“Yevgeny Prigozhin, the owner of the Wagner paramilitary group, said his forces would stop their march on Moscow and return to their camps to avoid bloodshed, as the Belarusian president, Aleksander Lukashenko, announced a deal to halt the armed confrontation threatening Russia,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
Associated Press: “The announcement from Yevgeny Prigozhin appeared to defuse a dramatically escalating crisis that represented the most significant challenge to President Vladimir Putin’s leadership in his more than two decades in power.”
“Moscow had braced for the arrival of a private army led by the rebellious mercenary commander by erecting checkpoints with armored vehicles and troops on its southern edge. Red Square was shut down, and the mayor urged motorists to stay off some roads.”
New York Times: “The outlines of a deal that appeared to defuse a rapidly evolving Russian security crisis began to come into focus late Saturday, as the Kremlin announced that a Russian mercenary leader, who for nearly 24 hours led an armed uprising against the country’s military leadership, would flee to Belarus and his fighters would escape repercussions.”
“The announcement capped one of the most tumultuous days in President Vladimir V. Putin’s more than 23-year rule in Russia and followed an apparent intervention by the leader of neighboring Belarus, who stepped in to negotiate a solution to the crisis directly with the head of the Wagner private military company, Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, who was leading the revolt.”
“Russian generals late on Friday accused Yevgeny Prigozhin, the outspoken mercenary tycoon, of trying to mount a coup against President Vladimir Putin, as the long-running feud between Mr. Prigozhin and the Russian military escalated into an open confrontation,” the New York Times reports.
“There were no reports of clashes on Russian streets, but videos circulating widely on social media showed that military and national guard armored vehicles had been deployed in Moscow and the southern city of Rostov-on-Don, near the front line in Ukraine where Mr. Prigozhin’s fighters had been deployed.”
“Russia’s domestic intelligence agency, the F.S.B., said it had opened an investigation into Mr. Prigozhin for organizing an ‘armed rebellion.’”
The BBC quotes Prigozhin as saying the “evil” in the military leadership must be stopped and vowed to “march for justice.”
Washington Post: Wagner mercenary boss faces arrest over “incitement to armed rebellion.”
“President Vladimir Putin vowed ‘decisive actions’ early Saturday to quell what he called an armed rebellion by the outspoken mercenary tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin, whose forces had claimed control of the southern Russian city of Rostov-on-Don and were threatening to march to Moscow,” the New York Times reports.
“In a five-minute address to the nation, Mr. Putin called the rebellion by Mr. Prigozhin treasonous and ‘a stab in the back of our country and our people.’ Mr. Putin said that Rostov’s military and civilian functions had ‘essentially been blocked,’ appearing to acknowledge some success by Mr. Prigozhin, who on Saturday morning said they had taken over the southern military headquarters of the Russian Armed Forces in the city.”
Washington Post: “Minutes after Russian President Vladimir Putin gave his five-minute urgent address vowing to punish Wagner mercenary boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin for staging what he called ‘an armed rebellion,’ scores of officials began posting videos and messages pledging support to the country’s leader.”
“The mayor of Moscow has just asked people to restrict their movements around the capital — rebels from the mercenary Wagner Group appear to be heading towards the city,” the BBC reports.
Washington Post: “Security was reinforced on main highways leading into Moscow, and residents in other areas were asked not to leave their homes. Meanwhile, flights out of Russia were selling out.”
New York Times: “As security forces were scrambled in southwestern Russia and Moscow, military convoys believed to belong to Mr. Prigozhin’s Wagner forces were seen in the town of Elets, about 250 miles from the capital.”
“Senior American national security officials had indications as early as Wednesday that Yevgeny Prigozhin, the leader of the Wagner Group, was preparing to take military action against senior Russian defense officials,“ the New York Times reports.
“The information suggests that the United States had at least some warning of impending unrest in Russia, just as it warned in late 2021 that Vladimir V. Putin was planning to invade Ukraine.”
“In this case, the information was considered both solid and alarming because of the possibility that a major nuclear-armed rival of the United States could descend into chaos.”
The Pentagon’s top military officer, Gen. Mark Milley, has canceled a trip to the Middle East in light of the crisis erupting in Russia, the Washington Post reports.
