Trump Wants to Prosecute Biden. He Also Thinks Presidents Deserve Immunity.

The New York Times

Trump Wants to Prosecute Biden. He Also Thinks Presidents Deserve Immunity.

Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman – April 30, 2024

Former President Donald Trump appears in the courtroom for his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in Manhattan, on Friday, April 26, 2024. (Dave Sanders/The New York Times)
Former President Donald Trump appears in the courtroom for his criminal trial at Manhattan Criminal Court in Manhattan, on Friday, April 26, 2024. (Dave Sanders/The New York Times)

When a lawyer for former President Donald Trump argued before the Supreme Court last week that his client should be immune from charges of plotting to subvert the last election, he asked the justices to picture a world in which former presidents were ceaselessly pursued in the courts by their successors.

“Could President Biden someday be charged with unlawfully inducing immigrants to enter the country illegally for his border policies?” the lawyer, D. John Sauer, asked.

What Sauer did not mention was that Trump has done as much as anyone to escalate the prospect of threatening political rivals with prosecution. In 2016, his supporters greeted mentions of Hillary Clinton with chants of, “Lock her up.” In his current campaign, Trump has explicitly warned of his intent to use the legal system as a weapon of political retribution, with frequent declarations that he could go after President Joe Biden and his family.

In effect, Trump has asked the Supreme Court to enforce a norm — that in the United States, public officials do not engage in tit-for-tat political prosecutions — that he has for years threatened to shatter. In promising to sic his Justice Department on Biden, Trump has laid the grounds for the very conditions that he was asking the justices to guard against by granting him immunity.

Trump’s perspective is that it is Biden who has politicized justice by pursuing him on multiple fronts as they face each other on the campaign trail. In making that argument, however, Trump has sought to evade the reality that no former president has been faced with as many allegations, or as much evidence, of wrongdoing as he has.

The two federal cases against Trump were brought by a special counsel operating largely independently of the Justice Department, while the two other criminal cases against him were brought by local district attorneys in New York and Georgia.

Paradoxically, should the Supreme Court decide that presidents do enjoy some degree of immunity for their official actions while in office, the ruling would deprive Trump of one of the major themes that he and his allies have promoted throughout the current campaign: that Biden needs to be held to account by the criminal justice system, despite the lack of compelling evidence that he has violated any laws.

And should Trump win in November, he would find it far more difficult, if not impossible, to bring a case against Biden for any actions Biden took in office.

Last spring, Trump vowed that if he was elected again, he would appoint a special counsel to “go after” Biden and his family. And as recently as two weeks ago, he posted a not-so-veiled threat on social media, saying that if the Supreme Court rejected his claims of presidential immunity, it would also “take away” Biden’s immunity.

Over the weekend, Eric Trump, one of Trump’s sons, weighed in about a future prosecution of Biden. Appearing on Fox News, he said that if the court denied immunity to his father, it would mean that “they” — he did not say exactly who he meant — would be able to pursue Biden for things like having depleted the national petroleum reserve.

“The floodgates are going to open,” Eric Trump said. “And I guarantee you Joe Biden will not have one foot outside of the White House doors before they start going after him legally.”

Such remarks have become a staple of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, as he has focused his political message on the four criminal cases he is facing.

History has already shown that the former president and his allies have been willing to use the judicial system against their perceived adversaries.

Trump’s Justice Department, under the control of former Attorney General William Barr, appointed a special counsel, John Durham, to investigate the investigators who launched the inquiry into connections between Russia and Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.

Trump also repeatedly encouraged inquiries into his political critics, including Clinton; James Comey, whom he fired as the FBI director; and John Kerry, the former senator and secretary of state under President Barack Obama. (None of them were prosecuted.)

As president, Trump wanted a number of his perceived political enemies, including Comey, to be investigated by the IRS, according to one of his White House chiefs of staff.

For all of Trump’s promises to bring some sort of criminal investigation against Biden, however, the vows have come as actual evidence of offenses by the president has been hard to find.

After more than a year of investigation, House Republicans have seemed to retreat from their attempts to bring impeachment charges against Biden. A separate impeachment proceeding against Alejandro Mayorkas, Biden’s homeland security secretary, was quickly cast aside when it reached the Senate.

In February, special counsel Robert Hur said there was insufficient evidence to charge Biden with illegally holding on to classified documents after he served as vice president.

Given the long acceptance of the American legal principle that no one is above the law, Trump’s immunity claim seemed like a long shot when his lawyers took it before the Supreme Court.

Still, some of the court’s conservative justices appeared last week to accept Trump’s underlying argument that in a polarized political environment, all presidents could be charged with something when they got out of office if he did not receive the protections of immunity.

“It’s going to cycle back and be used against the current president or the next president,” Justice Brett Kavanaugh said, “and the next president and the next president after that.”

It is impossible to know just how much protection, if any, the justices will ultimately grant Trump in the election interference case. While none of them appeared to embrace his most extreme idea — that he could not be prosecuted at all unless first convicted at an impeachment trial — several seemed to agree that he might enjoy a limited form of immunity that would shield him from being charged for official actions central to his job.

As for Biden, all of the grounds for bringing a case against him that have been floated by Trump, his allies or his lawyers have had little basis in the law. Those grounds would be even harder to support if the Supreme Court were inclined to limit prosecutions based on a former president’s core official acts.

Eric Trump’s suggestion of going after Biden over his handling of the petroleum reserve, for instance, would seem to fall squarely within the realm of a president’s official duties. So would Sauer’s idea of prosecuting Biden for his border policy.

Even though some form of executive immunity could one day protect Biden against an attack from prosecutors under Trump, Michael Dreeben, a lawyer who argued for the Justice Department, told the court that it was neither necessary or desirable.

The criminal justice system, Dreeben said, already had “layered safeguards” in place to ensure against what he called “a runaway train” of rogue indictments.

What was far more worrying, Drebeen argued, was creating a form of immunity that could allow a president to commit crimes with impunity.

“The framers knew too well the dangers of a king who could do no wrong,” he said. “They therefore devised a system to check abuses of power, especially the use of official power for private gain.”

Trump Reveals Exactly Who He’d Go After in a Second Term

The New Republic – Opinion

Trump Reveals Exactly Who He’d Go After in a Second Term

Hafiz Rashid – April 30, 2024

Donald Trump has made no secret of his plans to take revenge if he makes his way back to the White House.

In a new interview with Time magazine, Trump said he would consider firing U.S. attorneys who refuse to follow his orders on prosecution of others.

“It depends on the situation, honestly,” he said, undermining the idea of independent law enforcement.

When asked if he would prosecute Fani Willis or Alvin Bragg, the Atlanta-area and Manhattan district attorneys who are currently prosecuting him, he also wouldn’t outright reject the idea.

Well you said Alvin Bragg should be prosecuted. Would you instruct your attorney general to prosecute him? 

Trump: When did I say Alvin Bragg should be prosecuted?

It was at a rally. 

Trump: I don’t think I said that, no. 

