Good morning! It’s Friday, February 24, 2023. The 2024 elections are 620 days away.
Today is the first anniversary of Russia’s war on Ukraine. Here is how Wake Up To Politics led off one year ago today: “Russian President Vladimir Putin launched a full-scale invasion of Ukraine overnight, fomenting the most significant military conflict in Europe since World War II.”
As always on Friday, I want to take this morning’s newsletter to look at what got done in Washington in the last week — but with a particular focus today on actions relating to Ukraine.
Before we dive into today’s news, a housekeeping note. WUTP will be off for the next two weeks: next week while I finish up some major school assignments, and then the week after that for Spring Break. I’ll be back in your inbox on Tuesday, March 14.
This week in Washington: One year of Ukraine aid
The numbers from the past year are staggering.
Approximately 200,000 Russian troops and 100,000 Ukrainian troops killed or wounded, according to estimates by Western intelligence agencies. At least 7,000 Ukrainian civilians killed, according to official data, although the real number is believed to be far higher. More than 14 million Ukrainians uprooted from their homes.
Missiles have slammed into the country almost constantly, entire Ukrainian cities have been destroyed, upwards of 65,000 war crimes have been documented, mass graves have been uncovered.
Vladimir Putin has been embarrassed, while NATO has been rejuvenated — but neither side can claim victory, as the war slides into a second year of stalemate.
Here in Washington, the war in Ukraine has precipitated an expansive aid program: the U.S. has sent almost $75 billion in military, financial, and humanitarian assistance to Kyiv over the past year. The latest from this week:
- The Defense Department announced a new $2 billion package of military aid, including commitments to send several drone systems and a replenishment of ammunition stocks.
- The U.S. also announced plans to send up to $250 million to Ukraine to help the country strengthen its electrical grid amid the war.
- In coordination with key allies, the Treasury and State Departments announced new sanctions on 200 individuals and entities, including Russian officials and financial institutions — as well as third-party actors across Europe, Asia, and the Middle East supporting Russia’s war effort.
- Along with the sanctions, President Biden is poised to sign proclamations today raising tariffs on more than 100 Russian metals, minerals, and chemical products, another attempt to damage the Russian economy.
- In addition, the Commerce Department announced plans to restrict exports from nearly 90 companies, including Russian and Chinese firms, bankrolling Russia’s defense sector.
More policy developments from this week:
— Immigration: The Biden administration proposed a new immigration rule that would prohibit most migrants at the southern border from seeking asylum in the U.S. if they don’t first seek protection in a country they passed through on their way.
The new proposal, which must first go through a public comment period before going into effect, would significantly shrink the number of migrants eligible for U.S. asylum. Leading congressional Democrats bashed the plan, which mirrors a Trump-era policy and marks a reversal for Biden and on the issue.
— Housing: The Federal Housing Administration (FHA) announced a reduction to the mortgage insurance premiums it charges homebuyers seeking FHA-insured mortgages.
According to the White House, the changes will save about 850,000 Americans an average of $800 per year.
— Nominations: President Biden nominated former Mastercard CEO Ajay Banga to lead the World Bank, succeeding a Trump appointee who roiled the global community with his comments on climate change. Although 189 countries are part of the World Bank, the U.S. has historically been allowed to choose its president.
Separately, Biden announced his 30th round of judicial nominees, putting forward candidates for federal judgeships in Colorado and Kansas.
— Weapons sales: The Biden administration released a new policy for arms sales that gives more focus to human rights.
— Supreme Court: The justices issued two opinions — on overtime pay and the death penalty — that scrambled their normal partisan alliances.
— Congress: Both chambers are on recess, but House Republicans fulfilled their promise to hold a field hearing on the U.S.-Mexico border. Democrats refused to attend.
Ask Gabe: Did Ohio Gov. DeWine decline FEMA assistance?
After my piece yesterday on East Palestine, several of you reached out and asked whether it was true that Gov. Mike DeWine (R-OH) had initially declined FEMA assistance after the train derailment.
Although that claim has rocketed around social media, I have not seen any evidence that it’s true. Most of the claims center around a comment made by DeWine at a press conference on February 15, when he said that President Biden had promised him “anything you need.”
“I will not hesitate to [call him back] if we’re seeing a problem or anything,” DeWine said, “but I’m not seeing it.”
However, there was no suggestion in the press conference that Biden had offered FEMA assistance and that DeWine had turned it down. Rather, in an update on February 16, DeWine’s office said that it had been in “daily contact with FEMA” and that the agency “continues to tell Governor DeWine that Ohio is not eligible for assistance at this time.”
That is consistent with what the White House was saying at the time, which was that the needs of East Palestine “are much more expansive than what FEMA can meet” and that other agencies were better equipped to respond.
A day later, FEMA and DeWine put out a joint statement announcing that the agency would deploy a response team to “support ongoing operations, including incident coordination and ongoing assessments of potential long term recovery needs.” A formal disaster was still not declared, because there was no property damage in East Palestine.
Neither FEMA nor DeWine’s office responded to requests for clarification on the timeline of their discussions.
The day ahead.
All times Eastern.
— President Biden will attend a virtual meeting with Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky and the leaders of the G7 countries (the world’s seven largest developed economies).
He will also receive his daily intelligence briefing earlier in the morning; later in the evening, he will travel to Delaware, where he will spend the weekend.
— Vice President Harris will hold a meeting on “access to reproductive healthcare.”
— The House and Senate are on recess.
— The justices will meet for their weekly conference, where they discuss pending cases and petitions.
Before I go...
Here’s a sweet story: Lloyd Devereux Richards spent 11 years trying to gain traction for his crime novel, “Stone Maidens.”
Then, earlier this month, his daughter posted a 16-second TikTok video about it. “I’d love for him to get some sales,” she said.
The video went viral, picking up more than 40 million views, and the book skyrocketed to No. 1 on Amazon’s bestseller list.
“I earnestly believe that it is most important for a writer to never take no for an answer, to persevere, and never, never give up,” Richards said after the “truly mind blowing” experience.
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