Aftermath of the Trump Administration, March 2023


My daily chronicle of news about the Trump administration (20 January 2017 – 20 January 2021), Republicans, Democrats, corporations, courts, resistance, and persistence continues. I am still posting important articles, especially ones that reflect the differences between the Biden administration and the Trump administration and ones that address the toxic legacy of the Trump administration and Republicans. However, I hope to devote more of my time to posting muckraking articles on my site in the coming months. Thanks for reading!


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Wednesday, 1 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: ‘Winter is over’ Zelensky says, praising effort to maintain energy and heat, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Bryan Pietsch, John Hudson, and Adam Taylor, Wednesday, 1 March 2023: “Winter ‘was very difficult, and every Ukrainian without exaggeration felt this difficulty,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a speech marking the first day of spring after a winter at war. ‘But we still managed to provide Ukraine with energy and heat.’ Ukrainians celebrated the day. ‘They wanted to freeze us and throw us into darkness. We survived!’ said Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. The besieged city of Bakhmut in eastern Ukraine is facing the ‘most difficult situation’ in the country as the battle for control of the front-line city intensifies, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in remarks Wednesday. ‘The intensity of fighting is only increasing,’ and Russia is exerting ‘insane pressure’ on Ukrainian forces by sending troops ‘to constantly storm our positions’ without regard for their lives, he said.

  • Finland’s Parliament voted to speed up the country’s accession to NATO, bringing the Nordic nation closer to joining the transatlantic military alliance. The bill passed on Wednesday by a vote of 184-7. The move to accelerate the accession could lead Finland to join the alliance before Sweden; the tightknit pair often coordinate on security and had planned to join NATO together, but Turkey has dragged its feet on approving Sweden’s bid over concerns around Stockholm’s approach to groups that Ankara considers to be terrorists.
  • Hungary’s president urged lawmakers to move urgently to allow Finland and Sweden to join NATO. All 30 NATO members must agree to admit new states to the alliance, but legislation to approve the accessions of Finland and Sweden has stalled in Hungary’s legislative body, with some lawmakers accusing the Nordic nations of insulting Hungary in recent years, the Associated Press reported. Hungarian President Katalin Novak said Wednesday that ‘the accession of Sweden and Finland is justified,’ urging the National Assembly to ‘make a wise decision as soon as possible.’
  • Russia is not interested in ‘meaningful diplomacy,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken said. He urged neutral countries preparing to attend this week’s Group of 20 meeting in India to reject the terms Moscow has outlined for negotiating an end to the war in Ukraine. Blinken said the Kremlin’s position that Ukraine must accept Russia’s annexation of Ukrainian territory as a precondition for negotiations should not be accepted by any nation. ‘That’s obviously a nonstarter and should be a nonstarter, not just for Ukraine and for us, but for countries around the world,’ Blinken said.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin said he would host Chinese President Xi Jinping in Moscow, state media outlets reported. It was not clear when such a visit would occur. China’s top diplomat, Wang Yi, visited Moscow last week. Blinken has warned that China will face sanctions if it supplies lethal support to Russia. China has denied any such plans and in recent days has been positioning itself as a potential peacemaker in the conflict.
  • Ukrainians have been celebrating the arrival of spring on social media, posting photos of flowers and hailing their survival as a victory over Russia. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, said Wednesday: ‘Putin suffered another major defeat. Despite the cold, darkness, and missile strikes, Ukraine persevered and defeated his winter terror.’
  • Finland is building a fence along its border with Russia to address the ‘changed security environment.’ The border fence is set to span nearly 125 miles of its more than 800-mile-long border with Russia, according to Finland’s Border Guard, which announced the move Tuesday. It noted that while Russia controls outbound traffic into Finland, ‘Finland cannot rely on the effectiveness of Russian border control.’ Large numbers of Russians have fled since the start of the war. Those with visas have fled to Finland or elsewhere in Europe, while others have escaped to nearby countries such as Armenia and Kazakhstan.
  • The war in Ukraine is due to dominate conversations at the Group of 20 summit in India, where foreign ministers from the world’s most powerful economies, including Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, are gathering on Wednesday. Blinken is also due to attend the summit this week.
  • Blinken has ‘no plans’ to meet his Russian and Chinese counterparts at the G-20 gathering, the top U.S. diplomat said Wednesday. Washington, Beijing and Moscow are at odds over the war in Ukraine, but Blinken said he does not intend to hold bilateral meetings with Lavrov or China’s Qing Gang, who will both be in New Delhi at the same time. Blinken said he suspects he will be in ‘group sessions’ with his two counterparts, however, ‘at one time or another.’
  • Denmark is scrapping a national holiday in a bid to create greater tax revenue for military spending, despite public opposition. Lawmakers voted on Tuesday to end the celebration of Great Prayer Day, a religious holiday that had been commemorated since the 17th century, next year. The government has estimated that ending the holiday will add about $430 million to the government budget. The government says this money could be added to the Danish military spending in the hope of meeting NATO targets set at 2 percent of a member state’s total economic output.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv Sends Reinforcements to Besieged Bakhmut. The battle for the eastern city has become a crucible in the war. The New York Times, Wednesday, 1 March 2023:

  • Ukraine is sending reinforcements after the Russians surrounded Bakhmut on three sides.
  • There’s ‘zero evidence’ that Putin is ready for peace talks, Blinken says.
  • China’s leader meets with the president of Belarus, a Putin ally.
  • Russia says a Ukrainian drone outside Moscow was carrying explosives.
  • Artillery fire near the Zaporizhzhia complex deepens security concerns, the U.N. nuclear watchdog says.
  • Finland approves laws needed for NATO membership, though Hungary and Turkey may delay approval.
  • Zelensky treads a careful line with China, even as efforts to reach out come up empty.
  • Europe is struggling to provide Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine.

Prosecution’s Witness at Proud Boys Trial Shows Complexities of the Case. Jeremy Bertino, a former Proud Boy, provided some of the government’s best evidence so far, but he also offered an unusual description of a criminal conspiracy. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Zach Montague, Wednesday, 1 March 2023: “As the testimony of Jeremy Bertino, the government’s star witness in the Proud Boys sedition trial, came to an end this week, there was a moment that crystallized the challenges the prosecution has faced throughout the marathon proceeding. For five days, Mr. Bertino — a former Proud Boy from North Carolina — told the jury how the far-right group fell into a kind of collective panic after the 2020 election and ultimately sought to keep Joseph R. Biden Jr. from taking power by serving as the ‘tip of the spear’ in the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. On Tuesday evening, prosecutors sought to punctuate his testimony by asking his final thoughts on the chief allegation in the case: that the five Proud Boys on trial had reached an agreement to use physical force to stop the transfer of presidential power. Over the course of several questions, Mr. Bertino — who was at home in North Carolina on the day of the attack — acknowledged that he was never privy to the Proud Boys’ plans for Jan. 6. And yet he said he knew the group’s objective: to stop Mr. Biden from becoming president. He arrived at this conclusion, he went on, not through any specific dealings with his compatriots, but rather through ‘cumulative conversations’ leading up to the attack.”

Continue reading Aftermath of the Trump Administration, March 2023: 

Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries demand Fox News stop ‘grave propaganda’ about 2020 election, The Washington Post, Amy B Wang, Wednesday, 1 March 2023: “Democratic leaders are sending a letter to Fox News executives demanding the network stop spreading misinformation about the 2020 election and for its hosts to admit on air they were wrong to do so. The letter comes amid reports that Fox Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch admitted in a deposition that some Fox hosts ‘were endorsing’ election falsehoods and that he wished the network had pushed back harder on such conspiracy theories. In a letter to the network’s executives Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries (D-N.Y.) cited testimony from Murdoch that was made public this week as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against the network. ‘As noted in your deposition released yesterday, Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, Laura Ingraham, and other Fox News personalities knowingly, repeatedly, and dangerously endorsed and promoted the “big lie” that Donald Trump won the 2020 presidential election,’ Schumer and Jeffries wrote. ‘Though you have acknowledged your regret in allowing this grave propaganda to take place, your network hosts continue to promote, spew, and perpetuate election conspiracy theories to this day.’ Schumer and Jeffries noted that Fox News leadership was aware of the dangers of broadcasting such claims — including Murdoch, who according to the deposition, said President Donald Trump’s election lies were ‘damaging’ and ‘really crazy stuff.’ ‘Despite that shocking admission, Fox News hosts have continued to peddle election denialism to the American people,’ the Democratic leaders wrote. ‘This sets a dangerous precedent that ignores basic journalistic fact-checking principles and public accountability.'”

Thursday, 2 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: US Secretary of State Antony Blinken says Group of 20 (G-20) meeting of foreign ministers in New Delhi is ‘marred by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war,’ The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Bryan Pietsch, Mary Ilyushina, David L. Stern, John Hudson, Claire Parker, and Sammy Westfall, Thursday, 2 March 2023: “Secretary of State Antony Blinken met briefly with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on the sidelines of a Group of 20 meeting of foreign ministers in New Delhi. Requested by Blinken, the face-to-face encounter was the first between the countries’ top diplomats since Russia invaded Ukraine more than a year ago. Blinken emphasized Washington’s desire for a peaceful resolution to the war that preserves Ukraine’s territorial integrity, a senior State Department official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive conversations. The foreign ministers of the world’s 20 largest economies failed on Thursday to reach consensus on a wide-reaching agenda addressing poverty, corruption and counterterrorism because of persistent disagreements over the war in Ukraine. Blinken said the gathering was ‘marred by Russia’s unprovoked and unjustified war.’ Lavrov accused the West of turning the meeting into a ‘farce.’

  • The Kremlin on Thursday blamed Ukraine for an attack in two villages in the Bryansk region of western Russia, in which President Vladimir Putin said assailants had ‘opened fire on civilians’ and the Bryansk governor said two people were killed and hostages were taken. An aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky denied that Kyiv was involved in the incident, which Putin called a ‘terrorist attack.’ Details of the incident were extremely sketchy, and, in an age of ubiquitous cellphone videos, no footage or photos of an attack were circulating on social media, even hours afterward.
  • Ukrainian authorities exhumed the remains of three men from a newly discovered communal grave near Bucha, the area near Kyiv where alleged atrocities last spring set off worldwide outrage and were condemned by world leaders as evidence of Russian war crimes. A local man who had buried the bodies almost a year ago in the mass grave near the town of Borodyanka returned and informed local authorities about it. Regional police chief Andriy Nebytov said officials would attempt to identify the men, potentially using DNA.
  • A document summarizing the G-20 meeting, released by the Indian government, which holds the rotating G-20 presidency, said: ‘most members strongly condemned the war in Ukraine and stressed it is causing immense human suffering and exacerbating existing fragilities in the global economy.’ But some governments expressed ‘other views,’ the document said.
  • Blinken and Lavrov’s encounter lasted less than 10 minutes, during which time Blinken urged Russia to reverse its decision to suspend cooperation in the New START nuclear arms accord and to accept a U.S. proposal for the release of American citizen Paul Whelan, said a senior State Department official familiar with the discussion.
  • German chancellor Olaf Scholz will meet with President Biden in Washington on Friday. A senior administration official said the meeting, expected to last about an hour, will be held in the Oval Office with a ‘significant one-on-one’ component. ‘Both of the leaders wanted this to be a working level meeting, wanted it to be very much a get-down-into-the-weeds focus on the issues of Ukraine,’ the official added.
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz urged Beijing not to supply weapons to ‘the aggressor’ and to use its sway with Moscow to ‘push for the withdrawal of Russian troops’ from Ukraine. Scholz said it was disappointing that China has not yet condemned the war. He made the remarks Thursday in a speech to Germany’s parliament to mark one year since he declared to the body that the war was a ‘turning point’ for the world.
  • The Sakharov Center, a museum in Moscow named for Soviet dissident Andrei Sakharov, was forced to close amid Russia’s wartime purge of human rights activists. The center has until the end of April to dismantle its museum exhibition focused on the repressions of the Soviet gulag and to remove Sakharov’s archives and his bust.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken Demands End to War in First Meeting With Russian Counterpart. Blinken said Russia should halt its ‘war of aggression’ during a brief one-on-one session with Foreign Minister Sergey V. Lavrov. The meeting signaled Washington’s desire to keep talking with Moscow. The New York Times, Edward Wong, Thursday, 2 March 2023: “Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken confronted his Russian counterpart and demanded that Russia end its war against Ukraine, in an unexpected meeting on Thursday that was the first private, face-to-face exchange between a U.S. cabinet member and a top Russian official since the invasion last year. Mr. Blinken requested the meeting with Sergey V. Lavrov, Russia’s foreign minister, according to the Russian Foreign Ministry, which suggests that the Biden administration wants to keep lines of communication open with Russia despite being on opposing sides of the war in Ukraine. The encounter at a Group of 20 conference in New Delhi came as Russian troops pressed into the embattled eastern Ukrainian town of Bakhmut, and U.S. officials worked to shore up international support for arming Ukraine.

  • Mr. Blinken said at a news conference on Thursday night that in addition to calling on Russia to halt its ‘war of aggression,’ he had demanded that Moscow free Paul Whelan, an American citizen whom the State Department says is wrongfully imprisoned on espionage charges. He said he also asked that Moscow return to the START nuclear arms control treaty and comply with its terms. Russia withdrew from the pact last month.

  • The meeting of G20 foreign ministers, like a gathering of finance ministers last month, failed to produce a joint communiqué because of disagreements over the war. In a news conference, Mr. Blinken said that Russia and China were the two nations blocking it.

  • A Russian partisan group with ties to the Ukrainian military claimed that it had briefly taken control of a village inside the Russian border on Thursday. President Vladimir V. Putin denounced the episode as a ‘terrorist’ attack, a label Russia frequently applies to military setbacks in the war in Ukraine.

  • Russia stepped up its attacks on Bakhmut, the eastern Ukrainian city that has been the site of one of the war’s most intractable battles, a Ukrainian military official said on Thursday.

Justice Department Says Lawsuit Against Trump Over Capitol Attack Should Proceed. The department told an appeals court that if President Donald J. Trump’s speech incited the January 6 riot, he was not shielded by immunity. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Thursday, 2 March 2023: “The Justice Department told a federal appeals court on Thursday that it should reject former President Donald J. Trump’s claims that he is absolutely immune from being sued over his actions related to the attack on the Capitol by his supporters on Jan. 6, 2021. Members of Congress and Capitol Police officers have contended in a lawsuit that Mr. Trump incited the attack, including by delivering a fiery speech falsely claiming that the 2020 election had been stolen and urging his supporters to march on the Capitol. In a 23-page brief, lawyers for the Justice Department’s civil division urged the appeals court to allow their lawsuit to proceed. ‘Speaking to the public on matters of public concern is a traditional function of the presidency, and the outer perimeter of the president’s office includes a vast realm of such speech,’ the brief said. ‘But that traditional function is one of public communication. It does not include incitement of imminent private violence of the sort the district court found that plaintiffs’ complaints have plausibly alleged here.’ If the appeals court were to side with the Justice Department and allow the Jan. 6 lawsuit to proceed, it could add to the mountain of legal costs Mr. Trump faces as he pursues his 2024 campaign for president.” See also, Justice Department says Trump can be sued by police over January 6 riot. Two U.S. Capitol Police officers and 11 Democratic House members are seeking to hold Donald Trump liable for injuries they suffered during the riot. The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner, Thursday, 2 March 2023: “Former president Donald Trump can be held liable in court for the actions of the mob that overtook the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the Justice Department said Thursday…. Two officers with the U.S. Capitol Police, joined by 11 Democratic House members, are seeking to hold Trump liable for physical and psychological injuries they suffered during the riot. Trump has argued he is protected from the lawsuit by the absolute immunity conferred on a president performing his official duties. The lawsuit was filed under a statute, written after the Civil War in response to the Ku Klux Klan, that allows for damages when force, threats or intimidation are used to prevent government officials from carrying out their duties. An appeals court in December debated whether Trump was doing his job when he drew thousands of supporters to Washington with falsehoods and told them they had to ‘fight like hell’ to keep Congress from certifying the results of the 2020 election. Undecided, it asked the Justice Department to offer an opinion.”

House Ethics Committee Opens Inquiry Into George Santos. The committee unanimously voted to authorize an investigation into whether Mr. Santos broke various laws or engaged in sexual misconduct. The New York Times, Michael Gold and Grace Ashford, Thursday, 2 March 2023: “The House Ethics Committee announced Thursday that it had opened a broad investigation into Representative George Santos, the embattled Republican from New York under scrutiny for lies about his background and questions about his campaign finances. The inquiry will cover several areas where Mr. Santos has been accused of misconduct in formal complaints — including one filed by two of his House colleagues. The committee’s top-ranking Republican and Democratic members said in a statement that they would seek to determine whether Mr. Santos had failed to properly fill out his House financial disclosure forms, violated federal conflict of interest laws or engaged in other unlawful activity during his 2022 congressional campaign. The committee will also examine an allegation of sexual misconduct from a prospective congressional aide who briefly worked in Mr. Santos’s office.” See also, House Ethics Committee launches investigation of Representative George Santos, The Washington Post, Amy B Wang and Azi Paybarah, Thursday, 2 March 2023: “A House ethics panel will investigate Rep. George Santos (R-N.Y.), who has admitted to fabricating large swaths of his biography and who has been accused of breaking campaign finance laws. According to a statement Thursday from House Ethics Committee leaders, its members voted unanimously to establish an investigative subcommittee to look into a litany of claims about the freshman congressman, including about his past business practices, campaign finance expenditures and an allegation of sexual misconduct. The bipartisan subcommittee will determine whether Santos, 34, may have ‘engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office,’ the statement said.”

Republican Witnesses Testifying Privately Before the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government Were Paid by Trump Ally and Embraced January 6 Conspiracy Theories. Democrats said a trio of witnesses billed as ‘whistle-blowers’ provided no evidence of wrongdoing, espoused false claims about the Capitol riot, and were compensated by an ally of former President Donald Trump. The New York Times, Luke Broadwater and Adam Goldman, Thursday, 2 March 2023: “House Republicans have spent months promising to use their majority to uncover an insidious bias against conservatives on the part of the federal government, vowing to produce a roster of brave whistle-blowers who would come forward to provide damning evidence of abuses aimed at the right. But the first three witnesses to testify privately before the new Republican-led House committee investigating the ‘weaponization’ of the federal government have offered little firsthand knowledge of any wrongdoing or violation of the law, according to Democrats on the panel who have listened to their accounts. Instead, the trio appears to be a group of aggrieved former F.B.I. officials who have trafficked in right-wing conspiracy theories, including about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack at the Capitol, and received financial support from a top ally of former President Donald J. Trump. The roster of witnesses, whose interviews and statements are detailed in a 316-page report compiled by Democrats that was obtained by The New York Times, suggests that Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, the chairman of the panel, has so far relied on people who do not meet the definition of a whistle-blower and who have engaged in partisan conduct that calls into question their credibility. And it raises questions about whether Republicans, who have said that investigating the Biden administration is a top goal, will be able to deliver on their ambitious plans to uncover misdeeds at the highest levels.” See also, Democrats challenge credibility of Republican witnesses who embrace false January 6 claims when testifying before the House Select Subcommittee on the Weaponization of the Federal Government, The Washington Post, Justine McDaniel, published on Friday, 3 March 2023: “House Republicans vowing to uncover a ‘weaponization’ of the federal government against conservatives have so far called witnesses who have not presented any evidence of wrongdoing at the Justice Department and FBI but have peddled conspiracy theories about the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to Democrats on the panel who have heard their interviews. The three witnesses who have participated in transcribed interviews, all former FBI officials, have shown no firsthand evidence of the politically motivated misconduct Republicans say they are investigating. But they have variously promoted dissolving the FBI, cited baseless claims that the Jan. 6 insurrection was planned by Democrats, that rioter Ashli Babbitt was murdered, and made Nazi allusions, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee said in a 316-page report released Thursday night. In addition, they said, two of the witnesses were paid and supported by Kash Patel, an ally of former president Donald Trump. ‘There is reason to doubt the credibility of these witnesses. Each endorses an alarming series of conspiracy theories related to the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, the Covid vaccine, and the validity of the 2020 election,’ Democrats wrote in the report. ‘One has called repeatedly for the dismantling of the F.B.I. Another suggested that it would be better for Americans to die than to have any kind of domestic intelligence program.'”


Friday, 3 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz meet in White House as battle rages over Bakhmut, The Washington Post, Siobhán O’Grady, Adela Suliman, Andrew Jeong, John Hudson, Claire Healy, Karen DeYoung, and Matt Viser, Friday, 3 March 2023: “President Biden met with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House on Friday, calling his country’s support for Ukraine ‘profound’ as fierce fighting between Ukrainian and Russian forces continued to rage in the city of Bakhmut. ‘The moral support you gave Ukrainians has been profound,’ Biden told Scholz ahead of their meeting. A White House readout of the talks said the two leaders discussed ‘the importance of maintaining global solidarity with the people of Ukraine.’ Biden and Scholz also ‘reiterated their commitment to impose costs on Russia for its aggression for as long as necessary,’ the statement said.

  • The United States announced an additional $400 million in military aid for Ukraine on Friday. The arms package mostly consists of ammunition for howitzers and High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems, or HIMARS — along with Bradley fighting vehicles, demolition munitions and other equipment, according to a statement from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
  • Attorney General Merrick Garland made an unannounced trip to Ukraine on Friday, a Justice Department spokesperson said in a statement. The trip to the western city of Lviv was not previously announced for ‘security reasons,’ the spokesperson said, adding that Garland held several meetings, including with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, to ‘reaffirm [U.S.] determination to hold Russia accountable.’
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov was laughed at for saying Moscow was the victim, not the aggressor, in the Ukraine war. ‘The war was launched against us,’ he said Friday during a conference in New Delhi, prompting a mixture of guffaws, groans and eye rolls from the audience of academics, government officials and business executives. However, Lavrov also drew strong applause when he accused critics of hypocrisy and pointed out the U.S. role in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Kicking Russia out of the Group of 20 nations would be a mistake, Josep Borrell, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, said Friday as a high-level meeting of G-20 foreign ministers drew to a close in New Delhi. ‘We have to keep ways of talking, or at least listening,’ Borrell said. Russia was suspended from the Group of Eight after its invasion of Crimea in 2014.
  • The war in Ukraine is not distracting the United States from its challenges in Asia, Blinken said Friday. ‘Not only are we not distracted, on the contrary, we’re more deeply engaged than ever,’ he said during a panel discussion in India’s capital. Blinken made the comment during a talk with other members of the Quad — a group consisting of Australia, Japan, India and the United States. Even though Washington has spent billions of dollars in support of Ukraine and provided a massive arsenal of weaponry, Blinken insisted the United States could ‘run and chew gum at the same time,’ reiterating that the ‘future is so much in the Indo-Pacific.’
  • The U.S. Treasury Department and the State Department announced new sanctions Friday targeting three Russians accused of committing human rights abuses against Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian journalist and opposition leader who has been imprisoned in Moscow since April for criticizing Russian military tactics in Ukraine. Kara-Murza, who is a Washington Post opinion contributor, was charged with ‘spreading deliberately false information’ and faces up to 15 years in prison. Among the officials facing sanctions are the judge who oversaw Kara-Murza’s pretrial detention hearing, the special investigator who ordered the opening of a criminal case against him and the Russian national who served as an expert witness for the Russian government in his hearing.
  • Belarus has jailed Nobel Peace Prize winner Ales Bialiatski. The democracy and human rights activist was sentenced Friday to 10 years in prison for financing protests, a judgment that his supporters say is politically motivated. An outspoken critic of President Alexander Lukashenko, Bialiatski won the international prize in 2022, sharing it with Russian and Ukrainian rights defenders.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: At White House Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz Pledge Unity on Ukraine. Scholz visited Washington to help show his country was in lock step with the U.S. in helping Kyiv. The New York Times, Friday, 3 March 2023:

  • A Belarusian Nobel Peace laureate is sentenced to 10 years in prison.

  • As fighting intensifies, Ukraine says its forces are still holding Bakhmut.

  • New U.N. inspectors arrive at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant after weeks of delays caused by fighting.

  • The U.S. attorney general meets with Zelensky during a surprise visit to Ukraine.

  • The U.S. will send $400 million in new military aid to Ukraine, including precision-guided rockets.

  • The U.S. imposes sanctions on six Russian officials involved in the jailing of a prominent dissident.

Trump takes his support for those who stormed the Capitol to another level, collaborating on a new song with a group of inmates imprisoned in Washington on charges related to the January 6 attack, The Washington Post, Amy B Wang, Friday, 3 March 2023: “It’s no secret that Donald Trump has consistently sided with those in the mob that overran the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in an attempt to stop the certification of Joe Biden’s electoral win. The former president resisted hours of pleas to stop the rioters on the day of the attack, eventually told them they were loved and ‘very special,’ and has since vowed to issue pardons to Jan. 6 defendants if he is reelected. This week, Trump took his support for those who stormed the Capitol to another level, collaborating on a new song with a group of inmates imprisoned in Washington on charges related to the Jan. 6 attack. Trump and the prisoners — dubbed the ‘J6 Prison Choir’ — released ‘Justice for All’ on Thursday, a roughly 2 1/2-minute track that features the former president reciting the Pledge of Allegiance cut with the inmates singing the national anthem. The track ends with the prisoners chanting ‘USA! USA! USA!’ in the same cadence that rioters chanted ‘Hang Mike Pence!’ on the day of the insurrection. As a result of the deadly siege, five people died and more than 100 law enforcement officers were injured.”

Walgreens Says It Won’t Offer the Abortion Pill Mifepristone in 21 States. The decision applies to conservative states whose attorneys general threatened Walgreens and other pharmacies with legal action if they dispense the pill there. The New York Times, Friday, 3 March 2023: “A few weeks after Republican attorneys general in 21 states sent letters threatening legal action against retail pharmacy chains if they dispensed the abortion pill mifepristone, Walgreens said it would not distribute the pill in those states. In January, after the Food and Drug Administration said it would allow retail pharmacies to become certified to dispense mifepristone — the tightly regulated medication that is the first pill in the two-drug medication abortion regimen — Walgreens, CVS and other pharmacies said they planned to do so in states where abortion was legal. The American Pharmacists Association said that pharmacies would be very cautious about dispensing in any state where they might risk losing their license or face other penalties. The decision this week by Walgreens reflects that caution. In four of the states — Alaska, Iowa, Kansas and Montana — abortion is technically still legal, but there are efforts to restrict it that would apply to abortion pills.” See also, Walgreens will not distribute abortion pill in 20 states, CNN Business, Nathaniel Meyersohn and Carma Hassan, Friday, 3 March 2023: “Walgreens on Friday said it will not distribute abortion medication in 20 states, bowing to pressure from anti-abortion lawmakers and lawsuits targeting the legality of medication abortion. The company said it will not dispense mifepristone, the first of two drugs in the medication abortion process, in 20 states following a February 1 letter from GOP attorneys general in those states. Retail pharmacies have been caught in the middle of abortion battles. Companies are loath to antagonize lawmakers in states where they may face politically motivated reprisals. GOP leaders have recently targeted businesses ranging from Disney to investment funds. ‘We intend to be a certified pharmacy and will distribute Mifepristone only in those jurisdictions where it is legal and operationally feasible,’ the company said in a statement. The US Food and Drug Administration had previously said that pharmacies that become certified to dispense mifepristone can do so directly to someone who has a prescription from a certified prescriber.”


Saturday, 4 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Bakhmut ‘almost destroyed,’ city official says; U.S. attorney general visits Lviv, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Victoria Bisset, Ellen Francis, Nick Parker, and Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Saturday, 4 March 2023: “Street fighting is raging around Bakhmut and the Ukrainian city is ‘almost destroyed’ — but Russian forces have not seized full control, its deputy mayor said Saturday. Ukrainian forces appeared to still hold some parts of the eastern city, despite claims by pro-Kremlin forces that they had encircled the town, The Washington Post reported earlier. If Russian forces capture the city, it would give Moscow a symbolic triumph after months of fierce fighting and heavy casualties. Off the battlefield, law enforcement officials from the United States, the European Union, Britain and other jurisdictions met Friday in the western Ukrainian city of Lviv, including U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland, who traveled to Ukraine unannounced.

  • Nearly 4,000 residents are believed to be living in shelters in Bakhmut without enough electricity or water, the city’s deputy mayor, Oleksandr Marchenko, told the BBC on Saturday. ‘There is fighting near the city and there are also street fights,’ he said. Battles have intensified in the city over weeks as Russian forces closed in. ‘We shouldn’t give it to them is because it will be very hard to take it back,’ Marchenko added. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky highlighted Bakhmut defenders in a Saturday speech.
  • Ukrainian troops in Bakhmut are running short on key supplies such as ammunition, The Post reported, while Britain’s Defense Ministry said Saturday that Ukraine’s defense of Bakhmut ‘is under increasingly severe pressure’ in and around the embattled city. While Ukraine has sent reinforcements, its resupply routes are becoming more and more limited, according to the ministry’s daily update. Russian forces have not yet forced Ukrainian troops to withdraw from the city and are not likely to be able to ‘encircle the city soon,’ according to the Institute for the Study of War think tank.
  • The United States signed an agreement designed to expand information-sharing regarding alleged Russian war crimes, involving Ukraine, Lithuania, Poland, Estonia, Latvia, Slovakia and Romania, Garland said Friday. Meanwhile, American prosecutors are aiding their Ukrainian counterparts to build war crimes cases, including attacks on civilian targets, he said.
  • President Biden and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reiterated support for Ukraine and their determination to ‘impose costs’ on Russia, the White House said after their meeting Friday. ‘The leaders discussed ongoing efforts to provide security, humanitarian, economic, and political assistance to Ukraine,’ the statement said.
  • Ales Bialiatski, a human rights activist and Nobel Peace Prize winner, was sentenced to 10 years in jail by a Belarusian court on Friday, continuing a crackdown on dissent that began after pro-democracy protests there in 2020, The Post reported. Bialiatski shared the prize in 2022 with Ukraine’s Center for Civil Liberties and the Russian human rights group Memorial.
  • Britain’s Defense Ministry on Saturday downplayed comments from Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain that the country will double its supply of Challenger 2 tanks for Ukraine’s war effort. Ukrainian Ambassador Vadym Prystaiko told Radio Liberty that there’s been a new agreement between the two countries. But a spokesperson for the Defense Ministry told The Post that while the defense minister is open to sending additional tanks, there are no plans in place to do so at the moment. British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak’s office said last month that Britain would send 14 of the tanks to Ukraine.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov elicited both ‘cheers and groans’ at a conference in New Delhi, where he said Russia was the victim, not the aggressor, of the conflict in Ukraine. ‘The war, which we are trying to stop, and which was launched against us, using the Ukrainian people,’ he said, prompting derision from an audience that included academics, government officials and business executives. Lavrov drew applause when he criticized Washington’s conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan.
  • Ukraine is working on a ‘mechanism of confiscation of Russian assets’ to help rebuild the country, according to Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal. The program will be based on an international agreement between Ukraine and partner states, Shmyhal said on Facebook. The announcement came at the United for Justice conference in the western city of Lviv. Shmyhal added that there will be a ‘Compensation Commission’ to consider claims for damages and an ‘International Damage Register.’

Trump seeks to block Mike Pence’s grand jury testimony in 2020 election interference investigation, CNN Politics, Paula Reid, Kaitlan Collins, Jamie Gangel, Zachary Cohen, and Tierney Sneed, Saturday, 4 March 2023: “Former President Donald Trump has asked a federal court to block former Vice President Mike Pence from speaking to a grand jury about certain matters covered by executive privilege as part of the criminal investigation into efforts to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss, sources familiar with the move told CNN. The request, in a new filing submitted secretly in a sealed proceeding on Friday, comes after the Trump team had already indicated to special counsel Jack Smith, who is overseeing the Justice Department’s criminal investigations into Trump, that the former president intended to assert privilege over Pence’s testimony. The DOJ had previously asked a judge to compel Pence’s appearance before the grand jury, CNN reported last week. It is unclear how long it will take for the sealed proceedings to unfold, but it’s possible that the district court resolves the dispute, or that it will be appealed to a federal appeals court and perhaps, eventually, to the US Supreme Court.” See also, Trump Asks Judge to Block Pence’s Testimony to Grand Jury. The former president’s lawyers cited executive privilege, a tactic they have used with other ex-Trump aides. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Saturday, 4 March 2023: “Former President Donald J. Trump has filed a motion asking a federal judge to prevent his former vice president, Mike Pence, from testifying to a grand jury about specific issues that Mr. Trump is claiming are protected by executive privilege, a person briefed on the matter said. The filing is unsurprising — Mr. Trump’s lawyers have repeatedly sought to assert executive privilege over former aides as a means of blocking testimony — but it underscores how much the Justice Department’s attempts to get Mr. Pence to testify in the investigation into Mr. Trump’s efforts to cling to power may be drawn out. The sealed filing was made on Friday, according to the person briefed on the matter. Its existence was reported earlier by CNN.”

Inside the Panic at Fox News After the 2020 Election. ‘If we hadn’t called Arizona,’ said Suzanne Scott, the network’s chief executive, according to a recording reviewed by the New York Times,’ our ratings would have been bigger.’ The New York Times, Peter Baker, Saturday, 4 March 2023: “A little more than a week after television networks called the 2020 presidential election for Joseph R. Biden Jr., top executives and anchors at Fox News held an after-action meeting to figure out how they had messed up. Not because they had gotten the key call wrong — but because they had gotten it right. And they had gotten it right before anyone else. Typically, it is a point of pride for a news network to be the first to project election winners. But Fox is no typical news network, and in the days following the 2020 vote, it was besieged with angry protests not only from President Donald J. Trump’s camp but from its own viewers because it had called the battleground state of Arizona for Mr. Biden. Never mind that the call was correct; Fox executives worried that they would lose viewers to hard-right competitors like Newsmax. And so, on Monday, Nov. 16, 2020, Suzanne Scott, the chief executive of Fox News Media, and Jay Wallace, the network’s president, convened a Zoom meeting for an extraordinary discussion with an unusual goal, according to a recording of the call reviewed by The New York Times: How to keep from angering the network’s conservative audience again by calling an election for a Democrat before the competition.”

‘I am your retribution’: Trump rules supreme at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference) as he relaunches bid for White House, The Guardian, David Smith, Saturday, 4 March 2023: “Donald Trump turned back the clock to the darkest elements of his presidency on Saturday with a fiery address that showed the threat to American democracy is far from over. After a lacklustre start to his campaign, Trump appeared to launch his White House bid in earnest with a vintage display of demagoguery that framed the 2024 election as ‘the final battle’ for America. The former president, wearing dark suit, white shirt and trademark red tie, also declared war on his own Republican party to the delight of ardent fans in the crowd chanting ‘Trump! Trump! Trump!’ and ‘USA! USA! USA!’ Opinion polls suggest that Trump’s grip on the party is slipping in the wake of the 6 January 2021, insurrection and a disappointing midterm performance. But he continues to rule supreme at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), billed as the biggest annual gathering of grassroots conservatives.” See also, Fact-Checking Trump’s Speech at CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference), The New York Times, Linda Qiu, Saturday, 4 March 2023.

Trump Says He Would Stay in 2024 Race if Indicted. Donald Trump said he ‘wouldn’t even think about’ dropping out of the race for the White House if he’s indicted. The former president has increasingly used his campaign as a cudgel against investigators. The New York Times, Michael C. Bender, Maggie Haberman, and Shane Goldmacher, Saturday, 4 March 2023: “Former President Donald J. Trump said on Saturday that he would not drop out of the 2024 presidential race if he was indicted in one of several investigations he is facing. Mr. Trump made the comments to a group of conservative media before his speech to the Conservative Political Action Coalition conference in National Harbor, Md. It was the first time Mr. Trump spoke publicly about how he would respond if he was indicted while actively seeking the presidency, an event that would roil the 2024 campaign. Mr. Trump is facing two state investigations — one in New York City and one in Fulton County, Ga. — as well as two federal investigations led by Jack Smith, a special prosecutor. Mr. Smith is investigating Mr. Trump’s attempt to thwart the peaceful transfer of power after losing the 2020 election, as well as Mr. Trump’s possession of hundreds of classified documents and presidential material at his private club, Mar-a-Lago. The precise status of the efforts is unclear, but the two state investigations are believed to be in advanced stages.”


Sunday, 5 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Ukrainian troops hold on, with Bakhmut not quite encircled, The Washington Post, Annabelle Tinsit, Rachel Pannett, Ben Brasch, and Kyle Rempfer, Sunday, 5 March 2023: “A grueling seven-month battle for the front-line city of Bakhmut is coming down to street-by-street fighting and skirmishes on its outskirts, where Ukrainian forces are digging narrow trenches into the muddy ground to fortify their positions. Ukrainian officials say Russian forces have not seized full control of the city, whose capture would offer the Kremlin a symbolic victory after months of battleground setbacks and Ukrainian counteroffensives.

  • Russian forces appear to have conducted a ‘turning movement’ in parts of the city, analysts at the Institute for the Study of War think tank said — a military maneuver intended to dislodge Ukrainian troops from their defensive positions — but have not yet forced their withdrawal or encircled the city.
  • Ukrainian resupply routes out of Bakhmut are ‘increasingly limited,’ the British Defense Ministry said. Two key bridges were destroyed in the 36 hours leading up to Saturday, it said. Elite Ukrainian fighter units are reinforcing the city’s northern suburbs, which are under attack from Russian forces and Wagner Group mercenaries, British defense officials said.
  • The head of Russia’s Wagner Group said that if its forces were to retreat from Bakhmut, ‘the entire front will collapse.’ Yevgeniy Prigozhin made the comment in a video that circulated over the weekend, in which he also complained of an ammunition shortage, according to media outlet Ukrainska Pravda. The Washington Post has not been able to verify when or where the video was recorded.
  • Evacuations of residents from Bakhmut have slowed amid Russian strikes against the city, its deputy mayor told CNN. Speaking from another town, Oleksandr Marchenko estimated that some 4,000 residents remain in Bakhmut and that many are refusing to go, with only five to 10 evacuations taking place daily. ‘The enemy blows everything to the ground, strikes at multistory buildings, and the residential sector. There are air raids, artillery shelling, mortar shelling. The enemy is striking the city with everything they can,’ Marchenko said.
  • Two people were killed amid attacks against the city on Saturday, Pavlo Kyrylenko, the governor of Donetsk region, said Sunday in a Telegram post. Several more people were injured in strikes across the region, he said.
  • Putin ‘has to withdraw troops’ for the war to end, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz said during an interview with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria. Scholz said Putin ‘misjudged the unity of Europe, of the United States and all the friends of Ukraine.’ When asked whether there was a point when Ukraine’s allies would encourage Kyiv to negotiate, Scholz said: ‘There will be no decisions without the Ukrainians.’
  • Chinese military support ‘could reverse’ Russian forces’ weakened posture, Rep. Jim Himes said Sunday on ‘Meet the Press.’ Himes (Conn.), the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, echoed Biden administration officials’ worries that Beijing may supply Moscow with munitions to use in Ukraine. There is no evidence that China has done so, The Washington Post has reported. Intelligence Select Committee Chairman Rep. Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio) agreed: ‘That would be an inexhaustible source of weapons if China in its production capacity supported Russia and that would change the dynamic.’
  • Himes panned Moscow’s military readiness when asked about reports that Russia is running out of munitions, but he cautioned that Kremlin forces are still formidable. ‘The entire Russian army cannot take a town that nobody had ever heard of a year ago … That doesn’t mean they’re not still dangerous — they have nuclear weapons — but they are not what we thought they were,’ Himes said.
  • Efforts are underway to extend the United Nations-backed agreement that has allowed grain to be shipped out of Ukrainian ports during the war. ‘We are working hard for the smooth implementation and further extension of the Black Sea grain deal,’ Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said in Qatar, according to Reuters. The agreement between Russia, Ukraine, Turkey and the U.N. is set to expire in mid-March.
  • Two Ukrainian pilots are in the United States to fly military flight simulators, Reuters reported, citing an unnamed U.S. defense official. Kyiv has long been pushing, without success, for the United States to send F-16 fighter jets to aid in the conflict. A senior Pentagon official recently told Congress that Ukrainian forces would need at least 18 months to learn how to fly and maintain the fighter jets in combat.
  • Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’s center-right party won big Sunday in an election considered to be a referendum on Kallas’s strong military support for Ukraine. Kallas’s main opponent has suggested that Estonia’s level of military aid to Ukraine undermines the nation’s own defenses, according to the Associated Press. ‘This result, which is not final yet, will give us a strong mandate to put together a good government,’ Kallas said Sunday, according to the AP.

