Aftermath of the Trump Administration, April 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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Saturday, 1 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia takes U.N. Security Council presidency for the month of April; calls mount for release of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables and Adela Suliman, Saturday, 1 April 2023: “Russia took up the presidency of the U.N. Security Council on Saturday, a rotating role that it will hold for one month. Moscow last held the position in February 2022 — the month it invaded Ukraine.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said this week that ‘a country that flagrantly violates the U.N. Charter and invades its neighbor has no place on the U.N. Security Council,’ but added that there is ‘no feasible international legal pathway’ to change Moscow’s status in the organization. Ukrainian Foreign Affairs Minister Dmytro Kuleba called Russia’s presidency ‘a stark reminder that something is wrong with the way international security architecture is functioning,’ while Andriy Yermak, the Ukrainian president’s chief of staff, said it was a ‘symbolic blow.’ Pressure is mounting on Moscow to release Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, a U.S. citizen who was detained in Russia this week on espionage charges. The Journal denied the charges and said the ‘minimum’ it expects of the Biden administration is to expel Russia’s ambassador and Russian journalists working in the United States. Biden called on Russia to ‘let him go,’ but told reporters expelling diplomats is ‘not the plan right now.’

  • The Wall Street Journal accused Russia of taking Gershkovich hostage on ‘phony espionage charges.’ He is the first U.S. journalist arrested in Russia on spying allegations since the Cold War and his detainment has drawn condemnation from governments and organizations around the world including The Washington Post. Reporters Without Borders called for Gershkovich’s release and said there was no indication he was ‘doing anything other than legitimate investigative reporting.’
  • Ukrainian officials lambasted Russia’s U.N. Security Council presidency. Sergiy Kyslytsya, Ukraine’s permanent representative at the United Nations, likened the decision to an April Fool’s Day joke. Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said ‘an entity that wages an aggressive war, violates the norms of humanitarian & criminal law, destroys the UN Charter, neglects nuclear safety can’t head the world’s key security body.’
  • Finland will formally join NATO ‘in the coming days,’ the alliance’s head Jens Stoltenberg said, finalizing what he described as ‘the fastest ratification process in NATO’s modern history.’ Finland and Sweden applied for membership on the same day last year, prompted by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but Turkey and Hungary are holding out on Sweden’s bid. Stoltenberg said he hopes Sweden can join ‘as soon as possible.’
  • The International Monetary Fund approved a $15.6 billion economic program for Ukraine, allowing around $2.7 billion to be immediately disbursed to Kyiv, the organization announced Friday. U.S. Treasury Secretary Janet L. Yellen said in a statement that the four-year program ‘will support economic growth, strengthen good governance and anti-corruption efforts, and set the foundation for longer-term reconstruction.’
  • Russia will boost munition supplies to its forces on the front line in Ukraine, its Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Saturday, Reuters reported. ‘The volume of supplies of the most demanded ammunition has been determined. Necessary measures are being taken to increase them,’ he said. Shoigu has faced criticism from Russian mercenary group Wagner for a lack of support and supplies to front-line troops.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a new ‘foreign policy concept,’ bolstering ties to China and India. The 42-page document strikes a confrontational tone regarding the West and says the measures aim to eliminate ‘rudiments of domination’ by the United States and other ‘unfriendly countries in world affairs.’ Moscow will also work to ‘counter Russophobia,’ it adds.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky spoke to French President Emmanuel Macron in an hourlong conversation, he said on Twitter. The two leaders discussed the Ukraine-France ‘defense interaction’ and Zelensky ‘briefed in detail on the situation at the front,’ he said.
  • Wimbledon has reversed its ban on Russian and Belarusian tennis players and will allow them to compete under a neutral flag. The ban — which was also imposed in other sports — came into effect after Russia’s invasion last year. Earlier this week, the International Olympic Committee recommended that athletes from Russia and Belarus also be allowed to return to competition, a move that angered Ukraine.
  • Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez encouraged Chinese leader Xi Jinping to discuss peace plans with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, Reuters reported. Speaking at a news conference in Beijing, Sánchez said he told Xi — who carried out a grand state visit to Moscow in March — that Madrid supported Zelensky’s peace proposals, including restoring Ukrainian territory to borders predating Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.

Trump’s Republican Rivals, Shielding Him, Reveal Their 2024 Predicament. Many of Donald Trump’s potential opponents snapped into line behind him, showing just how hard it may be to persuade Republican voters to choose an alternative. The New York Times, Michael C. Bender and Maggie Haberman, Saturday, 1 April 2023: “Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida took a measured dig at Donald J. Trump by publicly mocking the circumstances that led New York investigators to the former president. ‘I don’t know what goes into paying hush money to a porn star to secure silence over some type of alleged affair,’ Mr. DeSantis said. But as soon as Mr. Trump was indicted this week, Mr. DeSantis promptly vowed to block his state from assisting a potential extradition. In a show of support for his fellow Republican, Mr. DeSantis called the case ‘the weaponization of the legal system to advance a political agenda.’ In the hours after a grand jury indicted Mr. Trump, many of his potential rivals for the Republican presidential nomination snapped into line behind him, looking more like allies than competitors. All passed on the opportunity to criticize him, and some rushed to his defense, expressing concerns about the legitimacy of the case. The turnaround by some prospective contenders was so swift and complete that it caught even the Trump team off guard. One close ally suggested to Mr. Trump that he publicly thank his rivals. (As of Friday evening, he had not.) The reluctance to directly confront Mr. Trump put his strength as a front-runner on full display. His would-be challengers have been sizing up political billiard balls for the possibility of an increasingly tricky bank shot: persuading Republican voters to forsake him, while presenting themselves as the movement’s heir apparent. In one reflection of Mr. Trump’s durability, his team said it had raised more than $4 million in the 24 hours after the indictment was made public by The New York Times.”

Sunday, 2 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinkin calls for release of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich; explosion kills pro-Russian military blogger, The Washington Post, Bryan Pietsch, Leo Sands, and Maham Javaid, Sunday, 2 April 2023: “Washington has called on the Kremlin to immediately release American journalist Evan Gershkovich, a State Department spokesperson said Sunday. The United States is gravely concerned about the Wall Street Journal reporter’s ‘unacceptable’ detention, Secretary of State Antony Blinken told Sergei Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, during a phone call Sunday morning. Gershkovich was detained last week in Russia on espionage charges. The White House and the Journal have denied those allegations. Meanwhile, an explosion at a cafe in St. Petersburg killed prominent Russian military blogger Vladlen Tatarsky and injured 16 others, the Russian Interior Ministry reported Sunday.

  • Blinken also urged the Kremlin to ‘immediately release wrongfully detained U.S. citizen Paul Whelan,’ according to a statement from State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel. Whelan, a former U.S. Marine, was convicted in Russia on espionage charges in 2020. His attorney said Whelan was set up.
  • Lavrov asked Blinken to ‘respect the decisions of the Russian authorities,’ according to a Russian Foreign Ministry statement. Lavrov said Gershkovich’s arrest was in accordance with the law and international obligations of the Russian Federation, according to the Foreign Ministry.
  • The U.S. government is moving quickly to designate Gershkovich as ‘unlawfully detained,’ the Journal’s editor in chief, Emma Tucker, said in an interview Saturday with CNN’s Anderson Cooper. The designation would speed the process to try to free him, she said. Measures such as expelling Russia’s ambassador to the United States — which the Journal’s editorial board has called for — are ‘not the plan right now,’ Tucker said.
  • St. Petersburg police are investigating the cafe explosion, according to the Russian Interior Ministry. Tatarsky, one of the most prominent pro-Kremlin military bloggers, had more than 560,000 followers on his Telegram page that chronicled and promoted Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • A Ukrainian court has placed the head of Kyiv’s most prominent monastery under house arrest on charges of justifying Russia’s armed aggression, the latest escalation in a long-simmering conflict between Ukrainian officials and a local branch of the Orthodox Church they say has ties to Moscow, The Washington Post reported. Metropolitan Pavlo, the head of the Lavra monastery, has denied the charges.

Continue reading Aftermath of the Trump Administration, April 2023:

The Justice Department is said to have more evidence of possible Trump obstruction at Mar-a-Lago. Emails and texts of ex-staff are guiding investigators, who increasingly suspect Trump went through boxes after subpoena. The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Josh Dawsey, and Perry Stein, Sunday, 2 April 2023: “Justice Department and FBI investigators have amassed fresh evidence pointing to possible obstruction by former president Donald Trump in the investigation into top-secret documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home, according to people familiar with the matter. The additional evidence comes as investigators have used emails and text messages from a former Trump aide to help understand key moments last year, said the people, who like others interviewed for this article spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation. The new details highlight the degree to which special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into the potential mishandling of hundreds of classified national security papers at Trump’s Florida home and private club has come to focus on the obstruction elements of the case — whether the former president took or directed actions to impede government efforts to collect all the sensitive records.”

Trump claims judge overseeing New York case ‘hates’ him, His lawyer says it isn’t true. ‘Do I think the judge is biased? Of course not,’ Joe Tacopina says as Republicans continue to defend Trump and echo his attacks on the legal system. The Washington Post, Azi Paybarah, Drew Harwell, and Ann E. Marimow, Sunday, 2 April 2023: “Former president Donald Trump’s attorney Joe Tacopina said Sunday he doesn’t believe the judge who oversaw Trump’s indictment is biased, contradicting days of Trump’s attacks in which he declared that the judge ‘HATES ME.’ On Friday, the former president claimed on his Truth Social account that Juan Merchan — the New York Supreme Court justice who’s overseeing the criminal proceedings — had treated Trump’s company ‘VICIOUSLY’ in a tax fraud case that wrapped up in January and had ‘railroaded’ a former executive for the Trump Organization, Allen Weisselberg, into pleading guilty. But Tacopina, speaking Sunday to George Stephanopoulos on ABC News’s ‘This Week,’ waved off the criticism. ‘Do I think the judge is biased? Of course not,’ Tacopina said. ‘How could I subscribe to that when I’ve had no interactions with the judge that would lead me to believe he’s biased?'”

Trump Flourishes in the Glare of His Indictment. The former president’s appetite for attention has been fundamental to his identity for decades. Where others may focus on the hazards of a criminal case, he raises money, promotes his campaign, and works to reduce the case to a cliffhanging spectacle. The New York Times, Peter Baker, Sunday, 2 April 2023: “Since long before he entered the White House, former President Donald J. Trump has been an any-publicity-is-good-publicity kind of guy. In fact, he once told advisers, ‘There’s no bad press unless you’re a pedophile.’ Hush money for a porn star? Evidently not an exception to that rule. And so, while no one wants to be indicted, Mr. Trump in one sense finds himself exactly where he loves to be — in the center ring of the circus, with all the spotlights on him. He has spent the days since a grand jury called him a potential criminal milking the moment for all it’s worth, savoring the attention as no one else in modern American politics would. He has blitzed out one fund-raising email after another with the kind of headlines other politicians would dread, like ‘BREAKING: PRESIDENT TRUMP INDICTED’ and ‘RUMORED DETAILS OF MY ARREST’ and ‘Yes I’ve been indicted, BUT’ — the ‘but’ being but you can still give him money. And when it turned out that they did give him money, a total of $4 million by his campaign’s count in the 24 hours following his indictment, he trumpeted that as loudly as he could too. Rather than hide from the indignity of turning himself in to authorities this week, Mr. Trump obligingly sent out a schedule as if for a campaign tour, letting everyone know he would fly on Monday from Florida to New York, then on Tuesday surrender for mug shots, fingerprinting and arraignment. In case that were not enough to draw the eye, he plans to then fly back to Florida to make a prime-time evening statement at Mar-a-Lago, surrounded by the cameras and microphones he covets.”

ABC News exclusive: Former Arkansas Governor Asa Hutchinson announces 2024 presidential run. He says that Trump should drop out of the race given his recent indictment. ABC News, Alisa Wiersema, Sunday, 2 April 2023: “Former Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson made his 2024 White House bid official on Sunday in an exclusive sit-down interview with ABC ‘This Week’ co-anchor Jonathan Karl. Ahead of his presidential announcement, Hutchinson, a Republican, spent several days in the first-in-the nation caucus state of Iowa, stirring speculation that he intended to enter into what he acknowledged is a tense national political landscape. ‘I have made a decision, and my decision is I’m going to run for president of the United States,’ Hutchinson told Karl. ‘While the formal announcement will be later in April, in Bentonville [Arkansas], I want to make it clear to you, Jonathan, I am going to be running. And the reason is, I’ve traveled the country for six months, I hear people talk about the leadership of our country. I’m convinced that people want leaders that appeal to the best of America, and not simply appeal to our worst instincts.'” See also, Republican Asa Hutchinson Announces Presidential Bid. The former governor of Arkansas, a prominent Trump critic within the Republican Party, has been testing the waters in Iowa. The New York Times, Jonathan Weisman, Sunday, 2 April 2023: “Asa Hutchinson, the former governor of Arkansas, joined the race for the Republican nomination for president on Sunday, banking that in a crowded field, enough G.O.P. voters will be searching for an outspoken critic of Donald J. Trump to lift his dark-horse candidacy. ‘What struck me as I was in Orange County, California, and as I was in Iowa for three days this week, was that the Trump factor really didn’t come up,’ he said in an interview on Sunday, after he announced his candidacy on ABC’s ‘This Week.’ The voters, he said, ‘are talking about things that matter to them, which is the economy, which is the fentanyl crisis that we have, and the relationship and leadership of America on the world stage.'” See also, Republican Asa Hutchinson announces he is running for president. The former Arkansas governor becomes the latest to join the Republican primary. The Washington Post, Meryl Kornfield, Sunday, 2 April 2023: “Former Arkansas governor Asa Hutchinson announced Sunday that he will run for president in 2024, a move that comes after the Republican has marketed himself as a more stable alternative to former president Donald Trump. Hutchinson, 72, said he would make a formal announcement on April 26 in Bentonville, Ark., but wanted to clarify his intent ahead of that time. ‘I’m concerned about what’s needed in our party and our nominee,’ he said in an interview Sunday with The Washington Post. ‘I certainly take a different path than Donald Trump. And I see it’s time for different leadership.’ He first revealed his plans in an interview broadcast earlier in the day on ABC’s ‘This Week.'”


Monday, 3 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia detains suspect in St. Petersburg cafe blast; Finland to formalize NATO membership, The Washington Post, Susannah George, Isabelle Khurshudyan, Leo Sands, Bryan Pietsch, Emily Rauhala, Sammy Westfall, and Adam Taylor, Monday, 3 April 2023: “Russian authorities in St. Petersburg detained a woman on Monday as part of their investigation of a cafe explosion on Sunday that killed prominent Kremlin-aligned military blogger, Maxim Fomin, also known as Vladlen Tatarsky. Russia’s Investigative Committee identified the woman as Daria Trepova and accused her of involvement in the attack. Finland is set to join NATO as its 31st member on Tuesday, the military alliance’s secretary general, Jens Stoltenberg, announced. A flag-raising ceremony in Brussels will mark the culmination of Helsinki’s repeatedly delayed path to membership, which was finally approved last week when Turkey’s parliament voted to support its bid. Sweden — which applied to join at the same time — has not yet secured the approval of Hungary and Turkey, holdouts that have blocked the required unanimity for admitting new alliance members.

  • The number of people injured in the St. Petersburg explosion climbed to 32, Russian state media reported Monday. Russian authorities previously said they were investigating Fomin’s death as a murder.
  • Russian officials are taking ‘energetic steps’ in their investigation of the blast, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday. ‘The Ukrainian special services may have something to do with the planning of this,’ he added, without providing any evidence to substantiate the accusation. Russia’s National Antiterrorism Committee blamed the attack on opposition leader Alexei Navalny’s Anti-Corruption Foundation, also without providing evidence.
  • More than one vessel might have been involved in sabotaging the Nord Stream pipeline last year, according to Western officials. Earlier this year, German officials had zeroed in on a rented sailboat in their investigation, but some now believe the 50-foot yacht, the Andromeda, was probably not the only vessel used in the audacious attack and may have even been a decoy, they told The Washington Post. The attack disabled Nord Stream 1 and part of Nord Stream 2, two undersea pipelines that carried Russian natural gas to Europe.
  • The Biden administration is preparing another arms package for Ukraine to be announced this week, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. He indicated that the bulk of the package would include ‘the kinds of ammunition they need as they prepare for what we expect to be…vicious fighting in the weeks and months ahead’ as Ukraine’s weather improves.
  • Former secretary of state Mike Pompeo visited Kyiv, where he met with Zelensky on Monday and emphasized U.S. support for the country. After meeting with a delegation of Republican congressmen who traveled to Ukraine, led by Rep. Michael Turner (Ohio), Zelensky in his nightly address thanked ‘America for its consistently powerful help, from President Biden and the White House team to both houses of Congress and the entire system of American power.’
  • An appeal to reverse the detention of American journalist Evan Gershkovich in Russia was filed before a Moscow court, a court press service told local news outlets. A date has not yet been set to consider the question. Secretary of State Antony Blinken pressed his counterpart in Moscow to immediately release the Wall Street Journal reporter. In a rare call with Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, Blinken also appealed for the release of Paul Whelan, an American who the United States says was wrongfully convicted on espionage charges.
  • Russia will station tactical nuclear weapons close to NATO’s borders within western Belarus, Moscow’s ambassador to Minsk, Boris Gryzlov, told Belarusian state television, according to the Associated Press. ‘It will expand our defense capability, and it will be done regardless of all the noise in Europe and the United States,’ Gryzlov said. Last week, the United States and its European allies condemned Putin’s announcement that he planned to store nuclear weapons in Belarus.
  • U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield said Russia’s assumption of its seat as president of the U.N. Security Council on April 1 is ‘like an April Fool’s joke.’ But she added in a statement Monday that it’s a rotating position and ‘we expect that they will behave professionally.’ Still, the United States will be ready to ‘call them out’ if they use their seat to spread disinformation or promote their agenda in relation to Ukraine.
  • Germany’s vice chancellor, Robert Habeck, arrived in Kyiv for a surprise visit MondayDer Spiegel reported. According to the newspaper, Habeck traveled with representatives of the German business community and will discuss Ukraine’s energy sector and economic reconstruction. After some hesitation, Berlin announced plans earlier this year to deliver more than a dozen Leopard 2 tanks to Kyiv.
  • Finland’s soon-to-be prime minister, Petteri Orpo, said the country will ‘do all that is needed to help Ukraine.’ The victory of Orpo’s National Coalition Party over incumbent Sanna Marin’s Social Democrats comes as Finland is poised to join NATO. He told the Associated Press at a victory event that ‘we cannot accept this terrible war,’ assuring Ukraine: ‘We stand by you.’
  • The conflict in Ukraine is one of several events causing worries about the global economy. Companies are shortening and diversifying their supply chains, while investors navigate the most volatile bond market conditions since 2009, with some experts wondering whether this is a permanent shift. ‘You really need to wonder whether this is that once-every-75-years, or every-100-years, time when the world fundamentally changes,’ Douglas Rediker, a partner at International Capital Strategies, told The Post.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia Detains Suspect in Blogger’s Killing; Officials Blame Ukraine and Opposition. Russian authorities detained a woman in sunday’s bombing that killed an influential pro-war blogger in St Petersburg. The New York Times, Monday, 3 April 2023:

  • An arrest in the St. Petersburg bombing could presage a heavier crackdown on antiwar Russians.

  • The woman arrested in a Russian pro-war blogger’s death had attended opposition rallies.

  • The pro-war blogger killed in St. Petersburg was a prominent member of a radical movement.

  • Evan Gershkovich, the American reporter detained in Moscow, appeals his arrest.

  • Wagner claims ‘legal’ control of Bakhmut, while Ukraine says it is still fighting.

  • Russia, holding the Security Council’s presidency for April, lays out its plans for the month.

  • Poland announces a state visit by Zelensky.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia jails a U.S. reporter, Finland joins NATO, and more, NPR, NPR Staff, Monday, 3 April 2023: Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: Finland’s flag will be raised at NATO headquarters on Tuesday as the country joins the security alliance — a significant development in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. NATO countries’ top diplomats will meet in Brussels this week. The deputy foreign ministers of Syria, Turkey, Iran and Russia are meeting in Moscow. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy visits Poland Wednesday. French President Emmanuel Macron visits China this week, partaking in a trilateral meeting with European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen and Chinese leader Xi Jinping on Thursday. Russian President Vladimir Putin is due to hold talks with Belarus’ leader Alexander Lukashenko. Battle-watchers are eyeing Bakhmut after Russia’s Wagner Group claimed to capture the eastern Ukrainian city and Ukraine denied the claim. United Nations-watchers have their eyes on how Russia handles its role presiding over the U.N. Security Council this month. What happened last week: Russia arrested Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, drawing condemnation from the U.S. government and press freedom groups. Russian security agents accused him of trying to gather classified information at military industrial sites on behalf of Washington, which the Journal denies. Turkey and Hungary ratified Finland’s bid to join NATO, the last members to do so, offering the alliance a strong military and northern position. Sweden applied jointly with Finland, alarmed by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, but the Swedes are still waiting for approval from both Hungary and Turkey. The battle for Bakhmut in Ukraine’s east became ‘especially hot’ this weekendPresident Zelenskyy said. Ukraine denied and mocked claims by Russia’s Wagner Group of mercenaries that they captured the city and raised a Russian flag on an administrative building there. A well-known Russian military blogger was killed by an explosion in a St. Petersburg cafe, with some reports saying a bomb could have been lodged in a bust of the blogger that was gifted to him. Moscow blamed Russian opposition activists and Ukraine. Ukraine struck Russian-held Melitopol, a city deep behind the front lineknocking out power and hitting a railway depot. Russia took on the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council this month. Ukraine’s foreign minister called it ‘a slap in the face to the international community.'”

Donald Trump and New York city Brace for a Consequential Week. As the former president traveled to Manhattan for his arrest on Tuesday, his team weighed how to capitalize on it, while officials in New York prepared for potential turmoil. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, Monday, 3 April 2023: “Former President Donald J. Trump made his heavily anticipated arrival in New York on Monday as he prepared to walk into a Manhattan courtroom as both a defendant and a candidate. Mr. Trump landed at La Guardia Airport on Monday afternoon after taking off from Florida on his private plane with a phalanx of nearly a dozen aides, as well as his son Eric Trump. The former president’s team continued to make final plans for his arrest on Tuesday while also trying to maximize his surrender for political benefit. Officials in New York, meanwhile, were bracing for the circuslike atmosphere that expected protests might bring. The Trump campaign on Sunday scheduled a prime-time news conference at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday night, just hours after Mr. Trump is expected to turn himself in. The campaign has also been using his indictment in fund-raising appeals, and said it had raised $7 million since the news became public, though financial records corroborating the claim will not be available for weeks. The planning reflects Mr. Trump’s belief that the indictment will ultimately bolster his standing in his third bid for the G.O.P. presidential nomination, with Republicans who had been considering alternatives rallying to his side. His recent polling has been among the strongest of his 2024 campaign. On Sunday, some Trump critics came to his defense, suggesting that the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, might have targeted him unfairly. The actual crimes Mr. Trump is accused of are not publicly known, though they are believed to be related to a hush-money payment to Stormy Daniels, a former porn star who claims she had an affair with Mr. Trump. The indictment, news of which broke on Thursday, may not be unsealed before his arraignment.”


Tuesday, 4 April 2023:


From President to Defendant: Trump Pleads Not Guilty to 34 Felonies. The former president, who appeared in a Manhattan courtroom on Tuesday, is accused of covering up a potential sex scandal during the 2016 election. The New York Times, Jonah E. Bromwich, William K. Rashbaum, Ben Protess, and Maggie Haberman, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “Donald J. Trump, who has weathered two impeachment trials, a special counsel inquiry and decades of investigations, was accused by Manhattan prosecutors on Tuesday of orchestrating a hush-money scheme to pave his path to the presidency and then covering it up from the White House. Mr. Trump pleaded not guilty in the case, which has far-reaching political consequences and opens a perilous chapter in the long public life of the real estate mogul and former president, who now faces the embarrassing prospect of a criminal trial. Mr. Trump, who was indicted on 34 felony counts and stands accused of covering up a potential sex scandal involving a porn star, made an extraordinary appearance at the Criminal Courts Building in Lower Manhattan to face the charges. Even as Mr. Trump’s supporters rallied outside, the former president sat, almost docile, at the defense table, listening as prosecutors described the case against him. Overall he said fewer than a dozen words, but at one point leaned forward and entered his plea of ‘not guilty’ in the packed but pin-drop-quiet courtroom, a surreal scene for a man who months ago mounted a third run for the White House. The hearing was also momentous for the prosecutor who brought the case, the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg. Afterward, he made his first remarks since the indictment, punctuating a proceeding that gave his liberal Manhattan base a long-awaited moment of catharsis: Mr. Trump’s first day in court as a criminal defendant. ‘Everyone stands equal under the law,’ Mr. Bragg, a Democrat, said at a press conference after the arraignment. ‘No amount of money and no amount of power’ changes that, he added.” See also, The Donald Trump Indictment, Annotated, The New York Times, Michael Rothfeld, Tuesday, 4 April 2023. See also, Analysis: A Surprise Accusation Bolsters a Risky Case Against Trump. The unsealed case against Donald Trump accuses him of falsifying records in part to lay the groundwork for planned lies to tax authorities. The New York Times, Charlie Savage, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “The unsealed indictment against former President Donald J. Trump on Tuesday laid out an unexpected accusation that bolstered what many legal experts have described as an otherwise risky and novel case: Prosecutors claim he falsified business records in part for a plan to deceive state tax authorities. For weeks, observers have wondered about the exact charges the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, would bring. Accusing Mr. Trump of bookkeeping fraud to conceal campaign finance violations, many believed, could raise significant legal challenges. That accusation turned out to be a major part of Mr. Bragg’s theory — but not all of it. ‘Pundits have been speculating that Trump would be charged with lying about the hush money payments to illegally affect an election, and that theory rests on controversial legal issues and could be hard to prove,” said Rebecca Roiphe, a New York Law School professor and former state prosecutor. ‘It turns out the indictment also includes a claim that Trump falsified records to commit a state tax crime,’ she continued. ‘That’s a much simpler charge that avoids the potential pitfalls.’ The indictment listed 34 counts of bookkeeping fraud related to Mr. Trump’s reimbursement in 2017 to Michael D. Cohen, his former lawyer and fixer. Just before the 2016 election, Mr. Cohen had made a $130,000 hush money payment to the pornographic film actress Stormy Daniels, who has said she and Mr. Trump had an extramarital affair. Various business records concerning those payments to Mr. Cohen, an accompanying statement of facts said, falsely characterized them as being for legal services performed in 2017. For each such record, the grand jury charged Mr. Trump with a felony bookkeeping fraud under Article 175 of the New York Penal Law. A conviction on that charge carries a sentence of up to four years. But bookkeeping fraud is normally a misdemeanor. For it to rise to a felony, prosecutors must show that a defendant intended to commit, aid or conceal a second crime — raising the question of what other crime Mr. Bragg would contend is involved. On Tuesday, Mr. Bragg suggested that prosecutors are putting forward multiple theories for the second crime, potentially giving judges and jurors alternative routes to finding that bookkeeping fraud was a felony.” See also, Trump decries Charges After Pleading Not Guilty to 34 Felony Counts, The New York Times, Live Coverage, Tuesday, 4 April 2023. See also, Trump charged with narrow violations in pursuit of broad scheme to undermine 2016 election, The Washington Post, Rosalind S. Helderman, Perry Stein, Ann E. Marimow, and Shayna Jacobs, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg, in a sweeping statement of facts unsealed Tuesday, accuses Donald Trump of engaging in a wide-reaching, more than two-year scheme to illegally influence the 2016 presidential election by suppressing potentially negative information about himself. What Trump wanted to keep quiet included allegations he had engaged in a sexual dalliance with an adult-film actress and an affair with a Playboy model, and fathered a child out of wedlock, Bragg said in state court documents. But the criminal charges detailed in the grand jury indictment against Trump are narrower, accusing the former president of falsifying business records 34 times, as he wrote checks to his lawyer Michael Cohen to reimburse Cohen for $130,000 paid to actress Stormy Daniels before the 2016 presidential election. The gulf between the breadth of the election interference that prosecutors have alleged and the nuts and bolts of the charges they have brought against him form the crux and challenge of the criminal case against Trump. ‘The prosecutor wants a story and a theory that the jury is going to find compelling and moving. Technical violations and false records are not that,’ said Cheryl Bader, an associate professor at the Fordham University School of Law. ‘So the prosecutor is going to have to show that the real underlying story is about how Trump deceived the American public to get elected.’ Falsifying business records is a felony in New York only when it is committed with an intent to commit or conceal another crime. At a news conference Tuesday after Trump appeared in court, Bragg, a Democrat, said prosecutors believe that Trump, a Republican, faked his business records as a way to cover up the election scheme, which he said was illegal under New York state election law and involved a campaign contribution that exceeded the cap set by federal law. ‘Why did Donald Trump repeatedly make these false statements? The evidence will show that he did so to cover up crimes relating to the 2016 election,’ Bragg explained.” See also, Trump pleads not guilty to 34 counts of falsifying business records, The Washington Post, Washington Post Staff, Tuesday, 4 April 2023. See also, Read the New York prosecutors’ statement of facts detailing case against Trump, The Washington Post, Washington Post Staff, Tuesday, 4 April 2023. See also, Three takeaways from Trump’s historic arrest and arraignment, Los Angeles Times, Harry Litman, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “Since it became clear that Manhattan Dist. Atty. Alvin Bragg intended to charge Donald Trump with crimes growing out of hush money payments to Stormy Daniels, close observers have wondered how he would frame the offenses and solve the problems that apparently led him to mothball the indictment shortly after he took office. With Tuesday’s dramatic arraignment of the former president, Bragg revealed his hand — except, in important ways, he didn’t. The indictment itself is about the least it could be — basically a recitation of 34 counts of falsifying business records that vary only by date. That is not necessarily a criticism: It’s quite clear that Bragg made a strategic decision to sketch the contours of the basic charges and leave it to future proceedings to fill in the picture. But along with the indictment, Bragg also filed a full-bodied statement of facts. It’s not part of the indictment nor, a footnote makes clear, a complete recitation of evidence. But it nevertheless reveals answers to basic questions surrounding the case. First, and most important, Bragg intends to prove the charges as an extended course of conduct — namely, as the statement says, ‘a catch-and-kill scheme to suppress negative information.’ In other words, the case is about much more than a payment of hush money to Stormy Daniels or the ‘accounting error’ that Trump’s allies are purporting it to be. It is instead a whole series of allegations beginning in 2015 and involving several partners in crime — you might call them ‘co-conspirators’ except that Bragg does not — for the very particular purpose of influencing the 2016 election. Bragg emphasized this in his news conference Tuesday, stating that the evidence would show Trump’s motive ‘was to cover up crimes relating to the 2016 election.’ The scheme began, according to Bragg, with a meeting with the then-chief executive of the National Enquirer’s parent company, David Pecker, and an agreement to help Trump’s campaign by suppressing damaging stories. The statement refers to very strong evidence of this purpose, including the damning detail that Trump instructed his lawyer Michael Cohen that ‘if they could delay the payment [to Daniels] until after the election, they could avoid paying altogether, because at that point it would not matter if the story became public.’ This underscores why Pecker was the last substantive witness we know to have testified before the grand jury. It’s likely he will be the second most important witness after Cohen. Second, anticipating criticism for charging 34 instances of falsification of business records, Bragg stressed that Manhattan is the financial center of the world and accurate bookkeeping therefore must be enforced. Falsifying such records in New York is a felony provided it’s done to further other crimes, and Bragg chose not to specify what he alleges those crimes were within the indictment. As he pointed out, the law doesn’t require him to.” See also, We Finally Know the Case Against Trump, and It Is Strong, The New York Times, Karen Friedman Agnifilo and Norman Eisen, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “For weeks, Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan district attorney, has come under heavy fire for pursuing a case against Donald Trump. Potential charges were described as being developed under a novel legal theory. And criticism has come not only from Mr. Trump and his allies, as expected, but also from many who are usually no friends of the former president but who feared it would be a weak case. With the release of the indictment and accompanying statement of facts, we can now say that there’s nothing novel or weak about this case. The charge of creating false financial records is constantly brought by Mr. Bragg and other New York D.A.s. In particular, the creation of phony documentation to cover up campaign finance violations has been repeatedly prosecuted in New York. That is exactly what Mr. Trump stands accused of. The judge and jury will make the ultimate determination, but they will be far from the first to consider this question, and the answer has usually been a guilty verdict.” See also, The People v. Donald J. Trump. Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is effectively accusing the former President of defrauding voters in 2016. The New Yorker, John Cassidy, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “On a glorious spring day, with barely a cloud in the sky over the Manhattan Criminal Court building and magnolia trees blooming across the five boroughs, a seventy-six-year-old businessman who has lately been living in Florida was arraigned on thirty-four felony charges of falsifying business records to disguise a payment that he made, via his personal lawyer, to a self-employed Texas woman more than thirty years his junior. At a press conference after the arraignment, Alvin Bragg, the Manhattan District Attorney, pointed out that prosecutors in his office regularly indict people for falsifying business records. What made this case different, Bragg didn’t need to add, were the identity of the defendant and the legal strategy Bragg is using to elevate the charges of falsifying business records from misdemeanors to felonies. In a sixteen-page indictment, ‘The People of the State of New York Against Donald J. Trump,’ Bragg’s office accused the former President of ‘Falsifying Business Records in the First Degree in violation of Penal Law §175.10’—a New York statute—thirty-four times between February and December of 2017. The charges all relate to payments Trump made to Michael Cohen, his former personal lawyer, who, just before the election in 2016, had quietly paid off Stormy Daniels, an adult-film actress who claimed to have had an affair with Trump. (Trump denies this latter allegation.) For each of the thirty-four counts, the indictment accused Trump of acting ‘with intent to defraud and intent to commit another crime and aid and conceal the commission thereof.’ Under New York law, intent to break another law is necessary to charge falsifying business records as a felony rather than a misdemeanor…. The Statement of Facts that Bragg’s office filed to the court along with the indictment did spell out the prosecution’s theory of the case, which is that Trump effectively conspired with others to defraud American voters in 2016 by purchasing and suppressing negative information about himself. ‘In order to execute the unlawful scheme, the participants violated election laws and made and caused false entries in the business records of various entities in New York,’ the Statement of Facts says. ‘The participants also took steps that mischaracterized, for tax purposes, the true nature of the payments made in furtherance of the scheme.'”

A Prime-Time Speech and a List of Grievances. Hours after he was formally charged in New York, Donald Trump gave remarks from Florida long on complaints and light on applause lines. The New York Times, Michael C. Bender and Maya King, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “Former President Donald J. Trump, speaking at his Florida resort at Mar-a-Lago on Tuesday evening hours after his arraignment in New York, cast the case against him as unfair and politically motivated in an unusually short 21-minute speech that focused as much on other grievances and investigations. Standing before his family members, Republican Party officials and allies, Mr. Trump called the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, a ‘criminal,’ claiming without evidence that Mr. Bragg had leaked information from the grand jury. And Mr. Trump also called the judge overseeing the case, Juan M. Merchan, ‘a Trump-hating judge with a Trump-hating wife and family.’ In the courtroom during his arraignment earlier on Tuesday, Justice Merchan admonished Mr. Trump about his public remarks, urging him to refrain from making statements about the case with ‘the potential to incite violence and civil unrest.’ In his speech, which was carried live by CNN and Fox News, Mr. Trump spent much of his time airing other perceived wrongs against him. He renewed his criticisms of the F.B.I.’s search of Mar-a-Lago in August, the New York attorney general’s civil investigation into him and his family’s business dealings and the open case in Georgia about his meddling in the 2020 election there.”

Finland Joins NATO in a Power Shift and Rebuke to Putin. The Nordic country became the alliance’s 31st member on Tuesday, spurred by the war in Ukraine, in a strategic setback for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The New York Times, Steven Erlanger, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “With a simple exchange of documents, Finland on Tuesday became NATO’s 31st member state, a strategic defeat for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, who was determined to block the alliance’s expansion but instead galvanized Finland to join amid Moscow’s devastating war in Ukraine. Later in the day, Finland’s national flag was raised at NATO headquarters, a deeply symbolic moment and a stark display of the shifting global dynamics, as the West shores up its allegiances in response to Russia’s aggression toward its neighbor. With Finland’s membership assured, NATO doubled its borders with Russia and gained access to a strong military with a deep history of countering Russia. NATO’s commitment to collective defense will now extend to a country that shares an 830-mile border with Russia and was twice invaded by its neighbor in the 20th century. If Finland is attacked, it can call on all members of the alliance for aid, a psychological and practical boost to Finns’ sense of security.” See also, Finland joins NATO, doubling military alliance’s border with Russia in a blow for Putin. CNN, Tara John, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “Finland officially became the 31st member of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) on Tuesday, marking a major shift in the security landscape in northeastern Europe that adds some 1,300 kilometers (830 miles) to the alliance’s frontier with Russia. The Nordic nation’s accession was sealed during a formal ceremony at the NATO headquarters in Brussels on Tuesday. US Secretary of State Antony Blinken and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg were on hand as the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Pekka Haavisto, established Finland’s accession. ‘Finland has today become a member of the defense alliance NATO. The era of military non-alignment in our history has come to an end. A new era begins,’ the Finnish presidency said in a statement.”

Liberal Janet Protasiewicz Wins Wisconsin Supreme Court Race in Victory for Abortion Rights Backers. Protasiewicz prevailed in the state’s highly consequential contest for the Supreme court, which will now be likely to reverse the state’s abortion ban and end the use of gerrymandered legislative maps. The New York Times, Reid J. Epstein, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “Wisconsin voters on Tuesday chose to upend the political direction of their state by electing a liberal candidate to the State Supreme Court, flipping majority control from conservatives, according to The Associated Press. The result means that in the next year, the court is likely to reverse the state’s abortion ban and end the use of gerrymandered legislative maps drawn by Republicans. Janet Protasiewicz, a liberal Milwaukee County judge, overwhelmingly defeated Daniel Kelly, a conservative former Wisconsin Supreme Court justice who sought a return to the bench. With more than 95 percent of votes counted by Wednesday morning, Judge Protasiewicz led by 11 percentage points, a huge margin in the narrowly divided state. ‘Our state is taking a step forward to a better and brighter future where our rights and freedoms will be protected,’ she told jubilant supporters at her victory party in Milwaukee. The contest, which featured over $40 million in spending, was the most expensive judicial election in American history. Early on, Democrats recognized the importance of the race for a swing seat on the top court in one of the country’s perennial political battlegrounds. Millions of dollars from out of state poured into Wisconsin to back Judge Protasiewicz, and a host of national Democratic groups rallied behind her campaign. Judge Protasiewicz, 60, shattered long-held notions of how judicial candidates should conduct themselves by making her political priorities central to her campaign. She made explicit her support for abortion rights and called the maps, which gave Republicans near-supermajority control of the Legislature, ‘rigged’ and ‘unfair.'” See also, Liberal judge’s victory in Wisconsin Supreme Court race marks political shift in key swing state, CNN Politics, Gregory Krieg, published on Wednesday, 5 April 2023: “The victory of a liberal judge in Tuesday’s Wisconsin Supreme Court election marks a significant political realignment toward the left in a crucial swing state, potentially closing the door on an era of Republican dominance with issues such as abortion rights at stake. With liberals now poised to effectively control the seven-judge court, Democrats are newly optimistic about saving abortion access in the state, establishing a firewall against any Republican challenges to the 2024 elections and potentially redoing GOP-drawn state legislative and congressional maps. That combination of issues proved a potent force in a race that attracted massive turnout and spending. And as they did in last year’s midterms in some places around the country, Democrats, once again, appear to have capitalized on a broad backlash to the US Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade and a base still energized by the specter of another Donald Trump presidency.”

