“President Biden is considering deploying several thousand U.S. troops, as well as warships and aircraft, to NATO allies in the Baltics and Eastern Europe, an expansion of American military involvement amid mounting fears of a Russian incursion into Ukraine,“ the New York Times reports.
“The move would signal a major pivot for the Biden administration, which up until recently was taking a restrained stance on Ukraine, out of fear of provoking Russia into invading. But as President Vladimir V. Putin has ramped up his threatening actions toward Ukraine, and talks between American and Russian officials have failed to discourage him, the administration is now moving away from its do-not-provoke strategy.”
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has placed 8,500 U.S. troops on “heightened preparedness to deploy” to eastern Europe in case NATO activates its rapid-response force over tensions with Russia, Axios reports. “Secretary Austin briefed President Joe Biden on Saturday about U.S. options for responding if Russia invades Ukraine as well as options for U.S. military movements in advance of an invasion,” NBC News reports.
Washington Post: “An increasingly anxious Europe is waking up to the threat posed by Russia’s military buildup on the borders of Ukraine, but deep divisions among and within European nations stand in the way of a unified Western response.”
“NATO and European Union officials have repeatedly stressed that the continent stands firm in its desire to prevent a Russian assault on Ukraine and in its willingness to inflict punishment on Russia if an invasion is launched.”
“But there is no unanimity on how best to go about deterring Russia or what measures to take in the event of an attack on Ukraine.”
Associated Press: “NATO said Monday that it’s putting extra forces on standby and sending more ships and fighter jets to eastern Europe as Russia continues its troop build-up near Ukraine.”
Bloomberg: “As the US and Europe mount increasingly frantic efforts to deter Russia from any invasion of Ukraine, it’s Chinese President Xi Jinping who may have the biggest influence on Mr Vladimir Putin’s timetable.”
“The Russian President has said he will join Mr Xi at the opening ceremony on Feb 4 of the Beijing Winter Olympics, where the Chinese leader has lavished billions of dollars to showcase his nation’s superpower status to the world.”
“The last thing Mr Xi needs is for Mr Putin to overshadow China’s big moment by triggering a global security crisis with the US and Europe.”
The State Department ordered the departure of all family members of U.S. Embassy personnel serving in Kyiv on Sunday, citing the “threat of Russian military action,” the Washington Post reports.
Politico: “The authorized and ordered departures followed assurances by Secretary of State Antony Blinken that the U.S. and allied nations are prepared to counter Russia if it continues its aggressive actions toward Ukraine.”
The Department of Homeland Security issued a bulletin saying that Russia would consider conducting a cyberattack on the U.S. homeland if Moscow perceived that a U.S. or NATO response to a potential Russian invasion of Ukraine “threatened Russia’s long-term national security,” CNN reports.
Fiona Hill: “As I have seen over two decades of observing Mr. Putin, and analyzing his moves, his actions are purposeful and his choice of this moment to throw down the gauntlet in Ukraine and Europe is very intentional. He has a personal obsession with history and anniversaries. December 2021 marked the 30th anniversary of the dissolution of the Soviet Union, when Russia lost its dominant position in Europe. Mr. Putin wants to give the United States a taste of the same bitter medicine Russia had to swallow in the 1990s.”
“He believes that the United States is currently in the same predicament as Russia was after the Soviet collapse: grievously weakened at home and in retreat abroad. He also thinks NATO is nothing more than an extension of the United States. Russian officials and commentators routinely deny any agency or independent strategic thought to other NATO members. So, when it comes to the alliance, all Moscow’s moves are directed against Washington.”
CNBC: If war is coming, the West must decide how far it will go to defend Ukraine against Russia.
Sarah Palin has tested positive for Covid, and is unvaccinated, a federal judge told a courtroom Monday just as a civil defamation trial involving the one-time-Alaska governor and the New York Times was set to begin, CNBC reports.
Palin said last month that she will get a Covid-19 vaccine “over my dead body.” Covid responded “Deal.”
“Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 Republican vice presidential nominee, has spent 4-1/2 years battling the New York Times over an editorial she said falsely linked her to a deadly Arizona mass shooting that left a U.S. congresswoman seriously wounded,” Reuters reports.
Politico: “After years of litigation, as well as delays because of the coronavirus pandemic, a trial in Palin’s suit is scheduled to begin with jury selection on Monday in federal court in New York City.”
“Former attorney general William Barr has spoken with the House select committee investigating the Jan. 6 insurrection, a further indication that several former Trump administration officials are cooperating with the panel even as others are fighting efforts to compel their testimony,” the Washington Post reports.
Former President Donald Trump’s team has been involved in discussions about a legal defense fund created to support aides targeted by the House panel investigating January 6, CNN reports.
“Federal prosecutors are set to make their case Monday to keep jailed pending trial the man they say masterminded a conspiracy to take over the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, with the intention of keeping then-President Donald Trump in power,” Politico reports.
