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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. 

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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The Southwest U.S. is mired in an ever-worsening drought, one that has left deer starving in Hawaii, turned parts of the Rio Grande into a wading pool, and set a record in Colorado for the most days of "exceptional drought."

Why it matters: These conditions may be the new normal rather than an exception, water experts say, as climate change runs its course. And worsening drought will intensify political and legal battles over water — with dire consequences for poor communities.

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House grants waiver for retired Gen. Lloyd Austin to lead Pentagon

Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

The House voted 326-78 on Thursday to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the way for the Senate to confirm President Biden's nominee for defense secretary as early as this week.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.