Brandon Johnson Elected Chicago Mayor, Turning Back Tough-on-Crime Opponent. Paul Vallas, who pressed for a more conservative approach, narrowly lost to Mr. Johnson, who was little known to voters only months ago. The New York Times, Mitch Smith, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “Brandon Johnson, a county commissioner and teachers’ union organizer who called for a vast expansion of social programs in Chicago, as well as new taxes, was elected mayor of the country’s third-largest city on Tuesday, according to The Associated Press. Mr. Johnson’s victory over Paul Vallas, a fellow Democrat with far more conservative views on crime and education, revealed voters rejecting the tough-on-crime politics that have become a staple of municipal elections in recent years and instead embracing a decidedly progressive vision for a city still working to emerge from a pandemic malaise.”

Appeals court rejects Trump’s bid to block aides from testifying in January 6 investigation. It’s not immediately clear which aides were covered by the appeals court order. Politico, Kyle Cheney, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “A federal appeals court in Washington rejected an emergency bid by former President Donald Trump to block several top aides from testifying in the special counsel investigation of his effort to subvert the 2020 election. In a sealed order, a three-judge panel of the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals denied Trump’s urgent demand to block his aides from being required to appear before special counsel Jack Smith’s grand jury. Trump’s emergency motion triggered a frenzied set of overnight filings ahead of the Tuesday morning ruling. It’s not immediately clear which aides were covered by the appeals court order, but Trump recently lost a bid to prevent top allies like Mark Meadows, Dan Scavino and Stephen Miller from answering questions he says should be covered by executive privilege. Trump appealed that ruling — issued in mid-March by U.S. District Court Judge Beryl Howell — last week, leading to the appeals court fight. CNN has reported that the aides covered by Trump’s emergency order may include Meadows, Scavino, Miller and other former top Trump administration advisers like Robert O’Brien, John Ratcliffe and Ken Cuccinelli.” See also, Federal appeals court denies Trump’s emergency bid to stop ex-aides from testifying in January 6 investigation, CNN Politics, Sara Murray, Kaitlan Collins, Katelyn Polantz, and Casey Gannon, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “Former President Donald Trump’s legal team has lost a bid for emergency help from the federal appeals court in Washington, DC, to block some of his closest advisers from testifying about him to a grand jury, including former White House chief of staff Mark Meadows, according to a new court filing. Trump’s team on Monday night asked for the appeals court to wipe away a lower court’s ruling that would force several of his top advisers to answer questions to a grand jury investigating Trump and his allies’ attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election, despite his claims of legal protections around his presidency that would shield some of their testimony. The appeals court denied his request on Tuesday, dealing Trump another legal setback just before he is set to enter a courtroom in Manhattan to face criminal charges in a separate investigation. The swift decision means advisers to Trump, including Meadows, could be brought into the federal grand jury in Washington by prosecutors in the coming days. Trump would need a court to intervene in his favor in order to block their subpoenas.”

Tennessee House Republicans seek to expel 3 House Democrats after school shooting protests, The Washington Post, Praveena Somasundaram, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “Tennessee House Republicans have moved to expel three Democrats from their seats in the legislature after the representatives joined protesters demanding gun control [safety] last week. On Monday, Republicans in the House filed resolutions to expel Reps. Justin Jones, Gloria Johnson and Justin Pearson, saying they disrupted proceedings last Thursday when hundreds of people came to the state capitol to protest after the March 27 mass killing at Nashville’s Covenant School. Three 9-year-old students and three adults were killed in the attack, which has since heightened tensions among politicians in Tennessee and across the United States who remain divided on gun regulations.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Finland joins NATO; U.S. pledges $2.6 billion arms package to Ukraine, The Washington Post, Emily Rauhala, Leo Sands, Rachel Pannett, Natalia Abbakumova, Mikhail Klimentov, Dan Lamothe, and Sammy Westfall, Tuesday, 4 April 2023: “The Pentagon is set to send another $2.6 billion in weapons to Ukraine, U.S. defense officials said Tuesday. The department pledged $500 million from U.S. military stocks and $2.1 billion in arms after purchasing them from defense contractors. The Biden administration has provided tens of billions of dollars in weapons to Ukraine, mostly after Russia invaded in February 2022. Earlier Tuesday, Finland became a member of NATOending its long-standing military nonalignment in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The move reshapes European security, extending the transatlantic military alliance’s reach to the continent’s Arctic frontier and doubling its land border with Russia.

  • President Biden said Tuesday that he expected Sweden would soon become a NATO member. Sweden, which applied to join on the same day as Finland, is awaiting the approval of alliance members Turkey and Hungary. ‘When Putin launched his brutal war of aggression against the people of Ukraine, he thought he could divide Europe and NATO. He was wrong,’ Biden said in a statement. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) issued a separate but similar statement, welcoming Finland and describing NATO as ‘the most successful alliance in the history of the human race.’
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky congratulated Finland on joining NATO. Amid ‘Russian aggression, the Alliance became the only effective guarantee of security in the region,’ he said in a statement posted to Telegram. He said he hoped an upcoming NATO summit in Lithuania would ‘bring Ukraine closer to our Euro-Atlantic goal.’
  • Finland’s accession to NATO ‘forces us to take countermeasures to ensure our security,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said in a call with journalists that took place before Finland formally became a member. ‘NATO expansion is an encroachment on our security and the national interests of the Russian Federation,’ he said. Any response from Moscow will depend on how NATO chooses to deploy weaponry on the territory of its newest member, he added.
  • In a Moscow court appearance Tuesday, Russian authorities charged a 26-year-old antiwar activist with carrying out a terrorist attack and illegally carrying explosives. Russia’s Investigative Committee accused Daria Trepova of handing pro-Kremlin blogger Vladlen Tatarsky, whose real name was Maxim Fomin, an explosive figurine, which detonated Sunday in a cafe where Tatarsky was slated to speak. Without providing evidence, officials also accused Trepova of following orders from Ukraine. Trepova’s husband said she was framed. Forty people were injured in the explosion in St. Petersburg, Russian state media reported Tuesday.
  • The new U.S. weapons package for Ukraine that is to be pulled from U.S. stocks will include artillery and mortar rounds, 120mm and 105mm tank ammunition, grenade launchers and munitions for the Patriot air defense missile system, the Pentagon said. The Pentagon also said it will use a fund known as the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative to provide the country with a variety of additional air defenses, including systems that can counter drones.
  • Russia’s military equipped Belarusian aircraft with nuclear weapon capabilities, Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said Tuesday.An Iskander-M short-range missile system has been delivered to the Belarusian armed forces. It can fire conventional and nuclear missiles,’ Shoigu said. Belarusian crews were being trained to operate the systems to ensure ‘the security of the Union State,’ Shoigu said, referring to the name for the alliance between Belarus and Russia.
  • The case of Evan Gershkovich, the American reporter for the Wall Street Journal detained in Russia last week, is ‘a priority for this president,’ White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuesday. ‘These charges are ridiculous. Evan is not a spy.’ Gershkovich appealed his detention in an appearance before a Moscow court Tuesday, a court press service told local news outlets. A date has not yet been set to consider the appeal.
  • ‘Evan’s lawyers were able to meet with him in prison today. They said Evan’s health is good, and he is grateful for the outpouring of support from around the world,’ Wall Street Journal publisher Almar Latour and editor in chief Emma Tucker said in a statement Tuesday. ‘His imprisonment is wholly unjustified and an attack on a free press. We are doing everything in our power to bring Evan home safely and will not rest until he is reunited with his family.’
  • European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen held a phone call with Zelensky ahead of her visit this week to China. Ukraine will be ‘an important topic’ of her meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping and Chinese Premier Li Qiang, she said in a tweet. French President Emmanuel Macron also will begin a trip to China on Wednesday.
  • Zelensky delivered a virtual address to U.S. governors on Tuesday. ‘All of you know very well what is to rebuild your life after a devastating tornado,’ Zelensky told the National Governors Association. ‘But we are doing it because of the human element, human evil, and not a natural cataclysm.’ He thanked them for various types of support — from producing antitank systems to helping train Ukrainian military — and invited them to visit Ukraine.
  • The International Atomic Energy Agency’s director general is set to visit the Russian city of Kaliningrad on Wednesday, Russian state news agency Tass reported. Last week, Rafael Mariano Grossi toured the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant in Ukraine, where he described safety proposals at the plant, Europe’s largest, as ‘a work in progress.’ The plant was seized by Russian forces last year, and Grossi and other officials have warned of the risk of a nuclear accident amid increasing clashes between Russian and Ukrainian forces in the area.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Finland Deals a Blow to Putin as It Enters NATO. The military alliance expanded to 31 members on Tuesday, a strategic setback for President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The New York Times, Tuesday, 4 April 2023:

  • NATO welcomes Finland as a member, raising its flag in a symbol of the power shift spurred by the war.

  • Days into Russia’s U.N. Security Council presidency, Britain draws a line.

  • In the long, bitter battle for Bakhmut, drones are playing a bloody role.

  • A new $2.6 billion package of U.S. military aid to Ukraine includes $500 million for immediate supplies.

  • Russian investigators charge a suspect with terrorism offenses in the killing of a pro-war blogger.

  • The State Department summoned Russia’s ambassador over the detention of an American reporter.

  • The U.N. rights council chooses a veteran activist to investigate abuses in Russia.

  • Russia is laying mines and building trenches in the south to defend against a possible counteroffensive, a Ukrainian official says.


Wednesday, 5 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Poland to send more fighter jets to Ukraine, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Claire Parker, Missy Ryan, Ellen Francis, and Sammy Westfall, Wednesday, 5 April 2023: “A Wall Street Journal reporter whom Russia has accused of spying for the United States is ‘wrongfully detained,’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in an informal assessment Wednesday. The Kremlin’s detention of another American has injected a further element of friction into already strained U.S.-Russian ties. French President Emmanuel Macron arrived in Beijing for a three-day visit, with Russia’s war in Ukraine on the agenda. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen will join him for the talks, which come two weeks after Chinese leader Xi Jinping met with Russian President Vladimir Putin. On his own diplomatic trip, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky was in neighboring Poland, a close ally that has helped rally political and military support for Kyiv. ‘We consider Poland not only a partner, but also a friend forever,’ Zelensky said after meeting with Polish President Andrzej Duda on Wednesday. Warsaw has already sent four MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine and is in the process of handing over four more, Duda said at a news conference during the visit, the Associated Press reported. Poland is preparing another six jets to send to Ukraine as well.

  • Blinken said the State Department was working ‘very deliberately but expeditiously’ to conclude an assessment of whether Evan Gershkovich, a reporter assigned to the Wall Street Journal’s Moscow bureau, meets the criteria for the agency to officially declare his detention ‘wrongful,’ a procedural step that would set in motion a government effort to secure his release. ‘I’ll let that process play out,’ Blinken told reporters after a meeting of NATO foreign ministers in Brussels. ‘In my own mind, there’s no doubt that he’s been wrongfully detained by Russia.’
  • Lawyers were able to visit Gershkovich nearly a week after he was detained in Russia, Wall Street Journal publisher Almar Latour said in a statement. U.S. Embassy representatives have not yet been granted access to the 31-year-old American, who is being held in Lefortovo prison in Moscow. Gershkovich could face 20 years in prison if convicted on espionage charges. The Journal vehemently denies the allegations against him, describing them as bogus; international media organizations have also called for the reporter’s release.
  • Relations between Russia and the United States ‘are experiencing a deep crisis,’ Putin told new ambassadors, including those from the United States and the European Union, at a credentialing ceremony at the Kremlin on Wednesday. ‘At its core are fundamentally different approaches to shaping the modern world order,’ he added, suggesting that Washington was at fault for the war in Ukraine, which began with Russia’s invasion in February 2022. Putin told the diplomats his country, which is under Western sanctions, ‘is not going to isolate itself’ and would ‘continue to act as one of the sovereign centers of world politics.’
  • Putin also held talks with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko. The Belarusian leader, who has close ties to Moscow but stopped short of committing his own troops to the war in Ukraine, traveled to Moscow on Wednesday for two days of meetings with his Russian counterpart. Neither Lukashenko nor Putin explicitly mentioned the war in their opening public remarks, broadcast by state television, Reuters reported. But Lukashenko vowed the two countries would withstand Western pressure, according to Russian state-owned news agency Tass. ‘We will overcome all this,’ he said. ‘… We haven’t collapsed at all.’
  • Zelensky met with Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki, and separately, Duda, who presented him with Poland’s highest award. Poland, the first NATO ally to send fighter jets to neighboring Ukraine, has taken in more than 1.5 million refugees from the war, according to U.N. data. After meeting with Morawiecki, Zelensky said the negotiations were ‘victorious’ and they agreed upon a ‘new and really necessary defense package.’
  • Britain and the United States blocked a broadcast of a United Nations Security Council meeting Wednesday called by Russia to discuss its transfer of children from Ukraine. ‘We do not support [U.N. webcasts] being used by an individual to brief that we know has committed war crimes,’ Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, told reporters before the session began. The International Criminal Court last month issued arrest warrants for Putin and Maria Lvova-Belova, Russian commissioner for children’s rights, charging ‘unlawful deportation’ of Ukrainian children. Russia has called the reports ‘propaganda’ and has said children are being transported from war zones for their own safety.
  • The head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog met with Russian officials in Kaliningrad to discuss the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southern Ukraine, which Russian forces have occupied for more than a year. ‘I continue my efforts to protect’ the plant, International Atomic Energy Agency chief Rafael Mariano Grossi said Wednesday on Twitter.
  • China can play a ‘major role’ in finding an end to the war because of ‘its close relationship with Russia,’ Macron said at the start of his visit to the country. European officials have suggested that diplomatic efforts could persuade China not to back the Kremlin. Chinese President Xi Jinping met with Putin during a visit to Moscow in March in a show of support.
  • Finland’s accession to NATO brought celebration from Western allies and criticism from Russia. As Sweden awaits approval of its application to join the security alliance, the Nordic nation’s prime minister, Ulf Kristersson, congratulated Finland, writing that with its membership in NATO, ‘our part of the world becomes even safer, stronger and freer.’
  • The United States pledged to boost Ukraine’s air defenses with an additional $2.6 billion in military aid. The latest package includes plans to send gun trucks and laser-guided weapons to counter drones.
  • The Pentagon expects to begin training Ukrainian forces to use Abrams tanks ‘relatively soon,’ according to a U.S. defense official. Since the war began last year, the United States has given military training to 7,000 members of the Ukrainian armed forces, the official said. The United States committed in January to providing 31 M1 Abrams tanks to Ukraine, and Germany and other European nations also promised to send heavy tanks.
  • The European Union Commission said it paid Moldova 50 million euros ($55 million) — part of a 150 million euro ($164 million) macro-financial assistance package to ‘one of the countries most directly and heavily impacted by Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine,’ the commission said in a statement Wednesday. It cited the war’s significant impacts on Moldova’s economy, which added to ‘sizable pre-existing challenges and imbalances.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia Uses Security Council Meeting to Twist Charges of Child Abduction. Russia accused the West of the same charge the International Criminal Court has leveled at Moscow: abducting Ukrainian children. Fifty countries issued a joint statement saying Russia was spreading falsehoods. The New York Times, Wednesday, 5 April 2023:

  • ‘Outrageous, outrageous’: U.N. diplomats condemn Russia’s orchestrations at the Security Council.
  • Zelensky gets a hero’s welcome from Poland and pledges of military support.
  • Fighting is raging in the center of Bakhmut, a Ukrainian commander says.
  • Putin and Lukashenko will confer in Moscow on deepening ties, including nuclear-capable arms.
  • Macron, in Beijing for meetings with Xi, speaks of a shared aim for peace.
  • China is mining the war in Ukraine for lessons in case of a clash over Taiwan.
  • The journalist detained by Russia was reporting stories that ‘needed to be told.’

Former Vice President Mike Pence Won’t Appeal Ruling Forcing Testimony to January 6 Grand Jury, Aide Says. The decision may clear the way for potentially consequential testimony that federal prosecutors have long sought as they explore Donald Trump’s attempts to stay in office. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Wednesday, 5 April 2023: “Former Vice President Mike Pence will not appeal a federal judge’s ruling forcing him to testify in front of a grand jury investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to thwart the transfer of power after the 2020 election, an aide said Wednesday. The decision by Mr. Pence could clear the way for potentially consequential testimony that federal prosecutors have long sought as they explore Mr. Trump’s attempts to stay in office. It is unclear whether lawyers for Mr. Trump, who lost a parallel effort to limit Mr. Pence’s testimony, will also appeal the judge’s ruling. In a statement, Mr. Pence’s adviser, Devin O’Malley, noted that Mr. Pence had ‘prevailed’ on his attempts to argue that his testimony should be limited because as the president of the Senate on Jan. 6, 2021, he was protected from legal scrutiny by the executive branch — including the Justice Department — under the Constitution’s ‘speech or debate’ clause. That provision is intended to protect the separation of powers.” See also, Former Vice President Mike Pence will not fight the order that he testify before special counsel grand jury, NBC News, Laura Jarrett, Tuesday, 5 April 2023: “Former Vice President Mike Pence will not appeal a federal judge’s order that he testify in the special counsel’s probe of former President Donald Trump’s attempt to overturn the 2020 election, his adviser announced Wednesday. The decision not to fight the order could provide special counsel Jack Smith with remarkable access to one of the key people with critical insight into Trump’s thinking and efforts to cling to power. Last week, Judge James Boasberg, the chief judge of U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, largely dismissed efforts mounted by Pence and Trump to limit his testimony and avoid handing over documents. Boasberg acknowledged a constitutional argument against forcing Pence to testify in front of a grand jury about matters related to his role as Senate president during the certification of the election on Jan. 6, but nevertheless concluded that immunity should not prevent Pence from testifying about conversations related to alleged ‘illegality’ on Trump’s part.” See also, Former Vice President Mike Pence will not appeal ruling requiring him to testify to January 6 grand jury. The ruling limited the topics that prosecutors may ask Pence about. Politico, Kyle Cheney, Wednesday, 5 April 2023: “Mike Pence has decided against appealing a court order requiring him to testify before the grand jury investigating Donald Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 presidential election. ‘Vice President Pence will not appeal the Judge’s ruling and will comply with the subpoena as required by law,’ spokesman Devin O’Malley said Wednesday in a statement. The decision follows an unprecedented — but secret — ruling by Chief U.S. District Court Judge James Boasberg to require Pence’s testimony but to acknowledge some limits to the topics prosecutors may grill him about. Trump and Pence had both challenged the subpoena — but on entirely distinct grounds. Trump contended that his conversations with Pence in the weeks preceding the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol should be shielded by investigators because of executive privilege, which is intended to preserve the confidentiality of some presidential communications. Trump has lost a series of sealed executive privilege fights in recent months, failing to convince federal district and appellate judges to support his privilege assertions.”

Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) to Tighten Limits on Mercury and Other Pollutants From Power Plants. A new rule would reduce mercury, arsenic, nickel, and lead emissions, which the Biden administration said would protect public health. The New York Times, Lisa Friedman, Wednesday, 5 April 2023: “The Biden administration said Wednesday that it would require coal- and oil-fired power plants to reduce emissions of several hazardous air pollutants, including mercury, a neurotoxin that can cause developmental problems in infants and children. The proposed rule from the Environmental Protection Agency has two broad policy aims: Reduce dangerous toxins in the environment, while also encouraging the transition away from coal-burning power plants and toward cleaner energy sources like solar and wind. The proposal sets up a likely legal battle with the coal industry and several Republican-led states, which fought to block a previous effort to regulate mercury under the Obama administration. The Obama-era rule, which took effect in 2012, was credited with reducing mercury emissions by about 90 percent. However, the E.P.A. found that mercury coming from power plants still posed a risk to human health. So the new rule aims to strengthen the limits for mercury emissions from affected coal-burning power plants by 70 percent. It also would further restrict other toxic pollutants like lead, nickel and arsenic.” See also, Biden administration proposes tougher rules to slash harmful mercury pollution from coal power plants, CNN Politics, Angela Fritz and Ella Nilsen, Wednesday, 5 April 2023: “The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed new, stricter rules for harmful pollutants, including mercury, from coal-fired power plants. The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing to slash mercury pollution and harmful particulate matter from coal-fired power plant emissions, including from lignite coal plants, by up to 70%. If finalized, it would be the strongest update to the mercury standards since 2012. It is also proposing to improve pollution monitoring at these plants by ‘requiring continuous emission monitoring systems’ that would give the EPA and surrounding communities real-time data on what’s escaping from nearby power plants. Mercury is a neurotoxin that has a wide range of health impacts, but notably can impact brain development in babies and children. At high levels, mercury exposure ‘can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages,’ the EPA noted in its announcement. The new rule would significantly benefit the public health for communities around these kinds of power plants, according to the EPA. It would also have the effect of requiring plants to cut down on planet-warming pollution that comes from burning coal to generate electricity. The EPA said that the new rule would also reduce nickel, arsenic and lead pollution. Together, the pollutants can cause ‘significant health impacts including fatal heart attacks, cancer and developmental delays in children.'”

Dark money groups push election denialism on US state officials. Groups have created incubator of policies that would restrict ballot access and amplify election fraud claims. The Guardian, Ed Pilkington and Jamie Corey, Wednesday, 5 April 2023. This article was produced in partnership with Documented, an investigative watchdog and journalism project. “Three of the most prominent rightwing groups that spread election denial lies and advocate for restrictions on voting rights in the US have joined forces in a secret attempt to woo top election officials in Republican-controlled states. Led by the Washington-based conservative thinktank the Heritage Foundation, the groups have created an incubator of policies that would restrict access to the ballot box and amplify false claims that fraud is rampant in American elections. The unstated yet implicit goal is to dampen Democratic turnout and help Republican candidates to victory. Details of the two-day ‘secretaries of state conference’ held in Washington in February were obtained by the watchdog group Documented and shared with the Guardian.”

Judge Says Rupert Murdoch Can Be Forced to Testify in Defamation Trial Brought by Dominion voting Systems. Star hosts for Fox News like Tucker Carlson and Sean Hannity may also appear in person at the high-profile trial, which is set to start April 17. The New York Times, Katie Robertson, Wednesday, 5 April 2023: “The witness list for the Fox News $1.6 billion defamation trial now has more big names than a prime-time lineup. Rupert and Lachlan Murdoch could be forced to testify in person, the judge overseeing the trial said on Wednesday. Other high-profile Fox employees expected to testify in the case, which was brought by Dominion Voting Systems, include the hosts Tucker Carlson, Maria Bartiromo, Sean Hannity, Jeanine Pirro and Bret Baier. In a pretrial hearing on Wednesday, the judge, Eric M. Davis of Delaware Superior Court, said that if Dominion issued a subpoena for Rupert Murdoch, the chairman of Fox Corporation, and other corporate officers, he ‘would not quash it’ and ‘would compel them to come,’ because they were directors of a Delaware corporation. Lawyers for Dominion have indicated they want Mr. Murdoch to testify, as well as Lachlan Murdoch, Rupert Murdoch’s son and the chief executive of Fox. Dominion said it might also call Viet Dinh, Fox’s chief legal officer, and Paul Ryan, a Fox board member, to the stand.”

Thursday, 6 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: French President Emmanuel Macron urges Chinese President Xi Jinping to help end war; U.S. demands access to Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich jailed in Russia, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Ellen Francis, Miriam Berger, Mikhail Klimentov, and Sammy Westfall, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “Efforts by U.S. diplomats to gain access to Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who was detained last week by Russian authorities over espionage accusations that he and his employer have denied and that the U.S. government has classified as ‘wrongful,’ remain unsuccessful. ‘We still have not been able to get consular access,’ White House spokesman John Kirby told reporters Thursday. ‘And that’s an issue that we continually bring up through our embassy in Moscow with the Russians.’ ‘It’s inexcusable,’ he said. French President Emmanuel Macron met with Chinese President Xi Jinping in Beijing as European leaders try to shore up ties with China, a major trade partner for the continent, and to persuade Beijing to use its relationship with Moscow to help stop the war in Ukraine. Macron’s visit follows a meeting between Xi and Russian President Vladimir Putin last month in Moscow.

  • The Biden administration says classified documents detailing U.S. and NATO plans to support an upcoming Ukrainian offensive appeared on Twitter and Telegram, the messaging app popular in Russia, the New York Times reports. The documents are five weeks old, and focus on what materiel Ukraine may require for the offensive. They do not outline any battle plans. Asked about the Times report, Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh acknowledged that social media posts had come to the Pentagon’s attention and were under review.
  • Microsoft will pay a $2,980,265.86 settlement relating to a violation of sanctions levied by the United States against Russia. According to a Treasury Department statement, the tech giant exported more than $12 million worth of software and services to actors sanctioned by the U.S. government; these actions ‘facilitated the operations of, or otherwise benefited [sanctioned figures] including major Russian enterprises that generated substantial revenues for the Russian state.’ The low settlement amount reflects the fact that Microsoft self-reported the violation and undertook ‘significant remedial measures,’ according to the Treasury statement.
  • China has a ‘major role to play in building peace,’ Macron said Thursday ahead of talks in Beijing, where he was joined by European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen. Xi said China and France urge ‘restraint from all international partners’ to avoid an escalation of the crisis in Ukraine.
  • Sitting across from Xi, Macron said Russia’s war in Ukraine has ended decades of peace in Europe. ‘I know I can count on you to bring Russia back to reason and everyone back to the negotiating table,’ he told the Chinese leader.
  • ‘We count on China not to provide’ military equipment to Russia, von der Leyen said Thursday, according to Reuters. She held a meeting with Xi and Macron, which she described as an opportunity for European-Chinese dialogue.
  • ‘Intense battles’ continue for control of Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka in eastern Ukraine, the General Staff of Ukraine’s armed forces said in a statement on Facebook on Thursday.
  • Russian prosecutors requested a 25-year prison sentence for Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition politician, author and Washington Post opinions contributorone of his attorneys told local news outlets Thursday. Kara-Murza has been imprisoned in Moscow since April 2022 on charges of treason and spreading ‘false’ news about Russia’s military by speaking out against the war on Ukraine.
  • The Moscow City Court is set to hear an appeal from Gershkovich’s defense on April 18, a court press service told Russian news agencies. The hearing is expected to be recorded but closed to the public. The Wall Street Journal described the espionage charges against him as bogus, and international rights groups and media organizations have called for his release.
  • More than 200 Russian journalists and activists also demanded Gershkovich’s immediate release. In a letterthe group called the case ‘preposterous and unjust.’ U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Wednesday that the American journalist was ‘wrongfully detained.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Leader of Russian Mercenary Group Affirms Ukraine’s Hold on Bakhmut. Yevgeny Prigozhin had previously asserted that his forces had or were near taking control of the city in eastern Ukraine, the focus of one of Russia’s longest-running assaults. The New York Times, Thursday, 6 April 2023:

  • Ukrainian forces are ‘not going anywhere,’ Prigozhin says.

  • The new U.S. ambassador in Moscow meets with a diplomat to discuss Evan Gershkovich, the detained reporter.

  • Zelensky’s aides send mixed messages on Crimea and the possibility of negotiations.

  • Divisions emerge in NATO over giving Ukraine a pathway to membership, officials say.

  • Putin and Lukashenko meet for a second day to deepen ties between Russia and Belarus.

  • Russian prosecutors request a 25-year sentence for a dissident who criticized the war.

  • Macron and Xi call for a return to talks and an end to attacks on civilians in Ukraine.

  • Xi is willing to speak with Zelensky but has offered no time frame, a top E.U. official says.

For More Than Two Decades, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Has Accepted Luxury Trips Nearly Every Year From Conservative Billionaire Donor Harlan Crow Without Disclosing Them, ProPublica, Joshua Kaplan, Justin Elliott, and Alex Mierjeski, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “In late June 2019, right after the U.S. Supreme Court released its final opinion of the term, Justice Clarence Thomas boarded a large private jet headed to Indonesia. He and his wife were going on vacation: nine days of island-hopping in a volcanic archipelago on a superyacht staffed by a coterie of attendants and a private chef. If Thomas had chartered the plane and the 162-foot yacht himself, the total cost of the trip could have exceeded $500,000. Fortunately for him, that wasn’t necessary: He was on vacation with real estate magnate and Republican megadonor Harlan Crow, who owned the jet — and the yacht, too. For more than two decades, Thomas has accepted luxury trips virtually every year from the Dallas businessman without disclosing them, documents and interviews show. A public servant who has a salary of $285,000, he has vacationed on Crow’s superyacht around the globe. He flies on Crow’s Bombardier Global 5000 jet. He has gone with Crow to the Bohemian Grove, the exclusive California all-male retreat, and to Crow’s sprawling ranch in East Texas. And Thomas typically spends about a week every summer at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks. The extent and frequency of Crow’s apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court. These trips appeared nowhere on Thomas’ financial disclosures. His failure to report the flights appears to violate a law passed after Watergate that requires justices, judges, members of Congress and federal officials to disclose most gifts, two ethics law experts said. He also should have disclosed his trips on the yacht, these experts said…. Through his largesse, Crow has gained a unique form of access, spending days in private with one of the most powerful people in the country. By accepting the trips, Thomas has broken long-standing norms for judges’ conduct, ethics experts and four current or retired federal judges said.” See also, Lawmakers Call for Tighter Ethics Code After Revelations About Supreme Court Justice Thomas. An investigation by ProPublica revealed that Clarence Thomas accompanied Harlan Crow, a conservative donor and real estate billionaire, on a series of luxury vacations without disclosing them. The New York Times, Zach Montague, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “Democratic lawmakers reiterated calls on Thursday to tighten ethics rules for the Supreme Court after a report revealed that Justice Clarence Thomas had accepted luxury gifts from a major conservative donor without disclosing them. An investigation by ProPublica described how Justice Thomas accompanied the donor, Harlan Crow, a real estate billionaire, on a series of vacations for nearly two decades. The trips included extended stays on Mr. Crow’s yacht, flights on Mr. Crow’s private jet and visits to Mr. Crow’s all-male private retreat in Monte Rio, Calif. The disclosure early Thursday renewed scrutiny of Justice Thomas, who has long faced questions over conflicts of interest in part because of the political activities of his wife, Virginia Thomas. No formal code of conduct on the Supreme Court specifically bars the justice from taking the trips mentioned in ProPublica’s reporting. But under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, justices, like federal judges, must file a financial disclosure each year that lists gifts of more than $415 in avoidance of even an ‘appearance of impropriety.’ The cost of one of the trips with Mr. Crow may have exceeded $500,000, according to ProPublica.” See also, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted luxury travel for years from Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow, ProPublica report says, The Washington Post, John Wagner and Robert Barnes, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas accepted luxury trips around the globe for more than two decades, including travel on a superyacht and private jet, from a prominent Republican donor without disclosing them, according to a new report. ProPublica reported Thursday on an array of trips funded by Harlan Crow, a Dallas businessman. The publication said Thomas typically spends about a week every summer at Crow’s private resort in the Adirondacks. It said the justice also has vacationed at Crow’s ranch in East Texas and has joined him at the Bohemian Grove, an exclusive all-male retreat in California. ProPublica cited a nine-day trip that Thomas and his wife, Virginia ‘Ginni’ Thomas, took to Indonesia in 2019, shortly after the court released its final opinions of the term. That trip, which included flights on Crow’s jet and island-hopping on a superyacht, would have cost the couple more than $500,000 if they had paid for it themselves, the publication said. The report prompted furious reactions from Democrats, some of whom called for Thomas, the court’s senior justice, to resign. Republicans either defended Thomas’s right to vacation with friends or were silent.” See also, Justice Clarence Thomas’s Vacations Prompt Calls for Stronger Supreme Court Ethics Rules. Push by Democratic lawmakers follows news report that billionaire Republican donor treated Thomas to lavish travel. The Wall Street Journal, Lindsay Wise and Jan Wolfe, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “The chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee promised to take action on strengthening Supreme Court ethics rules, responding to a report that Justice Clarence Thomas accepted lavish vacations and private-jet travel paid for by a billionaire friend. ‘The highest court in the land shouldn’t have the lowest ethical standards,’ said Sen. Dick Durbin (D., Ill.), adding that the committee would take unspecified action in response. Mr. Durbin’s office didn’t immediately respond to questions about what steps the committee might take. The report, by the nonprofit news outlet ProPublica, said Justice Thomas has received luxury vacations and free travel for years on a private jet and a yacht provided by Harlan Crow, a real-estate billionaire and Republican Party donor. Justice Thomas didn’t disclose that travel on his annual financial disclosure forms. Under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978, Supreme Court justices must file forms each year disclosing their financial ties but aren’t required to disclose food, lodging, or entertainment received as ‘personal hospitality.'”

Lawmakers Call for Investigation and Ethics Reforms in Response to ProPublica Report on Clarence Thomas. Influential Democratic legislators are pushing for changes at the Supreme Court and a probe into Thomas’ undisclosed luxury trips provided by powerful conservative donor Harlan Crow. ProPublica, Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, and Alex Mierjeski, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “Influential Democratic lawmakers have called for immediate investigations and vowed to create stricter ethics rules following a ProPublica report that revealed Justice Clarence Thomas has, for decades, failed to disclose luxury trips he received from a real estate magnate and conservative megadonor. Illinois Sen. Dick Durbin, who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee — influential for its role in vetting and confirming Supreme Court nominees — said his panel is calling for an ‘enforceable code of conduct’ for justices. ‘The ProPublica report is a call to action, and the Senate Judiciary Committee will act,’ Durbin said.”

The Tennessee House Voted on Thursday to Expel Two Democrats One Week After They Interrupted Debate by Leading Protesters in a Call for Stricter Gun Laws in the Wake of a Shooting that Left Six Dead at a Christian School. The New York Times, Emily Cochrane and Eliza Fawcett, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “The extraordinary punitive action against the Democrats — Representatives Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson — for an act of protest marks just the third time since the Civil War era that the Tennessee House has expelled a lawmaker from its ranks and threatens to further inflame the partisan rancor within a bitterly divided state. An effort to expel a third Democrat, Representative Gloria Johnson, who had stood by the two men in the front of the chamber and joined in the chants during the protest, fell short by one vote. The expulsions of two of the state’s youngest Black representatives, carried out before lawmakers were scheduled to leave for the Easter weekend, were a stunning culmination to a week that saw the conclusion of the funerals for the six killed in the shooting, hundreds of students and teachers walk out of school to protest at the General Assembly and a vitriolic debate about democracy in the state. As protesters flooded the Capitol again on Thursday, their chants of ‘Gun control now’ and ‘Not one more’ were deafening outside the House chamber. After the final vote, the crowds in the galleries burst into angry yells and cries of ‘Shame on you,’ with fists held high above their heads.” See also, Tennessee House votes to expel 2 of 3 Democratic members over gun law reform protest, NPR, Bill Chappell and Vanessa Romo, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “In an extraordinary move, Tennessee’s Republican-led House voted Thursday to expel two of three Democratic lawmakers who recently led a raucous protest from the House floor calling for gun law reforms. Reps. Justin Jones, D-Nashville, and Justin Pearson, D-Memphis, were both removed from the body with votes falling along party lines, in a disciplinary measure that’s only been used twice since the 1800s. The votes were 72 – 25 and 69 – 26 respectively. Together, they represent a combined constituency of about 130,000 people. Rep. Gloria Johnson, D-Knoxville, who represents about 70,000 Tenneseans, escaped the same fate by a single vote, with a final count of 65 – 30. Following the failed vote, Johnson was asked by reporters if she thought there was a reason she’d had a different outcome. ‘I’ll answer your question,’ she said. ‘It might have to do with the color of our skin.’ Both Jones and Pearson are Black and Johnson is white.” See also, Tennessee House expels two Democrats in historic act of partisan retaliation, The Washington Post, Claire Gibson, Praveena Somasundaram, Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Maria Luisa Paúl, and Andrea Salcedo, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “The Republican-led Tennessee House voted Thursday to expel two Democratic lawmakers who halted proceedings last week to join protesters demanding gun-control legislation after a mass killing. In a historic act of partisan retaliation, the chamber voted 72-25 to oust Rep. Justin Jones (D), a 27-year-old community organizer elected in November to represent part of Nashville, and 69-26 to expel Rep. Justin Pearson (D) of Memphis. Republicans did not have enough votes to remove Rep. Gloria Johnson (D), a former teacher from Knoxville who lost a student to gun violence. After a shooter opened fire at the Covenant School in Nashville on March 27, killing three 9-year-olds and three adults, activists descended on the Tennessee Capitol and demanded that lawmakers pass gun-control legislation. Republicans, with supermajorities in both chambers, refused to do so. The three lawmakers — dubbed the Tennessee Three — said they joined the protests inside the legislative chamber to speak out for Tennesseans whose voices have been ignored. The unprecedented effort in response to remove them from office stunned many and marked an escalation in partisan rancor dominating some statehouses. In some cases, Republican-led legislatures have taken steps to marginalize Democrats, particularly over gun control [safety] and social issues.”