As Trump Inquiry Continues, Republicans Seek Oversight of Georgia Prosecutors. The Proposals are part of a broader push by conservative lawmakers around the country to rein in district attorneys whom they consider too liberal. The New York Times, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Sunday, 5 March 2023: “To Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Atlanta, several bills in the Georgia legislature that would make it easier to remove local prosecutors are racist and perhaps retaliatory for her ongoing investigation of former President Donald J. Trump. To the Republican sponsors of the bills, they are simply a way to ensure that prosecutors enforce the laws of the state, whether they agree with them or not. Two of the measures under consideration would create a new state oversight board that could punish or remove prosecutors for loosely defined reasons, including ‘willful misconduct.’ A third would sharply reduce the number of signatures required to seek a recall of a district attorney. The proposals are part of a broader push by conservative lawmakers around the country to rein in prosecutors whom they consider too liberal, and who in some cases are refusing to prosecute low-level drug crimes or enforce strict new anti-abortion laws.”

Biden, in Selma, Says Voting Rights Are Still ‘Under Assault.’ The president’s commemoration of Bloody Sunday comes as he is expected to announce a re-election bid, which will require the support of Black voters who were decisive in helping him win the first time. The New York Times, Katie Rogers, Sunday, 5 March 2023: “President Biden told a crowd gathered to commemorate the 58th anniversary of a brutal police attack on Black protesters that the right to vote was ‘under assault’ as Republicans introduce laws to restrict ballot access and redraw voting districts. Observing the anniversary of Bloody Sunday, an event that electrified the civil rights movement, Mr. Biden said the marchers who crossed the Edmund Pettus Bridge on March 7, 1965, had bucked the ‘forces of hate’ and encouraged activism that led to the signing of the Voting Rights Act five months later. ‘They forced the country to confront hard truths,’ Mr. Biden said, ‘and to act to keep the promise of America alive.'”

House Committee Budgets Swell as Republicans Plan Road Shows Across the U.S.. Republican leaders have told their colleagues to get out of Washington for field hearings that allow the party to take their message straight to voters, a costly pursuit that dan be a boon to big donors. The New York Times, Annie Karni and Catie Edmondson, Sunday, 5 March 2023: “Determined to take their message directly to voters at a time when they are hard-pressed to get anything concrete done on Capitol Hill, House Republicans are increasing the budgets of their congressional committees and going out on the road, planning a busy schedule of field hearings in all corners of the country aimed at promoting their agenda outside the Beltway. The Judiciary Committee, for example, which has held one field hearing at the U.S. border with Mexico to criticize the Biden administration’s immigration policies and is planning more, requested a travel budget of $262,000 for this year. That is more than 30 times what the panel spent on travel last year. (In 2019, before the coronavirus pandemic significantly curtailed travel, the Judiciary Committee spent about $85,000 on travel costs, according to a public disclosure form, one-third of what Republicans are planning this year.)”


Monday, 6 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky says Ukrainian forces will double down in Bakhmut, The Washington Post, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, and Adam Taylor, Monday, 6 March 2023: “President Volodymyr Zelensky said Monday that he intends to hold the line in Bakhmut, where a grinding battle of attrition rages over a city that has come to assume outsize, symbolic weight, even as experts warn that it holds little strategic significance. Russian troops and Wagner Group mercenaries are pushing toward Ukrainian positions and have nearly encircled the city. The decision not to pull Ukraine’s troops to fallback positions ‘was unanimously backed’ by top commanders, Zelensky said in his nightly address, which was geared toward dispelling any reports of dissension in the ranks. ‘There were no other opinions.’ A victory for Russia in Bakhmut would not change the tide of the war, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told reporters on Monday, during an official visit to Jordan.

  • Ukrainian officials have denied any suggestion that they would leave Bakhmut. The Institute for the Study of War said that Ukrainian troops are ‘continuing to inflict high casualties’ on Russia’s military and mercenary forces in Bakhmut but noted that Ukrainian forces may be conducting a ‘limited fighting withdrawal’ from the area. The fighting is so intense that forces have at times clashed hand-to-hand, including fistfights, Dmytro Vatagin, a Ukrainian soldier stationed near Bakhmut, said in an interview.
  • Russia’s defense minister visited the occupied city of Mariupol, according to videos and a statement by the Defense Ministry. According to the ministry, Sergei Shoigu was there to inspect the progress of Russian efforts to rebuild crippled infrastructure in the eastern Donbas region. The date of his visit is unclear, but the ministry in recent days has posted a flurry of content showing Shoigu visiting troops near the front line and meeting with military and defense officials involved in the war.
  • Zelensky called on Ukrainians to say ‘Glory to Ukraine,’ in response to the spread of a video on social media that appeared to show Russian troops shooting a prisoner of war who uttered the phrase. The video has not been verified by The Washington Post, and it is not clear when it was filmed or who the apparent victim was. Writing on Telegram, Zelensky said the prisoner had been ‘brutally killed’ for responding ‘bravely’ to his captors. ‘We will find the killers,’ he wrote.
  • Ukrainian tennis player Marta Kostyuk defeated Russia’s Varvara Gracheva at the ATX Open in Austin and dedicated her victory to Ukraine and to ‘all the people who are fighting and dying’ there. Kostyuk has argued that all Russian and Belarusian tennis players should speak out publicly against the war. In September, she declined to shake hands with her Belarusian opponent at the U.S. Open.
  • Prime Minister Kaja Kallas’s center-right party appears to be on track for a resounding election victory in Estonia, according to the early results of Sunday’s voting. Kallas has been a vocal backer of Kyiv, and the vote was considered a test of the Baltic nation’s strong military support for Ukraine.
  • German Chancellor Olaf Scholz warned Beijing of consequences if China supplies lethal military aid to Russia, echoing remarks by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. In a CNN interview, Scholz said he was ‘relatively optimistic’ that China would heed calls not to provide any such aid.
  • Chinese military support ‘could reverse’ Russian forces’ weakened posture, Rep. Jim Himes (D-Conn.) said on NBC News’s ‘Meet the Press.’ Himes, the ranking Democrat on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, reiterated administration officials’ worries that Beijing may supply Moscow with munitions to use in Ukraine. There is no evidence that China has done so, The Washington Post has reported. Committee Chairman Michael R. Turner (R-Ohio) said that China could be ‘an inexhaustible source of weapons’ for Russia and that its support ‘would change the dynamic’ of the conflict.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Ukraine’s Top Generals Want to Keep Fighting for Bakhmut. Military commanders told President Volodymyr Zelensky on Monday that they want to continue to defend the battered eastern city and strengthen positions there, his office said. The New York Times, Monday, 6 March 2023:

  • Ukraine’s top generals want to keep defending Bakhmut, as Russian fighters demand more ammunition.

  • Ukraine claims a drone strike on a military target inside Russia.

  • A video shows the apparent execution of a Ukrainian prisoner of war.

  • Ukraine appoints an anticorruption director, filling a post vacant since early in the war.

  • Russia’s defense minister pays a rare visit to occupied areas of Ukraine.

  • Here are five takeaways from inside the battle for Bakhmut.

  • Belarus sentences the country’s exiled opposition leader to 15 years in prison.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: All eyes on Bakhmut as Russia fights to take it over, NPR, NPR Staff, Monday, 6 March 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: Russian forces have been trying for months to capture Bakhmut, a small town in eastern Ukraine. Ukraine’s top generals say they want to continue defending the town that has become a symbol of Ukrainian resistance. Turkey’s talks with Sweden and Finland over their bids to join NATO are expected to resume Thursday. Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission, visits the White House Friday for talks with President Biden, following her trip to Canada. Also Friday, French President Emmanuel Macron hosts British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak for talks in Paris. What happened last week: The top U.S. and Russian government diplomats met for the first time since the invasion began, in a brief walk and talk alongside meetings of the Group of 20 nations’ foreign ministers in India. Chinese leader Xi Jinping and Belarus’ leader Alexander Lukashenko met in Beijing and declared their nations’ friendship ‘unbreakable.’ Lukashenko, a close Kremlin ally, endorsed China’s proposal to end the war in Ukraine. President Biden hosted German Chancellor Olaf Scholz at the White House, asserting their unity in supporting Ukraine for as long as needed. Two key bridges in Bakhmut were destroyed, but it was unclear by whom, as both sides could have tactical reasons to do so. Estonian Prime Minister Kaja Kallas, one of Europe’s staunchest supporters of Ukraine, is set to remain in her post after her center-right party overwhelmingly won Sunday’s election.”

Trump fighting to bar use of White House lawyers’ grand jury testimony in special counsel investigation. Trump wants to bar the use of testimony from Pat Cipollone and Patrick Philbin. ABC News, Katherine Faulders, Olivia Rubin, and John Santucci, Monday, 6 March 2023: “Former President Donald Trump is seeking to prevent the special counsel investigating efforts to overturn the 2020 election from using testimony provided by former top White House lawyers to a federal grand jury, sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News. In recent weeks Trump’s attorneys have asked a court to bar special counsel Jack Smith from using testimony from former White House counsel Pat Cipollone and his former deputy Patrick Philbin as evidence in Smith’s ongoing investigation into the events surrounding Jan. 6, said the sources, who spoke about the confidential court battle on the condition of anonymity as they were not authorized to discuss nonpublic litigation. Trump’s lawyers have also filed to prevent Smith from using former Trump lawyer Eric Herschmann’s grand jury testimony, the sources said.”

The Serious Takeaway From CPAC (Conservative Political Action Conference): Trump and Trumpism Are Still a Threat. Behind all the craziness is a movement that has given up on truth and respecting democracy. The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Monday, 6 March 2023: “During the 2016 Presidential race, one of the wiser things said about Donald Trump—by Salena Zito, in The Atlantic—was that he should be taken seriously, not literally. However fantastical, odious, and self-centered Trump’s campaign appeared to many members of the media, it struck some deep, dark nerves running through American society. But now, six and a half years later, after all that has happened, including disappointing election results for Trump and the Republican Party in 2020 and 2022, how seriously should we take him and his supporters? Judging by press coverage of this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference, where Trump delivered the closing address on Saturday evening, the answer is not very seriously. Perhaps taking their cue from what used to be called ‘the Republican establishment,’ key members of which boycotted this year’s CPAC, many media organizations adopted a dismissive tone, which was well captured by a headline at Politico: ‘CPAC’s road to irrelevance.’ Given the carnival atmosphere that has attended CPAC, an event once synonymous with Cold Warriors and Reaganites, as Trump acolytes have taken it over, plus allegations of sexual misconduct against CPAC’s current chair, Matt Schlapp—accusations that he has denied—it’s certainly tempting to dismiss the whole thing as an early spring break for MAGAS and charlatans, mere fodder for late-night comedians. (Jimmy Kimmel suggested that CPAC stands for ‘Clowns Periodically Assembling in Convention Centers.’) But what if treating Trump and his followers as a joke amounts to repeating the mistake that many political observers made in 2016? In his closing address to the conference, which took place at the Gaylord National Resort & Convention Center in National Harbor, Maryland, Trump called Joe Biden a criminal, insinuated that Mitch McConnell was a Chinese sympathizer, and pledged that, if reëlected, he would deliver ‘retribution’ for those who have been ‘wronged or betrayed,’ a victimized group in which he certainly places himself. That sounds like typical Trump, you may say: the ex-President is nothing if not mind-numbingly repetitive. But, after January 6, 2021, familiarity with Trump’s charges and threats is surely no excuse for being blasé about them. From the CPAC stage, an ex-President promised to exact vengeance on his enemies if he returns to power. And, so far, virtually the only Republican who has raised any objection is Asa Hutchinson, a former governor of Arkansas, who told CNN that Trump’s remarks were ‘troubling.'”

Timid media and Republican figures are again, dangerously, normalizing Trump, The Washington Post, Jennifer Rubin, Monday, 6 March 2023: “We saw throughout Donald Trump’s two presidential campaigns and four years in the White House a symbiotic relationship between mainstream media outlets and Republicans, in which both made Trump out to be a far more normal politician than he was. On the one hand, there was Republican denial (Didn’t see the crazy tweetI’m sure he’s learned his lesson!). On the other, there was the media’s determination to avoid claims of bias and maintain a false balance — which often resulted in their obscuring how loony he sounded. The result: a never-ending Trumpian stream of threats (both policy-related and more personal), absurd conspiracy-mongering, and lies that were never regarded as disqualifying. Apparently, neither the media nor supposedly sober Republicans have learned anything from the past. Trump gave a bonkers speech at the Conservative Political Action Conference on Saturday, musing about Russia blowing up NATO headquarters, claiming President Biden had taken the border wall and ‘put it in a hiding area,’ and telling the crowd, ‘I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed: I am your retribution.’ We do not get headlines acknowledging this is unhinged. Instead, we get from the New York Times: ‘Trump Says He Would Stay in 2024 Race if Indicted.’ And a similar angle from CNNABC started its website report this way:Former President Donald Trump continues to reign supreme over the conservative wing of the Republican Party.’ From The Washington Post: ‘Trump takes victory lap at conservative conference.’ CBS intoned that Trump ‘aired grievances with his familiar foes: President Biden, the Department of Justice, and the litany of legal fights he is embroiled in.’ Politico went with: ‘Trump ties a ribbon on the most MAGA CPAC yet.’ Hmm. From the coverage, you would never understand how incoherent he sounds, how far divorced his statements are from reality, and how entirely abnormal this all is. Talk about burying the lead.” See also, Trump, Vowing ‘Retribution,’ Foretells a Second Term of Spite. In a speech before his supporters, the former president charged forward in an uncharted direction, talking openly about leveraging the power of the presidency for political reprisals. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Shane Goldmacher, published on Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “Donald J. Trump has for decades trafficked in the language of vengeance, from his days as a New York developer vowing ‘an eye for an eye’ in the real estate business to ticking through an enemies ledger in 2022 as he sought to oust every last Republican who voted for his impeachment. ‘Four down and six to go,’ he cheered in a statement as one went down to defeat. But even though payback has long been part of his public persona, Mr. Trump’s speech on Saturday at the Conservative Political Action Conference was striking for how explicitly he signaled that any return trip to the White House would amount to a term of spite. ‘In 2016, I declared, I am your voice,’ Mr. Trump told the crowd in National Harbor, Md. ‘Today, I add: I am your warrior. I am your justice. And for those who have been wronged and betrayed, I am your retribution.’ He repeated the phrase for emphasis: ‘I am your retribution.’ Framing the 2024 election as a dire moment in an us-versus-them struggle — ‘the final battle,’ as he put it — Mr. Trump charged forward in an uncharted direction for American politics, talking openly about leveraging the power of the presidency for political reprisals. His menacing declaration landed differently in the wake of the pro-Trump mob’s assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, in a last-ditch effort to keep him in power. The notion that Mr. Trump’s supporters could be spurred to violence is no longer hypothetical, as it was in 2016 when he urged a rally audience to ‘knock the crap out of’ hecklers. The attack on the Capitol underscored that his most fanatical followers took his falsehoods and claims of victimhood seriously — and were willing to act on them.”

Five Women Sue Texas Over the State’s Abortion Ban. The women, backed by an abortion-rights group, say they were denied abortions under state law despite risks to themselves and their fetuses that made the procedure a medical necessity. The New York Times, Kate Zernike, Monday, 6 March 2023: “Five women who say they were denied abortions despite grave risks to their lives or their fetuses sued the State of Texas on Monday, apparently the first time that pregnant women themselves have taken legal action against the bans that have shut down access to abortion across the country since the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. The women — two visibly pregnant — plan to tell their stories on the steps of the Texas Capitol on Tuesday. Their often harrowing experiences will put faces to what their 91-page complaint calls ‘catastrophic harms’ to women since the court’s decision in June, which eliminated the constitutional right to abortion after five decades. Their accounts may resonate with public opinion, which generally supports legalized abortion and does so overwhelmingly when a pregnancy endangers the woman’s life. The lawsuit, backed by the Center for Reproductive Rights, comes as the country grapples with the fallout from the overturning of Roe, with abortion banned in at least 13 states. Texas, like most states with bans, allows exceptions when a physician determines there is risk of ‘substantial’ harm to a pregnant woman. Yet the potential for prison sentences of up to 99 years, $100,000 fines and the loss of medical licenses has scared doctors into not providing abortions even in cases where the law would seem to allow them.” See also, 5 Texas women denied abortions sue the state, saying the bans put them in danger, NPR, Sarah McCammon, published on Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “Five women who were denied abortions under Texas law while facing medical crises are suing the state, asking a judge to clarify exceptions to the laws. ‘[The women] have been denied necessary and potentially life-saving obstetrical care because medical professionals throughout the state fear liability under Texas’s abortion bans,’ says the lawsuit, filed in state court by the Center for Reproductive Rights on behalf of the five women and two doctors. ‘Just because Roe v. Wade is no longer the law of the land does not mean that women and pregnant people are without constitutional and basic human rights,’ says Molly Duane, senior staff attorney with the center. ‘We’re talking about people who are in medical emergencies, who need urgent medical care and whose physicians are too scared to provide that care because of the state’s laws and because of the state’s failure to provide any clarification around what its law means.'”

Republican Votes Helped Washington Pile Up Debt. As they escalate a debt-limit standoff, House Republicans blame President Biden’s spending bills for an increase in deficits. Voting records show otherwise. The New York Times, Jim Tankersley, Monday, 6 March 2023: “President Biden will submit his latest budget request to Congress on Thursday, offering what his administration says will be $2 trillion in plans to reduce deficits and future growth of the national debt. Republicans, who are demanding deep spending cuts in exchange for raising the nation’s borrowing cap, will almost certainly greet that proposal with a familiar refrain: Mr. Biden and his party are to blame for ballooning the debt. But an analysis of House and Senate voting records, and of fiscal estimates of legislation prepared by the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, shows that Republicans bear at least equal blame as Democrats for the biggest drivers of federal debt growth that passed Congress over the last two presidential administrations. The national debt has grown to $31.4 trillion from just under $6 trillion in 2000, bumping against the statutory limit on federal borrowing. That increase, which spanned the presidential administrations of two Republicans and two Democrats, has been fueled by tax cuts, wars, economic stimulus and the growing costs of retirement and health programs. Since 2017, when Donald J. Trump took the White House, Republicans and Democrats in Congress have joined together to pass a series of spending increases and tax cuts that the budget office projects will add trillions to the debt. The analysis is based on the forecasts that the C.B.O. regularly issues for the federal budget. They include descriptions of newly passed legislation that affects spending, revenues and deficits, tallying the costs of those new laws over the course of a decade. Going back to the start of Mr. Trump’s tenure, those reports highlight 13 new laws that, by the C.B.O.’s projections, will combine to add more than $11.5 trillion to the debt.”


Tuesday, 7 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky vows to stay in Bakhmut; Pro-Ukraine group may have carried out Nord Stream attack, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Erin Cunningham, Ellen Francis, and Adam Taylor, Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “Ukraine does not plan to withdraw from Bakhmut, President Volodymyr Zelensky said, adding that senior military commanders supported reinforcing the city against Russia’s assault. Western diplomats and intelligence officials say they suspect pro-Ukraine saboteurs may be responsible for explosions in September that damaged the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines. It’s an attack that could erode support for Ukraine among the Western nations that have come to its defense against Russia.

  • There is still no forensic evidence from the blast site that ties the Nord Stream sabotage to any countryofficials said. But a senior Western security official said governments investigating the bombing had uncovered evidence that pro-Ukraine individuals or entities had discussed the possibility of carrying out an attack on the pipelines before the explosion.
  • Zelensky said the push to hold on to Bakhmut was ‘tactical,’ even as some military analysts suggested Ukrainian forces should withdraw. ‘We understand that after Bakhmut,’ Russian forces ‘could go further,’ he told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer in an interview that aired Tuesday. ‘They could go to Kramatorsk, they could go to Sloviansk, it would be an open road for the Russians after Bakhmut to other towns in Ukraine, in the Donetsk direction,’ he said, naming other Ukrainian towns and cities.
  • China pushed back against U.S. warnings against arming Russia. ‘Why, while asking China not to provide arms to Russia, has the United States sold arms to Taiwan in violation of a [1982] joint communique?’ Foreign Minister Qin Gang said at a news conference. The rhetorical question appeared to be an accusation of American hypocrisy rather than a suggestion that Beijing was preparing to supply weapons to Moscow. He denied that China has provided weapons to either side in the conflict.
  • Ukrainian authorities said they tentatively identified a captured soldier who was shown in a video on social media saying ‘Glory to Ukraine’ before he appeared to be shot by Russian forces. The Post has not verified the video or the identity of the apparent victim, and it is not clear when the video was recorded. Citing preliminary information, Ukraine’s military said the soldier disappeared early last month.
  • United Nations chief António Guterres is headed to Ukraine, his office said Tuesday. He will meet with Zelensky to discuss the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to allow Ukraine to export grain despite a Russian blockade.
  • Exiled Belarusian opposition figure Svetlana Tikhanovskaya was sentenced to 15 years in prison in absentia by a court in Minsk. ‘This is how the regime “rewarded” my work for democratic changes in Belarus,’ she wrote on Twitter. Last week, Belarus gave a 10-year sentence to Ales Bialiatski, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and critic of Kremlin ally Lukashenko.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Belarus Blames Ukraine for Attack on Russian Spy Plane. President Aleksandr Lukashenko said Belarus had arrested a man he said had been recruited by Ukrainian intelligence services to carry out the attack. Ukraine had denied responsibility. The New York Times, Tuesday, 7 March 2023:

  • The Belarusian leader blames Ukraine’s intelligence service for an attack on a Russian surveillance plane.
  • Top Chinese officials signal a harder stance against Western efforts on Ukraine and other fronts.
  • A Ukrainian ex-prosecutor involved in events related to Trump’s first impeachment loses his military command.
  • The police break up protests in Georgia over a ‘foreign agents’ bill that resembles an oppressive Russian law.
  • Ukraine says the Wagner mercenary group is running out of prison recruits in the battle for Bakhmut.
  • Conditions at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant have deteriorated, Ukraine says.
  • Ukrainian incursions into Russia have usually been kept quiet, until now.
  • Ukraine urges Kherson residents to evacuate amid Russian shelling.

Joe Biden: My Plan to Extend Medicare for Another Generation, The New York Times, Joseph R. Biden Jr., Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “Millions of Americans work their whole lives, paying into Medicare with every working day — starting with their first jobs, even as teenagers. Medicare is more than a government program. It’s the rock-solid guarantee that Americans have counted on to be there for them when they retire. For decades, I’ve listened to my Republican friends claim that the only way to be serious about preserving Medicare is to cut benefits, including by making it a voucher program worth less and less every year. Some have threatened our economy unless I agree to benefit cuts. Only in Washington can people claim that they are saving something by destroying it. The budget I am releasing this week will make the Medicare trust fund solvent beyond 2050 without cutting a penny in benefits. In fact, we can get better value, making sure Americans receive better care for the money they pay into Medicare. The two biggest health reform bills since the creation of Medicare, both of which will save Medicare hundreds of billions over the decades to come, were signed by President Barack Obama and me. The Affordable Care Act embraced smart reforms to make our health care system more efficient while improving Medicare coverage for seniors. The Inflation Reduction Act ended the absurd ban on Medicare negotiating lower drug prices, required drug companies to pay rebates to Medicare if they increase prices faster than inflation and capped seniors’ total prescription drug costs — saving seniors up to thousands of dollars a year. These negotiations, combined with the law’s rebates for excessive price hikes, will reduce the deficit by $159 billion.”

In the weeks after the November 2020 election, Rupert Murdoch, the powerful chairman of Fox Corp., fretted that Donald Trump, the president he had supported, was going ‘increasingly mad.’ The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Emma Brown, and Amy Gardner, Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “Murdoch’s astonishingly candid assessments are found in thousands of pages of internal Fox documents, as well as text messages and emails exchanged between the network’s top executives and news hosts, made public on Tuesday as part of a defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox…. The documents provide an extraordinary window into the internal musings of the Australian-born executive, who has long been considered one of the most powerful figures in global media. Then 89, Murdoch emerges in the documents as an extraordinarily engaged and active figure at the network in the weeks after the 2020 election, not to mention a political junkie and pundit of daily news developments, large and small.” See also, Fox lawsuit texts show Tucker Carlson said he hates Trump ‘passionately.’ Exhibits in Dominion Voting System’s defamation suit reveal the ‘existential crisis’ within Fox News triggered by Trump’s 2020 loss and his rift with a once-favored network. The Washington Post, Sarah Ellison, Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “For years, Fox News executives and hosts cultivated a close relationship with Donald Trump. But after he lost the 2020 presidential election and turned his back on the network — inspiring many once-loyal viewers to do the same — the relationship curdled. And the ensuing pressure caused tension, second-guessing and infighting within Fox on the scale of an ‘existential crisis,’ as one senior executive called it, a cache of internal communications released Tuesday as part of a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit indicates. ‘We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights,’ prime-time host Tucker Carlson texted a colleague on Jan. 4, 2021. ‘I truly can’t wait.’ Carlson, who had shared private meetings with the president and defended him on-air, added in a text: ‘I hate him passionately. … What he’s good at is destroying things. He’s the undisputed world champion of that. He could easily destroy us if we play it wrong.’ Carlson’s private thoughts are especially striking in light of a new round of criticism this week that he misrepresented exclusive security-camera footage from the U.S. Capitol through a lens of Trumpian misinformation to downplay the severity of the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection.” See also, ‘The Whole Thing Seems Insane’: New Documents on Fox and the Election. Messages and depositions from stars like Tucker Carlson revealed serious misgivings about claims of fraud even as some hosts told millions of viewers a very different story. The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters and Katie Robertson, Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “It had been more than a week since the news networks projected that Joseph R. Biden Jr. would become the next president. And Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham were at a loss about what to say on the air. ‘What are we all going to do tmrw night?’ Ms. Ingraham, the host of the 10 p.m. show on Fox News, asked her colleagues in a text message chain on Nov. 16, 2020. Mr. Carlson responded that he planned to devote a significant chunk of his program to a little-known voting technology company that had become a target of Trump supporters who suspected the election had been rigged: Dominion Voting Systems. ‘Haven’t said a word about it so far,’ Mr. Carlson said, acknowledging that the conspiracy theories about Dominion’s purported role in a fictitious plot to siphon away votes from President Donald J. Trump were making him uneasy. ‘The whole thing seems insane to me,’ he wrote. ‘And Sidney Powell won’t release the evidence. Which I hate.’ Ms. Powell, a legal adviser to the Trump campaign, was ‘making everyone paranoid and crazy, including me,’ Mr. Carlson added. Text messages like these, released on Tuesday evening as part of Dominion’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, offer some of the clearest evidence yet about the serious misgivings that many inside the network expressed to one another even as they told their audiences of millions a very different story of fraud and malfeasance at the polls.” See also, 5 Times Tucker Carlson Privately Reviled Trump: ‘I Hate Him.’ The Fox host’s private comments, revealed recently in court documents, contrast sharply with his support of conservatives on his show. The New York Times, Katie Robertson, published on Wednesday, 8 March 2023: “Documents released in recent weeks as part of a $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox News by Dominion Voting Systems have revealed extraordinary private communications and depositions from the network’s star hosts and executives. In those statements, many of them expressed disbelief about President Donald J. Trump’s false claims that the 2020 election was stolen from him, even though the network continued to promote many of those lies on the air. Regardless of the outcome of the case, which is scheduled to go to trial in April, one host in particular — Tucker Carlson — appears to have a tricky road to navigate with his audience. In his private messages, Mr. Carlson, who generally provides strong support of Republicans on the air, repeatedly showed contempt for Mr. Trump and some of his closest aides.” See also, 4 takeaways from the new Dominion-Fox lawsuit documents. Fox was a hotbed of backbiting, and its vaunted news division wasn’t as neutral as it claimed to be. The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Tuesday, 7 March 2023.

U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger blasts Tucker Carlson over ‘misleading’ January 6 video footage. Video aired by Carlson showed ‘QAnon shaman’ Jacob Chansley accompanied by police, but not violence on the day rioters stormed the Capitol. The Washington Post, Tom Jackman, Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “After watching the first installment of Fox News host Tucker Carlson’s look at Capitol surveillance video from the Jan. 6, 2021, riot, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger sent out a memo to his department Tuesday morning denouncing the show as ‘filled with offensive and misleading conclusions.’ The claim by Carlson that Capitol Police served as ‘tour guides’ for Jacob Chansley, the horn-wearing ‘QAnon Shaman,’ was ‘outrageous and false,’ Manger wrote. He said that Capitol Police were badly outnumbered on Jan. 6, and that, ‘Those officers did their best to use de-escalation tactics to try to talk rioters into getting each other to leave the building.’… Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he sided with Manger’s account of events, appearing to hold up a copy of the chief’s memo. ‘With regard to the presentation on Fox News last night, I want to associate myself entirely with the opinion of the Chief of the Capitol Police about what happened on January 6th,’ he said.” See also, U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger rips into Tucker Carlson over ‘offensive’ use of January 6 video footage, CNN Politics, Whitney Wild and Devan Cole, Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “US Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger on Tuesday ripped into Fox News host Tucker Carlson over his commentary about footage from the January 6, 2021, insurrection that he aired Monday night, saying the host ‘cherry-picked’ from the footage to present ‘offensive’ and ‘misleading’ conclusions about the attack. ‘Last night an opinion program aired commentary that was filled with offensive and misleading conclusions about the January 6 attack,’ Manger wrote in an internal department memo obtained by CNN, adding that Carlson’s show didn’t reach out to the police department ‘to provide accurate context.’ ‘The program conveniently cherry-picked from the calmer moments of our 41,000 hours of video. The commentary fails to provide context about the chaos and violence that happened before or during these less tense moments,’ Manger said.”

Republican Lawmakers Split Over Tucker Carlson’s False January 6 Claims. House Republicans promote Tucker Carlson’s report falsely portraying the attack on the Capitol as a largely peaceful event, while Senate Republicans condemn it. The New York Times, Luke Broadwater and Stephanie Lai, Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “Republicans on Capitol Hill split on Tuesday over a broadcast by Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, in which he falsely portrayed the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol as a largely peaceful gathering, with House G.O.P. leaders promoting his report while top Republican senators condemned it. The divide reflected a continuing rift in the party between those who want to move on from Jan. 6, regarding it as a political liability, and those who want to relitigate it publicly to feed the anger of the party’s hard-right base, which continues to revere former President Donald J. Trump, believe the lie that the election was stolen from him and insist that the riot at the Capitol two years ago was a justified response. The broadcast on Monday night came about two weeks after House Speaker Kevin McCarthy granted Mr. Carlson and his team exclusive access to Capitol surveillance footage from Jan. 6, effectively outsourcing the task of rewriting the history of the riot to the right wing’s favorite news commentator, who has circulated conspiracy theories about the attack. It came as court filings have revealed that Fox News hosts and executives, including Mr. Carlson, raised doubts privately about Mr. Trump’s claims of a stolen election, but continued to promote them on the air anyway. Mr. Carlson opened his segment on Monday with a full-throated endorsement of the myth that the 2020 election was stolen from Mr. Trump, before pivoting to downplaying the mob violence on Jan. 6. On Tuesday morning, the House Republican Conference, the party’s main messaging arm, tweeted a link to a portion of the report calling it a ‘MUST WATCH,’ including four siren emojis for emphasis. But the segment prompted anger in the ranks of the Capitol Police Department, whose members suffered dozens of injuries on Jan. 6 and lost two officers in the days following the assault. J. Thomas Manger, the Capitol Police chief, sent an internal message to his officers condemning the false portrayal.” See also, ‘Just a lie’: Senate Republicans blast Tucker Carlson’s January 6 narrative. House speaker Kevin McCarthy, meanwhile, said he didn’t regret allowing Carlson exclusive access to security footage and claimed it as a victory for transparency. The Washington Post, Paul Kane, Marianna Sotomayor, Liz Goodwin, and Tom Jackman, Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “Senate Republicans blasted Fox News on Tuesday for airing a show that twisted details of the January 2021 attack on the U.S. Capitol into a conspiracy-fueled narrative, breaking ranks with House GOP colleagues who cheered on the show. From Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) to rank-and-file lawmakers, Republican senators largely rejected Fox personality Tucker Carlson’s vision of the deadly insurrection as a mostly peaceful protest that involved little violence. Appearing at his weekly news conference, McConnell denounced the leadership of the conservative cable network for airing the entertainer’s vision of the assault on the Capitol, holding up a letter from U.S. Capitol Police Chief Tom Manger that accused Carlson’s show of being ‘filled with offensive and misleading conclusions.’ ‘It was a mistake, in my view, for Fox News to depict this in a way that’s completely at variance with what our chief law enforcement official here in the Capitol thinks,’ McConnell told reporters. Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.), once a vocal supporter of former president Donald Trump who has consistently denounced the attack, was blunt in his assessment of Carlson’s narrative: ‘To somehow put [Jan. 6] in the same category as a permitted peaceful protest is just a lie.’ The sharp criticism from his own party left House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) on the defensive following his decision last month to grant Carlson exclusive access to 41,000 hours of mostly never-before-seen video from Capitol Police security cameras that day. The speaker gave that access after Carlson, who has aired conspiracy theories related to Jan. 6 on cable’s highest-rated prime time show, publicly stated it as a condition of support during McCarthy’s marathon effort to win enough votes in early January to claim the speaker’s gavel.”

Economists and activists warn lawmakers of looming debt default if congress cannot agree to raise the debt ceiling, CNBC, Chelsey Cox, Tuesday, 7 March 2023: “A Senate subcommittee on the Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee heard from witnesses Tuesday about the consequences of not raising the $31.4 trillion debt limit amid a stalemate between Republican lawmakers and the White House over a bill that would allow the federal government to continue to pay its debt obligations. A new report released by financial services company Moody’s Analytics, which outlines alternatives to a debt-limit bill, was a key feature of the hearing of the Subcommittee on Economic Policy. Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s, said an impending default would ‘be a catastrophic blow to the already fragile economy.’ ‘Global financial markets and the economy would be upended, and even if resolved quickly, Americans would likely pay for this default for generations, as global investors would rightly believe that the federal government’s finances have been politicized and that a time may come when they would not be paid what they are owed when owed it,’ Zandi said in opening remarks released before the hearing. The Moody’s analyst also said that a Republican budget proposal to include large spending cuts with the goal of decreasing fiscal spending to 2022 levels over 10 years would prompt a recession next year and result in as much as 2.6 million jobs lost.”


Wednesday, 8 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Missile attacks hit cities across Ukraine, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Victoria Bisset, Erin Cunningham, and Claire Parker, Wednesday, 8 March 2023: “Missiles rained down and blasts went off across Ukraine early Thursday. Russian missiles struck the Kharkiv region 15 times, the governor said on Telegram, while officials in Odessa said that they were experiencing a ‘massive’ missile attack, with no casualties reported so far. In Kyiv, air raid alerts blared for more than four hours, the Kyiv regional military administration said on Telegram. There were strikes on critical infrastructure and residential buildings in both Kharkiv and Odessa. Officials in Kharkiv are working to determine whether there were casualties. In Odessa, the government said they’ve intercepted missiles but cautioned residents to stay in shelters ahead of a second wave of attacks. NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Moscow could soon take control of Bakhmut, the site of a bloody, months-long battle between Russian and Ukrainian forces. Russia has ‘suffered big losses,’ he told reporters Wednesday, ‘but at the same time, we cannot rule out that Bakhmut may eventually fall in the coming days.’

  • Ukrainian officials on Wednesday denied any role in the September explosions that damaged the Nord Stream gas pipelines in the Baltic Sea, after Western diplomats and intelligence officials said they suspect pro-Ukrainian saboteurs may have been behind the blasts. Russian officials also dismissed the report, claiming without evidence that the United States was seeking to hide its own involvement in the attack.
  • Putin is prepared to keep fighting for years, U.S. Director of National Intelligence Avril Haines told a panel of senators. ‘Putin most likely calculates that time works in his favor,’ Haines told the Senate Intelligence Committee during an annual hearing on global threats. Ukraine also faces difficulties, she added. At present, the Ukrainian armed forces remain locked in a struggle to defend against Russian offensives across eastern Ukraine.
  • E.U. defense ministers gathered Wednesday in Sweden for talks over support for Kyiv. The discussions centered on Ukraine’s need for ammunition. ‘We need to deliver more, but we need to deliver faster,’ Josep Borrell, the top E.U. diplomat, said at a news conference. He proposed a plan to mobilize more than $1 billion for ammunition shipments from existing European stocks, to allocate a similar sum to coordinate procurement of more ammunition through the European Defense Agency, and to build up the bloc’s defense industry.
  • U.N. Secretary General António Guterres visited Kyiv, where he discussed the Black Sea grain export deal with Zelensky. The initiative, brokered last year by the United Nations and Turkey, is set for renewal on March 18, but only if all parties agree. Some 25 million tons of grain and other foodstuffs have been exported under the agreement, according to the Joint Coordination Center tasked with monitoring it, though exports have slowed in recent weeks. Russia has indicated that it wants barriers to its own agricultural exports to be removed for the deal to continue.
  • Violent clashes broke out in the Georgian capital, Tbilisi, in response to a controversial new bill that rights groups say will restrict media freedom and civil society. The foreign influence bill, which passed a first vote in parliament on Tuesday, is similar to legislation in Russia that has been expanded and used against government critics, and it has fueled fears that the Georgian government could be moving closer to Moscow.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky invited U.S. House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) to visit Ukraine, to see firsthand ‘the supply routes, every shell, every bullet, every dollar [of aid],’ Zelensky told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, according to a preview clip of the interview aired Wednesday morning. McCarthy told CNN he doesn’t plan to visit, repeating there would be ‘no blank checks’ for Ukraine.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Explosions Reported in Central Kyiv and Across Ukraine in Early Morning Attacks. There were reports that infrastructure was hit on Odesa, and power outages in Kharkiv. The New York Times, Wednesday, 8 March 2023:

  • Here are the latest developments.

  • Lacking the firepower for territorial gains, Russia may shift to defense, the U.S. intelligence chief says.

  • Intelligence officials warn of risks to the U.S. posed by China and Russia’s strengthening ties.

  • ‘Enormous challenges remain’ in the global energy market because of the war, the U.S. energy secretary says.

  • Kevin McCarthy turns down Zelensky’s invitation to visit Kyiv to see how U.S. aid is spent.

  • Germany treads a careful line over reports that a pro-Ukrainian group sabotaged the Nord Stream pipeline.

  • The Wagner mercenary group claims to control part of Bakhmut.

White House Rebukes Tucker Carlson Over Portrayal of the January 6 Attack. The Biden administration rarely criticizes conservative media stars by name, but a deputy press secretary declared that Mr. Carlson ‘is not credible.’ The New York Times, Michael M. Grynbaum, Wednesday, 8 March 2023: “In an unusual broadside against a major conservative television star, the Biden administration on Wednesday directly criticized the Fox News host Tucker Carlson over his on-air portrayal of the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol as a largely peaceful event, a depiction the White House deemed ‘false.’ ‘We agree with the chief of the Capitol Police and the wide range of bipartisan lawmakers who have condemned this false depiction of the unprecedented, violent attack on our Constitution and the rule of law — which cost police officers their lives,’ a deputy White House press secretary, Andrew J. Bates, said in a statement. ‘We also agree with what Fox News’s own attorneys and executives have now repeatedly stressed in multiple courts of law: that Tucker Carlson is not credible,’ Mr. Bates added. The latter part of the statement referred to revelations from the $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit filed by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News, which has led to the disclosure of extraordinary private communications among the network’s hosts and executives.”

