by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Friday, February 25, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 256 days away. Election Day 2024 is 984 days away.
There is a lot of news this morning. President Biden is expected to name his nominee to the Supreme Court today, and reports are already emerging of who the pick will be.
I want to quickly lead off with the Supreme Court news, and then dive into a full report on the latest developments in Ukraine. I will have much more on both of these important stories on Monday.
Reports: Biden to name Ketanji Brown Jackson as historic Supreme Court pick
President Biden has selected Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to succeed retiring Justice Stephen Breyer, according to the New York Times, Washington Post, CNN, and a variety of other news outlets.
Jackson, 51, will be the first Black woman nominated to the Supreme Court. She is currently a judge on the prestigious U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, having been nominated to the post by Biden and confirmed in June 2021. Jackson, a former public defender, previously served on the federal district court in D.C. as an appointee of President Barack Obama.
Biden is expected to announce Jackson has his nominee today.
The latest in Ukraine: Russian forces close in on Kyiv
After pummeling the city with a series of airstrikes, Russian troops are now closing in on Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine and its most populous city.
The situation on the ground is incredibly fluid, but here’s a summary of the key developments so far and a look at what could be coming next:
What happened in the first day of fighting
- Clashes broke out across Ukraine on Thursday, as Russian troops and missiles struck airfields, hospitals, apartment buildings, and other targets after entering the country from three sides. Russian forces also seized the former nuclear power plant in Chernobyl, the site of an infamous 1986 accident, leading to fears of a renewed “ecological disaster.”
- According to Ukrainian officials, staffers at the nuclear site are being “held hostage”; both sides have confirmed that Russia has taken control of the territory surrounding the plant.
- Russia’s naval forces have also reportedly entered Ukrainian waters in the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov; according to the British Defense Ministry, they have “suspended civilian shipping in the latter, likely in preparation for a full blockade.”
- Meanwhile, in Russia, thousands of protestors took to the streets in protest of their government’s actions. Many were quickly arrested by Russian police.
How Ukraine has fought back
- Martial law has been declared in Ukraine, and the government prohibited men between the ages of 18 and 60 from leaving the country — requiring them to stay and fight. The government has handed out 10,000 automatic rifles, drafting them in a massive resistance against Russia.
- According to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, 316 Ukrainian soldiers had been injured and 137 had been killed as of Thursday night. Ukraine officials have said Russian forces have sustained an estimated 800 fatalities, although that number is unverified.
- Ukraine has notched some successes in the first day, including retaking a key airport that had been captured by Russia. “It is unlikely that Russia has achieved its planned Day 1 military objectives,” the British Defense Ministry said. “Ukrainian forces have presented fierce resistance across all axes of Russia’s advances.”
What’s expected today
- As of this writing, Russian troops have entered the outskirts of Kyiv and are rapidly advancing towards the city. The Pentagon has said Russia’s goal is to “decapitate” the Ukrainian government and install new leaders. “They want to destroy Ukraine politically by destroying the head of the state,” Zelensky said a televised address this morning, adding that he was Russia’s “target number one.”
- One Ukrainian official said that today will be “the hardest day” of the Russian attack, as Russia vies to break into Kyiv. The Ukrainian government has urged citizens to “prepare Molotov cocktails” in order to defend the capital, which U.S. officials are reportedly warning could fall under Russian control “within days.”
- Zelensky also opened the door to negotiations to end the conflict, even suggesting he would rule out Ukraine joining NATO if it meant an end to the Russian assault. He said his efforts had been rebuffed so far, although the Kremlin said today they were preparing to open negotiations — although their conditions effectively amounted to a full Ukrainian surrender.
How the world is responding
- While no countries have offered troops to counter Russia — “We’re defending Ukraine alone,” Zelensky said — the United States and its allies in the West imposed new sanctions against Moscow on Thursday. In a speech announcing the new measures, President Biden promised that Russia would “bear the consequences” of the attack and its leader Vladimir Putin would become a “pariah on the international stage.”
- The new U.S. measures included sanctions against Russian banks and elites, as well as export blocks on technology and sanctions against Belarus — which has aided the Russian attack. Top lawmakers on both sides of the aisle have urged Biden to go further, calling for sanctions against Putin personally or to shut Russia off from the SWIFT banking system.
- Biden also deployed 7,000 additional troops to Germany to bolster NATO defenses amid the war. The U.S. is reportedly considering taking several other measures, such as arming the Ukrainian resistance, training Ukraine’s troops remotely, and launching massive cyberattacks against Russia.
All times Eastern.
President Joe Biden will meet with fellow NATO heads of state in an emergency virtual summit at 9 a.m. to discuss Ukraine. At 11:30 a.m., he will receive his daily intelligence briefing.
Biden is also reportedly planning to announce Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson as his nominee to the Supreme Court at some point today.
Vice President Kamala Harris will participate in a virtual meeting at 8 a.m. with the leaders of the Bucharest Nine (B9), NATO’s eastern flank. Harris was scheduled to travel to Louisiana today, but she canceled the trip, likely so she could be in D.C. for Biden’s Supreme Court announcement.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki will hold her daily press briefing at 2 p.m.
The House and Senate are both on recess. Each chamber will hold pro forma sessions today — brief meetings held only to fulfill the constitutional requirement that they meet every three days.
The House will convene at 12:30 p.m., with the Senate following at 2 p.m. No business is expected to be conducted in either session.
The Supreme Court will hold its weekly conference today, allowing the justices to discuss pending cases and petitions.
The Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) will hold the second day of its 2022 gathering, which is annually a top draw for Republican politicians and activists and is being held this year in Orlando, Florida.
Speakers today will include Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, and Gov. Kristi Noem (R-SD), each of whom are seen as potential contenders for the Republican presidential nomination in 2024.
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