Biden Plan Allows Limits on Trans Athletes’ Participation in School Sports . It is the first time the administration has substantively weighed in on the charged debate. The proposal would also prevent schools from enacting across-the-board bans. The New York Times, Sarah Mervosh, Remy Tumin, and Ava Sasani, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “The Biden administration proposed a rule change on Thursday that would allow schools to block some transgender athletes from competing on sports teams that match their gender identities. But the proposal would also prevent schools from enacting across-the-board bans. Under the Department of Education proposal, ‘categorically’ barring transgender athletes in that way would be a violation of Title IX, which prohibits sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal funding. But it would give universities and K-12 schools the discretion to limit the participation of transgender students, if they conclude that including transgender athletes could undermine competitive fairness or potentially lead to sports-related injuries, a key part of the debate about transgender athletes in women’s sports.” See also, The Biden administration proposed new regulations that would allow schools to bar transgender athletes from participating in competitive high school and college sports but disallow blanket bans on the athletes that have been approved in 20 states, The Washington Post, Laura Meckler, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “The rules would narrow when discrimination of trans athletes would be permitted. But they also would offer guidelines for when schools could bar their participation. Under the proposal, schools would need to consider a range of factors before imposing a ban on trans athletes and would need to justify it based on educational grounds, such as the need for fairness. So, for instance, a school district could justify a ban on transgender athletes on their competitive high school track and field team, whereas a district would have a harder time making that case for an intramural middle school kickball squad. The long-awaited proposal, which is subject to public comment, puts forth a framework for how schools can comply with Title IX, the 50-year-old federal law that bars schools from discriminating on the basis of sex. It would apply to all public K-12 schools, as well as colleges and universities that receive federal funding. Reaction was mixed. Transgender rights activists said the proposal provided a welcome set of protections for trans students but also worried the regulations could offer a road map for those who want to discriminate.” See also, The Biden administration moves to make broad, transgender sports bans illegal, NPR, Sequoia Carrillo, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “On Thursday, the U.S. Education Department announced a proposed change to Title IX, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in federally funded education programs. The proposal would make it illegal for schools to broadly ban transgender students from sports teams that align with their gender identity, rather than their assigned sex at birth. The department says the move comes after two years of outreach to stakeholders across the country, and the changes still give schools some flexibility to ban transgender athletes depending on age and sport. ‘Every student should be able to have the full experience of attending school in America, including participating in athletics, free from discrimination,’ said U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona. ‘Being on a sports team is an important part of the school experience for students of all ages.’ According to the ACLU, in the past three years at least 19 states have passed laws broadly banning transgender students from sports teams that don’t align with their sex as assigned at birth. If enacted, the Biden administration’s proposed changes would render such policies illegal.”

The Supreme Court Ruled That a Transgender Girl May Compete on the Girls’ Cross Country and Track Teams at her Middle School in West Virginia While Her Appeal Moves Forward, Signaling That a Majority of the Justices Are Not Ready to Enter Another Battleground in the Culture Wars, The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “The Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that a transgender girl may compete on the girls’ cross country and track teams at her middle school in West Virginia while her appeal moved forward, signaling that a majority of the justices are not ready to enter another battleground in the culture wars. The Supreme Court’s brief order, which let stand an appeals court’s temporary injunction, gave no reasons, which is not unusual when the justices rule on emergency applications filed on what critics call the court’s shadow docket. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr., joined by Justice Clarence Thomas, issued a dissenting opinion indicating that states are entitled to enact laws ‘restricting participation in women’s or girls’ sports based on genes or physiological or anatomical characteristics.’ The case, involving conflicting conceptions of inclusiveness and fairness in sports, arose from a 2021 law in West Virginia that barred boys from competing on girls’ teams in public schools.”

House Republicans fire off first subpoena in investigation of Trump indictment. The summons sparked a fresh rebuke from Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg’s office, which called it part of ‘an unprecedented campaign of harassment and intimidation.’ Politico, Jordain Carney, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “The House GOP on Thursday fired off its first subpoena in its investigation of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s office, escalating a standoff over the indictment of former President Donald Trump. House Judiciary Chair Jim Jordan (R-Ohio) is summoning Mark Pomerantz, a former county special assistant district attorney, to appear behind closed doors for a deposition on April 20, according to a copy of the subpoena viewed by POLITICO. ‘Based on your unique role as a special assistant district attorney leading the investigation into President Trump’s finances, you are uniquely situated to provide information that is relevant and necessary to inform the Committee’s oversight and potential legislative reforms,’ Jordan wrote in a separate letter to Pomerantz that accompanied the subpoena. It’s unusual for Congress to subpoena a line prosecutor — and Jordan, in his Thursday letter, alleges that Bragg’s office directed Pomerantz not to cooperate with oversight. Bragg’s office issued a fiery rebuke of the subpoena, painting it as House Republicans’ latest attempt to meddle by “intruding on the sovereignty of the state of New York by interfering in an ongoing criminal matter in state court.” ‘The House GOP continues to attempt to undermine an active investigation and ongoing New York criminal case with an unprecedented campaign of harassment and intimidation. Repeated efforts to weaken state and local law enforcement actions are an abuse of power and will not deter us from our duty to uphold the law,’ Bragg’s office added.”


Friday, 7 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell urge release of journalist; no consular access for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong Mikhail Kilmentov, Andrea Salcedo, Timothy Bella, and Amy B Wang, Friday, 7 April 2023: “Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Friday demanded the immediate release of Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter detained by Russian authorities last week and accused of espionage. The rare joint statement follows similar calls from President Biden and Secretary of State Antony Blinken. U.S. officials and the Journal have denied Russia’s accusation. U.S. efforts to gain consular access to Evan Gershkovich have been unsuccessful, the White House said Thursday.

  • Schumer and McConnell called Russia’s espionage allegations ‘baseless, fabricated charges.’ ‘We strongly condemn the wrongful detention of U.S. citizen and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, and demand the immediate release of this internationally known and respected independent journalist,’ Schumer and McConnell wrote, noting that Gershkovich had been accredited to work as a journalist in Russia by the Russian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
  • The United States has not been able to gain consular access to Gershkovich, the White House said. ‘We need to get consular access to Evan,’ White House spokesman John Kirby said, adding that the issue was being continually brought up through the U.S. Embassy in Moscow.
  • The Moscow City Court is set to hear an appeal from Gershkovich’s defense on April 18, a court press service told Russian news agencies. The hearing is expected to be recorded but closed to the public. More than 200 Russian journalists and activists have demanded Gershkovich’s immediate release. In a letterthe group called the case ‘preposterous and unjust.’
  • Justice Department officials are investigating the leak of classified Pentagon documents appearing to detail sensitive information pertaining to Ukraine’s combat capabilities, The Post reported Friday. On Wednesday, images showing some of the documents began circulating on the anonymous online message board 4chan and later appeared on Twitter and Telegram channels. Some of the leaked documents appeared manipulated.
  • A man sentenced in absentia to serve two years because of a picture his daughter drew has been detained, according to Russian state media. Alexei Moskalyov’s sixth-grade daughter made an antiwar drawing in class, sparking an investigation, The Post has reported. According to Tass, he has been detained and is awaiting a hearing in Zhodino, Belarus.
  • Russia’s main offensive efforts continue to be directed at Lyman, Bakhmut, Avdiivka and Marinka, Ukraine’s military said early Friday. Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the chief of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group, said in a Telegram post that Ukrainian forces were still fighting in Bakhmut. Ukraine’s garrison in the embattled city ‘is not going anywhere,’ he said.
  • An explosion near a Russian-Ukrainian border city killed a Russian service member and wounded another after their car struck a mine, according to a Telegram channel associated with Russia’s security services. A similarly murky attack happened in the same border region in early March. ‘Then, the Kremlin cited a “terrorist attack,” which it blamed on Ukraine with Russian President Vladimir Putin saying that assailants had opened fire on civilians,’ The Post reported.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron said the world was looking to Chinese leader Xi Jinping to ‘bring Russia back to reason’ and to the negotiating table with Ukraine. Macron’s comments are a contrast to U.S. political rhetoric and a win for Xi, The Post reported. European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen, who met with the two leaders in Beijing, called on China ‘not to provide any military equipment, directly or indirectly, to Russia.’
  • Russian prosecutors requested a 25-year prison sentence for Vladimir Kara-Murza, a Russian opposition politician, author and Washington Post opinions contributorone of his attorneys told local news outlets Thursday. Kara-Murza has been imprisoned in Moscow since April 2022 on charges of treason and spreading ‘false’ news about Russia’s military by speaking out against the war on Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian grain shipments to Poland will be halted, as the two countries hammer out export restrictions to deal with the flood of Ukrainian grain into neighboring countries’ markets, Polish Agriculture Minister Robert Telus said Friday. ‘We must ensure that the warehouses are unloaded by harvest,’ Telus said on Twitter. ‘By next week, we will agree on export restriction procedures.’ The move comes as farmers in Poland, Romania and Hungary have protested the flood of Ukrainian grain into their markets.
  • Also in grain-related news, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov met with Turkish officials in Ankara on Friday to discuss exports, according to Turkey’s state news agency. The two countries agreed to work to lift obstacles to Russian fertilizer and grain exports, the state media agency said.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Ukrainians and Russians Say Leak of War Plans Could Be Disinformation. As the Pentagon said it was investigating a leak of classified U.S. and NATO plans to aid Ukraine’s military, an adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky said the disclosures contained ‘fictional information.’ The New York Times, Friday, 7 April 2023:

  • Both sides suggest the leak of Western war plans could be a ploy.
  • Russia formally charges detained American reporter with espionage, according to state media.
  • European farmers stage protests, saying Ukraine’s grain threatens their livelihoods.
  • Macron finishes his China visit with little progress seen on the Ukraine war.
  • A Ukrainian bassoonist and opera conductor is killed on the front lines.
  • Russia took 2,500 Ukrainian convicts with them as they left Kherson. For some, what ensued was absurd.
  • Explosions hit a village in southern Ukraine where Russia had massed troops, a Ukrainian official says.
  • The custody of a Russian girl who drew an antiwar picture is still undecided.

Texas Judge Invalidates F.D.A. Approval of the Abortion Pill Mifepristone. The judge’s ruling was quickly contradicted by another federal judge in Washington State who ordered the F.D.A. to keep mifepristone available. The New York Times, Pam Belluck, Friday, 7 April 2023: “A federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary ruling invalidating the Food and Drug Administration’s 23-year-old approval of the abortion pill mifepristone, an unprecedented order that — if it stands through court challenges — could make it harder for patients to get abortions in states where abortion is legal, not just in those trying to restrict it. The drug will continue to be available at least in the short-term since the judge, Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, stayed his own order for seven days to give the F.D.A. time to ask an appeals court to intervene. Less than an hour after Judge Kacsmaryk’s ruling, a judge in Washington state issued a ruling in another case, which contradicted the Texas decision, ordering the F.D.A. to make no changes to the availability of mifepristone in the 18 states that filed that lawsuit. The conflicting orders by two federal judges, both preliminary injunctions issued before the full cases have been heard, appear to create a legal standoff likely to escalate to the Supreme Court. President Biden said his administration would fight the Texas ruling. ‘This does not just affect women in Texas,’ he said in a statement. ‘If it stands, it would prevent women in every state from accessing the medication, regardless of whether abortion is legal in a state.’ The order by Judge Kacsmaryk, a Trump appointee who has written critically about Roe v. Wade, is an initial ruling in a case that could result in the most consequential abortion decision since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last June.” See also, Texas judge suspends FDA approval of abortion pill; second judge protects access. Federal lawsuit by conservative groups followed the Supreme Court’s elimination of the constitutional right to abortion last June. The Washington Post, Ann E. Marimow, Caroline Kitchener, Perry Stein, and Robert Barnes, Friday, 7 April 2023: “The status of a key abortion medication was cast into uncertainty Friday night when rulings from two federal judges reached contradictory conclusions, with one jurist blocking U.S. government approval of the drug while the other said the pill should remain available in a swath of states. The dueling opinions — one from Texas and the other from Washington state — concern access to mifepristone, the medication used in more than half of all abortions in the United States and follow the Supreme Court’s elimination of the constitutional right to the procedure last year. It appears inevitable the issue will move to the high court, and the conflicting decisions could make that sooner rather than later. The highly anticipated and unprecedented ruling from Texas puts on hold the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone, which was cleared for use in the United States in 2000. It was the first time a judge suspended longtime FDA approval of a medication despite opposition from the agency and the drug’s manufacturer. The ruling will not go into effect for seven days to give the government time to appeal. U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, a nominee of President Donald Trump with long-held antiabortion views, agreed with the conservative groups seeking to reverse the FDA’s approval of mifepristone as safe and effective, including in states where abortion rights are protected.” See also, Are Abortion Pills Safe? Yes. Here’s the Evidence. The New York Times, Amy Schoenfeld Walker, Jonathan Corum, Malika Khurana, and Ashley Wu, Friday, 7 April 2023: “More than 100 scientific studies, spanning continents and decades, have examined the effectiveness and safety of mifepristone and misoprostol, the abortion pills that are commonly used in the United States. All conclude that the pills are a safe method for terminating a pregnancy.”

Justice Thomas Says He Was Advised Lavish Gifts Did Not Need to Be Reported. In a statement, the justice said that he had followed past guidance from others at the court, but that he would now comply with new guidelines and disclose gifts and free travel. The New York Times, Abbie Van Sickle, Friday, 7 April 2023: “Justice Clarence Thomas said on Friday that he had followed the advice of ‘colleagues and others in the judiciary’ when he did not disclose lavish gifts and travel from a wealthy conservative donor. In a statement released by the Supreme Court, the justice said he believed he was not required to report the trips. ‘Early in my tenure at the court, I sought guidance from my colleagues and others in the judiciary, and was advised that this sort of personal hospitality from close personal friends, who did not have business before the court, was not reportable,’ Justice Thomas said. ‘I have endeavored to follow that counsel throughout my tenure, and have always sought to comply with the disclosure guidelines.’ But Justice Thomas said in his statement that he would comply with new guidelines adopted by the Judicial Conference of the United States, the policymaking body for the federal courts. The rules, adopted last month, require the justices to disclose travel by private jet and stays in commercial properties like resorts. ProPublica revealed on Thursday that the justice had traveled by private jet and yacht at the invitation of Harlan Crow, a Texas real estate billionaire. The vacations, which took place over nearly two decades, included trips to Indonesia and to Bohemian Grove, an exclusive retreat nestled in the redwoods in Northern California. It was not clear whom Justice Thomas was referring to when he said he had sought guidance from his colleagues and others in the judiciary on disclosures. A court spokeswoman did not respond to a request for clarification. The justice’s vacations are at odds with his public portrayal of himself as a man of the people.” See also, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas says advisers told him there was no need to report travel with Republican mega-donor, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes, Ann E. Marimow, and Amy B Wang, Friday, 7 April 2023: “Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas on Friday said he had been advised ‘by colleagues and others in the judiciary’ that luxury trips financed by a billionaire friend and conservative activist was ‘personal hospitality’ that did not have to be disclosed. Thomas’s statement came more than 24 hours after ProPublica reported that he had accepted trips around the globe for more than two decades, including travel on a superyacht and private jet, from Harlan Crow, a Dallas business executive and influential donor to causes related to the law and judiciary.” See also, Clarence Thomas is proof that the Supreme Court needs reform, The Washington Post, Editorial Board, Friday, 7 April 2023: “On Thursday, ProPublica published a blockbuster report suggesting ethical recklessness on the part of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. The report details years of luxury trips and other gifts that Justice Thomas apparently received courtesy of Republican donor Harlan Crow, including a nine-day cruise in Indonesia with passage on Mr. Crow’s private jet and superyacht, perks that could have cost Justice Thomas more than $500,000. The justice took Crow-sponsored trips virtually every year for more than two decades without disclosing them, the report found. ‘The extent and frequency of Crow’s apparent gifts to Thomas have no known precedent in the modern history of the U.S. Supreme Court.'” See also, Harlan Crow, Clarence Thomas’s Billionaire Benefactor, Collects Hitler Artifacts. Crow also reportedly has a garden full of statues of dictators. Washingtonian, Sylvie McNamara, Friday, 7 April 2023: “When Republican megadonor Harlan Crow isn’t lavishing Justice Clarence Thomas with free trips on his private plane and yacht (in possible violation of Supreme Court ethics rules), he lives a quiet life in Dallas among his historical collections. These collections include Hitler artifacts—two of his paintings of European cityscapes, a signed copy of Mein Kampf, and assorted Nazi memorabilia—plus a garden full of statues of the 20th century’s worst despots.”

Outrage at Republicans Could Propel Expelled Democrats Right Back to Tennessee House of Representatives. A day after two young Black lawmakers were expelled from the Tennessee legislature, momentum was building to reappoint them directly back to their seats. The New York Times, Eliza Fawcett and Rick Rojas, Friday, 7 April 2023: “Expelled by their Republican colleagues for an act of protest, Justin Jones and Justin J. Pearson were no longer members of the Tennessee House of Representatives on Friday. They could not advocate for their constituents in Nashville and Memphis, take to the floor again to push for gun control [safety] legislation or even access the building after hours. But instead of sidelining the Democratic lawmakers, the expulsions have sparked outrage and galvanized national support within their party, and the two young Black lawmakers are poised to return to the state legislature — as soon as next week — with a platform and profile far surpassing what they had just days ago. On Friday, Vice President Kamala Harris made a hastily arranged visit to Nashville to meet with the state lawmakers, and President Biden, who described the Republicans’ actions as ‘shocking’ and ‘undemocratic,’ called the ousted Democrats to offer his support and invite them to the White House.” See also, Vice President Kamala Harris and other Democrats rally around expelled Tennessee lawmakers. National Democrats hope for a political youth vote ‘earthquake’ while Republicans stay largely silent. The Washington Post, Liz Goodwin and Matthew Brown, Friday, 7 April 2023: “Vice President Harris led a chorus of Democratic outrage raining down on Tennessee Republicans on Friday, making a surprise visit to greet the state Democratic lawmakers who were kicked out of their posts by their GOP colleagues on Thursday for protesting in the statehouse for gun control [safety] laws. The move to expel state Tennessee Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, two Black men in their 20s, for joining crowds of gun control [safety] protesters following a mass killing in a Nashville primary school has sparked a debate over the Republican Party’s response to dissent as well as charges of racism that Democrats believe could damage the GOP further among young and diverse voters.” See also, Kamala Harris meets with Tennessee lawmakers expelled over mass shooting protest, CBS News, Friday, 7 April 2023: “Vice President Kamala Harris made a last-minute trip Friday to Tennessee where she called for tougher firearm laws and criticized the Republican-controlled state House, which a day earlier expelled two Black Democratic lawmakers for their role in a protest calling for more gun control following a school shooting in Nashville in which six people were killed. Harris received wild applause and several standing ovations as she told a crowd at Nashville’s historically Black Fisk University that the so-called Tennessee Three — ousted Reps. Justin Jones and Justin Pearson, and a third Democrat, Gloria Johnson, who avoided expulsion by a single vote — were being, in her words, silenced and stifled for standing up for the lives of schoolchildren.”

Appeals court upholds ‘obstruction’ charge used against hundreds of January 6 rioters, for now, NBC News, Ryan J. Reilly, Friday, 7 April 2023: “A federal appeals court panel has affirmed the government’s use of an obstruction charge used against hundreds of defendants arrested in connection with the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, though the complex opinion appears likely to result in additional litigation and leaves questions about the future of the use of the statute. A three-judge panel, on a 2-1 vote, upheld the use of the obstruction of an official proceeding charge against defendants who assaulted law enforcement during the Capitol attack. A lower court judge, Trump appointee U.S. District Court Judge Carl Nichols, had previously tossed the charge, a decision the appeals court reversed. ‘The question raised in this case is whether individuals who allegedly assaulted law enforcement officers while participating in the Capitol riot can be charged with corruptly obstructing, influencing, or impeding an official proceeding, in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 1512(c)(2),’ the opinion stated.” See also, Court Rules January 6 rioters can be prosecuted for obstructing Congress. The decision impacts hundreds of people accused of interfering with the work of Congress the day of the Capitol insurrection. The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner, published on Friday, 7 April 2023: “A felony statute criminalizing obstruction of government proceedings can be used to prosecute members of the mob that stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, a federal appeals court ruled Friday. The decision empowers prosecutors pursuing hundreds of cases involving participants in the Capitol riot, while blessing an interpretation of the law that both judges and lawmakers have argued applies to former president Donald Trump. But it also split the three-judge panel and left key questions open for future court challenges. Judge Florence Y. Pan, a President Biden appointee, and Judge Justin Walker, a Trump appointee, ruled together for the government, despite a partial disagreement. Judge Gregory G. Katsas, also a Trump appointee, dissented. While federal guidelines generally call for far lower sentences, obstruction of an official proceeding carries a potential penalty of up to 20 years in prison. A misdemeanor conviction for trespassing or illegally demonstrating in the Capitol garners a sentence of a year at most.”

National security officials tell special counsel that Trump was repeatedly warned he did not have the authority to seize voting machines, CNN Politics, Zachary Cohen, Thursday, 6 April 2023: “Former top national security officials have told prosecutors and testified to a federal grand jury that they repeatedly told former President Donald Trump and his allies that the government didn’t have the authority to seize voting machines after the 2020 election, CNN has learned. Ken Cuccinelli, the former second in command at the Department of Homeland Security, was asked about discussions inside the administration around DHS seizing voting machines when he appeared before the grand jury earlier this year, according to three people familiar with the proceedings. Cuccinelli testified that he ‘made clear at all times’ that DHS did not have the authority to take such a step, one of the sources said.”

Trump Wanted to Hire Laura Loomer, Anti-Muslim Activist. The former president’s aides feared that hiring Ms. Loomer, who has a long history of bigoted remarks, would set off a backlash. That proved to be correct. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman and Jonathan Swan, Friday, 7 April 2023: “Former President Donald J. Trump recently told aides to hire Laura Loomer, a far-right and anti-Muslim activist with a history of expressing bigoted views, for a campaign role, according to four people familiar with the plans. Mr. Trump met with Ms. Loomer recently and directed advisers to give her a role in support of his candidacy, two of the people familiar with the move said. On Tuesday, after Mr. Trump’s arraignment in Manhattan, Ms. Loomer attended the former president’s speech at Mar-a-Lago, his resort and residence in Palm Beach, Fla. Some of Mr. Trump’s aides were said to have concerns that such a hire would cause a backlash, given her history of inflammatory statements and her embrace of the Republican Party’s fringes. That proved to be correct: The New York Times’s report on the potential hire ignited a firestorm among some of Mr. Trump’s most vocal conservative supporters, and by late Friday, a high-ranking campaign official said Ms. Loomer was no longer going to be hired.”

Saturday, 8 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv moves to prevent release of defense plans; U.S. to investigate document leak, The Washington Post, David L. Stern, Andrew Jeong, Adela Suliman, Justine McDaniel, and Susannah George, Saturday, 8 April 2023: “President Volodymyr Zelensky and top military and intelligence officials have discussed ways to ‘prevent the leakage of information regarding the plans of the defense forces of Ukraine,’ a government statement said, without giving further details. The discussions came shortly after the unauthorized release of classified Pentagon documents that appear to detail Ukraine’s combat capabilities and Western support. Senior Ukrainian officials dismissed the leak. The U.S. Justice Department opened an investigation into the leak after senior U.S. officials realized the scope was far greater than initially thought.

  • The Washington Post obtained dozens of what appeared to be photographs showing classified documents dating to late February and early March. They include global intelligence briefings as well as updates and assessments of Kyiv’s defensive capabilities. Some of the leaked slides appear to have been manipulated, although U.S. officials told The Post that many others did not appear to be forged.
  • The head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, Oleksiy Danilov, told The Post after the meeting Friday with Zelensky: ‘Where, when and how our actions will begin — only our country knows this, and the number of people who know in our country is extremely limited. Maximum of five people. Everything else does not correspond to reality and words at all.’
  • Presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak asserted that the leaked documents contained largely ‘fictitious information’ and had ‘nothing to do with Ukraine’s real plans.’ He added in his Telegram post: ‘As for the real counteroffensive plans, the Russian troops will certainly be the first to get acquainted with them.’
  • The chair of the Ukrainian Security and Cooperation Center think-tank in Kyiv doesn’t believe the leak will have an effect on Ukraine’s planned counter offensive. ‘Both the enemy and (Ukraine) already know the distribution of forces on both sides of the front. The geography is known, and the entire layout is already known,’ Serhii Kuzan said. ‘Of course, there are details that Russian propaganda uses for its own purposes,’ but he added that the leak hasn’t revealed any new information.
  • Evan Gershkovich adored Russia, his friends say. The 31-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter is detained in Russia’s Lefortovo Prison and is spending time reading and lamenting missing soccer games, they say. Gershkovich, along with the Journal and the U.S. State Department, have denied Russia’s accusations that he was engaged in spying. ‘We miss him,’ said Polina Ivanova, a Financial Times correspondent and friend, ‘and we’re waiting for him.’
  • Russia’s foreign minister warned that Moscow ‘will work, if necessary, outside the framework’ of the U.N.-brokered grain export deal if the West does not remove obstacles to Russian agricultural exports, Reuters reported. Sergei Lavrov made the comment after meeting with Turkish officials in Ankara on Friday.
  • Russia lost elections to be on three U.N. bodies, in a signal of opposition to its war against Ukraine. Moscow lost out on membership to the Commission on the Status of Women, the Commission on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, and UNICEF’s executive board, the Associated Press reported. The U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, said the election outcomes were a ‘clear signal … that no country should hold positions on critical U.N. bodies when they are in flagrant violation of the U.N. Charter.'”

Democrats blast Texas abortion pill ruling as Republicans are mostly quiet, The Washington Post, Tyler Pager and Hannah Knowles, Saturday, 8 April 2023: “Democrats warned Saturday of the repercussions of a federal judge’s decision to suspend the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of a key abortion medication, as they assailed Republicans’ support for restricting access to abortions and predicted political fallout. Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) called the decision ‘awful, extreme and unprecedented,’ and Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) said it was ‘the result of a decades-long effort by Republicans to ban abortion in every part of this country any way they can.’ Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) said in a statement that the ruling was ‘simply bulls–t.’ The outrage from Democrats began Friday night in the immediate aftermath of the decision by Texas-based U.S. District Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk, and they vowed to take any steps they could to protect access to mifepristone, the medication used in more than half of all abortions in the United States. Republicans, meanwhile, have remained largely silent.”


Sunday, 9 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Leaked document details Russia’s ‘near-shoot down’ of British spy plane; Ukraine fortifies border with Belarus, The Washington Post, Bryan Pietsch, Leo Sands, Dan Lamothe, and Serhii Korolchuk, Sunday, 9 April 2023: “A leaked classified report shows that a Russian jet nearly shot down a British spy plane near Ukraine last year, an incident that appears to have been closer to pulling NATO into the war than publicly disclosed. Meanwhile, Ukraine is bolstering its defenses on its border with Russian-aligned Belarus, laying down thousands of antitank mines.

  • A Russian fighter jet ‘released a missile’ during an interaction with the British spy plane in international airspace over the Black Sea on Sept. 29, an incident that British Defense Minister Ben Wallace disclosed to the House of Commons in the fall. A Pentagon document — one of dozens whose leak has triggered a Justice Department investigation — frames the interaction in terms that more closely resemble an intended strike, referring to it as a ‘near-shoot down,’ The Washington Post reports.
  • Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak asserted that the leaked documents, which appeared to detail Ukraine’s combat capabilities and Western support, contained largely ‘fictitious information’ and had ‘nothing to do with Ukraine’s real plans.’ Podolyak added in a Telegram post: ‘As for the real counteroffensive plans, the Russian troops will certainly be the first to get acquainted with them.’
  • The artillery shortage for Ukrainian forces described in the leaked documents dated a month ago has persisted, said a Ukrainian officer who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the leak with the press. ‘Ukraine’s ammunition stockpiles are very low,’ he said, ‘I haven’t seen any change in the last month.’ But he said he doesn’t trust the majority of what he has read from the documents and doesn’t believe the leak will affect the country’s plans for a counteroffensive. Another officer said when asked about the leak: ‘this impacts the Kyiv establishment, but definitely won’t have any impact on the frontline.’
  • Ukraine has laid more than 6,000 antitank mines along its border with Belarus and Russia to fortify its defenses, Lt. Gen. Serhiy Naev said in a statement posted on Telegram by Ukraine’s Defense Ministry. The defensive lines were focused on ‘likely routes of the enemy’s advance deep into our territory, including roads, forest strips, bridges, power lines, etc.’
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky condemned Russia on Sunday night for three deaths he said were caused by Russian S-300 missiles in Zaporizhzhia. ‘They hit a house, an apartment building. Three people were inside. A man, a woman and a child — a girl, her name was Iryna, she would have turned 11 this year. She died. The man died too,’ Zelesnky said in his evening address Sunday. ‘The woman is in critical condition.’
  • Russian forces continue to attack civilian and infrastructure targets in Ukraine’s Kherson region, according to local officials. Over the past day, Russia shelled the region 71 times — hitting Kherson city 23 times, regional governor Oleksandr Prokudin said Sunday on Telegram. No casualties were reported.
  • Pope Francis called for the ‘light of Easter’ to be shed upon the Russian people, in his Easter Sunday message. ‘Help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey towards peace,’ he also said, according to the Catholic News Agency. After initially hesitating to directly criticize Russian President Vladimir Putin, Francis has recently become more vocal in his critique of Russia’s invasion and has repeatedly described the Ukrainian people as ‘martyred.’
  • Hundreds of people attended the funeral in Moscow for Vladlen Tatarsky, the Russian pro-war blogger killed in an explosion at a cafe in the city last weekend. Tatarsky — whose real name was Maksim Fomin — received military honors at his funeral Saturday, including a gun salute and an army band, according to Reuters.
  • A top Ukrainian diplomat is set to visit India starting Sunday to discuss the Russian invasion, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said in a statement. Emine Dzheppar, Ukraine’s deputy foreign minister, will meet with India’s external affairs minister to ‘exchange views on the current situation in Ukraine,’ the Indian ministry said. The official visit is the first by a top Ukrainian official to India since the start of the war. India has resisted explicitly calling out Russia for its aggression and has instead tried to position itself as an intermediary.
  • Putin chaired a full session of Russia’s Security Council for the first time in five months, the British Defense Ministry said Sunday. In an attempt to normalize the situation in Russian-occupied parts of Ukraine, officials said, Interior Minister Vladimir Kolokoltsev was selected to present the main report on regions Moscow illegally claimed to have annexed. ‘In reality, much of the area remains an active combat zone, subject to partisan attacks, and with extremely limited access to basic services,’ officials said.


Monday, 10 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. hunts for source of intelligence leak; State Department says U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich is ‘wrongfully detained,’ The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Ellen Francis, Natalia Abbakumova, Sammy Westfall, and Rachel Pannett, Monday, 10 April 2023: “As Ukraine mobilizes fighters for a spring counterattack and a commander warns that Russia is reinforcing its Bakhmut line, leaked U.S. intelligence documents indicate that Kyiv is facing a shortfall of Western ammunition and air defense weapons. The United States is searching for the source of the documents, which appear to detail classified information about Ukraine and Russia, as well as countries such as Egypt and China. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said he officially declared Monday that Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich is ‘wrongfully detained’ by Russia — a formal assessment that allows the agency to launch a broad government effort to secure his release.

  • The leaked documents reveal U.S. doubts that a spring offensive by Ukraine will yield big gains — in sharp contrast to the Biden administration’s public pronouncements on the vitality of Kyiv’s forces. Labeled ‘top secret,’ the bleak assessment from early February, leaked online and later obtained by The Washington Post, warns of significant ‘force generation and sustainment shortfalls,’ and the likelihood that an operation will result in only ‘modest territorial gains.’
  • The Defense Department is working ‘around the clock’ to assess the scope and scale of the emergence of possible classified information online and the impact it may have, Pentagon spokesman Chris Meagher said in a Monday briefing. He described the leak as ‘photos of purported documents,’ and said he would not discuss their validity. In response, the Biden administration has created an interagency team and the Pentagon is in touch with allies and partners, Meagher said.
  • The Kremlin is analyzing the leaked documents, spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Monday, describing them as ‘quite interesting.’ ‘They are all being studied, analyzed, widely discussed,’ he said, adding that revelations of U.S. spying on other countries were unsurprising. Asked about allegations of Russian involvement in the leaks, he said there was no need to comment, citing a ‘tendency to blame everything on Russia.’
  • The State Department said it would ‘provide all appropriate support’ for Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovichwho has been held in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison since Russia’s Federal Security Service arrested him last month. ‘Journalism is not a crime. We condemn the Kremlin’s continued repression of independent voices in Russia,’ said State Department principal deputy spokesperson Vedant Patel in a statement.
  • Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who faces up to 25 years in prison on treason charges for criticizing Russia’s military, delivered his last statement to a Russian court at a hearing Monday, saying his trial is reminiscent of the Stalinist political repression of the 1930s. The case’s prosecutors have asked for the maximum sentence, and a verdict is expected April 17. ‘I’m in jail for my political views. For speaking out against the war in Ukraine. For many years of struggle against Putin’s dictatorship,’ he said. ‘Not only do I not repent of any of this, I am proud of it.’
  • The commander of Ukraine’s ground forces said Russia is bringing in special forces and airborne assault units to reinforce its assault on the eastern city of Bakhmut, which has been the focal point of fighting in the Donetsk region for months. In comments to Reuters on Monday, Col. Gen. Oleksandr Syrsky said Russian airstrikes and artillery are destroying buildings and positions. He described the situation as ‘difficult but controllable.’
  • Russian air defense forces are practicing border protection in the country’s northwest after Finland’s accession to NATO and Sweden’s membership bid, Lt. Gen. Andrey Demin, commander of Russian air defense forces, said in comments published Monday. Finland joined NATO this month, doubling Russia’s land border with the military alliance. The two Nordic nations applied to join last year, a change in Europe’s security landscape triggered by Russia’s war in Ukraine.
  • ‘Another large POW swap was successful,’ Andriy Yermak, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s chief of staff, said on Twitter. ‘We are bringing home 100 of our people. Among them are soldiers, sailors, border guards, and national guardsmen.’
  • ‘106 Russian servicemen who had been held captive in mortal danger were returned from Kyiv-controlled territory,’ Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. ‘The freed servicemen will be flown to Moscow by Russian Air Force air transport planes for treatment and rehabilitation in medical facilities of the Russian Ministry of Defense.’
  • Intermittent exchanges of prisoners, and of dead bodies, remain one of the few instances in which Moscow and Kyiv are still coordinating directly.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Russia must guarantee it will defend his country as its own territory in the event of external aggression, according to Belarusian state news agency BelTA. Lukashenko, a staunch ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin, made the comments Monday at a meeting with Russia’s defense minister in Minsk.
  • The leaked intelligence suggests Egypt, one of America’s closest allies in the Middle East and a major recipient of U.S. aid, recently ordered subordinates to produce up to 40,000 rockets to be covertly shipped to Russia. The Washington Post obtained the document from a trove of images of classified files posted in February and March on Discord, a chat app popular with gamers. ‘We are not aware of any execution of that plan,’ said one U.S. government official speaking on the condition of anonymity, referring to the plans to ship rockets. ‘We have not seen that happen.’
  • One of the leaked documents also said a Russian jet almost shot down a British spy plane near Ukraine last year, an incident that risked directly embroiling the United States and NATO in the war. It was previously disclosed to the British Parliament in the fall by Defense Secretary Ben Wallace, who attributed the missile launch to a ‘technical malfunction’ rather than a near-shootdown.
  • Pope Francis prayed for Ukraine and Russia in his Easter Sunday address and called for the ‘light of Easter’ to shine upon the people of Russia. ‘Help the beloved Ukrainian people on their journey toward peace,’ he said. The pope cautioned last year that the conflict could lead to nuclear war.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. Declares Evan Gershkovich ‘Wrongfully Detained’ by Russia. The designation means that the U.S. government sees the Wall Street Journal reporter, who has been charged with espionage, as the equivalent of a political hostage. The New York Times, Monday, 10 April 2023:

  • The State Department declares Evan Gershkovich ‘wrongfully detained’ by Russia.

  • What does ‘wrongfully detained’ mean?

  • The Pentagon says it is investigating the scope of the documents leak but declines to give specifics.

  • A Kremlin critic, on trial for opposing the war, says the process recalls Stalin’s show trials.

  • A visiting Ukrainian official presses India to help resolve the war.

  • New satellite data shows the intensity of fighting concentrated in Bakhmut’s center and west.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Pentagon leaks, France’s overtures in China, and Finland in NATO, NPR, NPR Staff, Monday, 10 April 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: After Finland joined NATO, neighboring Sweden still faces some hurdles — namely Turkey and Hungary — before it can become a member. Russia — at the helm of the U.N. Security Council presidency — holds a council meeting about alleged weapons exports violations on Monday. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is due to visit Beijing to meet Chinese leader Xi Jinping. Both have pitched their vision for peace talks to end the war in Ukraine, while fostering relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Orthodox Easter is on Sunday. Later this month, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is due to visit Brazil and the United Nations in New York. What happened last week: Secret U.S. military documents including on Ukraine appeared on social media, setting off hurried efforts in Washington to determine the source of the leak and potential fallout. An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told CNN the country has already changed some of its military plans because of the leak. Finland became a new member of NATO as assurance in response to the Russian invasion of Ukraine. This expands the Western military alliance up to the Finnish-Russian border that stretches more than 800 miles. A Russian court charged U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich with espionage, which The Wall Street Journal and the White House have strongly denied. This could be Russia’s first jailing of an American journalist on spying charges since Soviet times. Leaders of both parties in the U.S. Senate issued a rare joint statement condemning the ‘wrongful detention’ of Gershkovich and demanding his release. Thirty-one children reunited with their families in Ukraine after an operation to bring them home from Russia and Russian-occupied territory, according to Save Ukraine, the humanitarian group that helped organize the operation. Ukraine and the International Criminal Court accuse the Kremlin of war crimes for taking away Ukrainian children during the war. A Russian official wanted by the ICC addressed the U.N. Security Council about Ukrainian children taken to Russia during the invasion, in one of Russia’s first moves at the helm this month of the council’s presidency. Diplomats from the U.S. and some other countries walked out when the official, Maria Lvova-Belova, started to speak by video. French President Emmanuel Macron visited Beijing and said he’s counting on Chinese leader Xi Jinping to ‘bring Russia to its senses’ over Ukraine. Xi reiterated his call for peace talks while also mentioning security concerns of all parties.”

Expelled Democratic Lawmaker Justin Jones Is Sworn Back in to Tennessee House. The move to reappoint Representative Jones was a swift rebuke to the Republican supermajority over its decision to expel him and another lawmaker for leading a gun control [reform] protest. The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Friday, 10 April 2023: “Justin Jones, one of the two Black Democrats expelled from the Tennessee House of Representatives for leading a gun control [reform] protest on the House floor, was sworn back in to his seat on Monday in a swift rebuke to the state’s Republican supermajority. Within an hour of the Metropolitan Nashville Council unanimously voting to temporarily appoint Mr. Jones back to the seat, the young lawmaker had returned to take his place in the Republican-controlled legislature that overwhelmingly voted to expel him just four days earlier. After leading hundreds of supporters on a march from the council meeting, Mr. Jones took his oath of office on the steps of the State Capitol, now empowered with a national platform and the backing of Democrats across the state and the country. The moment came two weeks after the mass shooting at a Christian school in Nashville that prompted Mr. Jones and two other Democrats to protest in the House chamber.” See also, Tennessee Democratic Representative Justin Jones returns to the Tennessee House after Nashville Council reinstates him, NPR, Cynthia Abrams, Monday, 10 April 2023: “Nashville’s Metro Council has unanimously voted to reinstate freshman Democrat Justin Jones to his seat in the Tennessee House. The GOP-led legislature expelled Jones last week for gun reform protests he led on the chamber floor after the Covenant School shooting. The vote puts Jones into the seat on an interim basis until a special election can be held for the seat. ‘Justin Jones has been elected to the vacancy of Tennessee House 52 pursuant to the state law and the rules governing the Metropolitan Council,’ Vice Mayor Jim Shulman announced at Monday’s specially called meeting, as cheers erupted in the gallery.”