Opinion: Tucker Carlson’s spin on January 6 is a lie. I should know. I was there. CNN Opinion, Michael Fanone, Wednesday, 8 March 2023: “Fox News conspiracy theorist Tucker Carlson began airing footage this week of the January 6th insurrection, which House Speaker Kevin McCarthy gifted to him exclusively. And just as I anticipated, the footage was manipulated and selectively edited to fit an extreme MAGA narrative espoused by Carlson, former President Donald Trump and the leaders of the new Republican House majority. Even his own legal team has acknowledged that Carlson doesn’t recite ‘actual facts’ on the topics he discusses on air. And now we have yet another indication that Carlson himself doesn’t believe what he talks about on air. Legal filings made public on Tuesday as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News, expose Carlson as a fraud. In one private text message two days before the January 6 attack, Carlson said, ‘We are very, very close to being able to ignore Trump most nights. I truly can’t wait.’ Carlson added of Trump, ‘I hate him passionately.’ He also wrote that the four years of the Trump presidency had been ‘a disaster.’ I didn’t need to read the reports of his texts to know that Carlson’s spin about January 6 is fabricated. I was there. I saw it. I lived it. I fought alongside my brother and sister officers to defend the Capitol. We have the scars and injuries to prove it.”

Ron DeSantis’s plan to strip First Amendment rights from the press, explained. DeSantis wants to destroy a fundament of American free speech law. Vox, Ian Millhiser, Wednesday, 8 March 2023: “Florida’s Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis wants to eliminate the First Amendment safeguards that prevent lawsuits seeking to strong-arm the press into silence. He’s been very clear about this goal: In February, DeSantis led a roundtable discussion brainstorming ideas to weaken the press’s First Amendment protections. Flanked by a panel dominated by defamation plaintiffs and lawyers, the Orbánesque governor attacked the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in New York Times v. Sullivan (1964) for, in his words, empowering a media that will ‘find a way to smear you.’ Sullivan was a historic decision establishing that the government (and, in many cases, private litigants) may not censor the media, political advocates, and the public at large through defamation suits intended to shut down dissenting voices. The case arose out of a Jim Crow-era official’s attempt to silence civil rights protesters. It established that someone accused of making false claims about a public figure regarding a matter of public concern may not be held liable for defamation, unless the statement was made ‘with knowledge that it was false or with reckless disregard of whether it was false or not.’ Without Sullivan, government officials could potentially use defamation suits to impose financially devastating liability on their political enemies — which is what an Alabama official tried to do in Sullivan itself. And a wealthy individual who disagrees with a newspaper’s coverage could potentially fund lawsuits targeting any false statement made by that newspaper, no matter how minor, until the sheer cost of defending against these suits bankrupts the paper. Much of DeSantis’s February event consisted of the governor asking the panelists for proposals to make it easier to prevail in lawsuits against the press. Their ideas ranged from requiring losing defamation defendants to pay for the plaintiffs’ lawyers, to limiting the types of defendants who can invoke Sullivan, to blatantly unconstitutional proposals to eliminate Sullivan’s protections and replace them with much weaker safeguards for free speech.”


Thursday, 9 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia claims ‘massive’ strikes across Ukraine; at least 9 dead, The Washington Post, Siobhán O’Grady, David L. Stern, Kelsey Ables, Victoria Bisset, Robyn Dixon, Claire Parker, and Sammy Westfall, Thursday, 9 March 2023: “Russia fired a barrage of missiles at targets across Ukraine on Thursday, killing at least nine people in strikes and shelling, officials said. The strikes hit critical infrastructure and residential buildings, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, temporarily knocking out water, power and heat in some regions. Ukraine’s armed forces said air defenses intercepted 34 of the 81 Russian missiles and four Iranian-made Shahed drones. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it carried out the ‘massive retaliation strike’ after an attack on Bryansk, a Russian village close to the Ukrainian border last week. Moscow blamed Kyiv for the attack; Ukraine denied involvement. A group of Ukraine-based Russian far-right fighters claimed responsibility for the incursion.

  • The Russian strikes killed five people in the region of Lviv and another in the Dnipropetrovsk region, authorities said. Kherson’s regional administration reported that three died in shelling in Kherson. The attacks also wounded two people in Dnipropetrovsk and another two in the capital, Kyiv. In total, the attacks targeted 10 of Ukraine’s regions, including Lviv, Zhytomyr, Dnipropetrovsk and Kirovohrad, Zelensky said.
  • Russia used Kinzhal hypersonic weapons in the missile attack, Ukraine’s armed forces said and Russia’s defense ministry confirmed. The weapons — which Kyiv is unable to intercept — were first used against Ukraine last March and have been fired several times since then.
  • The strikes knocked the electricity out in multiple regions on Thursday and forced the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant once again to run on emergency power. ‘Each time, we are rolling a dice,’ the head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Grossi, said in a statement Thursday. ‘And if we allow this to continue time after time, then one day our luck will run out.’
  • The U.S. Treasury slapped sanctions on five Chinese companies and one Chinese individual for their roles in supplying aerospace parts that could be used in Iranian drones, which Russia has deployed in Ukraine. The companies have been involved in the sale and shipment of these components to the Iran Aircraft Manufacturing Industrial Company (HESA), which has been under U.S. sanctions since 2008, according to a news release Thursday.
  • The United States and its allies have blocked or frozen more than $58 billion in Russian-held assets over the past year, the Treasury Department said on Thursday. The assets were tracked and seized by the Russian Elites, Proxies, and Oligarchs (REPO) Task Force, whose members include the United States, Australia, Germany, Italy, France, Japan, the United Kingdom and the European Commission.
  • Russia’s largest bank reported a 78.2 percent profit slump in 2022 owing to Western sanctions. Reuters reported Thursday that Sberbank pulled in 2022 profits of 270.5 billion rubles ($3.57 billion) last year, down from 1.25 trillion rubles in 2021. Western sanctions imposed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have put the bank under intense pressure.
  • Russia says it does not believe that the Nord Stream explosions could have been carried out without state support after Western officials said they suspected pro-Ukrainian saboteurs may have been behind the September blasts. Speaking Thursday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said any Russian involvement in the blasts — which targeted undersea pipelines carrying Russian gas to Europe — would have been akin to ‘chopping off your own leg.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia Uses Hypersonic Missiles in Broad Strike on Ukraine. At least six people were killed and power was knocked out in several regions, as Moscow launched 81 missiles, including six hypersonic weapons, in its biggest aerial strike on Ukraine in weeks. The New York Times, Thursday, 9 March 2023: “Russia launched its biggest aerial attack in weeks on Thursday, hitting targets across Ukraine with a complex barrage of weapons, including its newest hypersonic missiles, in what it said was retaliation for an incursion last week by a pro-Ukrainian armed group in the Bryansk region of Russia. Ending weeks of relative calm in Kyiv and other cities, the missile strikes killed at least six people, knocked out power in several areas and damaged three electrical plants, Ukrainian officials said. Another four civilians died in shelling in the country’s south. The strikes included six of the new hypersonic missiles known as Kinzhals, or Daggers. That is the most Russia has used in a single wave since the war began a year ago, according to Ukraine’s Air Force. Overall, Russia fired nine types of cruise and ballistic missiles alongside a volley of eight Iranian-made exploding drones. Of the 81 missiles fired overnight and through the morning, 47 hit targets, Ukraine said. That is a far higher ratio of strikes to missiles fired than Russia has achieved in barrages over recent months. Moscow’s higher success rate was made possible because Russian forces used some of their limited supply of hypersonic Kinzhal missiles and a higher than typical number of ballistic rather than cruise missiles, Yuriy Ihnat, a spokesman for Ukraine’s Air Force, said in an interview.

Here are the latest developments:

  • Five people were killed in their homes when a rocket landed in a residential area in the western region of Lviv, bordering Poland, and one person died in the Dnipropetrovsk region of central Ukraine, local officials said. To the north, in the Kharkiv region near the border with Russia, 15 missiles hit infrastructure and a residential building, the head of the region’s military administration said on Telegram. Four people were also killed in Russian shelling in the southern city of Kherson, officials said.

  • In the capital, Kyiv, two large explosions an hour apart injured at least two residents and sent a plume of black smoke billowing from the city’s center, rattling windows and engulfing cars in flames. At least one hypersonic missile appeared to have struck the capital, an official in Kyiv said.

  • The head of the United Nations’ nuclear agency issued an impassioned plea after the strikes temporarily cut off the Russian-occupied Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine from external power lines and forced it to switch to diesel generators. It was the sixth time the plant has had to move to its emergency power supply since the war began, the official, Rafael Mariano Grossi, said. ‘If we allow this to continue time after time, then one day our luck will run out,’ he said, referring to the possibility of a nuclear accident.

  • Georgia’s governing party, facing mounting pressure from protesters, said on Thursday that it had decided to withdraw proposed legislation on ‘foreign agents.’ Critics said the bill mimicked a Russian law used by the Kremlin to thwart opposition news media outlets and civil society.

Manhattan Prosecutors Signal Criminal Charges for Trump Are Likely. The Former president was told that he could appear before a Manhattan grand jury next week if he wishes to testify, a strong indication that an indictment could soon follow. The New York Times, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, and Johan E. Bromwich, Thursday, 9 March 2023: “The Manhattan district attorney’s office recently signaled to Donald J. Trump’s lawyers that he could face criminal charges for his role in the payment of hush money to a porn star, the strongest indication yet that prosecutors are nearing an indictment of the former president, according to four people with knowledge of the matter. The prosecutors offered Mr. Trump the chance to testify next week before the grand jury that has been hearing evidence in the potential case, the people said. Such offers almost always indicate an indictment is close; it would be unusual for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, to notify a potential defendant without ultimately seeking charges against him. In New York, potential defendants have the right to answer questions in the grand jury before they are indicted, but they rarely testify, and Mr. Trump is likely to decline the offer. His lawyers could also meet privately with the prosecutors in hopes of fending off criminal charges. Any case would mark the first indictment of a former American president, and could upend the 2024 presidential race in which Mr. Trump remains a leading contender. It would also elevate Mr. Bragg to the national stage, though not without risk, and a conviction in the complex case is far from assured. Mr. Trump has faced an array of criminal investigations and special counsel inquiries over the years but has never been charged with a crime, underscoring the gravity of Mr. Bragg’s inquiry.”

Trump Lawyer Jenna Ellis Admits to Falsehoods in 2020 Fraud Claims. Ellis acknowledged that she knowingly misrepresented the facts about election fraud in a disciplinary procedure by Colorado state bar officials. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Thursday, 9 March 2023: “Jenna Ellis, a lawyer who represented President Donald J. Trump after his loss in the 2020 election, admitted in a sworn statement released on Wednesday that she had knowingly misrepresented the facts in several of her public claims that widespread voting fraud led to Mr. Trump’s defeat. The admissions by Ms. Ellis were part of an agreement to accept public censure and settle disciplinary measures brought against her by state bar officials in Colorado, her home state. Last year, the officials opened an investigation of Ms. Ellis after a complaint from the 65 Project, a bipartisan legal watchdog group. The group accused her of professional misconduct in her efforts to help Mr. Trump promote his claims of voting fraud and undertake ‘a concerted effort to overturn the legitimate 2020 presidential election results.’ An earlier complaint about Ms. Ellis had been filed by a lawyer, Benjamin Woods.” See also, Ex-Trump attorney Jenna Ellis admits statements about 2020 election were false and is censured by judge, CNN Politics, Tierney Sneed, Thursday, 9 March 2023: “Jenna Ellis was censured by a disciplinary judge in Colorado Wednesday, in the latest effort to hold accountable attorneys who boosted former President Donald Trump’s 2020 election reversal gambits. Ellis signed a stipulation stating that several comments she made about the 2020 election violated professional ethics rules barring reckless, knowing or intentional misrepresentations by attorneys, according to documents posted by Colorado’s Office of Attorney Regulation Counsel. As part of the stipulation, Ellis agrees to pay $224. Among the false statements highlighted in the stipulation were comments by Ellis on social media and in TV appearances claiming that the Trump campaign had evidence the election was ‘stolen.’ ‘The public censure in this matter reinforces that even if engaged in political speech, there is a line attorneys cannot cross, particularly when they are speaking in a representative capacity,’ Jessica Yates, attorney regulation counsel for the Colorado Supreme Court, said in a statement.” See also, Trump 2020 lawyer Jenna Ellis admits misrepresenting stolen election claims. Ellis made the admissions in a Colorado disciplinary proceeding. Politico, Kyle Cheney, Thursday, 9 March 2023: “Jenna Ellis, an attorney for Donald Trump who helped drive his false claims about the 2020 election results, has admitted in a Colorado disciplinary proceeding that she misrepresented evidence at least 10 times during Trump’s frantic bid to subvert his defeat.”Respondent made these misrepresentations on Twitter and on various television programs, including Fox Business, MSNBC, Fox News, and Newsmax,’ Colorado’s top disciplinary judge Bryon Large wrote in a six-page opinion. ‘The parties agree that by making these misrepresentations, Respondent violated [a state attorney rule of conduct], which provides that it is professional misconduct for a lawyer to engage in conduct involving dishonesty, fraud, deceit, or misrepresentation.’ Large issued a public censure of Ellis for her stipulated conduct.”

Biden’s $6.8 Trillion Budget Pitch Sets Up a Showdown. The president spoke in Philadelphia after proposing a new spending plan that has ho chance of passing a Republican House, but serves as an opening bit in what will be a fraught budget battle. The New York Times, Alan Rappeport, Thursday, 9 March 2023: “President Biden released a $6.8 trillion budget proposal on Thursday that would reduce the deficit, raise taxes on the rich, bolster military spending and ramp up competition with China. The plan is widely considered to be dead on arrival with Republicans, who control the House. But it serves as an opening bid as lawmakers in Congress grapple over raising the debt limit as well as a policy blueprint for Mr. Biden’s widely anticipated re-election campaign. In a speech in Philadelphia on Thursday, Mr. Biden said that his budget was designed to ‘lift the burden on hard working Americans’ and drew sharp contrasts with the proposals that Republicans have offered, which the president argued would threaten the nation’s social safety net programs and benefit the rich.”


Friday, 10 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv warns missile threat is high after Russia uses hypersonic weapons; Bakhmut battle ‘key’ to draining Russian resources, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Erin Cunningham, and Ellen Francis, Friday, 10 March 2023: “Ukraine’s military warned Friday that the threat of a Russian missile attack remains high, a day after the Kremlin launched a barrage of missiles and confirmed its use of hypersonic weapons. Ukraine’s battle for Bakhmut is ‘exceeding its key tasks,’ including draining Russian resources ahead of a planned Ukrainian counteroffensive, said an aide to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

  • The United States believes Russia is seeking to weaken Moldova’s government with the ‘eventual goal’ of producing a pro-Moscow administration, John Kirby, strategic communications coordinator for the National Security Council, told reporters in a briefing Friday. ‘Russian actors, some with current ties to Russian intelligence, are seeking to stage and use protests in Moldova as a basis to foment a manufactured insurrection against the Moldovan government,’ he said, but added that the United States sees ‘no immediate military threat to Moldova.’
  • The United States and the European Commission touted efforts to lessen Europe’s dependence on Russian fossil fuels and limit the impact of the global energy crisis in Europe. President Biden and E.C. President Ursula von der Leyen said in a joint statement Friday that they are taking new steps to ‘target additional third-country actors.’
  • Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin on Friday made a surprise visit to Kyiv, where she met with Zelensky and visited a military hospital. ‘It is really important to have a face-to-face discussion about the situation in Ukraine,’ she said at a news conference, Euronews reported. ‘Ukraine needs both humanitarian and financial support, and above all, weapons and heavier armament.’
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said he had a ‘constructive’ conversation with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on the sidelines of a Group of 20 ministers’ meeting last week. In comments to Russian media, he added that they discussed the conflict in Ukraine and that all he heard ‘fits into the already well-known’ U.S. position.
  • Ukrainian energy company DTEK on Friday hit a milestone in the country’s bid to remake its energy economy and become a clean-power hub in Europe, The Washington Post reports. The company said a dozen wind turbines have been built and brought online under the challenging conditions of war, just 60 miles from the front lines.
  • Canada is banning the import of Russian aluminum and steel products, the government announced Friday. ‘This ban will further deny Russia the ability to generate the revenues it needs to pay for its war against Ukraine,’ the Department of Finance said in a statement. ‘We are ensuring [Russian President Vladimir] Putin cannot pay for his war by selling aluminum and steel in Canada,’ Finance Minister Chrystia Freeland said, adding that the action was taken in coordination with the United States.
  • Putin congratulated Chinese President Xi Jinping on Friday for securing a third term. ‘I am confident that working together, we will ensure the further growth of fruitful Russian-Chinese cooperation,’ Putin said in a message. China and Russia have maintained stable ties throughout the war, with Beijing providing rhetorical and diplomatic support to Moscow even as it says it is neutral.
  • Poland is building fortifications on its border with Belarusaccording to Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak. Poland began construction of similar works on its border with the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad last month.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: British and French Leaders Pledge to Coordinate Support for Ukraine. Meeting in Paris Prime Minister Rishi Sunak of Britain and President Emmanuel Macron of France vowed to stay the course on Ukraine but steered clear of concrete promises to provide new advanced weapons, like fighter jets. The New York Times, Friday, 10 March 2023:

  • Sunak and Macron vow to better coordinate military aid to Ukraine, but make no specific promises on advanced weapons.
  • The leader of Belarus, a Putin proxy, will travel to Iran, as Russia looks for weapons.
  • Biden and the European Commission president offer a unified front in countering Russia.
  • Crowds gather to mourn ‘Da Vinci,’ a young Ukrainian soldier killed near Bakhmut.
  • A White House official says pro-Russia individuals are seeking to spark an insurrection in Moldova.
  • A U.S.-developed rocket system becomes one of Ukraine’s most lethal weapons.
  • Ukraine highlights its desire for air defense weapons after Russia’s latest strikes.

Michael Cohen to Testify at Grand Jury as Likely Trump Indictment Looms. Mr Cohen, Donald Trump’s former fixer, is the key witness in a case built around a hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. The New York Times, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Jonah E. Bromwich, and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 10 March 2023: “Michael D. Cohen, the former fixer who for years did Donald J. Trump’s dirty work, is expected to testify before a Manhattan grand jury next week, a sign that prosecutors are poised to indict the former president for his role in paying hush money to a porn star, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The Manhattan district attorney’s office has already questioned at least seven other people before the grand jury hearing evidence about the hush money deal, according to several other people with knowledge of the inquiry, potentially making Mr. Cohen the last witness. Once he has testified, nearly every crucial player in the hush money matter will have appeared before the grand jury — with the exception of the porn star herself, Stormy Daniels, who may not be called to testify. It would be highly unusual for a prosecutor in a high-profile white-collar case to go through a weekslong presentation of evidence — and question nearly every relevant witness — without intending to seek an indictment. Mr. Cohen’s testimony is the second strong indication that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, will ask the grand jury to indict the former president, possibly as soon as this month. The first came when Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors informed Mr. Trump’s lawyers that if he wanted to testify before the grand jury, he could do so next week, people with knowledge of the matter said. Such offers almost always indicate an indictment is close.”

Saturday, 11 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Officials say fighting escalates in Bakhmut; power is coming back online in major cities, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Ellen Francis, Justine McDaniel, and Kyle Rempfer, Saturday, 11 March 2023: “Fighting is intense in Bakhmut, where Russian forces have taken control of eastern parts of the city. As Ukraine attempts to repel a new push, Ukraine’s deputy defense minister said the battle there was escalating. But an aide to President Volodymyr Zelensky sounded an optimistic note, saying the country aimed to tie up and wear down Russian troops in the battle. Farther from the front lines, the aftermath of a missile attack left regions of Ukraine without power into Saturday. Technicians were rushing to restore power in affected areas. By afternoon, electricity had come back on in Kyiv, the Ukrainian capital.

  • Ukrainian forces are ‘doing everything possible’ to fend off a new Russian push to break through defense lines, according to Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Malyar. Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said in an interview published Saturday by an Italian newspaper that Ukrainian troops were ‘exceeding’ their goals to reduce Russia’s ‘capable personnel as much as possible’ and to bog them down in ‘wearisome battles.’
  • Energy workers were restoring power after Thursday’s missile barrage hit critical infrastructure. Electricity utility Energoatom said on Telegram that electricity had been restored in Kyiv on Saturday afternoon. The regional governor of Kharkiv, in Ukraine’s northeast, said Saturday morning that all electricity had been restored to critical infrastructure.
  • Kyiv has ordered the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to leave a monastery where its headquarters is located. Ukrainian Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko said on Telegram that the church — which recently declared independence from the pro-war Moscow Patriarch — ‘violated the terms of the agreement regarding the use of state property.’ The church said in a Facebook post that Kyiv was ‘obviously biased.’ Patriarch Kirill, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, appealed to Pope Francis on Saturday to help ‘prevent the forced closure of the monastery,’ reads a statement on the church’s website.
  • Iran plans to buy fighter jets from Russia, Iranian state media reported, according to Reuters — another step in an alliance that has brought Iranian-made drones to Russian forces in Ukraine. In November, Russia reached an agreement with Iran to manufacture drones in Russia.
  • Washington accused Moscow of trying to destabilize Moldova’s government to eventually produce a pro-Kremlin administration. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said in a Friday briefing that Russian actors were ‘seeking to stage and use protests in Moldova as a basis to foment a manufactured insurrection,’ but he added that the United States does not see an immediate military threat to Moldova.
  • Britain, in a letter, has urged sponsors to pressure the International Olympic Committee over its proposal to allow Russians and Belarusians to compete at the Games next year in Paris, according to the BBC.

Inside Ron DeSantis’s Politicized Removal of an Elected Prosecutor. DeSantis accused the Democratic prosecutor of undermining public safety. But a close examination of the episode reveals just how fueled it was by DeSantis’s political aims. The New York Times, Alexandra Berzon and Ken Bensinger, Saturday, 11 March 2023: “When Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida announced last summer that he had taken the extraordinary step of removing a local prosecutor from his job, he cast his decision as a bold move to protect Floridians. The prosecutor, Andrew H. Warren, a twice-elected state attorney for Hillsborough County and a Democrat, had signed a public pledge not to prosecute those who seek or provide abortions. Moreover, he was among a group of progressive prosecutors around the country who, in Mr. DeSantis’s words, think ‘they get to pick and choose which laws that they are enforcing,’ the governor told reporters and handpicked supporters at a news conference. Those left-leaning prosecutors, he said, had ‘undermined public safety’ and been ‘devastating to the rule of law.’ Left unsaid, however, was that Mr. DeSantis and his advisers had failed to find a connection between Mr. Warren’s policies and public safety in his community. In fact, just the day before, writing in blue pen on a draft of an executive order, the governor had personally removed any mention of crime statistics justifying Mr. Warren’s suspension, after Mr. DeSantis’s lawyers lamented that they could find nothing in them to support the idea that Mr. Warren’s policies had done harm, according to internal documents and testimony. As he travels the country promoting a new book and his expected presidential campaign, Mr. DeSantis repeatedly points to his ouster of Mr. Warren as an example of the muscular and decisive way he has transformed Florida — and could transform the nation. He casts Mr. Warren as a rogue ideologue whose refusal to enforce the law demanded action. But a close examination of the episode, including interviews, emails, text messages and thousands of pages of government records, trial testimony, depositions and other court records, reveals a sharply different picture: a governor’s office that seemed driven by a preconceived political narrative, bent on a predetermined outcome, content with a flimsy investigation and focused on maximizing media attention for Mr. DeSantis.”

Mike Pence says ‘history will hold Donald Trump accountable’ for January 6, CNN Politics, Kaitlan Collins and Aaron Pellish, Saturday, 11 March 2023: “Former Vice President Mike Pence made his most blistering comments yet about former President Donald Trump’s role in the January 6 attack on the US Capitol during remarks Saturday evening at the annual Gridiron Club Dinner in Washington, DC. Pence began his remarks at the dinner, which traditionally features politicians making jokes about notable Washington figures, with lighthearted comments about Trump, President Joe Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and several Republicans expected to run for president in 2024, including Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and former UN Ambassador Nikki Haley. He then took a serious tone, noting the attack on the Capitol was ‘one thing I haven’t joked about’ and calling January 6 ‘a tragic day.’ Pence rebuked Trump for his role in the January 6, 2021 attack, saying he was ‘wrong’ for claiming Pence had the authority to overturn the results of the 2020 election in his role presiding over Congress that day, saying ‘history will hold Donald Trump accountable.’ ‘President Trump was wrong. I had no right to overturn the election and his reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day, and I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable,’ Pence said. Pence also scolded those who have downplayed the people who entered the Capitol on January 6 as tourists. ‘Tourists don’t injure 140 police officers by sightseeing,’ Pence said. ‘Tourists don’t break down doors to get to the Speaker of the House or voice threats against public officials.’ Pence chastised Republicans who minimized the insurrection, days after Fox News host Tucker Carlson aired new security footage from inside the Capitol on January 6 in an attempt to defend the mob. ‘Make no mistake about it, what happened that day was a disgrace, and it mocks decency to portray it in any other way,’ Pence said at the dinner. Pence also said people ‘have a right to know what took place’ during the insurrection, days after he asked a judge to block a subpoena for his testimony to the special counsel investigating the insurrection.”

Sunday, 12 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kharkiv under fire; Kyiv presses West for more ammo, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Jennifer Hassan, Ben Brasch, and Anumita Kaur, Sunday, 12 March 2023: “As Russia continued its months-long assault on Bakhmut, Ukrainian authorities said attacks 100 miles to the north have escalated. Kupiansk and the surrounding Kharkiv region have been under heavy attack, prompting evacuations as Russian forces encroach on Ukraine’s east. Meanwhile, Kyiv renewed its calls for more ammunition and stronger air defenses after Russia killed several people with strikes from hypersonic missiles last week.

  • Officials have ordered an evacuation of Kupiansk, a city in Kharkiv, after an uptick in attacks. More than 40 missiles have struck Kharkiv this year, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Saturday. The northeastern city’s residents have lived through a back-and-forth of Russian occupation and liberation during the war.
  • Shelling struck Kupiansk and other Kharkiv areas Sunday, according to the general staff of the Ukrainian armed forces. Russia maintained a ‘significant military presence in the border areas’ to prevent Ukraine’s troops from moving elsewhere, the Ukrainian military said on Facebook.
  • Ammunition shortages are Ukraine’s ‘number one’ problem, Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba told Germany’s Bild am Sonntag newspaper. Kuleba said that he does not expect Western allies to send fighter jets soon but that Ukrainian pilots should be trained for when a decision is made.
  • The head of Ukraine’s armed forces also asked the Pentagon’s top general, Gen. Mark A. Milley, for better air defenses. Gen. Valery Zaluzhny said he ’emphasized the issue of the defense needs of Ukraine, namely ammunition and materiel,’ according to a Ukrainian readout of their telephone call. The year-old conflict is challenging the West’s ability to keep up with Kyiv’s need for arms.
  • Power was restored throughout affected areas in Ukraine on Sunday after a missile attack left regions without electricity, according to Zelensky. ‘As of today, we have managed to restore the technical capabilities of electricity supply. Kharkiv has electricity. Zhytomyr region has electricity. All cities and communities that had problems with energy supply have been powered again,” he said in his nightly address.
  • Wealthy families in Moscow and St. Petersburg appear to have been relatively unaffected by Russia’s military draft, Britain’s Defense Ministry said Sunday, adding that in many places, ethnic minorities have taken ‘the biggest hit.’
  • Artifacts stolen from Ukraine were returned to the country this weekend. The Ukrainian Embassy on Friday hosted a repatriation ceremony for a stone ax head and three metal swords that were taken from the country, the Embassy tweeted. U.S. customs officials seized the items in September at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The metal swords arrived from Russia and the ax head arrived from Ukraine. All three were identified as Ukrainian cultural property, according to U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Officials did not disclose how the items were stolen, or by whom. The Ukrainian Embassy thanked CBP  ‘for helping repatriate our cultural property and a part of our history.’
  • The head of the Russian Orthodox Church urged Pope Francis and other religious leaders to ‘make every effort to prevent’ Kyiv’s crackdown against its Ukraine-based affiliate. Patriarch Kirill, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and one of the most prominent backers of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, said Kyiv’s order last week for the Ukrainian Orthodox Church to leave its monastery would ‘lead to a violation of the rights of millions of Ukrainian believers,’ Reuters reported, citing a statement shared on the church’s website.
  • The Ukrainian foreign minister denied suggestions that Ukraine partisans may have been behind explosions in September that severely damaged the Nord Stream natural gas pipelines. ‘It is the first time that I’m hearing a story of a secret pro-Ukrainian or Ukrainian group that is able to conduct operations of that scale and sophistication,’ Kuleba said in an interview in the New Statesman.

Fox’s Public Relations Woes May Not Directly Translate to Legal Ones. Some of the unflattering private messages among the network’s hosts and executives may never become evidence when Dominion Voting Systems’ defamation case against Fox News goes to trial. The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters, Sunday, 12 March 2023: “For the past three weeks, a drip, drip, drip of disclosures have exposed widespread alarm and disbelief inside Fox News in the days after the 2020 presidential election, as the network became a platform for some of the most insidious lies about widespread voter fraud. These revelations are the most damning to rattle the Murdoch media empire since the phone hacking scandal in Britain more than a decade ago. The headlines have been attention-grabbing. Tucker Carlson, a professed champion of former President Donald J. Trump’s populist message, was caught insulting Mr. Trump — ‘I hate him passionately,’ he wrote in a text. Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity disparaged colleagues in their network’s news division. And Rupert Murdoch said he longed for the day when Mr. Trump would be irrelevant. These examples and many more — revealed in personal emails, text messages and testimony made public as part of Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox News — are embarrassing. But whether they pose serious legal jeopardy for Fox in that case is far less clear.”


Monday, 13 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Moscow open to extending Black Sea Grain deal, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Jennifer Hassan, Sammy Westfall, and Adam Taylor, Monday, 13 March 2023: “The Black Sea grain deal, intended to mitigate a food crisis by safeguarding Ukrainian grain shipments, is set to expire on March 18. After talks with U.N. officials in Geneva, Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said in a statement on Monday that Moscow does not object to another extension — ‘but only for 60 days,’ half the length of the preceding renewal. A U.N. spokesman said in a tweet on Monday that the United Nations ‘will go on doing everything possible to preserve the integrity of the agreement and ensure its continuity.’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said his forces are continuing to inflict heavy losses on attacking Russian fighters in the besieged front-line city of Bakhmut, where Kremlin-backed mercenaries concede the fight is growing more difficult as they approach the city center, bombarded by artillery and tank fire. ‘The defense of the fortress is well underway!’ the commander of Ukraine’s land forces said in a statement Monday.

  • The head of the Russian mercenary Wagner Group described the situation in Bakhmut as ‘very difficult.’ In a video message posted Sunday on Telegram, Yevgeniy Prigozhin said, ‘The closer we are to the city center, the harder the battles, the more artillery works against us, and the more tanks.’ Wagner’s ‘assault squads are coming from multiple directions’ in Bakhmut, but Ukraine is causing ‘significant losses’ over the course of ‘tough battles,’ the commander of the Ukrainian ground forces, Oleksandr Syrskyi, said, according to a Facebook post Monday by the Ukrainian Defense Ministry.
  • Almost all roads out of Bakhmut have been cut off by Russian troops and fierce fighting. Just one viable road out of the city remains, Highway T0504, also known as the ‘highway of life.’ The crucial route is used by Ukrainian soldiers to move in fresh troops, ammunition and water — and to evacuate the wounded and the dead. Ukrainian soldiers say Russia’s forces are also aware of the road’s importance and have tried to shred it with artillery.
  • Russia’s military leadership could be letting the Wagner Group bear the brunt of casualties in the battle for the eastern Ukrainian city to weaken Prigozhin’s political influence within Russia, according to analysts at the Institute for the Study of War, a U.S. think tank. Prigozhin and Russia’s military chiefs have had a number of public squabbles in recent months.
  • Britain’s government on Monday called Russia ‘the most acute threat’ to its national security in its newly released ‘Integrated Review Refresh 2023,’ which articulates national security policy and international strategy. While it named Russia the ‘biggest threat’ to U.K. security in the region when the last review was published in 2021, ‘what has changed is that our collective security now is intrinsically linked to the outcome of the conflict in Ukraine,’ the report said.
  • The United States has not yet seen the transfer of lethal assistance of weapons from China to Russia for battlefield use in Ukraine — but is watching carefully, National security adviser Jake Sullivan said, speaking to journalists from Air Force One.
  • The Council of the European Union decided Monday to extend sanctions against Russia for another six months. The measures against ‘those responsible for undermining or threatening the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine’ include travel restrictions, asset freezes, and a ban on making economic resources available to the 1,473 individuals and 205 entities listed. The sanctions are set to last until at least Sept. 15.
  • ‘Navalny,’ a film about imprisoned Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny, won best documentary feature at the Oscars on Sunday night. The Kremlin critic was poisoned in Russia in 2020 by a banned chemical weapon that almost killed him. He blamed the attempted assassination on Russian President Vladimir Putin, who denied involvement. Navalny made a recovery in Germany and returned in early 2021 to Russia, where he was then imprisoned. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters that there may be an ‘element of politicization’ in awarding the film an Oscar, Russian state outlet Tass reported.
  • Artifacts including a stone ax head and several swords stolen from Ukraine were returned to the country over the weekend. U.S. customs officials seized the items in September at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York. The metal swords arrived from Russia, and the ax head arrived from Ukraine. The Ukrainian Embassy in Washington hosted a repatriation ceremony for the artifacts on Friday.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia Says It Is Willing to Extend Grain Deal With Ukraine. The city of Bakhmut has been the main focus of Russia’s assault, but Moscow is also targeting other areas of eastern Ukraine. The New York Times, Monday, 13 March 2023:

  • Moscow and Kyiv disagree over extending a grain export deal.

  • Russia steps up attacks on an eastern town [Avdiivka] as part of a broader attempt to advance.

  • The leader of Belarus, a key Kremlin ally, welcomes an ‘upgrade’ in ties with Iran.

  • Biden gives thousands of Ukrainians another year to stay in the United States.

  • Britain revises its security policy, citing the threats posed by China and Russia.

  • At odds over support for Ukraine, Macron and Orban meet for dinner.

  • Battlefield Update: Russia targets Lyman with shelling but fails to make gains.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Expectation is rising for China’s Xi Jinping to visit Russia, NPR, NPR Staff, Monday, 13 March 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: Observers await plans for Chinese leader Xi Jinping to visit Moscow and meet his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin. There are reports Xi could also hold talks with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. This week marks nine years since the disputed Crimea referendum and Russian annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine. Many countries condemned the vote and refuse to recognize Crimea’s accession to Russia. The United Nations-brokered deal to export Ukrainian grain safely from Black Sea ports could expire this weekend, with Russia threatening to pull out over complaints the agreement has failed to free up Russian agricultural exports. What happened last week: Russian forces took hold of the eastern half of Bakhmut, with Wagner Group mercenary fighters leading the charge, after months of fighting for control of the city in Ukraine’s east, according to analysts. Russia launched its biggest missile strike across Ukraine of 2023 so farsecurity analysts said. The barrage included hypersonic missiles and killed at least six people and temporarily knocked out power at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear energy plant. Ukraine batted away accusations it blew up the Nord Stream oil pipelines, after reports in The New York Times and German media said a ‘pro-Ukrainian group’ attacked the infrastructure in September. U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres went to Kyiv, the latest prominent world figure to visit Ukraine in recent months. Navalny won an Oscar for best documentary feature, shining a spotlight on jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny. In his acceptance speech, on stage with Navalny’s family, director Daniel Roher blasted the Kremlin and said Navalny ‘remains in solitary confinement for what he calls Vladimir Putin’s unjust war of aggression in Ukraine.’ The mother of mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin won a legal challenge against European sanctions. A European Union court ruled that restrictive measures applied to Violetta Prigozhina in February should be annulled because her family relationship with Prigozhin — a Kremlin ally whose Wagner Group is fighting in Ukraine — wasn’t enough to justify the sanctions. Ukrainian troops have been learning to use Leopard 2 tanks in Spain, whose government has said six of its fleet of the German-made battle tanks are in repairs before delivery to Ukraine sometime in the coming weeks.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Says Protecting Ukraine Is Not a Key U.S. Interest. DeSantis, on Tucker Carlson’s Fox News show, broke with Republicans to attack President Biden’s foreign policy and align more closely with Donald Trump as he weighs a presidential bid. The New York Times, Jonathan Swan and Maggie Haberman, Monday, 13 March 2023: “Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida has sharply broken with Republicans who are determined to defend Ukraine against Russia’s invasion, saying in a statement made public on Monday night that protecting the European nation’s borders is not a vital U.S. interest and that policymakers should instead focus attention at home. The statement from Mr. DeSantis, who is seen as an all but declared presidential candidate for the 2024 campaign, puts him in line with the front-runner for the G.O.P. nomination, former President Donald J. Trump. The venue Mr. DeSantis chose for his statement on a major foreign policy question revealed almost as much as the substance of the statement itself. The statement was broadcast on ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight,’ on Fox News. It was in response to a questionnaire that the host, Mr. Carlson, sent last week to all major prospective Republican presidential candidates, and is tantamount to an acknowledgment by Mr. DeSantis that a candidacy is in the offing.” See also, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis dismisses Russian invasion of Ukraine as a ‘territorial dispute,’ The Washington Post, Leo Sands, John Wagner, Dan Lamothe, and Meryl Kornfield, published on Tuesday, 14 March 2023: “Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is dismissing Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a ‘territorial dispute’ and says protecting the European nation is not a vital U.S. interest, firmly putting the potential presidential candidate on the side of Donald Trump and at odds with top congressional Republicans. DeSantis delivered his foreign policy opinion in response to a questionnaire from Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, foe of U.S. aid to Ukraine and frequent critic of President Volodymyr Zelensky. Carlson read DeSantis’s statement on his Monday night program in which he also shared responses from the former president and former vice president Mike Pence, among other potential White House candidates.”

Trump claims violence he inspired on January 6 was Mike Pence’s fault. Trump suggested the riot could have been avoided if his vice president had cooperated in overturning the results. The New York Times, Isaac Arnsdorf and Maeve Reston, Monday, 13 March 2023: “Donald Trump on Monday sharply rebuked Mike Pence’s assertion that history would hold him accountable for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, telling reporters that his former vice president should shoulder the blame for the violent riot that day by Trump’s supporters. ‘Had he sent the votes back to the legislatures, they wouldn’t have had a problem with Jan. 6, so in many ways you can blame him for Jan. 6,’ the former president said, referring to Pence’s refusal to reject the electoral college votes in Congress as Trump wanted him to do that day. ‘Had he sent them back to Pennsylvania, Georgia, Arizona, the states, I believe, number one, you would have had a different outcome. But I also believe you wouldn’t have had “Jan. 6” as we call it.’ A pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol on that day following months of false claims by Trump that the election was stolen from him. He also used incendiary and false rhetoric about the election at a rally at the Ellipse near the White House shortly before the rioters stormed the Capitol. Trump was responding to Pence’s remarks on Saturday, where he said unequivocally that Trump had been ‘wrong’ to demand he overturn the election, something Pence maintained he had no power to do. ‘His reckless words endangered my family and everyone at the Capitol that day,’ Pence said during a speech at the white-tie Gridiron dinner in Washington. ‘And I know that history will hold Donald Trump accountable.'”

Michael Cohen Testifies in Grand Jury as Trump Indictment Appears Near. Mr Cohen, Donald Trump’s onetime fixer, is a key piece of the puzzle in a case centered on a 2016 hush money payment to Stormy Daniels. The New York Times, Ben Protess, Kate Christobek, William K. Rashbaum, and Jonah E. Bromwich, Monday, 13 March 2023: “Michael D. Cohen, a crucial witness in the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation into Donald J. Trump, testified in front of a grand jury on Monday, as prosecutors near a likely indictment of the former president. Mr. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, testified for much of the afternoon and was expected to return on Wednesday to continue his testimony. When he walked into the building where the grand jury meets, Mr. Cohen remarked to reporters that he felt ‘fine’ but ‘a little twisted, to be honest, inside’ and that his goal was ‘to tell the truth.’ On his way out, Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny J. Davis, called it a ‘long and productive afternoon’ and said that Mr. Cohen ‘answered all questions.’ His appearance is one of several recent signals that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, is poised to seek an indictment of the former president for his role in paying hush money to a porn star in the days before the 2016 presidential election.”

