“Troops, tanks, missiles and warships are on the move. Russian forces, slowly but surely, are surrounding Ukraine on three sides. The picture on the ground suggests that Russian President Vladimir Putin is about to launch a massive, multi-front offensive into a neighboring nation that for eight years has been slipping from his grasp into the hands of the West,” the Washington Post reports.
“But the former KGB lieutenant colonel — who has spent his career refining tactics to keep his adversaries off balance and exploit their differences — retains a plethora of options short of starting a full-blown, mass-casualty war that would put his own economy and soldiers at risk.”
Nonetheless, from Foreign Affairs: “The third and most likely outcome is a full-scale Russian offensive employing land, air, and sea power on all axes of attack.”
“The British government said Saturday that the Kremlin was developing plans to install a pro-Russian leader in Ukraine — and had already chosen a potential candidate — as President Vladimir Putin weighs whether to order the Russian forces amassed on Ukraine’s border to attack,” the New York Times reports.
“The highly unusual public communiqué by the United Kingdom’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office, issued late at night in London, comes at a moment of high-stakes diplomacy between the Kremlin and the West.”
“Russia’s Foreign Ministry on Sunday rejected a British claim that Russia was seeking to replace Ukraine’s government with a pro-Moscow administration, and that former Ukrainian lawmaker Yevheniy Murayev was being considered as a potential candidate,” the AP reports.
“German Chancellor Olaf Scholz signaled reluctance to participate in any effort to arm Ukraine as the U.S. and its allies face the threat of Russian forces deployed along the Ukrainian border,” Bloomberg reports.
“The U.S. is weighing whether to evacuate family members of diplomats stationed in Ukraine as Russia masses more than 100,000 troops on its borders,” Bloomberg reports. “Under the plan, family members would be ordered to return home while non-essential employees would be able to leave voluntarily.”
Fox News: “Next week, the State Department is also expected to encourage Americans to begin leaving Ukraine by commercial flights, ‘while those are still available.’”
Politico has obtained Donald Trump’s never-issued draft executive order that would have seized voting machines.
Washington Post: “Donald Trump’s rationale for seizing voting machines was worse than you might have assumed.”
Wall Street Journal: “The U.S. food system is under renewed strain as Covid-19’s Omicron variant stretches workforces from processing plants to grocery stores, leaving gaps on supermarket shelves…”
“Food-industry executives and analysts warn that the situation could persist for weeks or months, even as the current wave of Covid-19 infections eases. Recent virus-related absences among workers have added to continuing supply and transportation disruptions, keeping some foods scarce.”
New York Times: “It is the case that supply disruptions are leading to higher inflation in many places, including in large developing economies like India and Brazil and in developed ones like the euro area.”
“But some economists point out that even as inflation proves pervasive around the globe, it has been more pronounced in America than elsewhere.”
“Kyrsten Sinema was censured by the Arizona Democratic Party on Saturday morning, after the senator’s longstanding opposition to modifying Senate rules to pass voting rights bills culminated in the legislation stalling in Congress,” Politico reports.
Washington Post: “While the reprimand has no practical consequences, it reflects the growing estrangement between the first-term senator and her fellow Democrats, who have been angered by her willingness to help stymie the party’s agenda on issues such as the minimum wage and voting rights.”
“Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ) is growing increasingly isolated from some of her party’s most influential officials and donors after playing a key role in scuttling voting rights legislation that many Democrats consider essential to preserving democracy,” the AP reports.
“After two strikeouts, don’t expect Senate Democrats to immediately swing for the fences again,” Politico reports.
“There’s little appetite in the Democratic majority to publicly fall short on high-profile priorities so soon after the party’s failures to both weaken the filibuster to pass election reform and to approve President Joe Biden’s $1.7 trillion social spending bill. Instead, many Democrats are itching to get back to voting on bills that have plenty of GOP support, such as a new deal to fund the government or changing antitrust laws.”
“Sure, Democrats will try to revive their signature domestic spending bill, and they say they will keep fighting for election reform. They might even change the Electoral Count Act. None of that, however, is expected to play out on the Senate floor anytime soon.”
“We’ll be talking to everybody who wants to talk. We’ll just be starting from scratch.” — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), quoted by NBC News, on being ready to talk again about a big spending bill.
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) said Senate Republicans are “laughing all the way to Election Day” because “they have not had to cast one bloody vote” on the Democrats’ roughly $1.2 trillion social spending and climate package, which is stalled in the upper chamber, The Hill reports.