I can pull it up. 

Trump: No.

And when it came to Biden, Trump again made clear he’s open to the idea of prosecution.

After initially saying he “wouldn’t want to hurt Biden,” Trump seconds later said it all depends on the Supreme Court’s immunity ruling. “If they said that a president doesn’t get immunity,” said Trump, “then Biden, I am sure, will be prosecuted for all of his crimes.”

Trump also revived the idea of enforcing Schedule F, which allows the president to fire nonpolitical government officials. This would allow him to fire civil servants who refuse to carry out his orders. 

“You have some people that are protected that shouldn’t be protected,” he said.

It’s no secret that Trump and many of his far-right allies want to purge the government of civil servants who aren’t loyal to their agenda. Famously, Trump adviser Steven Bannon said he wanted to dismantle the administrative state. President Biden has taken steps to bolster and strengthen the administrative state, which would be in clear jeopardy if Trump is reelected.

In the rest of the Time interview, Trump was at times contradictory but also said that he would consider pardoning every single one of the January 6 rioters and take steps to deport millions of undocumented immigrants via detention camps and the U.S. military. In any case, if he wins reelection, it’s safe to say that the U.S. government would be upended, with Trump using all of the legal means at his disposal. Those who want to preserve democracy as we know it would have a tall order on their hands.

Trump says states should decide on prosecuting women for abortions, has no comment on abortion pill

Associated Press

Trump says states should decide on prosecuting women for abortions, has no comment on abortion pill

Christine Fernando – April 30, 2024

Former President Donald Trump appears at Manhattan criminal court before his trial in New York, Tuesday, April 30, 2024. (Justin Lane/Pool Photo via AP) (ASSOCIATED PRESS)

CHICAGO (AP) — Former President Donald Trump says in a new interview it should be left to the states whether to prosecute women for abortions or whether to monitor women’s pregnancies. He declined to comment on access to the abortion pill mifepristone, which has been embroiled in an intense legal battle.

In an interview published Tuesday by Time magazine, Trump responded to questions about how he would handle various abortion questions if elected by repeatedly saying it should be left up to the states.

“You don’t need a federal ban,” the presumptive Republican presidential nominee said. “Roe v. Wade … wasn’t about abortion so much as bringing it back to the states. So the states would negotiate deals. Florida is going to be different from Georgia and Georgia is going to be different from other places.”

When asked if he would veto a bill that would impose a federal ban, he reiterated “it’s about states rights” and said “there will never be that chance” because Republicans, even if they take back the Senate in November, would not have the 60 votes needed to overcome a filibuster and bring the bill to a vote.

Trump repeated his catchall states-rights response when asked if states should monitor women’s pregnancies so the government would know if they had an abortion. Amid debates about criminalizing women for getting abortions, including those who self-manage with medication, experts have raised alarm over how modern surveillance technologies could help law enforcement agencies track and investigate abortions.

Trump also deferred to the states when asked if a woman should be punished for getting an abortion after a state has banned or restricted the procedure.

“The states are going to make that decision,” Trump said. “The states are going to have to be comfortable or uncomfortable, not me.”

Democrats have recently seized on comments Trump made in 2016, saying “there has to be some form of punishment” for women who have abortions.

Abortion is a central campaign issue in the 2024 presidential election as Trump seeks a more cautious stance on the issue, which has become a vulnerability for Republicans and has driven turnout for Democrats. Trump’s deferring to individual states has drawn criticism from Democrats as well as conservatives and anti-abortion groups seeking a federal ban.

The national anti-abortion group SBA Pro-Life America, which supports a national abortion ban, said in a statement that it was “disappointed in President Trump’s position of relegating a human rights issue to the states.” The organization also claimed Democrats would scrap the filibuster in order to “impose their agenda of abortion without limit on the entire country.”

As president, Trump appointed three justices to the U.S. Supreme Court who helped form the majority that overturned the constitutional right to abortion, and he has taken credit for that during his campaign. Earlier this month, he said he was “proudly the person responsible for the ending” of the 50-year-old ruling, Roe v. Wade.

Meanwhile, President Joe Biden has blamed Trump for a deluge of state abortion restrictions put into effect since the ruling two years ago. His campaign also has warned that a second Trump term could lead to nationwide abortion restrictions. Most recently, Biden blamed Trump for Florida’s six-week abortion ban during campaign events in the state last week.

“Donald Trump’s latest comments leave little doubt: If elected he’ll sign a national abortion ban, allow women who have an abortion to be prosecuted and punished, allow the government to invade women’s privacy to monitor their pregnancies, and put IVF and contraception in jeopardy nationwide,” Biden’s campaign manager, Julie Chavez Rodriguez, said in a statement responding to the Time interview.

Mini Timmaraju, president of Reproductive Freedom for All, also expressed doubts about Trump’s emphasis on moderation by leaving the issue up to the states.

“There is zero doubt in my mind that Trump will choose anti-abortion extremists and their horrifying agenda over American families every single chance he gets,” she said.

Trump declined to speak with Time about mifepristone as access to the abortion pill has been thrown into uncertainty amid a legal battle that’s made its way to the Supreme Court.

Advocates on both sides of the abortion debate also have long pressed Trump to make clear his views on the Comstock Act, a 19th Century law that has been revived by anti-abortion groups seeking to block the mailing of mifepristone. Trump declined to comment on the act, saying only that he has “pretty strong views” on the matter and would make a statement on it over the next 14 days.

“In Trump’s America, people will be punished for having abortions, the government will monitor women’s pregnancies, and he’ll weaponize and misuse the 19th-Century Comstock laws to try and criminalize doctors and outlaw abortion nationwide,” Jenny Lawson, executive director, Planned Parenthood Votes, said in a statement.

Trump’s comments were consistent with his recent strategy to show more moderation on abortion rights as he seeks to appeal to a general electorate. Trump has previously voiced disagreement with abortion restrictions in individual states, including Arizona’s Civil War-era ban and Florida’s six-week ban. In the Time interview, Trump repeated that he “thought six weeks is too severe.”

Trump on political violence in 2024: ‘If we don’t win, you know, it depends’

NBC News

Trump on political violence in 2024: ‘If we don’t win, you know, it depends’

Jake Traylor and Scott Bland – April 30, 2024

Mark Peterson

Former President Donald Trump said in a new interview with Time magazine that he doesn’t think there will be political violence around the 2024 election because he believes he’ll win — but that it “always depends on the fairness of an election.”

The comments came along with a statement that Trump would “consider” pardoning every person who has been charged or convicted for rioting at the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, after the then-president rallied his followers against what he has repeatedly and baselessly called a “rigged” election.

Trump also answered questions digging into his campaign position on abortion policy being left up to the states — and deflecting questions pressing him on any potential federal action, including his position on whether abortion medication should be available. And Trump reinforced past statements he has made on Russia doing “whatever the hell they want” to NATO countries who don’t pay their “fair share” and the extent of a military crackdown he plans to order on illegal immigration.