Attorney says Trump has ‘no plans’ to participate in Manhattan grand jury investigation into a hush money payment to porn star Stormy Daniels. Attorney Joe Tacopina spoke with George Stephanopoulos on Good Morning America. ABC News, Aaron Katersky and Soo Rin Kim, Monday, 13 March 2023: “The Manhattan district attorney’s office has been investigating whether Trump falsified business records in connection with a $130,000 payment Trump’s former attorney Michael Cohen made to Daniels before the 2016 election, which prosecutors allege was to keep her from talking about a long-denied affair, sources familiar with the matter have told ABC News.”

House Republicans Quietly Halt Inquiry Into Trump’s Finances. Republican leaders are declining to enforce a court-supervised settlement for Mazars, Trump’s former accounting firm, to turn over records in an investigation into whether he profited from the presidency. The New York Times, Luke Broadwater and Jonathan Swan, Monday, 13 March 2023: “House Republicans have quietly halted a congressional investigation into whether Donald J. Trump profited improperly from the presidency, declining to enforce a court-supervised settlement agreement that demanded that Mazars USA, his former accounting firm, produce his financial records to Congress. Representative James R. Comer, Republican of Kentucky and the chairman of the Oversight and Accountability Committee, made clear he had abandoned any investigation into the former president’s financial dealings — professing ignorance about the inquiry Democrats opened when they controlled the House — and was instead focusing on whether President Biden and members of his family were involved in an influence-peddling scheme.” See also, House Democrats say Republican Representative James Comer stymies investigation into Trump tax records, The Washington Post, Jacqueline Alemany, Monday, 13 March 2023: “House Democrats are accusing House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-Ky.) of coordinating with lawyers for Donald Trump to stop the former president’s longtime accounting firm Mazars from producing evidence related to Trump’s tax dealings. Mazars reached an agreement in the fall to turn over documents sought by a House subpoena issued by the Oversight Committee in April 2019, ending a lawsuit on the issue. At the time, the House was controlled by Democrats. But Rep. Jamie B. Raskin (Md.), who is now the ranking Democrat on the committee, said that recent correspondence obtained by Democrats showed that Trump’s lawyers told a counsel for Mazars to stop providing documents to the committee.”

Biden Administration Approves Huge Alaska Oil Project. The administration also announced new limits on Arctic drilling in an apparent effort to temper criticism over the $8 billion Willow oil project, which has faced sharp opposition. The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Monday, 13 March 2023: “The Biden administration gave formal approval Monday for a huge oil drilling project in Alaska known as Willow, despite widespread opposition because of its likely environmental and climate impacts. The president is also expected to announce sweeping restrictions on offshore oil leasing in the Arctic Ocean and across Alaska’s North Slope in an apparent effort to temper criticism over the Willow decision and, as one administration official put it, to form a ‘firewall’ to limit future oil leases in the region. The Interior Department said it would issue new rules to block oil and gas leases on more than 13 million of the 23 million acres that form the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The drilling project would take place inside the petroleum reserve, which is located about 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. The reserve, which has no roads, is the country’s largest single expanse of pristine land. The restrictions, however, are unlikely to offset concerns that the $8 billion Willow project, led by oil giant ConocoPhillips, will have the potential to produce more than 600 million barrels of crude over 30 years. Burning all that oil could release nearly 280 million metric tons of carbon emissions into the atmosphere. On an annual basis, that would translate into 9.2 million metric tons of carbon pollution, equal to adding nearly two million cars to the roads each year. The United States, the second biggest polluter on the planet after China, emits about 5.6 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually. The president has been lobbied fiercely by the oil industry and Alaska lawmakers to approve the Willow project. Other supporters, including labor unions, building trades and some residents of the North Slope, have argued that the project would create about 2,500 jobs and generate as much as $17 billion in revenue for the federal government. Most Indigenous groups in Alaska, including the state’s first Alaska Native elected to Congress, Mary Peltola, also support it. At the same time, environmental activists and the Native American community closest to the Willow site have fought the project through online campaigns, protests and meetings with federal officials, charging that approval of the project would be a betrayal of Mr. Biden’s pledge to move the nation away from fossil fuels. The International Energy Agency has said that governments must stop approving new oil, gas and coal projects if the planet is to avert the most catastrophic impacts of climate change.” See also, How Biden Got From ‘No More Drilling’ to Backing a Huge Project in Alaska. High gas prices, a looming election, and fears of a costly legal battle seem to have shifted the political calculus for Biden. The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Monday, 13 March 2023. See also, Why Did the Biden Administration Approve the Willow Project? Drilling for more oil in the Alaskan Arctic would be, in Biden’s own words, a ‘big disaster.’ The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert, Monday, 13 March 2023. See also, Biden Administration OKs Alaska oil project and draws ire of environmentalists, Associated Press, Matthew Daly and Chris Megerian, Monday, 13 March 2023: “The Biden administration said Monday it is approving a huge oil-drilling project on Alaska’s petroleum-rich North Slope, a major environmental decision by President Joe Biden that drew quick condemnation as flying in the face of his pledges to slow climate change. The announcement came a day after the administration, in a move in the other direction toward conservation, said it would bar or limit drilling in some other areas of Alaska and the Arctic Ocean. The approval of ConocoPhillips’ big Willow drilling project by the Bureau of Land Management will allow three drill sites including up to 199 total wells. Two other drill sites proposed for the project will be denied. ConocoPhillips Chairman and CEO Ryan Lance called the order ‘the right decision for Alaska and our nation.’ The Houston-based company will relinquish rights to about 68,000 acres of existing leases in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska. The order, one of the most significant of Interior Secretary Deb Haaland’s tenure, was not signed by her but rather by her deputy, Tommy Beaudreau, who grew up in Alaska and briefed state lawmakers on the project Monday. Haaland was notably silent on the project, which she had opposed as a New Mexico congresswoman before becoming Interior secretary two years ago, until releasing a video Monday evening. She described Willow as ‘a difficult and complex issue that was inherited’ from earlier administrations. Because ConocoPhillips has held leases in the area for decades, Haaland said officials ‘had limited decision space’ to block the project but focused on minimizing its footprint…. Climate activists remained outraged that Biden approved the project, which they say puts his climate legacy at risk. Allowing the drilling plan to go forward marks a major breach of Biden’s campaign promise to stop new oil drilling on federal lands, they say. Monday’s announcement is not likely to be the last word, with litigation expected from environmental groups.”

Elizabeth Warren: Silicon Valley Bank Is Gone. We Know Who Is Responsible. The New York Times, Elizabeth Warren, Monday, 13 March 2023: “No one should be mistaken about what unfolded over the past few days in the U.S. banking system: These recent bank failures are the direct result of leaders in Washington weakening the financial rules. In the aftermath of the 2008 financial crisis, Congress passed the Dodd-Frank Act to protect consumers and ensure that big banks could never again take down the economy and destroy millions of lives. Wall Street chief executives and their armies of lawyers and lobbyists hated this law. They spent millions trying to defeat it, and, when they lost, spent millions more trying to weaken it. Greg Becker, the chief executive of Silicon Valley Bank, was one of the ‌many high-powered executives who lobbied Congress to weaken the law. In 2018, the big banks won. With support from both parties, President Donald Trump signed a law to roll back critical parts of Dodd-Frank. Regulators, including the Federal Reserve chair Jerome Powell, then made a bad situation worse, ‌‌letting financial institutions load up on risk. Banks like S.V.B. ‌— which had become the 16th largest bank in the country before regulators shut it down on Friday ‌—‌ got relief from stringent requirements, basing their claim on the laughable assertion that banks like them weren’t actually ‘big’ ‌and therefore didn’t need strong oversight. ‌I fought against these changes. On the eve of the Senate vote in 2018, I warned‌, ‘Washington is about to make it easier for the banks to run up risk, make it easier to put our constituents at risk, make it easier to put American families in danger, just so the C.E.O.s of these banks can get a new corporate jet and add another floor to their new corporate headquarters.'”


Tuesday, 14 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Biden briefed after Russian jet collides with U.S. drone; Pentagon says aircraft not recovered, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Leo Sands, Miriam Berger, and Dan Lamothe, Tuesday, 14 March 2023: “President Biden has been briefed and the State Department is summoning Moscow’s envoy to Washington after a Russian fighter jet collided with a U.S. surveillance drone over the Black Sea, forcing it to crash into international waters, the U.S. military said Tuesday. ‘Our MQ-9 aircraft was conducting routine operations in international airspace when it was intercepted and hit by a Russian aircraft, resulting in a crash and complete loss of the MQ-9,’ Maj. Gen. James B. Hecker, a senior military official overseeing Air Force operations in Europe, said in a statement. The State Department, in a briefing with reporters, said it was summoning Russia’s ambassador to convey strong objections over the incident. The Pentagon said it was working to declassify video showing the encounter.

  • A Russian Su-27 aircraft struck the propeller of the MQ-9, causing U.S. Air Force pilots to bring the drone down in international waters around 7 a.m. local time, the U.S. military said. Several times before the collision, that Su-27 and another one dumped fuel on and flew in front of the aircraft, maneuvers the U.S. military described as ‘reckless, environmentally unsound and unprofessional.’
  • The MQ-9 was conducting an intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance mission when it encountered Russian aircraft in the Black Sea region, Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a briefing Tuesday. Russian forces were not able to recover the drone after U.S. Air Force pilots deliberately crashed the aircraft, Ryder said.
  • Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday that the U.S. drone was flying with its transponders turned off ‘in the direction of the state border of the Russian Federation.’ In a statement, the ministry said that its air defense forces attempted to identify the aircraft, after which the MQ-9 ‘went into uncontrolled flight with a loss of altitude.’ No weapons were used in the confrontation, the statement said.
  • At least two people died in strikes in Ukraine’s east and northeast on Tuesday morning, according to officials. The situation in the east, including in Bakhmut, is ‘very tough,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address.
  • Russia agreed to extend the Black Sea grain deal that aims to prevent a global food crisis by letting Ukraine export vital food sources from its southern coast, ‘but only for 60 days,’ Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Vershinin said. That is half the length of the previous renewal, agreed to in November. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov described the extension as a ‘goodwill gesture’ in a news conference Tuesday.
  • Russia does not recognize the International Criminal Court’s jurisdiction, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said, according to the state-owned Tass news agency. He was responding to reports that the ICC was preparing to open cases against Russians after an investigation launched last year by its chief prosecutor into allegations of war crimes committed on Ukrainian territory.
  • Washington Post photos from the scene: Aftermath of a Russian missile strike in Kramatorsk on Tuesday.
  • Some potential GOP presidential contendersincluding Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, said Tuesday that opposing Russia in Ukraine is not a vital American interest. Tucker Carlson of Fox News published statements from former president Donald Trump, DeSantis and former vice president Mike Pence, among other potential hopefuls. DeSantis dismissed Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as a ‘territorial dispute.’ Pence was in the minority in saying that he backed continued support for Ukraine, in line with top congressional Republicans.
  • The proposed $842 billion U.S. defense budget for the next fiscal year includes little funding for Ukraine, The Washington Post reported. But the Pentagon plans to make separate requests to Congress for additional funds to support Ukraine. The Biden administration is also seeking to spend $30.6 billion on munitions, up nearly 12 percent from this year’s budget. The increase reflects diminished U.S. stocks after a year of sending arms and supplies to Ukraine.”
  • The Department of Homeland Security said it would consider one-year humanitarian-parole extensions for about 25,000 Ukrainians and their family members who crossed from Mexico into the United States between Feb. 24 and April 25 of 2022 and were allowed to stay for a year. Close to 300,000 Ukrainians and their family members entered the United States on a two-year basis through a humanitarian program created in late April.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. Says Russian Warplane Hits U.S. Drone Over Black Sea. A U.S. military official said that an American Reaper drone was brought down in international waters after one of two intercepting Russian jets hit its propeller. Russia denied that the jet made contact. The New York Times, Matthew Mpoke Bigg, Lara Jakes, Eric Schmitt, and Neil MacFarquhar, Tuesday, 14 March 2023: “A Russian military jet struck the propeller of an American reconnaissance drone over the Black Sea on Tuesday, causing its loss in international waters, U.S. officials said. Russia denied that there had been a collision, saying the drone’s own maneuvers caused it to crash. If a collision is confirmed, it would be the first known physical contact between the two nations’ militaries as a result of the war in Ukraine. The U.S. aircraft, an MQ-9 surveillance drone, was conducting ‘routine operations in international airspace,’ according to U.S. Air Force Gen. James B. Hecker. Officials said it was a ‘complete loss.’ U.S. officials said the drone’s operators brought the craft down in the Black Sea after the collision, which the U.S. military said was the result of ‘reckless’ actions by Russian pilots. Russia’s defense ministry offered an alternative account, saying that its air force scrambled fighter jets to identify the drone, which then executed sharp maneuvers that sent it into an unguided flight, causing it to lose altitude and hit the water.

Here’s what to know:

  • John F. Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, said there had been similar ‘intercepts’ by Russian aircraft in recent weeks, calling such high-altitude confrontations between Russia and the United States ‘not an uncommon occurrence,’ But he said the collision was ‘unique’ — the first to result ‘in the splashing of one of our drones’ — and called the behavior of the Russians ‘unsafe and unprofessional.’

  • The confrontation occurred at around 7:03 a.m. Central European Time and involved two Russian Su-27 fighter jets and an MQ-9 Reaper drone, according to U.S. officials. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last February has heightened tensions between Moscow and Washington and turned the Black Sea, which is dominated by the Russian Navy, into an effective battle zone.

  • The collision occurred as Russian forces bombarded Ukrainian towns and villages on the west bank of the Dnipro River in the southern Kherson region. The attacks may be a sign that Russia is trying to interfere with preparations for a Ukrainian counteroffensive in the south, which senior Ukrainian military and political leaders say will get underway by this summer.


Wednesday, 15 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley speak with Russian counterparts as tensions rise over drone crash, The Washington Post, Bryan Pietsch, Leo Sands, Miriam Berger, Mary Ilyushina, and Dan Lamothe, Wednesday, 15 March 2023: “Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley spoke with their Russian counterparts by phone Wednesday, amid mounting tensions over the loss of a U.S. surveillance drone in the Black Sea. U.S. officials said the MQ-9 drone was forced down Tuesday morning local time after colliding with a Russian fighter jet that repeatedly dumped fuel on the aircraft. ‘The United States will fly and operate wherever international law allows,’ Austin said at a news conference Wednesday. He was flanked by top U.S. general, Mark Milley, who said it wasn’t yet clear if the Russian pilot deliberately struck the drone. ‘We know that the intercept was intentional. We know that the aggressive behavior was intentional,’ Milley said. ‘We also know it was very unprofessional and very unsafe.’

  • The incident began early Tuesday morning when two Russian fighter jets approached the drone, which had been launched from Romania by U.S. personnel stationed there, according to U.S. officials. After repeatedly dumping fuel on the U.S. aircraft, one of the jets collided with the propeller on the rear of the drone, officials said.
  • Moscow says that its aircraft did not come into direct contact with the drone. The two Russian fighter jets instead sought to identify the unmanned aerial vehicle as it approached the Russian Federation, after which it ‘made a sharp U-turn and crashed,’ Russia’s ambassador to the United States said in an interview with Rossiya 24 TV.
  • Russia will try to retrieve the wreckage of the drone, Secretary of the Russian Security Council Nikolai Patrushev told Russian media Wednesday. According to a U.S. defense official, military operators took steps to wipe its electronics in hopes of rendering the wreckage useless for intelligence collection. ‘We are quite confident that whatever was of value is no longer of value,’ Milley said, adding that the U.S. military knew where the debris was in the Black Sea. ‘We know where it landed.’
  • Shoigu and Austin discussed the drone incident, which Moscow said was a result of U.S. actions in a restricted flight zone near Crimea, according to a statement Wednesday from the Russian Defense Ministry. The statement said that U.S. drone flights in the area were ‘provocative in nature’ and that the two nuclear powers ‘should act as responsibly as possible,’ including by maintaining open channels of communication between the Russian and U.S. militaries.
  • Milley also spoke with Gen. Valery Gerasimov, Chief of the General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, and discussed ‘several security-related issues of concern,’ the Pentagon said in a statement. Milley said earlier that he was not sure whether the collision was intentional, but said it was clear that Russian pilots had committed a number of recent aggressive acts against American and allied aircraft. ‘There is a pattern of behavior going on here, and we have to figure out exactly what the way ahead is,’ he said, adding that doing so was ‘one of the fundamental reasons for my call to General Gerasimov.’
  • Prominent Republicans criticized Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis — a potential GOP presidential contender — after he said the war in Ukraine was a ‘territorial dispute.’ Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) told the New York Times he ‘could not disagree more,’ and Sen. John Cornyn (Tex.) told Politico he was ‘disturbed’ by DeSantis’s comments.
  • Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is in Moscow for talks with Russia’s Vladimir Putin, according to his official Telegram account. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said that the leaders will discuss relations between the two nations, as well as the situation in Syria.
  • China, Russia and Iran are conducting joint military exercises in the Gulf of Oman for five days starting Wednesday, China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. Similar maritime drills with the three nations’ navies were held in 2019 and 2022, Beijing officials said.
  • Hungary further delayed NATO ratification for Sweden and Finland. The ruling Fidesz party confirmed the postponement of the process to Reuters after an opposition lawmaker said Fidesz was delaying a parliamentary session that was set for next week. Stockholm and Helsinki have sought to enter the transatlantic alliance, but acceptance requires a sign-off from all NATO members.
  • Denmark will provide Ukraine with $1 billion worth of military, civilian and business aid this year, the Foreign Ministry announced Wednesday. The majority of the money will be spent on weaponry, military equipment and training efforts for Kyiv.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. Defense Secretary Says He Called Russian Counterpart Over Drone. The downing of an American surveillance drone after it was struck by a Russian warplane was the first known physical contact between the two militaries since the war in Ukraine began. The New York Times, Wednesday, 15 March 2023:

  • The Pentagon chief says he spoke to his Russian counterpart about the drone incident.

  • In describing the drone incident, U.S. officials stick to specific language.

  • Russia seeks to retrieve wreckage of the downed U.S. drone.

  • Assad offers Putin Syria’s support for Russia’s war in Ukraine.

  • Here is what is known so far about the downed American drone.

  • Ukraine says the U.S. drone posed no threat to Russia.

  • As Ukraine prepares for a counteroffensive, allies vow to provide weapons ‘fully and quickly.’

Lawyers Spar Before Texas Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk Over Rescinding of Federal Approval of Abortion Pill. The judge said he would decide soon whether to issue a preliminary injunction ordering the F.D.A. to withdraw its approval of the drug or wait for the full trial. The New York Times, Pam Belluck and Allison McCann, Wednesday, 15 March 2023: “The judge in a closely watched lawsuit seeking to overturn federal approval of a widely used abortion pill questioned lawyers publicly for the first time on Wednesday. The wide-ranging hearing included discussion about whether the anti-abortion plaintiffs had the legal standing to sue the government and what type of ruling he had the power to issue. The judge, Matthew J. Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas, said he would decide as soon as possible whether to issue a preliminary injunction that could, at least temporarily, take the pill, mifepristone, off the market. He seemed acutely aware of the unprecedented nature of the case, establishing through his questions that a court had never ordered the federal government to withdraw the approval of a drug that had been legally available for years. Toward the end of the court hearing, which lasted more than four hours, Judge Kacsmaryk asked a lawyer for the plaintiffs, a coalition of anti-abortion groups and doctors, if they expected that ‘the court itself can order a withdrawal or suspension.’ When the lawyer, Erik Baptist, said yes, the judge replied, ‘What gives the court that authority?’ At another point in the session, the judge asked a Justice Department lawyer representing the defendant in the case, the Food and Drug Administration, if the fact that 22 conservative states had written a brief supporting the plaintiffs’ case showed that revoking the abortion pill would be beneficial for public policy. The lawyer, Julie Straus Harris, replied, ‘An injunction here would interfere with every state in the country’ and could make abortion access difficult even in cases of nonviable pregnancies and rape. That seemed to make an impression on the judge, who noted, ‘This isn’t a case where we’re comparing 22 versus 28 states, but rather, all 50 states, especially in some of those other circumstances, right?'” See also, Texas judge seems open to claim abortion drug was not properly vetted. U.S. Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk says he will rule as soon as possible on FDA approval of mifepristone, one of two drugs used in medical abortions. The Washington Post, Perry Stein, Caroline Kitchener, and Ann E. Marimow, Wednesday, 15 March 2023: “The federal judge who could upend access to a key abortion medication seemed open on Wednesday to the argument that the drug had not been properly vetted and could be unsafe — claims the Food and Drug Administration and leading health organizations strongly contest. While the antiabortion group challenging the drug acknowledged there is no precedent for a court to order the suspension of a long-approved medication, U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk questioned whether mifepristone has met the rigorous federal standard necessary to be prescribed to patients in the United States. He asked a lawyer for the group whether the court could unilaterally withdraw FDA approval for a drug, and engaged with attorneys for both sides about whether mailing the pills should be prohibited because of a 19th-century law that bans sending articles ‘for any indecent or immoral use’ through the Postal Service. At the close of the four-hour hearing, Kacsmaryk said he would issue his ruling as soon as possible, potentially disrupting access to mifepristone even in states where abortion is legal and protected. His decision will likely be appealed to the conservative U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit and the case could eventually reach the Supreme Court. Medication-induced abortion, which accounts for more than half of all abortions in the United States, has become increasingly contentious since the Supreme Court’s conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade in June, eliminating the constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy.” See also, Federal judge in Texas hears case that could force a major abortion pill off the market, NPR, Bill Chappell and Sarah McCammon, Wednesday, 15 March 2023: “Was the FDA wrong to approve a drug that’s used in nearly all medication abortions in the U.S. — and should the drug, mifepristone, be taken off the market? Those questions were argued in court Wednesday, in a case heard by controversial federal Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk in Amarillo, Texas. If the lawsuit succeeds, it could have sweeping repercussions — for abortion providers and patients across the nation, as well as for the FDA’s drug-approval process. At least 25 states have filed amicus briefs in the case. A coalition of anti-abortion medical groups and doctors called the Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine sued the FDA back in November, saying the abortion pill mifepristone was improperly approved two decades ago as part of a two-drug protocol that’s used to end pregnancies in the first trimester.”

Sold: Yacht With a Waterfall. Price: $19 Million. Broker: George Santos. Just before his House Election, Mr. Santos helped two of his largest donors reach a private deal on a $19 million boat, mixing his political and personal interests. The New York Times, Rebecca Davis O’Brien and William K. Rashbaum, Wednesday, 15 March 2023: “A $19 million luxury yacht deal brokered by Representative George Santos between two of his wealthy donors has captured the attention of federal and state authorities investigating the congressman’s campaign finances and personal business dealings. The sale, which has not been previously reported, is one of about a dozen leads being pursued by the F.B.I., the U.S. attorney’s office in Brooklyn and the Nassau County district attorney’s office, people familiar with the investigation said. Prosecutors and F.B.I. agents have sought in recent weeks to question the new owner of the 141-foot superyacht — Raymond Tantillo, a Long Island auto dealer — about the boat and his dealings with Mr. Santos, including his campaign fund-raising efforts. Mr. Tantillo bought the boat from Mayra Ruiz, a Republican donor in Miami. Mr. Santos negotiated the payment — $12.25 million up front, with $6.5 million more in installments — and advised the two on the logistics of turning over the yacht, according to a person familiar with the sale, which took place a few weeks before his election in November. It is not clear what laws, if any, may have been broken in the transaction. Several election law experts said that if the sale was designed to inject money into Mr. Santos’s campaign, it may be in violation of federal law governing caps on campaign contributions. It could also be illegal if Mr. Santos tied any commission he received on the sale to previous or future donations. But even if Mr. Santos broke no laws, the deal serves as further evidence of an emerging narrative given by people in his political orbit — that Mr. Santos seemed to use his campaign not only to win elected office but also as a networking exercise to ingratiate himself with rich donors and enrich himself from those contacts.”

Exiled Chinese Billionaire Guo Wengui Charged in New York With Financial Conspiracy. Wengui, a fugitive financier and associate of Steve Bannon, is accused by federal prosecutors of engaging in a complex scheme to bilk thousands of online followers. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser and Michael Forsythe, Wednesday, 15 March 2023: “Guo Wengui, a fugitive Chinese billionaire, was arrested on Wednesday morning in New York on charges that he orchestrated a complex conspiracy to defraud thousands of his online followers out of at least $1 billion, the authorities said. A federal indictment unsealed in Manhattan charged that Mr. Guo and a co-defendant took advantage of Mr. Guo’s ‘prolific online presence’ to solicit investments in various entities and programs ‘by promising outsized financial returns and other benefits.’ Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement that Mr. Guo was ‘charged with lining his pockets with the money he stole, including buying himself, and his close relatives, a 50,000-square-foot mansion, a $3.5 million Ferrari and even two $36,000 mattresses.’ The money was also used to finance a $37 million luxury yacht, Mr. Williams said. Mr. Guo, who is also known as Miles Kwok, is a business associate of Stephen K. Bannon, a onetime top adviser to former President Donald J. Trump. It was on a yacht belonging to Mr. Guo that Mr. Bannon was arrested in a fraud case in August 2020; Mr. Trump later pardoned Mr. Bannon, who had pleaded not guilty to those charges.”

Sources say federal investigators examined Trump Media for possible money laundering. New York prosecutors expanded criminal inquiry of company last year and examined acceptance of $8m with suspected Russian ties. The Guardian, Hugo Lowell, Wednesday, 15 March 2023: “Federal prosecutors in New York involved in the criminal investigation into Donald Trump’s social media company last year started examining whether it violated money laundering statutes in connection with the acceptance of $8m with suspected Russian ties, according to sources familiar with the matter. The company – Trump Media, which owns Trump’s Truth Social platform – initially came under criminal investigation over its preparations for a potential merger with a blank check company called Digital World (DWAC) that was also the subject of an earlier investigation by the Securities and Exchange Commission. Towards the end of last year, federal prosecutors started examining two loans totaling $8m wired to Trump Media, through the Caribbean, from two obscure entities that both appear to be controlled in part by the relation of an ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin, the sources said. The expanded nature of the criminal investigation, which has not been previously reported, threatens to delay the completion of the merger between Trump Media and DWAC, which would provide the company and Truth Social with up to $1.3bn in capital, in addition to a stock market listing.”

Stormy Daniels Meets With Prosecutors as Trump Inquiry Nears End. It is not clear whether Ms. Daniels, a porn star who was paid to keep quiet about an affair with Donald Trump, will be called to testify in front of a grand jury. The New York Times, Jonah E. Bromwich, William K. Rashbaum, Nate Schweber, and Kate Christobek, Wednesday, 15 March 2023: “Manhattan prosecutors on Wednesday met with Stormy Daniels, the porn star who was paid $130,000 to keep quiet about her affair with Donald J. Trump, according to a lawyer for Ms. Daniels. The lawyer, Clark Brewster, tweeted that at the request of the Manhattan district attorney’s office, he and Ms. Daniels had met with prosecutors. Ms. Daniels responded to questions, he said, ‘and has agreed to make herself available as a witness, or for further inquiry if needed.’ Ms. Daniels thanked her lawyer for ‘helping me in our continuing fight for truth and justice’ in her own tweet.”



Thursday, 16 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Poland to send Ukraine fighter jets; U.S. releases footage of apparent drone collision, The Washington Post, Leo Sands, Niha Masih, Karen DeYoung, Dan Lamothe, Miriam Berger, Loveday Morris, Annabelle Chapman, and Sammy Westfall, Thursday, 16 March 2023: “Poland plans to give Ukraine Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, becoming the first NATO country to provide long-sought warplanes since the Russian invasion began last year, Polish President Andrzej Duda said at a news conference Thursday. The first four are set to arrive in the coming days. Western governments had thus far declined to send fighter jets out of concern over escalating tensions between NATO and Russia. The U.S. military released footage it said shows the moment two Russian fighter jets intercepted a U.S. MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Black Sea. The video, edited by the Air Force, shows an aircraft approaching the drone and releasing what appears to be fuel. Russia said it is working to recover the debris.

  • Poland is in the process of upgrading its air force with South Korean-made FA-50 fighters and American-made F-35s, as it rapidly expands its military amid the war in neighboring Ukraine. It has about a dozen of the MiG-29s available that are ‘mostly’ functional, Duda said, adding that the remainder will be ‘serviced and prepared’ before also being donated.
  • Poland has played a leading role in getting taboo-breaking weaponry to Ukraine. As Germany stalled on sending tanks this year, Duda announced that Poland had decided to send them. ‘We are literally sending these MiGs to Ukraine at this moment,’ Duda said.
  • While Ukraine’s allies had not previously sent fighter jets, they had collected spare parts to help get Ukraine’s own MiGs into flying condition.
  • The declassified military footage shows a Russian jet releasing fuel and then colliding with the drone, according to a U.S. military statement. Pentagon officials said that after the jet collided with the U.S. aircraft, the drone’s camera feed was lost temporarily. When the camera feed returned, U.S. officials said, new damage could be seen on the drone’s propeller.
  • U.S. officials said the United States is investigating the incident. ‘We’ll be in close coordination with allies and partners at the conclusion of the investigation,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Wednesday on a trip to Ethiopia. ‘I can’t speak at this point to the motive or to intent.’ The confrontation is the first known altercation between U.S. and Russian forces since the war in Ukraine began.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu blamed the incident on the United States, saying the drone entered a flight restriction zone unilaterally designated by Russia. He made that argument to Austin on the telephone, according to a Russian Defense Ministry statement. ‘U.S. flights of strategic unmanned aerial vehicles off the coast of Crimea are provocative in nature,’ the Russian statement said.
  • A large fire erupted at a warehouse belonging to Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, killing one person in Russia’s Rostov region. Eyewitnesses told local outlets that ammunition in the warehouse could be heard detonating as the fire burned. Regional governor Vasily Golubev blamed the fire on an electrical short-circuit. ‘The flames spread and caused an explosion of fuel and lubricant containers,’ Golubev said on Telegram. The FSB later said in a statement that fuel and lubricants had caught fire. The Post could not immediately verify the report.
  • Polish authorities have dismantled a Russian spy ring and detained nine peoplePoland’s Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski told reporters Thursday. Six of them have been charged with espionage. Kaminski said that Polish security agents had found cameras and GPS equipment that were intended to be mounted onto ‘transports’ for Ukraine. ‘The suspects conducted intelligence activities against Poland and prepared acts of sabotage at the request of Russian intelligence,’ he told a news conference.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba spoke with his Chinese counterpart, foreign minister Qin Gang, in a rare phone call Thursday. Qin said that he worries about the escalation of the crisis and ‘the possibility of it getting out of control,’ according to a Chinese foreign ministry statement. He hopes that ‘all parties will remain calm, rational and restrained’ and ‘not close the door to a political solution,’ Qin added.
  • Kuleba also spoke with his U.S. counterpart Blinken the same day. They discussed ‘Ukraine’s Peace Formula and ways to expedite the delivery of artillery ammunition,’ Kuleba said in a tweet.
  • A U.N.-backed inquiry found evidence that Russian authorities have committed international human rights and humanitarian law violations in both Ukraine and Russia, many of which ‘amount to war crimes,’ according to a newly released report of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on Ukraine, which was established last March by the U.N. Human Rights Council. Russia’s use of torture and attacks on energy-related infrastructure ‘may amount to crimes against humanity,’ the report added.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Poland Says It Is Sending 4 Fighter Jets to Ukraine Within Days. Poland’s president said his country would send Soviet-designed MIGs to Ukraine, in what would be the first delivery of fighter jets from a NATO  country. The New York Times, Andrew Higgins and Lara Jakes, Thursday, 16 March 2023: “Poland’s president said on Thursday that his country would send four Soviet-designed MIG fighter jets to Ukraine within days, in what would be a significant step that Ukraine’s NATO allies have so far been reluctant to take. The move, if it happens, would be the first delivery of fighter jets by a NATO country to Ukraine, but would still fall short of meeting Ukrainian requests for more advanced F-16 fighter jets from the United States. A White House spokesman, John F. Kirby, said that the United States still had no plans to send American-made warplanes to Ukraine. Poland’s announcement ‘doesn’t change our calculus, with respect to F-16s,’ Mr. Kirby told reporters in Washington.

Here is what to know:

  • The fallout from a collision between a Russian warplane and an American spy drone continued, as the Pentagon’s European Command on Thursday released the first declassified video images of the events leading up to the episode, which has threatened to escalate tensions between the United States and Russia amid the war in Ukraine.

  • Ukraine’s military reported unusual Russian naval activity in the Black Sea on Thursday, saying more ships were deployed in its waters in a scattered formation that suggested they were searching for the wreckage of the U.S. drone.

  • Poland on Thursday said it had detained nine foreigners accused of spying for Russia and preparing operations to disrupt the flow of Western arms into neighboring Ukraine.

  • Ukrainian military officials on Thursday expressed confidence in their ability to hold onto Bakhmut, even as military analysts and Western officials warned that the battle was unsustainable.

Georgia special grand jury heard phone call of Trump pressuring Georgia House Speaker David Ralston to overturn Biden’s victory. The special grand jury’s foreperson told NBC News that Trump tried to pressure the then-speaker into calling a special legislative session to overturn the results in the battleground state. NBC News, Blayne Alexander, Charlie Gile, and Summer Concepcion, Wednesday, 16 March 2023: “The Fulton County special grand jury heard a phone call between former President Donald Trump and Georgia House Speaker David Ralston as part of its investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in Georgia, the jury’s foreperson, Emily Kohrs, told NBC News on Wednesday. During the December call, Trump attempted to pressure the then-speaker into calling a special legislative session to overturn President Joe Biden’s victory in the battleground state, Kohrs said. The call recording, which was first reported by The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, lasted about 10 minutes, Kohrs said. She recalled that Trump asked Ralston who would stop him from holding a special session. According to Kohrs, Ralston responded, ‘A federal judge, that’s who.’ Ralston, a Republican who spent more than a decade as Georgia’s House speaker, died in November.”

Dozens of Mar-a-Lago staff, from servers to aides, are subpoenaed in classified documents investigation, CNN Politics, Katelyn Polantz, Paula Reid, Kristen Holmes, and Casey Gannon, Thursday, 16 March 2023: “At least two dozen people – from Mar-a-Lago resort staff to members of Donald Trump’s inner circle at the Florida estate – have been subpoenaed to testify to a federal grand jury that’s investigating the former president’s handling of classified documents, multiple sources familiar with the investigation told CNN. On Thursday, Trump’s communications aide Margo Martin, who worked in the White House and then moved with Trump to Florida, appeared before the grand jury in Washington, DC. One of special counsel Jack Smith’s senior-most prosecutors was involved in the interview. Martin, who is among a small group of former White House advisers who have remained employed by Trump after he left office, declined to answer any questions when approached by a CNN reporter. Smith has sought testimony from a range of people close to Trump – from his own attorneys who represent him in the matter to staffers who work on the grounds of Mar-a-Lago, including a housekeeper and restaurant servers, sources said. The staff is of interest to investigators because of what they may have seen or heard while on their daily duties around the estate, including whether they saw boxes or documents in Trump’s office suite or elsewhere.”


Friday, 17 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Turkey backs Finland’s NATO bid; ICC (International Criminal Court) issues arrest warrant for Putin, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Victoria Bisset, David L. Stern, Natalia Abbakumova, and Claire Parker, Friday, 17 March 2023: “Judges from the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued on Friday its first arrest warrants related to the war in Ukraine, for Russian President Vladimir Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights. The judges alleged that the two are responsible for the war crimes of ‘unlawful deportation’ and ‘unlawful transfer’ of children from occupied areas of Ukraine to Russia. The move is largely symbolic: Moscow does not accept the jurisdiction of the ICC, and international law experts say it’s unlikely, barring a major political change in Russia, for Putin to end up in front of the court. Turkey is set to start the process to ratify Finland’s accession to NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday at a news conference in Ankara, making the announcement after talks with Finnish President Sauli Niinisto. Finland requires unanimous approval by Turkey and all other NATO members to join the alliance. Along with Sweden, it announced its intention to join following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine last year. Erdogan is still expected to withhold approval of Sweden’s bid, and Sweden’s prime minister has said it is increasingly likely that Finland would join NATO first. In a statement, U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan praised Turkey’s move and called on Ankara to ratify Sweden’s accession protocols as well. Putin issued a decree last May to make it easy for Russians to adopt Ukrainian children. Kostin said Friday Ukrainian officials are investigating more than 16,000 incidents of forcible deportation of Ukrainian children. Lvova-Belova, who reports to Putin directly, has been the official face of Moscow’s effort to bring Ukrainian children to Russian territory.

  • In an address, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called the warrants an indictment of Russia’s ‘state policy, state decisions, state evil.’
  • The warrants could make it difficult for those named to travel to countries that cooperate with the court.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping is set to travel to Moscow next week, to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin, in his first visit since the war began. According to the Kremlin, Xi’s state visit will take place from March 20 to 22. While China has maintained that it is neutral in the Ukraine war, it has offered diplomatic support for Russia and accused Washington of turning the conflict into a ‘proxy’ war. Beijing said Xi’s visit would be one of ‘peace, cooperation and friendship,’ emphasizing that China would encourage peace talks.
  • Slovakia joined Poland in announcing it will supply Kyiv with fighter jets, Slovak Prime Minister Eduard Heger said Friday. Heger said his government approved a decision to send 13 Soviet-era MiG-29 jets, a day after Poland said it would send four in the coming days. Agreement to transfer the fighter jets marks a new level of Western aid to Ukraine, and Poland and Slovakia have called on other countries to follow their lead as part of an international coalition.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu gave state awards to the pilots who forced down a U.S. drone earlier this week, according to his ministry, which claimed the pilots had prevented the drone from ‘violating’ the airspace of Russian military activity in Ukraine. However, U.S. officials said the drone was flying over international waters of the Black Sea when it was forced down, and they have released footage of the collision. Secretary of State Antony Blinken told reporters Wednesday that the United States is investigating the incident. He called the Russian pilots’ actions ‘reckless and unsafe.’
  • Russia is using a fleet of older, poorly insured tankers to bypass Western sanctions on its fossil fuels, The Post reported. That has raised fears, especially among countries on the Baltic Sea, of a potentially catastrophic accident or oil spill. The safety concerns were alarming enough for Finnish authorities to increase drills and training for an emergency response to an environmental catastrophe.
  • The Ukraine-Russia grain deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey, meant to alleviate global hunger, is set to expire Saturday. Moscow has said it would be willing to extend for 60 days, while Kyiv is seeking 120 days.
  • ‘While Ireland is a militarily neutral country, we’re not politically neutral in the face of violations of international law and human rights,’ Irish Prime Minister Leo Varadkar said in remarks on Capitol Hill during a visit to Washington Friday. He decried Russia’s ‘brutal invasion’ of Ukraine.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: International Criminal court Issues Arrest Warrant for Putin. The court at The Hague accused the Russian president of bearing criminal responsibility for the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children. Human rights groups praised the move, though the likelihood of an imminent arrest appeared slim. The New York Times, Anushka Patil, Friday, 17 March 2023: “The International Criminal Court on Friday issued an arrest warrant for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia for war crimes, saying he bore criminal responsibility for the abduction and deportation of Ukrainian children. Ukrainian officials and human-rights groups hailed the warrant as an important step in holding Moscow to account for abuses during its yearlong war. The country’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, said the warrant represented the beginning of ‘historical responsibility.’ The likelihood of a trial while Mr. Putin remains in power appears slim because the court cannot try defendants in absentia and Russia has said it will not surrender its own officials. Still, the warrant deepens Mr. Putin’s isolation from the West and could limit his travel overseas. The Kremlin spokesman, Dmitri S. Peskov, noted that Russia does not recognize the court and called its decision to issue a warrant ‘null and void.’

Here are other developments:

  • Mr. Putin will receive China’s top leader, Xi Jinping, for a state visit to Russia starting on Monday that Beijing said would promote peace efforts between Russia and Ukraine. The United States has questioned whether China can play a mediating role, given its close relationship with Russia, and a White House spokesman said Friday that the United States was opposed to China’s proposal for an immediate cease-fire because it would cement the position of Russia’s troops.

