Pecker, 72, was the publisher of the National Enquirer but prosecutors said he was "acting as a co-conspirator" in helping buy and bury damaging stories about Trump, including a doorman's false claim that Trump had fathered a love child and a Playboy model's claim of a sexual relationship with Trump, who has denied both allegations.

Trump, who once said Pecker would make a "brilliant" choice as editor of Time magazine, listened while leaning forward in his chair, arms crossed on the table, an unhappy look on his face.

Pecker testified that he had final say whether to publish any story involving a famous person.

"I had the final say of the celebrity side of the magazine," Pecker said. "We used checkbook journalism. We paid for stories."

Pecker is testifying pursuant to a subpoena. He has also secured a non-prosecution agreement with the Manhattan district attorney's office.

Apr 22, 12:10 PM
Prosecutors call David Pecker as 1st witness

Prosecutors have called former American Media Inc. executive David Pecker as their first witness.

The DA alleges that Pecker, who oversaw the National Enquirer, engaged in a conspiracy with Trump to help influence the 2016 election by killing negative stories about Trump.

Apr 22, 11:50 AM
Michael Cohen obsessed with 'getting Trump,' defense claims

In his opening statement, defense attorney Todd Blanche sought to eviscerate Michael Cohen's credibility, saying Cohen is obsessed with Donald Trump, has a desire to see Trump incarcerated and has a propensity to lie.

"He has a goal, an obsession, with getting Trump. I submit to you he cannot be trusted," Blanche said.

On Sunday night, Cohen publicly posted online that he had a "mental excitement about this trial" and the testimony he would deliver, Blanche said.

"His entire financial livelihood depends on President Trump's destruction," Blanche said. "You cannot make a serious decision about President Trump by relying on the words of Michael Cohen.

Apr 22, 11:47 AM
Trump had 'nothing to do,' with invoices, defense says

"I have a spoiler alert," defense attorney Todd Blanche told jurors during his opening statement. "There is nothing wrong with trying to influence an election. It's called democracy."

Amid frequent objections from prosecutors, Blanche argued that the Manhattan district attorney has attempted to make the payments and non-disclosure agreements between Trump and Stormy Daniels "sinister" to the jury.

Judge Merchan had to interrupt Blanche's opening after multiple objections from prosecutors, then he met the parties at a sidebar conference, after which he struck a line from Blanche's opening.

"There is nothing illegal about entering into a non-disclosure agreement. Period," Blanche restated after the portion of his opening was struck from the record.

Blanche's opening has come off more casual and off-the-cuff than the state's opening, with Blanche improvising and posing hypotheticals to argue that accountants at the Trump Organization did not run the invoices by Trump as he was "running the country."

"'Hey, we got this invoice. I know we are trying to cover it up here,'" Blanche said sarcastically about how prosecutors described how accountants received invoices from Cohen. "Absolutely not."

According to Blanche, Trump was unaware of how the invoices were processed by his employees.

"President Trump has nothing to do -- nothing to do -- with the invoice, with the check being generated, or with the entry on the ledger," Blanche said, arguing that Trump was busy "in the White House while he was running the country."

"The reality is that President Trump is not on the hook -- criminally responsible -- for something Michael Cohen might have done years after the fact. The evidence will prove otherwise," Blanche said.

Apr 22, 11:38 AM
'None of this was a crime,' defense attorney says

Donald Trump is "not just our former president, he's not just Donald Trump that you've seen on TV," said defense attorney Todd Blanche in his opening statement.

"He's also a man. He's a husband," Blanche said. "He's a father."

Blanche pushed back on the DA's overall allegation that the payments to Trump's attorney Michael Cohen were weren't only payback for Stormy Daniels by using the prosecutor's own words against him.

Blanche noted that Cohen paid $130,000 to Daniels, but that Trump paid back Cohen a total of $420,000. If Trump really was a frugal businessman, as prosecutors said, why would he overpay that money, Blanche asked.

"Ask yourself, would a frugal businessman, a man who pinched his pennies, repay a $130,000 debt to the tune of $420,000?" Blanche asked.

Blanche repeatedly reiterated that Cohen truly was an attorney for Trump and was doing legal work for him, pointing out that Michael Cohen's own email signature noted he was Trump's attorney.

"None of this was a crime," Blanche said, saying the 34 counts against Trump "are really just 34 pieces of paper."

Apr 22, 11:30 AM
Trump 'did not commit any crimes,' defense tells jury

"President Trump is innocent. President Trump did not commit any crimes," defense attorney Todd Blanche said to begin the defense's opening statements.

"The Manhattan district attorney's office should never have brought this case," Blanche said.

"You will hear me and others refer to him as President Trump. That is a title he has earned because he was our 45th President," Blanche added.
 

Apr 22, 11:26 AM
Prosecutor says jury can believe Cohen despite mistakes

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jury, during his opening statement, "During this trial you're going to hear a lot about Michael Cohen.”

Trump's former personal attorney, Cohen is a key witness -- perhaps the only one that will testify to Donald Trump’s intent when he agreed to pay Stormy Daniels hush money.

The defense “will go to great lengths” to convince the jury Cohen is not credible, Colangelo said.

He acknowledged that Cohen had earlier lied regarding the matter. “He lied about it to protect his boss,” Colangelo said. “You will also learn that Michael Cohen has a criminal record.”

Colangelo told jurors they can believe Cohen despite his past mistakes.

“Cohen's testimony will be backed up by testimony from other witnesses you will hear from, including David Pecker, Keith Davidson. It will be backed up by an extensive paper trail. And it will be backed up by Donald Trump’s own words,” the prosecutor said.

