President Joe Biden on Monday called for evidence to be gathered to put Russian leader Vladimir Putin on trial for war crimes related to his nation’s invasion of Ukraine, CNBC reports. Said Biden: “He is a war criminal… This guy is brutal, and what’s happening in Bucha is outrageous and everyone’s seen it.” He added: “I think it is a war crime … He should be held accountable.”
“Haunting images of dead bodies littering the streets of a Kyiv suburb and reports of civilian executions are triggering new international condemnation against Russia, as Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky demanded accountability for what he said amounts to ‘genocide,’” the Washington Post reports. “Ukrainian officials said they have asked the International Criminal Court to visit the mass graves seen in Bucha, a suburb northwest of the capital, so that experts can gather evidence of possible Russian war crimes.”
New York Times: “An analysis of satellite images rebuts claims by Russia that the killing of civilians in Bucha, a suburb of Kyiv, occurred after its soldiers had left the town.”
“When images emerged over the weekend of the bodies of dead civilians lying on the streets of Bucha — some with their hands bound, some with gunshot wounds to the head — Russia’s Ministry of Defense denied responsibility. In a Telegram post on Sunday, the ministry suggested that the bodies had been recently placed on the streets after ‘all Russian units withdrew completely from Bucha’ around March 30.”
Washington Post: “Biden administration officials have discussed intensifying their sanctions campaign against Russia as evidence emerges of the apparent execution of civilians in a suburb near Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.”
“The scope of the potential U.S. retaliatory measures was not exactly clear, but senior Biden officials have previously discussed potentially devastating ‘secondary sanctions’ that would target countries that continue to trade with Russia…”
“The Biden administration could also impose sanctions on sectors of the Russian economy that it has not hit so far, including mining, transportation and additional areas of the Russian financial sector. The world continues to buy billions of dollars worth of Russian oil and gas, giving the Kremlin a direct financial lifeline. Officials stressed that planning was preliminary and no decisions had been made about potential responses.”
“President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine lambasted the former leaders of Germany and France, Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy, in a video address released late on Sunday, seemingly blaming them for the deaths of Ukrainian civilians,” the New York Times reports.
Said Zelensky: “I invite Ms. Merkel and Mr. Sarkozy to visit Bucha, to see what the policy of 14 years of concessions to Russia has led to. See with your own eyes the tortured and slain Ukrainians.”
Ishaan Tharoor: “In Washington, let alone the capitals of Western Europe, there’s a palpable change in atmosphere. The heroism of Ukraine’s defenders and the reported atrocities carried out by Russian forces have fired the imaginations of the Beltway class, which after years of quagmire and stalemate in the Middle East now has a far more morally clear and potentially winnable conflict to get behind.”
“American flags seldom fly in my left-leaning Washington neighborhood, but a brief Sunday stroll turned up myriad iterations of Ukraine’s blue-yellow bars hanging from fences and doorways. European diplomats in the city speak of an unprecedented solidarity among NATO allies and hail the Biden administration’s leadership in rallying support for Ukraine and sweeping sanctions on Russia. The West as a geopolitical entity has rarely been more united as a bloc and more coherent as a political project.”
Max Boot: “The West must continue to ramp up aid to Ukraine, providing it with the kind of heavy combat systems needed to drive back the Russians in the south and east as they have already done in the north. It is good to see the Biden administration getting ready to transfer tanks to Ukraine.”
“Other weapons, including artillery, fighter aircraft and long-range air defense systems, must follow. The only way to achieve peace at this point is not by negotiating with the Russians but by defeating them.”
Garry Kasparov: “So who in Washington is calling the shots on Ukraine? If the Biden administration wants Ukraine to win, someone in the White House should say it and do what is necessary to make it possible. If the U.S. is offering deals to Mr. Putin or pressuring Ukraine to accept anything less than sovereignty over 100% of its territory, we should know. Tactical ambiguity can be useful, but a lack of strategic and moral unity and consistency leads to catastrophe.”
Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton called on the U.S. to “impose even greater costs” on Russian President Vladimir Putin as punishment for Russia’s unprovoked invasion of Ukraine, Axios reports.
Said Clinton: “There are more banks that can be sanctioned and taken out of the so-called SWIFT relationship,” she said. “There is an increasing call for doing more on gas and oil.”
She added: “I think now is the time to double-down on the pressure.”
“Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the self-exiled Russian oligarch and vocal Kremlin opponent, has called on Russian billionaires and officials who have fled Russia to publicly denounce President Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine as criminal,” the Washington Post reports.
The U.S. government seized a mega yacht in Spain owned by an oligarch with close ties to the Russian president, the first in the government’s sanctions enforcement initiative to “seize and freeze” giant boats and other pricey assets of Russian elites, the AP reports.
“A Senate panel deadlocked on Ketanji Brown Jackson’s nomination to the Supreme Court, forcing a full Senate vote tonight that is expected to move the nomination forward,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Such ties in committee are rare, in part because the majority party usually holds more seats on the committee than the minority. But the Senate is divided 50-50 between both parties, with Vice President Kamala Harris holding the tiebreaking vote. A power-sharing agreement reached last year between Senate leaders gave Republicans an equal number of seats to Democrats on every committee, while Democrats hold the chairmanships.”
Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) and Mitt Romney (R-UT) announced that they will vote to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court, making them the second and third Republicans to confirm their vote for President Joe Biden’s court nomination, the Washington Post reports.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said last week that she would also vote to confirm Jackson.
“The Senate may have entered an era where the only way to confirm a Supreme Court nominee is the party of the president has to be in control of the Senate. And I’m pretty certain that the founders didn’t have that in mind.” — Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), quoted by the Wall Street Journal.
In a sign of how thoroughly the Supreme Court confirmation process has devolved into outright partisanship, a still-angry Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said Ketanji Brown Jackson would not have gotten a hearing if Republicans controlled the chamber, Politico reports.
Graham said Biden would have had to name a more moderate pick: “We’re supposed to be like trained seals over here clapping when you appoint a liberal. That’s not going to work.”
Sam Stein: “We are moving quickly towards a situation where if the Senate is in control of the opposite party of the president there will simply never be a SCOTUS confirmation. We may be there already.”
Sen. Alex Padilla’s (D-CA) flight snafu is delaying a committee vote on Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson’s Supreme Court nomination, The Hill reports.
Said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-IL): “Due to a passenger medical emergency, Senator Padilla’s flight was turned back and returned to LAX, delaying his arrival to Washington. He boarded the first available flight this morning and will arrive this afternoon.”
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged Americans in a pre-recorded video from a bunker in Kyiv to “support us in any way you can. Any — but not silence,” Axios reports.
Washington Post: “The 44-year-old Ukrainian comedian has evolved from a political neophyte, widely doubted among Western leaders and Ukrainian voters in the run-up to the war, into a crisis commander who has cemented his place in the history of Ukrainian nationhood and inspired a will to resist at home and abroad with personal bravery.”
“Now, as the war grinds on in its sixth week and peace talks between Ukrainian and Russian negotiators continue, Zelensky faces a new set of challenges. He must keep up morale and the will to fight amid battlefield casualties, economic devastation and vast civilian suffering. He must retain the confidence of Western nations that Ukraine can prevail to ensure weapons keep flowing.”
“Seven months before he faces a critical test from voters in the midterm elections, President Joe Biden is turning his focus to kitchen-table issues as he struggles to get credit for a recovering economy,” the AP reports.
“Since Biden took office last year, job growth has been vigorous and steady — as he told the country Friday after the March jobs report showed the addition of 431,000 jobs and the unemployment rate falling to a low 3.6%. But those same remarks were also tempered by his recognition that food and gas prices are too high and inflation is at its worst level in a generation.”
“For Biden, convincing Americans of the progress made in the economic recovery only serves as a salient reminder of how much further the country has to go.”