  • Turkey announced that it would move to ratify Finland’s application to join NATO, clearing a significant hurdle for the Nordic nation’s bid to join the alliance but leaving neighboring Sweden on the sidelines for now.

  • The government of Slovakia said that it would send 13 Soviet-designed fighter jets to Ukraine, a day after a similar announcement by Poland’s president. The pledge from a second NATO ally could be a marked shift in increasing arms supplies for Kyiv. But most of Slovakia’s MIG-29 warplanes are not in working order so their delivery to Ukraine, likely to provide spare parts for Ukraine’s own fleet of Soviet-era jets, will not change the balance of force on the battlefield.

  • The deal with Russia enabling Ukraine to resume shipments of its grain abroad that has been in place since July is set to expire on Saturday. Russia is willing to extend the deal for 60 days, but U.N. negotiators are holding out for 120 days. Martin Griffiths, the U.N. aid chief, told the Security Council on Friday that U.N. officials were ‘sparing no effort’ to secure an extension.

Trump attorney Evan Corcoran ordered to testify before grand jury investigating former president Trump, CNN Politics, Kaitlan Collins, Devan Cole, and Katelyn Polantz, Friday, 17 March 2023: “In a monumental ruling Friday, a federal judge ordered Donald Trump attorney Evan Corcoran to provide additional testimony as part of an investigation into the former president’s handling of classified documents, a source familiar with the matter told CNN. Corcoran has the potential to become one of the most crucial witnesses in special counsel Jack Smith’s criminal investigation into possible mishandling of classified records after the Trump presidency and obstruction of justice. District Judge Beryl Howell said in an order under seal that Justice Department prosecutors have met the threshold for the crime-fraud exception for Corcoran, the source said. The scope of what DOJ will be allowed to ask, however, was not immediately clear. Trump’s team is expected to appeal and ask for the judge’s order to be stayed while legal proceedings play out.” See also, Judge Rules Trump Lawyer M. Evan Corcoran Must Testify in Documents Inquiry.  The ruling found that the government had met the threshold for the crime-fraud exception, which allows prosecutors to get around attorney-client privilege if they believe a crime has been committed. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Friday, 17 March 2023: “A federal judge has ruled that prosecutors overseeing the investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of classified documents can pierce assertions of attorney-client privilege and compel one of his lawyers to answer more questions before a grand jury, two people familiar with the case said on Friday. In making her ruling, the judge, Beryl A. Howell, found that the government had met the threshold for a special provision of the law known as the crime-fraud exception. That provision allows prosecutors to work around attorney-client privilege when they have reason to believe that legal advice or legal services have been used in furthering a crime. The New York Times reported last month that prosecutors had asked Judge Howell to apply the crime-fraud exception to the grand jury testimony of M. Evan Corcoran, a lawyer who has represented Mr. Trump since last spring, as the documents investigation began heating up. Mr. Corcoran in recent months appeared before the grand jury and asserted attorney-client privilege while declining to answer certain questions. Attorney-client privilege is a bedrock legal principle designed to protect private communications between lawyers and those they represent. Judge Howell’s ruling, issued under seal, that the crime-fraud exception applies in this case is important because it places the imprimatur of a federal judge on prosecutors’ contention that Mr. Corcoran’s legal work may have been used in the commission of a crime. The ruling was reported earlier by CNN.” See also, Judge rules Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran must testify. Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell ruled there were grounds for a ‘crime-fraud exception’ to attorney-client privilege. The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Jacqueline Alemany, and Spencer S. Hsu, Friday, 17 March 2023: “A federal judge has at least partially granted a request from U.S. prosecutors to force an attorney for Donald Trump to testify before a grand jury about the former president’s possession of classified documents after leaving office, according to two people briefed on the decision. The lawyer, Evan Corcoran, had refused to answer investigators’ questions about his interactions with Trump, invoking attorney-client privilege — a principle of U.S. legal practice that says lawyers must keep confidential what they are told by their clients. U.S. prosecutors argued that there are exceptions to the privilege, including when there is evidence that a client used the attorney’s legal services in furtherance of a crime. In secret court filings and a hearing held behind closed doors earlier this month, people familiar with the matter said, prosecutors sought to show Chief U.S. District Judge Beryl A. Howell of Washington that there were grounds for a ‘crime-fraud exception.’ Howell agreed, said the two people briefed on the ruling, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter. Her decision was first reported by CNN.”

House Democrats Say Trump Failed to Follow Law on Foreign Gifts. A report by Democrats on the House Oversight Committee documented instances of the Trump White House failing to report gifts that Donald J. Trump had received from abroad and others that remain missing. The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Friday, 17 March 2023: “Several gifts given by foreign countries to Donald J. Trump during his presidency are unaccounted for in government records, according to a report released on Friday by Democrats on the House Committee on Oversight and Accountability, which detailed ways in which the Trump White House had failed to follow the law in how it handled gifts. The missing items included a $3,040 driver and $460 putter given to Mr. Trump by Shinzo Abe, the prime minister of Japan at the time, and ‘a larger-than-life-sized painting’ of Mr. Trump given to him by El Salvador’s president, Nayib Bukele, according to the report.”

Lawyer says House Republicans gave January 6 Capitol riot footage to Tucker Carlson without telling the Capitol Police. Police wanted to review footage for security concerns, but say they only saw one clip out of 40. The Washington Post, Justine McDaniel and Tom Jackman, Friday, 17 March 2023: “U.S. Capitol Police only learned from the media that House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had provided access to security footage of the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot to television personality Tucker Carlson, and the police then were shown just one of about 40 clips before Carlson aired them earlier this month, the police department’s lawyer said in an affidavit Friday. The police had asked House Republicans to let them review every clip that would be made public for security reasons, Capitol Police general counsel Thomas DiBiase said in the six-page declaration. But DiBiase said he only viewed a single clip. McCarthy gave Carlson exclusive access to roughly 40,000 hours of video, something Carlson had suggested as a condition of his support for McCarthy’s long bid to win the speakership in January. Carlson has played down the deadly violence that occurred that day and claimed it was a ‘false flag’ operation. The police department did not learn about it until Feb. 20, two weeks before Carlson aired the footage on his March 6 and 7 programs. On Feb. 28, McCarthy told reporters that he had been consulting with U.S. Capitol Police about the release of the footage. Carlson said on air that ‘before airing any of this video, we checked first with the Capitol Police. We’re happy to say their reservations were minor and for the most part, they were reasonable.’ That never happened, according to DiBiase’s declaration.”

Trump-commissioned report undercut his claims of dead and double voters. A report commissioned by the former president’s campaign and obtained by The Post did not back up his claims of fraud and did not provide evidence to overturn the 2020 election. The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Friday, 17 March 2023: “When Donald Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Jan. 2, 2021, in a now-infamous bid to overturn the 2020 election, he alleged that thousands of dead people had voted in the state. ‘So dead people voted, and I think the number is close to 5,000 people. And they went to obituaries. They went to all sorts of methods to come up with an accurate number, and a minimum is close to about 5,000 voters,’ he said, without citing his study. But a report commissioned by his own campaign dated one day prior told a different story: Researchers paid by Trump’s team had ‘high confidence’ of only nine dead voters in Fulton County, defined as ballots that may have been cast by someone else in the name of a deceased person. They believed there was a ‘potential statewide exposure’ of 23 such votes across the Peach State — or 4,977 fewer than the ‘minimum’ Trump claimed.”


Saturday, 18 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Black Sea grain deal between Russia and Ukraine extended; Biden says Putin’s International Criminal Court (ICC) arrest warrant is justified, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Victoria Bisset, Justine McDaniel, Nick Parker, Claire Parker, Andrea Salcedo, and Kareem Fahim, Saturday, 18 March 2023: “The Black Sea grain deal between Russia and Ukraine was extended on Saturday, though the duration of that extension was unclear. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and the United Nations, who have brokered negotiations on the deal, confirmed the extension four days after a Russian official said it would last 60 days instead of 120. Russia or Ukraine could have objected to an extension, which would have otherwise been automatic after this weekend’s deadline. Meanwhile, President Biden said the International Criminal Court was ‘justified’ in issuing an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has ‘clearly committed war crimes.’

  • About 25 million metric tonnes of grain and foodstuffs have been moved to 45 countries since the deal was enacted in July, U.N. spokeswoman Stéphane Dujarric said Saturday morning. Turkish and U.N. officials did not specify the duration of the extension. Ukrainian Infrastructure Minister Oleksandr Kubrakov said it was for 120 days, and Kremlin representatives did not immediately respond to The Washington Post’s request for comment Saturday morning.
  • Moscow said this week that it did not object to another extension, but only for 60 days. Russia has accused Western countries of failing to lift restrictions that have hampered Russia’s agricultural and fertilizer exports. Western sanctions do not target the country’s agricultural sector, but Moscow says restrictions on Russian shipping, logistics companies and banks have hindered its exports.
  • Countries in the Middle East and Africa had been watching the negotiations with concern. The regions rely heavily on grain from Ukraine, and they feared a lapse of the deal could mean rising hunger among vulnerable populations or domestic unrest. ‘It is concerning that the deal was possibly extended for only 60 days, rather than the previously-agreed 120 day timeframe,’ Harpinder Collacott, the Mercy Corps executive director for Europe, said in a statement. ‘But any extension of the grain deal is nothing short of necessary.’
  • The ICC on Friday issued warrants for Putin and Russia’s commissioner for children’s rights, accusing them of participating in the abduction and deportation of children from Ukraine to Russian-occupied territories. Ukraine is investigating more than 16,000 cases of forced removals. Neither the United States nor Russia recognizes the jurisdiction of the ICC, and the court does not try people in absentia.
  • Putin visited Crimea on Saturday, the ninth anniversary of Russia’s illegal 2014 annexation of the peninsula from Ukraine, whose leaders want to recapture the territory. The Kremlin said on Telegram that Putin was touring an art and education site in Sevastopol.
  • Ukraine sanctioned more than 400 individuals and companies, including prominent Iranian and Syrian individuals, Zelensky said Saturday. Most of the sanctions are on Russians, he added. The sanctions include freezes of assets held in Ukraine, restrictions on trade, the suspension of economic and financial obligations, and revocation of Ukrainian state awards, Russian state news agency Tass reported. Zelensky did not say what financial dealings, if any, the Iranian and Syrian individuals had in Ukraine.
  • Chinese President Xi Jinping will visit Moscow next week to meet with Putin, in a major show of support for the Kremlin. While Beijing has claimed neutrality between Moscow and Kyiv, it has offered diplomatic support for the Kremlin and accused Washington of turning the conflict into a proxy war.
  • The United States said it would oppose any cease-fire proposal that could emerge from talks between Chinese and Russian leaders. ‘A cease-fire now is, again, effectively the ratification of Russian conquest,’ White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters Friday, according to the Associated Press. Asked about the visit Friday, Biden said: ‘Well, we’ll see when that meeting takes place.’
  • The International Monetary Fund approved changes to its own policies to allow lending to countries facing ‘exceptionally high uncertainty,’ in a move that could pave the way for billions of dollars in loans to Kyiv. The decision Friday did not mention Ukraine, but it will apply to situations ‘involving exogenous shocks that are beyond the control of country authorities and the reach of their economic policies.’ Earlier this week, the IMF said it had made ‘very good progress’ in its talks with Ukraine’s authorities, who are seeking a $15 billion multiyear program in what would be the biggest loan to a country involved in an active war, according to Reuters news agency.
  • There is ‘no danger of war coming to Moldova’ as long as Ukraine holds out, Moldovan President Maia Sandu told lawmakers on Friday. Russia has allegedly engaged in efforts to overthrow the country’s pro-West government, and a missile launched at Ukraine recently entered Moldovan airspace, prompting flight cancellations.
  • Turkey is set to begin the process of ratifying Finland’s entry into NATO, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said Friday in Ankara. Stockholm and Helsinki moved to join the trans-Atlantic alliance after last year’s invasion of Ukraine, but Erdogan is expected to withhold approval of Sweden’s bid. Accession requires the unanimous approval of all existing NATO members.

Trump claims His Arrest Is Imminent and Calls for Protests, Echoing January 6. His indictment by a Manhattan grand jury is expected, but its timing is unclear. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess, Alan Feuer, and William K. Rashbaum, Saturday, 18 March 2023: “With former President Donald J. Trump facing indictment by a Manhattan grand jury but the timing of the charges uncertain, he declared on his social media site that he would be arrested on Tuesday and demanded that his supporters protest on his behalf. Mr. Trump made the declaration on his site, Truth Social, at 7:26 a.m. on Saturday in a post that ended with, ‘THE FAR & AWAY LEADING REPUBLICAN CANDIDATE AND FORMER PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK. PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!’ Two hours later, a spokesman issued a statement clarifying that Mr. Trump had not written his post with direct knowledge of the timing of any arrest. ‘President Trump is rightfully highlighting his innocence and the weaponization of our injustice system,’ the statement said. A lawyer for Mr. Trump, Susan R. Necheles, said that his post had been based on news reports, and accused the Manhattan district attorney’s office of conducting a ‘political prosecution.’ A spokeswoman for the Manhattan district attorney’s office declined to comment. Prosecutors working for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, have signaled that an indictment of Mr. Trump could be imminent. But they have not told Mr. Trump’s lawyers when the charges — expected to stem from a 2016 hush money payment to a porn star — would be sought or when an arrest would be made, people with knowledge of the matter said. At least one more witness is expected to testify in front of the grand jury, which could delay an indictment, the people said.” See also, Trump calls for protests of what he claims is his imminent arrest. But advisers to the former president said they have no specific knowledge of the timing of an indictment in the Manhattan case. The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Shayna Jacobs, Carol D. Leonnig, and Justine McDaniel, Saturday, 18 March 2023: “Former president Donald Trump called for protests Saturday in response to what he claimed would be his imminent arrest in a Manhattan criminal investigation, even as his advisers said Trump’s team does not have specific knowledge about the timing of any indictment. Writing from his Mar-a-Lago Club in Florida, Trump surprised his advisers by posting an all-caps message on his Truth Social platform Saturday morning that declared he ‘WILL BE ARRESTED ON TUESDAY OF NEXT WEEK. PROTEST, TAKE OUR NATION BACK!’ His language, along with a fundraising pitch sent out by his 2024 presidential campaign, echoed rhetoric that Trump used in advance of the attack on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, by his supporters. Trump advisers and lawyers have expected for days that he will be indicted in the New York case, which hinges on a $130,000 payment to an adult-film star. His call to action is a reminder of the attention the former president still wields on social media among his supporters as well as leaders of the Republican Party, even amid questions about how much support Trump has for his third run for the nation’s highest office. His call for ‘protest’ has also alarmed some of his advisers, who said they fear his rhetoric will grow increasingly incendiary as he feels cornered by prosecutors. Trump spokesman Steven Cheung said Saturday morning there had been no ‘notification’ of an indictment. Instead, he said Trump’s supporters should attend a campaign rally he is holding next week in Texas.” See also, Trump says he expects to be arrested Tuesday as New York law enforcement prepares for possible indictment, CNN Politics, Kaitlan collins, Kristen Holmes, and Paula Reid, Saturday, 18 March 2023: “Former President Donald Trump said Saturday he expects to be arrested in connection with the yearslong investigation into a hush money scheme involving adult film actress Stormy Daniels and called on his supporters to protest any such move. In a social media post, Trump, referring to himself, said the ‘leading Republican candidate and former president of the United States will be arrested on Tuesday of next week’ – though he did not say why he expects to be arrested. His team said after Trump’s post that it had not received any notifications from prosecutors. CNN’s John Miller reported Friday that meetings have been going on throughout the week among city, state and federal law enforcement agencies in New York City about security preparations for a possible indictment of Trump. In an echo of Trump’s appeals to supporters in the wake of the 2020 presidential election, he called Saturday for action, writing: ‘Protest, take our nation back.’ The former president has been agitating for his team to get his base riled up and believes that an indictment would help him politically, multiple people briefed on the matter told CNN. Any indictment of the former president, who is running for reelection in 2024, would mark a historic first and quickly change the political conversation around an already divisive figure. While Trump has an extensive history of civil litigation both before and after taking office, a criminal charge would represent a dramatic escalation of his legal woes as he works to recapture the White House.” See also, Trump says he expects to be arrested and calls for protests. Associated Press, Michelle L. Price and Jill Colvin, and Eric Tucker, Saturday, 18 March 2023: “Donald Trump claimed on Saturday that his arrest is imminent and issued an extraordinary call for his supporters to protest as a New York grand jury investigates hush money payments to women who alleged sexual encounters with the former president. Even as Trump’s lawyer and spokesperson said there had been no communication from prosecutors, Trump declared in a post on his social media platform that he expects to be taken into custody on Tuesday. His message seemed designed to preempt a formal announcement from prosecutors and to galvanize outrage from his base of supporters in advance of widely anticipated charges. Within hours, his campaign was sending fundraising solicitations to his supporters, while influential Republicans in Congress and even some declared and potential rival candidates issued statements in his defense. In a later post that went beyond simply exhorting loyalists to protest about his legal peril, the 2024 presidential candidate directed his overarching ire in all capital letters at the Biden administration and raised the prospect of civil unrest: ‘IT’S TIME!!!’ he wrote. ‘WE JUST CAN’T ALLOW THIS ANYMORE. THEY’RE KILLING OUR NATION AS WE SIT BACK & WATCH. WE MUST SAVE AMERICA!PROTEST, PROTEST, PROTEST!!!'”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg privately warns of intimidation after Trump calls for protest. His office appears poised to bring criminal charges against Trump in connection with a hush-money payment made to a porn actress, Stormy Daniels. Politico, Erica Orden, Saturday, 18 March 2023: “Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg offered a private retort to Donald Trump’s message Saturday urging supporters to protest his expected indictment, telling office employees in an email that ‘we do not tolerate attempts to intimidate our office or threaten the rule of law in New York,’ according to a copy obtained by POLITICO. ‘Our law enforcement partners will ensure that any specific or credible threats against the office will be fully investigated and that the proper safeguards are in place so all 1,600 of us have a secure work environment,’ Bragg wrote, adding that the office has been coordinating with the New York Police Department and Office of Court Administration, the administrative arm of the court system in New York. Bragg added that ‘as with all of our investigations, we will continue to apply the law evenly and fairly, and speak publicly only when appropriate.’ In his email, Bragg didn’t identify Trump by name, referring only to the ‘public comments surrounding an ongoing investigation by this office.'”

The January 6 investigation is the biggest in U.S. history. It’s only half done. Nearly 1,000 people have been charged to date, and a federal courthouse strains to handle what may be years more of trials. The Washington Post, Spencer S. Hsu, Devlin Barrett, and Tom Jackman, Saturday, 18 March 2023: “The city’s federal court system is bracing for many years more of trials stemming from the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol, with new charges possible against as many as 1,000 more people. In recent months, law enforcement and judicial authorities have engaged in discussions to manage the huge volume of Jan. 6 cases without overwhelming the courthouse where pleas and trials are held, people familiar with the matter said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal operations.”


Sunday, 19 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia has ‘high’ expectations for Xi Jinping’s visit, Putin says, and is open to a diplomatic resolution to the war, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Leo Sands, Ben Brasch, Paulina Villegas, and Kyle Rempfer, Sunday, 19 March 2023: “Russian President Vladimir Putin championed the much anticipated visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Moscow on Monday and claimed it will give a ‘powerful new impetus’ to the strong bilateral relationship between their two countries. The visit comes amid heightened tensions between the East and the West over the war in Ukraine, and more broadly, it signifies Beijing’s strong partnership with Moscow — or as both leaders have put it, a ‘friendship without limits.’ In an article posted Sunday on the official Kremlin website, Putin said Russia is ‘open to a political and diplomatic resolution’ to the war in Ukraine, which China has so far not condemned, and added that a peaceful end to the conflict depends only on ‘the will to engage in a meaningful discussion taking into account current geopolitical realities.’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has said he would speak to Xi about peace proposals, but has said under no circumstance would he be willing to grant Russia control over occupied Ukrainian territory as part of peace negotiations. China has sought to project itself as neutral in the conflict, putting forth a 12-point plan that called for a cease-fire, peace talks and an end to sanctions against Russia, but stopped short of calling for a Russian withdrawal from Ukrainian territory. It has also accused NATO, the United States and the West of provoking the war.

  • Ahead of Xi’s visit, Putin made his own trip to Ukraine, just a day after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest over alleged war crimesHis itinerary on the visit to Mariupol, which Russia took in May after a brutal siege, was largely spontaneous, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Sunday. Putin visited an apartment complex, spoke to residents about their concerns and drove a car about the city, Peskov said. ‘We won’t bother you, please excuse us for dropping by so unexpectedly,’ Putin told the inhabitants of a three-bedroom Mariupol apartment after appearing with television cameras, according to state TV.
  • Russia’s president traveled to the city in Donetsk by helicopteraccording to RIA Novosti. It was Putin’s first visit to the eastern Donbas region, according to Tass, and it comes a year after Russia’s bombardment of the Mariupol Drama Theater. Donetsk is one of four Ukrainian regions that Putin illegally claimed to have annexed in September.
  • Russia’s equivalent of the FBI has ordered an investigation of Buschmann’s comments, according to a Saturday post on its Telegram page. Alexander Bastrykin, head of the Russian Investigative Committee, had called the ICC’s arrest warrant illegal on Friday, saying his agency would try to identify the judges who issued the warrant.
  • Ukrainian officials criticized Putin’s visit as a carefully orchestrated stunt, undertaken in darkness to minimize the damage his forces had wreaked on the city during a months-long siege. The Russian leader traveled at night ‘as befits a thief,’ Ukraine’s Defense Ministry tweeted. ‘The criminal always returns to the crime scene,’ Mykhailo Podolyak, an adviser to Zelensky, said of the visit.
  • Xi is set to begin a state visit Monday to Moscow, where he will meet with Putin in Beijing’s strongest show of support since the war began. The Kremlin said the two will discuss ‘deepening Russian-Chinese cooperation.’ Beijing, which insists it is neutral in the conflict and has sought to portray itself as a potential mediator, said Xi will promote peace talks.
  • The Kremlin will publish a Putin-written article on Russia-China relations Sunday night, said Peskov, the Kremlin spokesman. Xi is also expected to release a similar article Sunday or early Monday, Peskov added.
  • South Africa, an ICC member, knows its ‘legal obligation’ ahead of an expected Putin visit, according to a presidential spokesman. ‘We are, as the government, cognisant of our legal obligation,’ South African President Cyril Ramaphosa’s spokesperson Vincent Magwenya said, according to Reuters. ‘However, between now and the summit we will remain engaged with various relevant stakeholders.’ Putin was expected to attend the 15th BRICS summit in South Africa this August, according to Reuters. The group of major emerging economies is named for Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
  • A group of European Union countries will sign an agreement Monday to buy artillery rounds for Ukraine, Reuters reported, citing an unidentified E.U. official. The pact aims to quickly provide Ukraine with more of the 155mm shells it has said are a vital need, as it burns through rounds in a war of attrition.
  • A Black Sea grain deal between Russia and Ukraine was extended on Saturday, although the two parties gave differing accounts for how long it would last: 60 or 120 days, respectively. Aid groups say the deal is essential to help avert a food crisis in parts of the Middle East and Africa. ‘It is concerning that the deal was possibly extended for only 60 days, rather than the previously agreed 120-day time frame,’ said Harpinder Collacott, executive director for Europe of the nongovernmental aid organization Mercy Corps. ‘But any extension of the grain deal is nothing short of necessary.’
  • Ukraine issued sanctions on more than 400 individuals and companies, including prominent Iranians and Syrians accused of aiding in ‘terror,’ Zelensky said Saturday. Most of the sanctions are on Russians, he added. The sanctions include the freezing of assets held in Ukraine, restrictions on trade, the suspension of economic and financial obligations, and the revocation of Ukrainian state awards, Tass reported.

Trump Grand Jury Could Hear From Critic of Prosecution’s Star Witness. The grand jury considering the hush-money case against Mr. Trump might hear the testimony of lawyer Robert J. Costello, a critic of the ex-president’s fixer Michael Cohen. The New York Times, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, Jonah E. Bromwich, and Maggie Haberman, Sunday, 19 March 2023: “A Manhattan grand jury that is expected to vote soon on whether to indict Donald J. Trump may hear testimony Monday attacking the prosecution’s star witness, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The testimony would come from a lawyer, Robert J. Costello, who would appear at the request of Mr. Trump’s lawyers, the people said. Mr. Costello was once a legal adviser to Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s former fixer, who has been a key witness for the Manhattan district attorney’s office. Mr. Costello and Mr. Cohen had a falling out, and Mr. Costello would appear solely to undermine Mr. Cohen’s credibility, the people said. Under New York law, a person who is expected to be indicted can request that a witness appear on his or her behalf. Mr. Trump’s lawyers have asked that Mr. Costello testify, but the final decision rests with the grand jury; it is unclear whether they have made a decision. The grand jury has been hearing evidence about the former president’s involvement in a hush money payment to a porn star. Mr. Costello’s appearance would come soon after Mr. Cohen concluded his own grand jury testimony. If Mr. Costello testifies, there is also a chance that Mr. Cohen will be asked to return to rebut some of Mr. Costello’s assertions.” See also, Witness proposed by Trump defense expected to go before Manhattan grand jury Monday. The development appears aimed at discrediting Trump’s former fixer, Michael Cohen, who is a key prosecution witness. The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Josh Dawsey, Sunday, 19 March 2023: “Michael Cohen’s onetime legal adviser is expected to testify Monday before a grand jury weighing whether President Donald Trump committed any crimes when indirectly paying off adult-film star Stormy Daniels — a development that appears aimed at discrediting a key prosecution witness. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg has been examining a $130,000 payment that Cohen, Trump’s former fixer, said he made before the 2016 election that he said was to ensure Daniels’ silence about her alleged sexual encounter with Trump. Trump has denied the affair but has admitted he reimbursed Cohen for the payment to Daniels, which Trump said was made ‘to stop the false and extortionist accusations made by her.’ Cohen’s former adviser, Robert Costello, said he was asked by Bragg’s team to appear in front of the grand jury panel in Lower Manhattan on Monday afternoon — but Costello noted the request originally came from Trump’s legal team. Under New York law, those expecting to be indicted can ask for witnesses to appear before grand juries on their behalf.”

Inside the Payoff to a Porn Star That could Lead to Trump’s Indictment. Manhattan prosecutors investigating a payout to Stormy Daniels may be poised to make Donald Trump the first former president ever to be criminally indicted. The New York Times, Michael Rothfeld, Sunday, 19 March 2023: “At the time, it all was more tawdry than momentous. A reality star invited a porn actress half his age to a hotel room after a round in a celebrity golf tournament. She arrived in a spangly gold dress and strappy heels. He promised to put her on television and then, she says, they slept together. Yet the chain of events flowing from the 2006 encounter that the adult film star, Stormy Daniels, has said she had with the television personality, Donald J. Trump, has led to the brink of a historic development: the first criminal indictment of a former American president. The Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, has signaled he is preparing to seek felony charges against Mr. Trump; Mr. Bragg is expected to accuse him of concealing a $130,000 hush-money payment that Michael D. Cohen, Mr. Trump’s lawyer and fixer, made to Ms. Daniels on the eve of the 2016 presidential election. A conviction would be likely to hinge on prosecutors’ proving that Mr. Trump reimbursed Mr. Cohen and falsified business records when he did so, possibly to hide an election law violation. It would not be a simple case. Prosecutors are expected to use a legal theory that has not been assessed in New York courts, raising the possibility that a judge could throw out or limit the charges. The episode has been examined by both the Federal Election Commission and federal prosecutors in New York; neither took action against Mr. Trump.”

Dissecting Charges That Could Arise From the Trump Investigations. Prosecutors in New York, Georgia, and the Justice Department face complex choices about what crimes to charge if they decide to indict Donald Trump. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Sunday, 19 March 2023: “Prosecutors like to say that they investigate crimes, not people. The looming decision by the Manhattan district attorney about whether to indict former President Donald J. Trump on charges related to an alleged hush money payment to a porn actress is highlighting the complexity of the legal calculations being made by prosecutors in New York, Georgia and the Justice Department as they examine Mr. Trump’s conduct on a number of fronts. The investigations — which also focus on Mr. Trump’s efforts to cling to power after the 2020 election and his handling of classified documents after leaving office — are confronting prosecutors with tough choices. They must decide whether and how to charge not just Mr. Trump, but also associates who could face jeopardy for actions to which he was not a direct party, like mail or wire fraud for communications that he did not participate in. The publicly known understanding of the evidence is incomplete. It is not clear, for example, in several instances what facts investigators have been able to gather about Mr. Trump’s personal knowledge, directions and intentions related to several of the matters. Here is a look at some of the criminal laws that different prosecutors appear to be weighing and how they might apply to Mr. Trump’s actions.”


Monday, 20 January 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Xi and Putin end initial meeting in Moscow and affirm ties amid Russia’s war on Ukraine, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Leo Sands, Kelly Kasulis Cho, Robyn Dixon, Lily Kuo, Miriam Berger, and Adam Taylor, Monday, 20 March 2023: “Chinese leader Xi Jinping arrived in Moscow on Monday for three days of talks, in the strongest show yet of support for Russia, and his first visit there, since its invasion of Ukraine last year. Beijing has billed the state visit as a peace mission, which comes as a welcome show of solidarity for an increasingly isolated Moscow. Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin are styling themselves as the leaders of a new world order — and their alignment is based largely on shared opposition to U.S. power. The talks began Monday at the Kremlin with an initial handshake between the two, who sat and held a brief exchange before the press. Putin praised Xi’s leadership and said he had ‘carefully studied’ Beijing’s proposals regarding peace in Ukraine. Beijing has portrayed itself as a neutral party and even potential peacemaker in the war, although its 12-point proposal for ending the conflict includes no demands for Moscow to withdraw its troops. The two leaders went on to speak for 4½ hours about relations between their countries and China’s plan for ending the war in Ukraine, according to Russian state media outlets. China’s leader is set to meet with Putin multiple times during the visit, according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov, who said Ukraine would ‘undoubtedly’ be one of the items on the pair’s agenda. Officials around the world are eyeing the trip for signs it could provide Putin with a morale boost and a tacit endorsement of his brutal war.

  • Chinese officials have remained tight-lipped on whether Xi will also speak to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky while on this week’s state visit, but Ukrainian officials have been signaling their willingness for such talks. ‘We expect Beijing to use its influence on Moscow to make it put an end to the aggressive war against Ukraine,’ Ukrainian Foreign Ministry spokesman Oleg Nikolenko told The Washington Post.
  • China has not formally endorsed Russia’s invasion but has stopped far short of condemning its aggression against Ukraine. In an article published in a Russian newspaper ahead of the visit, Xi said Beijing has ‘always taken an objective and impartial position’ on the conflict.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said at a news conference in Washington that Xi’s visit indicated an unwillingness to hold Russia to account for atrocities committed in Ukraine.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: As Xi and Putin Meet, U.S. Assails ‘Diplomatic Cover for Crimes. Three days after the International Criminal court accused President Vladimir Putin of Russia of war crimes in Ukraine, President Xi Jinping of China arrived in Moscow for a state visit. The New York Times, Anton Troianovski, Valerie Hopkins, and Carly Olson, Monday, 20 March 2023: “Xi Jinping, China’s leader, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia met face-to-face on Monday in Moscow, where Mr. Xi hailed the two nations as ‘good neighbors and reliable partners’ during a state visit that has been closely watched by Kyiv and its Western allies. While Chinese officials have attempted to cast Mr. Xi as a mediator who can broker a peaceful resolution in Ukraine, officials in the United States have been wary of China’s involvement. Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who previously warned that Beijing could provide weapons to Russia, said on Monday that the visit amounted to ‘diplomatic cover’ for Russian war crimes. Three days after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for Mr. Putin’s arrest, the Russian leader hosted Mr. Xi for more than four hours at the Kremlin. According to a summary of their meeting from Xinhua, China’s official news agency, Mr. Xi said his country was ‘willing to continue playing a constructive role in promoting a political settlement of the Ukraine issue.’ Kyiv and its allies have brushed off the Chinese proposal. Mr. Blinken said on Monday that any plan that did not include the removal of Russian forces from Ukraine ‘would recognize Russia’s attempts to seize a sovereign neighbor’s territory by force.’

Here are the latest developments:

  • Ukrainian officials made clear on Monday that they considered the idea of peace talks at the moment to be preposterous. ‘The first and main point is the capitulation or withdrawal of the Russian occupation troops,’ Oleksiy Danilov, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, said in a statement.

  • In Brussels, European Union defense and foreign ministers agreed to a plan to provide Ukraine with more artillery ammunition, which is badly needed as Kyiv prepares for an expected counteroffensive in the spring.

  • John Kirby, a White House spokesman, said there is no certainty about whether China will send arms to Russia as part of an alliance he called a ‘marriage of convenience.’ Arming the Russian military, he added, would run counter to Mr. Xi’s public pronouncements that the Chinese wanted a ‘peaceful’ end to the invasion.

  • Before hosting China’s leader, Mr. Putin made a point of showing that he was in control, traveling to Russian occupied territory of Ukraine for the first time since the invasion began. He made weekend visits to Crimea and the Ukrainian port city of Mariupol, which Russia captured after largely destroying it last year.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Xi Jinping visits Moscow to meet Putin, NPR, NPR Staff, Monday, 20 March 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: Chinese leader Xi Jinping is visiting Russia to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin. There are reports Xi may also hold a virtual meeting with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Turkey is due to ratify Finland’s bid to join NATO. Sweden is still waiting for Turkish approval. The International Monetary Fund made a rule change that could allow a reported multibillion dollar loan to Ukraine, which the war-battered country has been seeking. What happened last week: The International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Putin and his children’s rights commissioner, Maria Lvova-Belova. The court said the two are ‘allegedly responsible for the war crime of unlawful deportation’ and transfer of children from Ukraine to Russia. Putin made a surprise visit to Mariupol, a Russian-occupied city in eastern Ukraine that saw some of the war’s most intense fighting last year. Putin also visited Crimea to mark the ninth anniversary of the peninsula’s annexation from Ukraine, which most governments condemned and consider illegal. A Russian warplane collided with a U.S. drone, forcing the American uncrewed aircraft to crash into the Black Sea, the U.S. military said. U.S. officials said the drone was flying in international airspace when two Russian fighter jets intercepted it, one of them clipping the drone’s propeller. Russia’s government denied the collision but awarded the pilots of the two fighter jets. Poland and Slovakia will send MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine, the first NATO countries to answer Kyiv’s call for allies to share their warplanes to fight Russian forces. The U.S. has refused Ukraine’s request for F-16s. Russia and Ukraine extended the Black Sea Grain Initiative, a deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to safely ship Ukrainian grain and seed abroad, which was due to expire Saturday. The Russian offensive in Ukraine has slowed, failing to gain more than incremental territory in the first few months of the year, the U.S.-based Institute for the Study of War says. The British Defense Ministry said a Russian ammunition shortage has likely tightened the military’s rationing in many parts of the front. Leaders of Belarus and Iran hailed their countries’ ties in meetings in Tehran. Wedged between Ukraine and Russia, Belarus is a Kremlin ally and has followed its footsteps in warming up to China and Iran, which has supplied attack drones to Russia. Russia now has the lowest approval rating in America since Soviet times, with just 9% of the U.S. public surveyed saying they have a favorable view of the country, according to Gallup.”

Trump’s Georgia Lawyers Seek to Quash Special Grand Jury Report. In a new motion, the lawyers asked that the Fulton county district attorney’s office be disqualified from the investigation into election interference in the state in 2020. The New York Times, Richard Fausset, Monday, 20 March 2023: “As former President Donald J. Trump awaits a possible indictment in New York, his lawyers pushed back on Monday at another criminal investigation swirling around him in Georgia, filing a motion to quash the final report of a special grand jury that considered whether Mr. Trump and some of his allies interfered in the 2020 election results in the state. The motion, filed in Atlanta, also seeks to suppress any evidence or testimony derived from the special grand jury’s investigation, and it asks that the office of Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney, be disqualified from the case.” See also, Trump seeks to stave off another indictment–this time in Georgia. Trump’s attorney urged a state court in Georgia to prohibit an Atlanta-area district attorney there from filing charges related to the former president’s bid to subvert the 2020 election. Politico, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Monday, 20 March 2023: “As he prepares to face a likely indictment in Manhattan, former President Donald Trump moved Monday to stave off another one. In a 483-page filing, Trump’s attorney Drew Findling urged a state court in Georgia to prohibit an Atlanta-area district attorney there from filing charges related to Trump’s bid to subvert the 2020 election. The DA, Fani Willis, has spent the last year leading a ‘special purpose grand jury’ investigation into efforts by Trump to convince state officials to throw out Joe Biden’s victory in Georgia, as well as his broader efforts to subvert his defeat in the presidential election. The special grand jury proceedings, an unusual function of Georgia law, resulted in a still-secret report issued earlier this year. Though the panel had no power to issue indictments, Willis is expected to use the evidence the jurors gathered to seek charges via a traditional grand jury.”

Four People Who Marched With the Oath Keepers Militia on January 6 Were Convicted of Conspiracy to Obstruct the Work of Congress in Final Oath Keepers Trial. The verdicts came after earlier trials in which other members of the far-right pro-Trump militia were convicted of seditious conspiracy for their roles in the Capitol attack. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Zach Montague, Monday, 20 March 2023: “Four people who marched with the Oath Keepers militia into the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, were convicted on Monday of conspiracy to obstruct the work of Congress, bringing an end to the third and final trial examining the role that members of the far-right group played in the attack. The four defendants — Sandra Parker, Laura Steele, Connie Meggs and William Isaacs — were also found guilty of an array of other charges, including destruction of government property and conspiracy to prevent members of Congress from discharging their duties by certifying the results of the 2020 election. Two other people charged in the case — Ms. Parker’s husband, Bennie Parker, and Michael Greene, a close associate of Stewart Rhodes, the leader of the Oath Keepers — avoided conviction on conspiracy charges, but were both found guilty of illegally entering and remaining on the Capitol grounds. The verdicts, handed up after more than a week of deliberations in Federal District Court in Washington, followed the convictions at two separate trials of Mr. Rhodes and five other members of his group on charges of seditious conspiracy, the most significant count to have been brought so far against any of the 1,000 people arrested in connection with the Capitol attack. Mr. Rhodes and one of his top lieutenants, Kelly Meggs, the husband of Connie Meggs, were both found guilty of sedition at a trial that ended in November. In January, in another trial, four other Oath Keepers — Roberto Minuta, Joseph Hackett, David Moerschel and Edward Vallejo — were also convicted of sedition.” See also, Six people affiliated with the Oath Keepers convicted in Capitol riot, The Washington Post, Paul Duggan and Spencer S. Hsu, Monday, 20 March 2023: “Six people described by authorities as being affiliated with the right-wing extremist group the Oath Keepers were convicted Monday of numerous federal crimes related to the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol. After a trial in U.S. District Court in Washington, the jury returned a total of 27 guilty verdicts, with every defendant convicted of at least one charge and most found guilty of several offenses. In all, the defendants faced 34 charges stemming from the Capitol riot. The jury, which is continuing to deliberate, issued not guilty verdicts on five counts and has yet to reach decisions on two others. Four of the defendants were convicted of the most serious offense in the case, conspiring to obstruct an official proceeding. Theirs was the latest of several trials dealing with the militia group’s involvement in the Capitol mayhem.”