Drug Company Leaders Condemn Ruling Invalidating F.D.A’s Approval of Abortion Pill. More than 400 executives said that the decision ignored both scientific and legal precedent and that, if the ruling stood, it would create uncertainty for the pharmaceutical and biotech industries. The New York Times, Pam Belluck and Christina Jewett, Monday, 10 April 2023: “The pharmaceutical industry plunged into a legal showdown over the abortion pill mifepristone on Monday, issuing a scorching condemnation of a ruling by a federal judge that invalidated the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug and calling for the decision to be reversed. The statement was signed by more than 400 leaders of some of the drug and biotech industry’s most prominent investment firms and companies, none of which make mifepristone, the first pill in the two-drug medication abortion regimen. It shows that the reach of this case stretches far beyond abortion. Unlike Roe v. Wade and other past landmark abortion lawsuits, this one could challenge the foundation of the regulatory system for all medicines in the United States. ‘If courts can overturn drug approvals without regard for science or evidence, or for the complexity required to fully vet the safety and efficacy of new drugs, any medicine is at risk for the same outcome as mifepristone,’ said the statement.” See also, Justice Department appeals Texas abortion pill ruling, The Washington Post, Perry Stein, Ann E. Marimow, and Caroline Kitchener, Monday, 10 April 2023: “The Justice Department on Monday appealed a Texas judge’s decision that would block access to a key abortion drug across the country, arguing that the challengers had no right to file the lawsuit since they were not personally harmed by the abortion pill. The 49-page appeal, filed in the right-leaning U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, landed less than one business day after Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk suspended Federal Drug Administration approval of mifepristone — one of the two medications used in more than half of all abortions in the United States. Kacsmaryk had said his ruling — issued late Friday — would not take effect until this Friday, giving the Biden administration time to appeal before the drug could be pulled from the marketplace. In its filing Monday, the government asked the 5th Circuit judges to keep the order on hold until the appeal is decided. The judge’s ruling, Justice Department lawyers said, ‘upended decades of reliance by blocking FDA’s approval of mifepristone and depriving patients of access to this safe and effective treatment, based on the court’s own misguided assessment of the drug’s safety.'” See also, Justice Department and abortion pill manufacturer ask appeals court to freeze judge’s order that could make drug available after Friday, CNN Politics, Tierney Sneed and Ariane de Vogue, Monday, 10 April 2023: “The Justice Department and a manufacturer of medication abortion drugs asked a federal appeals court on Monday to put on hold a judge’s ruling that could make the drug unavailable nationwide after Friday. The requests, filed on Monday before the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals, are seeking a short-term administrative stay as well as a long-term stay pending appeal on a lower court ruling from US District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk, who ordered the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug to be suspended. The court said Monday that the plaintiffs in the case must respond by Tuesday night before midnight. An administrative stay would give the appellate court more breathing room to consider whether Kacsmaryk’s ruling should be frozen while the litigation plays out. The Justice Department and Danco, a manufacturer of the drug mifepristone that intervened in the case to defend the FDA’s approval in 2000, had both already filed notices of appeal. Kacsmaryk said his Friday night order would not go into effect for seven days to give the Justice Department time to appeal.”

Trump Appeals Decision Forcing Pence to Testify to January 6 Grand Jury. The appeal seeks to narrow the scope of testimony that former Vice President Mike Pence can provide the grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s efforts to stay in power. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Monday, 10 April 2023: “Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump asked a federal appeals court on Monday to narrow the scope of the testimony that former Vice President Mike Pence has to give a grand jury investigating Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election, according to a person familiar with the matter. The request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia to reverse a lower court’s decision ordering Mr. Pence to testify was the latest attempt by Mr. Trump’s legal team to keep witnesses close to him from divulging information to prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith. Mr. Pence has always been a potentially important witness in the election inquiry into Mr. Trump because of the conversations he took part in at the White House in the weeks preceding the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. During that time, Mr. Trump repeatedly pressed him to use his ceremonial role overseeing the congressional count of Electoral College votes to block or delay certification of his defeat.” See also, Trump files long-shot appeal of judge’s order for Pence to testify in January 6 investigation, CNN Politics, Katelyn Polantz, Monday, 10 April 2023: “Former President Donald Trump has appealed a judge’s order that Mike Pence must testify to a federal grand jury investigating the aftermath of the 2020 election, according to a person familiar with the case, but is unlikely to stop his former vice president from speaking to the panel. Trump has already lost several attempts in court to block other top officials from his administration from testifying, and the courts have resoundingly sided with grand jury pursuits for decades, making any attempt to claim executive privilege around his conversations with Pence a long shot.”


Tuesday, 11 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Biden speaks with family of detained journalist Evan Gershkovich; Pentagon is assessing impact of leak, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit, Adam Taylor, and Sammy Westfall, Tuesday, 11 April 2023: “U.S. government agencies are working together to assess the fallout from a stunning leak of Pentagon documents that appeared to reveal, among other information, sensitive U.S. intelligence about the war in Ukraine. One document from early February suggests Washington had doubts that an anticipated spring counteroffensive by Ukraine would yield big gains — an assessment that could embolden those who say Kyiv and its allies should negotiate with Russia to end the conflict. President Biden spoke Tuesday with the family of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained by Russia since last month. The family said in a statement that the president assured them the United States is ‘doing everything in its power to bring him home as quickly as possible.’ Earlier in the day, Biden told reporters that Russia’s detention of the journalist was ‘totally illegal’ and that a court ruling upholding it was ‘out of bounds.’ The United States is still seeking consular access to Gershkovich, which has not yet happened as his detention is ‘pretty fresh,’ Pentagon spokesman John Kirby said aboard Air Force One on Tuesday. The United States has categorized Gershkovich as ‘wrongfully detained,’ a designation that grants the State Department more tools and authority to push for his release. The Wall Street Journal has vehemently denied the espionage charges levied against the journalist. Rights groups and media organizations around the world also have decried the charges.

  • The documents include a U.S. intelligence assessment that predicts Ukraine will make only ‘modest territorial gains’ in its spring counteroffensive. The assessment says Ukraine is grappling with low munitions and worn-out troops, and it warns of ‘force generation and sustainment shortfalls.’ Another document cites looming weaknesses in Ukraine’s air defenses. Russia has begun analyzing the documents, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said.
  • Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said Secretary of State Antony Blinken ‘vehemently rejected any attempts to cast doubt on Ukraine’s capacity to win on the battlefield’ in a call Tuesday. Blinken ‘reaffirmed the ironclad U.S. support,’ his Ukrainian counterpart said.
  • The U.S. intelligence community has deeply infiltrated the Russian military, the documents indicate — in some cases enabling Washington to warn Kyiv about upcoming attacks. Washington has been working with Kyiv to shape the anticipated counteroffensive, and U.S. officials have held tabletop exercises with Ukrainian military leaders, The Washington Post reported.
  • The documents include an analysis of wide-ranging risks posed by China, including Beijing’s willingness to send lethal aid to Russia. One assessment published in the leak says that a Ukrainian attack on Russian soil using NATO weaponry could draw Beijing into the war. China is committed to ‘peace talks and a political settlement’ in Ukraine and ‘has never supplied arms to either side of the conflict,’ Hesong Shao, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said Tuesday.
  • Russian opposition politician Vladimir Kara-Murza, who faces up to 25 years in prison on treason charges for criticizing his country’s military, described his trial as reminiscent of the Stalinist repression of the 1930s. Prosecutors have asked for the maximum sentence. ‘I’m in jail for my political views. For speaking out against the war in Ukraine. For many years of struggle against Putin’s dictatorship,’ Kara-Murza, a contributing opinion writer for The Washington Post, said in his last statement to a Russian court.
  • When Russian President Vladimir Putin announced a mobilization in the fall to commandeer reinforcements for the war, thousands of men fled Russia or went into hiding. But tough measures approved by Russia’s lower house of parliament on Tuesday will make it almost impossible for Russians to dodge conscription in the future.
  • Moscow ordered military preparations in response to the NATO accession of Finland, which was formerly militarily nonaligned. ‘Russian air defense forces are working out issues of protecting the state border in the northwest of the country in accordance with the increased threat level,’ said Lt. Gen. Andrey Demin, commander of Russia’s air defense forces, according to Reuters.
  • Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva ‘will talk about the war in Ukraine’ with Chinese President Xi Jinping during an official visit to China this week, Brazilian Foreign Minister Mauro Vieira told journalists, according to Agence France-Presse. Lula has proposed forming a group of mediator countries that would work to end the war. But his suggestion that control of Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, could be up for negotiation was criticized in Kyiv, where officials maintain that Ukraine should not have to give up any of its land in exchange for peace.
  • More than 11 million people have crossed the border between Ukraine and Poland since the start of the war, Poland’s delegation to the European Union said. Poland has taken in more than 1.5 million Ukrainian refugees. From there, some refugees have traveled to other European countries, while others have returned to Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky recently visited Warsaw and said: ‘You have not abandoned Ukraine. You stood with us shoulder to shoulder, and we are grateful to you. We believe this is a historic relationship.’
  • The leaked Pentagon documents suggest that the president of Egypt, a close U.S. ally and a major recipient of U.S. aid, asked his government to produce up to 40,000 rockets and quietly ship them to Russia. ‘We are not aware of any execution of that plan,’ said one U.S. government official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to address sensitive information. ‘We have not seen that happen.’ Peskov called the report a ‘hoax.’
  • WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was detained in Russia for 10 months last year, said she is writing a memoir recounting her imprisonment. The book will describe the ‘terrifying aspects of day-to-day life in a women’s penal colony’ and ‘the difficulty of navigating the byzantine Russian legal system,’ according to a Tuesday statement from publisher Alfred A. Knopf, which will publish the memoir in spring 2024. Griner had brought less than a gram of cannabis oil into Russia and was sentenced to 9½ years in prison before she returned home in a prisoner swap for arms dealer Viktor Bout.
  • The European Parliament and Ukraine’s parliament will host a joint hybrid meeting Wednesday. Parliament members will discuss topics including Ukraine’s E.U. accession process and getting Ukrainian law to align with E.U. law.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia Moves to Tighten Rules on Avoiding a Military Draft. Russian lawmakers voted in favor of new measures that would make it much harder to avoid a troop mobilization. The New York Times, Tuesday, 11 April 2023:

  • Russia’s Parliament moves to clamp down on draft dodging.

  • A leaked document outlines 4 ‘wild card’ scenarios in the Russia-Ukraine conflict.

  • Egypt rejects a report that a leaked Pentagon document outlines its plan to ship arms to Russia.

  • Officials in Kyiv offer little comment on the leak of war documents, but some frustration is evident.

  • President Biden speaks with Evan Gershkovich’s family.

  • Paul Whelan’s family says they’re happy for the U.S. to make ‘whatever concessions they can’ to bring him home.

  • Europe worries that the document leak will compromise intelligence gathering.

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Sues Jim Jordan in Move to Block Interference in Trump Case. Mr Jordan, a Republican from Ohio, subpoenaed former prosecutor Mark F. Pomerantz who worked on the Manhattan  district attorney’s investigation into former President Donald Trump. The New York Times, Jonah E. Bromwich, Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess, and William K. Rashbaum, Tuesday, 11 April 2023: “The Manhattan district attorney on Tuesday sued Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio in an extraordinary step intended to keep congressional Republicans from interfering in the office’s criminal case against former President Donald J. Trump. The 50-page suit, filed in federal court in the Southern District of New York, accuses Mr. Jordan of a ‘brazen and unconstitutional attack’ on the prosecution of Mr. Trump and a ‘transparent campaign to intimidate and attack’ the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg. Mr. Bragg last week unveiled 34 felony charges against Mr. Trump that stem from the former president’s attempts to cover up a potential sex scandal during and after the 2016 presidential campaign. Lawyers for Mr. Bragg are seeking to bar Mr. Jordan and his congressional allies from enforcing a subpoena sent to Mark F. Pomerantz, who was once a leader of the district attorney’s Trump investigation and who later wrote a book about that experience. Mr. Pomerantz resigned early last year after Mr. Bragg, just weeks into his first term in office, decided not to seek an indictment of Trump at that time. Mr. Bragg’s lawyers, including Theodore J. Boutrous Jr. of the law firm Gibson Dunn and Leslie B. Dubeck, the general counsel in the district attorney’s office, also intend to prevent any other such subpoenas, the lawsuit says. Mr. Jordan has left open the possibility of subpoenaing Mr. Bragg.” See also, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sues Republican House Judiciary chairman Jim Jordan to prevent interference in Trump case, CNN Politics, Devan Cole and Kara Scannell, Tuesday, 11 April 2023: “Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg is suing House Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan, over what the lawsuit filed Tuesday describes as a ‘transparent campaign to intimidate and attack’ his office’s case against former President Donald Trump. The suit injects more legal drama into Bragg’s investigation of Trump, which has been dogged for weeks by accusations from Republicans that the prosecutor’s pursuit of the former president was purely political, with the claims being central to Jordan’s own probe. Bragg is seeking to block a subpoena for testimony from Mark Pomerantz, a former senior prosecutor in his office, as well as other demands for ‘confidential documents and testimony from the district attorney himself as well as his current and former employees and officials.’ The 50-page suit is asking a federal court to give emergency and permanent relief that would block enforcement of Jordan’s subpoena for Pomerantz to testify on April 20. Pomerantz told Jordan last month that, per instructions from Bragg’s office, he does not plan to cooperate with the subpoena. US District Judge Mary Kay Vyskocil denied Bragg’s request for emergency relief later Tuesday, though the court could still block the subpoena through other forms of relief. She also set a hearing on the matter for April 19. ‘In sum, Congress lacks any valid legislative purpose to engage in a free-ranging campaign of harassment in retaliation for the District Attorney’s investigation and prosecution of Mr. Trump under the laws of New York,’ the lawsuit, filed in the US District Court for the Southern District of New York, states. ‘That campaign is a direct threat to federalism and the sovereign interests of the State of New York. This Court should enjoin the subpoena and put an end to this constitutionally destructive fishing expedition.'” See also, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg sues Representative Jim Jordan for ‘brazen’ attack on Trump investigation, The Washington Post, Shavana Jacobs and Amy B Wang, Tuesday, 11 April 2023: “Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg filed a federal lawsuit Tuesday seeking to stop Rep. Jim Jordan from what the prosecutor said is a ‘brazen and unconstitutional attack’ by members of Congress on the prosecution and investigation of former president Donald Trump. Lawyers for Bragg’s office and private law firm Gibson Dunn filed the 50-page civil complaint in U.S. District Court in Manhattan against an investigation launched by Jordan, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee. Jordan and other members of the committee are trying to obtain confidential investigative materials compiled during the district attorney’s criminal probe. Bragg is asking a federal judge to prohibit Jordan and the committee from involvement in an ongoing New York state criminal prosecution and investigation of Trump and invalidate a subpoena from Jordan’s committee to former prosecutor Mark Pomerantz. The subpoena to Pomerantz, who split with Bragg’s office early last year following a dispute over how the case should proceed, calls for him to testify before the committee on April 20. Bragg’s lawsuit also said that the committee’s behavior is an overreach of congressional authority. ‘Chairman Jordan claims he is seeking to conduct oversight,’ the Bragg lawsuit reads. ‘But he has no power under the Constitution to oversee state and local criminal matters.'”

Judge Limits Fox’s Options for Defense in Dominion Trial. A Delaware judge said Fox News could not argue newsworthiness to defend airing false claims, and limited how Dominion Voting Systems could refer to the January 6 attack. The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters, Tuesday, 11 April 2023: “A judge ruled on Tuesday that Fox News could not argue that it broadcast false information about Dominion Voting Systems on the basis that the allegations were newsworthy, limiting a key line of defense for the network as it faces the beginning of a potentially costly defamation trial next week. The judge, Eric M. Davis of Delaware Superior Court, also ruled that Dominion could not refer to the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the Capitol except in very narrow circumstances, saying he did not want jurors to be prejudiced by events that weren’t relevant to the central question in the case: Did Fox air wild claims about Dominion’s purported involvement in a conspiracy to steal the 2020 presidential election from Donald J. Trump knowing that they were lies?”


Wednesday, 12 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Leaked U.S. intelligence assessment says war in Ukraine is unlikely to end this year, The Washington Post, Annabelle Timsit, Rachel Pannett, Missy Ryan, Miriam Berger, David L. Stern, and Sammy Westfall, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “A Defense Intelligence Agency assessment — part of the trove of leaked sensitive U.S. government documents — said that the war between Ukraine and Russia is expected to enter 2024 without either side securing victory, yet with both refusing to negotiate an end to the conflict. The document obtained by The Washington Post concludes that even if Ukraine recaptures ‘significant’ amounts of territory and inflicts ‘unsustainable losses on Russian forces’ — an outcome U.S. intelligence finds unlikely — that would still not lead to peace talks. In Washington, officials continued to scramble to assess the diplomatic fallout and possible battlefield implications of the leak of Pentagon documents, including the apparent intelligence assessments on the war in Ukraine.

  • Ukraine and Spain denied allegations stemming from a leaked Pentagon report that NATO troops are in Ukraine fighting against Russia. “It is totally false that there are NATO troops in Ukraine,’ Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles said Wednesday during a news conference in Spain, where she met with her Ukrainian counterpart, CNN reported.
  • A video circulating on Russian-language Telegram channels appears to show the beheading of a restrained prisoner wearing symbols associated with the Ukrainian military, prompting horrified responses. The video, which lasts 1 minute 40 seconds and could not be independently verified by The Washington Post, shows a masked Russian-speaking soldier using a knife to saw at the restrained man’s neck, eventually decapitating the prisoner.
  • A bipartisan group of senators called for continued U.S. support for Ukraine at a news conference Wednesday in central Kyiv, rejecting calls by some Republican presidential hopefuls to rein in aid. ‘This cannot be a partisan split,’ Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) told reporters. She traveled to Ukraine with Sen. Joe Manchin III (D-W.Va.) and Sen. Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.).
  • The World Bank and Ukraine have agreed on a $200 million loan to help rebuild the country’s energy sector. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal said in a tweet Wednesday that the money would be used to restore Ukraine’s power system. A ‘military risk insurance project for foreign investors’ was also being developed, he said.
  • The U.S. ambassador to Hungary expressed concerns Wednesday over Hungary’s ‘eagerness’ to uphold ties with Russia. The U.S. Treasury Department also took the rare step of imposing sanctions on an entity associated with an ally, blacklisting the Hungary-based International Investment Bank, dubbed Russia’s ‘spy bank.’ ‘The United States is demonstrating that we will take action in response to Hungary’s choices,’ Ambassador David Pressman said at a news conference in Budapest. Treasury also levied sanctions against some 100 other people and entities for their ties to Russia and the war.
  • The Serbian government on Wednesday rejected claims that it had sent weapons to Ukraine and doubled down on its policy of noninvolvement in the war, after a leaked U.S. intelligence document, the authenticity of which could not be verified, appeared to indicate that the Balkan country provided lethal aid to Kyiv.
  • Top Biden administration officials spoke publicly for the first time about the leak on Wednesday, with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin promising to ‘turn over every rock until we find the source of this.’ Secretary of State Antony Blinken said the U.S. government has spoken with its allies in recent days ‘to reassure them about our own commitment to safeguarding intelligence and … to our security partnerships.’
  • President Biden spoke with the family of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who has been detained in Russia since March 29. The family said in a statement that the president assured them the United States is ‘doing everything in its power to bring him home as quickly as possible.’ Washington considers his detention wrongful and has vehemently denied Moscow’s unproven claims of espionage.
  • Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova said Wednesday that consular access to Gershkovich ‘is being considered and will be resolved in due course,’ in accordance with Russian law and diplomatic practice. She said the U.S. designation of the American journalist as wrongfully detained ‘does not matter.’
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asked India’s prime minister for humanitarian assistance, India’s Ministry of External Affairs said. Zelensky made the requests in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi, which Ukrainian Deputy Foreign Minister Emine Dzhaparova delivered to an Indian minister during a four-day visit to New Delhi. During her visit, Dzhaparova told local news outlets that India should be more ‘engaged’ in the war.
  • Lawmakers from the European Union met virtually with lawmakers from Kyiv regarding Ukraine’s potential E.U. accession. The Wednesday meeting was billed as the ‘first inter-committee meeting’ between the European Parliament and Ukraine’s legislature, the Verkhovna Rada. The process of E.U. accession usually takes years.
  • The head of the World Bank, David Malpass, urged Western nations to contribute to the rebuilding of Ukraine, a task he said is too large to be undertaken by international institutions alone. A World Bank study estimated last month that it would cost at least $411 billion to rebuild Ukraine’s economy.
  • The United Nations expects inspections to resume under the Black Sea grain deal on Wednesday, after ‘intensive discussions’ supported by Turkey and the global body. There was a hiatus on Tuesday, with 50 vessels waiting to enter Ukrainian ports. ‘We urge all involved to meet their responsibilities to ensure that vessels continue to move smoothly and safely in the interest of global food security,’ U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said in a statement.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky Asks Top Finance Officials to Increase Economic Support for Ukraine. In a meeting with the I.M.F. and World Bank, the Ukrainian leader also urged the world to use seized Russian assets to help rebuild his war-damaged nation. The New York Times, Wednesday, 12 April 2023:

  • Zelensky asks G7 finance officials to expand support for Ukraine’s economy.
  • Ukraine investigates after a video appears to show the beheading of a prisoner of war.
  • About 100 special forces troops from the West were in Ukraine in February, a leaked U.S. document says.
  • Leaked document says Russia’s ally Serbia is sending arms to Ukraine.
  • In a crowded commercial kitchen, a unique charity responds to the war effort.
  • The U.S. and Britain target Russian oligarchs with new sanctions.
  • Some Russian officials cancel Victory Day parades, reflecting anxiety over possible attacks.
  • Ukrainian lawmakers held a joint meeting with the European Parliament in a show of unity.

Justin J. Pearson, the Second Expelled Democrat, Is Sent Back to Tennessee House. County officials voted on Wednesday to return Justin J. Pearson to the state legislature, less than a week after he and a colleague were expelled. The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “Local officials unanimously voted on Wednesday to send Justin J. Pearson, one of two Black Democratic representatives ousted from the Tennessee House of Representatives after a gun control protest on the House floor, back to his seat in the state legislature. The vote came less than a week after Mr. Pearson of Memphis and State Representative Justin Jones of Nashville were abruptly expelled from the legislature, just the third time such a punishment has been used in the state House since the Civil War era. Angered by the disruption of the protest and the disregard for House rules, Republicans quickly moved to expel the pair, though an effort to remove Representative Gloria Johnson, a white lawmaker from Knoxville, failed. The expulsions of two of the chamber’s youngest Black lawmakers infuriated Democrats, who were already frustrated with their inability to counter the Republican supermajority, and further galvanized the hundreds of demonstrators who repeatedly marched to the State Capitol to call for tougher gun laws after the Covenant School shooting that left three students and three staff members dead.” See also, Defiant and Determined, I’m Ready to Keep Fighting for Tennessee, The New York Times, Justin J. Pearson, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “I wasn’t elected to be pushed to the back of the room and silenced. We who were elected to represent all Tennesseans — Black, white, brown, immigrant, female, male, poor, young, transgender and queer — are routinely silenced when we try to speak on their behalf. Last week, the world was allowed to see it in broad daylight. In such a hostile environment for democracy, I’m inspired by the late civil rights fighter and congressman John Lewis, who in 1965, when demonstrating for voting rights in Selma, Ala., endured a police beating that almost took his life. In 2016, after the tragic Pulse nightclub massacre that killed 49 people, he led a sit-in on the U.S. House floor for 25 hours to protest the inaction of lawmakers in the pockets of the National Rifle Association.” See also, In Tennessee, second expelled Black Democratic lawmaker is reappointed, The Washington Post, Robert Klemko and Karin Brulliard, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “Justin Pearson, one of two Black Democratic lawmakers expelled by Republican state representatives for leading a gun-control protest on the Tennessee House floor, was reappointed to the office Wednesday, returning to his seat after a tumultuous week that deepened partisan rancor in the state and transformed the pair into national political figures. Seven local commissioners in Shelby County voted unanimously to reinstate Pearson six days after the contentious expulsion and two days after commissioners in Nashville also voted unanimously to return the other expelled lawmaker, Justin Jones, to the statehouse. Their ejection from the legislature, where Republicans hold a supermajority, followed a mass killing at a Nashville school that ignited grief and demonstrations in the capital and spurred Pearson, Jones and a third Democrat to protest in the House chamber. The vote to reappoint Pearson, 29, was considered less certain in Shelby County, where the 13-member commission includes four Republicans. Only seven members, all Democrats, were present for the vote. Pearson is expected to be sworn in Thursday morning, resuming his duties exactly one week after his ejection.” See also, Republican expulsions of Democratic representatives from the Tennessee House prompt Senate Democrats to call for inquiry by the Department of Justice. A letter signed by Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, among others, asks investigators to examine whether state lawmakers had their rights violated. The Washington Post, Matthew Brown, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “Senate Democrats are urging the Department of Justice to conduct an investigation into the expulsions of two Tennessee state representatives to determine whether their removal violated the Constitution or federal civil rights law. In a letter delivered on Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) and Sens. Raphael G. Warnock (D-Ga.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii) call on Attorney General Merrick Garland to ‘use all available legal authorities’ to conclude whether federal statutes were violated and ‘take all steps necessary to uphold the democratic integrity of our nation’s legislative bodies.'”

Environmental Protection Agency (E.P.A.) Lays Out Rules to Turbocharge Sales of Electric Cars and Trucks. The Biden administration is proposing rules to ensure that two-thirds of new cars and a quarter of new heavy trucks sold in the United States by 2032 are all-electric. The New York Times, Coral Davenport, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “The Biden administration on Wednesday proposed the nation’s most ambitious climate regulations to date, two plans designed to ensure two-thirds of new passenger cars and a quarter of new heavy trucks sold in the United States are all-electric by 2032. The new rules would require nothing short of a revolution in the U.S. auto industry, a moment in some ways as significant as the June morning in 1896 when Henry Ford took his ‘horseless carriage’ for a test run and changed American life and industry. If the two rules from the Environmental Protection Agency are enacted as proposed, they would put the world’s largest economy on track to slash its planet-warming emissions at the pace that scientists say is required of all nations in order to avert the most devastating impacts of climate change. The government’s challenge to automakers is monumental. Last year, all-electric vehicles accounted for just 5.8 percent of new cars sold in the United States. All-electric trucks were even more rare, making up fewer than 2 percent of new heavy trucks sold. Nearly all major automakers have already invested billions in producing electric vehicles at the same time as they continue to manufacture the conventional vehicles powered by gasoline, which deliver their profits. The proposed regulations would require them to invest more heavily and reorient their processes in ways that would essentially spell the end of the internal combustion engine.” See also, The big reason why the U.S. is seeking the toughest-ever rules for vehicle emissions, NPR, Camila Domonoske, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “The Environmental Protection Agency is proposing its most ambitious new regulations yet for cutting pollution from vehicles. The overarching goal is not just cleaner cars, but the transformation of the auto industry: The EPA would essentially impose regulatory penalties on companies that do not move quickly enough toward electric cars. The new standards are so strict that, according to the EPA’s estimates, up to 67% of new vehicles sold in 2032 may have to be electric in order for carmakers to be in compliance. EPA Administrator Michael Regan says the proposed standards would eliminate 7.3 billion tons of CO2, equivalent to four years worth of the entire U.S. transportation sector, and save lives through reduced air pollution.”

Judge Eric Davis Imposes Sanction on Fox for Withholding Evidence in Defamation Case. Davis also said an investigation was likely into Fox’s handling of documents and whether it had withheld details about Rupert Murdoch’s corporate role. The New York Times, Katie Robertson and Jeremy W. Peters, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “The judge overseeing Dominion Voting Systems’ lawsuit against Fox News said on Wednesday that he was imposing a sanction on the network and would very likely start an investigation into whether Fox’s legal team had deliberately withheld evidence, scolding the lawyers for not being ‘straightforward’ with him. The rebuke came after lawyers for Dominion, which is suing for defamation, revealed a number of instances in which Fox’s lawyers had not turned over evidence in a timely manner. That evidence included recordings of the Fox News host Maria Bartiromo talking with former President Donald J. Trump’s lawyers, Sidney Powell and Rudy Giuliani, which Dominion said had been turned over only a week ago. In imposing the sanction on Fox, Judge Eric M. Davis of the Delaware Superior Court ruled that if Dominion had to do additional depositions, or redo any, then Fox would have to ‘do everything they can to make the person available, and it will be at a cost to Fox.’ He also said he would very likely appoint a special master — an outside lawyer — to investigate Fox’s handling of discovery of documents and the question of whether Fox had inappropriately withheld details about the scope of Rupert Murdoch’s role. Since Dominion filed its suit in early 2021, Fox had argued that Mr. Murdoch and Fox Corporation, the parent company, should not be part of the case because Mr. Murdoch, the chair, and other senior executives had nothing to do with running Fox News. But in the past few days, Fox disclosed to Dominion that Mr. Murdoch was a corporate officer at Fox News.” See also, Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis rebukes Fox attorneys ahead of defamation trial: ‘Omission is a lie,’ NPR, Karl Baker and David Folkenflik, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “At today’s pre-trial hearings in the billion-dollar Fox defamation lawsuit, the Delaware judge overseeing the case declared he would sanction Fox News and launch an investigation into Fox’s apparent repeated failures to disclose information, including about the role of Fox founder Rupert Murdoch. The trial, one of the most significant defamation cases in many years, is set to begin on Monday. Dominion Voting Systems, one of the leading makers of voting equipment, sued the conservative cable outlet in 2021 after it aired numerous false statements by guests and hosts baselessly claiming that the company somehow rigged voting machines to help Joe Biden steal the election from then-President Donald Trump. Numerous post-election lawsuits and audits confirmed that Biden’s win was legitimate and no evidence has surfaced that Dominion’s machines altered the vote. Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric M. Davis sternly warned Fox and its legal team that its veracity was in doubt in his courtroom. ‘I need people to tell me the truth,’ Davis said as he dressed down the network’s attorneys. ‘And, by the way, omission is a lie.'” See also, Fox News sanctioned for withholding evidence in Dominion defamation case. The judge is giving Dominion Voting Systems a chance to conduct another deposition, at Fox’s expense. NBC News, Jane C. Timm and Amanda Terkel, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis on Wednesday sanctioned Fox News and its parent company, Fox Corp., for withholding evidence in the Dominion defamation suit and said he’s considering further investigation and censure. One of Grossberg’s attorneys, Parisis G. Filippatos, said that lawyers for Dominion Voting Systems played recordings Fox News producer Abby Grossberg made during 2020, which were not handed over to Dominion’s lawyers during discovery. In an interview on MSNBC’s ‘Alex Wagner Tonight,’ Filippatos shared audio also played during Wednesday’s court proceedings, with Rudy Giuliani telling Fox News host Maria Bartiromo in November 2020 ‘that’s a little harder to tell you — it’s being analyzed right now,’ when asked about the voting software. Giuliani also said he ‘can’t prove’ that then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had an interest in Dominion. In a second clip, from December 2020, a Trump official can be heard telling Fox News ‘there weren’t any physical issues with the [voting] machines’ during inspections. Filippatos told Wagner, ‘If Dominion had these audio tapes and been able to use it in their summary judgment motion, maybe they would have gotten a complete victory.'” See also, Judge in Dominion case sanctions Fox for withholding evidence and plans to appoint a special master to investigate possible misconduct, CNN Business, Marshall Cohen, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “The judge overseeing Dominion Voting Systems’ massive defamation case against Fox News said Wednesday that he plans to appoint an outside attorney to investigate whether the right-wing network lied to the court and withheld key evidence, and sanctioned Fox over the matter. ‘I am very concerned… that there have been misrepresentations to the court. This is very serious,’ Delaware Superior Court Judge Eric Davis said Wednesday at a pretrial hearing in Wilmington, where he repeatedly expressed exasperation and frustration with Fox’s attorneys. The sanction Davis imposed against Fox will allow Dominion to conduct additional depositions of some Fox witnesses, if they want to, at this late stage in the case. Fox must make those witnesses available and pay for the depositions.” See also, Judge Eric Davis blasts Fox News over ‘missing’ evidence and orders investigation. The judge in a $1.6 billion defamation case said the cable-news giant has a ‘credibility problem’ after Dominion Voting Systems says it was misled about the co-founder’s role. He denied a request to split the case in two but asked a special master to investigate. The Washington Post, Jeremy Barr, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “An attorney for Dominion Voting Systems alleged that Fox News withheld information that would have entitled Dominion to obtain more of network co-founder Rupert Murdoch’s communications in the election-technology company’s $1.6 billion defamation lawsuit. But while the judge in the case refused Dominion’s request on Wednesday to have separate jury trials against both Fox and its parent company, he also rebuked Fox over questions of whether it has been fully forthcoming — saying that the network has a “credibility problem” and asking a court official to investigate further. Justin Nelson, an attorney for Dominion, had told the court Tuesday that the company had only belatedly learned that Murdoch holds a title as an officer of Fox News as well as the larger Fox Corporation, which should have made more of his business communications accessible to the plaintiff. ‘This alone has meant that we are missing a whole bunch of Rupert Murdoch documents that we otherwise would have been entitled to,’ Nelson said. ‘It’s very troubling that this is where we are. It’s something that has really affected how we have litigated this case.’ Judge Eric M. Davis echoed Nelson’s frustration with Fox, saying the missing information about Murdoch’s title may have affected his decision-making regarding a recent ruling that narrowed the scope of the case. ‘I could have made an entirely wrong decision,’ Davis said.”

Special counsel Jack Smith focuses on Trump fundraising off false election claims. A new batch of subpoenas seeks to compare public claims of voter fraud after the 2020 election with private texts and emails. The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Devlin Barrett, Rosalind S. Helderman, and Jacqueline Alemany, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “Federal prosecutors probing the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol have in recent weeks sought a wide range of documents related to fundraising after the 2020 election, looking to determine if former president Donald Trump or his advisers scammed donors by using false claims about voter fraud to raise money, eight people familiar with the new inquiries said. Special counsel Jack Smith’s office has sent subpoenas in recent weeks to Trump advisers and former campaign aides, Republican operatives and other consultants involved in the 2020 presidential campaign, the people said. They have also heard testimony from some of these figures in front of a Washington grand jury, some of the people said. The eight people with knowledge of the investigation spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing criminal investigation. The fundraising prong of the investigation is focused on money raised during the period between Nov. 3, 2020, and the end of Trump’s time in office on Jan. 20, 2021, and prosecutors are said to be interested in whether anyone associated with the fundraising operation violated wire fraud laws, which make it illegal to make false representations over email to swindle people out of money. The new subpoenas received since the beginning of March, which have not been previously reported, show the breadth of Smith’s investigation, as Trump embarks on a campaign for reelection while assailing the special counsel investigation and facing charges of falsifying business records in New York and a separate criminal investigation in Georgia. The subpoenas seek more specific types of communications so that prosecutors can compare what Trump allies and advisers were telling one another privately about the voter-fraud claims with what they were saying publicly in appeals that generated more than $200 million in donations from conservatives, according to people with knowledge of the investigation.”

Witnesses Asked About Trump’s Handling of Map With Classified Information. The map is just one element of the Justice Department’s inquiry into former President Donald Trump’s possession of sensitive documents and whether he obstructed justice in seeking to hold onto them. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Adam Goldman, and Alan Feuer, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “Federal investigators are asking witnesses whether former President Donald J. Trump showed off to aides and visitors a map he took with him when he left office that contains sensitive intelligence information, four people with knowledge of the matter said. The map has been just one focus of the broad Justice Department investigation into Mr. Trump’s handling of classified documents after he departed the White House. The nature of the map and the information it contained is not clear. But investigators have questioned a number of witnesses about it, according to the people with knowledge of the matter, as the special counsel overseeing the Justice Department’s Trump-focused inquiries, Jack Smith, examines the former president’s handling of classified material after leaving office and weighs charges that could include obstruction of justice.”

Trump Sues Michael Cohen, the Key Witness Against Him. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Florida, accuses Mr. Cohen of revealing Mr. Trump’s confidences and ‘spreading falsehoods’ about him. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Ben Protess, William K. Rashbaum, and Jonah E. Bromwich, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “Donald J. Trump on Wednesday filed a lawsuit against his former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, just weeks after being indicted in a case in which Mr. Cohen is expected to serve as a star witness. The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Florida, accuses Mr. Cohen of revealing Mr. Trump’s confidences and ‘spreading falsehoods’ about him. It directly references Mr. Cohen’s role in the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal case against Mr. Trump, which stems from a hush-money payment Mr. Cohen made on the former president’s behalf in the run-up to the 2016 presidential election. The case, while potentially far-fetched, suggests that Mr. Trump may be seeking to silence Mr. Cohen. ‘It could be an attempt to pressure Michael Cohen not to testify, but that pressure is unlikely to work,’ said Ellen C. Yaroshefsky, a professor specializing in legal ethics at Hofstra University’s law school. She added that she did not think the lawsuit amounted to witness tampering under New York law, as it was not a direct attempt to interfere with Mr. Cohen’s testimony, and other legal experts concurred. Yet in a statement on Wednesday, Mr. Cohen’s lawyer, Lanny J. Davis, argued, ‘Mr. Trump appears once again to be using and abusing the judicial system as a form of harassment and intimidation.’ He added that Mr. Trump was apparently ‘terrified by his looming legal perils and is attempting to send a message to other potential witnesses who are cooperating with prosecutors against him.'” See also, Trump sues former counsel Michael Cohen for $500 million. The former president alleges that Cohen–a key witness in the criminal case against him–broke their attorney-client relationship and breached a confidentiality agreement. The Washington Post, Mariana Alfaro. Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “Former president Donald Trump is suing his former attorney Michael Cohen — a key witness in the criminal case against the former president — for $500 million over allegations that Cohen violated their attorney-client relationship and breached a confidentiality agreement. According to a 32-page lawsuit filed by Trump’s lawyers Wednesday, Trump accuses Cohen of revealing ‘confidences’ in an ’embarrassing or detrimental way.’ Cohen, the suit alleges, also breached a confidentiality agreement and spread ‘falsehoods’ about Trump ‘with malicious intent and to wholly self-serving ends.’ The lawsuit comes after Trump pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court April 4 to 34 felony charges that he falsified business records to conceal $130,000 in reimbursement payments to Cohen, who paid adult-film actress Stormy Daniels in 2016 trying to keep her from publicly claiming she had a sexual encounter with Trump. Cohen is at the center of Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg’s investigation into Trump’s payment.”