Rolling Stone: “This scheme to subvert the election outcome in Arizona is laid out in newly released emails… Sent in early December 2020, the emails cover a critical moment when the post-election push by Trump and Republican allies to find fraud and overturn the presidential election was in full swing.”
“The emails show how a group of fringe election sleuths pressed state legislators on a plan to disrupt the 2020 election certification and potentially change the vote count in a battleground state that helped deliver Joe Biden the presidency. The emails also reveal that several Trump advisers, including campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis and legal adviser Bernie Kerik, were included in the discussion.”
“Tim Heaphy, the top staff investigator on the House committee scrutinizing the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol has been fired by the state’s new Republican attorney general from his position as the top lawyer for the University of Virginia, from which he was on leave while working on the congressional inquiry,” the New York Times reports.
“The office of the attorney general, Jason S. Miyares, said the firing of the investigator, Timothy J. Heaphy, was not related to the Jan. 6 investigation, but the move prompted an outcry from Democrats in the state, who accused him of taking the highly unusual action as a partisan move to further former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to undermine the committee’s work.”
Miyares’ spokesperson claimed Heaphy’s ouster was unrelated to his involvement with the panel. The spokesperson said the counsel was fired for giving legal advice based on “the philosophy of a university” and not the law.
Heaphy will continue working with the committee, according to a spokesperson for the panel.
Miyares also quickly took aim at abortion rights on Friday, withdrawing Virginia’s opposition to Mississippi’s abortion ban, which is currently being considered by the Supreme Court. With Virginia Gov. Glenn Youngkin’s (R) support, the new state attorney general sent a letter to the high court urging it to overturn Roe v. Wade in the Mississippi case.
Newt Gingrich told Fox News that lawmakers serving on the House Select Committee to investigate the January 6 insurrection may end up in prison.
Said Gingrich: “I think when you have a Republican Congress, this is all going to come crashing down. The wolves are gonna find out they’re now sheep, and they’re the ones who are, in fact, I think, going to face a real risk of going to jail for the kind of laws that they’re breaking.”
Playbook: “We’re not sure exactly what Gingrich is referring to. Congress doesn’t have the power to jail people — unless Republicans plan to use the ‘inherent contempt’ power, which hasn’t been used in about 100 years and is reserved for enforcing subpoenas. More likely Gingrich’s remark is aimed at intimidation. Either way, it shows how the committee is getting under the GOP’s skin.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY) tweets: “This is what it looks like when the rule of law unravels.”
“The Supreme Court agreed on Monday to decide whether race-conscious admissions programs at Harvard and the University of North Carolina are lawful, putting the fate of affirmative action in higher education at risk,” the New York Times reports.
“The court has repeatedly upheld similar programs, most recently in 2016. But recent changes in the court’s membership have made it more conservative, and the challenged programs are almost certain to meet skepticism.”
“The Supreme Court on Monday turned away a GOP lawsuit challenging proxy voting rules set up by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in response to the pandemic,” USA Today reports.
“The decision to not hear the case lets stand a federal appeals court ruling that said courts are barred from reviewing the internal rules of the House of Representatives.”
The WHO said the Omicron variant has moved the Covid-19 pandemic into a “new phase” and could bring it to an end in Europe, AFP reports.
The New York Times says the comments echoed the optimism of other leading public health officials around the world, including Dr. Anthony Fauci, President Biden’s top medical adviser for the coronavirus.
The rate of COVID-19 cases in the U.S. is going in the “right direction,” dropping both abroad and in certain areas of the country, such as the Northeast, infectious disease expert Dr. Anthony Fauci said on ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. However, the doctor also warned against getting overconfident given how the virus has taken unpredictable turns before.
Wall Street Journal: Omicron slows Europe’s economy but supply chain strains ease.
A must-read from Gabriel Sherman at Vanity Fair:
“Jerry Falwell Jr. was the Trump-anointing dark prince of the Christian right. Then a sex scandal rocked his marriage and ended his lucrative stewardship of the evangelical education empire founded by his father.”
“In a series of exclusive interviews, Falwell—accompanied by his wife, Becki—describes the events that led to his ouster, their fallout, and why he’s finally ready to admit he never had much use for his father’s church anyway.”
“Stocks suffered their steepest drop of the year early Monday, putting the S&P 500 on course for its worst-ever start to a year,” Axios reports.
“A dramatic sell-off in Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies has outpaced a marked retreat in the U.S. stock market, as the Federal Reserve’s pivot from emergency support spooks investors who piled into highflying but risky assets during the pandemic,” the Washington Post reports.
CNN: “Investors are getting jittery about digital currencies and other riskier assets ever since the US Federal Reserve signaled it may unwind economic stimulus more aggressively than expected.”
“So far, financial markets are cooperating nicely with the Federal Reserve’s efforts to restrain inflation. They’re doing the Fed’s work for it by creating tighter financial conditions, in a distinctly non-panicky way,” Axios reports.
“But as the central bank’s policymakers meet this week, an underlying question they face is whether the adjustment is happening too slowly.”
