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Rick Snyder. Photo: Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

Former Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) was charged with two counts of willful neglect of duty in an investigation into the Flint water crisis, according to Genessee County District Court records and multiple local reports on Wednesday.

Why it matters: Flint saw its drinking water contaminated with high levels of lead in 2014, spurring a public health disaster. The lead-contaminated water was blamed for an outbreak of Legionnaires disease that killed at least 12 people.

The state of play: The date of the offense noted in court records is April 25, 2014 — the day the city went from using Detroit's municipal water to the Flint River. The misdemeanor charges are punishable by as long as a year in jail and a $1,000 fine, per AP.

  • Michigan Solicitor General Fadwa Hammoud and Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy led the state's second investigation into the water crisis starting in 2019. They started over the investigation under former Attorney General Bill Schuette.
  • There have been at least 15 indictments to emerge from the crisis since 2014, per CBS News. Some of the previous charges have been dismissed.
  • The criminal investigation has taken five years. Todd Flood, who received misdemeanor convictions from seven people, was ousted in 2019 after the election of Attorney General Dana Nessel.

What they're saying: "These are the first steps in the final process to securing justice for our community," Flint Mayor Sheldon Neeley (D) said Tuesday, per CBS News.

  • "I commend Attorney General Dana Nessel and her team for their commitment to finding the truth and fully investigating all possible criminal activity," Neeley added.

The other side: "It is outrageous to think any criminal charges would be filed against Gov. Snyder. Any charges would be meritless," Brian Lennon, a lawyer for Snyder said, per CNN reporting.

  • "Rather than following the evidence to find the truth, the Office of Special Counsel appears to be targeting former Gov. Snyder in a political escapade," he continued.

What to watch, via AP: "Besides Snyder, a Republican who served until 2019, charges are expected against other people, including former officials who served as state health director, Michigan’s chief medical executive, Snyder’s communications chief and a senior adviser."

  • Nessel did not provide comment in response to Wednesday's charges, but is expected to hold a press conference at 11:30 a.m. ET Thursday on the criminal investigation. 

Go deeper

Ex-FBI lawyer sentenced to 12-months probation in Durham investigation

Photo: Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Former FBI lawyer Kevin Clinesmith was sentenced to 12 months probation and 400 hours of community service on Friday after pleading guilty to altering an email used to obtain a surveillance warrant on Trump campaign aide Carter Page during the 2016 Russia investigation.

Why it matters: Clinesmith is thus far the only person to be convicted in special counsel John Durham investigation's into the origins of the Russia probe, which has been ongoing since May 2019.

Ben Geman, author of Generate
26 mins ago - Energy & Environment

Japan vows deeper emissions cuts ahead of White House summit

Japanese Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga. Photo: Carl Court/Getty Images

Japan on Thursday said it will seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 46% below 2013 levels by 2030, per the AP and other outlets.

Why it matters: The country is the world's fifth-largest largest carbon dioxide emitter and a major consumer of coal, oil and natural gas.

58 mins ago - Technology

The global race to regulate AI

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

Regulators in Europe and Washington are racing to figure out how to govern business' use of artificial intelligence while companies push to deploy the technology.

Driving the news: On Wednesday, the EU revealed a detailed proposal on how AI should be regulated, banning some uses outright and defining which uses of AI are deemed "high-risk."