by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Thursday, February 24, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 257 days away. Election Day 2024 is 985 days away.
Breaking: Russia attacks Ukraine
Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine overnight, fomenting the most significant military conflict in Europe since World War II.
In a speech late Wednesday night, Putin announced plans to “carry out a special military operation” in Ukraine’s eastern Donbas region, where he recognized two groups of separatists as “independent republics” earlier this week.
But the Russian assault quickly spread throughout Ukraine, with reports of attacks by land, air, and sea across the country. Sirens wailed in Kyiv, the capital city, as explosions roared and soldiers poured into the country from both Russia and Belarus, as well as from Crimea, which Russia previously annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
“Peace on our continent has been shattered,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said in a press conference this morning. “We now have war in Europe on a scale and of a type we thought belonged to history.”
According to Ukrainian officials, Russian tanks are rolling through the major cities of Kharkiv and Kherson, and troops are advancing towards Kyiv, which has already been struck by missile attacks. Moscow claims to have disabled all of Ukraine’s air defenses and air bases.
Ukraine’s Interior Ministry said there were hundreds of casualties in the early hours of missile strikes; a stream of civilians have begun fleeing the country. The U.S. has previously warned that a Russian war on Ukraine could lead to up to 50,000 civilian deaths and the displacement of up to 5 million refugees, a massive humanitarian crisis.
How the world is responding
Condemnations and promises of new sanctions — although not troops — have poured in from across the Western world.
“President Putin has chosen a premeditated war that will bring a catastrophic loss of life and human suffering,” President Biden said in a statement. “Russia alone is responsible for the death and destruction this attack will bring, and the United States and its Allies and partners will respond in a united and decisive way.”
Biden, who spoke to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky last night, will address the American people at 12 p.m. According to CNN, Biden will unveil “new measures that could cut off Russia from advanced technology, announce new restrictions on large financial institutions, and slap sanctions on additional members” of Putin’s inner circle.
The European Union is also planning to impose its “harshest ever sanctions” against Russia, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said, calling Russia’s assault on Ukraine a “barbaric attack.”
Still, the U.S., EU, and NATO have all stopped short of offering military personnel to aid Ukraine in the conflict. “The president has no intention of sending U.S. military or U.S. troops to fight in Ukraine,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki reiterated Wednesday.
Meanwhile, fears have spread across Europe over the continent’s gas supply, much of which comes from Russia. Oil and gas prices have been soaring all morning.
The United Nations Security Council — with its rotating chair currently belonging to Russia — is expected to convene an emergency session today to discuss the situation, as is NATO. The Security Council was in the midst of a tense meeting Wednesday night as the initial reports appeared of the Russian invasion.
In a speech this morning, President Zelensky of Ukraine announced that he had formally severed diplomatic relations with Russia and declared martial law. “Russia treacherously and self-destructively attacked our state in the morning, just like Nazi Germany did during the Second World War,” Zelensky said.
“From today,” he continued, “our states are on different sides of world history. The Russian state is on the path of evil.”
SCOTUS vacancy. Even Europe careens into war, President Biden still plans to name his Supreme Court nominee before the end of the month, White House press secretary Jen Psaki confirmed to reporters on Wednesday.
- Biden has reportedly interviewed three candidates for the seat: Kentaji Brown Jackson, a federal appeals judge on the prestigious D.C. Circuit; J. Michelle Childs, a federal district judge in South Carolina; and Leondra Kruger, a California Supreme Court justice.
- Progressive groups have rallied behind Jackson, a former public defender, while House Majority Whip Jim Clyburn (D-SC) — a key Biden ally — and some Republicans have encouraged Biden to pick Childs.
Truckers to DC. Several groups of truckers are planning protests in Washington, D.C., for the coming days, inspired by the “Freedom Convoy” demonstrations in Canada. The Pentagon announced Wednesday that it would make as many as 700 National Guard troops available to assist the Capitol Police in their response.
- Some of the truckers are planning to arrive in D.C. in time for President Biden’s State of the Union address, which he will deliver at the Capitol this coming Tuesday. The Capitol Police is reinstalling a fence around the complex as an extra layer of protection.
- Meanwhile, in Canada: Prime Minister Justin Trudeau declared on Wednesday that the trucker protests there were no longer an emergency, revoking the emergency powers he had controversially granted to police.
