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The Guardian - UK
The Guardian - UK
Clea Skopeliti

First Thing: Historic Donald Trump criminal trial to hear opening statements

Trump leaves court in Manhattan wearing a blue suit and red striped tie
Donald Trump leaves court in Manhattan on Friday. Photograph: Curtis Means/UPI/Rex/Shutterstock

Good morning.

Donald Trump’s historic hush-money case is due to begin in earnest on Monday with opening statements that mark a momentous day in US history.

Not only is Trump the first American president, former or sitting, to face a criminal trial but the proceedings also play out against a 2024 presidential race in which he is almost certain to be the Republican nominee to face Joe Biden.

The jury will decide whether Trump’s alleged efforts to bury damaging information about extramarital sex with Stormy Daniels, an adult film star, to safeguard his shot at the 2016 election, were illicit.

The Manhattan district attorney Alvin Bragg’s case relies on a $130,000 payment made to Daniels by Trump’s former lawyer and fixer, Michael Cohen. The prosecution argues that Trump masked the reason for the payment in business records by labelling it as a valid legal expense.

Trump has denied having sex with Daniels, and insists that the payments to Cohen were for legal expenses.

  • What other legal difficulties does Trump face? Three other criminal cases: federal charges related to the January 6 insurrection and his handling of classified documents, and state-level charges in Georgia for allegedly attempting to undermine the 2020 election results. However, the hush-money case is likely to be the only one to come to trial before the presidential election in November.

Netanyahu vows to fight US sanctions on IDF unit accused of violations in West Bank

Benjamin Netanyahu has said he will resist any sanctions on Israeli military units amid reports that the US is poised to impose sanctions on an Israel Defense Forces battalion that has been accused of severe human rights breaches in the West Bank.

US state department officials have confirmed they are preparing to impose sanctions on the IDF’s Netzah Yehuda battalion, according to a report on Saturday in the US outlet Axios. The Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported on Sunday that the US was also considering similar action against other police and military units.

“If anyone thinks they can impose sanctions on a unit of the IDF – I will fight it with all my strength,” the Israeli prime minister said. “I’ve been working in recent weeks against the sanctioning of Israeli citizens, including in my conversations with the American administration.”

Poland is ready to host nuclear weapons, says president

Poland is prepared to host nuclear arms if Nato decides to deploy the weapons in the face of Russia’s bolstering of its armaments in Belarus and Kaliningrad, the Polish president, Andrzej Duda, has said.

“If our allies decide to deploy nuclear arms on our territory as part of nuclear sharing, to reinforce Nato’s eastern flank, we are ready to do so,” Duda said in an interview published in the Fakt daily. Talks between Poland and the US on nuclear cooperation have been happening “for some time”, he said.

“Russia is increasingly militarising Kaliningrad. Recently it has been relocating its nuclear weapons to Belarus,” Duda added. Both Russia’s Kaliningrad exclave and Moscow ally Belarus share a border with Poland.

  • What is Russia saying? Its foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, warned that the west was “teetering dangerously” on the brink of a clash between nuclear powers, referring to support for Ukraine from the US, Britain and France.

In other news …

  • Global military spending has soared to a record $2440bn after the highest year-on-year rise in arms expenditure since 2009, according to a report.

  • A Chinese military official has said countries should not use the sea to flex their “gunboat muscles”, as the Philippines and US begin three weeks of drills in the South China Sea.

  • The American Israel Public Affairs Committee intends to spend $100m this year, primarily targeting Democrat congressional candidates and members of Congress critical of Israel. Here’s our explainer on the lobby group.

  • The US journalist Terry Anderson, who was held captive by Islamist militants for between 1985 and 1991 in Lebanon, has died aged 76.

Stat of the day: Cancer risk doubles in Beirut as diesel generators poison city

After Lebanon’s economic collapse in 2019 brought down the state energy grid, dependency on diesel generators soared. Now, researchers have found that this over-reliance over the past five years has directly doubled the risk of developing cancer in Beirut, while oncologists in the capital estimate that cancer rates have been increasing by 30% annually since 2020.

Don’t miss this: Sean Bankhead on his raunchy dances for Beyoncé, Cardi B, Lil Nas X and more

Sean Bankhead, the choreographer behind dances for stars including Beyoncé, Cardi B and Lil Nas X, shares his influences. “I could call myself a switch-hitter,” he says. Bankhead, 35 and from Atlanta, would rotate around gay clubs, “hood” clubs, white clubs, and reggae clubs, picking up moves that later influenced his routines. “I would always follow the party,” said Bankhead, who is a trained percussionist.

Climate check: Louisiana’s flagship university lets oil firms pay to influence its research

Louisiana State University’s fundraising arm has circulated a document outlining how oil and chemical companies can participate in or review the university’s research – for a price. The director of LSU’s Institute for Energy Innovation defended the partnerships, as did several oil companies, saying that funding does not influence research outcomes – but experts suggest these relationships raise questions about academic freedom.

Last Thing: Spice Girls reunite at Victoria Beckham’s 50th

The Spice Girls staged a rare reunion at Victoria Beckham’s 50th birthday party, where the five women danced to their classic hit Stop. After David Beckham posted a video of the performance on Instagram, Melanie Brown shared it with her followers and hinted at a potential reunion tour: “About last night #tourdatescomingsoon.”

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