When Trump was asked in an initial interview about the prospect of more political violence in 2024, after the events following the 2020 election, he said no. “I think we’re gonna have a big victory. And I think there will be no violence,” Trump said.

But asked in a follow-up conversation about what will happen if he doesn’t win, Trump was equivocal.

“Well, I do think we’re gonna win,” Trump answered. “We’re way ahead. I don’t think they’ll be able to do the things that they did the last time, which were horrible. Absolutely horrible. So many, so many different things they did, which were in total violation of what was supposed to be happening. And you know that and everybody knows that. We can recite them, go down a list that would be an arm’s long. But I don’t think we’re going to have that. I think we’re going to win. And if we don’t win, you know, it depends. It always depends on the fairness of an election.”

Trump also said that he’d be reluctant to hire people for a second administration who thought President Joe Biden won the 2020 election: “I wouldn’t feel good about it,” he said.

On the people charged and convicted of violent acts as Congress was preparing to certify the 2020 election results on Jan. 6, 2021, Trump complained that they’ve faced a “two-tier system” but, when pressed, said, “I would consider that, yes,” when asked if he’d consider pardoning every single person prosecuted for their actions on Jan. 6.

‘The states are going to have to be comfortable or uncomfortable, not me’

Trump’s rare long-form interview included him talking through his position on leaving abortion policy up to states. When asked directly if he was comfortable with states deciding to punish women who access abortions after the designated state-specific ban, Trump said: “I don’t have to be comfortable or uncomfortable. The states are going to make that decision. The states are going to have to be comfortable or uncomfortable, not me.”

Then, asked if women’s pregnancies should be monitored by state governments to ensure they don’t get abortions after a certain timeline ban, Trump said: “I think they might do that. Again, you’ll have to speak to the individual states.”

Trump also dodged on the question of whether women should have access to abortion pills. As the interviewer noted that Republican allies of Trump have called “for enforcement of the Comstock Act, which prohibits the mailing of drugs used for abortions by mail,” Trump said he will be making a statement later but declined to outline his position.

“I will be making a statement on that over the next 14 days,” Trump said. In the follow-up interview on April 27, Time noted that Trump had not yet made the statement even though two weeks had passed.

“I’ll be doing it over the next week or two,” Trump said. “But I don’t think it will be shocking, frankly. But I’ll be doing it over the next week or two.”

Trump recently said that it should also be up to individual states to determine any penalty for doctors who perform abortions outside state law. He labeled a question about what he’d do on potential federal legislation on abortion a hypothetical “because it won’t happen. You’re never going to have 60 votes.”

‘I can see myself using the National Guard and, if necessary, I’d have to go a step further’

When asked about immigration, Trump reiterated a consistent campaign promise to use the U.S. military to remove undocumented immigrants from the country.

And Trump said he’d be willing to use other parts of the U.S. military besides the National Guard to address issues inland as well as the border, saying, “I can see myself using the National Guard and, if necessary, I’d have to go a step further.” When the interviewer noted the law preventing the deployment of the military against civilians, Trump claimed undocumented immigrants weren’t civilians and said: “These are people that aren’t legally in our country. This is an invasion of our country.”

Trump has previously vowed to relocate thousands of overseas U.S troops to the southern border to crack down on border security as well as promising to terminate “every open border policy of the Biden administration.”

Trump also floated the idea of migrant detention camps, calling it a “possibility” but something he hopes “we shouldn’t have to do very much of.”

At the core of Trump’s immigration promises over the last year is the use of local law enforcement, though policy specifics surrounding the idea have been scarce.

When asked to clarify, Trump proposed “police immunity from prosecution” and left the door open to possible incentives from the federal government for state and local police departments.

‘If you’re not going to pay, then you’re on your own’

On international affairs, Trump again dug in on recent comments that Russia could “do whatever the hell they want” to NATO countries who do not “pay up” what he deems are appropriate military expenses.

Trump told Time, “Yeah, when I said that, I said it with great meaning, because I want them to pay. I want them to pay up. That was said as a point of negotiation. I said, Look, if you’re not going to pay, then you’re on your own. And I mean that.”

Trump also backed up comments that he wouldn’t “give a penny” to Ukraine unless other European countries started supporting Ukraine in “equalizing” amounts.

“I said I wouldn’t give unless Europe starts equalizing,” Trump said. “They have to come. Europe has to pay. We are in for so much more than the European nations. It’s very unfair to us. And I said if Europe isn’t going to pay, who are gravely more affected than we are, if Europe is not going to pay, why should we pay?”

Trump also conceded that a two-state solution between Israel and Palestine looks “very, very tough,” and that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has “rightfully” been criticized for the fact that Hamas was able to attack Israel on Oct. 7.

Trump Is Flirting With Quack Economics

Paul Krugman – April 29, 2024

Donald Trump, his back to the camera, stands at a microphone, looking away and wearing a MAGA cap with his last name stitched on the back.
Credit…Michelle Gustafson for The New York Times

More than 30 years ago, the economists Rudiger Dornbusch (one of my mentors) and Sebastian Edwards wrote a classic paper on what they called “macroeconomic populism.” Their motivating examples were inflationary outbreaks under left-wing regimes in Latin America, but it seemed clear that the key issue wasn’t left-wing governance per se; it was, instead, what happens when governments engage in magical thinking. Indeed, even at the time they could have included the experience of the military dictatorship that ruled Argentina from 1976 to 1983, which killed or “disappeared” thousands of leftists but also pursued irresponsible economic policies that led to a balance-of-payments crisis and soaring inflation.

Modern examples of the syndrome include leftist governments like that of Venezuela, but also right-wing nationalist governments like that of Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, who insisted that he could fight inflation by cutting interest rates.

Will the United States be next?

I wish people would stop calling Donald Trump a populist. He has, after all, never demonstrated any inclination to help working Americans, and his economic policies really didn’t help — his 2017 tax cut, in particular, was a giveaway to the wealthy. But his behavior during the Covid-19 pandemic showed that he’s as addicted to magical thinking and denial of reality as any petty strongman or dictator, which makes it all too likely that he might preside over the type of problems that result when policies are based on quack economics.

Now, destructive economic policy isn’t the thing that alarms me the most about Trump’s potential return to power. Prospects for retaliation against his political opponents, huge detention camps for undocumented immigrants and more loom much larger in my mind. Still, it does seem worth noting that even as Republicans denounce President Biden for the inflation that occurred on his watch, Trump’s advisers have been floating policy ideas that could be far more inflationary than anything that has happened so far.

It’s true that inflation surged in 2021 and 2022 before subsiding, and there’s a vigorous debate about how much of a role Biden’s economic policies played. I’m skeptical, among other things because inflation in the United States since the beginning of the Covid pandemic has closely tracked with that of other advanced economies. What’s notable, however, is what the Biden administration didn’t do when the Federal Reserve began raising interest rates to fight inflation. There was a clear risk that rate hikes would cause a politically disastrous recession, although this hasn’t happened so far. But Biden and company didn’t pressure the Fed to hold off; they respected the Fed’s independence, letting it do what it thought was necessary to bring inflation under control.