Fox News Producer Abby Grossberg Says She Was Set Up in Dominion Case. Grossberg said in a pair of lawsuits that the effort to place blame on her and Maria Bartiromo, the Fox Business host, was rooted in rampant misogyny and discrimination at the company. The New York Times, Nicholas Confessore and Katie Robertson, Monday, 20 March 2023: “A Fox News producer who has worked with the hosts Maria Bartiromo and Tucker Carlson filed lawsuits against the company in New York and Delaware on Monday, accusing Fox lawyers of coercing her into giving misleading testimony in the continuing legal battle around the network’s coverage of unfounded claims about election fraud. The producer, Abby Grossberg, said Fox lawyers had tried to position her and Ms. Bartiromo to take the blame for Fox’s repeated airing of conspiracy theories about Dominion Voting Systems and its supposed role in manipulating the results of the 2020 presidential election. Dominion has filed a $1.6 billion defamation suit against Fox. Ms. Grossberg said the effort to place blame on her and Ms. Bartiromo was rooted in rampant misogyny and discrimination at the network. The new lawsuits, coupled with revelations from the Dominion legal fight, shed light on the rivalries and turf battles that raged at Fox News in the wake of the 2020 election, as network executives fought to hold on to viewers furious at the top-rated network for accurately reporting on President Donald J. Trump’s defeat in Arizona, a crucial swing state.” See also, Fox News producer Abby Grossberg files explosive lawsuits against the network, alleging she was coerced into providing misleading Dominion testimony, CNN Business, Oliver Darcy, published on Tuesday, 21 March 2023: “A Fox News producer on Monday filed a pair of explosive lawsuits against the right-wing talk channel, alleging that the network’s lawyers coerced her into providing misleading testimony in Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation case against the company. The lawsuits filed by Abby Grossberg, who worked as a senior booking producer for Maria Bartiromo and most recently head of booking for Tucker Carlson, accused Fox’s legal team of having engaged in wrongful conduct as it prepared her for a pre-trial deposition in the election technology company’s case. The lawsuits from Grossberg, who has since been placed on administrative leave by Fox, were filed in Delaware Superior Court and the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York. Fox had filed for a restraining order against Grossberg Monday but dropped its lawsuit Tuesday.”

U.N. Panel Says World Has Less Than a Decade to Stop Catastrophic Warming. A new report says it is still possible to hold global warming to relatively safe levels, but doing so will require global cooperation, billions of dollars, and big changes. The New York Times, Brad Plumer, Monday, 20 March 2023: “Earth is likely to cross a critical threshold for global warming within the next decade, and nations will need to make an immediate and drastic shift away from fossil fuels to prevent the planet from overheating dangerously beyond that level, according to a major new report released on Monday. The report, by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, a body of experts convened by the United Nations, offers the most comprehensive understanding to date of ways in which the planet is changing. It says that global average temperatures are estimated to rise 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial levels sometime around ‘the first half of the 2030s,’ as humans continue to burn coal, oil and natural gas. That number holds a special significance in global climate politics: Under the 2015 Paris climate agreement, virtually every nation agreed to ‘pursue efforts’ to hold global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius. Beyond that point, scientists say, the impacts of catastrophic heat waves, flooding, drought, crop failures and species extinction become significantly harder for humanity to handle. But Earth has already warmed an average of 1.1 degrees Celsius since the industrial age, and, with global fossil-fuel emissions setting records last year, that goal is quickly slipping out of reach. There is still one last chance to shift course, the new report says. But it would require industrialized nations to join together immediately to slash greenhouse gases roughly in half by 2030 and then stop adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere altogether by the early 2050s. If those two steps were taken, the world would have about a 50 percent chance of limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius.” See also, U.N. climate change report says world is on brink of catastrophic warming. A dangerous climate threshold is near, bit ‘it does not mean we are doomed’ if swift action is taken, scientists say. The Washington Post, Sarah Kaplan, Monday, 20 March 2023: “The world is likely to pass a dangerous temperature threshold within the next 10 years, pushing the planet past the point of catastrophic warming — unless nations drastically transform their economies and immediately transition away from fossil fuels, according to one of the most definitive reports ever published about climate change. The report released Monday by the U.N. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) found that the world is likely to surpass its most ambitious climate target — limiting warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius (2.7 degrees Fahrenheit) above preindustrial temperatures — by the early 2030s. Beyond that threshold, scientists have found, climate disasters will become so extreme that people will not be able to adapt. Basic components of the Earth system will be fundamentally, irrevocably altered. Heat waves, famines and infectious diseases could claim millions of additional lives by century’s end.” See also, Scientists deliver ‘final warning’ on climate crisis: act now or it’s too late. Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report says only swift and drastic action can avert irrevocable damage to world. The Guardian, Fiona Harvey, Monday, 20 March 2023: “Scientists have delivered a ‘final warning’ on the climate crisis, as rising greenhouse gas emissions push the world to the brink of irrevocable damage that only swift and drastic action can avert. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), made up of the world’s leading climate scientists, set out the final part of its mammoth sixth assessment report on Monday. The comprehensive review of human knowledge of the climate crisis took hundreds of scientists eight years to compile and runs to thousands of pages, but boiled down to one message: act now, or it will be too late. The UN secretary general, António Guterres, said: ‘This report is a clarion call to massively fast-track climate efforts by every country and every sector and on every timeframe. Our world needs climate action on all fronts: everything, everywhere, all at once.'” See also, The U.N. Issues a Final Warning on the Climate–and a Plan. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (I.P.C.C) report contains no new data; nevertheless, it manages to alarm in new ways. The New Yorker, Elizabeth Kolbert, Monday, 20 March 2023: “The ‘window of opportunity to secure a liveable and sustainable future’ is ‘rapidly closing.’ So warns the United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change in its latest report, released on Monday. The findings in the document, officially known as the AR6 Synthesis Report, might be summed up as ‘Wake up! This is your last chance, humanity.’ According to the I.P.C.C., average global temperatures have already increased 1.1 degrees Celsius—two degrees Fahrenheit—from the late nineteenth century, and this is causing ‘widespread adverse impacts’ for people and for other living things. ‘Impacts on some ecosystems are approaching irreversibility,’ the report states. For every additional increment of warming, the chances of catastrophe will only increase, and the options for adaptation will contract. Climate-related and climate-unrelated disasters will begin to interact, resulting in risks that cascade ‘across sectors and regions.’ And those who are likely to suffer the most are those who have done the least to cause the problem. ‘Humanity is on thin ice, and that ice is melting fast,’ the United Nations Secretary-General, António Guterres, said in a video message released for the occasion.”


Tuesday, 21 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Xi and Putin sign agreements as Japan’s leader visits Ukraine, The Washington Post, Adela Suliman, Rachel Pannett, Andrew Jeong, Miriam Berger, Robyn Dixon, Natalia Abbakumova, and Sammy Westfall, Tuesday, 21 March 2023: “Chinese leader Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin for some three hours of formal talks at the Kremlin on Tuesday, the second day of a three-day visit. The leaders signed two agreements, one affirming their partnership and one setting out plans for economic cooperation, which they discussed at a joint news conference. They ended the night with a multicourse state dinner at the Kremlin. They did not announce any major progress toward peace in Ukraine. Beijing has portrayed itself as a potential negotiator, issuing a 12-point proposal for ending the conflict. Ukraine has dismissed the plan, which includes no demands for Moscow to withdraw its troops. Putin said at the news conference Tuesday that much of China’s plan for Ukraine correlated with Russia’s view, and could form the basis of a future peace agreement, but only if Kyiv and the West were ready. ‘However, we are seeing no such readiness,’ he said. Beijing has not yet indicated if a call between Xi and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is planned for the days ahead.

  • The visit, a show of Beijing’s support for Moscow as it struggles under Western sanctions and mounting international condemnation, is Xi’s first since the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Moscow has become increasingly dependent on Beijing to keep its economy afloat, as the war curbs its exports of oil and other commodities. On Tuesday, the countries agreed to proposals for expanding their natural gas trade and other economic ties.
  • Xi has invited Putin — whom Xi called his ‘dear friend’ upon arrival for the state visit — to visit China later this year. Putin and Xi appear to be positioning themselves as leaders of a new global order opposed to U.S. power. The White House has accused Xi of providing ‘diplomatic cover’ for Putin after the International Criminal Court issued a warrant for his arrest last week — a largely symbolic move, as Russia, like the United States, does not accept the court’s jurisdiction.
  • Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida arrived Tuesday in Kyiv to meet with Zelensky, becoming the first postwar Japanese leader to visit an active war zone and the final leader of the Group of Seven advanced nations to make the trek to Ukraine’s capital to show support. Kishida visited Bucha, the Ukrainian town where Russian forces killed scores of civilians and buried them in mass graves. ‘I really feel great anger at the atrocity upon visiting that very place here,’ he said in remarks, Reuters reported.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Xi and Putin Pledge to ‘Cooperate Closely’; Japan’s Leader Visits Ukraine. China’s leader, Xi Jinping, repeated Beijing’s established position on the war in Ukraine, suggesting there had been little progress on peace efforts during his state visit to Moscow. The New York Times, Victoria Kim, Amy Chang Chien, and Shashank Bengali, Monday, 21 March 2023: “China’s leader, Xi Jinping, and President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia on Tuesday declared an enduring economic partnership that could help insulate their nations from Western sanctions and other consequences of the war in Ukraine. The two leaders drew a sharp division between their countries and the West on the second day of Mr. Xi’s state visit to Moscow, outlining an economic order in line with their shared goal of counterbalancing United States and its Western allies. They signed 14 agreements of wide-ranging collaboration, from media enterprises to scientific research. And they promised to bring more Russian oil to China and more Chinese companies to Russia. On the same day, Japan’s prime minister made an unannounced visit to Kyiv, underscoring his alignment with much of the West in supporting Ukraine and highlighting the division between Asia’s two largest economies. China’s Foreign Ministry responded to Mr. Kishida’s visit by saying that Japan should ‘help de-escalate the situation instead of the opposite.’ While Mr. Xi and Mr. Putin had made only cursory public references to the war in Ukraine on Monday, China’s leader used a joint appearance with Mr. Putin on Tuesday to call again for peace talks to resolve the war, repeating a position that Kyiv’s Western allies have rejected as unworkable until Russia withdraws its troops.

Here are other developments:

  • Mr. Xi said he had invited Mr. Putin to visit China, underlining Beijing’s robust support just days after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for the Russian leader, accusing him of war crimes. On Monday, Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken said the visit amounted to ‘diplomatic cover for Russia to continue to commit’ war crimes in Ukraine.

  • An explosion on Monday night struck the city of Dzhankoi, a Russian military logistics hub in occupied Crimea. Ukraine did not directly claim responsibility, but military analysts said the city has long been in Kyiv’s sights as it plans a possible counteroffensive in the south.

  • Russian police officers searched the homes of eight employees of Memorial, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning human rights organization, in what activists say is part of a broader suppression of government critics. Last month, the Russian authorities began an investigation into some Memorial employees over what the authorities described as a ‘rehabilitation of Nazism.’

Special counsel claims Trump deliberately misled his attorneys about classified documents, judge wrote. The judge said there could be indications of criminal violations. ABC News, Katherine Faulders, Alexander Mallin, and Lucien Bruggeman, Tuesday, 21 March 2023: “Prosecutors in the special counsel’s office have presented compelling preliminary evidence that former President Donald Trump knowingly and deliberately misled his own attorneys about his retention of classified materials after leaving office, a top federal judge wrote Friday in a sealed filing, according to sources who described its contents to ABC News. U.S. Judge Beryl Howell, who on Friday stepped down as the D.C. district court’s chief judge, wrote last week that prosecutors in special counsel Jack Smith’s office had made a ‘prima facie showing that the former president had committed criminal violations,’ according to the sources, and that attorney-client privileges invoked by two of his lawyers could therefore be pierced. Trump has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing in his handling of classified documents. In her sealed filing, Howell ordered that Evan Corcoran, an attorney for Trump, should comply with a grand jury subpoena for testimony on six separate lines of inquiry over which he had previously asserted attorney-client privilege. Sources added that Howell also ordered Corcoran to hand over a number of records tied to what Howell described as Trump’s alleged ‘criminal scheme,’ echoing prosecutors. Those records include handwritten notes, invoices, and transcriptions of personal audio recordings. In reaching the so-called prima facie standard to pierce Corcoran’s privilege, Howell agreed prosecutors made a sufficient showing that on its face would appear to show Trump committed crimes. The judge made it clear that prosecutors would still need to meet a higher standard of evidence in order to seek charges against Trump, and more still to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. ‘It is a lower hurdle, but it is an indication that the government had presented some evidence and allegation that they had evidence that met the elements of a crime,’ Brandon Van Grack, a former top national security official in the Justice Department who is now in private practice, told ABC News.”

A ‘Rocking Chair Rebellion’: Seniors Call On Banks to Dump Big Oil. Older climate activists gathered in cities around the country for a day of action targeting banks that finance fossil fuel projects. The New York Times, Cara Buckley, Tuesday, 21 March 2023: “They were parents, grandparents, great-aunts and great-uncles, ranging in age from their 50s to their 80s and beyond, and together they braved frigid temperatures to protest all through the night, and to rock. Bundled in long johns, puffer coats, layered knit hats and sleeping bags, and fortified by cookies sent by courier from a sympathetic supporter, dozens of graying protesters sat in rocking chairs outside of four banks in downtown Washington for 24 hours, in a nationwide protest billed as the largest climate action ever undertaken by older folks. Calling themselves the Rocking Chair Rebellion, they were part of more than 100 climate actions staged across the country Tuesday by Third Act, a protest group for people aged 60 and older, co-founded by Bill McKibben, the author and climate campaigner. Their targets were Chase, the subsidiary of JP Morgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Citibank and Bank of America, the biggest investors in fossil fuel projects, according to a 2022 report by the Rainforest Action Network and other environmental groups. Collectively, the four banks have poured more than $1 trillion between 2016 and 2021 into oil and gas.” See also, Thousands Gather in Nationwide Protests Against Fossil Fuel Financing. Climate action advocates call on banks to stop investing trillions in fossil fuel companies. Sierra Club, Grace van Deelen, published on Wednesday, 22 March 2023: “Climate activists in over 100 cities held boisterous rallies in front of banks Tuesday to demand that top US lenders stop financing the expansion of the fossil fuel sector. Led by Third Act, a climate advocacy group for Americans aged 60 and older, protesters sang songs and cut up their credit cards to send a message to big banks that it’s time to, in their words, ‘stop funding fossil fuels.’ Since 2016, the world’s largest banks have invested a combined $4.6 trillion in the fossil fuel sector, which has allowed coal, oil, and gas companies to build new fossil fuel infrastructure, according to an analysis titled Banking on Climate Chaos, prepared by Rainforest Action Network, Oil Change International, and other groups. These investments threaten the rapid transition away from fossil fuels that the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says is necessary for a livable future. At the nationwide protests, customers of the largest US banks threatened to take their business elsewhere if the lenders continue to invest in fossil fuels. ‘They’re using your money to fund the climate crisis,’ said Monte Pearson, a Third Act member, to the crowd gathered in front of Chase Bank in Boston. Along with Wells Fargo, Citibank, and Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase is one of the four banks with the most money invested in the fossil fuel sector.”


Wednesday, 22 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Xi departs Russia with no clear progress on peace; Zelensky visits Bakhmut, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Adela Suliman, Miriam Berger, and Sammy Westfall, Wednesday, 22 March 2023: “Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on European governments to detain Russian President Vladimir Putin, under an arrest warrant issued earlier this month by the International Criminal Court, if he were to visit their countries. The warrant, connected to accusations of war crimes in Ukraine, is largely symbolic, as Russia, like the United States, does not accept the court’s jurisdiction, and Putin is not likely to travel anywhere he would be detained. Blinken’s remarks, in response to questions from lawmakers during a budget hearing, came after Chinese leader Xi Jinping departed Moscow, ending a three-day trip that underscored Beijing and Moscow’s desire to reshape the global order against Western power. He and Putin signed a series of agreements to expand trade and deepen strategic ties but offered little concrete progress on China’s pledge to promote peace in the Ukraine conflict. Xi said China has an ‘impartial position’ on the war in Ukraine. The United States has accused China of ‘parroting the Russian propaganda.’ Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Wednesday made a visit to the front line in Bakhmut, where Russian forces have almost encircled Ukrainian troops, cutting off major transport and supply lines. ‘It is an honor for me to support our warriors who are defending the country in the toughest frontline conditions,’ he said in his nightly address.

  • Kyiv has asked Beijing to endorse a Ukrainian peace formula to end the conflict, Zelensky told reporters alongside Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida, who was in Kyiv on Tuesday. The peace formula calls for the restoration of Ukraine’s internationally recognized borders and a withdrawal of Russian troops. Zelensky said he was still waiting for an answer from China.
  • Zelensky said Zaporizhzhia was under attack on Wednesday, after missiles hit a residential building. He tweeted a video appearing to show an apartment block near a mall on fire. ‘Right now, residential areas where ordinary people and children live are being fired at,’ he said. ‘The world needs greater unity and determination to defeat Russian terror faster and protect lives.’ The Washington Post could not independently verify the reports.
  • Zelensky vowed to ‘respond to the occupier for every attack on our cities,’ during his nightly address Wednesday. ‘All Russian strikes will receive a military, political and legal response,’ Zelensky said. ‘Every Russian murderer should understand that an arrest warrant is the best thing that can happen to them.’
  • Russia’s defense minister on Tuesday awarded Orders of Courage to the Russian Su-27 aircraft pilots who intercepted a U.S. spy drone over the Black Sea. The pilots ‘prevented the violation by the American MQ-9 unmanned aerial vehicle of the borders of the area of ​​​​the temporary regime for the use of airspace,’ the defense ministry said on Telegram. The ministry added that the U.S. drone ‘went into uncontrolled flight” as a result of “abrupt maneuvering.’
  • Nuclear safety at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant occupied by Russian forces remains ‘perilous,’ the International Atomic Energy Agency said in a statement Wednesday. The plant’s last remaining back up 330 kilovolt power line at the plant was damaged March 1 and remains disconnected and under repair, the agency said. The nuclear facility has since been relying on one 750 kV line for power.
  • Russia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Sergey Ryabkov said the risk of nuclear conflict is the highest it has been in decades. ‘I would not like to indulge in a discussion whether the probability of a nuclear conflict is high today, but in any case it is higher than anything that we have seen over the past decades, let’s put it this way,’ he said.
  • Prince William made a surprise trip to Poland, where he met with British and Polish troops near the Ukrainian border. He also visited a shelter housing refugees in Warsaw, commending the community and volunteers for welcoming the hundreds of Ukrainian women and children staying there.
  • Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki called Xi’s trip ‘very worrying,’ in a meeting Wednesday alongside Kishida in Warsaw. ‘The China-Moscow axis is dangerous,’ he said. Adding that a ‘new geopolitical order is being born before our eyes.’ Morawiecki said Western nations were working to ‘convince China not to support Russia in its aggressive international politics.’
  • Putin has criticized British plans to send tank ammunition to Ukraine that includes depleted uranium, valued for its ability to pierce armor. In another veiled threat about Russia’s own nuclear capabilities, he said Moscow will ‘respond accordingly’ if this happens, Reuters reported. British defense officials say uranium is a standard component for some of the ammunition it is sending Kyiv with its Challenger 2 battle tanks.
  • ‘This kind of ammunition is fairly commonplace and has been in use for decades,’ Pentagon spokesman John Kirby told reporters Wednesday. ‘I think what’s really going on here is Russia just doesn’t want Ukraine to continue to take out its tanks and render them inoperative. And if that’s really the concern, the Russians are very concerned about their tanks staying fully operational.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky Makes Morale-Building Visit to War Zone in East. The Ukrainian president’s trip to the front came as President Xi Jinping of China left Moscow after pledging an enduring partnership with President Vladimir Putin of Russia. The New York Times, Wednesday, 22 March 2023:

  • Zelensky visited troops near Bakhmut in the east, where fighting continues.
  • A Russian official says the risk of nuclear war with the U.S. is the highest in decades.
  • Britain’s Prince William thanks Poland’s president for supporting Ukraine.
  • Russian strikes hit an apartment complex and two college dormitories, killing 8.
  • Canada extends the deadline for Ukrainians to apply for a temporary visa program.
  • Russia decorates the fighter pilots who harassed a U.S. Reaper drone that went down in the Black Sea.
  • The I.M.F. agrees to a four-year loan package to help Ukraine.

Appeals Court Orders Trump Lawyer Evan Corcoran to Hand Over Records in Documents Inquiry. The ruling compelling Corcoran to turn over documents came after a lightning round of appeals court filings overnight. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Ben Protess, and Maggie Haberman, Wednesday, 22 March 2023: “A federal appeals court ruled on Wednesday that a lawyer representing former President Donald J. Trump in the investigation into his handling of classified material had to answer a grand jury’s questions and give prosecutors documents related to his legal work. The ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia was a victory for the special counsel overseeing the investigation and followed Mr. Trump’s effort to stop the lawyer, M. Evan Corcoran, from handing over what are likely to be dozens of documents to investigators. The behind-the-scenes fight shed new light on the efforts by prosecutors to assemble evidence about whether Mr. Trump committed a crime in defying the government’s efforts to reclaim classified materials he took after leaving the White House. The litigation — all of which has taken place behind closed doors or under seal — centers on whether prosecutors can force Mr. Corcoran to provide information on who knew what about the continued presence of classified material at Mar-a-Lago, Mr. Trump’s residence and private club in Florida, after the government had demanded its return last spring.” See also, Federal appeals court rules Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran must turn over evidence on classified documents. The court weighed in on the battle over whether Corcoran must provide notes, transcripts, and other documents. The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, Jacqueline Alemany, and Rachel Weiner, Wednesday, 22 March 2023: “A federal appeals court has ruled that a lawyer for Donald Trump must provide notes, transcripts and other evidence to prosecutors investigating how classified documents remained at the former president’s Mar-a-Lago home months after a subpoena to return all sensitive files, according to court records and people familiar with the matter. The panel of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit issued a brief order Wednesday afternoon directing the parties ‘to comply with the district court’s March 17, 2023, order to produce documents’ and ending an emergency hold on a ruling last week by a lower-court judge. Trump’s legal team had appealed that ruling, which said the lawyer, Evan Corcoran, must provide evidence to prosecutors because his legal services may have been used to facilitate a possible crime — obstruction of government attempts to recover highly sensitive documents — according to people familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sealed court proceedings.”

Thursday, 23 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: ICC (International Criminal Court) and Ukraine agree to open country office; European Union leaders discuss plans to pressure Russia, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Adela Suliman, Miriam Berger, and Sammy Westfall, Thursday, 23 March 2023: “Ukraine and the International Criminal Court signed an agreement to establish a country office in Ukraine on Thursday. The plan would see Ukraine join seven other ICC field offices, including in Mali and Georgia. ‘This is just a start, a strong start, and I’m convinced that we will not stop until all perpetrators of international crimes committed in Ukraine are brought to justice, independently of their political or military position,’ said Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin at the signing. Zelensky said the move would allow ‘international justice to be even more active’ in investigating Russia on Ukrainian soil. European Union leaders met in Brussels the same day for the first round of a two-day summit on topics including continued E.U. support for Ukraine and measures to increase pressure on Russia. U.N. chief Antonio Guterres is also in attendance. Since the war began, E.U. member states have made available about $73 billion to Ukraine, the bloc said, adding that it is ‘united in its solidarity with Ukraine and will stand by the country for as long as it takes.’ The leaders endorsed a previously approved European plan to send 1 million rounds of ammunition to Ukraine over the next year.

  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky toured the front-line region of Kherson in southern Ukraine on Thursday, following his visit to the heated conflict zone of Bakhmut a day before. He said in his nightly address that he saw more than 50 villages ‘almost completely destroyed,’ with some villages with 90 percent of their buildings ruined.
  • ‘I held a long meeting in Kherson with all those responsible for the region: for defense, for the social situation. We separately and carefully considered the energy situation, the issue of recovery,’ Zelesnky also said in his speech.
  • Ukraine would need $411 billion for reconstruction efforts, according to a new estimate from the World Bank. Direct damage in the country exceeds $135 billion, the joint study by the Ukrainian government, the European Commission and the United Nations found.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) called Russian President Vladimir Putin a ‘war criminal’ days after coming under fire, including from his own party, for dismissing the invasion of Ukraine as a ‘territorial dispute.’ In an interview with Piers Morgan, which Morgan teased in a New York Post column ahead of its airing, DeSantis said Putin should be held ‘accountable’ for the war.
  • Lawmakers in Sweden formally voted to allow the country to join NATO. ‘Sweden will be safer and more secure and we will be a security provider to the alliance,’ Foreign Minister Tobias Billström said in a tweet announcing the vote. Sweden applied for membership in the alliance in May. Its candidacy still requires final approval from NATO’s existing members.
  • Slovakia delivered four of its 13 pledged MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. The aircraft transfer was carried out by Ukrainian pilots along with help from the Slovak Air Force, the Slovakian defense ministry said on Facebook. ‘In time for spring, birds traditionally arrive in Ukraine…’ Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said on Twitter, thanking Slovakia for the jets.
  • Russia awarded medals to the two fighter pilots who dumped fuel on and then hit the propeller of a U.S. surveillance drone over the Black Sea, according to the Russian state news agency Tass. The White House recently released footage of the incident that appeared to refute the Kremlin’s claims that the United States was the aggressor. The Pentagon said this week that the United States would continue to conduct operations over the Black Sea.
  • The Embassy of Russia in the United States took a swipe at NSC’s Kirby on Thursday, saying: ‘The qualities of a boor and a hooligan are becoming a habit of official representatives in Washington.’ The comments came in response to what the Russian’s called Kirby’s own ‘offensive remarks’ about the Russian pilots who were honored for the Black Sea drone incident. Kirby the previous day had said, ‘If that’s bravery, then I guess they’ve got a different definition of it. It’s ludicrous.’ He said the pilot was ‘at worst, maliciously putting himself and U.S. property at great risk, and at best, just an idiot.’
  • Arresting Putin if he traveled abroad would be ‘a declaration of war against Russia,’ Russian Security Council Deputy Chairman Dmitry Medvedev said Thursday, according to state news agency Tass. The International Criminal Court last week issued an arrest warrant for the Russian president over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. Medvedev spoke in response to earlier comments by the German federal minister of justice that Berlin would be obliged to comply with the ICC if Putin were to visit. The warrant is considered largely unenforceable, as Russia does not accept the jurisdiction of the ICC.
  • Prince William, heir to the British throne, made a surprise visit to troops in Poland, according to Kensington Palace. William met with British and Polish troops and praised their ‘extraordinary work in support of Ukraine.’ He also visited Ukrainian refugee families staying in a shelter in Poland and said more needs to be done to address ‘the humanitarian crisis.’
  • Russia has invited Iran’s foreign minister to visit Moscow, the Kremlin said Thursday. Hossein Amirabdollahian will meet with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov, on Wednesday for negotiations and developments across the Middle East.
  • The U.S. Treasury Department has imposed more than 2,500 sanctions related to the Russian invasion, Secretary Janet L. Yellen said. ‘We have degraded the Kremlin’s ability to replace more than 9,000 pieces of heavy military equipment that it has lost on the battlefield,’ she said at a Senate subcommittee meeting. Some of the steps, she added, such as capping the price of Russian oil, have ‘cut into the Kremlin’s revenues.’
  • The International Olympic Committee cannot be a referee in global political disputes, said the president of its ruling body, Thomas Bach. He spoke in the wake of backlash for refusing to bar Russian and Belarusian athletes from the 2024 Games to be held in Paris. The remarks, reported by Reuters, were made at a political forum in Germany.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky Tours Kherson as Allies Send More Arms. For a second day, the Ukrainian president toured devastated cities near the front lines, while European Union leaders gave final approval to a plan to provide Kyiv a million artillery shells. The New York Times, Thursday, 23 March 2023:

  • Zelensky visits the Kherson region, his second straight day traveling near a frontline area.
  • A conference to help locate Ukraine’s abducted children is being organized, the E.U.’s top official says.
  • The world organization for track and field keeps its ban on Russia and Belarus, adding to Olympic debate.
  • Spain’s prime minister plans to visit Beijing for talks on China’s contentious peace proposal.
  • Ukraine’s recovery from a year of war will cost $411 billion, the World Bank says.
  • Slovakia makes its first delivery of pledged Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine.
  • E.U. leaders give final approval to sending a million artillery shells to Ukraine.

Prosecutor in Trump Hush-Money Case Fires Back at House Republicans. The office of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, said the committee chairmen’s attempts to intervene in the investigation were ‘unlawful.’ The New York Times, Luke Broadwater, Jonah E. Bromwich, and Ben Protess, Thursday, 23 March 2023: “When Donald J. Trump declared over the weekend that the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, was about to have him arrested, he called for his supporters to ‘PROTEST.’ Instead, it was Republican leaders who hurried to the former president’s defense. Among them were three powerful congressional Republicans who sent a letter demanding that Mr. Bragg provide them with communications, documents and testimony about his inquiry, which is expected to result in criminal charges against Mr. Trump. On Thursday, Mr. Bragg pushed back forcefully against that demand, which his office called an inappropriate attempt by Congress to impede a local prosecution. ‘The letter’s requests are an unlawful incursion into New York’s sovereignty,’ the district attorney’s general counsel, Leslie Dubeck, said. Prosecutors are typically barred from sharing information about an active investigation with third parties, and Ms. Dubeck noted in her letter that such information was ‘confidential under state law.’ Mr. Bragg’s office is investigating the role Mr. Trump played in a hush-money payment to a porn star, and there have been several signals that the prosecutors are nearing an indictment. Still, the exact timing remains unknown.” See also, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg rebuffs Republicans’ demand for documents related to Trump investigation, The New York Times, Amy B Wang and Shayna Jacobs, Thursday, 23 March 2023: “Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Thursday emphatically rebuffed a House Republican demand for documents and testimony related to his office’s investigation of former president Donald Trump, saying the request was ‘an unprecedented inquiry into a pending local prosecution.’ On Tuesday, Rep. Jim Jordan (R-Ohio), chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, sent a letter to Bragg demanding materials related to his investigation into alleged hush-money payments from Trump to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. Jordan also accused Bragg of an ‘unprecedented abuse of prosecutorial authority,’ an escalation of the standoff between the district attorney’s office and Trump’s House Republican allies. The demand by Jordan and other GOP lawmakers came after Trump claimed over the weekend that he would be arrested in the coming days and called on his supporters to protest. The Manhattan grand jury weighing possible criminal charges against Trump will not consider the matter again until at least Monday, according to two people familiar with the situation, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss secret grand jury proceedings. On his Truth Social platform, Trump has kept up a steady stream of attacks on Bragg in all-caps-heavy posts, calling him an ‘animal’ and demanding his removal from office. In a letter to Jordan and others Thursday, Bragg’s office said their request ‘treads into territory very clearly reserved to the states’— and noted that it had only come after Trump had ‘created a false expectation that he would be arrested … and his lawyers reportedly urged you to intervene.'”

Woman Who Stormed Nancy Pelosi’s Office on January 6 Is Sentenced to Three Years. Prosecutors said that Riley June Williams, 24, had acted as an ‘accelerant’ in the Capitol attack, leading those around her past police lines and into the speaker’s office. The New York Times, Zach Montague, Thursday, 23 March 2023: “A Pennsylvania woman who steered a group of rioters toward Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s office on Jan. 6, 2021, and directed others inside the Capitol to steal a laptop computer was sentenced in Federal District Court in Washington on Thursday to three years in prison. The woman, Riley June Williams, 24, was convicted in November of several charges including felony civil disorder and impeding officers trying to defend the Capitol Rotunda. The jury deadlocked on whether she had played a role in the theft of the computer, which Ms. Pelosi used for Zoom calls during the coronavirus pandemic, and whether her actions amounted to obstruction of Congress’s certification of the 2020 electoral vote.”

In Trump Rape Case, Jurors Will Be Kept Anonymous to Protect Them. A judge said that they could become victims of ‘harassment or worse’ from supporters of the former president as he faces a lawsuit by the writer E. Jean Carroll. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser, Thursday, 23 March 2023: “A Manhattan judge ruled on Thursday that jurors hearing a trial next month involving a rape allegation against former President Donald J. Trump will be kept anonymous because of concern they could become victims of ‘harassment or worse’ by Mr. Trump’s supporters. The judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court, issued his ruling in a lawsuit filed by E. Jean Carroll, a writer who has accused Mr. Trump of raping her in a dressing room at the luxury department store Bergdorf Goodman in the mid-1990s. Mr. Trump has denied the allegation, saying Ms. Carroll was ‘totally lying,’ and that he had never met her. He also claimed he could not have raped her because she was not his ‘type.’ Judge Kaplan, in ordering an anonymous jury and other steps to protect jurors from outside pressure, cited Mr. Trump’s calls last week for ‘protest’ and for people to ‘take our nation back’ after news reports indicated that his indictment was imminent in an investigation by the Manhattan district attorney into the role Mr. Trump played in a hush-money payment to a porn star. ‘That reaction reportedly has been perceived by some as incitement to violence,’ Judge Kaplan wrote. He noted Mr. Trump had repeatedly attacked courts, judges, law enforcement officials and even individual jurors in other matters. He cited, for example, Mr. Trump’s critical statements on social media about the forewoman of a special grand jury in Atlanta, Georgia, where the former president has faced an investigation into possible election interference. Judge Kaplan said he could not ignore the ‘significant risk’ that jurors in Ms. Carroll’s case ‘will be affected by concern that they could be targeted for unwanted media attention, outside pressure, and retaliation and harassment from persons unhappy with any verdict that might be returned.'”


Friday, 24 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.N. report details killing of prisoners of war; European allies promise more artillery, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Adela Suliman, and Adam Taylor, Friday, 24 March 2023: “U.N. human rights monitors have found evidence of dozens of summary killings of Ukrainian and Russian prisoners of war, as well as other potential war crimes, they told reporters on Friday. At a briefing in Kyiv, Matilda Bogner, the head of the U.N. monitoring mission, told reporters that while ill-treatment took place on both sides, the group’s research had found it was far more common against Ukrainians than against Russians. Bogner also said investigators had documented 133 victims of conflict-related sexual violence, with more than 4 out of 5 cases attributable to Russian perpetrators. European Union leaders promised to jointly deliver 1 million rounds of artillery ammunition to Ukraine in the next year. They said at a leaders’ summit that they would also provide missiles upon Kyiv’s request, without specifying what type, adding that E.U. member states have made available about $73 billion to Ukraine since the war began. Member state Slovakia, meanwhile, has delivered four of the 13 MiG-29 fighter jets it has pledged to Ukraine, its defense minister said.

  • President Biden is expected to discuss defense spending and the war in Ukraine with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during meetings Friday in Ottawa, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters. Canada, a NATO member, has committed around $730 million in military assistance to Ukraine, its government says.
  • Russia will not partake in ‘Earth Hour’ this year, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday. The annual climate event calls on cities to switch off nonessential lights for one hour on Saturday evening and encourages people to take positive climate steps. It’s organized by the nonprofit World Wildlife Fund, which Moscow this month designated a ‘foreign agent.’ The Kremlin did not provide any justification for the move, Reuters reported, but critics say the ‘foreign agent’ designation is an attempt to crush dissent.
  • Ukraine’s victory over Russia could occur ‘this year,’ Zelensky told the European Council by video link Thursday, provided there areno delays or stagnation’ in defense cooperation. He added that delays in the supply of weapons including longer-range missiles were hampering Ukrainian troops on the battlefield.
  • The International Criminal Court signed an agreement to establish a country office in Ukraine, a week after the ICC issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin on charges of sending Ukrainian children to Russia. Zelensky said the move would allow ‘international justice to be even more active’ in investigating Russia on Ukrainian soil. Russia, like the United States, does not accept the ICC’s jurisdiction.
  • Nordic countries announced that they plan a joint air defense that would counter the rising threat from Russia. Air force commanders from Sweden, Norway, Finland and Denmark signed a letter of intent to form the united air defense, which would operate under NATO, last week at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. ‘Our combined fleet can be compared to a large European country,’ commander of the Danish air force, Major General Jan Dam, told Reuters.
  • The World Athletic Council reinstated the Russian athletic federation after a seven-year suspension due to doping violations, but it said Friday that Russian athletes are still excluded from competition due to the invasion of Ukraine. The decision to exclude Russian and Belarusian athletes as well as support personnel and officials from competitive events was made in March 2022.
  • The E.U. wants to help return some 16,200 Ukrainian children who were ‘abducted’ to Russia, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said Thursday, adding that about 300 children have been returned so far. The E.U. hopes to ‘pull together international pressure to take all possible measures to establish the whereabouts of these children,’ she added. The United States has also accused Russia of illegally sending hundreds of thousands of Ukrainians to Russia and forcibly separating children from their families.
  • Arresting Putin on a visit abroad would amount to declaring a ‘war against Russia,’ Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chairman of the Russian Security Council, said Thursday, according to state news agency Tass. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said earlier this week that European countries should detain Putin and hand him over to the ICC if he visits. Germany’s federal minister of justice said it would do so, while Hungary would not, Prime Minister Viktor Orban’s chief of staff said Thursday.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Senators Ask U.S. to Share Evidence of War Crimes With the International Criminal court (I.C.C.). A bipartisan group said it was time for the U.S. government to honor a law that was changed to allow greater cooperation with the court’s investigations arising from Russia’s war in Ukraine. The New York Times, Friday, 24 March 2023:

  • The Treasury Department imposes new sanctions aimed at Belarusian officials.
  • The U.N. says at least 40 prisoners of war have been executed after capture in Ukraine.
  • Biden and Trudeau show a united front against Russia’s war and China’s rising influence.
  • Wagner’s leader signals no letup in Bakhmut, even as Ukraine says his forces are ‘exhausted.’
  • The I.C.C.’s Ukraine field office will facilitate war crimes investigations.
  • Ukraine pushes for phone talks between Zelensky and China’s leader.
  • Ukraine says 3,500 people still in Bakhmut ‘refuse to leave.’
  • The world organization for track and field keeps its ban on Russia and Belarus, adding to Olympic debate.

Trump, Escalating Attacks, Raises Specter of Violence if He Is Charged. In an overnight post, the former president warned of ‘potential death and destruction’ if he is indicted. Hours later, the Manhattan district attorney’s office received a threatening letter. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Jonah E. Bromwich, and William K. Rashbaum, Friday, 24 March 2023: “In an overnight social media post, former President Donald J. Trump predicted that ‘potential death and destruction’ may result if, as expected, he was charged by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, in connection with hush-money payments to a porn star made during the 2016 presidential campaign. Hours later, the district attorney’s office discovered a threatening letter addressed to Mr. Bragg containing white powder — later determined not to be dangerous — in its mailroom. The comments from Mr. Trump, made between 1 a.m. and 2 a.m. on his social media site, Truth Social, were a stark escalation in his rhetorical attacks on Mr. Bragg ahead of a likely indictment on charges that Mr. Trump said would be unfounded. ‘What kind of person,’ Mr. Trump wrote of Mr. Bragg, ‘can charge another person, in this case a former president of the United States, who got more votes than any sitting president in history, and leading candidate (by far!) for the Republican Party nomination, with a crime, when it is known by all that NO crime has been committed, & also that potential death & destruction in such a false charge could be catastrophic for our country? Why & who would do such a thing? Only a degenerate psychopath that truely hates the USA!’ the former president wrote.” See also, Trump warns of ‘potential death & destruction’ if he’s charged in hush-money case, The Washington Post, John Wagner and Hannah Allam, Friday, 24 March 2023: “Former president Donald Trump warned early Friday of ‘potential death & destruction’ if he is charged in Manhattan in a criminal case related to alleged hush-money payments to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels to conceal an affair. The posting after midnight on Truth Social, Trump’s social media platform, was his latest — and most explicit — allusion to violence that could follow an indictment stemming from an investigation led by Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg (D), whom Trump called a ‘degenerate psychopath.'”

Trump lawyer Evan Corcoran appears before Mar-a-Lago grand jury in D.C. Appearance follows an appeals court victory for prosecutors seeking evidence from the former president’s lawyer in the classified-documents case. The Washington Post, Perry Stein, Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, and Jacqueline Alemany, Friday, 24 March 2023: “A key lawyer for Donald Trump appeared Friday before a federal grand jury investigating whether the former president sought to keep top-secret documents in his home — testimony that capped an ultimately losing effort by Trump’s legal team to prevent prosecutors from reviewing the lawyer’s notes and other documents in the case. Shortly before 9 a.m., Evan Corcoran strode into the federal courthouse in D.C., where judges had previously ruled he could not use attorney-client privilege to shield his material from investigators. He left about 12:20 p.m. Both Corcoran and his lawyer, Michael Levy — who accompanied his client to the courthouse but is not allowed to enter the grand jury room with him — declined to comment to waiting reporters. U.S. District Judge Beryl Howell ruled last week that there was evidence suggesting Trump misled his lawyers in the course of the classified-documents investigation, and therefore prosecutors were allowed to review the evidence, according to people familiar with the case who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive legal issues.” See also, Trump attorney Evan Corcoran appears before grand jury in Mar-a-Lago classified documents probe, CNN Politics, Katelyn Polantz, Sara Murray, and Kaitlan Collins, Friday, 24 March 2023: “Evan Corcoran, Donald Trump’s primary defense attorney, appeared Friday before a federal grand jury in Washington, where he was expected to answer questions in the classified documents probe that the former president unsuccessfully fought to hold back. His appearance before the grand jury has the potential to make or break the special counsel’s investigation into the handling of classified records at Mar-a-Lago and possible obstruction of justice when the federal government tried to get the documents back. Corcoran has been told by the federal court he cannot withhold information any longer about communications he had with Trump, his client, leading up to the FBI search of Mar-a-Lago last summer. He was also ordered earlier this week to turn over notes he had considered to be his written work as an attorney in the probe. Corcoran would have had a window into many of the moments where Trump and his team were responding to the federal government’s efforts to get classified documents back.”