Said Sanders: “What has bothered me very much is the Republicans are laughing all the way to Election Day. They have not had to cast one bloody vote… which shows us where they’re at. And we have got to change that.”
“We’ve come from different areas, okay? It’s not just not all urban, metropolitan areas. Those of us who come from rural areas — there’s a complete different constituency that we all serve… And I said I’m not a Washington Democrat, so the base they have is a different base than I have.” — Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV), quoted by Politico, on why he’s on a different page than most Democrats.
A new article in the prestigious medical journal, The Lancet, says that after the current Omicron wave — perhaps by March — Covid-19 will continue but the end of the pandemic is near.
New York Times: “More and more states have passed a peak in new cases in recent days, as glimmers of progress have spread from a handful of eastern cities to much of the country.”
And yet: “The United States continues to identify far more infections a day than in any prior surge, and some states in the West, South and Great Plains are still seeing sharp increases. Many hospitals are full. And deaths continue to mount, with more than 2,100 announced most days.”
The Economist: “In some parts of America, the Omicron variant appears to have peaked. Many states in the north-east and mid-Atlantic regions seem to have reached their highest point of covid-19 cases and hospitalisations over the past few days. There is reason to believe that infections in those places will quickly decline from here.”
“This is promising, but the wave in other parts of America has yet to crest… States in the middle and western parts of the country are experiencing a quick rise in Omicron cases. These states differ from the early-outbreak ones. Many have much lower vaccination rates, with potentially grim implications for the impact on health.”
“Vaccine boosters provide robust protection against severe disease from the omicron variant in the United States, according to three reports released Friday that offer the first real-world data in this country showing the utility of the additional shots in keeping vaccinated people out of the hospital,” the Washington Post reports.
“Law enforcement officials, members of Congress and the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol are digging deeper into the role that fake slates of electors played in efforts by former President Donald Trump to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election,” the New York Times reports.
“In recent days, the state attorneys general in Michigan and New Mexico have asked the Justice Department to investigate fake slates of electors that falsely claimed that Mr. Trump, not Joe Biden, had won their states.”
The Washington Post and CNN have new details of how then-Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani spearheaded the Trump campaign’s scheme to gather fake Trump electors in seven states that Biden won in 2020. The plan was central to the bigger scheme to get then-Vice President Mike Pence to swap Biden electors in those states for Trump ones.
The states in the fake elector plot were: Pennsylvania, Georgia, Michigan, Arizona, Wisconsin, Nevada and New Mexico. One of the fake electors even bragged about her participation in the plot as recently as last week, CNN found. Some Republican electors refused to go along with it, so Giuliani and his team had to find replacements, according to the Washington Post. OAN Trump propagandist Christina Bobb, who is a lawyer, was reportedly involved in the plan.
“Igor Fruman, who helped Donald Trump’s former personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani collect damaging information about Joe Biden before he was elected president, will learn on Friday whether he is headed to prison after pleading guilty to a campaign finance violation,” Reuters reports.
“The National Archives has transferred hundreds of pages of Donald Trump’s White House records to the Jan. 6 select committee, a major breakthrough for the panel’s investigation after it prevailed in litigation against the former president,” Politico reports.
“Those files are drawn from former chief of staff Mark Meadows, former press secretary Kayleigh McEnany, former adviser Stephen Miller and other senior Trump aides.”
“They include speech drafts, call and visitor logs, briefing memos and handwritten notes pertaining to Trump’s months-long effort to overturn the 2020 election.”
FBI agents and the House panel investigating the January 6 attack on the Capitol have both learned of an alleged plan by allies of retired army Lt Gen Michael Flynn to gather “intelligence” on top Republicans to “move” them to back election audits in key states Trump lost, The Guardian reports.
Former President Donald Trump slammed the Jan. 6 committee investigating the Capitol insurrection after it asking his daughter Ivanka Trump to sit for an interview, The Hill reports.
Said Trump: “It’s a very unfair situation for my children. Very, very unfair.”
He added: “It’s a disgrace, what’s going on. They’re using these things to try and get people’s minds off how incompetently our country is being run. And they don’t care. They’ll go after children.”
Former President Donald Trump was interviewed by Sean Hannity on Fox News:
HANNITY: There’s no course correction (with Biden). He seems locked into every one of these failed policies. So, you know, you know, you keep banging your head against the wall. Why would you expect a different result?