“Senate Democrats are preparing to make one last push for a deal with Joe Manchin on a huge party-line tax and spending bill. And they say they’ll do it differently this time,” Politico reports.
“With their 50-member majority poised to confirm Ketanji Brown Jackson to the Supreme Court by the end of the week, Democrats say they will quickly turn to trying to rebuild the bill once known as Build Back Better. But rather than a redux of the slow-motion collapse of that $1.7 trillion plan, they say they’ll swiftly meet Manchin where he is.”
Playbook: “Manchin recently was saying July Fourth and before August recess, but other Dems want to move faster.”
“Hungary’s authoritarian leader and longtime Russian ally, Viktor Orban, has declared victory in the country’s parliamentary elections, clinching a fourth consecutive term in power,” CNN reports.
“Orban’s Fidesz party had a commanding lead with 71% of the votes counted, Hungary’s national elections board said on Sunday evening.”
“The election campaign was dominated by Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine, which put Orban’s lengthy association with Russian President Vladimir Putin under scrutiny. In his victory speech, Orban called Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky one of the ‘opponents’ he had to overcome during the campaign.”
Hungary’s been one of the more reluctant European Union nations to help Ukraine amid Russia’s attack: Hungary has refused to send weapons to Ukraine during Russia’s attack, and opposes a ban on Russian energy imports, upon which Hungary relies on heavily.
Zelensky has slammed Orbán as “virtually the only one in Europe to openly support” Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Last month, the Ukrainian president compared Orbán’s hesitation to respond to the crisis to WWII-era inaction against the mass killing of Jewish people during the Holocaust.
In a letter sent Monday to Hungary’s nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban whose right-wing Fidesz party won a landslide victory in Sunday’s vote, Putin said that “despite the difficult international situation, the further development of bilateral partnership fully conforms to the interests of peoples of Russia and Hungary.”
Putin also congratulated Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic on his re-election Sunday, saying that the outcome of the vote confirms a “broad public support” for his independent foreign policies.
In a forthcoming book, a pair of New York Times reporters report that President Biden “assessed” Fox News “as one of the most destructive forces in the United States,” CNN reports. Biden also told an associate in mid-2021 that Rupert Murdoch was “the most dangerous man in the world.”
Interestingly, Biden has never spoken about Murdoch in public.
As recently as late last year, President Biden “confided to his inner circle” that he believed former President Donald Trump “was a threat to democracy and should be prosecuted,” the New York Times reports.
“Senators have agreed on a $10 billion spending deal to further fund the U.S. response to the coronavirus pandemic, two aides familiar with the matter said, well below what the White House originally requested for vaccines and therapeutics,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The package will allow the U.S. to purchase supplies, including more tests and vaccines, that the Biden administration said would be needed to continue to fight the virus. Lawmakers were unable to reach an agreement on money to help poor nations address the pandemic, and that funding won’t be in the deal.”
Wall Street Journal: “Negotiators are looking at pandemic-related funds that Congress has previously passed that remain unspent, after Republicans resisted new outlays and many Democrats rejected a previous deal involving $15.6 billion in repurposed funding. In the current round of talks, instead of looking at money originally allocated to states and localities, lawmakers are looking at other Covid relief dollars.”
“Covid-19 hospitalization numbers have plunged to their lowest levels since the early days of the pandemic, offering a much needed break to health care workers and patients alike following the omicron surge,” the AP reports.
“The number of patients hospitalized with the coronavirus has fallen more than 90% in more than two months, and some hospitals are going days without a single Covid-19 patient in the ICU for the first time since early 2020.”
New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu (R) joked that if Donald Trump was admitted to a mental hospital, “he’s not getting out,” the AP reports. Said Sununu: “He’s fucking crazy!”
Playbook: “It was just the beginning of an evening full of laughs — and, at times, cringes — that had the more than 600 journalists and VIPs in attendance reaching for more wine. For several hours, it was like the pandemic never happened, as D.C.’s high society descended on the Renaissance Hotel downtown for the first Gridiron gathering in three years.”