Colangelo concluded by saying, “This case is about a criminal conspiracy and a cover-up, an illegal conspiracy to undermine the integrity of a presidential election and then the steps that Donald Trump took to conceal that election fraud. At the end of the case we are confident you will have no reasonable doubt that Donald Trump is guilty of falsifying business records.”

Apr 22, 11:16 AM
'It was election fraud, pure and simple,' prosecutor says

"It was election fraud, pure and simple," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jury during opening statements as he outlined the hush payment to adult film actress Stormy Daniels and how it was logged by the Trump Organization

Dylan Howard, then editor of the National Enquirer, had called Trump attorney Michael Cohen to inform him about Daniels and the story that she had of a sexual liaison with Trump, which the former president has long denied.

"Cohen then discussed the situation with Trump who is adamant that he did not want the story to come out," Colangelo said. "it could have been devastating to his campaign."

At the time, Trump and the campaign were "deeply concerned" about the "Access Hollywood" video, the prosecutor said. Cohen wired the $130,000 to Daniels' lawyer to keep her quiet.

"Cohen made that payment at Donald Trump's direction and for his benefit and he did it with the special goal of influencing the election
This was not spin or communications strategy. This was a planned, coordinated long-running conspiracy to influence the 2016 election to help DT get elected through illegal expenditures to silence people who had something bad about his behavior. It was election fraud, pure and simple," Colangelo said.

Apr 22, 11:10 AM
'Access Hollywood' tape was 'explosive,' prosecutors claim

Prosecutor Matthew Colangelo read aloud part of the transcript of the infamous "Access Hollywood" tape to jurors.

"You can do anything," Colangelo slowly read to the jurors, quoting Trump from the tape. "Grab them by the p----. You can do anything."

According to Colangelo, the October 2016 release of the tape had an "immediate and explosive" impact on Donald Trump's presidential campaign.

"Seeing and hearing a candidate in his own words, in his own voice, with his own body language ... has a much greater impact on voters than words on paper," Colangelo said. "The campaign went on immediate damage control mode to blunt the impact of the tape."

The campaign was concerned about the impact it might have on Trump voters or even the possibility that Trump could lose the Republican nomination one month out from the election, according to Colangelo.

"The Republican National Committee even considered whether it was too late to replace their own nominee," Colangelo said.

Apr 22, 11:04 AM
Trump, listening to openings, shakes his head

Former President Trump, sitting at the defense table, softly shook his head "no" when prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told the jurors that Trump formed a "conspiracy" with Michael Cohen and David Pecker to "help him get elected."

It was one of the most notable reactions from Trump as he sits and listens to prosecutors lay out their story of the case.

Colangelo then brought up the "Access Hollywood" tape and said it showed Trump "bragging about sexual assault," Trump shook his head no again, pursing his lips. He did not react when Colangelo, quoting Trump on the tape, said, "grab them by the p----."

Earlier, as Colangelo brought up a former Trump doorman who was he said was paid off as part of the alleged catch-and-kill scheme, Trump -- looking annoyed -- leaned over and tapped his lawyer Todd Blanche. When Colangelo said the doorman was paid $30,000 to bury his story, Trump raised his eyebrows and grabbed onto a pen.

The former president has been passing notes and sliding papers between Blanche and attorney Emil Bove, and leaning side-to-side, whispering to them. Blanche at one point pulled out his own sticky note and slid a note back to Trump.

At other times he has hardly seemed engaged at all, slumping in his red leather chair looking straight forward with no facial expression, or fidgeting with his head tilting back and forth. At one point during jury instructions he let out a yawn.

Apr 22, 10:48 AM
Prosecutor alleges 3-prong conspiracy

"It starts with that August 2015 meeting in Trump Tower," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told jurors about the alleged conspiracy, in his opening statement.

Following a meeting between Donald Trump, his then-lawyer Michael Cohen, and AMI executive David Pecker, the three engaged in a three-prong conspiracy to help influence the 2016 election, according to Colangelo.

First, the National Enquirer would run "headline after headline that extolled the defendant's virtues," according to Colangelo.

"Pecker had the ultimate say over publication decisions," Colangelo said, adding that Trump edited, killed, and suggested the cover of the magazine.

Second, the National Enquirer would run negative stories attacking Trump's opponents in the 2016 Republican primary, such as attacks on Ben Caron or Marco Rubio.

Third, the "core of the conspiracy" was killing negative stories about Trump -- evolving into the catch-and kill scheme, Colangelo said.

"The National Enquirer ran these stories as part of the conspiracy launched after the Trump Tower meeting," he said.

Apr 22, 10:40 AM
'This case is about a criminal conspiracy,' prosecutor says

"This case is about a criminal conspiracy," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo began his opening statement in Donald Trump's criminal trial in New York.

"The defendant, Donald Trump, orchestrated a criminal scheme to corrupt the 2016 presidential election," the prosecutor said.

The utterance represents the first time a prosecutor has sought to implicate a former president in a crime at his trial.

Colangelo said Trump schemed with his attorney Michael Cohen and National Enquirer publisher David Pecker "to influence the presidential election by concealing negative information about former President Trump."

Trump slouched in his seat the defense table, listening.

"The defendant said in his business records that he was paying Cohen for legal services pursuant to a retainer agreement. But those were lies," Colangelo said. "The defendant was paying him back for an illegal payment to Stormy Daniels on the eve of the election."

Apr 22, 10:21 AM
Trump is 'presumed to be innocent,' judge tells jury

Donald Trump faced forward and did not appear to make eye contact with any jurors as they entered the courtroom and took their seats in the jury box.

Before any of the lawyers in the case could speak a word, Judge Merchan launched into a lengthy speech outlining how the trial will work.