Does anyone imagine that Trump — who in 2019 insisted that the Fed should cut interest rates to zero or below — would have exercised comparable restraint?

As a number of observers have noted, some of Trump’s policy proposals would surely raise inflation. An immigration crackdown would undermine one of the key factors that have allowed America to combine solid economic growth with falling inflation. Proposals for a wave of new tariffs would raise consumer prices — and the odds are that Trump would raise tariffs well beyond the 10 percent rate he’s been floating if it didn’t significantly reduce U.S. trade deficits, which it wouldn’t.

What’s really worrisome, however, are indications that a future Trump regime would manipulate monetary policy in pursuit of short-run political advantage, justifying its actions with crank economic doctrines.

The Federal Reserve is a quasi-independent institution, not because of any sacrosanct constitutional principle, but because nations have found that in practice it’s important to limit partisan influence over interest rates and money creation. But in recent weeks there have been reports that Trump advisers want to take away much of the Fed’s independence, presumably so that Trump could juice the economy and the stock market the way he wanted to in 2019.

There are also reports that Trump advisers, obsessed with the trade deficit, want to devalue the dollar, which would indeed help exports but would also be clearly inflationary — raising import prices and overheating a U.S. economy that is already running hot. (In fact, our economic strength is probably the main reason the dollar has been rising.)

And even as they talk about weakening the dollar, Trump advisers are reportedly discussing punishing other countries that reduce their use of the greenback — which seems both contradictory and to involve a delusional view of how much economic power even America possesses.

The details of these bad ideas are probably less important than the mind-set they reveal, one that rejects hard-learned lessons from the past and buys into economic fantasies.

And how would Trump respond if things went wrong? Remember, he suggested we look into fighting Covid by injecting disinfectant. Why expect him to be any less inclined to magical thinking in dealing with, say, a new surge in inflation?

Again, macroeconomic policy isn’t my biggest worry about what could happen if Trump returns to power. But it’s definitely a worry.

Why an Immunity Ruling in Trump’s Favor Might Not Alter the Shape of His Trial

Prosecutors believe Donald J. Trump’s official acts in trying to overturn the election should be admissible evidence even if the Supreme Court rules they cannot be the basis of the charges.

Charlie Savage – April 29, 2024

A demonstrator outside the Supreme Court holding up a sign that reads “Justice can’t wait. Trump is not immune.”
Even if the Supreme Court declares that former President Donald J. Trump cannot be charged for official acts, the special counsel, Jack Smith, may still be able to present a jury with the same set of evidence in the case. Credit…Haiyun Jiang for The New York Times

If the Supreme Court rules that Donald J. Trump is immune from being charged with crimes over official actions he took as president, it would be a momentous decision for the future of executive power and American-style democracy.

But it is far from certain that such a ruling would derail the election subversion case against him. In fact, there is a scenario in which the court could render such a ruling without altering the charges or the array of evidence that the special counsel, Jack Smith, wants to present to a jury.

Mr. Trump faces four criminal counts over his efforts to overturn his loss of the 2020 election, but none are exclusively centered on conduct Mr. Trump undertook in his capacity as president. Rather, the indictment tells a story that mixes both official acts with private ones, meaning actions Mr. Trump took in his role as a candidate for office. It then declares that each charge arises from the entire picture.

Among the accusations: Mr. Trump spread false claims of voter fraud, plotted to recruit false slates of electors from swing states, pressured Vice President Mike Pence to use their existence to block Congress’s certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College victory, and urged lawmakers to use the attack on the Capitol by his supporters to delay any vote.

As of yet, no court has decided which of Mr. Trump’s actions are considered official presidential conduct, versus private, unofficial campaign activity. But during oral arguments before the Supreme Court on Thursday, Justice Amy Coney Barrett floated the possibility that Mr. Smith could “just proceed based on the private conduct and drop the official conduct.”

Crucially, however, a lawyer for Mr. Smith, Michael R. Dreeben, said that even if the court ruled out basing charges on Mr. Trump’s official actions, prosecutors believed that they could still lawfully present evidence about the official conduct as relevant context that would help jurors understand Mr. Trump’s private acts.

“There’s really an integrated conspiracy here that had different components,” Mr. Dreeben said. Mr. Trump, he added, used his official powers to try to ensure his private efforts to overturn the election were more likely to succeed, and the jury will need to see the entire picture to understand the sequence, why each step occurred and the gravity of the conduct.

Mr. Dreeben added that the facts of Mr. Trump’s official acts are relevant for interpreting his “knowledge and intent” about his private conduct.

A lawyer for Mr. Trump, D. John Sauer, urged the court to adopt a very different remedy. Not only should it find that Mr. Trump had immunity for his official actions, he said, but it should omit them from the case. Still, he acknowledged that Mr. Trump could be charged over private actions while he was president.

“The official stuff has to be expunged completely from the indictment before the case can go forward,” Mr. Sauer maintained.

But instead of eliminating any mention of official acts from the case, Mr. Dreeben said, the judge should simply instruct the jurors that they may consider the information about Mr. Trump’s official actions only as a guide. They would add to the jury’s understanding of Mr. Trump’s knowledge and intentions regarding his private actions, but would not be subject to criminal culpability, Mr. Dreeben said.

Mr. Dreeben drew an analogy to speech that is covered by the First Amendment but is also relevant evidence to a criminal case. People cannot be charged with crimes for protected speech, but statements a defendant made can be introduced as evidence to shed light on motive.

Samuel Buell, a Duke University professor of criminal law, said it was “quite ordinary” that information is admitted as relevant evidence even though it is not about an action that would itself be subject to a criminal charge. It is particularly common, he said, in cases involving conduct that occurred over a period of time and involved coordination among multiple people.

Still, this case, Mr. Buell noted, is complicated by its “novel territory.” Several justices, he said, had signaled concern about a ruling that would deter future presidents from exercising the powers of their office in a way the country needs for fear of future prosecution.

The bid to recruit false slates of electors may best illustrate how the competing visions of a remedy could play out should the court rule that Mr. Trump cannot be charged for his official actions.

According to the indictment, Mr. Trump worked with a private lawyer to oversee the electors’ recruitment, then pressured Mr. Pence to cite their existence as a reason to block the certification of Mr. Biden’s electoral victory.

If that effort to recruit fake electors were deemed an act that Mr. Trump undertook in his private capacity as a candidate for office, the jury could, of course, be told about it. But under Mr. Sauer’s vision, prosecutors could not raise Mr. Trump’s subsequent attempt to cajole Mr. Pence.

Under Mr. Dreeben’s view, prosecutors could do so because it is relevant to understanding Mr. Trump’s motive for soliciting the electors to start. In this instance, the trial would look more or less the same, no matter the court’s decision.