Trump Says He Won’t Drop Presidential Bid if Criminally Convicted. He made the remarks in an interview with Tucker Carlson, his first time on the program since the release of private text messages showed the Fox News anchor’s repugnance for the former president. The New York Times, Michael C. Bender, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “Former President Donald J. Trump said Tuesday that he would continue campaigning for the White House even if convicted of a crime. In his first national media interview since pleading not guilty last week to 34 felony charges related to a hush-money scandal during his 2016 White House bid, Mr. Trump complimented the strongmen leaders of several other countries; attacked ‘sick, radical’ Democrats; and indicated that not even a prison sentence would keep him from running for president. ‘I’d never drop out, it’s not my thing,’ Mr. Trump said when asked on Fox News about a potential conviction. In addition to his criminal charges in New York, the former president is facing several other criminal investigations: One is related to his attempts to overturn election results in Georgia, another is into his efforts to hold on to power in Washington after losing re-election and a third is into his handling of classified documents at his home in South Florida.” See also, Trump says criminal conviction wouldn’t stop him from running for president. The former president also heaped praise on foreign dictators in an interview with Fox News’ Tucker Carlson. The Washington Post, Isaac Arnsdorf, published on 11 April 2023: “Former president Donald Trump said he wouldn’t drop out of the 2024 race even if convicted of a crime. ‘I’d never drop out, it’s not my thing,’ Trump said in an interview that aired Tuesday with Fox News’s Tucker Carlson. ‘I wouldn’t do it.’… Most of the interview covered international affairs, with Trump reiterating favorable views of foreign dictators. He called Russian President Vladimir Putin ‘very smart’ and said the two ‘had a very good relationship.’ Trump repeatedly complimented Russia’s nuclear capabilities as on a par with those of the United States. As for the people who investigated alleged Russian interference in the 2016 election to benefit him, Trump said they should be arrested for ‘treason.’ He called the leaders of Saudi Arabia — whose crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, approved the killing of Washington Post opinion contributor Jamal Khashoggi — ‘great people.’ Trump said he and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un ‘get along great to this day.’ And he praised Chinese President Xi Jinping as a ‘brilliant man’ who has ‘the look, the brain, the whole thing.’ Carlson lauded Trump as ‘moderate, sensible and wise.’ Messages released in defamation litigation by Dominion Voting Systems against Fox News showed Carlson in early 2021 saying of Trump, ‘I hate him passionately’ and that he looked forward to being able to ignore him. ‘He doesn’t feel that way now,’ Trump said of Carlson, speaking to reporters on his plane last month. ‘If you ask Tucker now, he likes Trump. He gets it.'”

Trump Asks That Trial of Author E. Jean Carroll’s Suit Accusing Him of Rape Be Delayed. Carroll says that Donald Trump attacked her. His lawyers say that publicity surrounding Trump’s separate criminal fraud case prevents a fair hearing. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser, Wednesday, 12 April 2023: “Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump, citing a “deluge of prejudicial media coverage” concerning his recent indictment and arraignment in Manhattan, asked a federal judge late Tuesday for a one-month postponement of Mr. Trump’s civil trial over an allegation that he raped a magazine writer in the mid-1990s. The request for the delay comes just two weeks before the civil suit by the writer E. Jean Carroll was scheduled for trial in Federal District Court in Manhattan, and amid an onslaught of legal action in civil and criminal cases arising from his conduct in and out of office.”

Thursday, 13 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: One person arrested in document leak case; two U.S. citizens killed in Ukraine, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Missy Ryan, Victoria Bisset, Robyn Dixon, Bryan Pietsch, Claire Parker, and Sammy Westfall, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “The war in Ukraine is unlikely to end this year, and no peace talks between Kyiv and the Kremlin are expected in 2023, according to a sensitive U.S. government document that was part of a trove leaked online. The intelligence assessment indicates that such negotiations remain unlikely even if Ukraine manages to retake a substantial amount of territory and inflict significant losses on Russia. In relation to those leaks, a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard was arrested by the FBI on Thursday. Two U.S. citizens have died in Ukraine, the State Department said Wednesday, without disclosing their identities or the circumstances of their deaths. ABC News reported that they were volunteer fighters who died in separate clashes with Russian forces.

  • The suspected leaker of the documents, Jack Teixeira, was arrested Thursday afternoon. He is believed to have shared the documents with a small group of roughly two dozen people — mostly men and boys united by a mutual love of guns, military gear and God — on Discord, a platform popular with gamers, a group member told The Washington Post.
  • A stalemate in the war, with neither Russia nor Ukraine achieving a decisive advantage this year, is the most likely scenario, a leaked Defense Intelligence Agency assessment suggests. The agency predicted a costly and slow conflict, with both sides making only marginal gains. On Thursday, Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak said the Kremlin ‘dreams’ of such a scenario.
  • The head of Russia’s Wagner mercenary group appeared to dismiss the leaked documents as inconsequential. In comments to reporters shared on a Wagner-linked Telegram channel, Yevgeniy Prigozhin said top Wagner officials met Thursday to discuss the documents and concluded they were ‘leaked deliberately, in order to ask certain questions.’ He described the documents using a Soviet-era idiom that conveys the idea of a warning with no real consequences.
  • President Biden on Thursday downplayed the fallout from the leaked secrets. ‘I’m not concerned about the leak because — I’m concerned that it happened, but there’s nothing contemporaneous that I’m aware of that is of great consequence,’ Biden told reporters during his trip to Dublin.
  • The Russian general prosecutor’s office opened an investigation into a video of an apparent beheading of a Ukrainian fighter that was shared on Russian-language Telegram channels, the office said in a Telegram post. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called for international action, and the United Nations demanded an investigation into the ‘brutal execution.’ The video, which shows a Russian-speaking soldier in a mask decapitating a prisoner with a knife, was not independently verified by The Post.
  • Russia accused a Ukrainian national of coordinating the bombing that killed pro-Kremlin blogger Maxim Fomin, who was also known as Vladlen Tatarsky. Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) said that Yury Denisov, who it said was a Ukrainian citizen, worked with a Russian woman, Daria Trepova, to plan the attack that killed Fomin and injured at least 30 others in a St. Petersburg cafe. In a statement Thursday, the FSB alleged that Denisov gave Trepova ‘an explosive device hidden in a plaster bust’ of Fomin.
  • Ukraine’s foreign minister said Kyiv won’t back down from its demand that Russia withdraw from Crimea. ‘Every time you hear anyone from any corner of the world saying that Crimea is somehow special and should not be returned to Ukraine, as any other part of our territory, you have to know one thing: Ukraine categorically disagrees with these statements,’ Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba said via video link to the Black Sea Security Conference in Bucharest, Romania, on Thursday, the Associated Press reported. Russia illegally annexed the peninsula in 2014. Kuleba also said NATO should play a bigger role in security in the Black Sea, according to Reuters. Fighting has raged along the Ukrainian coast since Russia’s full-scale invasion last year. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov responded during a briefing Thursday in Moscow that ‘the Black Sea can never be a NATO sea,’ Reuters reported.
  • The number of Russian workers under age 35 decreased by 1.3 million people last year, according to audit and consulting network FinExpertiza, Russian news outlet RBC reported. The statistic marks the smallest proportion of young workers in the nation’s labor market since data collection began in 2006. The trend is a product of a flow of migration out of Russia and of low birthrates in the 1990s, compounding Russian fears of a demographic crisis, which Putin has said ‘haunts’ him.
  • Germany approved Poland’s application to hand over five MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine. The announcement Thursday paves the way for Warsaw to re-export five of the Soviet-designed jets from the stocks of the former East German army. During Zelensky’s visit to Warsaw last week, Polish President Andrzej Duda promised he would deliver Poland’s MiG-29s to Ukraine. German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said in a statement that the German government had received the application from Poland only on Thursday. ‘This shows: Germany can be relied upon!’ he said of Berlin’s swift approval.
  • Norway will expel 15 diplomats from the Russian Embassy in Oslo, officials announced Thursday. Foreign Minister Anniken Huitfeldt said the government has declared the individuals personae non gratae, adding: ‘We will not allow Russian intelligence officers to operate under diplomatic cover in Norway.’ European nations expelled hundreds of personnel from Russian embassies in the weeks after the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
  • Alexei Navalny, the Kremlin critic imprisoned in Russia, has lost more than 17 pounds in two weeks, and his health is worsening every day, his spokeswoman said on Twitter.
  • Poland is looking to set up maintenance and repair plants for U.S.-made Abrams tanks in Europe, Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said during a visit to the United States, according to Polish media. The country also wants to produce depleted uranium rounds for the tanks, which can help them better destroy other armored vehicles.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Ukraine a Priority for Brazil’s President in Visit to China. Ukraine is not the main focus of Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s three-day trip to Beijing, but the Brazilian leader has made its importance clear. The New York Times, Thursday, 13 April 2023:

  • Lula is expected to pitch a peace deal for Ukraine to Xi Jinping.

  • New leaked documents show broad infighting among Russian officials.

  • Ecuador considered becoming the first Latin American country to send weapons to Kyiv, a leaked document says.

  • Germany approves Polish exports of Soviet-era fighter jets to Ukraine.

  • Biden thanks the Irish people for their support of Ukraine.

  • Mine explosions near the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant highlight the danger of an accident, a U.N. agency says.

  • Ukraine and Russia each pledge to investigate a beheading video.

Trump Is Questioned in New York Attorney General’s Lawsuit. Letitia James, the attorney general, has sued Donald Trump and three of his children, accusing them of a ‘staggering’ fraud. The New York Times, Ben Protess, Jonah E. Bromwich, and William K. Rashbaum, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “Donald J. Trump was questioned under oath on Thursday in a civil fraud lawsuit brought by Attorney General Letitia James of New York, the latest in a series of legal predicaments entangling the former president, who also faces a separate 34-count criminal indictment unsealed last week. Ms. James’s civil case, which was filed in September and is expected to go to trial later this year, accuses Mr. Trump, his family business and three of his children of a “staggering” fraud for overvaluing the former president’s assets by billions of dollars. The lawsuit seeks $250 million that Ms. James contends the Trumps reaped through those deceptions, and asks a judge to essentially run the former president out of business in the state if he is found liable at trial. Mr. Trump was questioned for much of the day on Thursday — arriving at Ms. James’s office in Lower Manhattan shortly before 10 a.m. and departing just after 6 p.m. — as part of the discovery phase of the case, in preparation for the trial.” See also, Trump deposed for second time in New York Attorney General’s fraud lawsuit, The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs and Mark Berman, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “Donald Trump was deposed Thursday in Manhattan as part of a $250 million lawsuit brought by New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) that accuses the former president and his children of committing repeated fraud. The deposition on Thursday marked Trump’s second round of questioning in James’s case, and it came as he continues to face an array of investigations and mounting legal scrutiny, including a criminal prosecution in Manhattan and ongoing probes being carried out by the Justice Department and local prosecutors in Georgia.” See also, Trump spends 8 hours at New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office for deposition in business fraud lawsuit. The $250 million suit accuses Trump of trying to inflate his personal net worth to attract favorable loan agreements. NBC News, Rebecca Shabad, Adam Reiss, and Rehema Ellis, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “Donald Trump spent about eight hours at New York Attorney General Letitia James’ office Thursday for a deposition in her $250 million lawsuit alleging fraud in the former president‘s real estate business practices. Trump arrived at the Lower Manhattan office just after 9:30 a.m. ET, and his vehicle departed shortly after 6 p.m. A spokesperson for the AG’s office said that Trump spoke a lot and that James was present for part of that time. It was not immediately clear what questions Trump was asked.”

Abortion Is Back at Supreme Court’s Door After Dueling Orders on Pill. The justices are poised to consider whether the most common method of ending pregnancies can be sharply curtailed in states where abortion remains legal. The New York Times, Pam Belluck and Adam Liptak, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “Less than a year after the Supreme Court declared it was ceding the matter of abortion to elected officials, the justices are poised to consider whether the most common method of ending pregnancies can be sharply curtailed in states where abortion remains legal, not just where it is illegal. After a federal appeals court imposed several barriers to access to an abortion pill late Wednesday night, the Justice Department announced on Thursday that it would seek emergency relief from the justices, asking them to block the ruling while a fast-tracked appeal moved forward. The appellate ruling, from a divided three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans, said the pill, mifepristone, could remain available while the lawsuit, filed against the Food and Drug Administration by anti-abortion groups, proceeded through the courts. In its order, the panel partly rejected a ruling from Judge Matthew J. Kacsmaryk of the Northern District of Texas, who declared last week that the F.D.A.’s approval of mifepristone in 2000 was not valid, in essence saying that the drug should be pulled from the market. But the panel blocked a series of steps the F.D.A. took in recent years to ease access to the drug — including allowing it to be sent through the mail and prescribed by health care providers who are not doctors. The appellate court said its ruling would hold until the full case was heard on its merits. But Thursday afternoon, a federal judge in another mifepristone lawsuit issued an order that required the F.D.A. not to limit access to the drug in much of the country. That lawsuit, filed by Democratic attorneys general in 17 states and the District of Columbia, challenged extra restrictions the F.D.A. imposes on mifepristone. Judge Thomas O. Rice of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Washington, an Obama appointee, last Friday blocked the agency from curbing the availability of mifepristone in those states. On Thursday, he reaffirmed that order said that it ‘must be followed’ by the F.D.A. “irrespective” of what the Fifth Circuit appeals court would do. Legal experts said the dueling federal court orders could make it more likely that the Supreme Court will need to resolve the status of the abortion pill.” See also, U.S. to ask Supreme Court to restore full access to abortion pill. If the justices do not respond before Friday evening, nationwide access to the drug mifepristone could be temporarily upended. The Washington Post, Ann E. Marimow, Perry Stein, and Robert Barnes, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “The Biden administration said Thursday it will ask the Supreme Court to restore full access to a key abortion medication after a federal appeals court hours earlier set significant restrictions on the pill, which is used in more than half of all abortions in the United States. The Justice Department announced its plans after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit on Wednesday night reinstated regulations that limit how patients obtain the drug mifepristone and how late into pregnancy it can be used. The 5th Circuit also temporarily blocked part of a decision last week by a judge in Texas that would have gone further and suspended government approval of the drug, which was first cleared by the Food and Drug Administration more than 20 years ago. The Justice Department’s request, expected Friday, will return the legal battle over abortion to the Supreme Court less than a year after the court’s conservative majority eliminated the fundamental right to abortion established nearly 50 years ago by Roe v. Wade. Attorney General Merrick Garland said Thursday in a statement his department would seek ’emergency relief from the Supreme Court to defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care.’ If the justices do not respond to the government and the drug manufacturer before Friday evening, the 5th Circuit’s order could upend nationwide access to the pill by temporarily preventing the mailing of mifepristone directly to patients and limiting its approved use to the first seven weeks of pregnancy.” See also, Justice Department will ask the Supreme Court to restore full access to abortion pill, NPR, Sarah McCammon and Becky Sullivan, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “The Justice Department is seeking emergency relief from the U.S. Supreme Court in a Texas case involving limited access to the abortion drug mifepristone. Late Wednesday, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit ruled that mifespristone, which in the U.S. is used in most medication abortions and to treat miscarriages, is approved for use up to seven weeks of pregnancy during the appeals process, but could no longer be dispensed by mail. This was a dial back from the previous approval of up to 10 weeks and access to the prescribed medication through the mail. ‘The Justice Department strongly disagrees with the Fifth Circuit’s decision in Alliance for Hippocratic Medicine v. FDA to deny in part our request for a stay pending appeal. We will be seeking emergency relief from the Supreme Court to defend the FDA’s scientific judgment and protect Americans’ access to safe and effective reproductive care,” Attorney General Merrick Garland wrote in a statement announcing the Justice Department’s action. Lawyers for the Biden administration had previously asked the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals for an emergency stay on a lower court’s injunction ruling by U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk that was slated to go into effect Friday and would block the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of mifepristone. Department of Justice lawyers argued that ‘the district court upended decades of reliance by blocking FDA’s approval of mifepristone and depriving patients of access to this safe and effective treatment, based on the court’s own misguided assessment of the drug’s safety.'”

Governor Ron DeSantis Signs Six-Week Abortion Ban in Florida. The prohibition is among the most restrictive in the country, and Florida will no longer be a destination for women from across the Deep South seeking the procedure. The New York Times, Patricia Mazzei, David W. Chen, and Alexandra Glorioso, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “Florida lawmakers voted to prohibit abortions after six weeks of pregnancy on Thursday, culminating a rapid effort by elected Republicans and Gov. Ron DeSantis to transform the state to one of the most restrictive in the country. Mr. DeSantis, a likely 2024 Republican presidential contender, signed the new ban late on Thursday night with little fanfare. The ban will end Florida’s long-held role as a destination for women from across the Deep South seeking abortions and force them to travel farther, to states such as North Carolina or Illinois, for care. In the six months after the Supreme Court overturned the federal right to abortion last year, no state saw a greater increase in the number of legal abortions performed each month than Florida, according to a report released on Tuesday.” See also, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signs bill banning abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, The Washington Post, Lori Rozsa and Caroline Kitchener, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) signed a bill Thursday that would ban abortion after six weeks of pregnancy, after the legislature passed the bill earlier in the day. The measure cuts off what has become a critical access point for abortion care in the South since the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade. DeSantis signed the bill late at night and released a photo just after 11 p.m. — a sharp contrast to how he celebrated a 15-week ban on abortion last spring with speeches and live media coverage at a church. The quiet passage underscored DeSantis’s reluctance to talk about the bill as he tours the country touting other legislative achievements. The bill passed 70-40 in the House and was approved in the state Senate earlier this month. DeSantis wrote on Twitter Thursday night that it ‘expands pro-life protections and devotes resources to help young mothers and families.’ Florida’s existing law allows abortions up to 15 weeks of pregnancy, a time period in which the vast majority of abortions take place. The six-week ban — which includes exceptions for rape, incest, medical emergencies and ‘fatal fetal abnormalities’ — outlaws the procedure before many people know they’re pregnant. Patients from across the South have been traveling to Florida for abortions since the Supreme Court decision in June, which triggered abortion bans across the region. Over 82,000 people got abortions in Florida in 2022, more than almost any other state. Nearly 7,000 of those traveled to Florida from other states, a 38 percent increase from the year before.”

Billionaire Harlan Crow Bought Property From Clarence Thomas. Thomas Didn’t Disclose the Deal. ProPublica, Justin Elliott, Joshua Kaplan, and Alex Mierjeski, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “In 2014, one of Texas billionaire Harlan Crow’s companies purchased a string of properties on a quiet residential street in Savannah, Georgia. It wasn’t a marquee acquisition for the real estate magnate, just an old single-story home and two vacant lots down the road. What made it noteworthy were the people on the other side of the deal: Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas and his relatives. The transaction marks the first known instance of money flowing from the Republican megadonor to the Supreme Court justice. The Crow company bought the properties for $133,363 from three co-owners — Thomas, his mother and the family of Thomas’ late brother, according to a state tax document and a deed dated Oct. 15, 2014, filed at the Chatham County courthouse. The purchase put Crow in an unusual position: He now owned the house where the justice’s elderly mother was living. Soon after the sale was completed, contractors began work on tens of thousands of dollars of improvements on the two-bedroom, one-bathroom home, which looks out onto a patch of orange trees. The renovations included a carport, a repaired roof and a new fence and gates, according to city permit records and blueprints. A federal disclosure law passed after Watergate requires justices and other officials to disclose the details of most real estate sales over $1,000. Thomas never disclosed his sale of the Savannah properties. That appears to be a violation of the law, four ethics law experts told ProPublica. The disclosure form Thomas filed for that year also had a space to report the identity of the buyer in any private transaction, such as a real estate deal. That space is blank.” See also, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas Failed to Report Real Estate deal With Texas Billionaire Harlan Crow. An investigation by ProPublica revealed a deal worth more than $100,000 between the real estate magnate and the justice. The New York Times, Abbie Van Sickle, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “Justice Clarence Thomas did not disclose that he had sold a series of properties to a longtime conservative donor from Texas in 2014, in an apparent violation of reporting requirements. The transaction, reported earlier by ProPublica, is the first known instance of money going directly from the billionaire donor, Harlan Crow, 73, to the justice. The revelation cast greater scrutiny on Justice Thomas, who has long raised eyebrows over questions of conflicts of interest, in part because of the political activism of his wife, Virginia Thomas. The nature of Justice Thomas’s relationship with the real estate magnate has elicited particular attention after ProPublica detailed last week how he accompanied Mr. Crow on lavish trips for nearly 20 years without disclosing them, including island-hopping in Indonesia and staying at Mr. Crow’s 105-acre lakeside retreat in the Adirondack Mountains. The disclosures have fueled calls by Democratic lawmakers and court transparency advocates for the justices to face tighter ethics constraints. In 2014, a real estate company linked to Mr. Crow bought a single-family home and two vacant lots on a quiet Savannah street, paying $133,363 to Justice Thomas and his family for the property, according to records filed at Chatham County courthouse dated Oct. 15, 2014…. Documents show that one of Mr. Crow’s companies bought the property from three owners: Justice Thomas, his mother and the family of Justice Thomas’s late brother. After the sale, contractors made a number of improvements to the property, where the justice’s mother still lived.” See also, Senator Sheldon Whitehouse Urges Judicial conference to Refer Supreme Court Justice Thomas to Attorney General for Apparent Brazen Disregard for Disclosure Laws, Sheldon Whitehouse, Press Release, Thursday, 14 April 2023: “U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today called on the Judicial Conference to refer Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas to the U.S. Attorney General for potential violations of the Ethics in Government Act under 5 U.S.C. 13106.  Whitehouse also reupped his call for the Chief Justice of the United States to launch an ethics investigation into Justice Thomas’s financial relationship with a politically active billionaire and apparent brazen disregard for disclosure laws.  New reporting from ProPublica found that Harlan Crow, a Republican megadonor, purchased several properties from Justice Clarence Thomas in 2014.  Justice Thomas did not disclose the sales on his financial disclosure forms as clearly required by law. Today’s story follows another bombshell ProPublica report exposing that Justice Thomas and his wife accepted extravagant vacations on Crow’s dime, including individual trips worth as much as $500,000.  Last week, Whitehouse and Representative Hank Johnson (D-GA) led their colleagues in a letter calling on the Chief Justice to investigate the allegations against Justice Thomas.” See also, Senators call for investigation of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas amid report of real estate deals with Republican mega-donor Harlan Crow, The Washington Post, Amy B Wang, published on Friday, 14 April 2023: “Democratic lawmakers are calling for an investigation into Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas after ProPublica revealed Thursday that he had failed to report real estate deals made with Harlan Crow, a Dallas business executive and influential Republican donor to causes related to the law and judiciary. According to ProPublica, Crow purchased three properties in Savannah, Ga., from Thomas in 2014, including the single-story house where Thomas’s mother was living and two vacant lots nearby. Thomas did not disclose the $133,363 real estate transaction on his financial disclosure forms, as federal law would have required. Crow told the outlet that he wanted to preserve the first property as a museum dedicated to Thomas in the future, and said he had spent tens of thousands of dollars on improvements to the house ‘to preserve its long-term viability.'”

Trump made up to $160 million from foreign countries when he was president, CREW Rebecca Jacobs and Robert Maguire, Thursday, 13 April 2023: “Donald Trump made up to $160 million from international business dealings while he was serving as president of the United States, according to an analysis of his tax returns by CREW. Throughout his time in office, President Trump, his family and his Republican allies repeatedly assured the public that his refusal to divest from his businesses wouldn’t lead to any conflicts of interest. Americans were promised that Trump would donate his salary, which he did, until maybe he didn’t—all while siphoning millions from taxpayers that more than offset his presidential pay. When it came to foreign conflicts of interest, Trump and his company pledged to pause foreign business. They did not. Trump pulled in the most money from the United Kingdom, where his Aberdeen and Turnberry golf courses in Scotland helped him gross $58 million. Trump’s now-defunct hotel and tower in Vancouver helped him pull in $36.5 million from Canada. Trump brought in more than $24.4 million from Ireland, home to his often-visited Doonbeg golf course, as well as $9.6 million from India, and nearly $9.7 million from Indonesia. Trump’s presidency was marred by unprecedented conflicts of interest arising from his decision not to divest from the Trump Organization, with his most egregious conflicts involving businesses in foreign countries with interests in US foreign policy. The full extent to which Trump’s foreign business ties influenced his decision making as president may never be known, but there is plenty of evidence that Trump’s actions in the White House were influenced–if not guided–by his financial interests, subverting the national interests for his own parochial concerns.”


Friday, 14 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: China says it won’t send weapons to Russia; suspected U.S. leaker is charged, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Ellen Francis, and Adam Taylor, Friday, 14 April 2023: “Beijing does not intend to sell weapons to Moscow, Chinese Foreign Minister Qin Gang said Friday at a news conference with his German counterpart in Beijing. He said China would not provide lethal aid to either side and would regulate the export of items with dual civilian and military use, the Associated Press reported. U.S. officials have warned China against providing weapons to Russia, and European leaders are trying to persuade Beijing to use its close ties to Moscow to help stop the war. A U.S. official said Washington has not seen evidence of a weapons transfer from China to Russia, after the leak of Russian intelligence indicating that China approved a delivery to Russia earlier this year, The Washington Post’s Karen DeYoung and Missy Ryan reported. The classified U.S. intercept was apparently obtained through eavesdropping on Russia’s Foreign Intelligence Service and alleged that China planned to disguise military equipment as civilian items. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva and Chinese leader Xi Jinping met in Beijing on Friday. Lula, who has positioned himself as a potential mediator between Russia and Ukraine, expressed support for the vision that Xi articulated in a proposal to end the fighting. China’s plan does not call for the withdrawal of Russian troops.

  • A leak of military files has revealed close-held U.S. assessments of the Ukraine war, claiming that the fighting has gutted Russian commando units and that China had agreed to provide Moscow with weapons. The trove of classified files, first shared on the chat app Discord and obtained by The Post, has offered a window into U.S. intelligence. U.S. officials assessed that Russian commanders over-relied on the spetsnaz special forces that were deployed alongside infantry formations and that, like Ukrainians, suffered big losses at the front lines, The Post reported.
  • The FBI has arrested a 21-year-old member of the Massachusetts Air National Guard suspected of posting the classified material. On Friday, he was charged by the federal government with retention and transmission of national defense information and willful retention of classified documents.
  • The suspected Pentagon leaker was arrested at his home in Dighton, Mass. Jack Teixeira, who has family members in the military, is believed to have shared hundreds of pages of documents that include recent reports on weaknesses in Ukraine’s air defenses and an ammunition shortfall hampering its forces.
  • It could take Moscow years to rebuild its commando units, according to the U.S. assessments, which range in date from late 2022 to earlier this year. ‘The rapid depletion of Russia’s commando units, observers say, shifted the war’s dynamic from the outset, severely limiting Moscow’s ability to employ clandestine tactics in support of conventional combat operations,’ The Post’s Alex Horton writes.
  • German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock also was in Beijing on Friday. While meeting with her Chinese counterpart, she said Europe would view any military escalation in the Taiwan Strait as ‘a horror scenario’ that would have ‘inevitable repercussions.’
  • Russia can consider a prisoner swap of detained U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich only after a trial, according to Russian news agencies, which cited Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov. The United States has declared that the Wall Street Journal reporter is ‘wrongfully detained’ in Russia, which allows the State Department to expand efforts to secure his release. ‘The United States will do everything in its power to get the reporter back,’ U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland said in remarks Friday.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a law Friday authorizing official electronic conscription documents, aimed at making enlistment more difficult to evade, Russian state media outlets reported.
  • Russia has resumed its assault on the eastern city of Bakhmut, prompting Ukrainian troops to withdraw from some positions, Britain’s Defense Ministry said in an update Friday. Russian forces have been ‘re-energized,’ the update said, by improved coordination between regular troops and fighters with the Wagner mercenary group. While Ukrainian forces still hold western districts of the town, they face resupply issues and have been ‘subjected to particularly intense Russian artillery fire over the previous 48 hours.’
  • President Biden maintained Western support for Ukraine in a speech to the Irish Parliament on Thursday, as the classified documents painted a bleak view of prospects for a resolution of the conflict. Biden earlier downplayed the consequences of the leaks.
  • Belarusian pilots completed training by Russian forces on operating Su-25 fighter jets, according to Belarusian state news agency BelTa. It said the training would help ensure military security, citing the Defense Ministry of Belarus, a neighbor and staunch ally of Moscow.
  • Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu will visit Russia next week, his office announced Friday. He is set to meet with Russian military officials during the Sunday-Wednesday visit.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Document Says Ukrainian Agent Attacked Plane in Belarus Against Orders. A leaked U.S. Intelligence document says Ukraine’s president called off a planned attack on a Russian surveillance plane in Belarus, but a rogue Ukrainian agent carried it out anyway. The New York Times, Friday, 14 April 2023:

  • Leaked document suggests a Ukrainian agent defied Zelensky’s orders and attacked a Russian plane in Belarus.

  • A Ukrainian toddler was pulled from the rubble after a missile strike, but he did not survive.

  • In Beijing, Brazil’s leader endorses China’s stance on Ukraine.

  • Russia’s Defense Ministry offers rare acknowledgment of Wagner cooperation.

  • Russia’s ambassador says the U.S. threatened ‘retaliatory measures’ unless a jailed reporter is released.

  • A new report offers insight into Russia’s approach to fighting in space.

  • The Russians took their children. These mothers went and got them back.

Supreme Court Briefly Preserves Broad Availability of Abortion Pill. The Temporary stay is meant to preserve the status quo while the justices study lower court rulings, and it did not forecast how they would ultimately rule. The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Friday, 14 April 2023: “Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. issued an order on Friday temporarily ensuring that a common abortion pill would remain widely available while the Supreme Court considered whether to grant the Biden administration’s emergency request to preserve the Food and Drug Administration’s approval of the drug. The order was meant to maintain the status quo while the justices studied the briefs and lower court rulings, and it did not forecast how the court would ultimately rule in the most important case about access to abortion since its conservative majority overturned Roe v. Wade last June. Justice Alito set a brisk schedule for the court’s consideration of the case. His order, an administrative stay, instructed the groups challenging the F.D.A.’s approval of the abortion drug, mifepristone, to file their brief by Tuesday at noon. The stay itself is set to expire on Wednesday at midnight, meaning the court is very likely to act before then and could in the coming days further curtail access to abortion, even in states where it is legal.” See also, The Supreme Court temporarily restores full access to key abortion medication, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Friday, 14 April 2023: “The Supreme Court on Friday temporarily restored full access to a key abortion medication, giving itself more time to review a lower court decision that suspended approval of a pill used in more than half of all abortions in the United States. Justice Samuel A. Alito Jr. granted the government’s request for a stay, but only until Wednesday, and asked for additional briefing from antiabortion groups by next Tuesday. The administrative stay does not forecast the court’s ultimate disposition of the case, which returned the issue to the high court less than a year after a landmark decision overturning the guarantee of abortion rights provided in Roe v. Wade. The government and Danco Laboratories, manufacturer of the drug mifepristone, urged the court not to second-guess the expertise of the Food and Drug Administration, which relied on data from dozens of clinical trials when it approved the drug more than 20 years ago. Leaving the ruling in place, they said, will create confusion and uncertainty for abortion providers and have devastating consequences for the pharmaceutical industry’s ability to bring new drugs to market. ‘If allowed to take effect, the lower courts’ orders would thwart FDA’s scientific judgment and undermine widespread reliance in a healthcare system that assumes the availability of mifepristone as an alternative to more burdensome and invasive surgical abortions,’ Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar told the court in the government’s filing. ‘Those harms would be felt throughout the Nation because mifepristone has lawful uses in every State — even those with restrictive abortion laws.'”


Saturday, 15 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: 11 dead in Russian strike on eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk, including a toddler; U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken calls for the ‘immediate release’ of Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Mikhail Klimentov, John Hudson, Timothy Bella, and Andrea Salcedo, Saturday, 15 April 2023: “At least 11 people, including a 2-year-old boy, were killed and 22 were wounded after Russian missiles struck buildings in the eastern Ukrainian city of Sloviansk on Friday, according to Ukrainian authorities. The State Emergency Service of Ukraine in the Donetsk region said in a statement that at least four more people were trapped under the tons of debris as of early Saturday in what officials are saying is the worst attack on Sloviansk this year. ‘A rescue operation is still ongoing in Sloviansk,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his Saturday night address. ‘It is reported that under the rubble of buildings, there are still bodies of the dead.’ Ukraine’s military said Saturday that Russian forces were intensifying their fire on the front lines around Bakhmut, with the shattered eastern city facing fierce battles overnight.

  • Russian forces launched at least eight S-300 rockets at Sloviansk, according to the Ukrainian city’s mayor, Vadym Liakh. The State Emergency Service said in a statement that ’75 tons of rubble have been dismantled at the site’ of the strikes.
  • Russia has still not granted U.S. consular officials access to Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich since he was detained last month, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Saturday — a situation that Blinken emphasized needed to be rectified immediately. ‘We continue to call for his immediate release,’ Blinken told reporters during a news conference in Hanoi. ‘We need to see consular access now.’
  • Jack Teixeira, the suspect in the leaks, faces up to 15 years in prison after the federal government charged him with retention and transmission of national defense information and willful retention of classified documents. The 21-year-old did not enter a plea and is detained pending a hearing Wednesday. The government is seeking continued detention, The Washington Post reported.
  • The ‘fiercest battles’ were taking place around Bakhmut, Ukraine’s armed forces said early Saturday. The military update said Russian forces were focusing their offensive operations on the city in the eastern Donetsk region, which has been gripped by fighting for months.
  • Zelensky spoke with French President Emmanuel Macron on Saturday about Macron’s recent trip to China to meet President Xi Jinping, Zelensky said in a tweet. ‘The conversation lasted for almost an hour and a half,’ Zelensky elaborated during his nightly address Saturday. ‘We also discussed international contacts – both ours and France’s. Emmanuel informed me about the details and results of his visit to China. And I am thankful for the clear support of those principles that unite our entire anti-war coalition.’
  • Poland will ban imported grains and other food products from Ukraine to protect their agricultural sector, according to Reuters. Jaroslaw Kaczyński, the leader of the ruling Law and Justice Party (PiS), said during a news conference on Saturday that Poland continues to be an ally of Ukraine and that the decision was merely a financial one.
  • Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva urged the U.S. to ‘stop encouraging’ the war in Ukraine. ‘The United States needs to stop encouraging war and start talking about peace,’ Lula told reporters in Beijing.
  • China does not intend to sell weapons to parties involved in the Ukraine conflict, Foreign Minister Qin Gang said at a Friday news conference with his German counterpart. A leaked U.S. intercept showed that Russian intelligence claimed Beijing had agreed to send Moscow weapons, The Post reported earlier. U.S. officials, who have warned China against providing Russia with weapons, say they have not seen evidence Beijing has made a transfer.

Evan Corcoran, a top Trump lawyer, has recused himself from Mar-a-Lago documents case, The Washington Post, Jacqueline Alemany, Josh Dawsey, and Spencer S. Hsu, Saturday, 15 April 2023: “One of former president Donald Trump’s top lawyers on the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case is no longer working on the matter after he appeared before a federal grand jury last month, according to people familiar with the move. Evan Corcoran is still representing Trump in other cases, such as special counsel Jack Smith’s probe into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, according to these people, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive information they are not authorized to disclose. Prosecutors investigating Trump’s taking classified documents to his Mar-a-Lago Club after leaving office won a court fight that allowed them to question Corcoran when judges ruled that he could not use attorney-client privilege to avoid disclosing information about his communications with Trump. Prosecutors cited an exception to the legal principle that lawyers must keep confidential what they are told by their clients when there is evidence that a client used the attorney’s legal services in furtherance of a crime. The Justice Department is increasingly focused on possible obstruction by Trump in the investigation into the documents found at his Mar-a-Lago home, and whether Trump took steps to impede or directed others to impede government efforts to collect all the sensitive records.” See also, Top Trump attorney Evan Corcoran recused himself from handling Mar-a-Lago case, CNN Politics, Katelyn Polantz, Kaitlan Collins, and Kristen Holmes, Saturday, 15 April 2023: “Attorney Evan Corcoran recused himself from representing former President Donald Trump in the special counsel investigation related to the Mar-a-Lago documents given that he testified for investigators, two sources familiar with the matter told CNN. Corcoran’s exit, which was first reported by The Washington Post, was an expected development after special counsel Jack Smith’s office forced him to testify without the shield of attorney-client privilege in front of the grand jury and prosecutors accused Trump of using his attorney to advance a crime.”

The controversial article Matthew Kacsmaryk did not disclose to the Senate. Emails show Kacsmaryk, the judge who delivered a high-stakes abortion pills ruling last week, removed his name from a law review article during his judicial nomination process. The Washington Post, Caroline Kitchener, Robert Barnes, and Ann E. Marimow, Saturday, 15 April 2023: “As a lawyer for a conservative legal group, Matthew Kacsmaryk in early 2017 submitted an article to a Texas law review criticizing Obama-era protections for transgender people and those seeking abortions. The Obama administration, the draft article argued, had discounted religious physicians who ‘cannot use their scalpels to make female what God created male’ and ‘cannot use their pens to prescribe or dispense abortifacient drugs designed to kill unborn children.’ But a few months after the piece arrived, an editor at the law journal who had been working with Kacsmaryk received an unusual email: Citing ‘reasons I may discuss at a later date,’ Kacsmaryk, who had originally been listed as the article’s sole author, said he would be removing his name and replacing it with those of two colleagues at his legal group, First Liberty Institute, according to emails and early drafts obtained by The Washington Post. What Kacsmaryk did not say in the email was that he had already been interviewed for a judgeship by his state’s two senators and was awaiting an interview at the White House. As part of that process, he was required to list all of his published work on a questionnaire submitted to the Senate Judiciary Committee, including ‘books, articles, reports, letters to the editor, editorial pieces, or other published material you have written or edited.'”

Sunday, 16 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Chinese defense minister meets Putin in Moscow; Ukrainians still digging for survivors of Russian strike in the eastern city of Slovyansk, The Washington Post, Katerina Ang, Jennifer Hassan, Sammy Westfall, Susannah George, and Serhii Korolchuk, Sunday, 16 April 2023: “Russian President Vladimir Putin met Sunday with China’s new defense minister, Gen. Li Shangfu, who is visiting Russia on his first official foreign trip. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu also took part in the meeting. In remarks, Putin hailed the two nations’ strengthening military relationship, saying Beijing and Moscow are ‘regularly exchanging information,’ conducting joint exercises and cooperating on military-technical matters. Li said Putin’s ‘personal friendship’ with Chinese President Xi Jinping ‘plays a big role’ in growing relations between the China and Russia — ‘and everyone here in China knows about it,’ he added, according to a Kremlin readout of the meeting. ‘We have very close relations. They outperform military-political unions of the Cold War era. They rest on the principles of non-alignment … and are very stable,’ Li said. The Washington Post reported last week that a leaked U.S. intercept showed that Russian intelligence claimed Beijing had agreed to send Moscow weapons to help its war in Ukraine. China denied the allegations. On Sunday, Ukrainians were still shoveling away debris by hand at the site of a rocket strike two days earlier in the eastern Ukrainian city of Slovyansk, which killed 15 people, including a 2-year-old boy. They were unable to use heavy machinery in the damaged apartment building, one of at least 50 destroyed in the attack, according to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The 2-year-old ‘was alive when we took him from the rubble, but he died in the ambulance,’ said Vitalii Didyk, a 26-year-old car mechanic who was sifting through debris to find his friend outside the apartment complex on Sunday. ‘We were hoping to find both of them alive.’