“We are about to begin the trial of People of the State of New York v. Donald Trump,” Merchan told the 12 jurors and six alternates.

Merchan emphasized that the burden of proof rests on the prosecutors and that jurors should presume that Trump is innocent. A guilty verdict requires that each juror determines that the state proved their case beyond a reasonable doubt, Merchan said.

“The defendant is presumed to be innocent,” Merchan said. “It is not sufficient to prove that the defendant is probably guilty.”

Merchan attempted to set expectations for the jurors, only two of which have ever served on a jury before. For example, Merchan told the jurors not to expect the lawyers to launch into lengthy speeches outside of the opening and closing statements.

“That happens in TV and in movies, but it doesn’t happen in real trials,” Merchan said.

Apr 22, 10:09 AM
Judge issues mixed ruling on cross-examination of Trump

Judge Juan Merchan ruled that if Trump takes the stand, prosecutors can question him about a number of previous legal issues -- but the judge limited the scope of the cases and the extent to which prosecutors can question him about the facts of those cases.

The ruling is a mixed bag for Trump, who had sought to entirely block questioning on these previous issues if he takes the stand.

Judge Merchan ruled that Trump can be questioned by the DA's office on six determinations from four previous proceedings, including aspects of his New York civil fraud case and the gag order violations there, as well as both E. Jean Carrol verdicts and the Trump foundation case.

Prosecutors had originally asked to question Trump about six different proceedings with 13 total determinations.

Merchan said with his ruling, he has "greatly curtailed" how much prosecutors can discuss the underlying facts of those cases.

"The court cautions the defendant that this Sandoval ruling is a shield, not a sword," Merchan said.

Apr 22, 9:59 AM
Schedule set for today's proceedings

Prosecutors told Judge Merchan that they need 40 minutes for their opening statements.

Defense attorneys told the judge they need 25 minutes.

The judge also announced that court will break at 12:30 p.m. ET today, after a juror had a toothache and got an emergency appointment this afternoon.

Court had already been scheduled to end early today, at 2 p.m. ET, due to the Passover holiday.

Apr 22, 9:52 AM
Issue with Juror No. 9 is resolved

Judge Juan Merchan announced there is an issue with Juror No. 9 -- who, according to Merchan, "was concerned about media attention" of the case. According to Merchan, the juror "wasn't 100% sure" they could serve.

Merchan said they would speak to the juror in chambers to "find out what the issue is and see if this juror can continue to serve."

After a brief sidebar, the judge announced: “Juror No. 9 is going to remain with us.”

There are six alternate jurors seated in case any of the 12 jurors cannot serve.

Apr 22, 9:44 AM
Trump tells reporters it's a 'sad day in America'

On his way into the courtroom for the day's proceedings, Trump once again alleged that the trial constitutes election interference, claiming that the proceedings are unfairly keeping him off the campaign trail.

"Everybody knows that I'm here instead of being able to be in Pennsylvania and Georgia and lots of other places campaigning, and it's very unfair," he told reporters.

"It's a very, very sad day in America," he said. "I can tell you that."

The former president is seated at the defense table between his lawyers Todd Blanche and Emil Bove.

Apr 22, 9:37 AM
Proceedings are underway

The proceedings are underway in former President Donald Trump's hush money trial. Trump and Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg are both in the courtroom.

Three prosecutors -- Joshua Steinglass, Matthew Colangelo, and Susan Hoffinger -- are seated at the counsel table.

Bragg is seated in the front row of the gallery with approximately a dozen lawyers and staff from his office.

Apr 22, 9:26 AM
Ex-National Enquirer publisher to be 1st witness, say sources

The first witness prosecutors with the Manhattan DA's office plan to call is former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, according to two sources familiar with the matter.

ABC News previously reported that prosecutors planned to call Pecker as a witness, but sources now say he's expected to be the first witness to take the stand.

Pecker served as the longtime chief executive of American Media Inc., which published the National Enquirer.

Shortly after Trump announced his 2016 presidential campaign, Pecker met with Trump and agreed to act as the "eyes and ears" of the campaign by looking out for and killing negative stories about Trump, according to the Manhattan DA.

As part of the arrangement, Pecker allegedly directed a deal to pay $30,000 to a former Trump Tower doorman regarding the false allegation that Trump allegedly fathered a child out of wedlock, prosecutors say. Then-Trump attorney Michael Cohen allegedly insisted that the deal stay in place even after AMI discovered the allegation was false, and AMI paid the doorman, according to the Manhattan DA.

Apr 22, 5:55 AM
Attorneys to present opening statements in historic trial

After a week-long selection process, the jurors in Donald Trump's New York hush money case will hear opening statements Monday in the first criminal trial of a former United States president.

To prove their case, lawyers for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg need to convince 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump repeatedly falsified records related to unlawfully influencing the 2016 presidential election.

"This case has nothing to do with your personal politics or your feelings about a particular political issue," prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told potential jurors on Thursday. "It's not a referendum on the Trump Presidency, a popularity contest, or any indication of who you plan to vote for this fall. This case is about whether this man broke the law."

Trump's lawyers are expected to focus their efforts on going after the credibility of prosecution witnesses, suggesting the case itself is politically motivated and arguing the former president never intended to commit a crime.

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Attorneys to present opening statements in Trump's historic hush money case

Former President Donald Trump sits at the defendant's table during his criminal trial as jury selection continues at Manhattan Criminal Court on April 19, 2024 in New York City. (Sarah Yenesel-Pool/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- After a week-long selection process, the jurors in Donald Trump's New York hush money case will hear opening statements Monday in the first criminal trial of a former United States president.

To prove their case, lawyers for Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg need to convince 12 jurors beyond a reasonable doubt that Trump repeatedly falsified records related to unlawfully influencing the 2016 presidential election.