Should the justices narrow what kinds of actions can be the basis of charges against Mr. Trump, it would raise the question of what conduct in the indictment counts as official versus private. It would not be surprising if courts were to eventually deem his interactions with executive branch subordinates like Mr. Pence and Justice Department officials to have been official, and his efforts with campaign lawyers and aides as private.

Indeed, under questioning by Justice Barrett, Mr. Sauer conceded that a number of actions cited in the indictment sounded private.

Those included Mr. Trump’s work with a private lawyer to spread knowingly false claims of election fraud to spearhead his challenges to the election results; conspiring with another private lawyer to file a court document containing lies to support a challenge; and directing an effort to submit fraudulent slates of presidential electors to obstruct the certification of Electoral College results.

Mr. Dreeben offered a more expansive interpretation of what counts as a private act. For example, Mr. Sauer maintained that the president “communicating with Congress about matters of enormous federal concern” should be understood as an official act. But Mr. Dreeben said that Mr. Trump’s actions in “trying to exploit the violence after Jan. 6 by calling senators and saying ‘please delay the certification proceeding’” were private campaign activity.

Regardless of how the court rules, its decision to take the immunity case has already helped Mr. Trump by delaying a trial that was once scheduled for March. He has long pursued a strategy of running out the clock on legal troubles, and if he can push off any trial until after the election and prevail in becoming president again, he could simply scuttle the case.

If the Supreme Court decides there is some immunity for Mr. Trump’s official acts, the dispute would most likely next return to Judge Tanya S. Chutkan to distinguish which alleged actions in the indictment count as official and which as private.

To the extent prosecutors and defense lawyers disagree about how to consider some of Mr. Trump’s conduct, such a proceeding could preview parts of any eventual trial, including potential witness testimony about his words and deeds.

But Professor Buell said that if the judge ultimately ruled against Mr. Trump on one or more such matters, he probably could not appeal back up to the Supreme Court before a trial. Courts usually treat disputes over the nature of evidence as matters to be appealed after a guilty verdict, he said.

Alan Feuer contributed reporting from New York.

Charlie Savage writes about national security and legal policy. More about Charlie Savage

Secret document says Iran security forces molested and killed teen protester

BBC News

Secret document says Iran security forces molested and killed teen protester

Bertram Hill, Aida Miller and Michael Simkin – BBC Investigations April 29, 2024

Nika Shakarami
Nika was just 16 years old when she disappeared during protests against Iran’s strict dress code for women [Atash Shakarami]

An Iranian teenager was sexually assaulted and killed by three men working for Iran’s security forces, a leaked document understood to have been written by those forces says.

It has let us map what happened to 16-year-old Nika Shakarami who vanished from an anti-regime protest in 2022.

Her body was found nine days later. The government claimed she killed herself.

We put the report’s allegations to Iran’s government and its Revolutionary Guards. They did not respond.

Marked “Highly Confidential”, the report summarises a hearing on Nika’s case held by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – the security force that defends the country’s Islamic establishment. It includes what it says are the names of her killers and the senior commanders who tried to hide the truth.

It contains disturbing details of events in the back of an undercover van in which security forces were restraining Nika. These include:

  • One of the men molested her while he was sitting on her
  • Despite being handcuffed and restrained, she fought back, kicking and swearing
  • An admission that this provoked the men to beat her with batons

There are numerous fake Iranian official documents in circulation, so the BBC spent months checking every detail with multiple sources.

Our extensive investigations indicate the papers we obtained do chronicle the teenager’s last movements.

Short presentational grey line

Nika Shakarami’s disappearance and death were widely reported, and her picture has become synonymous with the fight by women in Iran for greater freedoms. As street protests spread across Iran in the autumn of 2022, her name was shouted by crowds furious at the country’s strict rules on the compulsory veil [hijab].

The Woman, Life, Freedom movement had been sparked just days earlier by the death of a 22-year-old woman, Mahsa Amini. She died from injuries sustained in police custody according to a UN fact-finding mission after being accused of not wearing her hijab properly.

In Nika’s case, her family found her body in a mortuary more than a week after she disappeared from a protest. But Iran’s authorities denied Nika’s death was connected to the demonstration and, after conducting their own investigation, said that she had died by suicide.

Just before she vanished, Nika was filmed on the evening of 20 September near Laleh Park in central Tehran, standing on a dumpster setting fire to hijabs.

Others around her chanted “death to the dictator” – referring to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

What she could not have known at the time is that she was being watched, as the classified report makes clear.

Map of Nika's last movements, according to the document

Addressed to the IRGC’s commander-in-chief, it says it is based on extensive talks with its teams that policed that protest.

Monitoring the demonstration were several undercover security units, the document’s account begins.

It says one of these – Team 12 – suspected the teenager “of leadership, due to her unconventional behaviour and repeated calls with her mobile phone”.

The team sent one of its operatives into the crowd, posing as a protester, to confirm Nika was indeed one of the demonstration’s leaders. Then, according to the report, he called in his team to arrest her. But she fled.

Her aunt had previously told BBC Persian that Nika rang a friend that night to say she was being chased by security forces.

Almost an hour passed before she was spotted again, says the report, when she was detained and put in the team’s vehicle – an unmarked freezer van.

Graphic of the inside of the van Nika was beaten in, according to the document

Nika was in the rear compartment with three Team 12 members – Arash Kalhor, Sadegh Monjazy, and Behrooz Sadeghy.

Their team leader Morteza Jalil was up front with the driver.

The group then attempted to find somewhere to take her, the report says.

They tried a temporary police camp nearby but were turned away because it was overcrowded.

So they continued to a detention centre, a 35-minute drive away, whose commander initially agreed to admit Nika. But then he changed his mind.

“The accused [Nika] was constantly swearing and chanting,” he told investigators for the report.

“At that time, there were 14 other female detainees at the station and my perception was that she could agitate the others.

“I was worried she would cause a riot”.

Morteza Jalil once again contacted his IRGC HQ for advice, says the report, and was told to head to Tehran’s notorious Evin Prison.

En route, he said he began to hear crashing noises behind him coming from the pitch-dark rear compartment of the van.

We know what he was hearing, from the testimony outlined in the document from the men guarding Nika in the back.

Excerpt from the document passed to the BBC

One of them, Behrooz Sadeghy, said as soon as she had been put back into the van after being rejected by the detention centre, Nika had started to swear and shout.

“Arash Kalhor gagged her mouth with his socks but she started struggling. Then Sadegh [Monjazy] laid her on the chest freezer and sat on her. The situation calmed,” he told investigators.

“I don’t know what happened, but after a few minutes she started swearing. I couldn’t see anything, I could only hear fighting and bashing.”

But Arash Kalhor gave further chilling details.

He says he briefly turned on his phone torch and saw Sadegh Monjazy “[has] put his hand inside her trousers”.

Arash Kalhor said after that they lost control.

“He doesn’t know… who [was doing it], but he could hear… the baton hitting the accused [Nika]… ‘I started to kick and punch but really didn’t know if I was hitting our guys or the accused.'”