  • The Kremlin-linked Wagner mercenary group released more than 100 Ukrainian prisoners of war Sunday to mark Orthodox Easter, Reuters reported, citing a video shared on Telegram by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the group’s leader. Andriy Yermak, Zelensky’s chief of staff tweeted that 130 Ukrainians were freed. The ‘great Easter exchange’ of Ukrainians took place in several stages, Yermak said. In recent months, hundreds of prisoners of war have been released by both sides — offering a glimmer of hope for many whose loved ones are imprisoned or missing. It was not immediately clear how many Russian prisoners would be sent back the other way.
  • Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich has written to his family. The two-page letter was the first direct contact between Gershkovich — who was detained in Russia last month while on a reporting trip on claims of espionage that the newspaper and U.S. government have strongly denied — and his loved ones, the Journal reported. Gershkovich reportedly joked about prison food and said he was in good spirits.
  • Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva called Sunday for the creation of a group of countries with ‘no kind of involvement’ in the war to broker peace for Ukraine and Russia, Reuters reported. The left-wing leader, who has refused to condemn Russia’s attack on Ukraine, was in China seeking investment and support, and said he raised the peace group proposal with Chinese President Xi Jinping. Lula told reporters the previous day that the United States should cease ‘encouraging’ war in Ukraine and support peace efforts.
  • German and Portuguese frigates were set to depart a Helsinki harbor on Sunday, after becoming the first NATO warships to dock in the Finnish capital since the country joined the defense alliance this month. Although Finland held defense cooperation exercises with NATO over the years, the war in Ukraine upended its long-standing policy of military nonalignment.
  • Poland and Hungary imposed a temporary ban on Ukrainian grain imports, both governments said. In Poland, the move follows the recent resignation of the country’s agriculture minister after protests by farmers who say that a flood of Ukrainian grain has depressed the price of their goods, Polish media reported. Hungarian Agriculture Minister Istvan Nagy said his country’s decision, which will last until June 30, was to protect its domestic market.
  • Scientific research on imperiled animal species has been heavily disrupted by the war, which was accompanied by the Kremlin’s crackdown on dissent and international sanctions on the Russian economy, chilling scientific collaboration between American and Russian biologists. This is the first time since the 1970s that the biodiversity conservation movement has been clearly set back, one researcher told The Post.

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has for years claimed income from a defunct real estate firm. The misstatements, which began when a family business transferred its holdings to another company, are part of a pattern that has raised questions about how Thomas views his obligation to accurately report details about his finances to the public. The Washington Post, Shawn Boburg and Emma Brown, Sunday, 16 April 2023: “Over the last two decades, Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has reported on required financial disclosure forms that his family received rental income totaling hundreds of thousands of dollars from a firm called Ginger, Ltd., Partnership. But that company — a Nebraska real estate firm launched in the 1980s by his wife and her relatives — has not existed since 2006. That year, the family real estate company was shut down and a separate firm was created, state incorporation records show. The similarly named firm assumed control of the shuttered company’s land leasing business, according to property records. Since that time, however, Thomas has continued to report income from the defunct company — between $50,000 and $100,000 annually in recent years — and there is no mention of the newer firm, Ginger Holdings, LLC, on the forms. The previously unreported misstatement might be dismissed as a paperwork error. But it is among a series of errors and omissions that Thomas has made on required annual financial disclosure forms over the past several decades, a review of those records shows. Together, they have raised questions about how seriously Thomas views his responsibility to accurately report details about his finances to the public.”


Monday, 17 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza sentenced to 25 years; U.S. offers resources to investigate alleged Russian war crimes, The Washington Post, Katerina Ang, Christian Shepherd, Jennifer Hassan, and Adam Taylor, Monday, 17 April 2023: “A Russian court issued its harshest penalty yet for an opponent of the Ukraine war, sentencing Kremlin critic Vladimir Kara-Murza to 25 years in prison Monday on charges of treason. Kara-Murza, a longtime opposition politician and Washington Post Opinions contributor, called the closed trial ‘unfounded, illegal and politically motivated.’ U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland met with Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin in Washington on Monday, and offered additional resources to investigations into potential war crimes in Ukraine and efforts to hold perpetrators accountable. Garland said he would pledge a prosecutor, to be based in The Hague, and a legal adviser, to be based at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, to work on war crimes investigations.

  • Kara-Murza’s closed trial further highlighted Russia’s isolationist path, Robyn Dixon writes from Riga, Latvia: ‘Putin has disregarded Western criticisms of Russia’s human rights abuses and moved to brutally destroy any remnants of his country’s pro-democracy opposition.’
  • ‘This sentence shows that they are so afraid of him and they hate him so much for his consistency, for his courage, for his amazing bravery,’ Evgenia Kara-Murza, the wife of Vladimir, said at a Washington Post Live event Monday after his sentencing.
  • Britain and the United States condemned the lengthy sentence given to Kara-Murza, who is a British Russian dual national, and called Monday for his immediate release. British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly said that ‘Russia’s lack of commitment to protecting fundamental human rights, including freedom of expression, is alarming.’ The U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Lynne M. Tracy, called the sentence ‘another terrible sign of the repression that has taken hold in Russia,’ adding: ‘Criminalizing criticism of government action is a sign of fear, not strength.’
  • Egypt made plans to secretly export rockets to Russia, but shelved them in favor of a deal to sell weapons to the United States for transfer to Ukraine, according to leaked U.S. intelligence documents viewed by The Post. The documents do not indicate whether either deal later went through. Egypt appears to have paused the Russian rocket plan after visits from U.S. officials in late February and early March; an intelligence document dated just one day after one such visit shows Egypt approving a sale of artillery rounds to the United States for transfer to Ukraine.
  • China’s defense minister, Gen. Li Shangfu, is in Moscow, where he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Sunday. Li hailed the ‘substantial achievements’ of close cooperation with Russia’s military and said China is ready to deepen the partnership to ‘make new contributions to stability and security,’ in the latest sign of Beijing’s commitment to its relationship with Russia despite the war in Ukraine. Such displays of camaraderie have intensified concern that China is ready to provide lethal aid in support of the invasion.
  • Li is on his first foreign trip since being appointed defense minister last month. ‘Mutual trust between the Chinese and Russian militaries is growing stronger by the day, and our cooperation has resulted in substantial achievements,’ he told Putin, according to Chinese state media. The Washington Post has reported that a leaked U.S. intercept showed that Russian intelligence claimed Beijing had agreed to send Moscow weapons to help its invasion. China denied the allegations.
  • Tracy, the U.S. ambassador, visited detained American journalist Evan Gershkovich at Lefortovo prison for the first time. The top U.S. diplomat in Russia had not previously been allowed access to the 31-year-old Wall Street Journal reporter, who was arrested more than two weeks ago. ‘He is in good health and remains strong,’ Tracy said in a statement shared by the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. ‘We reiterate our call for his immediate release.’
  • Kyiv officials accused Russia on Monday of sabotaging a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported to international markets, saying that the agreement was under threat of ‘shutdown.’ Echoing the complaint, Bridget Brink, the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, tweeted that ‘more than 50 ships’ were waiting for approval to proceed to Ukrainian ports ‘to load grain that will feed those who need it,’ David L. Stern reports.
  • A European Commission spokesperson said that restrictions by Poland and Hungary on Ukrainian grain are unacceptable and that the trade policy of E.U. members was the purview of Brussels. ‘In such challenging times, it is crucial to coordinate and align all decisions within the E.U.,’ the commission said in a statement, according to Reuters. Warsaw is set to hold emergency talks with Kyiv on Monday after temporarily banning the import and transit of Ukrainian grainPoland’s agriculture minister said. The restrictions followed protests by farmers complaining of deflated prices.
  • Slovakia has given Ukraine all 13 of the promised MiG-29 fighter jets it pledged in March, the Slovak Defense Ministry said, according to a Reuters report. In recent months, Ukrainian officials and analysts have claimed that military support for Ukraine in the war is taking too long — with Kyiv lacking the force strength and weapons required to fully expel Russian troops from its territory.
  • Thousands gathered in Prague on Sunday to demand the resignation of the pro-Ukrainian Czech government because of cost-of-living issues. The demonstration was organized by the PRO populist political movement, whose leader has said that the Russian attack on Ukraine ‘is not our war.’ The protests come three months after Czech voters elected as president a former NATO military official, who has pledged continued support for Ukraine.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kremlin Critic Vladimir Kara-Murza Convicted of Treason for Condemning Putin’s Invasion of Ukraine. A court in Moscow sentenced Kara-Murza after he gave speeches opposing Russia’s war in Ukraine. The New York Times, Monday, 17 April 2023:

  • Vladimir Kara-Murza, a fierce Putin critic, is handed a 25-year prison sentence.

  • The opposition activist convicted of treason has long rankled the Kremlin.

  • Evan Gershkovich, the detained Wall Street Journal reporter, has received a consular visit.

  • Brazil’s president, back after talks with Xi Jinping in China, meets with Russia’s foreign minister.

  • A missile strike on Sloviansk is one of the deadliest for Ukrainian civilians this year.

  • Five of Ukraine’s allies team up to try to push Russia out of the nuclear fuel market.

  • Ukraine seeks to reopen transit routes for its grain as more countries look to impose import bans.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia’s prisoners, Brazil’s diplomacy, the fight for Bakhmut, NPR, Monday, 17 April 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: China’s defense minister, Gen. Li Shangfu, is visiting Russia this week and hailing the countries’ military cooperation. Russian activist Vladimir Kara-Murza was sentenced in Moscow to 25 years in prison for his criticism of Russia’s war in Ukraine on Monday. Washington and London are demanding his release, as his legal team prepares to appeal the decision. Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter jailed in Russia, is expected to appear in court Tuesday. Family and followers of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny are awaiting updates on his condition after his associates sounded the alarm last week about his health. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is on a Latin America tour, visiting Brazil, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba. Next week, he goes to New York to chair debates at the U.N. Security Council, where Russia holds the rotating presidency. Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin is in Washington this week, discussing aid oversight and war crimes investigations. The European Union is expected to discuss recent unilateral actions by Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to ban grain imports from Ukraine. What happened last week: The U.S. deemed Evan Gershkovich was ‘wrongfully detained’ in Russia, a formal determination that means the State Department will form a team to work to secure the Wall Street Journal reporter’s release. Gershkovich’s family also spoke out in a video interview. Russia toughened up its military draft rules, banning conscripts from leaving the country and increasing penalties for draftees who fail to report for service. The battle for Bakhmut heated up again, as Russian troops and Wagner Group mercenaries ramped up their assault on the eastern Ukrainian town, according to British Defense Ministry intelligence. It said Ukraine’s defenses held in the town’s western districts but Ukrainian troops made orderly withdrawals from some positions they conceded. Russia also bombed the eastern Ukrainian town of Sloviansk, hitting a residential area and killing over a dozen civilians. And in the Russian border city of Belgorod, a thermal power plant caught fire in an apparent drone attack. Ukraine celebrated Orthodox Easter for the second time since Russia launched its large-scale invasion last year. On this occasion, Ukrainians also celebrated a ‘big Easter POW swap,’ a presidential adviser said, noting 130 Ukrainian soldiers were released. Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva visited China, issuing a joint statement with Chinese leader Xi Jinping saying they seek a negotiated end to the war in Ukraine. Lula sent his foreign adviser to Russia earlier this month to speak with Putin about the potential for talks. Now Russia’s foreign minister will visit Brasília. Ukrainian Prime Minister Denys Shmyhal visited Washington, meeting with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen and others. And Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy spoke via video link to a conference of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund in Washington. Earlier, a bipartisan delegation of U.S. senators met with Zelenskyy in Kyiv. A graphic video purportedly showing the decapitation of Ukrainian soldiers circulated on social media, drawing strong condemnation from Ukrainian leaders and the United Nations human rights mission in Ukraine. Hungary, Poland and Slovakia banned grain imports from Ukraine, citing the need to protect their farms from an influx of supply that lowers prices. Brittney Griner is working on a memoir about her prison time in Russia. Since the basketball player’s release from a Russian penal colony and return home in December, she has also signed to play the next season with the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury.”

Judge Refuses to Grant Trump Delay in Trial of Suit Accusing Him of Rape. The judge rejected an argument by Donald Trump’s lawyers that the publicity around his recent indictment would prevent a fair hearing in the lawsuit brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser, Monday, 17 April 2023: “A Manhattan judge on Monday denied former President Donald J. Trump’s request for a one-month delay in the trial of a lawsuit against him by E. Jean Carroll, a magazine writer who has accused him of raping her in the mid-1990s. Lawyers for Mr. Trump had sought to postpone the trial, scheduled to begin on April 25, because of what they called a ‘deluge of prejudicial media coverage’ concerning his recent indictment in Manhattan. The judge, Lewis A. Kaplan of Federal District Court, said there was no justification for a postponement of the trial, noting that the news coverage was largely — though not entirely — ‘invited or provoked by Mr. Trump’s own actions.’ ‘It does not sit well for Mr. Trump to promote pretrial publicity and then to claim that coverage that he promoted was prejudicial to him and should be taken into account as supporting a further delay,’ the judge wrote.” See also, Judge denies Trump’s bid to delay civil rape trial, NBC News, Summer Concepcion, Monday, 17 April 2023: “A federal judge on Monday denied former President Donald Trump’s bid for a four-week delay in the civil rape and defamation trial against him. Trump lawyer Joe Tacopina asked U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan in a letter last week to postpone the trial in the lawsuit brought by writer E. Jean Carroll, scheduled to start April 25, until the end of May. Carroll’s lawsuit alleges that Trump raped her at a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s, which Trump has repeatedly denied. Tacopina argued that his client should be allowed a ‘cooling off’ period after his recent historic indictment by a Manhattan grand jury in a case involving hush money payments made during his 2016 presidential campaign, which drew a surge of media coverage. In a 10-page opinion denying Trump’s request, Kaplan wrote that ‘there is no justification for an adjournment. ‘This case is entirely unrelated to the state prosecution,’ Kaplan wrote. ‘The suggestion that the recent media coverage of the New York indictment — coverage significantly (though certainly not entirely) invited or provoked by Mr. Trump’s own actions — would preclude selection of a fair and impartial jury on April 25 is pure speculation. So too is his suggestion that a month’s delay of the start of this trial would “cool off” anything, even if any “cooling off” were necessary.'”

Oklahoma governor Kevin Stitt calls on four county officials to resign after ‘hanging’ and racist remarks on tape, Associated Press, Sean Murphy, Monday, 17 April 2023: “Oklahoma’s governor is seeking the resignation of four county officials after a newspaper’s audio recording apparently captured some of them complaining about two of the paper’s journalists and knowing hit men and where two holes are dug. A portion of the recording was released by the paper, and it also appears to capture one of the four making racist comments about Black people. Gov. Kevin Stitt said Sunday he was seeking the resignations of McCurtain County Sheriff Kevin Clardy and three other county officials: sheriff’s Capt. Alicia Manning, District 2 Commissioner Mark Jennings and Jail Administrator Larry Hendrix. ‘I am both appalled and disheartened to hear of the horrid comments made by officials in McCurtain County,’ Stitt said in a statement. ‘There is simply no place for such hateful rhetoric in the state of Oklahoma, especially by those that serve to represent the community through their respective office.'” See also, Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt calls on county officials to resign after ‘horrid’ audio emerges. Officials in McCurtain County allegedly lamented they could no longer lynch Black people and spoke of assassinating a journalist, a local newspaper reported. The Washington Post, Jonathan Edwards, published on Tuesday, 18 April 2023: “After McCurtain County officials dispatched with the agenda and ushered citizens out of a public meeting last month in southeastern Oklahoma, they spoke among themselves without realizing they were being secretly recorded, a local newspaper reported. During the ensuing conversation, a county commissioner lamented about how they could no longer yank Black people out of the jail, ‘take them down to Mud Creek and hang them up with a … rope,’ according to McCurtain Gazette-News, which later published a recording online. The sheriff allegedly mocked a woman who’d recently burned to death in a house fire, comparing her to ‘barbecue.’ And together they hinted at assassinating a journalist who’d reported on their alleged misconduct, according to the Gazette-News. Over the weekend, the newspaper published an article recounting a portion of that alleged conversation, promising to follow up with more reporting in coming weeks. The paper also posted snippets of the audio online. Gazette-News reporter Bruce Willingham told KWTV he left his recorder hoping to get evidence that officials were holding secret meetings. ‘I was completely appalled and frightened, quite frankly,’ Willingham told the station. On Sunday, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R) called for the resignation of four officials who, according to the Gazette-News, were part of that conversation, including county commissioner Mark Jennings, Sheriff Kevin Clardy, sheriff’s investigator Alicia Manning and county jail administrator Larry Hendrix.” See also, An Oklahoma Newspaper’s Secret Recording Prompts Calls for Officials to Resign. The audio featured an official talking about hanging Black people and other officials speaking of hiring hit men for two reporters, the newspaper said. The sheriff’s office claims the recording violated state law. The New York Times, Michael Levenson, published on Tuesday, 18 April 2023: “A small newspaper in rural Oklahoma secretly recorded what it said was an illegal public meeting where a county official talked about hanging Black people and several officials spoke of hiring hit men and digging holes for two of the newspaper’s reporters. Gov. Kevin Stitt of Oklahoma said on Monday that four officials in McCurtain County — the sheriff, a jail administrator, a sheriff’s department investigator and a county commissioner — should resign. One of those officials, the county commissioner, Mark Jennings, said he was resigning in a letter released by the governor’s office on Wednesday.”


Tuesday, 18 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky and Putin make dueling visits to troops; Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich’s appeal of spying charges is rejectedThe Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Jennifer Hassan, and Adam Taylor, Tuesday, 18 April 2023: “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky visited his forces in the Donetsk region Tuesday, according to an announcement from the office of the president. The president presented state awards and observed a moment of silence for soldiers who had died in the war. Zelensky’s trip mirrored an earlier surprise visit to Ukraine by Russian President Vladimir Putin. Putin visited the command posts of his forces in Ukraine’s Luhansk and Kherson regions, where he was briefed by top commanders, the Kremlin said Tuesday. It’s not the first time the Russian leader has made a surprise visit to Ukraine. In March, he went to the occupied port city of Mariupol in a show of defiance against an international warrant for his arrest on war crimes charges.

  • A Moscow court rejected U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich’s appeal of spying charges on Tuesday. The Wall Street Journal reporter, 31, stood inside a glass-enclosed defendant’s dock as he appealed the charges, which could bring up to 20 years in prison if he is convicted. ‘We’re deeply concerned by the news that Russia will continue to wrongfully detain Evan following a sham judicial proceeding today,’ White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in response to the news. Russia’s Federal Security Service accused Gershkovich in March of trying to obtain classified information — a claim that the reporter, the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government have denied.
  • ‘The Biden-Harris administration is engaging with Russia through every available channel to bring Evan and fellow American Paul Whelan home,’ Jean-Pierre said in a White House briefing Tuesday. ‘As we have said before, the charges against Evan are baseless, and we call on Russia … to immediately release him. We also call for the immediate release of Paul, who has been wrongfully detained on sham espionage charges for more than four years. We remain in touch with their families and admire their courage in the face of these unimaginable circumstances.’
  • Putin visited Kherson and Luhansk to inspect the progress of Russia’s so-called ‘special military operation,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said. He said Putin visited the two regions, which Russia last year illegally claimed to annex, on Monday.
  • Western officials called for the immediate release of Vladimir Kara-Murza, a top Kremlin critic and opposition lawmaker. He was convicted of treason and sentenced by a Russian court to 25 years in prison, the harshest penalty handed down yet to an opponent of the invasion of Ukraine. Kara-Murza, a dual national of Britain and Russia and a Washington Post Opinions contributor, described the closed trial as ‘politically motivated.’
  • The Russian Foreign Ministry summoned U.S. ambassador Lynne M. Tracy in protest of U.S. comments about Kara-Murza’s case. The ministry accused Washington of ‘blatant interference in Russia’s internal affairs, which is hypocritical and absurd.’
  • Top diplomats of the Group of Seven major industrialized nations said Tuesday that Russia’s threat to put nuclear weapons in Belarus was ‘unacceptable.’ The group vowed to impose ‘severe costs’ on countries helping Russia in its war effort.
  • Ukrainian officials accused Russia of sabotaging a deal allowing Ukrainian grain to be exported — which was intended to help ease a global food crisis — by stopping the registration of vessels for required inspections. According to the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, some 50 ships are awaiting approval to enter Ukrainian ports and load grain.
  • Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva met with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov, on Monday as the White House issued a stern rebuke of his weekend accusations that the United States was ‘encouraging’ the war. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby accused the Brazilian leader — who visited Beijing last week — of ‘parroting Russian and Chinese propaganda without looking at the facts.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Putin and Zelensky Highlight Separate Trips to Frontline Areas. Images released on Tuesday of the visits by the Ukrainian leader, Volodymyr Zelensky, and his Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin, seemed to offer dueling displays of strength. In Moscow, a court upheld the detention of the U.S. journalist Evan Gerskovich. The New York Times, Tuesday, 18 April 2023: “President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine visited the embattled eastern town of Avdiivka, his office said on Tuesday, after the Kremlin announced that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had again traveled to occupied areas of Ukraine near the front line, as both leaders sought to display strength and rally their troops. The split-screen images came ahead of an anticipated Ukrainian counteroffensive to take back territory seized by Russian troops. The trips also occurred as the battle for the key eastern city of Bakhmut intensified, with Moscow launching airstrikes and attacking from several directions simultaneously, a Ukrainian general said.”

Fox Will Pay $787.5 Million to Settle Defamation Suit. The Settlement with Dominion Voting Systems was the latest extraordinary twist in a case that exposed the inner workings of the most powerful voice in conservative news. The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters and Katie Robertson, Tuesday, 18 April 2023: “Fox News abruptly agreed on Tuesday to pay $787.5 million to resolve a defamation suit filed by Dominion Voting Systems over the network’s promotion of misinformation about the 2020 election, averting a lengthy and embarrassing trial just as a packed courtroom was seated in anticipation of hearing opening statements. The settlement, one of the largest ever in a defamation case, was the latest extraordinary twist in a case that has been full of remarkable disclosures that exposed the inner workings of the most powerful voice in conservative news. In addition to the huge financial price, Dominion exacted a difficult admission from Fox News, which acknowledged in a statement that ‘certain claims’ it made about Dominion were false. ‘The truth matters. Lies have consequences,’ Justin Nelson, a lawyer for Dominion, said outside Delaware Superior Court on Tuesday.” See also, Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems settle defamation lawsuit against Fox News for $787.5 million. The agreement brings an abrupt end to one of the most significant media cases in recent decades, one that hinged on false claims about a presidential election. The Washington Post, Jeremy Barr, Paul Farhi, Patrick Marley, and Elahe Izadi, Tuesday, 18 April 2023: “Fox News agreed Tuesday to pay $787.5 million to Dominion Voting Systems, settling a lawsuit brought by a company that was repeatedly smeared on air with fantastical claims of helping to rig a presidential election and marking an abrupt end to one of the most consequential and closely watched media cases in decades. The eye-popping figure — the largest publicly disclosed monetary settlement ever in an American defamation action — averted what could have been an even costlier outcome for Fox and its parent company, Fox Corp., had the suit gone to a jury. Dominion had sought $1.6 billion, and several pretrial rulings had strengthened its claims. The settlement agreement came with only a grudging acknowledgment by Fox that it had been wrong in repeatedly airing false statements that backed up President Donald Trump’s bogus claims of election fraud after the 2020 election. Fox’s hosts and guests had repeatedly depicted Dominion, the maker of voting machines and software, as at the heart of a conspiracy to change votes to hand Joe Biden the election.” See also, Fox News and Dominion reach $787.5 million settlement in defamation lawsuit. A trial was moments away from the opening statements. NBC News, Jane C. Timm, Tuesday, 18 April 2023: “Fox News and Dominion Voting Systems reached a $787.5 million settlement agreement Tuesday afternoon, the parties announced, narrowly heading off a trial shortly after the jury was sworn in. ‘Fox has admitted to telling lies,’ John Poulos, Dominion’s CEO, said at a news conference after the trial ended. Justin Nelson, lead attorney for Dominion, told NBC News he hopes the settlement will restore faith in elections. ‘This alone can’t do it, right? But this shows that there is accountability, that we showed that if you are caught lying, you will be held responsible,’ he said. Absent from the settlement details shared with the public was an apology or any admission that the network had indeed defamed Dominion when it allowed baseless conspiracies to proliferate on air about the company’s voting machines ‘rigging’ 2020 presidential election against Donald Trump. A statement from Fox about the agreement recognized the court’s previous ruling that the claims Dominion had challenged in its defamation lawsuit were indeed without merit.”

Allegations from congressional Democrats that Justice Clarence Thomas probably violated federal ethics laws in his dealings with Republican megadonor Harlan Crow have been sent to a committee of federal judges responsible for ‘addressing allegations of errors or omissions in the filing of financial disclosure reports,’ The Washington Post, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Tuesday, 18 April 2023: “Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.) and Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) had requested that the Judicial Conference of the United States investigate Thomas’s failure to disclose travel and real estate deals with his longtime friend and benefactor, Dallas business executive Harlan Crow. Whitehouse and Johnson said the conference should refer the matter to Attorney General Merrick Garland. ‘There is reasonable cause to believe that Justice Thomas willfully failed to file information required to be reported under the Ethics in Government Act of 1978,’ the Democrats wrote.”


Wednesday, 19 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. announces new round of military aid for Ukraine, The Washington Post, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timist, and Sammy Westfall, Wednesday, 19 April 2023: “The Biden administration announced a $325 million security assistance package for Ukraine on Wednesday, marking the 36th drawdown of equipment for Ukraine from the Defense Department since August 2021. The United States has granted Ukraine more than $35 billion in military assistance since Russia’s invasion in February last year. The package includes munitions and equipment from Defense Department inventories, including ammunition for High Mobility Artillery Rocket Systems (HIMARS launchers), artillery rounds, AT4 antiarmor weapon systems, antitank mines and missiles, according to a State Department spokesperson.

  • The Senate Judiciary Committee held a hearing Wednesday titled ‘Holding Russian Kleptocrats and Human Rights Violators Accountable for their Crimes Against Ukraine.’ In his opening statement, the panel’s chairman, Sen. Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.), invoked the importance of ‘defending an American legacy’ of bringing war criminals and perpetrators of crimes against humanity to justice — a legacy that started with the Nuremberg Trials after World War II, he said. ‘As a result of glaring gaps in our criminal laws, many human rights violators have evaded justice. Some have even — shockingly — found safe haven on American soil,’ Durbin said, urging his colleagues to enact a crime-against-humanity statute, which would close legal loopholes that prevent the United States from being able to federally prosecute many war criminals.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he spoke with House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) about his country’s ‘defense needs and capabilities,’ and said he ‘raised the issue of F-16’ fighter jets. The United States has been reluctant to provide Kyiv with the warplanes, and President Biden said in January that he would not send the jets. Zelensky again invited McCarthy — whose party includes influential members who are averse to continued U.S. assistance — to visit Ukraine.
  • Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin urged Turkey to make a decision about Sweden’s accession to NATO ‘sooner versus later,’ as Turkey and Hungary continue to block the process. Austin said he ‘won’t second-guess’ Turkey’s leadership or ‘predict’ when it will decide. Speaking with his Swedish counterpart at Musko naval base, Austin said he was ‘confident’ that Sweden will join the defense alliance before a NATO summit in July.
  • The United Nations has lodged a formal complaint with the United States over its apparent bugging of Secretary General António Guterres’s officemade evident in intelligence documents among those leaked on the chat app Discord. In a written protest, ‘we have made it clear that such actions are inconsistent with the obligations of the United States’ as host of U.N. headquarters in New York, Guterres spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said in a Tuesday briefing. The leaked documents, taken from top-secret intercepts of Guterres’s private interactions with aides and foreign leaders, ‘were basically distorted summaries of the secretary general’s conversations,’ Dujarric said.
  • Karine Jean-Pierre, White House press secretary, said Russian President Vladimir Putin’s Monday trip to occupied regions in Ukraineseems like an indication that they know things aren’t going well for Russia. They know that. Mr. Putin seems to know that very clearly.’ She added in her Wednesday briefing that he is ‘likely trying to shore up his own populace,’ given that his military is ‘underperforming and struggling.’
  • South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said he is open to sending military aid in case of a large-scale attack on civilians in Ukraine. Yoon told Reuters that under certain extreme scenarios, including a ‘massacre or serious violation of the laws of war, it might be difficult for us to insist only on humanitarian or financial support.’ The statement marked a potential shift, as Yoon had maintained that his government’s policy prohibits sending lethal aid to nations at war. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov criticized what he called Seoul’s ‘unfriendly stance’ and said that sending weapons would ‘indirectly mean a certain stage of involvement in this conflict.’
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov continued his diplomatic tour of Latin America, meeting Wednesday with leaders of Nicaragua after stopping by Venezuela the previous day. Lavrov and Venezuelan president Nicolás Maduro reaffirmed their intention to more closely coordinate together ‘in the interests of … creating a more just polycentric international order, and maintaining global stability and security,’ the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a release.
  • Swedish vodka brand Absolut said it would immediately halt exports to Russia. The reversal came amid backlash after Absolut’s owner told Agence France-Presse this month that it had resumed exports after halting them last year following the invasion.
  • Poland’s prime minister said Warsaw has reached an agreement allowing Ukrainian grain to be transported across its borders, although the goods are still not allowed to remain in the country. Poland has expressed concern that cheap Ukrainian grain could hurt its domestic producers.
  • The United States charged four Americans over their roles in an alleged campaign to push pro-Kremlin propaganda and influence U.S. politics. They are accused of working for a Russian operative who had sought to promote the invasion of Ukraine.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. Sends $325 Million Package of Military Aid to Ukraine. The Biden administration is moving to shore up Ukrainian munitions and logistical supplies in advance of an expected counteroffensive. The New York Times, Wednesday, 19 April 2023:

  • A new U.S. aid package for Ukraine includes small-arms munitions.

  • A flash of light over Kyiv prompts sirens and anxiety. It wasn’t a missile.

  • Ukrainian survivors of Russia’s occupation give harrowing testimony at a House hearing.

  • An E.U. proposal offers help to European farmers affected by Ukrainian grain shipments.

  • The U.S. will ‘work hard’ to secure Sweden’s NATO membership, says defense secretary.

  • Zelensky visits a region of Ukraine that borders Belarus and Poland in his latest trip out of Kyiv.

  • Austin defends giving young service members access to classified data.


Thursday, 20 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visits Kyiv and says Ukraine’s ‘rightful place’ is in the alliance, The Washington Post, Annabelle Timsit, Kelsey Ables, Adam Taylor, and Sammy Westfall, Thursday, 20 April 2023: “NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg visited Ukraine’s capital Thursday, his first trip to the country since the Russian invasion began last year. ‘Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO,’ he said at a news conference alongside Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky, calling on Kyiv’s allies to deliver more weapons and funds. Ukraine’s military intelligence agency developed plans to conduct covert attacks on Russian forces in Syria using secret Kurdish help, according to a leaked top secret U.S. intelligence document. The plan appeared aimed at imposing costs and casualties on Russia and its Wagner paramilitary group, which is active in Syria. The introduction of a new battlefield also could have forced Moscow to redeploy resources from Ukraine. Zelensky directed an end to the planning in December.

  • Denmark and the Netherlands are set to donate 14 Leopard 2 tanks to Ukraine, the Danish Foreign Ministry confirmed. Germany, which developed the Leopard, announced in January that it would deliver tanks to Ukraine and authorized other countries to export its Leopards to Kyiv. Ukraine favors the Leopard 2 tanks because they are fast and easy to use, arm and refuel.
  • ‘Let me be clear: Ukraine’s rightful place is in the Euro-Atlantic family,’ Stoltenberg said at the news conference. ‘Ukraine’s rightful place is in NATO. And over time, our support will help you make this possible.’ The secretary general’s visit comes as NATO is expanding, having just added Finland as its 31st member. Sweden, another prospective member, has had its accession process held up by objections from alliance members Hungary and Turkey.
  • Zelensky pushed for a road map for NATO membership. ‘The time has come for the [alliance’s] leaders to define the prospects of Ukraine’s acquisition of NATO membership, to define the algorithm of Ukraine’s movement towards this goal, and to define security guarantees for our state for the period of such movement — that is, for the period before NATO membership,’ the Ukrainian leader said.
  • Ukraine continues to hold Bakhmut’s western edge, despite suggestions from Washington months ago that Kyiv cut its losses and let the city goaccording to a leaked classified U.S. assessment obtained by The Post. The document, marked ‘top secret,’ cautioned that ‘steady’ Russian advances since November ‘had jeopardized Ukraine’s ability to hold the city,’ and Ukrainian forces would probably be ‘at risk of encirclement, unless they withdraw within the next month.’ Ukraine has since clung onto western Bakhmut, framing its defense as an imperative far greater than the city’s strategic military value — one that denies Russia a victory and boosts Ukrainian morale.
  • The mayor of Kyiv Vitali Klitschko said the capital has ended its land lease agreement with Russia’s embassy. On Telegram on Thursday, he said the city council appealed to federal officials to return the property to the Ukrainian state.
  • Colombian President Gustavo Petro said that Colombian-owned Russian weapons ‘are not going to war’ when asked at the White House on Thursday about his rejection of a U.S. proposal to send Russian-made weapons to Ukraine. He told reporters that his position on those weapons was that they would be sent to neither Russia nor Ukraine.
  • The European Union proposed sending financial support to local farmers in five countries bordering Ukraine after several banned grain imports from the country. The European Commission said it met with representatives from Hungary, Bulgaria, Poland, Slovakia and Romania — which, amid the Russian invasion, have become transit routes for Ukrainian grain, prompting an influx of the product and angering local farmers.
  • President Biden spoke by phone Thursday with French President Emmanuel Macron, and in an earlier call, with Ursula von der Leyen, president of the European Commission. In both calls, the leaders reiterated mutual support for Ukraine, according to a White House readout.
  • Switzerland imposed sanctions on the Wagner Group, the Russian mercenary army headed by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, for its ‘active participation in Russia’s war,’ the Swiss government said in a statement Thursday.
  • Ship inspections under the Black Sea Grain Initiative continued Thursday following successful negotiations the day before to resume them, the United Nations said. Under the agreement, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey and the United Nations inspect all ships traveling to and from Ukrainian ports. The deal has allowed wheat, corn, sunflower oil and more to be exported globally during wartime. But its future is in question: Parties to the deal agreed on Saturday to extend it, but it’s unclear for how long. Russian officials have said that further extensions would be contingent on Western countries lifting some sanctions against Moscow.
  • The South Korean presidential office said any decision on providing lethal aid to Ukraine will ‘depend on Russia.’ It added that Moscow, which has said such a move would make Seoul a party to the conflict, was ‘commenting on something that isn’t happening,’ reported the Yonhap news agency. In a Reuters interview, President Yoon Suk Yeol appeared to open the door to shifting South Korea’s policy of providing only nonlethal aid to Ukraine.
  • NASA denied that a flash of light seen in the sky above Kyiv on Wednesday night was caused by one of its satellites. Serhiy Popko, the head of the city’s military administration, initially said the flash — which sparked fear among the city’s residents of a Russian attack — might have been caused by the reentry into the atmosphere of a satellite from the U.S. space agency. But NASA told news outlets that the satellite in question, which was expected to reenter Earth’s atmosphere that day, was still in orbit at the time. Popko later said the flash wasn’t caused by a NASA satellite or by a missile attack.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky Rallies Support in Mexico as Russia Courts Its Latin American Allies. The Ukrainian president urged Mexican lawmakers to show solidarity with his country, as the Russian foreign minister visited Cuba after stops in Venezuela, Brazil, and Nicaragua. The New York Times, Thursday, 20 April 2023:

  • ‘Nobody in the world has the right to ruin peace,’ Zelensky tells Mexican lawmakers.

  • The image of a dying pregnant woman in Mariupol is honored as Photo of the Year.

  • E.U. grain proposals aim to maintain unity against Russia’s invasion.

  • Here is why Ukrainian grain imports are stirring tempers in parts of Europe.

  • NATO’s top official, visiting Kyiv, says Ukraine’s ‘rightful place’ is in the alliance.

  • With needs so great in Ukraine after a year of war, some amputees are finding their way to a clinic in Minnesota.

  • Who can rebuild Ukraine? A team of women starts small, but with enthusiasm.

Top Republican lawyer Cleta Mitchell decries ease of campus voting in private pitch to the Republican National Committee. A presentation by Cleta Mitchell at a donor retreat urged tougher rules that could make it harder for college students to cast ballots. The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey and Amy Gardner, Thursday, 20 April 2023: “A top Republican legal strategist told a roomful of GOP donors over the weekend that conservatives must band together to limit voting on college campuses, same-day voter registration and automatic mailing of ballots to registered voters, according to a copy of her presentation reviewed by The Washington Post. Cleta Mitchell, a longtime GOP lawyer and fundraiser who worked closely with former president Donald Trump to try to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, gave the presentation at a Republican National Committee donor retreat in Nashville on Saturday. The presentation — which had more than 50 slides and was labeled ‘A Level Playing Field for 2024’ — offered a window into a strategy that seems designed to reduce voter access and turnout among certain groups, including students and those who vote by mail, both of which tend to skew Democratic.”

