by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Monday, April 11, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 211 days away. Election Day 2024 is 939 days away.
I hope you had a nice weekend. In this morning’s newsletter, I want to catch up on how a few key political stories advanced over the weekend — and also preview where those stories might be going in the days and weeks ahead.
After reading today’s letter, my hope is that you’ll feel up-to-date on all of these stories, and that you’ll know where to train your sights to be able to track the next developments coming down the pike. Let’s dive in:
Catching up + looking ahead on Ukraine, Covid, and more
Here are the key news stories you should know about from this past weekend, complete with the latest developments and a look at what’s coming next for each one:
- New evidence of war crimes continue to be uncovered in Ukraine, including more than 1,200 bodies found in the Kyiv region, some of them with signs of torture. According to Ukraine’s top prosecutor, the country has opened 5,600 cases of alleged war crimes since the Russian invasion launched.
- Russia has appointed a new general, Aleksander Dvornikov, to oversee its military operations in Ukraine. Up until now, Russia has been running its flagging war effort from Moscow, without any central commander on the ground.
- British prime minister Boris Johnson made a surprise visit to Kyiv on Saturday, meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and touring the streets of the city together.
What’s next: After retreating from Kyiv, Russia is gearing up for a new military offensive in eastern Ukraine. According to the Wall Street Journal, the skirmishes in the eastern region “are likely to become the war’s biggest battles.”
As Axios notes, a key date to watch will be May 9, a major Russian holiday. The day is expected to act as something of a deadline for Moscow to notch successes in Ukraine, setting up “a crucial and intensely dangerous period” in the war.
- Nationally, Covid cases remain stagnant — but new infections have spiked in New York City and Washington, D.C. The mayors of both cities have also recently tested positive: D.C.’s Muriel Bowser on Thursday, and NYC’s Eric Adams on Sunday.
- Adams attended the glitzy Gridiron dinner in D.C. last week, which increasingly looks to have been a superspreader event. More than 10% of the dinner’s attendees have tested positive, including three Cabinet secretaries and a slew of lawmakers.
What’s next: Many experts continue to predict a coming Covid surge in the U.S. — but some say we might already be in one, we just don’t know it. As more Americans use at-home tests (which generally are not included in officials case counts), it’s becoming harder to track new infections and know whether or not a surge is happening.
Still, the political elite are leading Americans in shrugging through the next wave, with vaccines and prior immunity offering protection from severe bouts with the virus. The D.C. party circuit is humming along — with the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner coming up on April 30 — even as a long list of high-profile political figures have recently tested positive. Meanwhile, the White House’s new Covid coordinator takes office today, signaling a new phase of the response.
January 6 investigation
- The members of the House committee investigating the January 6 attack believe they have collected enough evidence to make a criminal referral for former President Donald Trump to the Justice Department, according to the New York Times.
- However, the Times reported, the panel is split over whether to make the referral, with some fearing it would taint the DOJ’s investigation as overly political. The referral is largely symbolic and does not bind the DOJ to make any charging decisions.
- Meanwhile, the Justice Department probe is continuing to expand: a leader of the far-right Proud Boys group and a Trump ally who helped plan the rally before the Capitol attack have both recently agreed to cooperate.What’s next: Per the Times, after interviewing 800+ witnesses in private, the January 6 committee is preparing to hold its first public hearings in May and June. Then, the panel plans to release a final report in September.
Expect to see a lot more hand-wringing in the months ahead about whether the report will include a criminal referral to the Justice Department — even as DOJ continues conducting its rapidly-growing investigation at the same time.
- Incumbent Emmanuel Macron and his right-wing rival Marine Le Pen advanced in the first round of voting in the French presidential election on Sunday. Macron took 27.8% of the vote in the initial round to Le Pen’s 23.1%.
- Meanwhile, in Pennsylvania, former President Donald Trump gave a key endorsement on Saturday, granting his blessing to Senate candidate Mehmet Oz — better known as television’s “Dr. Oz.”What’s next: In France, Macron and Le Pen will face each other in a runoff on April 24. Polls show a tightening race between the two. Per Politico, the White House is “freaked out” about the prospect of a Le Pen win: the right-wing candidate has a cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin, and if she were to win, Europe’s united front against Russia would be thrown into disarray.
Meanwhile, the Pennsylvania Senate primary will take place on May 17. It will provide a key test of Trump’s endorsement power, as Oz currently trails in the polls against former hedge fund executive David McCormick. As both candidates spend big on TV ads to prove their MAGA bona fides, the primary race is on track to become one of the most expensive ever.
Rounding up the latest news in key policy areas, brought to you by WUTP’s team of contributors.
It’s Monday, so here’s Davis Giangiulio with a key economic headline you should know about:
Six more Starbucks storefronts, all in upstate New York, voted to unionize in another round of major wins for the campaign. The wins mean the organizers have only lost one election so far. While the push is only ongoing in a small fraction of the company’s nearly 10,000 locations in the U.S., each victory is critical for sparking the next one.
Richard Minter, vice president of the Workers United, union explained the effect to Vox: “It seems like every time we win another one, we get tremendous outreach from markets all across the country.”
How your leaders in Washington are spending their time today. (All times Eastern)
Biden’s day: Returning to the White House after spending the weekend in Delaware (9:50 am), receiving his daily intelligence briefing (10 am), meeting virtually with Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India (11 am), delivering remarks on gun control (2:15 pm).
- The Modi meeting: Per Bloomberg, Biden will once again “press India to take a harder stand on Russia’s war in Ukraine” during his virtual session with Modi. India has declined to condemn Russia for its invasion, abstaining from a series of UN votes and earning praise from Moscow for its neutral stance.
- New gun control actions: At the event on gun control, Biden will announce that the Justice Department has finalized a regulation banning “ghost guns,” which are firearms that people can construct from home using kits. Since they are privately made, these weapons lack serial numbers and therefore harder for law enforcement agencies to trace.
- The new regulation will change the legal definition of a “firearm” to include such “ghost gun” kits, which will require manufacturers of the kits to be licensed by the federal government and to add serial numbers to the parts of the gun in the kit. Gun dealers will also be required to conduct background checks in individuals buying the kits.
Harris’ day: Joining Biden for the event on gun control (2:15pm), announcing new administration actions to “reduce the burden of medical debt on American families” (4:15 pm).
- New medical debt actions: At her solo event this afternoon, Harris will announce a new Biden administration directive for all federal agencies to “eliminate medical debt as a factor” when deciding who to give loans to, whenever it’s “possible and consistent” with the law.
Also at the White House: Press secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing (1 pm).
- Plus, First Lady — and community college professor — Jill Biden will participate in a virtual conversation with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on community colleges (12 pm), as part of a Clinton Global Initiative event.
On the congressional agenda: Both chambers of Congress are on recess until April 25, but both the House (10:30 am) and Senate (11:30 am) will briefly convene for pro forma sessions.
- What that means: Pro forma sessions are quick meetings held only to satisfy the constitution requirement that each chamber of Congress convene every three days. Generally, only one member attends such sessions — to gavel them in and then promptly gavel them out, with exactly zero legislative business being conducted.
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