The Biden administration. “The Justice Department is ending its China Initiative, a program that Asian-American groups said contributed to bias against Chinese immigrants and Americans of Chinese descent and that resulted in some high-profile prosecutorial failures.” NBC News
- The U.S. Postal Service finalized plans Wednesday to purchase up to 148,000 gasoline-powered mail delivery trucks, defying Biden administration officials’ objections that the multibillion-dollar contract would undercut the nation’s climate goals.” Washington Post
Each morning, WUTP’s team of contributors — all student journalists — rotate to offer a briefing on the latest news in a different policy area.
It’s Thursday, so Anna Salvatore is here with all the legal news to know this week:
A federal jury found the murderers of Ahmaud Arbery guilty on all counts in a federal hate crimes trial on Tuesday. In a press conference afterwards, Attorney General Merrick Garland castigated the three white men who had shot and killed Arbery for jogging through his neighborhood. “It was racism that fueled them,” said Garland, adding that “hate crimes have a singular impact” because of the “terror and fear that they inflict on entire communities.”
- The three men had already received life sentences earlier this year from state court. Their federal convictions on Tuesday guarantee that even if their state convictions are overturned or appealed, they will still spend significant time in prison.
After six years of suing for equal pay, dozens of former and current members of the U.S. women’s national soccer team reached a successful settlement on Tuesday. The U.S. Soccer Federation agreed to give the players $24 million, much of which serves as back pay for years of inferior compensation compared to the men’s team. More notably, the federation also promised to pay both teams equally in all future competitions, including the World Cup.
Following in the footsteps of Mexico and Argentina, Colombia’s constitutional court voted on Monday to decriminalize abortion in the first 24 weeks of pregnancy. According to the Washington Post, the 5-4 ruling marks a “transformative shift for the majority-Catholic country and the latest sign of a turning tide in Latin America.” Monday’s ruling comes a year after Mexico decriminalized abortion, a couple months after Argentina did the same, and only a week after Ecuador loosened its restrictions.
A few more legal headlines to know:
- “Supreme Court officially ends Trump's recent legal fight to block document turnover to January 6 probe” CNN
- “U.S. Supreme Court takes up Colorado case of business seeking to refuse service to gay couples” Colorado Public Radio
- “2 Prosecutors Leading N.Y. Trump Inquiry Resign, Clouding Case’s Future” New York Times
- “Ivanka Trump in talks for voluntary testimony with Jan. 6 panel” NBC News
- “North Carolina officials reject Cawthorn claim that Constitution’s insurrectionist ban no longer applies” Politico
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden will participate in a virtual meeting with the heads of state of the Group of Seven (G7) at 9 a.m. to discuss Russia’s war on Ukraine. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen will also attend.
The G7 is made up of the world’s seven largest advanced economies; it was formerly the G8, but Russia was expelled from the group after its last invasion of Ukraine, the 2014 annexation of Crimea.
At 11:15 a.m., Biden will receive his daily intelligence briefing. At 12 p.m., he is expected to address the nation and announce new sanctions against Russia.
Vice President Kamala Harris will swear in former Sen. Joe Donnelly (D-IN) as U.S. ambassador to the Vatican at 11:30 a.m. and then swear in former hedge fund executive Scott Nathan as the CEO of the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 2 p.m.
The House and Senate are both on recess. According to Punchbowl News, each chamber will receive unclassified briefings over the phone from Blinken, Yellen, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley.
Senators will receive their briefing at 5 p.m., followed by House members at 6:30 p.m.
The Supreme Court will release opinions at 10 a.m.
The United Nations Security Council will meet at 12 p.m. to vote on a resolution condemning the Russian invasion. As permanent members of the council, both Russia and its ally China have veto power over any resolution.
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) will kick off its annual gathering, a top draw for Republican politicians and activists, today in Orlando, Florida.
Speakers today will include Gov. Ron DeSantis (R-FL), Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), and Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), all of whom are potential 2024 presidential contenders.
Other speakers on today’s lineup include Kelly Tshibaka, whose primary challenge against Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) has been endorsed by former President Donald Trump, and Eric Greitens, the scandal-plagued former governor who is seeking Trump’s backing in the Missouri Senate race.
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