‘Prove Mike Wrong’ for $5 Million, Mike Lindell Pitched. Now He’s Told to Pay Up. An arbitration panel ruled that the MyPillow founder had failed to pay a computer software expert who disproved his false election claims as part of a contest. The New York Times, Neil Vigdor, Thursday, 20 April 2023: “Mike Lindell, the MyPillow founder and Trump ally who has been a leading voice in pushing conspiracy theories about the 2020 presidential election, must pay $5 million to a software forensics expert who debunked a series of false claims as part of a ‘Prove Mike Wrong’ contest, an arbitration panel said on Wednesday. Mr. Lindell issued the challenge at a ‘cyber symposium’ in South Dakota in 2021, saying he had data that would support his claims that there was Chinese interference in the election and offering the seven-figure prize to anyone who could prove the data had no connection to the 2020 election. Because the software expert Robert Zeidman successfully did so, the panel, composed of three members of the American Arbitration Association, ordered that Mr. Lindell would have to pay up. ‘Almost everyone there was pro-Trump, and everyone said, This data is nonsense,’ Mr. Zeidman said in an interview on Thursday, identifying himself as a Republican who voted twice for former President Donald J. Trump. ‘A false narrative about election fraud is just really damaging to this country.’ The ruling against Mr. Lindell was earlier reported by The Washington Post.” See also, Mike Lindell’s firm MyPillow told to pay $5 million in ‘Prove Mike Wrong’ election-fraud challenge, The Washington Post, Chris Dehghanpoor, Emma Brown, and Jon Swaine, Thursday, 20 April 2023: “MyPillow founder and prominent election denier Mike Lindell made a bold offer ahead of a ‘cyber symposium’ he held in August 2021 in South Dakota: He claimed he had data showing Chinese interference and said he would pay $5 million to anyone who could prove the material was not from the previous year’s U.S. election. He called the challenge ‘Prove Mike Wrong.’ On Wednesday, a private arbitration panel ruled that someone did. The panel said Robert Zeidman, a computer forensics expert and 63-year-old Trump voter from Nevada, was entitled to the $5 million payout. Zeidman had examined Lindell’s data and concluded that not only did it not prove voter fraud, it also had no connection to the 2020 election. He was the only expert who submitted a claim, arbitration records show. He turned to the arbitrators after Lindell Management, which created the contest, refused to pay him. In their 23-page decision, the arbitrators said Zeidman proved that Lindell’s material ‘unequivocally did not reflect November 2020 election data.’ They directed Lindell’s firm to pay Zeidman within 30 days.” See also, MyPillow CEO Mike Lindell ordered to follow through with $5 million payment to expert who debunked his false election data, CNN Politics, Sara Murray, Thursday, 20 April 2023: “My Pillow CEO Mike Lindell has been ordered to shell out $5 million to an expert who debunked his data related to the 2020 election, according to a decision by the arbitration panel obtained by CNN. Lindell, a purveyor of election conspiracies, vowed to award the multimillion-dollar sum to any cyber security expert who could disprove his data. An arbitration panel awarded Robert Zeidman, who has decades in software development experience, a $5 million payout on Wednesday after he sued Lindell over the sum. CNN has obtained arbitration documents and video depositions, including a deposition of Lindell, related to the dispute.”

Senate Democrats Invite Chief Justice John Roberts to Testify on Supreme Court Ethics. Roberts was asked to appear before the Judiciary Committee after reports raised new ethics questions about Justice Clarence Thomas. The New York Times, Carl Hulse, Thursday, 20 April 2023: “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. was invited on Thursday to appear before the Senate Judiciary Committee next month to discuss ethics rules applying to the Supreme Court after disclosures of unreported luxury travel and real estate deals between Justice Clarence Thomas and a wealthy Republican donor. Senator Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, the No. 2 Senate Democrat and the chairman of the committee, sent a letter to the chief justice, asking him to consider testifying before the panel on May 2 regarding potential changes to the rules. Mr. Durbin noted that the last time the chief justice publicly addressed ethics rules was in a 2011 year-end report. ‘Since then there has been a steady stream of revelations regarding justices falling short of the ethical standards expected of other federal judges and, indeed, of public servants generally,’ the letter said. ‘These problems were already apparent back in 2011, and the court’s decade-long failure to address them has contributed to a crisis of public confidence. The status quo is no longer tenable.'”


Friday, 21 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin says Ukraine to begin training on Abrams tanks;; Russia accidentally strikes its own city, state media says, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Victoria Bisset, Natalia Abbakumova, Adam Taylor, Karen DeYoung, and Mikhail Klimentov, Friday, 21 April 2023: “Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told members of the 11th Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting in Germany that the United States would begin training Ukrainian forces on Abrams battle tanks next month, in hopes that the first of what are expected to be 31 refurbished models can be on the battlefield by fall. In a news conference with Austin after the meeting, Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Gen. Mark A. Milley cautioned that the Abrams were ‘no silver bullet,’ but said the allies had already ‘met our initial goals’ of providing armored vehicles and training for nine mechanized combat brigades that are now ‘prepared for combat operations’ in Ukraine. A Russian warplane accidentally fired on the Russian city of Belgorod, the country’s Defense Ministry said, describing it as ‘an accidental discharge of aviation ammunition.’ The local governor said three people were injured as a result. Russia’s Defense Ministry said an investigation into the incident, which also damaged residential buildings, is underway.

  • The blast in Belgorod created a ‘huge crater’ more than 60 feet wide, the regional governor said in a Telegram post Friday, adding that several cars were also damaged. He described the situation as an ’emergency’ and a ‘difficult ordeal’ for residents. Belgorod is about 20 miles from the Ukrainian border.
  • NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine will eventually join the alliance, Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said Friday, but he emphasized that ‘the main focus now is, of course, on how to ensure that Ukraine prevails.’ In remarks ahead of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group meeting in Germany, a meeting of the countries supplying military equipment for Ukraine, Stoltenberg stressed the need to ensure that Kyiv will have ‘the deterrence to prevent new attacks’ once the war is over, and also said that Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had accepted an invitation to the NATO summer meeting in Vilnius in July. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said Friday that the developments showed ‘the correctness’ of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s decision to launch the ‘military operation’ — the term Russia uses to describe its invasion of Ukraine.
  • In Germany, Defense Minister Boris Pistorius said the emphasis for NATO needed to be supporting Ukraine. There is ‘still a way’ that Ukraine can become a NATO member, the defense minister said after a meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group in Ramstein, but ‘right now it’s about ensuring that Ukraine keeps the upper hand in this war and the war ending in Ukraine’s favor. If that’s not the case, then discussing NATO membership is not necessary.’
  • Ukraine’s state anti-corruption agency accused two former government officials of wrongdoing related to food procurement contracts, Reuters reports. According to the agency, deliberate omissions from the contracts — which were drawn up in 2020, with regard to food purchases for 2021 — resulted in more than $320,000 in losses to the state. The two accused officials were not named, nor was their response to the accusations made public.
  • Secretary Austin said at the meeting that Washington and its allies ‘will not allow anything to fracture our unity,’ after the leak of classified intelligence documents that detailed U.S. spying against friendly countries as well as its enemies. Austin also thanked allies for their ‘commitment to reject efforts to divide us.’
  • Russian officials sought to build up antiwar sentiment in Germany to dampen Europe’s support for Ukraine, according to a trove of sensitive Russian documents largely dated from July to November that were obtained by a European intelligence service and reviewed by The Washington Post. As part of that goal, the Kremlin sought to unite Germany’s political extremes from the left and right.
  • Ukraine’s military intelligence agency developed plans to conduct covert attacks on Russian forces in Syria using secret Kurdish help, according to a leaked top secret U.S. intelligence document. The plan appeared to be aimed at imposing costs on Russia and its Wagner mercenary group, which is active in Syria. The introduction of a new battlefield also could have forced Moscow to redeploy resources from Ukraine. Zelensky directed an end to the planning in December.
  • Britain announced that it had placed sanctions on five individuals ‘connected to the poisoning and arrest’ of politician and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza. Among them: Elena Lenskaya, the judge who approved the arrest of Kara-Murza. A longtime opposition politician and Washington Post Opinions contributor, Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in prison Monday on charges of treason for criticizing Russia’s war against Ukraine.
  • Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov said he ‘had a fruitful bilateral meeting with our American counterparts’ Friday, as the meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group got underway at Ramstein Air Base in Germany. He tweeted his thanks to both Defense Secretary Austin and Gen. Mark A. Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, ‘for their leadership in bolstering the anti-Kremlin coalition.’
  • Canada announced a new military package for Kyiv during the Friday meeting. The military assistance, worth around $29 million, includes sniper rifles and ammunition and radios, but most of the money is destined for a NATO fund for Ukraine.
  • photo of a wounded pregnant woman being evacuated after a Russian strike on a maternity hospital in March last year won the World Press Photo of the Year award. Associated Press photographer Evgeniy Maloletka took the photo during the Russian attack on the port city of Mariupol just weeks after the invasion began. The subject of the photo, 32-year-old Iryna Kalinina, died of her injures shortly after giving birth to her stillborn baby, Miron, named for the word for ‘peace.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. Says It Will Begin Training Ukraine on Abrams Tanks Within Weeks. The 31 M1 Abrams tanks promised by Washington could reach Ukraine by the fall, far sooner than expected, American officials say. The New York Times, Friday, 21 April 2023:

  • The arrival of Abrams tanks would be a major step in arming Ukraine.
  • The top U.S. defense officials say air defense, not fighter jets, is the allies’ top priority.
  • The Russian-held city of Melitopol sees signs of a looming battle, its exiled mayor says.
  • Three people are injured after Russia says it accidentally bombed its own city.
  • U.S. tanks might arrive soon, but Ukraine’s allies are struggling to meet other weapons pledges.
  • Shocked by Russian atrocities, NATO is becoming the war-fighting alliance it was during the Cold War.

Supreme Court Ensures, for Now, Broad Access to Abortion Pill. The order halts a sweeping ruling by a federal judge in Texas as an appeal moves forward in a case that could have profound implications for abortion access and the F.D.A.’s regulatory authority. The New York Times, Abbie Van Sickle, Friday, 21 April 2023: “The Supreme Court said Friday evening that the abortion pill mifepristone would remain widely available for now, delaying the potential for an abrupt end to a drug that is used in more than half of abortions in the United States. The order halted steps that had sought to curb the availability of mifepristone as an appeal moves forward: a ruling from a federal judge in Texas to suspend the drug from the market entirely and another from an appeals court to impose significant barriers on the pill, including blocking access by mail. The unsigned, one-paragraph order, which came hours before restrictions were set to take effect, marked the second time in a year that the Supreme Court had considered a major effort to sharply curtail access to abortion. The case could ultimately have profound implications, even for states where abortion is legal, as well as for the F.D.A.’s regulatory authority over other drugs. If the ruling by the judge in Texas, which revoked the F.D.A.’s approval of the pill after more than two decades, were to stand, it could pave the way for all sorts of challenges to the agency’s approval of other medications and enable medical providers anywhere to contest government policy that might affect a patient. The Biden administration had asked the Supreme Court to intervene after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit let stand a number of restrictions in the Texas ruling, even as it said it would allow the pill to remain on the market. In Friday’s order, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. dissented.” See also, Supreme Court preserves access to key abortion drug as appeal proceeds, The Washington Post, Robert Barnes and Ann E. Marimow, Friday, 21 April 2023: “The Supreme Court on Friday preserved full access for now to a key drug that has been taken by millions of women to terminate early pregnancies, its first major abortion-related decision since overturning Roe v. Wade’s constitutional guarantee of abortion rights last year. The justices put on hold a lower court’s ruling in favor of antiabortion groups, which said the Food and Drug Administration was wrong to make the drug mifepristone more widely available. A legal battle over whether to permanently reimpose restrictions, and whether the FDA had properly approved use of the drug more than 20 years ago, will continue. As is typical in emergency actions, the majority did not explain its reasoning for putting the lower court decision on hold. In the only noted dissents, Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. said they would not have granted the Biden administration’s request for a stay of the decision by a panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit.” See also, Read the Supreme Court’s decision on abortion pill mifepristone, The Washington Post, Washington Post Staff, Friday, 21 April 2023. See also, The Supreme Court Abortion Pill Ruling: What’s Happened, What’s at Stake, What’s Next, The New York Times, Abbie Van Sickle and Pam Belluck, Friday, 21 April 2023. See also, Supreme Court allows abortion pill to stay on the market for now. The Justice Department and Danco Laboratories, which makes the brand version of mifepristone, Mifeprex, had asked the court to step in immediately. NBC News, Lawrence Hurley and Laura Jarrett, Friday, 21 April 2023: “The Supreme Court on Friday allowed the most commonly used abortion pill in the U.S. to remain widely available. The court blocked in full a decision by Texas U.S. District Judge Matthew Kacsmaryk on April 7 that had invalidated the Food and Drug Administration’s longtime approval of mifepristone and handed a sweeping victory to abortion opponents. Two of the nine justices — conservatives Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito — said they would have let part of Kacsmaryk’s ruling take effect. The Justice Department and Danco Laboratories, which makes the name brand version of mifepristone, Mifeprex, had asked the justices to step in after a federal appeals court kept in place a number of provisions in Kacsmaryk’s order that would have imperiled widespread access to the drug, including restrictions on distributing the pill to patients by mail.”

Saturday, 22 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Moscow to expel German diplomats; Kyiv readying new brigades, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Victoria Bisset, Nick Parker, and Loveday Morris, Saturday, 22 April 2023: “Moscow plans to expel more than 20 German diplomats in reaction to its own diplomats being told to leave Berlin, Russian state media reports. Meanwhile, Ukraine is preparing new brigades that will ‘show themselves at the front,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said, without revealing when and how many fresh units would be deployed.

  • More than 20 German diplomats will be expelled, Russia’s state-owned Tass news agency reported Saturday, citing Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova. Tass said the German ambassador to Russia was informed of the decision April 5. Many Western countries have expelled Russian diplomats since the invasion of Ukraine, with Moscow responding in kind.
  • The German Foreign Ministry acknowledged that Russian diplomatic staffers were on their way out of Frankfurt. ‘In recent weeks, we were in contact with the Russian side on the presence of our respective missions abroad, with the aim of reducing the Russian intelligence presence in Germany,’ the ministry said in a statement. ‘Today’s departure of a certain number of Russian embassy staff is related to this.’
  • Nine new mechanized Ukrainian brigades are ready for combat, Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, told reporters after the 11th meeting of the Ukraine Defense Contact Group, a gathering of U.S. allies and partners interested in providing aid to Kyiv. ‘Those brigades are trained, they’re manned and they’re equipped,’ he said. The allies have so far provided Ukraine with more than 230 tanks and 1,550 armored vehicles.
  • NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg expressed faith that Ukraine would retake more territory. ‘I’m confident that when Ukraine decides to launch new operations to liberate more land, Ukraine will be successful,’ he said.
  • Authorities in Belgorod, Russia, removed an explosive device that had prompted evacuations Saturday, according to Mayor Valentin Demidov’s Telegram page. The explosive, which was in a residential area, was removed about two hours after the announcement, Demidov said, and people were returning to their homes. The device was destroyed safely, according to the regional governor. This week, a Russian warplane accidentally fired on the city near northeastern Ukraine and injured three people, national and local officials said.
  • The FBI has spoken to members of the private Discord server where classified U.S. documents were leaked, The Post reports. Questioning has included how the individuals came to know Jack Teixeira, the 21-year-old Air National Guardsman who was arrested last week over allegedly sharing the documents, as well as whether any of the server’s members were foreign nationals. On Friday, Defense Secretary Austin thanked international allies for their ‘commitment to reject efforts to divide us’ over the leaked information, which detailed U.S. spying on friendly countries as well as enemies.
  • NATO allies have agreed that Ukraine eventually will join the alliance, Stoltenberg said Friday. But he emphasized that ‘the main focus now is, of course, on how to ensure that Ukraine prevails.’ Stoltenberg stressed the need to ensure that Kyiv will have ‘the deterrence to prevent new attacks’ once the war is over. Zelensky has accepted an invitation to the NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, in July, he added.
  • The United Nations’ World Food Program sent a shipment of fertilizer seized under European sanctions to Kenya, the Latvian government announced Saturday. Latvia seized about 200,000 tons of fertilizer, which originated from Russia, last year, and decided to donate it in ‘support for the countries that have been affected by the food crisis triggered by Russia’s war on Ukraine.’ Russia has previously linked sanctions on Russian fertilizers and grains to the extension of a deal to allow exports from the Black Sea, according to the Reuters news agency.
  • Britain said it imposed sanctions on five people ‘connected to the poisoning and arrest’ of politician and journalist Vladimir Kara-Murza. They include Elena Lenskaya, the judge who approved the arrest of Kara-Murza, a longtime opposition politician and Washington Post Opinions contributor. Kara-Murza was sentenced to 25 years in prison Monday on charges of treason for criticizing Russia’s war against Ukraine. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the sanctions ‘unacceptable attempts’ to influence the consequences of the ruling.
  • Brazilian President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva on Saturday defended his comments last week urging the United States to ‘stop encouraging ‘ the war in Ukraine. During a trip to Portugal this weekend, Lula tweeted, ‘I never equated Russia and Ukraine. I know what invasion is and what territorial integrity is. But now the war has started and someone needs to talk about peace.'”

Chief Justice John Roberts punts on Congressional request to investigate Clarence Thomas, CNN Politics, Ariane de Vogue, Saturday, 22 April 2023: “Chief Justice John Roberts has declined to directly respond to a congressional request to investigate Justice Clarence Thomas’ alleged ethical lapses. Roberts instead referred the request from Senate Judiciary Chairman Dick Durbin to the Judicial Conference, which serves as the policy-making body of the federal courts. The Illinois Democrat had penned a letter urging Roberts to investigate Thomas after a ProPublica report that found that Thomas had gone on several luxury trips at the invitation of a GOP megadonor. The trips were not disclosed on Thomas’ public financial filings.


Sunday, 23 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: China criticized for questioning sovereignty of ex-Soviet states, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Jennifer Hassan, and Nick Parker, Sunday, 23 April 2023: “France, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania condemned remarks made by China’s ambassador to Paris that questioned the legitimacy of former Soviet states. ‘They don’t have actual status in international law because there is no international agreement to confirm their sovereign status,’ Lu Shaye falsely claimed on France’s LCI news channel last week. China and Russia are close allies. Meanwhile, Russian journalists have not been cleared to travel to the United States to cover Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s U.N. meetings, according to his spokeswoman. Lavrov was headed to New York this weekend. Moscow holds the rotating presidency of the U.N. Security Council for April, and Lavrov is scheduled to meet with U.N. Secretary General António Guterres on Monday.

  • Latvia summoned China’s chargé d’affaires in Riga to explain the ‘unacceptable comments’ by Lu on French television, Foreign Minister Edgars Rinkevics said, adding that the move was coordinated with Lithuania and Estonia. Estonian Foreign Minister Margus Tsahkna called Lu’s comments ‘false.’ France expressed ‘full solidarity’ Sunday with the three Baltic states, Reuters reported. E.U. Foreign Minister Josep Borrell said the bloc ‘can only suppose these declarations do not represent China’s official policy.’
  • An adviser to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Lu’s comments resembled Russian ‘propaganda.’ ‘All post-Soviet Union countries have a clear sovereign status enshrined in international law,’ Mykhailo Podolyak tweeted. The United Nations admitted Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania in 1991, amid the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
  • The United States has not issued visas to journalists who planned to cover Lavrov’s trip, Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said Sunday on Telegram. Lavrov said the lack of visas showed the United States’ ‘ugly behavior,’ and Russia’s U.N. delegation framed it as a denial. ‘This was done despite the fact that Russian media representatives complied with all relevant terms and requirements, including a valid U.N. accreditation,’ the Russian Permanent Mission to the United Nations said on its website.
  • The U.S. State Department declined to comment on the journalists’ visas Sunday morning, citing privacy laws. Last week, Russia rejected U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich’s appeal of espionage charges; Gershkovich and the United States have denied the accusations against him.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky announced new measures targeting 322 companies and numerous other entities. The blacklist includes Russian weapons manufacturers and those who help Russia circumvent punitive measures. ‘Every Russian scheme that makes it possible to bypass sanctions makes this war longer, adds opportunities for the aggressor,’ Zelensky said.
  • Russia told its citizens to avoid travel to Canada, citing alleged incidents of discrimination and physical attacks. It did not substantiate the accusations. The Russian Embassy in Ottawa advised against tourism, education- or business-related visits to the country, and it told those already there to ‘be vigilant, especially in public places.’ Canada has a sizable population of residents who claim Russian ancestry.
  • The Kremlin will expel more than 20 German diplomats from Russia, state media reported, in a move characterized by Moscow as retaliation for a similar action by Berlin. The German Foreign Ministry acknowledged that it had kicked out Russian diplomats as part of an attempt to decrease the number of intelligence agents in the country.

After Abortion Rights Supporters Swept Six Ballot Measures Last Year, Republican Legislatures Seek to Make It Harder to Get on the Ballot and Harder to Win if There Is a Vote, The New York Times, Kate Zernike and Michael Wines, Sunday, 23 April 2023: “Voters pushed back decisively after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade last year, approving ballot measures that established or upheld abortion rights in all six states where they appeared. Now, with abortion rights groups pushing for similar citizen-led ballot initiatives in at least six other states, Republican-controlled legislatures and anti-abortion groups are trying to stay one step ahead by making it harder to pass the measures — or to get them on the ballot at all.”


Monday, 24 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: War fuels record defense spending in Europe, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Jennifer Hassan, and Adam Taylor, Monday, 24 April 2023: “Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and its worldwide impact helped push global defense spending to a record high last year, according to a report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute. Global defense expenditures rose by 3.7 percent to an all-time high of $2.24 trillion, the group reported, while taking into account inflation. China’s Foreign Ministry said Monday that it ‘respects the sovereign status of the former Soviet countries after the dissolution of the Soviet Union.’ A ministry spokeswoman was responding to growing backlash in Europe to remarks by Beijing’s ambassador to France that questioned the legitimacy of former Soviet states.

  • In February, with the first anniversary of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine days away, officials in Kyiv were busy making plans to attack Moscow — an effort Washington worked to head off, according to leaked documents, The Washington Post reports.
  • Why would there be a need for us to do this? What task would such a one-time action solve?’ Ukrainian presidential adviser Mykhailo Podolyak wrote on Twitter in a statement that sought to cast doubt on the information in the documents.
  • When asked about The Post’s report about planned Ukrainian attacks on Russian soil, Secretary of State Antony Blinken declined to comment on ‘any purported intelligence documents.’ But ‘when it comes to what Ukraine does to defend itself against Russian aggression, these are decisions for the Ukrainians to make,’ he said.
  • Europe reported the biggest year-on-year defense spending increase, according to the Stockholm institute, although the United States maintained the world’s biggest military budget, spending $877 billion in 2022. In Western and Central Europe, military spending exceeded equivalent levels in 1989 — when the Cold War was drawing to a close — for the first time.
  • European countries including the Czech Republic, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania condemned comments by the Chinese ambassador to France, in which he questioned the legitimacy of former Soviet states. Last week, Ambassador Lu Shaye said on France’s LCI news channel that the states ‘don’t have actual status in international law because there is no international agreement to confirm their sovereign status.’
  • A discussion between France’s Foreign Ministry and Lu is expected Monday, after European lawmakers urged France’s foreign minister to declare the Chinese ambassador persona non grata over his remarks. In an open letter published by Le Monde, the signatories called the comments a threat to the security of France’s European partners. China and Russia are close allies.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the global situation had become ‘possibly even more dangerous’ than during the Cold War. The top Russian diplomat, speaking at the U.N. Security Council on Monday, said the problem was a loss of trust in multilateralism, and accused a ‘Western minority’ of trying to speak for all mankind. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres, seated next to Lavrov as Russia holds the council’s rotating presidency for April, said risks of conflict were at a ‘historic high’ and criticized Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine.
  • Russia accused the United States of violating its obligations by not issuing visas to journalists planning to cover Lavrov’s trip to the United Nations in New York. The State Department declined to offer details about the visas, citing privacy issues. ‘The United States takes seriously its obligations as a host country of the U.N.,’ the State Department said in a statement. It added that hundreds of Russian visas are approved each year and that the expulsion of U.S. diplomats by Russia has slowed visa adjudication efforts at the embassy in Moscow.
  • ‘Peace can come only on Ukraine’s terms,’ wrote the prime ministers of Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic in a letter published in Foreign Affairs urging Western leaders to continue supporting Ukraine. ‘Accordingly, defeating Russia now, in Ukraine, will reduce the chances of Ukraine’s backers’ having to spill their own blood and further treasure later,’ the three heads of state wrote. ‘It will send a clear message that frozen conflicts and endless wars have no place in our region.’
  • The Russian mercenary organization Wagner Group is making aggressive moves to bring together an anti-Western coalition of states in Africa, according to leaked U.S. government documents reviewed by The Post. Alarmed U.S. officials have rushed to target the group’s network and businesses with sanctions and cyberoperations, the documents suggest.
  • Europe’s relationship with China will be on the agenda at June’s European Council summit, Council President Charles Michel said in a tweet Monday. The meeting of European leaders comes as the war in Ukraine places further pressure on strained ties with Beijing.
  • South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said that Seoul has to consider its ‘many direct and indirect relationships’ with Russia and Ukraine when deciding what assistance to supply Kyiv. Yoon was speaking to The Post ahead of a trip to the United States this week, where he is expected to come under pressure for his country’s reluctance to supply lethal aid to Ukraine.
  • The Kremlin could end the Black Sea grain deal, which facilitates the export of Ukrainian grain, if the Group of Seven industrialized nations imposes a blanket ban on exports to Russia, former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev said Sunday on Telegram. Medvedev now has a senior security role. The G-7 consists of the United States, Japan, Britain, France, Germany, Italy and Canada. Japan holds the G-7 presidency this year, and Kyodo News reported last week that such a step is being considered.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov Faces Rebuke at U.N. Over War in Ukraine. The U.S. and European members of the Security Council declined to send their foreign ministers to the meeting chaired by Lavrov, which was a key event for Russia’s rotating presidency. The New York Times, Monday, 24 April 2023:

  • As Russia’s Security Council presidency winds down, Lavrov casts blame on the West.

  • A Chinese ambassador’s comments on ex-Soviet states draw ire.

  • After the U.N. proposes extending the Black Sea grain deal, Russia says circumstances are ‘not in favor.’

  • The Kremlin’s spokesman says his son fought in Ukraine.

  • Battlefield update: Russian forces have hit civilian areas around the southern city of Kherson, Ukraine says.

  • How the officials who guide Russia’s economy are enabling Putin’s war.

  • A drone was shot down over Crimea, Russian authorities say.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia runs U.N. Security Council as China runs damage control, NPR, NPR Staff, Monday, 24 April 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: Anticipation has been growing for Ukraine to launch a spring counteroffensive. European countries are demanding answers after China‘s ambassador to France questioned whether former Soviet republics are sovereign nations under international law. Beijing tried to walk back the remarks saying it respects the sovereignty of former Soviet republics. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov is in New York to chair debates at the U.N. Security Council, where Russia holds the rotating presidency. He’s also expected to meet with United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres. Elizabeth Whelan, the sister of Paul Whelan, an American imprisoned in Russia, is attending a Security Council meeting. President Biden will host South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol for a state visit, following months of Western pressure on the Asian country, a growing weapons manufacturer, to help arm Ukraine. The European Union is in talks with member states regarding their unilateral banning of grain imports from Ukraine. What happened last week: A Moscow court denied Evan Gershkovich’s appeal, upholding the pretrial detention of the American journalist on espionage charges. He and his employer, The Wall Street Journal, deny the accusation and the U.S. government has determined Gershkovich was ‘wrongfully detained.’ Ambassador to Russia Lynne Tracy attended part of the court hearing, after she was granted her first consular visit with him. Russian activist Vladimir Kara-Murza was sentenced in Moscow to 25 years in prison for criticizing Russia’s war in Ukraine. The United States, Britain and Canada condemned the ruling, considered the harshest since Russia’s invasion last year. Russia accidentally bombed its own city of Belgorod near the border of Ukraine, the Russian Defense Ministry said. American-made Patriot air defense systems arrived in Ukraine. The Ukrainian defense minister thanked the U.S., Germany and the Netherlands for providing the guided missile systems his country has long requested. Spain became the latest country to send Ukraine German-made Leopard tanks, providing six of them, with plans to send four more. Ukraine passed laws banning Russian place names and requiring knowledge of Ukrainian language, laws and history for obtaining citizenship. President Vladimir Putin and President Volodymyr Zelenskyy each visited different parts of the front line. Putin, on a rare trip, went to the southern Kherson and eastern Luhansk regions. Zelenskyy, who makes frequent trips to the battlefield, went to the eastern city of Avdiivka. Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu visited Moscow, where he praised President Vladimir Putin for allegedly making ‘important contributions to promoting world peace.” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg visited Ukraine for the first time since last year’s invasion, saying the country’s ‘rightful place is in NATO’ and the alliance will make that possible. Ukrainian Prosecutor General Andriy Kostin visited Washington, where he met with U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland and other officials. Garland announced the Justice Department will send an experienced prosecutor to The Hague to help international efforts to investigate Russian crimes in Ukraine. South Korea is considering more than humanitarian and economic support for Ukraine, its president, Yoon Suk Yeol, told Reuters, signaling a possible future shift in the country’s stance against arming Ukraine. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Latin American countries Brazil, Venezuela, Nicaragua and Cuba, as well as meeting with his counterpart from Bolivia, nations whose governments mainly do not challenge the Kremlin’s comments about Ukraine and the U.S. and in many cases they endorse them.

Tucker Carlson, a Source of Repeated Controversies, Is Out at Fox News. Mr. Carlson has been one of the network’s top-rated hosts for many years. The New York Times, Jeremy W. Peters, Katie Robertson, and Michael M. Grynbaum, Monday, 24 April 2023: “Fox News on Monday dismissed Tucker Carlson, its most popular prime-time host, who became one of the most influential voices on the American right in recent years with his blustery, inflammatory monologues on immigrants, Black civil rights activists, vaccines and national identity. Mr. Carlson’s departure stunned people inside Fox News and the larger conservative media world, where he has had power like few others to elevate candidates and controversies on his 8 p.m. show, ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight.’ His last program was on Friday, Fox said. The decision to let Mr. Carlson go was made on Friday night by Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executive of Fox Corporation, and Suzanne Scott, chief executive of Fox News Media, according to a person briefed on the move. Mr. Carlson was informed on Monday morning by Ms. Scott, another person briefed on the move said.” See also, Tucker Carlson is out at Fox News after Dominion lawsuit disclosures. The bombastic conservative was the network’s most-watched prime-time host. Private communications made public in a recent lawsuit revealed his sharp criticism of Fox management. The Washington Post, Jeremy Barr and Sarah Ellison, Monday, 24 April 2023: “Fox News dropped Tucker Carlson, its controversial yet top-rated prime-time host, on Monday — a sudden and surprise parting with one of the most influential voices in Republican politics, who had helped define the network’s bombastic tone in the Trump era. His firing came less than a week after Fox settled a defamation lawsuit from Dominion Voting Systems, which had sued the network for airing false claims that it had conspired to rig the 2020 presidential election, for $787.5 million — the largest publicly disclosed monetary settlement ever in an American defamation action. Though Carlson largely avoided trafficking in those specific conspiracy theories, his private messages were among thousands of internal communications made public during its progress through the courts that caused angst and embarrassment for Fox and heightened the company’s legal jeopardy. More recently, Carlson’s staff culture had come under scrutiny, after a former booker for his show sued Fox News for discrimination, claiming that she endured sexist treatment while working for him, and messages revealed in the lawsuit showed Carlson referring to Sidney Powell, a female attorney affiliated with Donald Trump, as a ‘c—.’ But Carlson’s comments about Fox colleagues, as partly revealed in the Dominion case, also played a role in his departure, a person familiar with the company’s thinking told The Washington Post. Dozens of communications from Carlson and other Fox personnel remain out of public view, redacted at the request of Fox attorneys, but they have been seen by top Fox executives. Others generated headlines when they were released this year with Dominion’s legal filings.” See also, Tucker Carlson ousted at Fox News following the network’s $787 million settlement, NPR, David Folkenflik, Monday, 24 April 2023: “In an austere, four-sentence statement, Fox News announced Monday that prime-time star Tucker Carlson is leaving the network, effective immediately. ‘FOX News Media and Tucker Carlson have agreed to part ways,’ the network said in a statement released by a spokesperson. ‘We thank him for his service to the network as a host and prior to that as a contributor.’ Fox said Carlson’s last day hosting his show was Friday, April 21. Suzanne Scott and Lachlan Murdoch, the chief executives of Fox News and its parent company Fox Corp. respectively, had decided Carlson’s fate on Friday, a source with knowledge told NPR. Yet even after Fox released its statement on Monday morning, the network was still promoting an interview between Carlson and presidential candidate Vivek Ramaswamy that was to have aired later that night. Carlson had signed off of Friday’s show by wishing viewers the ‘best weekend’ and telling them he’d be back on Monday. He did not respond to a request for comment from NPR.”

Supreme Court deals blow to oil companies by turning away climate cases. The decision means lawsuits filed by municipalities seeking to hold companies liable for harms caused by carbon emissions can move forward in state courts. NBC News, Lawrence Hurley, Monday, 24 April 2023: “The Supreme Court on Monday allowed lawsuits brought by municipalities seeking to hold energy companies accountable for climate change to move forward in a loss for business interests. The court turned away oil company appeals in five cases involving claims brought by cities and municipalities in Colorado, Maryland, California, Hawaii and Rhode Island as part of efforts to hold businesses accountable for the effects of climate change. The relatively narrow legal issue is whether the lawsuits should be heard in state court instead of federal court. Litigants care because of the widely held view that plaintiffs have better chances of winning damage awards in state courts. ‘Big Oil companies have been desperate to avoid trials in state courts, where they will be forced to defend their climate lies in front of juries, and today the Supreme Court declined to bail them out,’ said Richard Wiles, the president of the Center for Climate Integrity, an environmental group.”

Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis says indictment announcement is coming this summer in the Trump investigation of possible crimes related to alleged interference in Georgia’s 2020 election, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Tamar Hallerman and Bill Rankin, Monday, 24 April 2023: “Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis on Monday said she would announce this summer whether former President Donald Trump and his allies would be charged with crimes related to alleged interference in Georgia’s 2020 election. Willis revealed the timetable in a letter to local law enforcement in which she asked them to be ready for ‘heightened security and preparedness’ because she predicted her announcement ‘may provoke a significant public reaction.’ In the letters, Willis said she will announce possible criminal indictments between July 11 and Sept. 1, sending one of the strongest signals yet that she’s on the verge of trying to obtain an indictment against Trump and his supporters.” See also, Georgia prosecutor to reveal charging decisions in Trump investigation this summer. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said in a letter to local law enforcement she would announce her charging decisions during the court term that begins July 11 and ends September 1. NBC News, Blayne Alexander, Charlie Gile, and Dareh Gregorian, Monday, 24 April 2023: “Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis said Monday that she’ll announce charging decisions stemming from her probe into possible interference in the 2020 election by former President Donald Trump and his allies as early as mid-July. Willis said the charging decisions will be revealed during the state Superior Court’s fourth term, which begins July 11 and ends Sept. 1. The timeline is the clearest that Willis has given about potential indictments since she said in January that an announcement was ‘imminent.’ ‘In the near future, I will announce charging decisions resulting from the investigation my office has been conducting into possible criminal interference in the administration of Georgia’s 2020 general election,’ Willis wrote in a letter Monday to Fulton County Sheriff Patrick Labat. She said ‘the need for vigilance will increase’ during that time period. ‘Open-source intelligence has indicated the announcement of decisions in this case may provoke significant public reaction,’ Willis wrote. ‘We have seen in recent years that some may go outside of public expressions of opinion that are protected by the First Amendment to engage in acts of violence that will endanger the safety of our community. As leaders, it is incumbent on us to prepare.’ The Atlanta Journal-Constitution first reported Willis’ letter. After she shared the timeframe for her decision, Willis added, ‘Please accept this correspondence as notice to allow you sufficient time to prepare the Sheriff’s Office and coordinate with local, state and federal agencies to ensure that our law enforcement community is ready to protect the public.'” See also, Atlanta Prosecutor Fani Willis Sets Timetable for Charging Decisions in Trump Investigation. In a letter on Monday, the prosecutor said she would announce any indictments from her investigation into Donald Trump and his allies between July 11 and September 1. The New York Times, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Monday, 24 April 2023: “The prosecutor leading the investigation of former President Donald J. Trump and his allies in Georgia said on Monday that she is aiming to announce any indictments by mid-July at the earliest, according to a letter she sent to a top local law enforcement official. In her letter, Fani T. Willis, the district attorney in Fulton County, Ga., said that any charges would come during the court term that runs from July 11 to Sept. 1. In January, Ms. Willis said that charging decisions in the investigation were ‘imminent.’ But her timetable has been delayed, in part because a number of witnesses have sought to cooperate as the investigation has neared an end. Local law enforcement also needs time to prepare for potential security threats, a point that Ms. Willis emphasized in the letter. Further complicating matters, Ms. Willis’s office filed a motion last week seeking the removal of a lawyer who is representing 10 Republicans who were part of a bogus slate of electors who sought to help Mr. Trump stay in power even after he lost the 2020 election in Georgia.”

Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden asks Texas billionaire mega-donor Harlan Crow for detailed accounting of gifts to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Monday, 24 April 2023: “Senate Finance Committee Chairman Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) on Monday asked Texas billionaire Harlan Crow to voluntarily provide a detailed accounting of the gifts he has provided to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, as well as information about Georgia properties that the prominent Republican donor purchased from Thomas and his relatives. In a letter to Crow, Wyden asked him to respond to a detailed list of questions by May 8, saying the American public deserves a ‘full accounting’ of his largesse and that the ‘unprecedented arrangement between a wealthy benefactor and a Supreme Court justice raises serious concerns related to federal tax and ethics laws. ‘The secrecy surrounding your dealings with Justice Thomas is simply unacceptable,’ Wyden said in the letter.”

The letter follows reporting from ProPublica that Crow has taken Thomas on vacations for two decades that have included use of a private jet and superyacht and that the Georgia properties included one in which Thomas’s mother lived.


Tuesday, 25 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Gallup says approval of Russia drops in virtually every part of the world, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Adela Suliman, and Adam Taylor, Tuesday, 25 April 2023: “Approval of Russia’s global leadership abilities plummeted from 33 percent to 21 percent since its invasion of Ukraine in February 2022, according to ‘Rating World Leaders,’ a report published Tuesday by Gallup, which conducted surveys in 137 countries. ‘Approval of Russia dropped in virtually every region of the world,’ the surveys found. As Washington ramped up its military, financial and diplomatic support for Kyiv, approval of U.S. leadership rose dramatically among Ukrainians, up 29 percentage points from the previous year to reach 66 percent. However, the overall U.S. rating stood at 41 percent in 2022, a dip from 49 percent. Germany remained the top-rated global power for the sixth straight year, with a rating of 46 percent.

