by Gabe Fleisher
Good morning! It’s Wednesday, March 23, 2022. Election Day 2022 is 230 days away. Election Day 2024 is 958 days away.
Leading today’s newsletter: A preview of President Biden’s trip to Europe by WUTP global contributor Miles Hession.
Later down: What you might have might have missed in yesterday’s Supreme Court confirmation hearing, the latest Covid news, a look ahead to the day in Washington, and something to make you smile.
Biden heads to Europe
by Miles Hession
President Biden is set to land in Europe this afternoon, launching a trip aimed at reassuring allies of U.S. support and coordinating further steps to isolate Russia amid its invasion of Ukraine.
The main event of the trip will be tomorrow’s NATO summit in Brussels. National security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters that leaders at the summit will discuss contingency plans for the use of nuclear weapons, while also working on long-term adjustments to NATO’s security posturing.
According to NBC News, Biden may announce “that the United States plans to permanently maintain an increased number of its troops deployed in NATO countries near Ukraine.”
What remains off-the-table for Biden and NATO allies is sending in troops or instituting a no-fly zone over Ukraine, despite Ukrainian President Volodymr Zelensky’s repeated requests. Setting up a no-fly zone would require NATO countries to shoot down any Russian planes flying over Ukraine, which could drag the entire alliance into a war with a nuclear power.
Biden has remained adamant that this is not an option, although he plans to emphasize to allies that the U.S. would back any NATO member unconditionally if Russia instigates a conflict with one of them.
Biden will also continue to take steps in isolating Russia on the world stage. He is set to announce a new tranche of sanctions, which are expected to target more than 300 members of the Russian parliament.
Also on the agenda in Brussels: coordinating a Western stance on preventing China from assisting Russia in the war. Biden spoke with Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday to warn him against aiding Russia’s war effort. Biden will seek support from European allies in this position in an attempt to put a wedge between Russia and its most important ally.
After the Brussels summit, Biden will head to Poland. While there, Biden is set to meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda to discuss Poland replacing Russia as a member in the G20, an intergovernmental organization composed of many of the world’s largest economies.
While Russia has been expelled from, or left, many other international groups since the start of the war, removal from the G20 would be yet another push into isolation for the country. China would likely veto Russia’s expulsion from the group, but the efforts represent Biden’s continued push to unify the West and sequester Russia.
His visit to Poland will likely be the closest Biden gets to the war zone. According to the White House, a visit to Ukraine itself is not in the cards for this trip abroad.
Key moments from the KBJ hearing
Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson faced 12 hours of questioning from the Senate Judiciary Committee on Tuesday. In case you weren’t able to watch all 12 hours, here are some of the key moments to know:
— Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO) pressed Jackson on her record of sentencing child sex offenders, focusing on a 2013 case in which she sentenced a 19-year-old child pornography offender to three months in prison. The federal sentencing guidelines would call for 10 years; prosecutors had pushed for two years. “I am questioning your discretion, your judgment,” Hawley said.
- “Sentencing is a discretionary act of a judge, but it’s not a numbers game,” Jackson responded, explaining that there were other factors beyond the guidelines — such as the defendant’s age and potential danger to victims — that figure into sentencing. Several fact-checkers have found that Jackson’s sentencing of child porn offenders has been in line with other judges, contrary to Hawley’s claims. (Watch the exchange with Hawley)
— Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) focused on critical race theory, an academic theory on racism that has recently become a flashpoint for conservatives. Cruz questioned Jackson on her previous praise of the New York Times’ 1619 Project and the curriculum of Georgetown Day School, a private school where the nominee serves as a board member.
