10 things you need to know today: January 10, 2024

Appellate judges question Trump immunity claim, Ecuador in chaos after prison break and gang TV takeover, and more

Donald Trump leaves court
Donald Trump leaves court in Washington, D.C.
(Image credit: Kent Nishimura / Getty Images)

1. Appeals court judges question Trump immunity claim

A three-judge federal appeals court panel asked deeply skeptical questions Tuesday about former President Donald Trump's claim he is immune from charges of trying to subvert the 2020 election. Trump lawyer D. John Sauer argued that Trump couldn't be prosecuted for anything he did while in the White House. Judge Karen Henderson, the panel's only Republican appointee, appeared to reject Trump's claim he was duty-bound to try to overturn his loss to President Joe Biden. "It's paradoxical to say that his constitutional duty to take care that the laws be faithfully executed allows him to violate the criminal law," Henderson said. Sauer also appeared to agree a president could get away with ordering SEAL Team 6 to assassinate a political rival. The New York Times

2. Ecuador violence explodes after prison break, TV takeover

Heavily armed gang members stormed an Ecuador television station Tuesday during a wave of attacks that left several police officers and others dead two days after drug kingpin Adolfo Macías, alias Fito, escaped from prison. Ecuador's new president, Daniel Noboa, declared a state of emergency Monday and, after Tuesday's violence, ordered the military to "neutralize" gangs as chaos erupted in the streets and in prisons. Inmates took dozens of guards hostage. Soldiers searched for Macías, convicted head of the powerful Los Choneros drug gang. At the TC Televisión studio in Guayaquil, the South American nation's biggest city, masked men carrying guns and dynamite disrupted a live broadcast, holding employees hostage until police stormed in and arrested all 13 gunmen. The Guardian, The New York Times

3. Blinken presses Israel on postwar Gaza plan

Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Tuesday urged Israel to discuss plans for postwar Gaza with moderate Palestinians and other countries in the Middle East. Blinken said neighboring nations would help rebuild the war-torn, Hamas-run Palestinian enclave but only if the plans included a "pathway to a Palestinian state," The Associated Press reported. The U.S. supports Israel in the war but backs calls from Arab allies to resume a long-stalled peace process Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's conservative government adamantly opposes. Blinken's comments came as he toured the region to push for preventing the Hamas-Israel conflict from spreading, as Israeli attacks on Hamas and Hezbollah leaders in Lebanon intensify fears of a broader war. The Associated Press

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4. Austin had surgery for prostate cancer

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had an operation to treat prostate cancer in December and was returned to the hospital on New Year's Day due to complications from the "minimally invasive" surgery, doctors at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center said in a statement Tuesday. After Austin was readmitted for nausea and "severe abdominal, hip and leg pain," doctors discovered he had a urinary tract infection. The Pentagon confirmed Tuesday that Austin had kept his medical issues secret. Nobody in the White House — including President Joe Biden and Austin's stand-in, Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks — knew about his hospitalization for several days, prompting criticism for a lack of transparency. CNN

5. Trump claims Willis allegation 'totally compromised' Georgia prosecution

Former President Donald Trump on Tuesday called Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis' election interference case against him "totally compromised" after a co-defendant filed a motion alleging, without evidence, that Willis and a top prosecutor are romantically involved. "The case has to be dropped," Trump said after a hearing in his federal election-subversion case in Washington, D.C. Political operative Mike Roman, who served as Trump's director of Election Day operations in 2020, said the seven criminal charges he faced were "fatally defective" because "sources close" to Willis and special prosecutor Nathan Wade said they had an "ongoing" romantic relationship. Willis and Wade have not commented. The Hill, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

6. US, UK intercept biggest Houthi barrage yet in Red Sea

U.S. and British warships on Tuesday shot down the biggest barrage of drones and missiles fired at commercial ships in the Red Sea from Houthi-controlled areas in Yemen. The Iranian-backed Houthi militia has targeted vessels in the Red Sea to disrupt global trade in a show of support for Hamas in its war against Israel. The United States and Britain said U.S. fighter jets from the aircraft carrier Dwight D. Eisenhower and four other warships blocked the "complex attack," which included 18 drones, two anti-ship cruise missiles and an anti-ship ballistic missile. Houthi attacks have forced major shipping companies to reroute vessels, causing delays and added costs for oil and other goods. The New York Times, Reuters

7. Top 1% pay lowest tax rate in most states

The wealthiest people pay lower tax rates than everyone else in most states, according to a study by the Institute on Taxation and Economic policy. "On average, the lowest-income 20% of taxpayers face a state and local tax rate nearly 60% higher than the top 1% of households," according to the analysis. The study found that the lower someone's income, the higher their tax rate, which lets the wealthy off the hook and hampers states' ability to raise revenue. "In other words, not only do the rich, on average, pay a lower effective state and local tax rate than lower-income people, they also collectively contribute a smaller share of state and local taxes than their share of all income," the study found. The Hill

8. Rule could make companies treat more 'gig' workers as employees

The Labor Department on Tuesday issued a final rule requiring companies to treat workers as employees — not independent contractors — if they are "economically dependent" on the company. Business groups are likely to challenge the change. The rule could increase labor costs for companies that rely heavily on contractors and freelancers, including trucking firms, health care groups and app-based "gig" services. Studies indicate that employees can cost businesses 30% more than independent contractors, according to Reuters. The Labor Department said the rule would boost enforcement against businesses that misclassify workers as contractors to save money. Reuters

9. NASA postpones plan to put astronauts on the moon

NASA announced Tuesday it would delay its long-awaited mission to return astronauts to the moon. The latest in a series of postponements was prompted by anomalies on 2022's uncrewed Artemis I mission. Four astronauts in the Artemis II mission will now make a planned flyby in 2025. Their lunar landing on Artemis III has been pushed back from 2025 to 2026. Artemis IV, the first scheduled trip to the extraterrestrial space station Gateway, is still planned for 2028, according to NASA. "The safety of our astronauts is NASA's top priority," NASA Administrator Bill Nelson said. Axios

10. Storms continue, flood risk rises

Much of the United States faces continuing extreme weather on Wednesday. Severe weather Tuesday spawned Gulf Coast tornadoes that left three people dead. Millions were under flood warnings. Heavy snow, dangerous winds, and thunderstorms have knocked out power, disrupted air travel and forced schools to close from the Great Lakes to the Florida panhandle, The New York Times reported. Flood risk could continue through Thursday, after the storm passes. "The worst time for flooding is right after the rain stops," said Patrick Wilson, a meteorologist at the National Weather Service office in Blacksburg, Virginia. A second powerful winter storm, already hammering the Northwest, will sweep across the central and eastern U.S. this weekend. The New York Times, The Weather Channel

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