“U.S. and western officials are being careful not to weigh in on the events unfolding in Russia because of how Russian President Vladimir Putin could weaponize any perceived involvement by the west in the escalating crisis,” CNN reports.
However, the British Defense Ministry said the unrest “represents the most significant challenge to the Russian state in recent times.”
Donald Trump weighed in on the mounting unrest in Russia, in a message that hinted at his support for President Vladimir Putin in his standoff with a renegade mercenary leader, the Daily Beast reports.
Said Trump: “A big mess in Russia, but be careful what you wish for. Next in may be far worse!”
Anne Applebaum: “There are some precedents for this moment. In 1905, the Russian fleet’s disastrous performance in a war with Japan helped inspire a failed revolution. In 1917, angry soldiers came home from World War I and launched another, more famous revolution. Putin alluded to that moment in his brief television appearance this morning. At that moment, he said, ‘arguments behind the army’s back turned out to be the greatest catastrophe [leading to] destruction of the army and the state, loss of huge territories, resulting in a tragedy and a civil war.’”
“What he did not mention was that up until the moment he left power, Czar Nicholas II was having tea with his wife, writing banal notes in his diary, and imagining that the ordinary Russian peasants loved him and would always take his side. He was wrong.”
Gideon Rachman: “Fifteen months ago, Vladimir Putin’s army was on the outskirts of Kyiv. Now the Russian leader is struggling to maintain control in Moscow.”
“The rebellion of Wagner forces, led by Yevgeny Prigozhin, is the final confirmation of how catastrophically wrong the war in Ukraine has gone for Putin. Even if the Russian leader prevails in the immediate battle against Wagner, it is hard to believe that Putin can ultimately survive this kind of humiliation. His prestige, his power, even his life, are now on the line.”
“The historic irony is that Putin’s own actions have brought about the thing he fears most: an insurrection that threatens both the Russian state and his own personal power.”
“Despite years of creeping Kremlin control over the internet, the mercenary tycoon Yevgeny Prigozhin continued to comment live on Saturday through videos, audio recordings and statements posted on the messaging app Telegram,” the New York Times reports.
“His remarkable continued access to a public platform amid a crisis demonstrated both the limits of official restrictions and the rise of Telegram as a powerful mode of communication since the start of the war in Ukraine in February 2022. The app, along with the proliferation of virtual private networks, has effectively loosened the information controls that the Russian authorities had tightened for years.”
“When they first appeared in 2014 to fight covertly in Ukraine, the masked militiamen of Russia’s Wagner group epitomized how Vladimir Putin’s Kremlin had mastered a new, underhand form of warfare,” the Financial Times reports.
“But after Wagner paramilitaries took control of at least one Russian city on Saturday and began a ‘march of justice’ on Moscow, the blowback from nine years of war in Ukraine threatened the very foundations of Putin’s state — with a problem of his own making.”
“After months of lurid public infighting, the conflict between Yevgeny Prigozhin’s paramilitaries and the Russian defense ministry has boiled over into the first coup attempt in Russia in three decades.”
Stephen Kotkin: “I have long been calling the Putin regime ‘hollow yet still strong.’ It remained, and remains, viable as long as there is no political alternative. Now, we might see just how hollow the regime is. Putin has unwittingly launched a stress test of his own regime. He had already lost his mystique with the bungling of the aggression against Ukraine. Mystique, once lost, is near impossible to regain. The old cliché about the emperor and clothes. He still possesses enormous power, rooted in structures he built around himself, such as his Praetorian Guard, and those he unbuilt—his razing of the landscape of political possibilities besides himself, and severe repression to demobilize the populace.”
“There is one thing that all dictators properly fear: an alternative. And Putin, shockingly, after years and years of indefatigably suppressing alternatives, of promoting nonentities to his inner circle to ensure no one could threaten him, has allowed one to take shape.”
David Ignatius: “President Vladimir Putin looked into the abyss Saturday and blinked. After vowing revenge for what he called an ‘armed mutiny,’ he settled for a compromise.”