"This case has nothing to do with your personal politics or your feelings about a particular political issue," prosecutor Joshua Steinglass told potential jurors on Thursday. "It's not a referendum on the Trump Presidency, a popularity contest, or any indication of who you plan to vote for this fall. This case is about whether this man broke the law."

Trump's lawyers are expected to focus their efforts on going after the credibility of prosecution witnesses, suggesting the case itself is politically motivated and arguing the former president never intended to commit a crime.

The trial has thrust alleged illegality into the center of the 2024 presidential campaign, as Trump spends his days in a Manhattan courtroom to fight off one of the four criminal cases against him. The opening statements come the same week as Trump's lawyers head to the Supreme Court to try to advance Trump's claim of presidential immunity in his federal election interference case.

"This is a giant witch hunt to try and hurt a campaign that's beating the worst president in history," Trump said on Friday.

Eighteen jurors have been sworn in to hear the case, and prosecutors plan to present at least 15 days of testimony to prove their case.

What is the prosecution's theory of the case?

The indictment against the former president focuses on 34 business records -- 12 ledger entries, 11 checks, and 11 invoices -- that Trump allegedly falsified in order to disguise payments to his former lawyer Michael Cohen. According to prosecutors, Trump had labeled the payments as legal expenses, but the payments were actually used in part to repay Cohen for a $130,000 payment to buy the silence of adult film actress Stormy Daniels regarding a long-denied affair with Trump.

Prosecutors allege that the payment was just one example of a broader scheme by Trump to hide information from voters ahead of the 2016 election.

According to prosecutors, the scheme began in August 2015, when Trump and Cohen met with the publisher of the National Enquirer, who agreed to act as the "eyes and ears" of the campaign to identify and kill negative stories.

Months later, the company behind the National Enquirer made a $30,000 payment to a doorman who was shopping around a false story that Trump had fathered a child out of wedlock, according to prosecutors. In June 2016 -- one month before Trump became the Republican Party nominee -- American Media Inc. made a $150,000 payment to former Playboy model Karen McDougal, who alleged to have had a lengthy affair with Trump, which he denies.

"That is a scheme to buy and suppress negative information to help Mr. Trump's chances of winning the election," Bragg said about the case at a press conference announcing the indictment in 2023.

Prosecutors say the payment to Daniels came as the Trump campaign was struggling with the aftermath of the release of the Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump can be heard bragging about grabbing women.

"Indeed, the evidence will demonstrate that the release of the 'Access Hollywood' tape caused a panic within the campaign about [the] defendant's electoral prospects and ultimately served as the catalyst for consummating the Stormy Daniels payoff," prosecutors wrote in a filing last month.

Prosecutors also plan to introduce evidence to demonstrate Trump's "consciousness of guilt," including an effort to allegedly intimidate witnesses like Cohen from cooperating with investigators.

"The defendant was attempting to intimidate the likely witnesses against him, but the jury doesn't even have to work that hard because the defendant himself has publicly embraced the overt strategy of going after his perceived enemies," Steinglass said Monday.

What is Trump's defense?

Trump's lawyers have suggested that one of their main defenses will be highlighting that the former president never intended to commit a crime, including the fact that he relied on lawyers to orchestrate the alleged payments.

"I was paying a lawyer and I marked it down as a legal expense, some accountant," Trump said last week. "Legal expense -- that's what you're supposed to call it."

Trump's lawyers are also expected to hammer the credibility of the state's witnesses, including Cohen, who previously pleaded guilty to federal charges associated with the alleged scheme, as well as other charges including lying to Congress in what Cohen says was an effort to protect Trump.

"We are going to be very up-front about the fact that several of the witnesses in this case have what you might consider to be some baggage," Steinglass told potential jurors last week.

Some of the witnesses, according to prosecutors, have made inconsistent statements about the alleged conduct, have received immunity for their testimony, or have made media appearances to discuss their conduct.

Trump has also suggested on three separate occasions that he intends to testify during the trial in his own defense.

If Trump takes the stand, prosecutors hope to question the former president about a dozen past court findings in an effort to damage his credibility.

Who are the jurors?

After a lengthy jury selection process last week, Judge Juan Merchan swore in 12 jurors and six alternatives to hear the case.

The jury is composed of seven men and five women, the majority of whom have college degrees. They work a variety of jobs, including investment banking, teaching, physical therapy, and corporate law.

If any of the jurors need to be dismissed during the trial, they would be replaced by one of the six alternate jurors, including a woman who works in creative operations for a clothing company, a contract specialist, an audio professional, and an asset manager.

Who are the first witnesses?

Prosecutors have mentioned a long list of potential witnesses -- including Cohen, Daniels, former National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, longtime Trump aide Hope Hicks, and others -- but have not yet disclosed their first witness, who could take the stand as early as Monday.

Last week, prosecutors expressed concerns that Trump might attack the initial witness on social media if he learned who they are. Merchan declined to order prosecutors to disclose their identity, calling their concerns about Trump "understandable."

Steinglass ultimately offered a compromise, promising to tell the defense team the name of the first witness on Sunday under one condition.

"If that should be tweeted, that will be the last time we extend that courtesy," Steinglass said.

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Trump's attorneys to argue for acceptance of his $175M bond in civil fraud case

Former President Donald Trump speaks to guests at a rally, April 2, 2024, in Green Bay, Wis. (Scott Olson/Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- Attorneys for Donald Trump are expected back in court on Monday to defend the $175 million bond in the former president's civil fraud case, days after New York Attorney General Letitia James urged the court to reject the bond and give Trump seven days to find a new one.