But Sadegh Monjazy contradicted Arash Kalhor’s statement, which he said was motivated by professional jealousy. He denied putting his hand in her trousers – but said he could not deny that he became “aroused” while sitting on her and touched Nika’s buttocks.

He said this provoked Nika – despite the fact her hands were tied behind her back – to scratch him and jolt so that he fell over.

Excerpt from the document passed to the BBC

“She kicked at my face, so I had to defend myself.”

From the van’s cabin, Morteza Jalil ordered the driver to pull over.

He opened the rear door to discover Nika’s lifeless body.

He said he cleaned the blood from her face and head – “which were not in a good condition”.

This echoes the state in which Nika’s mother says she eventually found her daughter in the mortuary, and Nika’s death certificate – obtained by BBC Persian in October 2022 – which states she was killed by “multiple injuries caused by blows with a hard object”.

Team leader Morteza Jalil admitted he didn’t try to find out what had happened.

“I was only thinking about how to transfer her and didn’t ask any questions of anyone. I only asked: ‘Is she breathing?’ I think it was Behrooz Sadeghy who answered, ‘no, she is dead’.”

With a killing on his hands, Jalil called the IRGC’s HQ for a third time.

On this occasion, he spoke to a more senior officer, codenamed “Naeem 16”.

“We already had deaths in our stations, and I didn’t want the number to rise to 20,” Naeem 16 told the investigation. “Bringing her to the base wouldn’t have solved any problems.”

He told Jalil to simply “dump her on the street”. Jalil said they left Nika’s body in a quiet street under Tehran’s Yadegar-e-Emam highway.

The report concludes that a sexual assault caused the fight in the rear compartment of the van, and that strikes from Team 12 had caused Nika’s death.

“Three batons and three Tasers were all used. It is not clear which one of the blows was the fatal one,” it says.

The report contradicts the government’s narrative of what happened to Nika. Nearly a month after her funeral, state television broadcast the results of the official investigation, which said Nika had jumped to her death from a building.

It showed CCTV of a person it claimed was Nika entering an apartment block, but Nika’s mother told BBC Persian in a phone interview that she could not “under any circumstances, confirm that person is Nika”.

“We all know that they are lying,” Nasrin Shakarami later told a BBC documentary, discussing authorities’ claims about the deaths of protesters.

Short presentational grey line

The BBC Eye investigation was not just concerned with the content of the report, but whether it could be trusted as an artefact.

Sometimes, what appear to be official Iranian documents and other materials circulating on the internet are found to have been faked.

Most of these counterfeit documents, however, are easy to spot because they clearly diverge from official formatting – showing erroneous spacing and letter headings, or containing significant grammatical or spelling errors.

They might also include the wrong official slogan or logo for the year they purport to originate from, or an anachronistic title for a government agency or department, for example.

Another indicator is language that does not match the very specific style that tends to be used by Iranian official bodies.

The document our investigation centred on contained a few such inconsistencies. For instance, the “Naja” police force quoted in the report was known as “Faraja” at the time.

Therefore, to further test the document’s veracity, we gave it to a former Iranian intelligence officer who has seen hundreds of legitimate ones.

He rang the IRGC archive – using an official code issued each day to senior intelligence officers in Iran – to check if the case file this report was allegedly part of really existed and what it was about.

He received confirmation that it did, and that the report’s number showed it was part of a 322-page case file on anti-government protesters in 2022.

While we can never be 100% certain, this gave us confidence that it is genuine.

His unique access to the IRGC also helped us iron out another mystery – the identity of “Naeem 16”, the man who told the team to dump Nika’s body.

The former intelligence officer did this by making another call – this time to someone inside Iran’s military apparatus. He was told Naeem 16 is the call sign for a Captain Mohammad Zamani, serving in the IRGC.

That name is listed as one of the attendees at the five-hour hearing into Nika’s death that the report summarises.

We put the allegations to the IRGC and the Iranian government. They did not respond.

The men responsible for Nika’s death were not punished, so far as we know.

Undated photo showing Nika Shakarami (L), who was killed during protests in Iran in September 2022, and her sister Aida Shakarami (R)
Nika with her sister Aida (R) who has herself now been arrested [Social media]

A clue as to why that might be the case can be found in the document itself. All of Team 12 – who were at the hearing – are listed in the report and to the right of their names is the group to which they belong: “Hezbollah”.

This refers to an Iranian paramilitary group, Hezbollah, unrelated to the Lebanese group of the same name. Its members are used by the IRGC but sometimes operate outside its jurisdiction, as the report seems to acknowledge:

“Since the above persons belonged to the forces of Hezbollah, following up this case beyond obtaining the necessary commitments and security guarantees has not been possible,” it says.

IRGC officer Naeem 16, on the other hand, was given a written reprimand, it adds.

As many as 551 protesters were killed by security forces during Iran’s Woman, Life, Freedom movement, most of them by gunfire, according to the UN’s fact-finding mission.

The protests subsided after a few months due to the bloody crackdown by security forces. There followed a lull in activity by Iran’s morality police, but a new crackdown on breaches of the Islamic dress code began earlier this month.

Among those to have been arrested is Nika’s elder sister, Aida..

Midwest tornadoes: What a decaying El Niño has to do with violent storms in the central US

The Conversation

Midwest tornadoes: What a decaying El Niño has to do with violent storms in the central US

Jana Lesak Houser, The Ohio State University – April 29, 2024

Dozens of tornadoes hit the central U.S. April 26-28, 2024, tearing through suburbs and small towns and damaging hundreds of homes from Oklahoma to Nebraska and Iowa.

Spring is tornado season in the U.S., but the tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa were quite a bit farther north and east of what would be typical for tornadoes in late April, when tornado activity is more common in Oklahoma and Texas.

The outbreak did fit another pattern for severe weather events, however, that occur as the atmosphere transitions out of El Niño. And this is exactly what was happening in late April.

I study tornadoes and the conditions under which they form. Here’s how these storm systems develop and what El Niño has to do with it.

Map shows lines of tornadoes across Nebraska and Iowa
Preliminary reports of tornadoes and hail during severe storms on April 26, 2024, collected by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Storm Prediction Center. NOAA
Map shows severe storms lines from Texas to Illinois.
Preliminary reports of tornadoes and hail on April 27, 2024, collected by the Storm Prediction Center. NOAA.
The right conditions for a tornado

Two basic conditions are required to produce the rotating supercell thunderstorms that are capable of generating tornadoes:

  1. Warm moist surface conditions and cold air above.
  2. Winds that change in both speed and direction as you move up in the atmosphere, known as vertical wind shear.

Picture a kid who has a helium balloon at a party and releases it – the balloon floats upward. Like that helium balloon, the warm moist air is less dense than the surrounding colder air, so it rises, accelerating upward. This upward motion releases heat, moisture and energy, and causes thunderstorms to develop.