Axios: “Almost every small business owner in a Goldman Sachs survey is having trouble hiring — and two-thirds think the federal government has done too little to ease their hiring, supply-chain and inflation worries.”
“An experiment that provided poor mothers with cash stipends for the first year of their children’s lives appears to have changed the babies’ brain activity in ways associated with stronger cognitive development, a finding with potential implications for safety net policy,” the New York Times reports.
Twenty-seven House lawmakers have signed a letter urging Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) to bring forward legislation that would ban members of Congress from owning or trading stocks, Axios reports.
Related from the New York Times: “In an academic paper published a few years ago, an economist named Serkan Karadas highlighted a suspicious pattern: Members of Congress earned higher than average returns on their stock investments.”
“The findings suggested that at least some Congress members were profiting off their jobs. With inside knowledge about forthcoming policy changes or economic developments, the members could buy stocks shortly before they rose in price or sell them shortly before they fell.”
“After the Jan. 6 insurrection, the Capitol Police’s intelligence unit quietly started scrutinizing the backgrounds of people who meet with lawmakers,” Politico reports.
“Examining the social media feeds of people who aren’t suspected of crimes, however, is a controversial move for law enforcement and intelligence officials given the civil liberties concerns it raises.”
“Among those who have been subject to new Capitol Police scrutiny are Hill staffers.”
“The big unknown about Gov. Glenn Youngkin (R) as he ran for office last year — apart from the exact size of his vast fortune — was just how red the political newcomer really was behind that easygoing demeanor,” the Washington Post reports.
“One week into his term: Mystery solved.”
“Youngkin stormed into Richmond with an assertion of executive power that has thrilled the GOP base but caught even some allies off guard, and he has made clear that he views his two-point margin of victory as a mandate for conservative change.”
Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ) tweeted that people have called his office telling him the U.S. should be “siding with Russia” instead of Ukraine as tensions escalate between the two countries.
Said Malinowski: “My office is now getting calls from folks who say they watch Tucker Carlson and are upset that we’re not siding with Russia in its threats to invade Ukraine, and who want me to support Russia’s ‘reasonable’ positions.”
Tucker Carlson compared President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate to Nazi experiments on concentration camp captives.
Said Carlson: “After watching what the imperial Japanese army and the Nazis did in their medical experiments, I thought that American physicians agreed that compulsory medical care was unethical, it was immoral, and it could never be imposed on anyone. When did we forget that?”
“At a rally against vaccine mandates in Washington, DC, on Sunday, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. likened vaccine policies in the US to the actions of a totalitarian state, even suggesting Anne Frank was in a better situation when she was hiding from the Nazis,” CNN reports.
Nate Cohn: “One year into his presidency, no one is confusing Mr. Biden for Mr. Roosevelt. Not with his legislative agenda stalled and his approval rating mired in the low forties.”
“But the difference between the two Democrats isn’t merely the one between success and failure in the first year. Rather than following Mr. Roosevelt’s playbook and focusing relentlessly on the crises facing the nation and voters, Mr. Biden’s efforts have shifted from the pandemic and the economy to also pursue longstanding Democratic policy goals — universal prekindergarten, climate change, voting rights, a child tax credit.”
“The decision to prioritize the goals of his party’s activist base over the issues prioritized by voters is more reminiscent of the last half-century of politically unsuccessful Democratic presidents than of Mr. Roosevelt himself.”
Associated Press: “The British prime minister’s career is littered with doctored quotes, tall tales, exaggerations and mistruths. When called out, he has generally offered an apologetic shrug or a guilty grin, and moved on. Plenty of people were willing to forgive him.”
“At least until now. Revelations that the prime minister and his staff partied while Britain was under coronavirus restrictions have provoked public outrage and prompted many in the Conservative Party to consider dumping their leader.”
“The Conservatives picked Johnson because his image as a cheerful rule-breaker — the naughty schoolboy of British politics — gave him a rare ability to connect with voters. Now, many are having second thoughts.”
“New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has cancelled her wedding after announcing new Covid restrictions,” the BBC reports. “The entire country is set to be placed under the highest level of Covid restrictions after an outbreak of the Omicron variant.”
“Taiwan on Sunday reported the largest incursion since October by China’s air force in its air defense zone, with the island’s defense ministry saying Taiwanese fighters scrambled to warn away 39 aircraft in the latest uptick in tensions,” Reuters reports.
“Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi has abandoned his bid to be elected as Italy’s next head of state, despite claiming to have enough votes to win and amid reports he has been admitted to hospital,” Politico reports. CNBC: Italy votes for new president in a race that could spark political upheaval.
“Russia’s central bank has proposed outlawing all cryptocurrency operations in the country, one of the world’s biggest centers for mining digital tokens,” the Financial Times reports.
“Under the draft proposals, Russia would ban all cryptocurrency issuance and operations, stop banks from investing in cryptocurrencies, block exchanging crypto for traditional currency, and introduce legal liability for using crypto in purchases.”