Judge Arthur Engoron ordered the hearing earlier this month after James took exception to the bond and asked the company behind the bond -- Knight Specialty Insurance Company -- to prove they are sufficiently collateralized to pay the bond if Trump's appeal of the $464 million judgment fails.

The bond hearing presents a legal double-header for the former president, who is required to attend the opening statements in his criminal hush money trial on Monday morning. Down the street from the criminal courthouse, Judge Engoron will hear arguments that could place the former president in financial dire straits if the bond is rejected.

Trump's bond saga began in February when Engoron ordered the former president and his co-defendants to pay $464 million in disgorgement and prejudgment interest for engaging in what he found to be a decade of business fraud. Trump attempted to delay the fine, telling an appellate court that finding a surety willing to handle a half-billion-dollar bond was a "practical impossibility."

James vowed to begin seizing Trump's assets, including his namesake buildings, if he did not pay the judgment in time.

"If he does not have funds to pay off the judgment, then we will seek judgment enforcement mechanisms in court, and we will ask the judge to seize his assets," James said in an interview with ABC News.

At the deadline for Trump to pay the judgment, New York's Appellate Division First Department granted the former president's 11th-hour request to reduce the size of his bond, permitting the him to post a bond of $175 million.

Days later, Trump and his co-defendants posted a $175 million bond collateralized using $175,304,075 held in a Charles Schwab brokerage account controlled by the Donald J. Trump Revocable Trust.

Because the company behind the bond was not admitted in New York, James filed a notice that requires Knight Speciality Insurance to demonstrate they are capable of paying the bond if needed.

"KSIC is a respected, well-capitalized, Delaware-domiciled insurer that has long underwritten surety bonds and other types of insurance placed around the country," attorneys for Knight Speciality Insurance and Trump wrote in a filing last week.

The filing specified that the bond was secured by more than $175 billion held in a brokerage account controlled by Knight, which independently maintained more than $539 million in their own assets. The filing also stated that the company has access to more than $2 billion in assets through their parent company.

"By any standard, KSIC has therefore provided assurance to the Plaintiff judgment creditor that she can collect the designated amount if the award is affirmed on appeal," the filing said.

In a filing on Friday, the New York Attorney General argued that the bond itself should be rejected because the defendants failed to prove that Knight could handle "this extraordinarily large undertaking" and that the bond was sufficiently collateralized.

According to James' filing, Knight does not have the exclusive right to control the money in Trump's brokerage account, which could become problematic if the value of Trump's assets in the account dips below $175 million. James also raised issues with Knight's business practices, which she argued should make the company ineligible to do business in New York.

"KSIC is not qualified to act as the surety under this standard because its management has been found by federal authorities to have operated affiliated companies within KSIC's holding company structure in violation of federal law on multiple occasions within the past several years," the filing said.

Don Hankey -- the chairman of Knight Specialty's parent company -- declined to comment on the attorney general's recent filing on Friday.

In an interview with ABC News on April 4, he said he had "no concerns at all" about the bond.

"Seldom do our applications or our bonds get turned down. I imagine it is being scrutinized very carefully, and they're checking to make sure all the i's are dotted and the T's are crossed," Hankey said. "It's a large amount for anybody."

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Earth Day 2024 report card: Experts address America’s climate change action

Bill Ross/Getty Images

(NEW YORK) -- Earth Day offers an annual opportunity for citizens, experts and lawmakers to not only celebrate the planet, but examine our impact on the changing environment and demand a push toward a sustainable future.

To make a united step forward, awareness of the mounting climate crisis is vital, Dr. Virginia Burkett, chief scientist for Climate and Land Use Change at the U.S. Geological Survey told ABC News ahead of Earth Day.

"The global Earth observations community has characterized a triple planetary crisis of interconnecting stressors: climate change, biodiversity loss and pollution," Burkett said, adding land degradation and deforestation to the list of great concern.

"Collectively, the interconnected effects of human activity pose significant challenges for human security and sustainable development," Burkett warned.

Unnatural Disasters

Greenhouse gases including carbon dioxide, methane and nitrous oxide concentrations are now more abundant in the earth’s atmosphere than any time in the last 800,000 years, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, which notes, burning fossil fuels changes the climate more than any other human activity.

Climate experts caution that larger and more severe weather events due to the effects of climate change have become a reality in America and threaten our future.

"Climate impacts are affecting people's lives right now," Costa Samaras, director of Carnegie Mellon University's Scott Institute for Energy Innovation, told ABC News.

"Climate change makes things such as extreme heat and extreme storms worse, which can be dangerous to people, especially folks in vulnerable communities," Samaras said.

The human-generated rise in greenhouse gases has escalated the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)’s Sixth Assessment Report released in 2021.

This includes destructive wildfires and the barrage of atmospheric rivers to extreme heat and deadly deep freezes.

"As we experience these bigger fires, wildfire smoke, atmospheric rivers, changes in precipitation patterns and more, we all need to think about ways that we can be better prepared and help our families to be more resilient," Dr. Brian Henning, director of the Gonzaga University Institute for Climate, Water and the Environment, told ABC News.

"The longer we wait to take significant action, the larger and the more complicated those problems get," Henning warned.

Reducing reliance on fossil fuels which release greenhouse gasses, promoting net-zero carbon emission transportation and mitigating the exploitation and pollution of natural ecosystems are paramount in combating the effects of climate change, experts say.

"The predominant way we currently consume, extract, exploit, produce and pollute will exacerbate the climate crisis," Professor Erlinde Cornelis, leader of San Diego State's Senate Sustainability Committee, told ABC News.

"The U.S. has all the climate science at its fingertips, some of the best scientists in the world that can inform policy," Cornelis said. "We know where we need to go, so there is no excuse for inaction."