‘The speed with which Putin backed down suggests that his sense of vulnerability might be higher even than analysts believed. Putin might have saved his regime Saturday, but this day will be remembered as part of the unraveling of Russia as a great power — which will be Putin’s true legacy.”
Bloomberg: Russia retreats from the brink.
Fox News anchor Maria Bartiromo claimed the Biden administration was “drumming up” coverage of possible civil war in Russia to distract from news of Hunter Biden’s plea deal.
Said Bartiromo: “The White House wanted to give the media something else to cover, and this is the MO. This is exactly the way they do things.”
“Ukraine claims it has taken back territory in the east that was held by Russia since it annexed Crimea in 2014,” CNN reports.
Yevgeny Prigozhin, the founder of Russia’s Wagner mercenary outfit, said in a bombshell video that Russia did not face an imminent security threat to justify its full-scale invasion of Ukraine, the Moscow Times reports.
Said Prigozhin: “The Armed Forces of Ukraine were not going to attack Russia with the NATO bloc. The Russian Defense Ministry is deceiving the public and the president.”
“Former Vice President Mike Pence on Friday challenged the entire 2024 Republican presidential field to support a national abortion ban at 15 weeks, demanding that the party go farther than its primary front-runner, former President Donald Trump, has so far been willing to go,” the New York Times reports.
Said Pence: “Every Republican candidate for president should support a ban on abortion before 15 weeks as a minimum nationwide standard.”
“On the eve of the one-year anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) is barring Arizona’s 15 county attorneys from prosecuting abortion-related crimes and centralizing that authority under the attorney general’s office,” Axios reports.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) told Fox News that she finds it unfortunate that Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-CO) leaked the conversation where she called Boebert a “little bitch” to the press.
“Speaker Kevin McCarthy and his allies met with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus ahead of a two-week recess to discuss their strategy for funding the government, as negotiations over appropriations bills loom large over the next month,” CNN reports.
Politico: “That stark disconnect reveals a serious risk for House Republicans: that the friction growing among them since Speaker Kevin McCarthy‘s debt deal with President Joe Biden has ushered in a new era of factional warfare within his conference. Even as they start a two-week recess, many GOP lawmakers worry that tensions in their midst could make for a summer of hell, with internal battles raging ahead of September’s government shutdown deadline.”
“Those tensions have worsened thanks to the House’s marathon springtime session, which has seen lawmakers in Washington every week since early May.”
Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) told reporters that he supports a resolution calling for Donald Trump’s two impeachments to be expunged. It’s unclear when such a resolution would come to the floor.
“The special counsel’s office has asked for Donald Trump to be tried in December in the Mar-a-Lago documents matter, because of how classified records must be handled carefully within the criminal case,” CNN reports.
“A federal judge previously put the trial on the calendar for mid-August but a delay to the date was expected. December, however, is not yet a firm date, and the Trump team may ask for a different schedule.”
“Justice Department and FBI officials disagreed back in August about whether their investigation into the handling of sensitive documents justified the search of Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago resort. Fewer officials had doubts earlier this month, when prosecutors took an even bolder step: asking a grand jury to indict the former president on 37 counts,” the Wall Street Journal reports.
“What turned the tide was an audio tape and other evidence investigators confirmed around February from meetings Trump held almost two years earlier and a thousand miles from the former president’s Palm Beach, Fla., resort.”
“That crucial evidence, along with notes from a Trump lawyer describing his response to the investigation, helped spur prosecutors to push forward with a criminal case.”
“Special counsel Jack Smith has compelled at least two Republican fake electors to testify to a federal grand jury in Washington in recent weeks by giving them limited immunity, part of a current push by federal prosecutors to swiftly nail down evidence in the sprawling criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election,” CNN reports.
“The testimony comes after a year of relative dormancy around the fake electors portion of the investigation and as a parade of related witnesses are being told to appear before the grand jury with no chance for delay.”
“That activity could signal that investigators are nearing at least some charging decisions in a part of the 2020 election probe.”
“Facing multiple intensifying investigations, former President Donald Trump has quietly begun diverting more of the money he is raising away from his 2024 presidential campaign and into a political action committee that he has used to pay his personal legal fees,” the New York Times reports.