- Jackson said she played no role in formulating the school’s curriculum, and declined to answer most question on race-related books Cruz mentioned. “They don’t come up in my work as a judge, which I’m respectfully here to address,” Jackson said. (Watch the exchange with Cruz)
— Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) sought to pin Jackson down on whether she would uphold the precedents of Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, the Supreme Court cases that have protected abortion rights. “Roe and Casey are settled law of the Supreme Court concerning the right to terminate a woman’s pregnancy,” Jackson answered. (Watch the exchange with Feinstein)
— Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC), attempting to prove that Democrats had treated Justice Amy Coney Barrett unfairly in her confirmation hearings by focusing on her religion, bluntly asked Jackson, “What faith are you?” He also asked her to rate “how faithful” she is “on a scale of 1 to 10.” Jackson mostly declined to discuss her personal faith. (Watch the exchange with Graham)
— Sen. Dick Durbin (D-IL) asked Jackson to describe her judicial philosophy. In response, Jackson said she had developed a three-part “methodology” that she uses to decide every case before her: first “proceeding from a position of neutrality,” then “evaluating all of the facts,” and finally “the interpretation and application of the law to the facts in the case.” (Watch the exchange with Durbin)
Jackson will be back before the committee today for her final day of questioning. It will be shorter, as every member will have 20 minutes instead of 30 to grill her. Watch here, starting at 9 a.m.
The latest Covid news
- The highly infectious BA.2 subvariant is quickly spreading across the globe and now accounts for most new coronavirus infections in the Northeast United States. Nationwide, the CDC said Tuesday that the subvariant accounts for 35% of new infections, up from 22% a week ago.
- As the subvariant threatens to drive up cases — which have so far remained low — public health experts are warning that the U.S. is insufficiently prepared to provide additional tests and vaccines due to low pandemic funding.
- Meanwhile, White House press secretary Jen Psaki announced on Tuesday that she tested positive, her second bout with Covid in five months. She is just the latest Democratic figure to test positive for Covid in recent weeks, joining former President Barack Obama, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff.
What’s happening in Washington today. (All times Eastern)
- President Biden will leave for Brussels, Belgium, at 9 a.m. and land at 3:50 p.m. After arriving at the airport, he will greet with Belgian Prime Minister Alexander De Croo at 4 p.m.
- Vice President Harris will deliver remarks on addressing bias in home valuations at 11 a.m.
- White House principal deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will hold a press gaggle aboard Air Force One during the flight to Belgium. National security adviser Jake Sullivan will also join. Jean-Pierre is standing in for Psaki, who is no longer going on the Europe trip after testing positive for Covid.
- The White House Covid-19 response team will hold a press briefing at 3 p.m.CONGRESS
- The Senate will convene at 10 a.m. and resume consideration of the America COMPETES Act, the House-passed bill to increase funding for domestic production of semiconductors and boost U.S. competitiveness with China.
- The chamber will hold a procedural vote to advance the measure at 10:30 a.m. and then possibly vote on judicial confirmations. Watch
- The House is not in session.
- The Senate Judiciary Committee will convene at 9 a.m. in Day 3 of its confirmation hearings for Supreme Court nominee Ketanji Brown Jackson. All members of the panel will have a second opportunity to question Jackson in order of seniority, this time for 20 minutes each. Watch
- Later on Wednesday, the committee will meet behind closed doors to discuss any matters stemming from Jackson’s FBI background investigation. The panel holds a session like this for every Supreme Court nominee “regardless of whether the background investigation has raised concerns,” the committee said. COURTS
- The Supreme Court will hear oral arguments at 10 a.m. in ZF Automotive US, Inc. v. Luxshare, Ltd. and AlixPartners v. Fund for Protection of Investor's Rights, two related cases which have been consolidated into a single argument session.
- According to SCOTUSBlog, the question before the justices in the two cases is “whether 28 U.S.C. § 1782 permits U.S. district courts to order discovery for use in foreign arbitration proceedings.” Listen
There are two errors I’d like to correct from last Friday’s newsletter: First, I gave the wrong home state for Sen. Marsha Blackburn. She is from Tennessee.
Second, I reported that two Americans had been known to be killed in Ukraine since the war began. But there had also been a third: Serge Zevlever, a Ukrainian-American resident of my hometown of St. Louis who was killed while helping facilitate adoptions of children in Kyiv.
My apologies for the errors, and my thanks to all the readers who pointed them out.
Before I go...
Something to make you smile: Before Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s confirmation hearing started on Tuesday, a note was spotted on her daughter Leila’s seat that read “You got this!” Here it is as captured, by Michael McCoy of Reuters:
Back in 2016, when Leila was 11 and Justice Antonin Scalia’s death created a vacancy on the Supreme Court, she wrote a letter to President Obama urging him to pick her mother for the seat. Here’s the note, via Erica Green of the New York Times:
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