Looking at the steps necessary to reduce the country's role in climate change, ABC News spoke with experts Burkett, Samaras, Henning, Cornelis and Dr. Aiguo Dai, a professor with the University at Alabany's Department of Atmospheric & Environmental Sciences.

Decarbonize America

As the effects of climate change come knocking at American doors across the country, Henning believes U.S. lawmakers can no longer rely on crisis response measures and instead need to address the root causes of the climate crisis.

"We need to decarbonize our heating and our transportation systems to be able to finally bend the curve and reduce our fossil fuel emissions," Henning said.

Industrial process heat is the use of thermal energy to produce, treat, or alter manufactured goods and is the most significant source of energy use and greenhouse gas emissions in the industrial sector, according to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Process heat accounts for about 50% of all onsite energy use and 30% of greenhouse gas emissions, the agency reports.

To understand the scope of the issue, process heating systems are emission-intensive because fossil fuel combustion provides 95% of industrial heat across the U.S.'s manufacturing sector, according to the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy.

Building the nation's industrial sector away from fossil fuel combustion could potentially include zero-carbon fuels, such as hydrogen or ammonia, and low-carbon fuels, such as biofuels made from plant waste or algae, according to the agency.

"I think the complex, global problems we face today is the ultimate opportunity for the business world to showcase its ingenuity at problem-solving," Cornelis said, noting, "The U.S. would benefit from leading the way to a circular, inclusive, regenerative and fossil fuel-free economy."

Subsidize electric vehicles

The transportation sector, including all modes of travel through land, air and sea, accounts for nearly a third of all domestic greenhouse gas emissions, according to the Environmental Protection Agency.

The U.S. National Blueprint for Transportation Decarbonization -- signed in 2022 by the leaders of the Departments of Energy, Transportation, Housing and Urban Development and the Environmental Protection Agency -- aims to cut all greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector by 2050.

While the rise in popularity and production of electric vehicles shows a glimpse at a future of net-zero carbon emission transportation, experts say America is not pushing the needle far enough to reach our climate goals.

"We need to transition away from fossil fuel-burning cars to electric cars and other low-emission vehicles," Dr. Aiguo Dai told ABC News. "Otherwise, we are not going to reach the goals to substantially reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the next 10 to 20 years."

Dai believes the United States government must do more to encourage electric vehicles, through competitive pricing, subsidies for EV purchases and expansion of charging facilities.

"If there is a need, then there will be a commercial market," Dai said. "But at the very beginning, we need the government to support the investment into electric transportation."

In 2022, 10% of passenger vehicles sold globally were electric, according to the International Energy Agency.

The top five countries with the highest rate of electric vehicle sales are Norway, with 80% of car sales being EV, Iceland (41%), Sweden (32%), the Netherlands (24%) and China (22%), according to the World Resources Institute, which notes, the United States had only 6% of car sales being electric.

"U.S. greenhouse gas emissions decreased by 12% between 2005 and 2019, mostly due to reductions in emissions from electric power generation," Burkett said. "To reach net-zero emissions by 2050, US emissions would need to decline by more than 6% per year."

To be consistent with international climate goals, electric vehicle sales must grow by 75% to 95% internationally by 2030, according to the World Resources Institute.

Depoliticize climate change

"We can't get emissions to net-zero without getting the U.S. to net-zero," Samaras, who served in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP), told ABC News, adding, "The Biden-Harris administration has taken the boldest climate action in history."

The Biden-Harris administration has channeled a substantial amount of funding toward climate action during their term, experts say, namely through the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022 and the 2021 Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.

"The United States is finally taking really significant action, for the first time ever, through the Inflation Reduction Act, although its name wouldn't necessarily tell you that it was a major piece of climate legislation, it really was," Henning said.

The legislation offers funding, programs and incentives to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy, according to the EPA, noting the act offers, "new access to clean energy tax credits with an emphasis on reaching disadvantaged populations and communities with environmental justice concerns."

Henning explained how the legislation's focus on environmental justice is exciting, especially on a federal level.

"The government is trying to get money to communities who need it the most," Henning said. "So rather than just looking at ways of getting solar panels on wealthy families' houses, they're really looking at how do we bring resources to historically disadvantaged communities and make them more resilient, less polluted, and so that we can write some of these historical inequities as well."

Earlier this month, the Biden-Harris administration announced $20 billion in awards to expand access to clean energy and climate solutions and lower energy costs for communities across the nation.

"These are significant efforts that absolutely move the needle," Cornelis said. "The problem, however, is the counterforces."

The funding for renewable energy resources must also be met with the reduction of spending on fossil fuels, according to Cornelis, who noted, "We're basically neutralizing our efforts."

The oil and gas industry spent approximately $124.4 million lobbying the federal government in 2022, according to a report from OpenSecrets, citing lobbying disclosures.

"Wealthy corporations know that climate action poses an existential threat to their industry, so they are incentivized to lobby hard and dissuade politicians from implementing meaningful or drastic regulations to advance climate action," Cornelis claimed.

"It's like biking uphill as fast as we can while squeezing the brakes," she said.

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


What did jurors in Trump's criminal trial say they think of the former president?

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(NEW YORK) -- Before any jurors were seated in Donald Trump's historic criminal trial in New York, defense lawyers seeking to whittle down the pool of prospects asked them a vital question: What do you think of the former president?

"We all know that every one of you knows President Trump," defense attorney Todd Blanche told the potential jurors last week. "You're not going to offend me, you're not going to offend the Court, the People, or even President Trump by really talking about your opinion of President Trump."

As Trump sat feet away, sandwiched by his lawyers at counsel table, some of the jurors provided frank -- and at times scathing -- reviews of the former president's character and presidency.