House Jan. 6 Committee member Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD), who also spoke at the event, described the Republican governor’s remarks as “the kind of insurrection the GOP needs today.”
Raskin also fired this lil zinger at Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL): “Look, it’s really tough to find a rental tuxedo this time of year: It’s high school prom season, and Matt Gaetz keeps getting the tuxedos that I want.”
Matthew Yglesias reports on a new study:
“Not only did CNN and Fox cover different things during the September 2020 survey period, but the audience of committed Fox viewers, which started the month with conservative predispositions, changed their minds on many issues.”
“Switchers were five percentage points more likely to believe that people suffer from long Covid, for example, and six points more likely to believe that many foreign countries did a better job than the U.S. of controlling the virus. They were seven points more likely to support voting by mail. And they were 10 points less likely to believe that supporters of then-candidate Joe Biden were happy when police officers get shot, 11 points less likely to say it’s more important for the president to focus on containing violent protesters than on the coronavirus, and 13 points less likely to agree that if Biden were elected, ‘we’ll see many more police get shot by Black Lives Matter activists.’”
Washington Post: “The IRS’s unprecedented backlog last winter of 24 million returns and taxpayer correspondence for the 2020 tax year was propelled by colliding crises: the pandemic decimated its workforce atop years of budget cuts and attrition, new stimulus measures added to the workload, and the agency remained crippled by the way it does business, processing the millions of returns it still receives on paper each filing season with red pen edits, manual data entry and clunky computer software that dates to the 1960s.”
“With technology upgrades on hold for now, the men and women gathered here off Interstate 15 represented one agency’s effort to reboot after a public health crisis that has left major functions of the federal government in disarray, with uncertainty about when it will return to a pre-pandemic normal.”
“A Pittsburgh Post-Gazette investigation, bolstered by thousands of secret government records, found that banks kept moving billions for the oligarchs and their companies at the same time they were filing reports with the U.S. Treasury after they found the hallmarks of financial crimes like money laundering.”
“Known as suspicious activity reports, the records — which are never disclosed to the public — are part of a Post-Gazette investigation into money laundering that began with revelations about millions of dirty dollars in the U.S. steel industry.”
“As the U.S. Supreme Court weighs the fate of Roe v. Wade, advocates on both sides of the fight are already positioning themselves for the next battle, over medication abortions or so-called abortion pills,” Axios reports.
“The pills for a medication abortion, mifepristone and misoprostol, are FDA-approved for use in the first 10 weeks of pregnancy. The FDA lifted long-standing restrictions in December and paved the way for doctors to prescribe them online and mail them to patients.”
Media Matters: “Fox mentioned ‘Disney’ more than 350 times and in over 3 hours of coverage this week. Its commentators claimed the company is ‘grooming’ and ‘sexualizing children’ in order to push a ‘progressive LGBT agenda.’”
And a warning from Laura Ingraham: “When Republicans get back into power, Apple and Disney have to understand one thing: Everything will be on the table, your copyright/trademark protection, your special status in certain states, and even your corporate structure itself.”
“Republicans heading into the heart of the midterm primary season have disagreements over Donald Trump’s future in the party. But they say they are largely united behind his populist domestic agenda in fighting to win back control of Congress,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“Interviews with about two dozen lawmakers at a recent House gathering in the Sunshine State and back in Washington show a party still grappling with how much wiggle room lawmakers have in their relationship with Mr. Trump and his politically polarizing persona. At the same time, most are embracing his record on such issues as immigration and energy policy, as they draw a contrast with President Biden and his fellow Democrats, who control the House and Senate.”
Former President Barack Obama will return to the White House on Tuesday for the first time since leaving office to promote the Affordable Care Act in an event alongside President Joe Biden, NBC News reports. It’ll be the first time since Biden’s inauguration that the ex-president and his former vice president appear together in D.C.