As with many severe weather outbreaks that occur in the U.S., the atmosphere became primed for storms as warm moist air at the surface was being transported northward from the Gulf of Mexico by a series of surface low-pressure systems.

Higher up, about halfway between the ground and where airplanes fly, atmospheric waves within and below the jet stream were transporting cold air through the middle part of the atmosphere. These waves, formally called Rossby waves and commonly referred to as troughs and ridges, also enhanced vertical wind shear.

A small atmospheric wave that moved through the Central Plains and Midwest on April 26, helped trigger the tornadoes in Nebraska and Iowa, including a large, destructive tornado in the suburbs of Omaha, Nebraska, and in the town of Minden, Iowa, about 30 miles away.

The following day, a bigger wave moved through Oklahoma, where tornadoes damaged several small towns that evening.

The two images show the short-wave trough, circled in red, and the longer wave, circled in orange, traveling behind it. On the left is April 26, with the short-wave trough moving through Nebraska. On the right, the longer wave is affecting Oklahoma and Kansas on April 27. <a href=
The two images show the short-wave trough, circled in red, and the longer wave, circled in orange, traveling behind it. On the left is April 26, with the short-wave trough moving through Nebraska. On the right, the longer wave is affecting Oklahoma and Kansas on April 27.

What was especially important was how close these parameters were to the center of the surface low-pressure system and a warm front that extended just to the east of it. The tornado-producing storms were able to tap into that instability and draw on the strong vertical wind shear generated in the vicinity of the warm front.

A chart map of wind direction and temperature shows the warm front across Nebraska and Iowa where the tornadoes developed.
Surface temperatures (colors), winds (barbs indicating direction the wind was blowing from), surface pressure (solid black contours) indicating the location of the low pressure system (L), the warm front (red line) and the region of favorable conditions (blue circle) on the evening of April, 26, 2024. Pivotal Weather

In addition to the tornadoes, the warm moist storms brought heavy rainflash flooding and large hail across parts of the central U.S.

What El Niño has to do with tornado weather

In late 2023 and early 2024, much of the world experienced above-average temperatures, likely linked to global climate change and exacerbated by El Niño. El Niño is a naturally occurring cyclical climate phenomenon that affects both the oceans and the atmosphere.

When El Niño decays, the atmospheric waves change and can become wavier, so they have a greater amplitude. That tends to enhance conditions needed for tornadoes.

The U.S. often sees more frequent tornadoes when the climate is transitioning out of El Niño. The strong El Niño of 2023-24 was decaying in April 2024, and forecasters expect it to be gone by summer.

Forecasts can save lives

The tornadoes caused severe damage in several communities as they tore apart homes and buildings. At least five people died in the storms. But early communications that warned the public of the threat for severe weather days before the storms likely saved more lives.

Weather experts are getting better at predicting tornado conditions. It is not uncommon now to know days in advance of the actual event that an elevated threat exists. Forecasters have high-resolution weather models that can anticipate storms at an appropriate spatial scale to provide a sense of the likely organization of the storms and come close to the location.

The better we understand these storms’ attributes, the better those forecasts and warnings can become.

This article is republished from The Conversation, a nonprofit, independent news organization bringing you facts and trustworthy analysis to help you make sense of our complex world. It was written by: Jana Lesak HouserThe Ohio State University

Read more:

Jana Lesak Houser receives funding from The National Science Foundation.

An El Niño-less summer is coming. Here’s what that could mean for the US


An El Niño-less summer is coming. Here’s what that could mean for the US

Mary Gilbert, CNN Meteorologist – April 29, 2024

It may be spring, but it’s not too soon to look ahead to summer weather, especially when El Niño – a player in last year’s especially brutal summer – is rapidly weakening and will all but vanish by the time the season kicks into gear.

El Niño’s disappearing act doesn’t mean relief from the heat. Not when the world is heating up due to human-driven climate change. In fact, forecasters think it could mean the opposite.

What this summer’s weather could look like

El Niño is a natural climate pattern marked by warmer than average ocean temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. When the water gets cooler than average, it’s a La Niña. Either phase can have an effect on weather around the globe.

By June, forecasters expect those ocean temperatures to hover close to normal, marking a so-called neutral phase, before La Niña builds in early summer, according to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

But the strength of El Niño or La Niña’s influence on US weather isn’t uniform and varies greatly based on the strength of the phenomena and the season itself.

The influence of El Niño or La Niña on US weather isn’t as clear-cut in the summer as it is in the winter, especially during a transition between the two phases, said Michelle L’Heureux, a climate scientist with the Climate Prediction Center.

Temperature differences between the tropics and North America are more extreme in the winter, L’Heureux explained. This allows the jet stream to become quite strong and influential, reliably sending storms into certain parts of the US.

In the summer, the difference in temperature between the two regions isn’t as significant and the obvious influence on US weather wanes.

But we can look back at what happened during similar summers to get a glimpse of what could come this summer.

In short: It’s not cool.

The summer of 2016 was one of the hottest on record for the Lower 48. La Niña conditions were in place by midsummer and followed a very strong El Niño winter.

Summer 2020 followed a similar script: La Niña conditions formed midsummer after a weak El Niño winter but still produced one of the hottest summers on record and the most active hurricane season on record.

Then there’s the fact that these climate phenomena are playing out in a warming world, raising the ceiling on the extreme heat potential.

“This obviously isn’t our grandmother’s transition out of El Niño – we’re in a much warmer world so the impacts will be different,” L’Heureux, said. “We’re seeing the consequences of climate change.”

Current summer temperature outlooks for the US are certainly bringing the heat.

CNN Weather
CNN Weather

Above-average temperatures are forecast over nearly every square mile of the Lower 48. Only portions of the Dakotas, Minnesota and Montana have an equal chance of encountering near normal, above- or below-normal temperatures.

A huge portion of the West is likely to have warmer conditions than normal. This forecast tracks with decades of climate trends, according to L’Heureux.

Summers have warmed more in the West than in any other region of the US since the early 1990s, according to data from NOAA. Phoenix is a prime example. The city’s average July temperature last year was an unheard-of 102.7 degrees, making it the hottest month on record for any US city. It was also the deadliest year on record for heat in Maricopa County, where Phoenix is located.

Forecasts also show a worrying precipitation trend for parts of the West.

CNN Weather
CNN Weather

Large sections of the West and the central US are likely to be drier than normal. This dryness, combined with above-normal heat, which only amplifies the dryness, could be a recipe for new or worsening drought.

Wetter than normal conditions are in the forecast from the Gulf Coast to the Northeast. Stormy weather could be a consistent companion for much of the East – but whether it comes from typical rain and thunderstorms or tropical activity won’t be known for months.

A brutal summer also predicted in the water

Heat isn’t the only threat to look out for.

The strengthening La Niña conditions, coupled with ocean temperatures which have been at record highs for over a year, could supercharge the Atlantic hurricane season.

A warming world generates more fuel for more tropical activity and stronger storms. La Niña tends to produce favorable atmospheric conditions to allow storms to form and hold together in the Atlantic.

