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Wake Up To Politics - April 21, 2022

Wake Up To Politics: Russia’s latest saber-rattling
Wake Up To Politics - April 21, 2022

by Gabe Fleisher

Good morning! It’s Thursday, April 21, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 201 days away. Election Day 2024 is 929 days away.

The latest from Ukraine

There have been a lot of new developments in Ukraine over the past 24 hours, so I want to quickly sum them up here to keep you up-to-date on what’s happening in the war. Here’s the latest:

Putin declares a victory. Russian president Vladimir Putin declared this morning that his military had “liberated” Mariupol, a key port city in southeastern Ukraine. Putin has heavily targeted the city throughout the war, as its capture would provide Russia with a link between Crimea (the territory it annexed in 2014) and the eastern Donbas region (the territory it is attempting to seize now).

Despite Putin’s claims of victory, about 2,000 Ukrainian troops remain holed up at a steel plant in Mariupol. Putin said he would not storm the plant, instead launching a blockade to choke off the remaining soldiers’ access to resources.

A nuclear test. Meanwhile, Russia announced on Wednesday that it had successfully test-launched a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the country’s latest nuclear saber-rattling. Putin said the “truly unique weapon” would “force all who are trying to threaten our country...to think twice.”

The damages in Mariupol earlier in the war. (Ukrainian government)

The missile launch comes after Russia retreated from Kyiv and entered a new phase of its assault on Ukraine this week, focused on capturing the Donbas region. Per Bloomberg, Putin is facing pressure from Kremlin insiders who view the invasion as a “catastrophic mistake” in light of Russia’s initial setbacks.

What the U.S. is doing. As Russia makes its pivot, the U.S. and its Western allies are racing to supply Ukraine with more advanced weaponry — although the new assistance “could be too little, too late,” as Politico Europe put it. The U.S. military has also begun training Ukrainian forces on using the new weapons it is sending them, an increase in American efforts to bolster Ukraine.

The U.S. also unveiled new sanctions against Russia on Wednesday, targeting Russia’s cryptocurrency mining industry, a commercial bank, and a “global network of more than 40 individuals and entities” who are aiding the Russian war effort. Plus, U.S. officials walked out of an international meeting when Russia spoke on Wednesday and are considering reopening the U.S. embassy in Kyiv, following other countries that have returned to the city.

What to watch today: President Biden will address the nation at 9:45 am to provide a new update on the war. Tune in here

Catch up

What else you should know this morning.

Covid. The Justice Department announced plans to appeal a federal judge’s decision overturning the mask mandate for public transportation, after the CDC said the mandate “remains necessary for the public health.”

  • What the public says: Per an AP/NORC poll released Wednesday, 56% of Americans support keeping the mask mandate for travelers in place, while 24% oppose it and 20% said they had no opinion.

Midterms. Fundraising reports from the first quarter of 2022 are out, and Senate Democratic incumbents and challengers outpaced their Republican opponents in the money race. The Democratic National Committee (DNC) also reported a record-breaking fundraising quarter.

  • But: The electoral outlook still looks fairly bleak for Democrats. The Cook Political Report released new House district ratings on Wednesday; all eight changes were in the GOP direction. When Sabato’s Crystal Ball — another leading prognosticator — updated their projections this week, all 11 changes favored Republicans as well.
Masked travelers at the Atlanta airport. (Chad Davis)

Capitol security. The U.S. Capitol was briefly evacuated on Wednesday when police warned of an aircraft that posed a “probable threat.” But it turned out the plane was being used for a performance by the Army’s Golden Knights, who were parachuting into the Washington Nationals stadium as part of a Military Appreciation Night.

  • The blowback: House Speaker Nancy Pelosi blasted the Federal Aviation Administration for failing to notify the Capitol Police of the performance, calling the oversight “outrageous and inexcusable.” Pelosi promised the agency would be held accountable for the “frightening mistake.”

January 6 probe. Per the New York Times, InfoWars host Alex Jones is “in discussions” with the Justice Department about possibly gaining immunity from prosecution in exchange for divulging details about the rally near the White House that took place hours before the January 6 attack.

  • Context: Jones, a prominent conspiracy theorist, was involved in organizing the January 6 rally and led Trump supporters in marching from the event to the Capitol. His talks with the DOJ are a sign of the expanding investigation into the assault on the Capitol.

Look ahead

How your leaders in Washington are spending their time today. (All times Eastern)

Biden’s day: Receiving his daily intelligence briefing (9 am); providing an update on Ukraine (9:45 am); traveling to Portland, Oregon (10:20 am); touring Portland’s airport (4:05 pm); delivering remarks on updates being made to the airport funded by the bipartisan infrastructure package, including a new earthquake-resilient runway (5:10 pm).

  • Then: Participating in a Democratic National Committee fundraiser (6:30 pm); traveling to Seattle, Washington (8:15 pm); and participating in another DNC fundraiser (9:30 pm). He’ll spend the night in Seattle.
  • Biden’s trip out West will serve two purposes, both geared towards the approaching midterm elections: he’ll continue his string of events promoting the bipartisan infrastructure bill to voters, while also participating in his first out-of-town fundraisers since taking office.
Biden will speak about updates being made to the Portland airport, pictured here. (FlyPDX) 

Harris’ day: Traveling from Los Angeles, California, to San Francisco, California (1:15 pm); meeting with maternal health patients at the University of California, San Francisco (3:50 pm); delivering remarks on improving maternal health (5:30 pm); traveling back to Los Angeles (10:55 pm).

At the Capitol: Congress is on recess, but both the House (9 am) and Senate (11 am) will briefly convene today for pro forma sessions, quick meetings which sometimes last mere minutes.

At the Supreme Court: The justices will announce their opinions in recently decided cases (10 am).

Outside the Beltway: Former President Barack Obama will deliver the keynote address  at a Sanford University conference on disinformation (12:15 pm). Per CNN, combatting disinformation has become one of Obama’s post-presidential projects.

Links to watch for yourself: Biden on UkraineBiden on infrastructureHouse pro formaSenate pro formaObama on disinfo

Before I go...

It’s National Donate Life Month, a holiday intended to raise awareness about organ donation. So here’s a story about a recent organ donation between two journalists:

CNN correspondent Richard Roth — the network’s last remaining original employee — needed a kidney, after the one he had received in a transplant 25 years ago was beginning to fail.

So he appealed to his colleagues, writing in a company-wide note last year that he was in need of a donor.

Samira Jafari, an investigative editor, stepped up, and the transplant took place earlier this week. In this CNN story, Roth called Jafari his “heroine” and expressed his gratitude. “I now have four kidneys in me,” he wrote in a new note to colleagues. “Woman and man. Iran and New York. Muslim and Jew.”

Here’s a guide from CNN on how to become an organ donor.

Richard Roth and his colleague turned kidney donor, Samira Jafari. (CNN)

That’s it for today. If you enjoy Wake Up To Politics, it’s always appreciated if you donate to support the newsletter or buy some merch. Or if you tell your friends and family to sign up at wakeuptopolitics.com.

If you have any questions or feedback, feel free to email me: my inbox is always open.

Thanks for waking up to politics! Have a great day.

— Gabe