“The change, which went unannounced except in the fine print of his online disclosures, raises fresh questions about how Mr. Trump is paying for his mounting legal bills — which could run into millions of dollars — as he prepares for at least two criminal trials, and whether his PAC, Save America, is facing a financial crunch.”
“Michael Roman, a top official in former President Donald J. Trump’s 2020 campaign, is in discussions with the office of the special counsel Jack Smith that could soon lead to Mr. Roman voluntarily answering questions about a plan to create slates of pro-Trump electors in key swing states that were won by Joseph Biden,” the New York Times reports.
“If Mr. Roman ends up giving the interview — known as a proffer — to prosecutors working for Mr. Smith, it would be the first known instance of cooperation by someone with direct knowledge of the so-called fake elector plan. That plan has long been at the center of Mr. Smith’s investigation into Mr. Trump’s wide-ranging efforts to overturn the 2020 election.”
“Sen. Tim Scott’s (R-SC) longshot presidential campaign is making it easier for Democrats to confirm judges, voting records reveal,” Axios reports.
“Scott has missed four judicial votes so far, including one that would have forced Vice President Kamala Harris to break a 50-50 tie.”
Rich Lowry: “Not only that, the indictments of Trump are making him stronger in the Republican nomination fight — generating GOP sympathy and making him the center of attention — while he’s taking on more baggage for a prospective general election. This push-and-pull, yin-and-yang dynamic, with Republicans growing more attached to a candidate harder to elect, may yet prove decisive in both contests.”
“It’s not unusual that, in the course of winning a nomination, politicians create electoral vulnerabilities for themselves by moving too far right or left. Hence, the conventional trajectory of a nominee trying to readjust by coming back to the center in a general.”
“This is different. What adjustments can Trump make? He can’t get un-indicted for the general election, or jettison his claims about the 2020 election, or reverse all the water that passed under the bridge since 2015.”
“Donald Trump is willing to put up $5.6 million as security while the former president appeals a civil verdict that he sexually abused writer E. Jean Carroll in the 1990s and defamed her decades later,” CNBC reports.
“If Trump loses the appeal, Carroll would collect the $5 million a jury awarded her in the case in May, or any adjusted judgment.”
“Six months since the House committee investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol completed its work, a far-right ecosystem of true believers has embraced ‘J6’ as the animating force of their lives,” the New York Times reports.
“They attend the criminal trials of the more prominent rioters charged in the attack. They gather to pray and sing ‘The Star-Spangled Banner’ on the outer perimeter of the District of Columbia jail, where some two dozen defendants are held. Last week, dozens showed up at an unofficial House hearing convened by a handful of Republican lawmakers to challenge ‘the fake narrative that an insurrection had occurred on Jan. 6,’ as set forth by Jeffrey Clark, a witness at the hearing and a former Justice Department official who worked to undo the results of the 2020 election.”
“Donald Trump spoke on Thursday at a fundraiser on behalf of people charged in the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol — even as he faces scrutiny from national and state prosecutors for his own actions surrounding the attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s 2020 election win,” NBC News reports. Said Trump: “I’m going to make a contribution.”
J. Michael Luttig: “In a word, the Republicans are as responsible as Mr. Trump for this month’s indictment — and will be as responsible for any indictment and prosecution of him for Jan. 6. One would think that, for a party that has prided itself for caring about the Constitution and the rule of law, this would stir some measure of self-reflection among party officials and even voters about their abiding support for the former president. Surely before barreling headlong into the 2024 presidential election season, more Republicans would realize it is time to come to the reckoning with Mr. Trump that they have vainly hoped and naïvely believed would never be necessary.”
“But by all appearances, it certainly hasn’t occurred to them yet that any reckoning is needed. As only the Republicans can do, they are already turning this ignominious moment into an even more ignominious moment — and a self-immolating one at that — by rushing to crown Mr. Trump their nominee before the primary season even begins. Building the Republican campaign around the newly indicted front-runner is a colossal political miscalculation, as comedic as it is tragic for the country. No assemblage of politicians except the Republicans would ever conceive of running for the American presidency by running against the Constitution and the rule of law. But that’s exactly what they’re planning.”