“Almost eight weeks after Vladimir Putin sent troops into Ukraine, with military losses mounting and Russia facing unprecedented international isolation, a small but growing number of senior Kremlin insiders are quietly questioning his decision to go to war,” Bloomberg reports.
“The ranks of the critics at the pinnacle of power remain ‘limited,’ spread across high-level posts in government and state-run business. They believe the invasion was a catastrophic mistake that will set the country back for years.”
“All spoke on condition of anonymity, too fearful of retribution to comment publicly. So far, these people see no chance the Russian president will change course and no prospect of any challenge to him at home. More and more reliant on a narrowing circle of hardline advisers, Putin has dismissed attempts by other officials to warn him of the crippling economic and political cost.”
“Germany on Tuesday night refused to join an international coalition in sending heavy weaponry to Ukraine as the country entered a new phase of the war against Russia,” The Telegraph reports.
“Chancellor Olaf Scholz said that while Germany was willing to give financial aid, he was not prepared to export tanks and armored personnel carriers to Kyiv.”
“President Biden told reporters Tuesday that he doesn’t know if he will visit Ukraine as other NATO leaders make the trip in a show of support for President Volodymyr Zelesnky against Russia’s invasion,” the New York Post reports.
“Wimbledon will bar players from Russia and Belarus from playing in the tournament because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, a decision that will affect two of the world’s highest-ranked players,” the Washington Post reports.
“Russia’s Daniil Medvedev, who was briefly the world’s No. 1 player and is now ranked second to Novak Djokovic, and Aryna Sabalenka of Belarus, the world’s fourth-ranked female player, will not be permitted to play in the tournament, which runs from June 27 to July 10.”
Associated Press: “Thousands of tanks and troops rumbled into the forested Chernobyl exclusion zone in the earliest hours of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February, churning up highly contaminated soil from the site of the 1986 accident that was the world’s worst nuclear disaster.”
“For more than a month, some Russian soldiers bunked in the earth within sight of the massive structure built to contain radiation from the damaged Chernobyl nuclear reactor. A close inspection of their trenches was impossible because even walking on the dirt is discouraged.”
“As the 36th anniversary of the April 26, 1986, disaster approaches and Russia’s invasion continues, it’s clear that Chernobyl — a relic of the Cold War — was never prepared for this.”
“Russia flagged a likely further cut in interest rates and more budget spending to help the economy adapt to biting western sanctions as it heads for its deepest contraction since 1994,” Reuters reports.
“Russia faces soaring inflation and capital flight while grappling with a possible debt default after the West imposed unprecedented sanctions to punish President Vladimir Putin for sending tens of thousands of troops into Ukraine on Feb. 24.”
“The US military is keeping a constant watch on Russia’s nuclear arsenal as the war in Ukraine continues and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is being briefed two or three times a week by the top US general who oversees US nuclear weapons and defenses,” CNN reports.
A new Politico/Morning Consult poll finds 59% of voters support the CDC’s original extension of the federal travel mask mandate. Only 32% oppose the extension.
Also interesting: Nearly half of voters (49%) say it is too early to end the federal travel mask mandate. Just 16% say it’s the right time to end the mandate, another 16% say it should have already ended and 11% believe it should never have been in place to begin with.
A new AP-NORC poll finds 56% of Americans favor requiring people on planes, trains and public transportation to wear masks, compared with 24% opposed and 20% who say they’re neither in favor nor opposed.
“The Biden administration remains at a loss in responding to a federal judge’s ruling striking down the pandemic mask requirement for plane and rail travel, with the White House and various agencies struggling to devise and coordinate a legal strategy more than a day later,” Bloomberg reports.
“The Justice Department said Tuesday that it stood ready to appeal the ruling — issued Monday by a Trump-appointed federal judge in Florida — but that it would do so only ‘subject to the CDC’s conclusion that the order remains necessary for public health.’”
“The incident reflects the muddled messaging, poor coordination, and legal setbacks that have defined some of the worst episodes of the Biden administration’s coronavirus response, leaving large swaths of Americans confused about how to proceed while the private sector moved to set rules on their own.”
“Jared Kushner’s new investment fund, Affinity Partners, nakedly touts the former Trump adviser’s work with Saudi Arabia and his links to several Trump-era deals in hoping to raise money from Wall Street, according to a slide deck for the fund dated from December,” The Intercept reports.
“The slide deck confirm’s the fund’s reliance on Kushner’s government experience and connections, particularly with regard to Saudi Arabia, to gin up business. The pitch to U.S. investors prominently advertises the team’s experience in the Trump White House, including on the Abraham Accords — a series of agreements that normalized formal diplomatic relations between Israel and some Arab countries — and a key oil production agreement reached with OPEC+, the oil cartel led by Russia and Saudi Arabia.”
“Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, wearing shorts at his seaside palace, sought a relaxed tone for his first meeting with President Biden’s national-security adviser, Jake Sullivan, last September,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“The 36-year-old crown prince ended up shouting at Mr. Sullivan after he raised the 2018 killing of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi. The prince told Mr. Sullivan he never wanted to discuss the matter again… And the U.S. could forget about its request to boost oil production, he told Mr. Sullivan.”
“The relationship between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia has hit its lowest point in decades, with Mr. Biden saying in 2019 that the kingdom should be treated like a pariah over human-rights issues such as Mr. Khashoggi’s murder.”
“In every episode now they’re gonna have, you know, Mickey and Pluto going at it. Like, really? It’s just like, come on guys, these are kids, and you know, you could always shift to Cinemax if you want that.” — Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX), slamming Disney on his podcast, over the company’s opposition to Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law.