Early this month, forecasters at Colorado State University released their most active initial forecast ever.

“We anticipate a well above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” the group said in a news release.

Which foods have the most plastics? You may be surprised


Which foods have the most plastics? You may be surprised

Sandee LaMotte, CNN – April 22, 2024

“How much plastic will you have for dinner, sir? And you, ma’am?” While that may seem like a line from a satirical skit on Saturday Night Live, research is showing it’s much too close to reality.

Ninety percent of animal and vegetable protein samples tested positive for microplastics, teeny polymer fragments that can range from less than 0.2 inch (5 millimeters) down to 1/25,000th of an inch (1 micrometer), according to a February 2024 study. Anything smaller than 1 micrometer is a nanoplastic that must be measured in billionths of a meter.

Even vegetarians can’t escape, according to a 2021 study. If the plastic is small enough, fruits and vegetables can absorb microplastics through their root systems and transfer those chemical bits to the plant’s stems, leaves, seeds and fruit.

Salt can be packed with plastic. A 2023 study found coarse Himalayan pink salt mined from the ground had the most microplastics, followed by black salt and marine salt. Sugar is also “an important route of human exposure to these micropollutants,” according to a 2022 study.

Even tea bags, many of which are made of plastic, can release enormous amounts of plastic. Researchers at McGill University in Quebec, Canada found brewing a single plastic teabag released about 11.6 billion microplastic and 3.1 billion nanoplastic particles into the water.

Rice is also a culprit. A University of Queensland study found that for every 100 grams (1/2 cup) of rice people eat, they consume three to four milligrams of plastic — the number jumps to 13 milligrams per serving for instant rice. (You can reduce plastic contamination by up to 40% by washing rice, researchers said. That also helps reduce arsenic, which can be high in rice.)

Let’s not forget bottled water. One liter of water — the equivalent of two standard-size bottled waters — contained an average of 240,000 plastic particles from seven types of plastics, including nanoplastics, according to a March 2024 study.

Dangers to human health

While microplastics have been found in the human lungmaternal and fetal placental tissueshuman breast milk and human blood, until recently there was very little research on how these polymers affect the body’s organs and functions.

A March 2024 study found people with microplastics or nanoplastics in arteries in the neck were twice as likely to have a heart attack, stroke or die from any cause over the next three years than people who had none.

Nanoplastics are the most worrisome type of plastic pollution for human health, experts say. That’s because the minuscule particles can invade individual cells and tissues in major organs, potentially interrupting cellular processes and depositing endocrine-disrupting chemicals such as bisphenolsphthalatesflame retardantsper- and polyfluorinated substances, or PFAS, and heavy metals.

“All of those chemicals are used in the manufacturing of plastic, so if a plastic makes its way into us, it’s carrying those chemicals with it,” Sherri “Sam” Mason, director of sustainability at Penn State Behrend in Erie, Pennsylvania, told CNN in a prior interview.

“And because the temperature of the body is higher than the outside, those chemicals are going to migrate out of that plastic and end up in our body,” Mason said.

“Those chemicals can be carried to your liver and your kidney and your brain and even make their way across the placental boundary and end up in an unborn child,” she said.

“There currently is no scientific consensus on the potential health impacts of nano- and microplastic particles. Therefore, media reports based on assumptions and conjecture do nothing more than unnecessarily scare the public,” a spokesperson for the International Bottled Water Association, an industry association, told CNN previously.

All types of proteins contained microplastics

In the February study, which was published in Environmental Research, researchers looked at over a dozen commonly consumed proteins, including beef, breaded and other types of shrimp, chicken breasts and nuggets, pork, seafood, tofu and several plant-based meat alternatives, such as nuggets, plant crumbles similar to ground beef and plant-based fish sticks.

Breaded shrimp contained the most tiny plastics by far, at well over an average of 300 microplastic pieces per serving. Plant-based nuggets came in second, at under 100 pieces per serving, followed by chicken nuggets, pollock fish sticks, minimally processed White Gulf shrimp, fresh caught Key West pink shrimp and a plant-based fish-like stick.

The least contaminated proteins were chicken breasts, followed by pork loin chops and tofu.

After comparing the results to consumer consumption data, researchers estimated the average exposure of American adults to microplastics could range between 11,000 and 29,000 particles a year, with a maximum estimated exposure of 3.8 million microplastics per year.

Fruits and vegetables tested high in plastics

The oceans are filled with plastics, and a number of studies have captured how those are ending up in the seafood we eat. However, fewer studies have looked at vegetables and land animal proteins, such as cattle and hogs, according to an August 2020 study.

The study, published in Environmental Science, found between 52,050 and 233,000 plastic particles under 10 micrometers — each micrometer is about the diameter of a rain drop — in a variety of fruits and vegetables.

Apples and carrots were the most contaminated fruit and vegetable, respectively, with over 100,000 microplastics per gram. The smallest particles were found in carrots, while the largest pieces of plastic were found in lettuce, which was also the least contaminated vegetable.

Plastics are everywhere

There are a staggering number of plastics in the world, today, according to a recent analysis — 16,000 plastic chemicals, with at least 4,200 of those considered to be “highly hazardous” to human health and the environment.

As these chemicals break down in the environment, they can turn into microplastics and then nanoplastics, particles so small science struggled for decades to see them.

A recent study that utilized brand new technology found the number of nanoplastics in three popular brands of water sold in the United States to be in between 110,000 and 370,000 per liter, if not higher. A liter is the equivalent of about two 16 ounce bottled waters. (The authors declined to mention which brands of bottled water they studied.)

Prior research using older technology had identified only about 300 nanoplastics in bottled water, along with bigger microplastics.

At least 16,000 plastic chemicals exist with least 4,200 of those considered to be “highly hazardous” to human health and the environment, a study found. - Lisovskaya/iStockphoto/Getty Images
At least 16,000 plastic chemicals exist with least 4,200 of those considered to be “highly hazardous” to human health and the environment, a study found. – Lisovskaya/iStockphoto/Getty Images
Ways to reduce plastic

The levels of contamination found in bottled water reinforce long-held expert advice to drink tap water from glass or stainless steel containers to reduce exposure, Mason said. That advice extends to other foods and drinks packaged in plastic as well, she added.

“People don’t think of plastics as shedding but they do,” she said. “In almost the same way we’re constantly shedding skin cells, plastics are constantly shedding little bits that break off, such as when you open that plastic container for your store-bought salad or a cheese that’s wrapped in plastic.”

While science learns more about the plastics we consume, there are things people can do to reduce their exposure, according to experts.

· Try to avoid eating anything that has been stored in a plastic container. Look for food stored in glass, enamel or foil.

· Wear clothing made from natural fabrics and buy consumer products made from natural materials.

· Don’t microwave in plastic. Instead, heat food on the stove or by microwaving in glass.

· If you can, eat as much fresh food as possible, and limit purchase of processed and ultraprocessed foods wrapped in plastic.