"He just seems very selfish and self serving, so I don't really appreciate that in any public servant," said one prospective juror, a product development manager originally from California.

Other prospective jurors offered a more flattering view.

"President Trump speaks his mind. I would rather that in a person than someone who's in office and you don't know what they're doing behind the scenes," said a middle school teacher from Harlem.

"Being in my generation during that candidacy, there was a divide in the country; I can't ignore that," she said.

"However," she said, "I never equated that to one individual."

Both prospects were ultimately selected for the 12-person jury, with the product manager becoming Juror No. 11 and the teacher becoming Juror No. 5.

Opinions about the former president, to the extent that jurors have them, are not supposed to matter during the trial. Each of the jurors vowed to put any opinions of the former president aside when examining the evidence of the case and deciding Trump's guilt. But attorneys on both sides acknowledged that few people live in an information vacuum.

"Even if you want to be fair, and I believe that everybody who is sitting up here wants to be fair, we are asking you to probe yourself," defense attorney Susan Necheles asked the potential jurors. "Would the way that you view him infect the way that you look at the evidence and evaluate the evidence in this case?"

"I would say that I think that Trump and I probably have different beliefs, but I don't think that that invalidates anything about who he is as a person. This is a free country," said a software engineer who became Juror No. 6. "I think that I can look at this as a person on trial, any other American citizen, and not take this person who used to be the president as that, and just stick to what's being shown to me."

A civil litigator originally from North Carolina similarly told the lawyers in the case that he could put aside his conflicting thoughts on Trump to sit in judgment of the former president.

"I think there were policies that I agreed with and policies that I didn't agree with. I don't know the man. I don't have any particular opinions about him personally," said the recent college graduate, who become Juror No. 7.

A speech therapist who grew up in New Jersey and now lives on Manhattan's Upper East Side had a similar attitude.

"I don't agree with a lot of his politics and his decisions as a president, but I have really taken the past two days to reflect and make sure that I could leave that at the door and be a totally impartial juror, and I feel like I can," said the woman, who was sworn in as Juror No. 9.

A physical therapist from Manhattan’s Upper East Side similarly suggested she could put aside political opinions in the courtroom.

"As an eligible voter I feel it is my responsibility in regard to elections to establish an educated decision so that I can vote. In regards to this court case and the defendant in the room, I have no opinions until I am presented with the information in the courtroom," said the woman, who became Juror No. 12.

The jurors' opinions could be critical when it comes to assessing the credibility of witnesses -- including Trump himself, if he testifies.

"This is a case where ... the defense intends to make witness credibility a centerpiece of the trial," prosecutor Matthew Colangelo told Judge Juan Merchan Friday during a hearing, held without the prospective jurors, on the scope of cross-examination if Trump should take the stand -- something he's recently said on three occasions that he intends to do.

Starting with opening statements, the jurors have each vowed to give Trump a blank slate when they begin judging his actions on Monday.

"He was our president, everyone knows who he is," said the woman who would become Juror No. 9. "So we have to leave them at the door -- meaning, I don't know who this person is, I have zero opinions of them, and [I have to] be able to be totally neutral in this."

Copyright © 2024, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.


Suspect arrested after break-in at Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass' home

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(LOS ANGELES) -- A suspected intruder was arrested early Sunday morning after a break-in at the home of Los Angeles Mayor Karen Bass, according to police.

"Around 6:40 AM this morning an individual smashed a window to gain entry into the Getty House while occupied," the LAPD PIO said in a statement on X.

Bass and her family reside at the Getty House in the Hancock Park neighborhood in Los Angeles.

The mayor’s office tells ABC News Bass was one of the occupants who was at home when the intruder broke in, but did not specify if she had an interaction with the suspect.

"There were no injuries to the occupants during this incident," LAPD wrote, adding, "The suspect was taken into custody without incident."

Authorities said late Sunday night that the suspect, who was identified as Ephraim Matthew Hunter, 29, was booked on a felony burglary charge. His bail was set at $100,000.

It was not immediately clear if Hunter had a legal representative.

Police said the investigation is ongoing.

Following the break-in, Bass' Deputy Mayor of Communications Zach Seidl released a statement, saying, "The Mayor is grateful to LAPD for responding and arresting the suspect."

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NYC Mayor Eric Adams says he's 'horrified and disgusted' by antisemitism at Columbia University protests

For the fifth day, pro-Palestinian students occupy a central lawn on the Columbia University campus, on April 21, 2024 in New York City. (Andrew Lichtenstein/Corbis via Getty Images)

(NEW YORK) -- New York City Mayor Eric Adams addressed the ongoing protests at Columbia University, condemning examples of antisemitism and hate speech in a statement Sunday.

"I am horrified and disgusted with the antisemitism being spewed at and around the Columbia University campus," Adams said.

Protests over the Israel-Hamas war continued at the University campus in Upper Manhattan for the fifth day on Sunday, which has led to the arrest of over 100 people, according to police.

"I have instructed the NYPD to investigate any violation of law that is reported," Adams said. "Rest assured, the NYPD will not hesitate to arrest anyone who is found to be breaking the law."

Mayor Adams called out specific examples of hate speech, such as, "a young woman holding a sign with an arrow pointing to Jewish students stating 'Al-Qasam's Next Targets, or another where a woman is literally yelling 'We are Hamas,' or another where groups of students are chanting 'We don't want no Zionists here.'"

"I condemn this hate speech in the strongest of terms," Adams said.

Columbia Chief Operating Officer Cas Holloway said in a post on the university website Sunday that the school was boosting "safety measures" on the Morningside campus.