Mark Meadows and other top Trump aides ordered to testify in January 6 investigation as judge rejects claims of executive privilege. Trump’s attorneys had challenged the subpoenas by asserting executive privilege. ABC News, John Santucci, Katherine Faulders, and Jonathan Karl, Friday, 24 March 2023: “A federal judge has rejected former President Donald Trump’s claims of executive privilege and has ordered Mark Meadows and other former top aides to testify before a federal grand jury investigating Trump’s efforts to overturn the election leading up to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, multiple sources familiar with the matter tell ABC News. Meadows, Trump’s former chief of staff, was subpoenaed along with the other former aides by Special counsel Jack Smith for testimony and documents related to the probe. Trump’s legal team had challenged the subpoenas by asserting executive privilege, which is the right of a president to keep confidential the communications he has with advisers.” See also, Former Trump Officials Must Testify in 2020 Election Inquiry, Judge Says. The ruling paves the way for testimony from Mark Meadows and others. Separately, a Trump lawyer appeared before a grand jury looking into the former president’s handling of classified documents. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Alan Feuer, Friday, 24 March 2023: “A federal judge has ruled that a number of former officials from President Donald J. Trump’s administration — including his former chief of staff, Mark Meadows — cannot invoke executive privilege to avoid testifying to a grand jury investigating Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The recent ruling by Judge Beryl A. Howell paves the way for the former White House officials to answer questions from federal prosecutors, according to two people briefed on the matter. Judge Howell ruled on the matter in a closed-door proceeding in her role as chief judge of the Federal District Court in Washington, a job in which she oversaw the grand juries taking testimony in the Justice Department’s investigations into Mr. Trump. Judge Howell’s term as chief judge ended last week. The existence of the sealed ruling was first reported by ABC News.”

Saturday, 25 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Putin says Russia is boosting tank production; Ukraine is frustrated by U.N. human rights report, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Adela Suliman, Francesca Ebel, Kyle Rempfer, and Missy Ryan, Saturday, 25 March 2023: “Russian President Vladimir Putin promised Saturday to bolster his tank supply over the next three years, boasting that Moscow’s fleet would eventually exceed Ukraine’s by three times. Putin’s comments follow reports of Russia’s mounting tank losses on the battlefield. Putin also told state media station Russia 24 that the Kremlin would store tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. U.S. officials said Saturday evening that they had seen reports of Russia’s announcement and were monitoring the implications. ‘We have not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture nor any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,’ said National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson. Meanwhile, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry expressed frustration at U.N. human rights monitors after they reported that Kyiv and Moscow had committed rights violations against civilians and prisoners of war. Ukraine considers ‘it unacceptable to place responsibility on the victim of aggression,’ the ministry said Friday in a statement.

  • Moscow plans to produce or upgrade more than 1,600 tanks in three years, Putin said in an interview that aired Saturday on Russian state TV. He said that while Western governments — which he dubbed ‘arsonists’ — planned to deliver more than 400 tanks to Kyiv, Russia would upgrade and produce more than 1,600 new tanks. The Pentagon announced this week that it will expedite its M1 Abrams shipments to Ukraine, and European allies are sending Leopard battle tanks.
  • Putin’s comments follow reports of mounting Russian losses, as well as shortages of weapons and armor. Russia may be bringing Stalin-era tanks out of storage — some more than 70 years old — according to researchers. Western intelligence has also said that Moscow’s tank losses are increasing, with one analysis group estimating that Russia may have lost more than 2,000 tanks since the beginning of its invasion. Ukraine is awaiting deliveries of Leopard battle tanks from European allies and M1 Abrams tanks from the United States.
  • The Kremlin has moved 10 nuclear-capable warplanes to Belarus, Putin said in the Russia 24 interview. He claimed that the move doesn’t violate nonproliferation promises because it is not transferring their ownership. He likened the strategy to the U.S. practice of stationing weapons in European nations.
  • Russia and Belarus have talked about putting nuclear-capable assets in Belarus for some time, according to a State Department spokesperson who spoke on condition of anonymity under ground rules set by the department. The move could be political signaling on Belarus Freedom Day, which is celebrated by the opposition to Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko, the spokesperson said. The move also comes one day after the United States took action to impose sanctions and visa bans on Belarusian officials.
  • The U.N. monitoring mission in Ukraine had found proof of summary killings, sexual violence and torture against prisoners of war and civilians, it said, and Russia had carried out the great majority of violations. ‘The cruelty and large-scale impact on civilians that we have seen over the last year will continue, unless both parties to the conflict ensure full compliance with international humanitarian law,’ Matilda Bogner, the head of the mission, said.
  • The U.N. International Atomic Energy Agency’s top official will visit Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant next week to get a first-hand view of the facility. ‘The nuclear safety and security dangers are all too obvious, as is the necessity to act now to prevent an accident,” IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement Saturday. It will be the second time Grossi visits the site and the first since a permanent presence of IAEA experts was established there in September last year.
  • U.N. human rights monitors said most of the human rights violations they documented were committed by Russian forces. Russia committed 621 cases of enforced disappearances and arbitrary detentions of civilians, while Ukraine committed 91, they said. They also alleged that Russia was responsible for 109 cases of sexual violence, and Ukraine for 24. Brutal treatment of prisoners of war is common on both sides, the mission said.
  • Canada and the United States pledge to keep the ‘torch of liberty burning brightly’ for Ukraine, President Biden said in an address to the Canadian parliament in Ottawa on Friday. Biden said both nations had sent military hardware to Ukraine and imposed economic sanctions on Moscow, ‘denying Russia critical inputs for its war machine.’ He also praised Canada for taking in Ukrainian refugees and for its ‘strong and united’ commitment to NATO, along with the United States.
  • U.S. prosecutors accused a Russian national of espionage and wire fraud, among other charges. Sergey Vladimirovich Cherkasov used a Brazilian alias to study at an unidentified American university in Washington D.C., obtain a driver’s license in Virginia and make connections with ‘persons of interest,’ before unsuccessfully trying to get a job at the International Criminal Court in April 2022, prosecutors said. He was arrested in Brazil for fraud charges.
  • China’s peace proposals show it’s not fully aligned with Russia, said the European Union’s foreign policy chief, Josep Borrell. Beijing wanted to be a ‘facilitator’ rather than a mediator, he said, but also expressed skepticism at China’s 12-point plan, largely viewed as inadequate by the West. Borrell’s comments follow a high-profile state visit to Moscow by China’s President Xi Jinping. The focus on an economic rather than a military partnership showed there remained ‘some limits’ to Moscow and Beijing’s ties, he added.
  • Denmark, Finland, Norway and Sweden agreed to strengthen joint air defenses against Russia. The four countries’ air forces will ultimately aim to operate as one by integrating command and control, conducting combined airspace surveillance and joint training, according to a news release.
  • Charged with war crimes by the ICC, Putin must limit travel to avoid arrest, reports The Washington Post. Some 123 countries are parties to the U.N. treaty that underpins the International Criminal Court and are in theory obligated to detain him — making much of the globe off-limits to the Russian president. The Kremlin said Friday no decisions had been made on whether Putin would attend an August summit in South Africa, a country reportedly seeking legal advice on the matter.

Trump Puts His Legal Peril at the Center of First Big Rally for 2024. Facing a potential indictment, the former president devoted much of his speech in Waco, Texas, to criticizing the justice system, though his attacks were less personal and caustic than in recent days. The New York Times, Michael C. Bender and Shane Goldmacher, Saturday, 25 March 2023: “Former President Donald J. Trump spent much of his first major political rally of the 2024 campaign portraying his expected indictment by a New York grand jury as a result of what he claimed was a Democratic conspiracy to persecute him, arguing wildly that the United States was turning into a ‘banana republic.’ As a crowd in Waco, Texas, waved red-and-white signs with the words ‘Witch Hunt’ behind him, Mr. Trump devoted long stretches of his speech to his own legal jeopardy rather than his vision for a second term, casting himself as a victim of ‘weaponization’ of the justice system. ‘The abuses of power that we’re currently witnessing at all levels of government will go down as among the most shameful, corrupt and depraved chapters in all of American history,’ he said. The speech underscored how Mr. Trump tends to frame the nation’s broader political stakes heavily around whatever issues personally affect him the most. Last year, he sought to make his lies about fraud in his 2020 election defeat the most pressing issue of the midterms. On Saturday, he called the ‘weaponization of our justice system’ the ‘central issue of our time.’ Lamenting all the investigations he has faced in the last eight years that have — to date — not resulted in charges, Mr. Trump claimed that his legal predicament ‘probably makes me the most innocent man in the history of our country.'” See also, Trump casts 2024 contest in apocalyptic terms and slams prosecutors, Reuters, Nathan Layne, Saturday, 25 March 2023: “Donald Trump used his first election rally in Waco, Texas, to cast the 2024 presidential vote in apocalyptic terms, slam his leading Republican rival Ron DeSantis and rail against prosecutors pursuing him with criminal investigations he likened to a ‘Stalinist Russia horror show.’ Speaking to several thousand of his diehard supporters, some flashing signs saying ‘WITCH HUNT,’ Trump spent much of his nearly two-hour speech attacking the multiple investigations that have put him in legal peril as politically motivated. Without offering evidence, the leading candidate for the Republican Party nomination accused the administration of Democratic President Joe Biden of orchestrating his criminal prosecution to undermine his bid for the White House.” See also, Trump describes 2024 election as ‘the final battle from podium in Waco. The former president honoured January 6 rioters and delivered violent rhetoric in rally at Texas city during anniversary of Branch Davidian massacre. The Guardian, David Smith, Saturday, 25 March 2023: “Donald Trump, the former US president, continued to invoke retribution and violence on Saturday when he used the first rally of his 2024 election campaign to rail against prosecutors weighing a criminal charge against him. Efforts by Trump’s team to steer a more conventional, disciplined candidacy have wilted in recent days as the 76-year-old unleashed words and images that – even by his provocative standards – are unusually dehumanising, menacing and dangerous. He opened the rally by playing a song, ‘Justice for All,’ that features a choir of men imprisoned for their role in the January 6 insurrection singing the national anthem intercut with Trump reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. Trump stood solemnly on a podium with hand on heart and footage from the Capitol riot was shown on big screens and US flags billowed in the wind.”

Sunday, 26 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: NATO slams Russia’s nuclear rhetoric; European Union threatens Belarus with sanctions, The Washington Post, Bryan Pietsch, Jennifer Hassan, and Sammy Westfall, Sunday, 26 March 2023: “NATO called Russia’s nuclear rhetoric ‘dangerous and irresponsible’ on Sunday after Moscow said it planned to store tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, which shares a long border with northern Ukraine. Oana Lungescu, a spokesperson for the military alliance, said that it was ‘closely monitoring the situation’ as both NATO and the United States said there was no reason to change their nuclear posture. The State Department said the United States is ‘committed to the collective defense of the NATO alliance,’ noting that NATO is a ‘defensive Alliance which does not seek confrontation and poses no threat to any country.’ European Union foreign policy chief Josep Borrell said Sunday that if Belarus agreed to host Russian nuclear weapons, it would be a ‘threat to European security. The EU stands ready to respond with further sanctions,’ Borrell said on Twitter. Ukraine’s foreign affairs ministry called for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to ‘counter the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail.’

  • The United States has ‘not seen any reason to adjust our own strategic nuclear posture’ after Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview that aired Saturday on Russian state TV that the Kremlin would store tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. The United States has not seen ‘any indications Russia is preparing to use a nuclear weapon,’ said Vedant Patel, a State Department spokesman.
  • Putin’s statement on nuclear weapons shows that he ‘admits that he is afraid of losing & all he can do is scare with tactics,’ Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said on Twitter. Putin is ‘too predictable,’ Podolyak added.
  • Russia has taken ‘Belarus as a nuclear hostage,’ the secretary of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, said on Twitter on Sunday. He said the move was ‘a step towards the internal destabilization of the country.’
  • Lithuania’s foreign ministry said the actions of the ‘two unpredictable dictatorial regimes’ are ‘dragging Belarus further into the war.’ In a Sunday statement, the ministry said it would call for new sanctions.
  • Putin likened the move to the United States’ positioning of weapons in Europe. The United States was estimated in 2021 to have about 100 nuclear weapons stored in vaults across Europe, according to the Center for Arms Control and Non-Proliferation. Construction on the warehouse in Belarus set to house the Russian weaponry will be completed by July 1, Putin said, according to Reuters.
  • Putin also said: ‘We are not creating a military alliance with China,’ adding that Beijing and Moscow were ‘working together in military-technical cooperation.’
  • ‘I can’t go back now,’ former Russian state TV journalist Marina Ovsyannikova said from Paris, when asked by the BBC on Sunday if she would ever return to Russia. Ovsyannikova made headlines last year after she publicly protested Russia’s invasion live on air, causing her to be fined and placed under house arrest for allegedly spreading fake news about the military — which can carry a sentence of up to 10 years. In October, the 44-year-old escaped and fled the country.
  • New Zealand’s foreign minister warned China against providing lethal aid to Russia. On a visit to Beijing, Nanaia Mahuta cautioned her Chinese counterpart against providing such materials to Moscow for Russia’s ‘illegal invasion’ of Ukraine, the Associated Press reported, citing a readout from New Zealand’s Foreign Ministry.
  • In a call with Putin, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan called for an ‘immediate’ end to the war in Ukraine. The two discussed the ‘latest developments’ in the war during a call, the Turkish government said. Erdogan emphasized the importance of ending the conflict through negotiations. Ankara has positioned itself as a mediator in the war.


Monday, 27 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia says Western sanctions won’t stop it from moving tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus, The Washington Post, Paulina Villegas, Adam Taylor, and Kate Brady, Monday, 27 March 2023: “Western sanctions will not deter Moscow from carrying out plans of moving tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus, the Kremlin said Monday. The European Union threatened to impose sanctions on Belarus after Russia announced it would store the weapons in the Kremlin-aligned country, which shares a long border with northern Ukraine. In Zaporizhzhia, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky met with Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency. They discussed the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant and heavy fighting in its vicinity that has raised concerns about a potential radioactive disaster. They also visited a hydroelectric station on the Dnieper River that helps maintain operations at the plant. In a nightly address Zelensky said Russia has held the power plant hostage for more than a year and continues to use it for ‘radiation blackmail of the world.’ The longer the Russian occupation of the plant continues, ‘the greater will be the threat to the security of Ukraine, the whole of Europe and the world,’ he said.

  • ‘Russia’s plans certainly cannot be affected by such a reaction,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Monday when asked about the Western reaction to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s announcement over the weekend on moving nuclear weapons to Belarus.
  • Nikolai Patrushev, head of the Russian Security Council, said Monday that Russia has ‘advanced unique weapons to eliminate any adversary,’ and he accused NATO nations of providing Kyiv with weapons and intelligence. Patrushev said in an interview with state-run Rossiyskaya Gazeta that it was ‘dangerous’ and ‘shortsighted foolishness’ for American officials to believe that, in case of direct conflict with Russia, the United States ‘can deliver a preemptive missile strike’ and that ‘Russia won’t be able to retaliate.’
  • The European Union’s foreign policy chief said the bloc ‘stands ready to respond with further sanctions’ if Belarus hosts Russian tactical nuclear arms. Josep Borrell called the plan a ‘threat to European security,’ though European and U.S. officials played down any immediate risk. ‘Belarus can still stop it; it is their choice,’ Borrell said.
  • Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry called for an urgent meeting of the U.N. Security Council to counter what it described as ‘the Kremlin’s nuclear blackmail.’
  • NATO called Russia’s nuclear rhetoric ‘dangerous and irresponsible’ and said it was ‘closely monitoring the situation.’
  • Grossi plans to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant this week for the second time since the IAEA installed a permanent crew there in September, according to a statement issued Saturday. ‘The situation at the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Plant is still precarious,’ Grossi said in the statement.
  • The actions of the ‘two unpredictable dictatorial regimes’ led by Putin and Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko are ‘dragging Belarus further into the war,’ Lithuania’s Foreign Ministry said. The country, an E.U. member, will call for new sanctions, it said in a statement.
  • Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said he is ‘cautiously optimistic’ about support from U.S. Republicans for Ukraine and minimized concerns that GOP support could falter. Morawiecki told the Financial Times that his meetings last month with Republican and Democratic lawmakers convinced him that the two parties were aligned on Ukraine.
  • About 71 percent of Japanese residents approve of Prime Minister Fumio Kishida’s recent visit to Kyiv, according to a poll by Nikkei and TV Tokyo. Kishida visited Ukraine earlier this month, becoming the last Group of Seven leader to do so.
  • Dmitry Medvedev, deputy chair of the Russian Security Council of Russia, warned against NATO weapon deliveries to Ukraine. He said Friday in an interview with Russian media that it was bringing ‘a nuclear apocalypse closer.’ Medvedev, who previously served as president of Russia, also called for the free distribution of pirated copies of Western intellectual property on the internet, like content on Netflix, to cause ‘maximum damage’ and as a retaliation for Western-imposed sanctions on Russia.
  •  Mao Ning, a spokeswoman for China’s Foreign Ministry, said Monday that all sides of the ‘Ukraine crisis’ should focus on “diplomatic” efforts to reach a peaceful settlement.’ During a news conference, Mao also noted that the leaders of five nuclear-armed states — China, France, Russia, Britain and the United States — stressed in a joint statement last year the importance of avoiding a war between nuclear-weapon states and reducing ‘strategic risks.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Ukraine Receives New Battle Tanks From Germany and Britain. The delivery of Leopard 2 battle tanks from Germany and Challenger 2 tanks from Britain comes as Ukraine prepares for an expected spring offensive. The New York Times, Monday, 27 March 2023:

  • Promised tanks arrive in Ukraine from Germany and Britain.

  • Ahead of a visit to the Zaporizhzhia plant, the head of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog meets Zelensky.

  • Hungary approves Finland’s NATO application, leaving Turkey’s consent as the only obstacle.

  • Russia’s assault turned eastern Ukraine’s town of Avdiivka into a wasteland, an official says.

  • Zelensky warns those far from the front lines against complacency.

  • In helping to arm Ukraine, the U.S. has exposed a lack of capacity to produce the arms that the nation needs.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Putin will move tactical nuclear weapons into Belarus, NPR, NPR Staff, Monday, 27 March 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: The United Nations Security Council is due to convene for an emergency meeting, called by Ukraine, after Russian President Vladimir Putin revealed plans to place tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus. Russia takes over the U.N. Security Council’s rotating presidency in April. The United States hosts the Summit for Democracy this week, including a virtual gathering featuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy. Hungary’s parliament has just ratified Finland’s application to join NATO. Now that leaves Turkey, whose president said it would start the process to ratify Finland’s bid. But both NATO members have left Sweden’s application still pending. The director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Rafael Mariano Grossi, plans to visit the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine to assess the security situation at Europe’s largest nuclear station. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov holds talks with his Iranian counterpart Hossein Amirabdollahian on Wednesday. Lavrov is also due to talk with the foreign minister of another of Russia’s friends, Nicaragua, on Thursday. Ukraine has been pushing for phone talks with Chinese leader Xi Jinping, who met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow last week. What happened last week: China’s Xi paid a three-day visit to Russia. Putin said the Chinese government’s peace plan could form the ‘basis’ of an eventual deal ‘when the West and Ukraine are ready.’ Putin announced plans to station tactical nuclear weapons in Belarus, a Kremlin-ally wedged between the two warring countries that has served as a launch pad for Russian attacks on Ukraine. Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida made a surprise visit to Ukraine, hours after Xi arrived in Russia. International Monetary Fund staff agreed with Ukraine on a $15.6 billion financing package. If the IMF’s board signs off, it would be Ukraine’s biggest loan since Russia invaded a year ago. Russian drone strikes hit the Kyiv region, including an educational facility, killing at least four people and injuring 20. Russia later struck a humanitarian support center in Kostiantynivka, killing at least three displaced women. Ukraine said Russian cruise missiles were destroyed in a strike in Crimea, but did not claim responsibility for the attack. The Russian-installed head of the city of Dzhankoi reported drone attacks there. The situation in Bakhmut could be becoming stabilized, Ukrainian army chief Gen. Valery Zaluzhny said on the Telegram social app, speaking about a city Russia has fought to take control of for months as it tries to capture the whole of eastern Ukraine’s Donbas region.”

Former National Enquirer Publisher David Pecker Testifies Again in Trump Inquiry. The grand jury investigating a hush-money case against the former president met again on Monday, but the timing of any potential indictment remains unclear. The New York Times, William K. Rashbaum, Kate Christobek, Ben Protess, and Jonah E. Bromwich, Monday, 27 March 2023: “The Manhattan grand jury weighing evidence about Donald J. Trump’s role in a hush-money payment to a porn star heard testimony on Monday from a crucial witness, but there was no sign an indictment had been filed, according to people with knowledge of the matter. The witness, David Pecker, the former publisher of The National Enquirer, also testified in January. Since the grand jury was impaneled early this year by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, it has heard from at least nine witnesses — including Mr. Pecker, who has now appeared twice — and is expected to vote on an indictment soon.” See also, Trump hush money investigation ends day without voting after appearance from ex-National Enquirer publisher David Pecker, CNN Politics, Kara Scannell, Lauren del Valle, and Jack Forrest, Monday, 27 March 2023: “The Manhattan grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s alleged role in a scheme to pay hush money to an adult film star adjourned Monday without taking a vote on whether to indict Trump, a source familiar with the proceeding told CNN. The grand jury is next scheduled to meet on Wednesday. On Monday, it heard from David Pecker, the former head of the company that publishes the National Enquirer. Pecker, the former chairman of American Media Inc., which publishes the Enquirer, was seen by CNN producers entering the building around 2 p.m. ET, when the grand jury started, and leaving the building around 3:30 p.m. ET.”

Fox News Fires Producer Abby Grossberg Who Accused Fox News Network of Coercion. Grossberg has said the network pushed her to give a false deposition in a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit. The New York Times, Katie Robertson, Monday, 27 March 2023: “Fox News Media has fired a producer who last week accused the network of discrimination and of coercing her into providing misleading testimony in a blockbuster defamation case, according to court documents filed on Monday. Lawyers for the producer, Abby Grossberg, who had worked for the hosts Maria Bartiromo and Tucker Carlson, said in the complaints that she was fired on Friday in retaliation for a pair of lawsuits she had filed against the company several days earlier. In those suits, Ms. Grossberg claimed that Fox lawyers had coached her to deflect blame from executives and male hosts in her deposition for Dominion Voting Systems’ $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit against Fox. Dominion says Fox’s coverage repeatedly aired false claims about the company’s election equipment in saying it contributed to widespread voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Ms. Grossberg said in her suits, filed in New York and Delaware, that she and Ms. Bartiromo were being set up to take the fall for Fox’s actions because of the company’s culture of misogyny and discrimination at Fox. She claimed that she endured a toxic environment at Fox and that male producers had harassed her.” See also, Fox News producer Abby Grossberg who sued network over her Dominion testimony says she was fired and calls ex-coworkers ‘activists, not journalists,’ CNN Business, Marshall Cohen, Monday, 27 March 2023: “The Fox News producer who accused the right-wing network of pressuring her into giving misleading testimony in the Dominion defamation case has been fired, she disclosed in new court filings. Lawyers for Abby Grossberg, a former producer for Maria Bartiromo and Tucker Carlson who is suing Fox News over the alleged legal coercion, said that she was fired by the network on Friday. Her lawyers said the company’s official explanation for the dismissal was that she ‘improperly disclosed information regarding the Dominion/Fox Lawsuit that the Company purportedly believed was privileged.’ Grossberg’s attorneys argued in court papers that her ‘pretextual’ filing was yet another attempt by Fox News to ‘mask its continued unlawful conduct.’ Fox News has denied all wrongdoing regarding Grossberg, and separately, maintains that it never defamed Dominion. Last week, Grossberg filed explosive lawsuits in New York and Delaware accusing Fox News lawyers of coercing her into providing misleading testimony in the Dominion case – testimony that would protect the network and its top talent and executives. She also claimed she had been subjected to a toxic and sexist work environment while at Fox News. The company is contesting all of her allegations.”


Tuesday, 28 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv accuses Moscow of ‘radiation blackmail’ as International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) director visits Zaporizhzhia region, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Jennifer Hassan, and Adam Taylor, Monday, 28 March 2023: “Rafael Mariano Grossi, chief of the International Atomic Energy Agency, on a visit to Ukriane, told reporters Tuesday that he remained hopeful a deal could be brokered to ensure the safety of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant — Europe’s largest. ‘We are making some adjustments on the proposals that we are putting on the table,’ Grossi told Reuters. ‘I am confident that it might be possible to establish some form of protection.’ The details of a potential deal have not been released. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said the Russian occupation of the plant was ‘the worst thing that could happen in the history’ of European nuclear energy. Russia is using the facility for ‘radiation blackmail,’ he said Monday. Russia claimed to annex the Zaporizhzhia region, in violation of international law, late last year, even though parts of the region including its capital remain under Ukrainian control.

  • Zelensky met with Grossi in the Zaporizhzhia region on Monday, touring areas near the Russian plant, the president’s office said in a statement. They also visited a hydroelectric station on the Dnieper River that helps maintain operations at the plant. Grossi is preparing a visit to the nuclear plant this week, according to the IAEA. Crossfire during the conflict has threatened to shut down the reactors’ cooling system, heightening the risk of a nuclear meltdown.
  • A Russian court on Tuesday ordered a two-year jail sentence for the single father of a 13-year-old girl who drew an antiwar picture in art class at school, in a case that led to the daughter being seized by authorities and placed in an orphanage, The Washington Post’s Robyn Dixon writes. But in a stunning turn, the father, Alexei Moskalyov, 54, escaped from house arrest on Monday night, opting not to wait for the almost-certain guilty verdict after the state prosecutor demanded the two-year prison term on Monday.
  • Britain and Poland will build two temporary housing villages in Ukraine, the British government announced Tuesday. The shelters, in Lviv in the west and Poltava in the east, will provide accommodation to about 700 displaced Ukrainians. The two countries are also providing generators to power schools, hospitals and community centers in Ukraine. ‘This is one of our many humanitarian responses to Russia’s attacks on civilian infrastructure, mounting evidence of which appears more and more clearly to constitute war crimes,’ the statement said.
  • Russian officials expressed defiance after the West threatened more sanctions should the Kremlin proceed with plans to deploy tactical nuclear weapons to Belarus. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters on Monday that Russia’s plans wouldn’t be affected by Western sanctions.
  • Russia said it test-fired supersonic anti-ship missiles in the Sea of Japan on Tuesday, attacking a target imitating an enemy warship. The exercise took place in the Peter the Great Bay, the Defense Ministry said, without providing further details of the location of the strikes. The Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, borders Japan, Russia and North and South Korea.
  • Russia has been ‘intensifying’ its activity in the Far East, Japan’s foreign minister, Yoshimasa Hayashi, told reporters after Russia’s military exercise. The Peter the Great Bay, where the missiles were fired, borders Russia’s Vladivostok coast.
  • National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan met on Monday with democratic opposition leader Svyatlana Tsikhanouskaya of Belarus, the White House said in a statement Tuesday. They discussed U.S. support for the movement for democracy in Belarus, and among other topics, the country’s ‘facilitartion’ of the Russian war in Ukraine, according to the readout.
  • New criteria for Russian and Belarusian athletes to compete in international competitions are ‘unacceptable,’ a top Russian official said Tuesday. The new requirements, which would bar athletes with links to the military from competing, would mean 30 percent of Russia’s team could not attend, Russian Olympic Committee President Stanislav Pozdnyakov said, according to state news agency Interfax. The International Olympic Committee put restrictions on Russian and Belarusian athletes after the February 2022 invasion but is now seeking a gradual return for the athletes, IOC President Thomas Bach told reporters on Tuesday.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia’s Push in Eastern Ukraine Leaves Avdiivka in Ruins. Moscow has struggled to capture new ground in eastern Ukraine, but its bombardment has laid waste to cities and towns. The New York Times, Monday, 28 March 2023:

  • A rare glimpse of Avdiivka reveals a ruined city where residents huddle in basements.

  • Blinken warns that calls for a cease-fire in Ukraine by Russia’s partners may be ‘a very cynical trap.’

  • Over 4,300 Ukrainian children have been deported to Russia or Russian-occupied areas, a Ukrainian official says.

  • Moscow still aims to capture Bakhmut even as fighting elsewhere escalates, Ukraine says.

  • A Russian father flees before a conviction that may keep his daughter in an orphanage.

  • For 20 years, Marina Ovsyannikova worked for Russian state TV, but after the invasion of Ukraine she couldn’t keep quiet.

  • Olympic officials have created a path for Russian athletes to qualify for the Paris Olympics.

Judge Rules Former President Mike Pence Must Testify to January 6 Grand Jury. The ruling in Washington was the latest setback to efforts by former President Donald Trump’s legal team to limit testimony to grand juries investigating him on various matters. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Monday, 28 March 2023: “A federal judge has ordered former Vice President Mike Pence to appear in front of a grand jury investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election, largely sweeping aside two separate legal efforts by Mr. Pence and Mr. Trump to limit his testimony, according to two people familiar with the matter. The twin rulings on Monday, by Judge James E. Boasberg in Federal District Court in Washington, were the latest setbacks to bids by Mr. Trump’s legal team to limit the scope of questions that prosecutors can ask witnesses close to him in separate investigations into his efforts to maintain his grip on power after his election defeat and into his handling of classified documents after he left office. In the weeks leading up to the Capitol attack by a pro-Trump mob on Jan. 6, 2021, Mr. Trump repeatedly pressed Mr. Pence to use his ceremonial role overseeing the congressional count of Electoral College votes to block or delay certification of his defeat. Prosecutors have been seeking to compel Mr. Pence to testify about Mr. Trump’s demands on him, which were thoroughly documented by aides to Mr. Pence in testimony last year to the House select committee that investigated the Jan. 6 riot and what led up to it.” See also, U.S. judge says former Vice President Mike Pence must give some testimony in Trump January 6 investigation, The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey and Devlin Barrett, Monday, 28 March 2023: “A federal judge has ruled that former vice president Mike Pence must provide testimony to prosecutors investigating President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results, according to people familiar with the matter. However, the judge also ruled that Pence can remain silent on topics that deal specifically with his role in Congress on Jan. 6, 2021, when a formal tabulation of the presidential election results was interrupted by a violent pro-Trump mob, said the people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe court proceedings that have not been made public. Special counsel Jack Smith subpoenaed Pence for his testimony in the long-running investigation into whether efforts to block or undo Joe Biden’s 2020 victory constituted federal crimes, and Pence and Trump fought the demand on two separate legal grounds. Trump argued that executive privilege, which shields some presidential discussions from being disclosed, barred Pence from appearing; Pence’s lawyers maintained that a constitutional protection against forcing lawmakers to provide evidence also prevented Pence — who presided over the Senate on Jan. 6  from testifying.” See also, Former Vice President Mike Pence must testify about conversations he had with Donald Trump leading up to January 6 violent mob attack on the Capitol by Trump supporters, CNN Politics, Katelyn Polantz, Paula Reid, Zachary Cohen, Devan Cole, and Tierney Sneed, Tuesday, 28 March 2023: “A federal judge has decided that former Vice President Mike Pence must testify to a grand jury about conversations he had with Donald Trump leading up to January 6, 2021, according to multiple sources familiar with a recent federal court ruling. But the judge said – in a ruling that remains under seal – that Pence can still decline to answer questions related to his actions on January 6 itself, when he was serving as president of the Senate for the certification of the 2020 presidential election, according to one of the sources. The ruling from chief judge James Boasberg of the US District Court in Washington, DC, adds to more than a dozen wins for special counsel Jack Smith forcing witnesses to testify to the grand jury, and is unusual in that it delves into the powers of the vice presidency as well as separation of powers. Pence still has the ability to appeal.”


Wednesday, 29 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) chief says nuclear safety deal is ‘evolving’ after Zaporizhzhia visit, The Washington Post, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Miriam Berger, Francesca Ebel, and Susannah George, Wednesday, 29 March 2023: “Proposals to protect Europe’s largest nuclear power plant are ‘evolving’ amid increasing clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the area, the head of the United Nations’ atomic energy watchdog said during a visit to the site. Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, was set to assess safety and security at the plant. Fighting between Ukrainian troops and Russian forces — who seized the facility last March — has prompted warnings from Grossi and other officials about the risk of a nuclear accident. Grossi had previously called for a protection zone around the plant, but the idea was opposed by Ukrainian leaders who are demanding the return of the facility and its surroundings. Russian forces have been accused of using the plant to launch attacks on Ukrainian forces across the nearby front line. A possible solution to the potential nuclear crisis will focus on protecting the plant itself, ‘rather than on territorial aspects that pose certain problems,’ Grossi told reporters during the visit. ‘But it is a work in progress, I would say. We are working with both governments.’

  • Grossi’s visit is part of an ongoing effort to protect the plant by securing a deal with Russia and Ukraine, but negotiations have not succeeded so far. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told the Associated Press in an interview published Wednesday that he was not optimistic that a deal would materialize soon.
  • ‘Even if a [protection] zone is established Russia will ignore it,’ said Ivan Samoyduk, the Ukrainian deputy mayor of Enerhodar, the city where the plant is located. ‘The situation will only become less dangerous when the station is returned to the Ukrainian side.’
  • Samoyduk said he has been in touch with civilians and plant workers in Enerhodar who report widespread abuse and allegations of torture at the hands of Russian forces in the area. ‘They intimidate, they do everything to make it impossible to have any will, any independence,’ he said, so Russia can maintain its hold on the plant and the surrounding area.
  • Zelensky said Ukrainian forces must hang on to the front-line city of Bakhmut. A loss there, he told the AP, would provide Russia’s leader with greater leverage to negotiate a peace deal that is unfavorable to Ukraine. ‘Our society will feel tired,’ he said. ‘Our society will push me to have compromise with them.’
  • In the past 21 days, the Russians have not made any progress in Bakhmut ‘whatsoever,’ Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters at a news briefing Wednesday.
  • U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said calls from some nations for a cease-fire in Ukraine could be a ‘very cynical trap’ designed to allow Russia to consolidate the territory it has illegally seized and ‘use the time to rest and refit and then reattack.’ While appeals for ‘the guns to be silent’ can be tempting, Blinken said Tuesday, ‘we have to be very, very careful.’ China called in February for a cease-fire, while Russia made a unilateral call for a 36-hour cease-fire the previous month during Orthodox Christmas.
  • A Russian man is facing seven years in jail for criticizing Russia’s bombing of Kyiv and Mariupol on social media. Mikhail Simonov, 62, has been accused of spreading ‘fake news’ about the army, under draconian wartime censorship laws. According to a report by Sota Vision, a Russian news outlet, Simonov posted on the Russian social media website VKontakte last year that Russia was ‘killing children and women.’ Simonov was allegedly denounced by a woman who saw his post on her feed and called a government hotline. The woman told the Moscow court that she was angered by the ‘solid lump of liberalism’ she saw on her feed, and that Simonov had ‘hurt’ Russian President Vladimir Putin.
  • Sweden will summon Moscow’s ambassador after the Russian Embassy appeared to threaten its government with ‘retaliatory measures’ for joining NATO. In a statement posted to its Telegram channel, the embassy said Finland and Sweden, once they officially join the security alliance, ‘will become a legitimate target for Russian retaliatory measures, including those of a military nature.’ Sweden’s foreign minister, Tobias Billstrom, said his ministry would summon Russia’s ambassador ‘to make a clear statement against this blatant attempt at influence,’ Agence France-Presse reported.
  • Leaders of several European countries pressed Big Tech companies to do more to combat geopolitical disinformation. The prime ministers of Moldova, Ukraine, Slovakia, Lithuania, Latvia, Estonia, Poland and the Czech Republic wrote in an open letter that tech platforms should ‘resist being used’ as tools of hostile forces seeking to ‘destabilize our countries, weaken our democracies, to derail Moldova’s and Ukraine’s accession to the European Union and to weaken our support to Ukraine amid Russia’s war of aggression.’
  • Zelensky said Ukraine was ‘ready’ to welcome Chinese President Xi Jinping for discussions about the war. ‘I want to speak with him. I had contact with him before full-scale war. But during all this year, more than one year, I didn’t have,’ Zelensky told the AP. Xi recently visited Moscow on his first trip to Russia since the war began, and he agreed to expand China’s ties with Russia in a show of diplomatic support for Putin.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.N. Warns of Buildup of Russian and Ukrainian Forces in Region of Nuclear Complex. ‘It is obvious that military activity is increasing in this whole region, so every possible measure and precaution should be taken so that the plant is not attacked,’ the U.N.’s top nuclear official said. The New York Times, Wednesday, 29 March 2023:

  • Russia and Ukraine are ramping up forces in the region of a nuclear complex, the U.N.’s watchdog warns.

  • Read the letter a Russian girl wrote to her father before his sentencing over an anti-war comment.

  • Putin’s top security adviser holds talks with India’s prime minister as Moscow seeks closer ties.

  • Ukraine, Poland and six other countries call for Meta and other tech giants to fight disinformation.

  • Germany, stressing its long-term commitment, promises additional military aid to Ukraine.

  • Ukraine says it will use legal means to remove pro-Russian monks from a revered Orthodox site.

  • The State Department proposes a joint tribunal with allies to try Russia’s leaders.

N.Y. grand jury is not expected to hear evidence in Trump case until at least late April. The break is due in large part to a pre-scheduled two weeks off for the grand jury beginning April 10, two people said. The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Wednesday, 29 March 2023: “A grand jury that has been considering Donald Trump’s alleged role in $130,000 paid to an adult-film actress before the 2016 presidential election is not expected to hear evidence in that case again until late April, according to two people familiar with the matter. The pause comes about 10 days after the former president publicly predicted he would soon be arrested, stoking public interest. While the grand jury may hear other cases during the next week, the soonest jurors are expected to hear evidence in the Trump case again is April 24, said the two people, who were briefed on the plans and spoke on the condition of anonymity because grand jury proceedings are secret. The break is due in large part to a pre-scheduled two weeks off beginning April 10, the day after Easter, the people familiar with the matter said. The time off also covers Passover, which begins next Wednesday night, and part of Ramadan. Because the grand jury meets in private, it is difficult to know whether the pause reflects any change in the direction of the case — or whether District Attorney Alvin Bragg plans to ask the grand jurors to vote on an indictment, which he may do at any time. A spokesperson for Bragg declined to comment Wednesday.” See also, Trump grand jury poised to take pre-planned break from case, Associated Press, Michael R. Sisak, Wednesday, 29 March 2023: “The Manhattan grand jury investigating hush money paid on Donald Trump’s behalf is scheduled to consider other matters next week before taking a previously scheduled two-week hiatus, a person familiar with the matter said Wednesday. That means a vote on whether or not to indict the former president likely wouldn’t come until late April at the earliest. The break, which was scheduled in advance when the panel was convened in January, coincides with Passover, Easter and spring break for the New York City public school system. The person who confirmed the grand jury’s schedule was not authorized to speak publicly about secretive grand jury proceedings and did so on condition of anonymity. A message left with the district attorney’s office was not immediately returned. In a statement released through a lawyer, Trump said: ‘I HAVE GAINED SO MUCH RESPECT FOR THIS GRAND JURY.'”