“Former President Donald Trump blasted Piers Morgan as ‘very dishonest’ while walking out of an interview with the TV presenter and Post columnist after being pressed on his claims that he lost the 2020 presidential election due to voter fraud,” the New York Post reports.
Michigan state Sen. Mallory McMorrow (D) took to the Senate floor to defend herself against a completely unfounded allegation from a Republican legislator that she wants to “groom and sexualize kindergartners,” the Detroit Free Press reports.
Said McMorrow: “I am the biggest threat to your hollow, hateful scheme. Because you can’t claim that you are targeting marginalized kids in the name of ‘parental rights’ if another parent is standing up to say no.”
The full speech is definitely worth watching.
“In the days before the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, some of President Donald Trump’s most extreme allies and members of right-wing militia groups urged him to use his power as commander in chief to unleash the military to help keep him in office,” the New York Times reports.
“Now, as the House committee investigating last year’s riot uncovers new evidence about the lengths to which Mr. Trump was willing to go to cling to power, some lawmakers on the panel have quietly begun discussions about rewriting the Insurrection Act, the 1807 law that gives presidents wide authority to deploy the military within the United States to respond to a rebellion.”
“The discussions are preliminary, and debate over the act has been fraught in the aftermath of Mr. Trump’s presidency. Proponents envision a doomsday scenario in which a rogue future president might try to use the military to stoke — rather than put down — an insurrection, or to abuse protesters. But skeptics worry about depriving a president of the power to quickly deploy armed troops in the event of an uprising, as presidents did during the Civil War and the civil rights era.”
“President Biden’s inner circle has been discussing delaying the repeal of Title 42 border restrictions, now set to end May 23,” Axios reports.
“The White House is looking for ways to buy time to avoid a massive influx of migrants that would add to already-historic border numbers. That already endangers Democratic incumbents in states that could decide the Senate majority in November.”
“Biden officials recognize they’re in a jam: moderate Democrats are pounding on them to delay the repeal but doing so would inflame the party’s progressive base.”
“Federal agents made a gruesome discovery last week in Douglas, Ariz., when a woman’s body was found hanging from a towering wall along the U.S.-Mexico border,” the Washington Post reports.
Associated Press: “The struggle for the Biden administration and Democrats in Congress to enact any meaningful legislation to enhance gun safety reflects how the party’s ambitious agenda has been frustratingly stunted by internal squabbling, the persistence of the pandemic and the war in Ukraine. The almost complete Republican opposition to Democratic priorities, including gun rules, has hobbled a party with razor-thin majorities in the House and Senate.”
“But that’s little solace to gun safety advocates and tens of thousands of shooting victims who were told Democrats would reduce gun violence if given the chance to govern. In an already difficult election year, the inaction threatens to further undermine the coalition of young people, women, voters of color and independents who helped deliver Joe Biden the presidency in 2020 and will be needed again if Democrats are to hold control of Congress.”
“The Biden administration announced Monday it is barring anti-satellite missile testing by the United States, a move that White House officials say is meant to underscore its hopes of establishing new norms for military action in space,” the AP reports.
“The U.S. has sharply criticized Russia and China for conducting anti-satellite missile tests, although it also used an interceptor missile fired from a U.S. Navy warship more than 14 years ago to destroy a malfunctioning spy satellite.”
Wall Street Journal: “Afghans are resorting to increasingly desperate measures to survive an unprecedented humanitarian crisis, which has accelerated since the Taliban ousted the U.S.-backed government, and the subsequent economic collapse.”
“More than half the country’s 39 million population are now facing acute hunger, according to the United Nations, and 95% don’t get enough to eat. Prices of basic food staples like flour and oil have doubled since the Taliban took over. Much of the economy has ground to a halt, while the international community has frozen Afghanistan’s foreign assets, imposed sanctions and stopped most aid.”
David Frum: “The Marvel entertainment company fused its superhero movies into a ‘Marvel Cinematic Universe’ so involute that only the most devoted fans can make sense of it.”
“The Trump Cinematic Universe works the same way. Only those conversant with the pro-Trump right’s internal myths and legends can decipher the Republican National Committee’s vote on Thursday to boycott the Commission on Presidential Debates in 2024.”
“During the 2020 debates, many people saw then-President Donald Trump abuse his opponent, the moderators, and the rules. But in the Trump Cinematic Universe, Trump was victimized by the unfair mainstream media, a group expanded to include Chris Wallace, a nearly two-decade star of Fox News’s Sunday-morning show.”
“Israel’s government crisis deepened on Sunday night, after a small Islamist party announced it was freezing its participation in the coalition, following a recent rise in tensions between the Israeli police and Muslims at a major mosque in Jerusalem,” the New York Times reports,
“The decision has no immediate impact on the government: The Israeli Parliament is on recess until May 8, by which time Raam may have decided to rejoin the government. But if Raam makes its decision permanent within the next three weeks, it would give opposition lawmakers a 64-56 majority in the 120-seat Parliament — enough seats to vote to dissolve the body and send Israel to its fifth election in three years.”
Thomas Edsall: “The primal forces unleashed by Trump have not lost momentum. Whoever ends up as the Republican Party nominee in 2024 — whether it is Trump himself or one of the other contenders — will be under pressure to continue the abandonment of principle. Among the others, there might be less lying and less overt narcissism, but any one of them could yet govern in the mold of Trump.”
“Whether Trumpism is more powerful with Trump or without him is still an open question, but the MAGA movement shows no real sign of abating.”
Punchbowl News: “If House Republicans take the majority, they are considering imposing term limits for committee chairs and ranking members as part of the chamber’s rules package for the 118th Congress.”
“Republicans limit their own members to three consecutive terms atop any committee. Democrats, however, don’t have any term limits. Such a move by Republicans if they take the majority would drastically alter the makeup of the House.”