TRUMP: So, we would have the wall completed in 3 weeks. It was largely completed. We did almost 500 miles of wall.
New York Times: “The Fox News host Sean Hannity had some blunt advice for President Donald J. Trump on Jan. 7, 2021: ‘No more stolen election talk.’”
“His guidance did not take. But documents disclosed on Thursday showed in vivid detail just how closely Mr. Hannity had worked with White House aides in a fervent, if brief, effort to persuade Mr. Trump to abandon his false claims about voter fraud after the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.”
Jane Mayer: “The claim that the Justices’ opinions are politically neutral is becoming increasingly hard to accept, especially from Thomas, whose wife, Virginia (Ginni) Thomas, is a vocal right-wing activist. She has declared that America is in existential danger because of the ‘deep state’ and the ‘fascist left,’ which includes ‘transsexual fascists.’”
“Thomas, a lawyer who runs a small political-lobbying firm, Liberty Consulting, has become a prominent member of various hard-line groups. Her political activism has caused controversy for years. For the most part, it has been dismissed as the harmless action of an independent spouse. But now the Court appears likely to secure victories for her allies in a number of highly polarizing cases—on abortion, affirmative action, and gun rights.”
“As anti-vaccine activists from across the country prepare to gather on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on Sunday, they are hoping their rally will mark a once-fringe movement’s arrival as a lasting force in American society,” the Washington Post reports.
“Almost two years into the coronavirus pandemic, the movement to challenge vaccines’ safety — and reject vaccine mandates — has never been stronger. An ideology whose most notable adherents were once religious fundamentalists and minor celebrities is now firmly entrenched among tens of millions of Americans.”
Alex Pareene: “This is why I find the tenor of discussion around Covid-19 restrictions genuinely bewildering. There basically aren’t any. The United States is powering through the Omicron wave with its usual enforced individualism. The hard restrictions on our activities are, for the most part, not mandated or enforced by the state, acting at the behest of liberals who refuse to go back to normal because they are addicted to panic and quarantine; the limits are imposed by the virus that isn’t going away.”
“My kid’s school class went remote for a while because people had Covid-19. He’s back in school now even though his principal has Covid-19. As usual in the United States, the people who won the political argument are now complaining the loudest that they’re dissatisfied with the results, and, apparently, it’s all the fault of the losers.”
“As Joe Biden limps into his second year in office, a common criticism has emerged among fellow party members: his top advisers are too insular, rigid and self-assured,” Politico reports.
“At the center of it all is Biden’s chief of staff, Ron Klain.”
“For months, moderate Democrats in Congress have complained that Klain is overly deferential to their liberal colleagues, to the point where some members and Hill staff privately said he needed to be replaced. With Biden’s domestic agenda stalling out, the Covid pandemic lingering and inflation rising, second guessing of his leadership is now coming from a wider swath of the party and even some corners of the administration.”
New York Times: “Privately, some allies of the president have also raised questions about Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff, who is deeply involved in developing strategy and messaging for Mr. Biden, especially on domestic policy, the pandemic and the economy. But Mr. Biden on Wednesday insisted he is not planning any immediate staff shake-ups.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) was again asked whether he’s received his Covid-19 booster shot but refused to answer.
Said DeSantis: “So that’s something that I think people should make their own decisions on. I’m not gonna let that be a weapon for people to be able to use. I think it’s a private matter…”
It’s very odd DeSantis would publicly admit that he’s been vaccinated but now won’t say if he’s been boosted.
“It’s a good time to be an American worker. Wages are climbing higher, and they’re expected to stay that way for years,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Employees can quit a job and likely find better pay elsewhere. Many companies are boosting salaries as they scramble to fill open positions.”
Washington Post: “But in an unexpected twist, the same strong economic recovery that is emboldening workers is also driving up inflation, leaving most Americans with less spending power than they had a year ago.”
Walter Shapiro: “Joe Biden came to office with more relevant Washington experience than any president since the early days of the republic, with the possible exceptions of Lyndon Johnson and George H.W. Bush.”
“With that background, Biden might have been expected to be a trifle cynical about the realities of 21st-century political power and the pace of change in Washington.”
“Biden has had his successes as president, beginning with the booming economy despite the pandemic. But looking back on his first 364 days in the Oval Office, it is startling how many of the president’s missteps flow from a buoyant optimism reminiscent of a gambler who thinks he’s on a lucky streak.”