"The gathering of large crowds on campus and around the Morningside perimeter are causing considerable disruption and distress," Holloway wrote, noting the school would be upping security by 35 additional guards and two additional supervisors per shift; "enhanced perimeter security staffed by additional private security personnel"; and additional coverage at the Kraft Center over Passover.

On Thursday, demonstrators had occupied Columbia's south lawn for over 30 hours "in violation of the university's rules" and did not leave despite "numerous warnings," Mayor Adams said at the time.

NYPD arrested 108 people for trespass without incident, officials said Thursday. Among those, two were also arrested for obstruction of governmental administration, officials said.

The protests, which began on April 17, followed Columbia University president Minouche Shafik's testimony to the House Committee on Education and the Workforce about antisemitism on college campuses.

New York Rep. Elise Stefanik called for Shafik's resignation on Sunday, saying Columbia University "failed to enforce their own campus rules and protect Jewish students on campus," in a post on X, formally known as Twitter.

"While Columbia's failed leadership spent hundreds of hours preparing for this week's Congressional hearing, it clearly was an attempt to cover up for their abject failure to enforce their own campus rules and protect Jewish students on campus," Stefanik wrote.

"President Shafik must immediately resign. And the Columbia Board must appoint a president who will protect Jewish students and enforce school policies," Stefanik wrote.

In his statement Sunday, Adams acknowledged how the ongoing conflict in the Middle East "has left many of us grieving and angry."

"New Yorkers have every right to express their sorrow, but that heartbreak does not give anyone the right to harass or threaten others or to physically harm someone they disagree with," Adams said.

Mayor Adams recognized the heightened tensions in New York, as the Jewish community celebrates the beginning of Passover on Monday.

"As Mayor of the city with the largest Jewish community in the world outside of Israel, the pain these protests are causing Jews across the globe is not lost on me, especially as we start Passover tomorrow evening," Adams said, noting, "I also see and hear the pain of those protesting in support of innocent lives being lost in Gaza."

Concluding his statement, Adams said, "In this moment of heightened tension around the world, we stand united against hate."

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Chicago police officer fatally shot while heading home from his shift: Officials

WLS-TV

(CHICAGO) -- A Chicago police officer heading home from his shift early Sunday was shot and killed, the "victim of the type of crime he was working against," the Chicago police superintendent said.

The slain 30-year-old officer was shot multiple times and had his car taken, Chicago Police Department Superintendent Larry Snelling said during a news conference Sunday morning.

Chicago Mayor Brandon Johnson identified the slain officer as Luis M. Huesca, saying his death was the result of "an act of unconscionable gun violence in our city."

"I met with Officer Huesca’s mother and uncle this morning and assured them that they have my full support as they deal with this unspeakable loss. Our city is grieving, and our condolences go out to their entire family as well as Luis’ fellow officers and community," Johnson said in a post Sunday on X.

The mayor said Huesca worked in the police department's 5th District as a member of the Priority Response Team.

Huesca was taken to the University of Chicago Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead, officials said.

Snelling said detectives are working to determine if the officer was gunned down during a carjacking.

"We can't confirm that right now, but detectives are working through it. What we do know is that the officer's vehicle was taken," Snelling said. "But to get to the total motive of what happened, we need more information and the detective division is working on that."

No arrests were announced.

The shooting unfolded around 2:53 a.m. on West 56th Street near South Kedzie Avenue in the Gage Park neighborhood, according to a police statement. Officers responding to a gunshot detection alert found the mortally wounded officer lying outside on the ground suffering from several gunshot wounds, according to the statement.

Snell said the officer, a six-year veteran of the CPD, was in his uniform, but with a jacket over it at the time he was shot.

"Our officer was headed home after his tour of duty," Snelling said. "While returning home, the officer was shot multiple times."

CPD said the shooting happened in the 8th Police District on the Southwest Side of the city.

"He was working hard out there to keep communities and to keep people safe, and today that officer was a victim of the type of crime that he was working against to keep people safe in this city," Snelling said. "There's a lot of violent crime out here and there are people who are brazen and cowardly in the way they go about their days and carry out these violent acts against the decent hardworking people of this city, who are just trying to live their lives the right way. It has to stop."

Snelling said the officer is survived by his mother and an uncle.

"He was just a great officer, a great human being and his family is dealing with a lot right now. My condolences go out to the family. We really need to keep the family, his mother in our prayers," Snelling said. "These are senseless, senseless crimes that are taking the lives of our community members. Today, one of our officers."

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Universal Studios tram crash injures more than a dozen, park and fire officials say

Piccell/Getty Images

(LOS ANGELES) -- A tram crash at Universal Studios Hollywood injured 15 people on Saturday night, the Los Angeles County Fire Department said.

The crash at the theme park "resulted in multiple minor injuries," a spokesperson for the Studio City park said in a statement.

"We are working to support our guests and understand the circumstances that led to the accident," the spokesperson said.

Fifteen people were transported to local hospitals with minor injures, fire officials said. First responders were dispatched to the park at about 9 p.m., officials said.

The California Highway Patrol will lead an investigation into the crash.

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House fire, explosion injures one in Maryland, fire department says

Baltimore County Fire Department

(BALTIMORE) -- A man was transported to the hospital with injuries after a fire and an explosion at a house in the suburbs east of Baltimore City, Maryland, a fire official said.

Fire crews responded to the two-alarm fire late Saturday, the Baltimore County Fire Department said in a statement on social media.

The house on Ridgemoor Road in Essex, Maryland, appeared in photos shared by the department to have been completely destroyed by the blast.

Crews were expected to be on the scene for "an extended period of time," the department said. Hazmat and fire investigators had been on their way to the scene, officials said.

The injured man was transported to a local hospital with non life-threatening injuries, Lt. Twana Allen said in an email to ABC News.

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