Exxon’s Climate Opponents Were Infiltrated by Massive Hacking-for-Hire Operation. Charity of Rockefeller heirs is among groups targeted by hackers; oil giant not accused of wrongdoing. The Wall Street Journal, Christopher M. Matthews, Wednesday, 29 March 2023: “In the midst of perpetrating what federal prosecutors say was a massive corporate hacking campaign, Israeli private detective Aviram Azari in 2017 received welcome news. A group of hackers in India wrote him to say they had successfully infiltrated the email and social-media accounts of a group of environmental activists campaigning against Exxon Mobil Corp. ‘On a happy note I would like to report some success below: Project Name Rainbow,’ the hackers wrote in electronic messages that were viewed by The Wall Street Journal. The messages included evidence of the successful intrusions, including screenshots of compromised email inboxes. The messages along with court records reveal new details about the hacking campaign, including that thousands of individuals and companies were targeted and at least some of the attacks resulted in the hackers successfully gaining access to the private accounts of the victims and obtaining their passwords. Among the targets was the Rockefeller Family Fund, a charity created by some of the heirs of John D. Rockefeller, who founded Exxon’s forebear Standard Oil. The fund has for years been involved in campaigns arguing that Exxon hid from the public the full extent of what it knew internally about climate change and the role fossil fuels played in causing it.”


Thursday, 30 March 2023:


Trump Is Indicted, Becoming First Ex-President to Face Criminal Charges. The precise charges are not yet known, but the case is focused on a hush-money payment to a porn star during his 2016 campaign. The New York Times, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, William K. Rashbaum, Kate Christobek, Nate Schweber, and Sean Piccoli, Thursday, 30 March 2023: “A Manhattan grand jury indicted Donald J. Trump on Thursday for his role in paying hush money to a porn star, according to people with knowledge of the matter, a historic development that will shake up the 2024 presidential race and forever mark him as the nation’s first former president to face criminal charges. On Thursday evening, after news of the charges had been widely reported, the district attorney’s office confirmed that Mr. Trump had been indicted and that prosecutors had contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to authorities in Manhattan. Mr. Trump is likely to turn himself in on Tuesday, at which point the former president will be photographed and fingerprinted in the bowels of a New York State courthouse, with Secret Service agents in tow. He will then be arraigned, at which point the specific charges will be unsealed. Mr. Trump faces more than two dozen counts, according to two people familiar with the matter. Mr. Trump has for decades avoided criminal charges despite persistent scrutiny and repeated investigations, creating an aura of legal invincibility that the indictment now threatens to puncture. But unlike the investigations that arose from his time in the White House — which examined his strong-arm tactics on the international stage, his attempts to overturn the election and his summoning of a mob to the steps of the U.S. Capitol — this case is built around a tawdry episode that predates Mr. Trump’s presidency. The reality star turned presidential candidate who shocked the political establishment by winning the White House now faces a reckoning for a hush-money payment that buried a sex scandal in the final days of the 2016 campaign. In a statement, Mr. Trump lashed out at the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, a Democrat, and portrayed the case as the continuation of a politically motivated witch hunt against him. ‘This is political persecution and election interference at the highest level in history,’ Mr. Trump said in the statement, calling Mr. Bragg ‘a disgrace’ and casting himself as ‘a completely innocent person.'” See also, Trump Indicted in New York: Live Updates, The New York Times, Thursday, 30 March 2023. See also, Trump indicted by New York grand jury, first ex-president charged with crime. Trump is expected to turn himself in and appear in court Tuesday. Specific charges have not been made public. The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, and Jacqueline Alemany, Thursday, 30 March 2023: “A Manhattan grand jury has voted to indict former president Donald Trump, making him the first person in U.S. history to serve as commander in chief and then be charged with a crime, and setting the stage for a 2024 presidential contest unlike any other. The indictment was sealed, which means the specific charge or charges are not publicly known. But the grand jury had been hearing evidence about money paid to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, allegedly to keep her from saying she’d had a sexual encounter with Trump years earlier. Trump is expected to turn himself in and appear in court on Tuesday at 2:15 p.m., said a person familiar with the matter, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss plans that have not been publicly announced. Trump, who is campaigning to return to the White House in 2024 and leading in most polls of Republican voters, is also the focus of criminal probes in Georgia and Washington, D.C., related to his efforts to overturn Joe Biden’s 2020 election victory and his handling of classified material at Mar-a-Lago, his Florida home and private club. Those cases have raised serious questions about national security and the basic functions of democracy. The New York case, in contrast, stems from a hush-money plan and Trump’s alleged conduct before he became president. The indictment follows weeks of speculation about whether and when Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg might take such a momentous step toward a courthouse showdown with one of the most combative politicians in modern American history. Being charged with — or found guilty of — a crime does not disqualify Trump from running for office. Still, the indictment suggests a remarkable possibility: a soon-to-be-77-year-old running for president while simultaneously seeking to beat a conviction. Trump has denied any wrongdoing and says he did not have an affair with Daniels. A spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney said Thursday evening that the office had contacted Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender for arraignment ‘on an indictment, which remains under seal.'” See also, Former President Donald Trump has been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, NPR, Ilya Marritz, Andrea Bernstein, Bill Chappell, and Vanessa Romo, Thursday, 30 March 2023: “A Manhattan grand jury has indicted former President Donald Trump, multiple sources close to Trump confirmed to NPR. The charges, which are expected to be released in coming days, make Trump the first former president in United States history to be criminally indicted. The grand jury’s indictment is expected to be unsealed in the coming days. ‘This evening we contacted Mr. Trump’s attorney to coordinate his surrender to the Manhattan DA’s Office for arraignment on a Supreme Court indictment, which remains under seal. Guidance will be provided when the arraignment date is selected,’ a spokesperson for the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office said in a statement Thursday evening. The grand jury has been examining hush-money payments that Trump’s former personal attorney, Michael Cohen, made in 2016 to adult film actress Stormy Daniels in exchange for her not going public with allegations she had an affair with Trump. Trump has denied having had an affair with Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, although he has admitted reimbursing Cohen for money paid to her. The former president issued an angry response to the indictment, calling it political persecution. ‘This is Political Persecution and Election Interference at the highest level in history,’ he wrote in the statement. ‘From the time I came down the golden escalator at Trump Tower, and even before I was sworn in as your President of the United States, the Radical Left Democrats — the enemy of the hard-working men and women of this Country — have been engaged in a Witch-Hunt to destroy the Make America Great Again movement.’ With charges looming, Trump earlier this month urged his supporters to mount large protests. Cohen pleaded guilty in 2018 to numerous federal charges, including making illegal campaign contributions in the form of buying women’s silence about their alleged relationships with Trump.” See also, At Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s Camp Is Caught Off Guard. The former president’s aides had believed that any action by the grand jury was still weeks away. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Thursday, 30 March 2023: “At Mar-a-Lago on Thursday evening, former President Donald J. Trump was still absorbing the news of his indictment, according to several people close to him. Mr. Trump and his aides were caught off guard by the timing, believing that any action by the grand jury was still weeks away and might not occur at all. Some advisers had become confident that there would be no movement until the end of April at the earliest and were looking at the political implications for Mr. Trump’s closest potential rival, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida.” See also, Even Donald Trump Should Be Held Accountable, The New York Times, Editorial Board, Thursday, 30 March 2023: “For the first time in American history, a grand jury has indicted a former president of the United States, The Times reported on Thursday. Donald Trump spent years as a candidate, in office and out of office, ignoring democratic and legal norms and precedents, trying to bend the Justice Department and the judiciary to his whims and behaving as if rules didn’t apply to him. As the news of the indictment shows, they do. A pattern of disregard for the law often leads to a criminal indictment, and that is the outcome Mr. Trump now faces. Federal and state prosecutors were right to set aside concerns about political fallout, or reverence for the presidency, and initiate thorough criminal investigations of Mr. Trump’s conduct in at least four instances. The investigation by the Manhattan district attorney is the first known to result in an indictment. Mr. Trump completely transformed the relationship between the presidency and the rule of law, often asserting that a president was above the law. So it is appropriate that his actions as president and as a candidate should now be formally weighed by judges and juries, with the possibility of criminal penalties on the line. Mr. Trump badly damaged America’s political and legal institutions and threatened them again with calls for widespread protests once he is indicted. But those institutions have proved to be strong enough to hold him accountable for that harm.” See also, Republicans Erupt in Outrage and Rush to Defend Trump. Many in the party said Donald Trump could benefit from a wave of sympathy among Republicans, with his base of supporters likely to be energized by a belief in a weaponized justice system. The New York Times, Michael C. Bender and Maggie Haberman, Thursday, 30 March 2023: “Republican leaders in Congress lamented the moment as a sad day in the annals of United States history. Conservative news outlets issued a call to action for the party’s base. One prominent supporter of Donald J. Trump suggested that the former president’s mug shot should double as a 2024 campaign poster. Even Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, widely viewed as Mr. Trump’s leading potential presidential primary rival, rushed to condemn the prosecutor who brought the Manhattan case that led to the historic indictment of the former president on Thursday. While not naming Mr. Trump, Mr. DeSantis said Florida would not play a role in extraditing him. ‘The weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda turns the rule of law on its head,’ Mr. DeSantis said on Twitter…. On Fox News, the host Tucker Carlson said the ruling showed it was ‘probably not the best time to give up your AR-15s.’ ‘The rule of law appears to be suspended tonight — not just for Trump, but for anyone who would consider voting for him,’ Mr. Carlson said. One of his guests, the conservative media figure Glenn Beck, predicted that the indictment would cause chaos in the years ahead.” 

A President Faces Prosecution, and a Democracy Is Tested. For more than two centuries, American presidents were effectively shielded from indictment. But the case against former President Donald Trump breaks that taboo and sets a new precedent. The New York Times, Peter Baker, Thursday, 30 March 2023: “For the first time in American history, a former president of the United States has been indicted on criminal charges. It is worth pausing to repeat that: An American president has been indicted for a crime for the first time in history. So many unthinkable firsts have occurred since Donald J. Trump was elected to the White House in 2016, so many inviolable lines have been crossed, so many unimaginable events have shocked the world that it is easy to lose sight of just how astonishing this particular moment really is. For all of the focus on the tawdry details of the case or its novel legal theory or its political impact, the larger story is of a country heading down a road it has never traveled before, one fraught with profound consequences for the health of the world’s oldest democracy. For more than two centuries, presidents have been held on a pedestal, even the ones swathed in scandal, declared immune from prosecution while in office and, effectively, even afterward. No longer. That taboo has been broken. A new precedent has been set. Will it tear the country apart, as some feared about putting a former president on trial after Watergate? Will it be seen by many at home and abroad as victor’s justice akin to developing nations where former leaders are imprisoned by their successors? Or will it become a moment of reckoning, a sign that even someone who was once the most powerful person on the planet is not above the law?”

Trump indictment follows 50 years of investigation on many fronts, The Washington Post, Marc Fisher, Thursday, 30 March 2023: “For a half-century, Donald Trump has portrayed himself as the consummate dealmaker — and the ultimate escape artist, a serial entrepreneur turned politician who managed to avoid major consequences despite having been investigated in every decade of his adult life by federal and state agencies, by bankers and casino regulators, by legions of prosecutors and competitors. He’s been investigated over matters small and huge: over alleged lobbying violations in New York state and whether he played a role in the Russian government’s effort to interfere with the 2016 U.S. presidential election. He was the only president to be impeached twice, yet he was acquitted both times. Now, 50 years after federal officials first accused Trump and his father of violating laws that barred racial discrimination in apartment rentals, the former president has been indicted, according to multiple people briefed on the matter. While the indictment has not been made public, a Manhattan grand jury has been investigating the payment of hush money to a professional stripper and adult film actress who threatened to go public with her allegation that Trump had an affair with her years before he won the White House.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: White House condemns Russia’s detention of U.S. journalist; Finland Clears NATO hurdle, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Annabelle Timsit, Robyn Dixon, Emily Rauhala, Miriam Berger, Missy Ryan, and Francesca Ebel, Thursday, 30 March 2023: “The State Department has been in ‘direct touch with the Russian government’ and is ‘actively working to secure consular access’ to Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who Russia has detained and accused of espionage, press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday. Russia’s Federal Security Service, the FSB, said Thursday in a statement that it had detained Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen covering Russia and Ukraine, on charges of gathering confidential information about a Russian military enterprise. The newspaper vehemently denied the allegations and demanded  his immediate release. Turkey’s parliament, meanwhile, has voted to approve Finland’s NATO membership bid, paving the way for the Nordic country to join the security alliance. The decision only applies to Finland, not Sweden, its neighbor and fellow membership hopeful. Both countries applied on the same day last year, having made the decision to join the alliance after Russia invaded Ukraine.

  • President Biden was briefed Thursday morning about Gershkovich’s detention and the State Department has been in touch with the Wall Street Journal and the journalist’s family, White House National Security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters. ‘The targeting of American citizens by the Russian government is absolutely completely unacceptable,’ Kirby said.
  • Kirby urged U.S. citizens to heed previous warnings and avoid travel to Russia. Any Americans there should leave immediately out of concern for their safety, he added. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement that Washington condemned the ‘Kremlin’s continued attempts to intimidate, repress, and punish journalists and civil society voices.’
  • Russian security agents detained Gershkovich in the city of Yekaterinburg, in the central Ural Mountains, the FSB said. Without citing any evidence, the agency accused him of ‘acting on instructions from United States’ and ‘collecting information constituting a state secret about the activities of one of the enterprises of the Russian military-industrial complex.’ The Wall Street Journal said it was ‘deeply concerned’ for Gershkovich’s safety.
  • Thursday’s vote in Turkey was the last hurdle in Finland’s quest to join the military organization. Its eventual accession would remake European security, doubling NATO’s land border with Russia and bringing the full force of the alliance to Europe’s far north.
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry clarified Thursday that Moscow will continue to notify Washington of any ballistic missile launches, despite a statement Wednesday that ‘all forms of notifications’ were terminated as a result of President Vladimir Putin suspending the New START nuclear nonproliferation agreement.
  • A Russian court on Tuesday ordered a two-year jail sentence for Alexei Moskalyov, 54, the father of a 13-year-old girl who drew an antiwar picture in art class, in a case that led to the daughter being seized by authorities and placed in an orphanage. He escaped from house arrest on Monday night, opting not to wait for the almost-certain guilty verdict — but was arrested again in Minsk, Belarus, Russia’s RBC newspaper reported on Thursday, citing the Belarusian Interior Ministry.
  • There has been a ‘significant increase in the number of troops’ in Zaporizhzhia and ‘open talk about offensives and counteroffensives’ involving Ukrainian and Russian forces, IAEA chief Rafael Mariano Grossi said during a visit Wednesday to the nuclear plant. ‘Every measure and precaution should be taken so that the plant is not attacked and can be protected,’ Grossi said. He added that efforts are underway to get Kyiv and Moscow to agree to principles such as not attacking the plant or using it as a base to launch attacks.
  • White House spokesman John Kirby told journalists Thursday that Slovakian national Ashot Mkrtychev had attempted to broker a weapons deal between North Korea and Russia. He said the planned agreement would involve Pyongyang supplying more than two dozen types of weaponry and munitions to Russia in exchange for food for North Korea.
  • ‘Any arms deal between North Korea and Russia would directly violate a series of U.N. Security Council resolutions,’ Kirby said. The U.S. Treasury announced sanctions on Mkrtychev.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, in his nightly address Thursday, marked 400 days at war. He pledged to win the fight with Russia, rebuild and seek justice.
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi met in New Delhi with Nikolai Patrushev, a close ally of Putin and Russia’s security chief. The meeting involved discussions of ‘bilateral cooperation’ and ‘international issues,’ the Indian government said. New Delhi has refused to join Kyiv’s Western allies in condemning Moscow for the invasion of Ukraine, instead shoring up its oil and other trade with Russia while calling for peace.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Finland Clears Last Hurdle to Join NATO, Reshaping Balance of Power. Turkey’s Parliament approved Finland’s bid to join Nato, its final hurdle to membership in the military alliance. The New York Times, Thursday, 30 March 2023:

  • Finland’s accession to NATO is a diplomatic and strategic setback for Russia.
  • Adding Finland is ‘a huge plus,’ NATO’s former top military commander says.
  • What does NATO’s expansion mean to Turkey’s president?
  • Finland’s last steps to join NATO are just paperwork.
  • Here’s a look at NATO and who joined when.
  • Sweden’s bid to join NATO remains blocked by Turkey and Hungary.
  • Russia detains a Wall Street Journal reporter, accusing him of espionage.
  • In Berlin, King Charles of Britain lauds Germany’s support for Ukraine.


Friday, 31 March 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: ‘Let him go,’ Biden says of U.S. reporter detained in Russia, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Ellen Francis, and Adam Taylor, Friday, 31 March 2023: “The Wall Street Journal’s editorial board called on the Biden administration to expel Russia’s ambassador in Washington and Russian journalists in the United States after Moscow detained Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. The board accused Russia of taking the U.S. citizen hostage on bogus espionage charges. The White House has said the State Department has been in ‘direct touch with the Russian government’ and is ‘actively working to secure consular access’ to the 31-year-old journalist. ‘Let him go,’ Biden told reporters outside the White House on Friday, directing the remark at Russia. In response to a question about the call to expel Russian diplomats, he said, ‘That’s not the plan right now.’ Leading media and human rights organizations have said Gershkovich’s detention is unwarranted and unjust and called for his release. In Ukraine, President Volodymyr Zelensky marked the anniversary of the recapture of Bucha, the town in the Kyiv suburbs where Russian forces are alleged to have committed atrocities against civilians before retreating. Ukrainian authorities exhumed a communal grave near Bucha this month as investigators work to collect evidence of alleged war crimes. ‘The United States supports Ukrainian and international efforts to document and investigate these atrocities,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in remarks on Bucha, delivered virtually.

  • The Wall Street Journal saidexpelling Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., as well as all Russian journalists working here,’ is the ‘minimum’ it expects from the Biden administration. The newspaper said that this was the first arrest of a U.S. journalist on espionage allegations in Russia since the Cold War and that neither it nor U.S. officials had been allowed to contact Gershkovich as of late Thursday.
  • Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said there was ‘no reason’ to expel Russia’s ambassador and Russian journalists from the United States. ‘There should be no such thing,’ he said Friday. Media groups have condemned Gershkovich’s detention. Reporters Without Borders called for his release and said there was no indication he was ‘doing anything other than legitimate investigative reporting.’
  • The United States called the charges against Gershkovich ‘ridiculous,’ and the European Union’s top diplomat said his detention showed the Kremlin’s ‘systematic disregard for media freedom.’ Gershkovich recently wrote about Russia’s economy and attitudes toward the war in Ukraine. He has denied the charges.
  • Russia on Saturday is to assume the U.N. Security Council presidency, a role that rotates among member states monthly. The White House urged Russia to ‘conduct itself professionally,’ and a spokesperson for Ukraine’s foreign minister called Moscow’s assumption of the presidency an ‘April Fools’ Day joke.’
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin has signed a new ‘foreign policy concept’ for Russia that signals a confrontational approach to the West. According to the new 42-page document, Moscow will work to ‘counter Russophobia’ and eliminate ‘rudiments of domination’ by the U.S. and other ‘unfriendly countries in world affairs,’ while also increasing the militarization of its own society and strengthening ties with India and China. The document, which outlines the theory behind Russian foreign policy, was last drafted in 2016.
  • The International Monetary Fund on Friday approved a $15.6 billion economic program for Ukraine, aimed at economic growth, anti-corruption measures and eventual reconstruction. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen welcomed the move. ‘I call on all other official and private creditors to join this initiative to assist Ukraine as it defends itself from Russia’s unprovoked war,’ she said in a statement.
  • In the years since the Soviet Union’s dissolution more than three decades ago, Moscow had not arrested a U.S. journalist on espionage charges. The most recent instance was in 1986, when Nicholas Daniloff, the Moscow bureau chief for U.S. News and World Report, was arrested just three days after the arrest of an employee of the Soviet Union’s Mission to the United Nations in New York. After less than two weeks of diplomatic negotiations, Zakharov was released into the care of the Russian Embassy in Washington, and a similar deal was made for Daniloff.
  • NATO chief Jens Stoltenberg said Finland would formally join the alliance ‘in the coming days,’ describing the Nordic nation’s accession as a ‘historic occasion.’ He said that it has been ‘the fastest ratification process in NATO’s modern history’ and that he hoped Sweden also could join ‘as soon as possible.’ The two countries applied for membership last year, prompted by Russia’s attack on Ukraine, but alliance members Turkey and Hungary are still holding out on Sweden’s potential accession.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said infrastructure is ready for Russian nuclear weapons to be stationed in his country. A staunch ally of Putin, Lukashenko said Friday that he has intensified talks with Moscow about returning nuclear weapons to Belarus and thatif necessary, we will decide with Putin and bring strategic nuclear weapons to Belarus.’
  • Wimbledon is set to allow Russian and Belarusian players to compete at this year’s tournament, organizers announced Friday, after they were banned from the 2022 tennis tournament because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Russian intelligence agencies worked with a Moscow-based defense contractor to strengthen their ability to launch cyberattacks and surveil sections of the internet, according to thousands of pages of leaked confidential corporate documents called the Vulkan Files, The Washington Post reports.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Biden Calls on Russia to Free Detained U.S. Reporter Evan Gershkovich. Demands for Gershkovich’s release also came from the leaders of dozens of news media and press freedom organizations, including The New York Times and the Committee to Protect Journalists. The New York Times, Friday, 31 March 2023:

  • ‘Let him go,’ Biden says.

  • ‘When you look back, it feels like horror’: Bucha marks the anniversary of its agonized liberation.

  • Russia and Ukraine make recruitment pushes as they prepare for a long war.

  • The U.S. warns that nuclear weapons in Belarus would be a ‘fundamental threat’ to peace and security.

  • The American reporter Russia accuses of spying is likely to spend months in a high-security prison.

  • While Finland heads into NATO, Sweden is stuck waiting.

  • Soon after Russia invaded Ukraine, Finland laid out its argument for joining NATO.

Trump Prepares to Surrender in New York as Police Brace for Protests. The former president is expected to answer charges with the Secret Service in tow before a judge in the often grimy and ill-lit criminal courthouse in Lower Manhattan on Tuesday. The New York Times, James C. McKinley Jr. and Jonah E. Bromwich, Friday, 31 March 2023: “Donald J. Trump prepared on Friday to surrender to prosecutors in Manhattan next week as the New York police braced for protests and sharply partisan responses from Democrats and Republicans ushered in a tumultuous time for a deeply polarized nation. A day after a grand jury indicted Mr. Trump and made him the first former president to face criminal charges, metal barricades were up around the criminal courthouse on Centre Street in Lower Manhattan. Mr. Trump is expected to enter the often grimy and ill-lit building with his Secret Service protection to answer charges before a state judge on Tuesday. Dozens of reporters and camera crews camped out across the street on Friday, while 20 court officers stood at the courthouse entrances, monitoring activity on the street. Mr. Trump intends to travel to New York on Monday and stay the night at Trump Tower, people familiar with his preparations said. He has no plans to hold a news conference or address the public while he is in New York, the people said. Mr. Trump remained largely quiet on Friday at Mar-a-Lago, his resort in Florida, where he spent the day talking on the telephone with advisers. One of his lawyers, Joe Tacopina, said in a television interview that the former president would not take a plea deal and was prepared to go to trial, a typically defiant stance that is likely to endear him to his supporters, who see the prosecution as a politically motivated vendetta by Democrats. Late on Friday afternoon, Mr. Trump burst out on Truth Social, the social media platform he founded, writing in all capital letters that Democrats were ‘INDICTING A TOTALLY INNOCENT MAN IN AN ACT OF OBSTRUCTION AND BLATANT ELECTION INTERFERENCE.’ He concluded that it was all happening ‘WHILE OUR COUNTRY IS GOING TO HELL!'” See also, Preparations are underway for Trump’s arraignment in New York court on Tuesday. Secret Service tour courthouse where former president will appear after surrendering to face criminal charges. The Washington Post, Carol D. Leonnig, Josh Dawsey, Shayna Jacobs, and Perry Stein, Friday, 31 March 2023: “Former president Donald Trump plans to fly to New York on Monday and stay overnight before appearing in a specially secured Manhattan courthouse to be arraigned on still-unspecified criminal charges, people briefed on the arrangements said. The first-ever indictment of a former president — who is also a 2024 White House hopeful — brings unusual security challenges to the courthouse complex in Lower Manhattan, even as it continues to roil the political landscape. On Friday, Trump lashed out on social media at the judge assigned to the case and a prosecutor from the office of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Republican lawmakers focused their ire on Bragg, an elected Democrat, while Bragg’s deputy pushed back against demands from GOP committee chairs that the district attorney come to Capitol Hill and explain his investigation. Being charged with, or convicted of, a crime would not disqualify Trump from running for president or holding the office. But the optics and logistics of campaigning while navigating a legal case could get complicated. For the moment, Trump and his advisers are ramping up their fundraising efforts and making the rounds of GOP lawmakers and party leaders, leaving his lawyers to negotiate his surrender to law enforcement and his security detail to coordinate logistics with police.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s Office Criticizes Top Republicans for Aiding ‘Trump’s efforts to vilify’ him. The letter described as unfounded the three members’ allegations that the investigation was politically motivated. The New York Times, Jonah E. Bromwich and Luke Broadwater, Friday, 31 March 2023: “A day after filing charges against Donald J. Trump, the Manhattan district attorney’s office wrote a letter criticizing three influential congressional Republicans for their efforts to interfere in the investigation into the former president. The letter was addressed to three committee chairmen who had demanded that the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, provide them with communications, documents and testimony related to the inquiry into Mr. Trump. The office’s letter noted that before being indicted, Mr. Trump had used his social media platform to denigrate Mr. Bragg, and had threatened ‘death and destruction’ if he were to be charged.‘ You could use the stature of your office to denounce these attacks and urge respect for the fairness of our justice system and for the work of the impartial grand jury,’ Leslie Dubeck, the general counsel for the district attorney’s office, wrote. ‘Instead, you and many of your colleagues have chosen to collaborate with Mr. Trump’s efforts to vilify and denigrate the integrity of elected state prosecutors and trial judges,’ Ms. Dubeck wrote, describing as unfounded the three members’ allegations that the investigation was politically motivated. The letter, addressed to Representatives Jim Jordan of Ohio, chairman of the Judiciary Committee; James R. Comer of Kentucky, chairman of the Oversight and Accountability Committee; and Bryan Steil of Wisconsin, chairman of the Administration Committee, repeated portions of an earlier one Ms. Dubeck had sent them, calling the Republican request for confidential information about the investigation unprecedented. ‘Like any other defendant, Mr. Trump is entitled to challenge these charges in court,’ she wrote, adding, ‘What neither Mr. Trump nor Congress may do is interfere with the ordinary course of proceedings in New York State.'” See also, Bragg’s office accuses House Republicans of ‘unlawful political interference,’ The Washington Post, Amy B Wang and John Wagner, Friday, 31 March 2023: “The office of New York County District Attorney Alvin Bragg on Friday urged House Republicans to withdraw a demand for information on its case against former president Donald Trump, again rebuffing what it characterized as ‘unlawful political interference’ in an ongoing criminal case. In a letter to the three committee chairmen who are pressing for documents and testimony about Trump’s case, Leslie B. Dubeck, the general counsel for Bragg’s office, chastised them for choosing to ‘collaborate’ with the former president, who is now under indictment. A Manhattan grand jury voted to indict Trump on Thursday after hearing evidence about alleged hush-money payments from Trump to adult-film actress Stormy Daniels during the 2016 presidential campaign. As of Friday morning, the indictment — with specific charges against Trump — remains sealed. On his Truth Social platform, Trump has kept up a steady stream of attacks on Bragg in all-caps posts and condemned the indictment. ‘As you are no doubt aware, former President Trump has directed harsh invective against District Attorney Bragg and threatened on social media that his arrest or indictment in New York may unleash death & destruction,’ Dubeck wrote. Dubeck said the GOP chairs — Jim Jordan (Ohio) on the Judiciary Committee; Bryan Steil (Wis.) on the Administration Committee; and James Comer (Ky.) on the Oversight Committee — could have used their positions to denounce those attacks and urge respect for the fairness of the justice system.” See also, Manhattan District Attorney’s office again slams House Republican’s efforts to investigate Trump probe; says approximately $5k federal funds used, CNN Politics, Annie Grayer and Sara Murray, Friday, 31 March 2023: “The Manhattan district attorney’s office is again slamming House Republicans for their efforts to intervene in its investigation into former President Donald Trump, accusing them of collaborating with Trump to ‘vilify and denigrate the integrity of elected state prosecutors and trial judges.’ The DA’s general counsel Leslie B. Dubeck penned a letter Friday to three House GOP committee chairmen, citing Trump’s harsh rhetoric aimed at District Attorney Alvin Bragg and writing, ‘As Committee Chairmen, you could use the stature of your office to denounce these attacks and urge respect for the fairness of our justice system and for the work of the impartial grand jury.'”

Trump lashes out against New York Supreme court Justice Juan Merchan who will hear his criminal case. Merchan also presided over prosecutions of the Trump Organization and CFO Allen Weisselberg. The Washington Post, Perry Stein and Shayna Jacobs, Friday, 31 March 2023: “Former president Donald Trump is quite familiar with New York Supreme Court Justice Juan Merchan, the judge who oversaw the grand jury that indicted Trump this week and will preside over the criminal proceedings that follow. Merchan, 60, who has sat on the New York bench since 2009, also presided over the jury trial last year of Trump’s namesake real estate company, which resulted in a conviction in December, and the prosecution of the company’s longtime chief financial officer, Allen Weisselberg. On Friday, the first former president ever charged with a crime lashed out at Merchan on social media, declaring that the judge ‘HATES ME.’ Merchan ‘is the same person who railroaded my 75 year old former CFO, Allen Weisselberg, to take a plea deal,’ Trump wrote. The former president continued: ‘He strong armed Allen, which a judge is not allowed to do, & treated my companies, which didn’t plead,’ VICIOUSLY. APPEALING.’ Weisselberg pleaded guilty in August to 15 counts including tax fraud, conspiracy and grand larceny and is serving a five-month jail sentence. Trump was not personally implicated in that case.”

After Trump indictment, Republicans focus ire on Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg. Republicans have made him the target of their anger for weeks, trying to paint him a rogue prosecutor. The Washington Post, Marianna Sotomayor and Jacqueline Alemany, Friday, 31 March 2023: “In the minutes after it became public that former president Donald Trump had been indicted by a Manhattan grand jury, congressional Republicans quickly directed their anger at District Attorney Alvin Bragg. ‘As he routinely frees violent criminals to terrorize the public, [Bragg] weaponized our sacred system of justice against President Donald Trump. The American people will not tolerate this injustice,’ House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said, before ensuring the House will ‘hold Alvin Bragg … to account.’ House Republicans spent Friday doubling down on the attacks they have lobbed for weeks against Bragg, who has been investigating hush-money payments made to adult-film star Stormy Daniels during Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. They have made Bragg the central target in their defense of Trump, painting him as a case study of a Democratic official who they claim has weaponized the levers of government against a political opponent.”

How Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Resurrected the Case Against Donald Trump. A year ago, the investigation into the former president appeared from the outside to be over. But a series of crucial turning points led to this week’s indictment. The New York Times, Jonah E. Bromwich, Ben Protess, and William K. Rashbaum, Friday, 31 March 2023: “One year ago this week, the Manhattan district attorney’s investigation into Donald J. Trump appeared to be dead in the water. The two leaders of the investigation had recently resigned after the new district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, decided not to charge Mr. Trump at that point. Amid a fierce backlash to his decision — and a brutal start to his tenure — Mr. Bragg insisted that the investigation was not over. But a disbelieving media questioned why, if the effort was still moving forward, there were few signs of it. ‘Unless y’all are great poker players,’ Mr. Bragg told The New York Times in an early April 2022 interview, ‘you don’t know what we’re doing.’ What they were doing, new interviews show, was going back to square one, poring over the reams of evidence that had already been collected by his predecessor. For a time, their efforts were haphazard as they examined a wide range of Mr. Trump’s business practices, including whether he had lied about his net worth, which was the focus of the investigation when Mr. Bragg had declined to seek an indictment. But by July, Mr. Bragg had decided to assign several additional prosecutors to pursue one particular strand that struck him as promising: a hush-money payment made on Mr. Trump’s behalf to a porn star during the final days of the 2016 presidential campaign. On Thursday, Mr. Trump was indicted on that strand. He is expected to surrender to the authorities in Manhattan on Tuesday and face arraignment on more than two dozen charges, which will be unveiled at that time.”

Fox News Suffers Major Setback in Defamation Case. A judge said the suit would go to trial, for a jury to weigh whether the network knowingly spread false claims about Dominion Voting Systems, and to determine any damages. The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters and Katie Robertson, Friday, 31 March 2023: “Fox News suffered a significant setback on Friday in its defense against a $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit that claims it lied about voter fraud in the 2020 election. A judge in Delaware Superior Court said the case, brought by Dominion Voting Systems, was strong enough to conclude that Fox hosts and guests had repeatedly made false claims about Dominion machines and their supposed role in a fictitious plot to steal the election from President Donald J. Trump. ‘The evidence developed in this civil proceeding,’ Judge Eric M. Davis wrote, demonstrates that it ‘is CRYSTAL clear that none of the statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true.’ Judge Davis said the case would proceed to trial, for a jury to weigh whether Fox spread false claims about Dominion while knowing that they were untrue, and to determine any damages. The trial is expected to begin April 17. But he rejected much of the heart of Fox’s defense: that the First Amendment protected the statements made on its air alleging that the election had somehow been stolen. Fox has argued that it was merely reporting on allegations of voter fraud as inherently newsworthy and that any statements its hosts made about supposed fraud were covered under the Constitution as opinion. ‘It appears oxymoronic to call the statements “opinions” while also asserting the statements are newsworthy allegations and/or substantially accurate reports of official proceedings,’ Judge Davis said.” See also, Judge rules Fox hosts’ claims about Dominion were false and says trial can proceed, NPR, David Folkenflik, Friday, 31 March 2023: “Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis ruled Friday that Dominion Voting Systems’ blockbuster defamation suit against Fox News over baseless claims it had cheated former President Donald Trump of victory in the 2020 elections could proceed to trial. In addition, Davis ruled that Dominion had already proved the contested statements’ falsity. The jury that is scheduled to be seated in the trial in several weeks won’t have to weigh their validity; instead, the judge will instruct them that they are false. ‘The evidence developed in this civil proceeding demonstrates that [it] is CRYSTAL clear that none of the Statements relating to Dominion about the 2020 election are true,’ Davis wrote in a 80-page decision notable for the tough stance it took against Fox’s legal defense. That means Dominion can now publicly say the allegations made on numerous Fox broadcasts about the election company have been declared by a court of law to be false.”

Fox News Hosts Back Trump After Months of Keeping Some Distance. Despite recent criticism, the network’s star personalities joined other leading conservatives in denouncing the indictment as politically motivated and a possible cause for unrest. The New York Times, Michael M. Brynbaum and Victoria Kim, Friday, 31 March 2023: “‘This cannot stand,’ the Fox News host Jesse Watters told his viewers. ‘This doesn’t feel right. Something feels terrible.’ Sean Hannity declared that Alvin L. Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, ‘has literally thrown the rule of law to the wind in exchange for a cheap act of petty political vengeance.’ As the world absorbed the indictment of former President Donald J. Trump, the strongholds of conservative media rallied to his side on Thursday evening, denouncing Mr. Bragg as a biased actor trying to hinder Mr. Trump’s chances of re-election. There was also scattered talk of the potential for unrest. ‘The Bill of Rights is gone,’ Glenn Beck, a former Fox News host, said during an apocalyptic appearance on Tucker Carlson’s program. Mr. Carlson announced that ‘the rule of law appears to be suspended tonight — not just for Trump, but for anyone who would consider voting for him.’ Later, he added: ‘Probably not the best time to give up your AR-15.'” See also, The Rule of Law Now Depends on Republicans, The New York Times, David French, Friday, 31 March 2023: “‘Probably not the best time to give up your AR-15. And I think most people know that.’ With those words, spoken the night The New York Times broke the news that a Manhattan grand jury indicted Donald Trump, the Fox News host Tucker Carlson signaled the next, dangerous phase of the Trumpist assault on the rule of law. We began to watch a replay of the circumstances that led to the violent assault on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. It continued. The former Fox News host Glenn Beck told Carlson that he predicted that by 2025 America would be ‘at war,’ ‘we’ll have a currency collapse, and we will live in a virtual police state.’ The Bill of Rights is ‘gone,’ Beck said. Vivek Ramaswamy, a Republican businessman and presidential candidate, put out a video statement saying that America is ‘skating on thin ice as a country right now’ and that ‘we may be heading on our way to a national divorce.’ Perhaps the most disturbing reaction came from Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is polling second to Trump in primary polls. Just after the indictment news broke (and without seeing the charges), he tweeted that the indictment was ‘un-American’ and then ominously declared that ‘Florida will not assist in an extradition request’ for Trump. DeSantis’s statement was a shot at our constitutional order. Governors don’t have the constitutional authority to block extradition requests from other states. Article IV of the Constitution contains an extradition clause, which declares that when a person charged with a crime is ‘found in another state,’ then he or she ‘shall’ be ‘delivered up’ and ‘removed’ to ‘the state having jurisdiction of the crime.’ Federal statutes and Supreme Court authority require the ‘executive authority’ of the state to ’cause’ the defendant ‘to be arrested and secured.’ In all likelihood, Trump will surrender voluntarily to New York authorities, but if he does not, then the Constitution and federal statutes apply, and DeSantis cannot block Trump’s arrest. Moreover, all of these immediate reactions come after Trump himself warned of ‘potential death and destruction’ before the indictment and briefly posted an image of him holding a baseball bat next to an image of the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin Bragg. Trump also posted, ‘Our country is being destroyed as they tell us to be peaceful.’ The implications are obvious. To fully understand the Trumpist threat to the rule of law, it’s necessary to discuss what the rule of law means. A nation truly governed by the rule of law isn’t going to have a perfect legal system — no human system can be perfect — but it will have a double check against injustice. The rule of law depends on both substance and process, just laws and just processes, and respect for the rule of law depends on peacefully complying with the legal process even when you’re utterly convinced the underlying legal charge is wrong.” See also, Chris Hayes Tears Apart Tucker Carlson’s AR-15 Advice Following Trump Indictment. The MSNBC anchor asked why Carlson would suggest that Fox News viewers hold on to their guns amid the former president’s legal woes. HuffPost, Ben Blanchet, published on Saturday, 1 April 2023: “MSNBC’s Chris Hayes is questioning why Fox News host Tucker Carlson would suggest that gun owners hold on to their AR-15-style rifles in the wake of Donald Trump’s indictment this week. On Friday, Hayes played clips of various Fox News personalities’ reactions after a Manhattan grand jury indicted the former president for his role in a hush-money payment to a porn actor. The footage showed Jesse Watters saying the indictment ‘lights a fire’ under the country, Jason Whitlock urging viewers to get ‘ready for whatever’s next,’ and Carlson remarking that it’s ‘probably not the best time to give up your AR-15.’ ‘Why not? Why’s he saying that?’ Hayes asked. ‘The implication is you have the AR-15 so that you can shoot at, kill, maim — who? Fellow citizens? Agents of the state? Why do you have them? Who are you going to shoot?’ Carlson had made the comment after conservative activist Ned Ryun, a guest on his Fox News show, said the U.S. was on the path to ‘a one-party state and authoritarian government.’ These remarks accompanied a number of others from Fox News personalities as they predicted potential acts of violence in the wake of Thursday’s indictment.”







Even though the Trump administration is no longer in office, I am continuing to post summaries of the daily political news and major stories relating to this tragic and dangerous period in US history. I try to focus on the differences between the Trump administration and the Biden administration and on the ongoing toxic residual effects of the Trump administration and Republicans. I usually post throughout the day and let the news settle for a day or so before posting.

I created Muckraker Farm in 2014 as a place to post muckraking (investigative) journalism going back to the 19th century. I hope to return to this original project soon. You can find these muckraking pieces under the Home Page link at the top of this site. Thanks for reading!