  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the United States and its allies of bringing the world to a ‘dangerous threshold.’ In a speech at the U.N. Security Council in New York on Monday, Lavrov said the United States and the ‘collective West’ are undermining global multilateralism by imposing their own rules on the rest of the world, and he criticized their support for Ukraine. At the same forum, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said Russia’s war is inflicting massive devastation on Ukraine.
  • Paul Whelan’s sister demanded that the Kremlin free her brother. Speaking with the support of the U.S. delegation to the United Nations, Elizabeth Whelan, the detained American’s sister, said her brother has been wrongfully imprisoned in Russia since 2018 for ‘a crime he did not commit.’ Paul Whelan, a former Marine, has been ‘held as a pawn and victim of Russia’s descent into lawlessness,’ she added. Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich were detained in Russia on espionage charges. U.S. officials have repeatedly disputed the accusations.
  • A Russian former police officer was sentenced to seven years in prison for criticizing the war in Ukraine over the phone to his friends, the AP reported. Semiel Vedel, the former officer, was accused of describing Russia as a ‘murderer country’ and saying that it had suffered significant losses in Ukraine. The prosecutor made the case that Vedel’s phone conversations were public — and thereby subject to a law that criminalizes spreading information about the war that runs counter to official statements made by the Russian Defense Ministry — because they were being monitored by a third party: an investigator.
  • If Russia wins and Ukraine falls, Central Europe ‘may well be next,’ wrote the leaders of Poland, Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In a letter published in Foreign Affairs, they appealed to the United States and other allies to continue support for Ukraine. Defeating Russia in Ukraine will reduce the chances that the United States and its allies have ‘to spill their own blood and further treasure later,’ they added.
  • Sweden is expelling five Russian diplomats, the Foreign Ministry said in a statement. ‘Sweden has called up Russia’s ambassador … and informed him that five people who are employed at the embassy have been asked to leave the country as a result of activities that are incompatible with the Vienna Convention on diplomatic relations,’ the Foreign Ministry said in a statement that was reported by Reuters. Swedish state television company SVT noted that the move had come after a joint investigation by Nordic reporters into Russian operations in the North Sea; earlier this month, Norway expelled 15 Russian diplomats.
  • Cyril Ramaphosa, president of South Africa, has said the country should leave the International Criminal Court, which issued an arrest warrant against Russian president Vladimir Putin in March. South Africa is hosting the BRICS summit later this year, which Putin is slated to attend. As an ICC member, South Africa would have to arrest Putin upon his arrival. Ramaphosa said in a news conference that the decision was reached due to ‘unfair treatment’ of certain countries, which he said South Africa would want to see ‘properly discussed.’
  • Despite its own ongoing war, Ukraine evacuated 138 individuals from Sudan, where another conflict is now ragingUkraine’s military intelligence agency announced the completed rescue operation on social media Tuesday. Officials evacuated 87 Ukrainian nationals to neighboring Egypt, they said, along with citizens of Georgia and Peru. Meanwhile, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Tuesday ‘there is no decision yet on the evacuation of Russians from Sudan; various possibilities are being considered.’ Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group has established close ties with Sudan’s security forces, The Washington Post has reported.
  • Pope Francis traveled to Hungary, with the Ukraine conflict on the agenda. The pontiff will leave Rome on Friday for a three-day trip to Ukraine’s western neighbor, where he is expected to address the war as well as migration and humanitarian issues in meetings with the country’s Catholic faithful and nationalist Prime Minister Viktor Orban. ‘It [also] will be a trip to the center of Europe, which continues to be battered by frigid winds of war, while the movement of so many people has put urgent humanitarian issues on the agenda,’ he said ahead of the visit. Hungary, an E.U. member state, supports a sovereign Ukraine but has strong economic ties to Moscow and has refused to send weapons to Kyiv.
  • China’s Foreign Ministry said it respects the sovereignty of former Soviet states. The statement came after China’s ambassador to France, Lu Shaye, said on France’s LCI news channel last week that former members of the Soviet Union ‘don’t have actual status in international law because there is no international agreement to confirm their sovereign status.’ European lawmakers urged France’s foreign minister to declare the Chinese ambassador persona non grata over his remarks. In an open letter published by Le Monde, the signatories called the comments a threat to the security of France’s European partners. China and Russia are close allies.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia’s Top Diplomat Hints at a Prisoner Swap for Detained Reporter. Comments from Sergey Lavrov, the Russian foreign minister, suggested an opening to trade for Evan Gerskovich and another detained American, Paul Whelan. The New York Times, Tuesday, 25 April 2023:

  • Russia’s foreign minister hints of a possible prisoner swap for Gershkovich.
  • Lavrov says the grain deal gives nothing to Russia, adding to doubts that it will agree to an extension.
  • A complaint calls on Russia’s Constitutional Court to repeal a censorship measure.
  • The law being challenged is one of many that have cut off dissent in Russia.
  • As Ukraine’s allies shore up unity, Russia makes separate diplomatic pushes.
  • The U.N. calls for the humane treatment of prisoners of war, citing talk of summary executions.
  • Ukraine Diary: Spring flowers bloom in Kyiv’s streets, a sign of life returning to the city.

Biden Announces Re-election Bid, Defying Trump and History. While the president once pitched himself as ‘a bridge’ to a new generation of Democratic leaders, he has decided that he is not ready to turn the torch over yet. The New York Times, Peter Baker, Tuesday, 25 April 2023: “President Biden formally announced on Tuesday that he would seek a second term, arguing that American democracy still faces a profound threat from former President Donald J. Trump as he set up the possibility of a climactic rematch between the two next year. In a video that opens with images of a mob of Trump supporters storming the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, the president said that the ‘fight for our democracy’ has ‘been the work of my first term’ but is incomplete while his predecessor mounts a comeback campaign for his old office that Mr. Biden suggested would endanger fundamental rights. ‘Around the country, MAGA extremists are lining up to take on those bedrock freedoms,’ Mr. Biden said, using Mr. Trump’s Make America Great Again slogan to describe the former president’s allies. ‘Cutting Social Security that you’ve paid for your entire life while cutting taxes for the very wealthy. Dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books and telling people who they can love. All while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote. When I ran for president four years ago,’ he added, ‘I said we were in a battle for the soul of America. And we still are.’ In a speech later in the day to a supportive labor group in Washington, Mr. Biden focused more on bread-and-butter issues, boasting of his record of creating jobs and financing new roads and bridges. ‘Let’s finish the job,’ he said, repeating his slogan of late to a crowd that obligingly chanted, ‘Four more years!'” See also, Biden announces 2024 reelection bid, saying he wants to ‘finish the job,’ The Washington Post, Toluse Olorunnipa, Tyler Pager, and Michael Scherer, Tuesday, 25 April 2023: “President Biden officially announced his bid for reelection Tuesday morning, saying in a solemn launch video that he wants to ‘finish the job’ he started when the country was besieged by a deadly pandemic, a reeling economy and a teetering democracy. Claiming that his presidency has pulled the country back from the brink on all those fronts, Biden underlined his ambition to turn what he had once pitched as a transitional presidency into something far more transformational. ‘The question we are facing is whether in the years ahead we have more freedom or less freedom, more rights or fewer,’ Biden said in the video. ‘I know what I want the answer to be. This is not a time to be complacent. That’s why I’m running for reelection.’ For Biden, 80, the announcement marks a pivotal moment in a political career that has spanned a half-century. The decision may defy the wishes of some Democratic voters clamoring for a different standard-bearer — one who is younger, more progressive and more reflective of the party’s diversity — but it also underscores Biden’s strength among party leaders, including those who believe he has the best chance of defeating Donald Trump or another Republican.” See also, Biden announces he is running for re-election, framing 2024 as a choice between ‘more rights or fewer,’ NBC News, Katherine Doyle and Monica Alba, Tuesday, 25 April 2023: “President Joe Biden made his re-election bid official Tuesday, capping months of speculation over his plans four years to the day since he announced his 2020 campaign. In a video titled ‘Freedom’ — which opens with a scene of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, followed by an image of an abortion rights protest — Biden said that after he has spent his first term fighting for the country’s democracy, ‘MAGA extremists are lining up’ to cut the social safety net and take away personal liberties. ‘Cutting Social Security that you’ve paid for your entire life while cutting taxes for the very wealthy. Dictating what health care decisions women can make, banning books and telling people who they can love. All while making it more difficult for you to be able to vote,’ he said. He made the case that his administration still has more to do.” See also, Fact-checking Trump’s reaction to Biden’s reelection announcement, The Washington Post, Glenn Kessler, Tuesday, 25 April 2023.

Law firm head bought property owned by Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch. Gorsuch did not report the identity of the purchaser, whose firm has had numerous cases before the Supreme Court. Politico, Heidi Przybyla, Tuesday, 25 April 2023: “For nearly two years beginning in 2015, Supreme Court Justice Neil Gorsuch sought a buyer for a 40-acre tract of property he co-owned in rural Granby, Colo. Nine days after he was confirmed by the Senate for a lifetime appointment on the Supreme Court, the then-circuit court judge got one: The chief executive of Greenberg Traurig, one of the nation’s biggest law firms with a robust practice before the high court. Gorsuch owned the property with two other individuals. On April 16 of 2017, Greenberg’s Brian Duffy put under contract the 3,000-square foot log home on the Colorado River and nestled in the mountains northwest of Denver, according to real estate records. He and his wife closed on the house a month later, paying $1.825 million, according to a deed in the county’s record system. Gorsuch, who held a 20 percent stake, reported making between $250,001 and $500,000 from the sale on his federal disclosure forms. Gorsuch did not disclose the identity of the purchaser. That box was left blank. Since then, Greenberg Traurig has been involved in at least 22 cases before or presented to the court, according to a POLITICO review of the court’s docket.”

Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg Seeks to Limit Trump’s Access to Some Evidence. Citing the investigation into Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents, a prosecutor asked a judge to only allow Mr. Trump to review some material with his lawyers present. The New York Times, Jonah E. Bromwich, William K. Rashbaum, and Ben Protess, Tuesday, 25 April 2023: “The Manhattan district attorney’s office on Tuesday sought to limit Donald J. Trump’s access to certain material from his criminal case, urging a judge to bar him from reviewing the material without his lawyers present. The request, filed with the court on Tuesday, also seeks to prohibit Mr. Trump from publicizing the prosecution’s evidence on social media or through other channels. When 34 felony charges were unsealed against Mr. Trump earlier this month, prosecutors working for the district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg, said they were working with the former president’s lawyers to come to an agreement as to how some case material — personal information of witnesses and evidence, including grand jury testimony — could be used. But the opposing sides could not reach an agreement, and the prosecution’s request is now expected to be opposed by Mr. Trump’s lawyers. Ultimately it will fall to the judge in the case, Juan M. Merchan, to determine whether to limit Mr. Trump’s access and public comments in any way. While the prosecution is not seeking a gag order to prevent Mr. Trump from discussing the case at all — a measure Justice Merchan said he would be unwilling to grant at this stage — its request could restrain Mr. Trump’s ability to use the material for political purposes.”

Chief Justice John Roberts Declines to Testify Before Congress Over Ethics Concerns. In an accompanying statement on ethics practices, the Supreme court’s justices insisted their current ethical guidelines on gifts, travel, and financial deals are sufficient. The New York Times, Abbie Van Sickle, Tuesday, 25 April 2023: “Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. told the Senate Judiciary Committee in a letter released Tuesday evening that he was declining its invitation to testify about ethics rules for the Supreme Court. In an accompanying statement on ethics practices, all nine justices, under mounting pressure for more stringent reporting requirements at the court, insisted that the existing rules around gifts, travel and other financial disclosures are sufficient. The chief justice wrote that such appearances before the committee were ‘exceedingly rare, as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence.'” See also, Chief Justice John Roberts will not testify before Congress about Supreme Court ethics, CNN Politics, Ariane de Vogue, Tuesday, 25 April 2023: “Chief Justice John Roberts has notified Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin that he won’t testify at an upcoming hearing on Supreme Court ethics, instead releasing a new statement signed by all nine justices that is meant to provide ‘clarity’ to the public about the high court’s ethics practices. ‘I must respectfully decline your invitation,’ Roberts wrote in a letter to Durbin, which was released by a spokesperson for the high court Tuesday. ‘Testimony before the Senate Judiciary Committee by the Chief Justice of the United States is exceedingly rare as one might expect in light of separation of powers concerns and the importance of preserving judicial independence,’ he added. Without addressing Durbin’s specific concerns over ethics Roberts simply attached a ‘Statement on Ethics Principles and Practices’ to which he said, ‘All of the current Members of the Supreme Court subscribe.’ The Illinois Democrat had asked Roberts, in a letter, to voluntarily testify in a hearing on Supreme Court ethics set to take place May 2. The request came in the wake of a ProPublica report that found that Justice Clarence Thomas had gone on several luxury trips at the invitation of a GOP megadonor. The trips were not disclosed on Thomas’ public financial filings.”

Ex-Proud Boys leader Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio argues Trump is to blame for January 6 violent attack on the Capitol, The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner, Tuesday, 25 April 2023: “Facing the possibility of years in prison on felony convictions, the longtime leader of the far-right Proud Boys sought Tuesday to deflect blame for the Jan. 6, 2021, attack onto former president Donald Trump. Henry ‘Enrique’ Tarrio is accused of organizing a small group of loyal Proud Boys to lead the pro-Trump mob in storming the U.S. Capitol building. Four members of that ‘Ministry of Self Defense’ have been on trial for the past four months with Tarrio, all accused of a seditious plot to prevent Joe Biden from taking office. While other defendants have pointed at Trump’s role in fomenting the violence at the Capitol, Tarrio’s attorney Nayib Hassan was far more direct. Early in his closing argument Tuesday, he quoted Trump telling supporters to ‘fight like hell’ on Jan. 6. ‘It was Donald Trump’s words, it was his motivation, it was his anger that caused what occurred on January 6 in your amazing and beautiful city,’ Hassan said. ‘They want to use Enrique Tarrio as a scapegoat for Donald Trump and those in power.'”

Washington Governor Jay Inslee signs statewide ban on sale of assault-style weapons, CNN Politics, Jack Forrest and Paradise Afshar, Tuesday, 25 April 2023: “Washington’s Democratic Gov. Jay Inslee on Tuesday signed into law a ban on most sales of assault-style weapons. House Bill 1240 prohibits the manufacture, importation, distribution and sale of assault-style weapons in Washington, with an exception for sales made to armed forces and law enforcement. The bill includes the popular AR-15 rifle under its ban and dozens of other semi-automatic rifles. Inslee, speaking at Washington’s Capitol, said ‘AR-15s should not be idolized, they should be prohibited, and that’s what we’re doing here today.’ The bill passed the state House last week in a 56 to 42 vote, after the state Senate passed it days earlier in a 28 to 21 vote – both votes fell largely along party lines.”

Wednesday, 26 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky speaks by phone to China’s XI, in their first call since war  began, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Adela Suliman, Christian Shepherd, Isabelle Khurshudyan, and Dan Lamothe, Wednesday, 26 April 2023: “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Wednesday that he spoke with Chinese leader Xi Jinping for the first time since the war began, calling the phone call ‘long and meaningful’ but giving few details. ‘I believe that this call, as well as the appointment of Ukraine’s ambassador to China, will give a powerful impetus to the development of our bilateral relations,’ Zelensky tweeted. Xi said China would send a special representative to Ukraine for talks on resolving the crisis, state media reported. ‘Amid the current rise of reasonable thinking and voices from all sides, we should seize the opportunity to build up favorable conditions for a political settlement of the crisis,’ Xi told Zelensky. Russia and Ukraine exchanged prisoners Wednesday: 44 Ukrainians and 40 Russian were swapped, according to statements from Russia’s Defense Ministry and Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak. ‘I am grateful to all our warriors on the frontline who are replenishing the exchange fund,’ Zelesnky said in his nightly address. ‘Every Russian prisoner of war is an opportunity to exchange our people.’

  • A Biden administration spokesman said Wednesday that the United States is glad to see that Xi and Zelensky connected in a phone call. John Kirby, the National Security Council spokesman, asked about the possibility of China brokering a negotiated settlement between Kyiv and Moscow, said that any deal needs to be one that Zelensky accepts. ‘The only settlement that we think is worth pursuing is one that President Zelensky thinks is worth pursuing,’ Kirby said.
  • Last month, Xi made a grand state visit to Russia in a show of strength, highlighting Beijing’s bid for global leadership. It came shortly after the International Criminal Court issued an arrest warrant for Russian President Vladimir Putin. Zelensky, who has been visited by numerous world leaders in Kyiv, said previously that he has invited Xi to visit Ukraine. Beijing has positioned itself as neutral in the conflict and recently released a 12-point proposal for ending the war.
  • ‘It was a long and quite rational conversation,’ Zelesnky said in his nightly address. The two leaders focused on areas of concurrence such as ‘threats with nuclear weapons,’ ‘the situation around the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant,’ and the Black sea grain deal, he said.
  • Journalists reporting for La Republica, an Italian newspaper, came under fire in Ukraine Wednesday, and Ukrainian fixer Bogdan Bitik was killed, Italian media outlets reported. Italian reporter Corrado Zunino was injured in the attack, near Kherson.
  • German and British warplanes intercepted three Russian military aircraft over the Baltic Sea, German air force officials wrote on Twitter Wednesday. Two Russian air force Sukhoi Su-27 fighter aircraft and one Ilyushin Il-20 aircraft flew in international airspace over the Baltic Sea without a transponder signal, Germany’s Luftwaffe said.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov accused the West of causing a deadlock over the Black Sea grain deal. The negotiations, he said during a news conference at the United Nations in New York, have been ‘brought to a dead end by Western colleagues.’ Russia has indicated that it will not agree to extend the fragile pact that allows Ukrainian grain to be exported beyond May 18 unless its demands — which include rejoining the SWIFT banking system — are met. The grain deal has helped ease a global food crisis resulting from the war.
  • Lavrov also alluded to the possibility of a prisoner swap for two Americans, Paul Whelan and Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, who are detained in Russia. He referred to a number of Russians detained by the United States, telling reporters that ‘the discussion of these matters exists’ but that such work ‘is not public in nature.’ He was speaking at a news conference in New York, where Russia’s month-long term as the rotating head of the U.N. Security Council is winding down.
  • Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, a Republican who has moved toward entering the presidential race, said in an interview Tuesday it is ‘in everybody’s interest to try to get to a place where we can have a cease-fire’ in Ukraine — a message out of step with the Biden administration, which has called negotiations with Russia untenable and says cease-fires would allow the country to rest and rearm, Hannah Knowles reports.
  • President Biden is set to discuss the Ukraine war at a Group of Seven meeting in Japan. Biden is set to attend a summit in Hiroshima on May 19 to ‘discuss a range of the most pressing global issues, including the G-7’s unwavering support for Ukraine,’ a White House statement said. He will also attend a meeting of the Quad alliance in Sydney, which includes Australia, India and Japan, to address Indo-Pacific matters.
  • A former Wagner Group commander who is seeking asylum in Norway pleaded guilty to charges related to a fight outside a bar in the capital, Oslo. Andrey Medvedev, 26, said he was ‘very ashamed’ of his behavior, Reuters reported. He seemingly defected from the fighting in Ukraine and crossed into Norway from Russia in January, claiming that his life is at risk if he returns.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky and Xi Speak in First Known Contact Since Russia’s Invasion. Ukraine’s president, Volodymyr Zelensky, had long requested a call with China’s leader, Xi Jinping. Beijing has not criticized the invasion by Moscow, its close partner. The New York Times, Thursday, 27 April 2023:

  • Zelensky says the conversation with Xi was ‘long and meaningful.’

  • Xi’s language in the call underscores China’s close ties to Russia.

  • Zelensky tailors his message to China, but remains firm on territorial restoration.

  • The U.S. and France welcome the Xi-Zelensky call, but Washington underlines its skepticism.

  • Ukraine has combat vehicles in time for an expected counteroffensive, NATO’s military commander says.

  • A reporting team for an Italian newspaper comes under fire in southern Ukraine, and one journalist is killed.

  • Those who stayed in Chernobyl lived through another calamity when Russian troops came.

Trump Rape Lawsuit Trial: In Searing Detail, Trump’s Accuser E. Jean Carroll Tells Her Story. Carroll, who says Donald Trump raped her, told a chilling story on the stand. The former president harangued her from outside the courtroom. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser, Lola Fadulu, Kate Christobek, and Karen Zraick, Wednesday, 26 April 2023: “The writer E. Jean Carroll on Wednesday told a Manhattan jury a harrowing story of being raped in the mid-1990s by Donald J. Trump in a department-store dressing room — describing a brutal attack that she tried to fight off by stamping on his foot and that has left her traumatized for decades. Just before she began testifying in federal court, the former president infuriated the judge overseeing the case by railing against the proceeding on social media. Mr. Trump, who has so far avoided the trial, was not there as Ms. Carroll related a tale she said she had waited decades to tell. ‘Being able to get my day in court, finally, is everything to me,’ she said, her shaky voice rising. ‘I’m happy. I’m glad that I got to tell my story.’ Ms. Carroll spoke of an encounter that haunted her and ended her romantic life for good…. She is seeking damages for battery in connection with the rape allegations and also for defamation for the attacks he made on her on his Truth Social platform last October, when he called her case a ‘Hoax and a lie.'” See also, Judge rebukes Trump for ‘entirely inappropriate’ post before E Jean Carroll testimony. Lewis Kaplan condemns ex-president for calling civil rape trial ‘a made-up scam’ and Carroll’s lawyer a ‘political operative.’ The Guardian, Chris McGreal, Wednesday, 26 April 2023: “E Jean Carroll, the advice columnist suing Donald Trump for rape, testified on Wednesday in the civil trial of the former president for alleged battery and defamation. ‘I’m here because Donald Trump raped me,’ she said. Before Carroll took the stand, however, the judge in the case, Lewis A Kaplan, rebuked Trump for an ‘entirely inappropriate’ statement on his social media platform, Truth Social, shortly before proceedings began. Kaplan warned the former president’s lawyers that such statements about the case could bring more legal problems upon himself. Trump, who has not attended so far, called the case ‘a made-up scam.’ He also called Carroll’s lawyer ‘a political operative’ and alluded to a DNA issue Kaplan has ruled cannot be part of the case….. Lawyers for Carroll, whose suit includes claims Trump previously defamed her by publicly calling her case a ‘hoax,’ ‘scam,’ ‘lie,’ and ‘complete con job,’ mentioned his new statement to Kaplan. The judge told Trump’s lawyers: ‘What seems to be the case is that your client is basically endeavoring, certainly, to speak to his quote-unquote public, but, more troubling, the jury in this case about stuff that has no business being spoken about.’ He also called Trump’s post ‘a public statement that, on the face of it, seems entirely inappropriate.'” See also, Trump ‘raped me’: E. Jean Carroll testifies about alleged attack at trial. Carroll alleged in a lawsuit that Trump attacked her in a Manhattan department store in the 1990s. The former president has called her claim a ‘lie’ and a ‘hoax.’ NBC News, Adam Reiss, Dareh Gregorian, and Rebecca Sahbad, Wednesday, 26 April 2023: “Writer E. Jean Carroll took the witness stand for her lawsuit against former President Donald Trump on Wednesday, telling jurors: ‘I’m here because Trump raped me.'” See also, E. Jean Carroll testifies that Trump raped her. Here’s what she said on the stand. The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Kim Bellware, and Mark Berman, Wednesday, 26 April 2023: “E. Jean Carroll took the stand for about three and a half hours on Wednesday in her civil lawsuit against former president Donald Trump. Carroll, a writer and former advice columnist for Elle magazine, has accused Trump of raping her in the mid-1990s. Trump has denied Carroll’s allegation and called her a liar. Carroll testified until shortly after 4 p.m., when the judge excused the jury for the day. She is expected to continue her testimony on Thursday.

Here’s what to know:

  • Carroll’s harrowing testimony dominated the trial’s second day. The case centers on her allegation that Trump sexually assaulted her during a chance encounter in the dressing room of Bergdorf Goodman, an upscale New York department store, in the mid-1990s. She filed a lawsuit last year accusing him of battery and defamation.
  • Upon taking the stand Wednesday, Carroll quickly testified that Trump sexually assaulted her and then further harmed her with his denials. ‘He lied and shattered my reputation and I’m here to try to get my life back,’ Carroll testified.
  • On Thursday, Carroll is expected to resume her testimony, and Trump’s attorney is likely to question her that day.

Court Rules Trump Can’t Stop Former Vice President Mike Pence From Testifying to January 6 Grand Jury. The ruling by an appeals court paved the way for the former vice president to appear before a federal grand jury as early as this week. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Wednesday, 26 April 2023: “A federal appeals court rejected on Wednesday night an emergency attempt by former President Donald J. Trump to stop former Vice President Mike Pence from testifying in front of a grand jury investigating Mr. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The 11th-hour ruling by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia paved the way for Mr. Pence to appear before the federal grand jury as early as this week. Mr. Pence has always been a potentially important witness in the inquiry because of conversations he took part in at the White House in the weeks leading up to the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. During that time, 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 trying to get Mr. Pence to talk about Mr. Trump’s demands for several months — first in requests by the Justice Department for an interview and then through a grand jury subpoena issued by the special counsel Jack Smith, who inherited the inquiry into Mr. Trump’s attempts to stay in power.” See also, Court rules Trump can’t stop Pence from testifying to January 6 grand jury, The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner, Wednesday, 26 April 2023: “Donald Trump cannot block his former vice president from testifying before a grand jury investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, a federal appeals court ruled Wednesday. The ruling helps clear the way for Mike Pence to speak under oath about the pressure Trump put him under to declare the 2020 election results invalid. While Trump could seek to further forestall that testimony by appealing to the U.S. Supreme Court, other people in the president’s orbit have testified after similar losing battles in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit. The reasoning behind Wednesday’s order remains under seal; the decision was issued by a panel that included two Obama appointees and one Trump appointee. Pence initially fought the subpoena himself, arguing that he was taking part in a congressional proceeding on Jan. 6 and therefore covered by protections for lawmakers. But when Chief U.S. District Judge James E. Boasberg in D.C. ruled that the ‘speech or debate’ clause would not cover illegal acts by the president, Pence agreed to testify. Trump then appealed on the grounds that his executive privilege prevented Pence from testifying, a position also rejected by Boasberg. That emergency appeal was denied Wednesday.”

Disney Sues DeSantis Over Control of Its Florida Resort. The company claimed ‘a targeted campaign of government retaliation,’ which it said stemmed from its criticism of a contentious state education law. The New York Times, Brooks Barnes, Wednesday, 26 April 2023: “Last year, under pressure from its employees, Disney criticized a Florida education law prohibiting classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity for young students. Almost instantly, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida started calling the company ‘Woke Disney’ and vowing to show it who was boss. ‘If Disney wants to pick a fight, they chose the wrong guy,’ Mr. DeSantis wrote in a fund-raising email at the time. Since then, Florida legislators, at the urging of Mr. DeSantis, have targeted Disney — the state’s largest taxpayer — with a variety of hostile measures. In February, they ended Disney’s long-held ability to self-govern its 25,000-acre resort as if it were a county. Last week, Mr. DeSantis announced plans to subject Disney to new ride inspection regulations. Disney has quietly maneuvered to protect itself, enraging the governor and his allies. On Wednesday, however, the company decided enough was enough: Disney filed a First Amendment lawsuit against Mr. DeSantis and a five-member board that oversees government services at Disney World in federal court, claiming ‘a targeted campaign of government retaliation. In America, the government cannot punish you for speaking your mind,’ Disney said in its complaint, which was filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Florida. Disney had criticized the Parental Rights in Education law, which opponents labeled ‘Don’t Say Gay’ and which prohibits classroom discussion of sexual orientation and gender identity for students through the third grade. The DeSantis administration recently expanded the ban through Grade 12. The lawsuit accused Mr. DeSantis of a ‘relentless campaign to weaponize government power against Disney in retaliation for expressing a political viewpoint.’ The campaign, the complaint added, ‘now threatens Disney’s business operations, jeopardizes its economic future in the region and violates its constitutional rights.'”

House passes Republican debt ceiling bill as U.S. inches toward fiscal crisis. The vote came despite a veto threat from Biden, and overwhelming disapproval from Democrats in the House and Senate, who maintain that Congress should raise the debt limit without spending cuts or other conditions. The Washington Post, Tony Romm, Marianna Sotomayor, and Leigh Ann Caldwell, Wednesday, 26 April 2023: “House Republicans on Wednesday approved a bill that would raise the debt ceiling, slash federal spending and repeal President Biden’s programs to combat climate change and reduce student debt, defying Democratic objections in a move that inched the United States closer to a fiscal crisis. Ignoring repeated warnings that the GOP’s brinkmanship could unleash vast economic turmoil, Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) muscled his narrow, quarrelsome majority toward a 217-215 vote, accelerating a high-stakes clash with the White House with as few as six weeks remaining before the government could default. For House Republicans, the outcome marked a realization of a risky wager they placed after assuming a majority this January: They bet they could use the debt ceiling, the legal limit on how much money the country can borrow to pay its bills, as political leverage. Since Congress must pass a new law to raise or suspend the cap, the GOP seized on the possibility of a looming fiscal doomsday to try to extract policy concessions from Biden.” See also, House Republicans Pass Debt Limit Bill, Courting a Showdown With Biden. House Republicans approved a bill aimed at capping government spending and rolling back parts of President Biden’s agenda in return for a one-year increase of the country’s debt limit. The New York Times, Catie Edmondson and Carl Hulse, Wednesday, 26 April 2023: “The House on Wednesday narrowly passed Republicans’ bill to raise the debt ceiling while cutting spending and unraveling major elements of President Biden’s domestic agenda, in a G.O.P. bid to force Mr. Biden to negotiate over spending reductions or risk a catastrophic debt default. Facing his most significant challenge since being elected to his post, Speaker Kevin McCarthy barely cobbled together the votes to pass the bill, which was approved 217 to 215 along party lines. The legislation would raise the debt ceiling into next year in exchange for freezing spending at last year’s levels for a decade — a nearly 14 percent cut — as well as rolling back parts of Mr. Biden’s landmark health, climate and tax law, imposing work requirements on social programs, and expanding mining and fossil fuel production. Even Republicans conceded that their legislation was headed nowhere; Mr. Biden has threatened to veto it, and the measure is dead on arrival in the Democratic-led Senate. Without action by Congress to raise the debt limit, which is projected to be reached as early as this summer, the U.S. government faces a potentially catastrophic default. But House Republicans regarded the vote as a crucial step to strengthen their negotiating position against Mr. Biden amid questions about whether Mr. McCarthy would be able to unite his fractious conference to pass any fiscal outline at all.”


Thursday, 27 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Washington imposes new sanctions on Russian and Iranian intelligence agencies, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Adela Suliman, Adam Taylor, Natalia Abbakumova, and Karen DeYoung, Thursday, 27 April 2023: “The United States on Thursday announced new sanctions on Russian and Iranian intelligence agencies, and several Iranian individuals, for their role in hostage-taking and the ‘wrongful detention’ of American citizens. U.S. officials said the sanctions — on Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, and on the intelligence arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — would not ‘set back’ efforts to free Americans being held in those countries, including Evan Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal reporter arrested in Russia last month on what Washington says are ‘bogus’ espionage charges. Although it is unusual to impose sanctions on government organizations, both Russian and Iranian agencies are already under sanctions for various activities. The new measures are meant to ‘change behavior and to incentivize better behavior,’ U.S. officials said. Also Thursday, Brittney Griner held her first news conference since being released from a Russian prison in December. The athlete was by turns tearful and upbeat as she spoke of her experience and her return to professional basketball. The two-time Olympic gold medalist has returned to the WNBA team for her 10th season, picking up her American athletic career after missing the 2022 season while being incarcerated for 294 days in Russia on a drug charge. She opened Thursday’s session with a message of thanks to those who helped continue to bring attention to her story, as well as to her wife, team and family.

  • The Kremlin on Thursday welcomed the first phone call between Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, since the war began. ‘We are ready to welcome anything that may bring the end of the conflict in Ukraine closer,’ Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said of Wednesday’s conversation. The White House also expressed cautious optimism over the call.
  • Ukraine named Pavlo Riabikin as its ambassador to China. Zelensky said the appointment would give a ‘powerful impetus’ to the relationship. Beijing said it would send a representative to Kyiv to hold talks with ‘all parties.’ China has tried to maintain a balancing act by positioning itself as neutral on Ukraine and has refrained from critiquing Russia for starting the war.
  • The United States has asked Brazil to extradite an alleged Russian spy charged last month by the Justice Department with posing as a foreign student in Washington while carrying out espionage operations against the West, according to U.S. and Brazilian officials.
  • President Biden and his senior military advisers were rebuked Thursday by senators exasperated by what they claimed is the glacial pace at which his administration is moving to supply Abrams tanks to Ukraine, whose leaders say they need such weapons for a highly anticipated counteroffensive to retake Russian-occupied territory.
  • Russia rejected a U.S. consular request to visit Gershkovich on May 11, its Foreign Ministry said, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency. The Wall Street Journal correspondent was detained in March on espionage charges, which he and U.S. officials deny. Moscow said the decision was in response to the denial of U.S. entry visas to Russian journalists seeking to cover Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s recent trip to the United Nations in New York.
  • Gershkovich shared a statement Thursday, saying he was ‘humbled and deeply touched’ by all the letters he received. ‘I’ve read each one carefully, with gratitude.’ The statement was relayed by the journalist’s legal representatives in Russia.
  • Turkey on Thursday inaugurated its first nuclear power plant, built by Russia’s state nuclear energy company. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin before the opening ceremony, thanking him for Russia’s support on the project, according to local media reports.
  • The U.S. National Guard member accused of sharing secret government documents with friends in an online Discord chat group appeared Thursday in court, where prosecutors argued he should stay in jail while awaiting trial because if released, he might release additional national security information. The leaked documents reveal sensitive information intended for senior military and intelligence leaders on subjects including U.S. spying on allies and the grim prospects for Ukraine’s war with Russia.
  • Jailed Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny is facing two court cases, one on charges of extremism and another on charges of terrorism, his spokeswoman Kira Yarmysh said on Twitter, adding that these are likely to begin in May. The imprisoned Kremlin critic is also facing further time in solitary confinement, she said.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia’s Gas Exports Are Expected to Drop by 50% in 2023. Estimates suggest gas exports by pipeline from Russia could be halved this year compared with 2022, which was an especially bad year. The New York Times, Thursday, 27 April 2023:

  • Russia’s vital natural gas export industry appears to be steadily disintegrating.

  • Pope Francis and Ukraine’s prime minister have first known meeting since the start of the war.

  • Russian forces intensify their fight around Vuhledar, a town where they have faced notable setbacks.

  • Major news organizations publish an ad calling for a Wall Street Journal reporter’s release.

  • Save Ukraine, a small but effective nonprofit group, searches for missing children.

  • H.I.V.-positive Russian prisoners opt to fight in the war for the promise of lifesaving drugs.

  • Ukraine Diary: As sirens blare, traditional music and dancing offer escape and identity.

Former Vice President Mike Pence Appears Before Grand Jury on Trump’s Efforts to Retain Power. Pence is a key witness to former President Donald Trump’s attempts to block congressional certification of Joseph Biden’s victory in the 2020 election. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Thursday, 27 April 2023: “Former Vice President Mike Pence appeared on Thursday before the grand jury hearing evidence about former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to cling to power after he lost the 2020 election, a person briefed on the matter said, testifying in a criminal inquiry that could shape the legal and political fate of his one-time boss and possible 2024 rival. Mr. Pence spent more than five hours behind closed doors at the Federal District Court in Washington in an appearance that came after he was subpoenaed to testify before the grand jury earlier this year. As the target of an intense pressure campaign in the final days of 2020 and early 2021 by Mr. Trump to convince him to play a critical role in blocking or delaying congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s victory, Mr. Pence is considered a key witness in the investigation. Mr. Pence, who is expected to decide soon about whether to challenge Mr. Trump for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, rebuffed Mr. Trump’s demands that he use his role as president of the Senate in the certification of the Electoral College results to derail the final step in affirming Mr. Biden’s victory.” See also, Former Vice President Mike Pence appears before January 6 grand jury in Trump special counsel investigation. Pence received a subpoena in February in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation of Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results. The Washington Post, Jacqueline Alemany and Spencer S. Hsu, Thursday, 27 April 2023: “Former vice president Mike Pence testified Thursday before a grand jury that has been investigating the Jan. 6, 2021, riot at the U.S. Capitol and alleged efforts by President Donald Trump and others to overturn the results of the 2020 election, according to a person familiar with his appearance who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the matter. Pence appeared at the E. Barrett Prettyman federal courthouse after a U.S. appeals court disclosed Wednesday night that it had rejected Trump’s emergency attempt to block his former vice president from answering questions under oath about any potentially illegal acts committed by Trump. He had sought to overturn a lower court’s ruling, disclosed March 28, requiring Pence’s testimony, but a three-judge panel refused to postpone Pence’s appearance while Trump’s executive privilege claim goes forward. Pence spent several hours before the grand jury, the person said shortly after two sets of SUVs with black-tinted windows were observed leaving the courthouse’s underground garage beginning about 4:32 p.m. Two SUVs entered the garage at 9 a.m., the person said.” See also, Former Vice President Mike Pence appears before January 6 grand jury. Pence’s closed-door appearance marks an extraordinary flashpoint in special counsel Jack Smith’s investigation. Politico, Kyle Cheney, Thursday, 27 April 2023: “Former Vice President Mike Pence testified Thursday before a federal grand jury investigating former President Donald Trump’s effort to subvert the 2020 election, according to two people familiar with the matter. Pence’s closed-door appearance marks an extraordinary flashpoint in special counsel Jack Smith’s probe. Smith’s team is investigating Trump’s last-ditch bid to pressure Pence into single-handedly derailing the transfer of power from Trump to Joe Biden on Jan. 6, 2021…. Pence was at the courthouse for more than five hours. His appearance before the grand jury was confirmed by two people who were not authorized to discuss it publicly. His testimony began just hours after a federal appeals court rejected Trump’s emergency bid to block Pence from testifying or limit the scope of prosecutors’ potential questions.” See also, Former Vice President Mike Pence testifies to federal grand jury investigating Donald Trump and January 6, CNN Politics, Katelyn Polantz and Devan Cole, Thursday, 27 April 2023: “Former Vice President Mike Pence testified on Thursday to a federal grand jury investigating the aftermath of the 2020 election and the actions of then-President Donald Trump and others, sources familiar with the matter told CNN. The testimony marks a momentous juncture in the criminal investigation and the first time in modern history a vice president has been compelled to testify about the president he served beside. Pence testified for more than five hours, a source familiar with the matter told CNN, and while adviser Marc Short did not confirm the appearance on Thursday, he addressed the legal back-and-forth over the testimony…. Pence was poised to recount for the first time under oath his direct conversations with Trump leading up to January 6, 2021. Trump repeatedly pressured him unsuccessfully to block the 2020 election’s result, including the morning of January 6 on a private phone call, and a federal judge previously ruled Pence could be compelled to recount conversations the two men had where Trump may have been acting corruptly.”

Trump’s Lawyer Joseph Tacopina Spars With E. Jean Carroll Over Rape Accusation. Tacopina asked Ms. Carroll to retell her story in minute detail, probing for inconsistencies. His aggressive questioning irritated the judge. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser, Lola Fadulu, Hurubie Meko, and Kate Christobek, Thursday, 27 April 2023: “In a Manhattan courtroom on Thursday, a lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump asked E. Jean Carroll, the writer who has accused Mr. Trump of raping her nearly three decades ago, whether she had screamed for help. ‘I’m not a screamer,’ Ms. Carroll responded, adding that she was in a panic during the encounter in a dressing room. ‘I was fighting,’ she said. ‘You can’t beat up on me for not screaming.’ Mr. Trump’s lawyer, Joseph Tacopina, said he was not doing that, but Ms. Carroll, her voice rising, said from the witness stand that women often keep silent about an attack because they fear being asked what they could have done to stop it. ‘They are always asked, Why didn’t you scream?’ Ms. Carroll said. ‘I’m telling you, he raped me, whether I screamed or not,’ she declared. The highly charged exchange came as Ms. Carroll underwent hours of cross-examination by Mr. Tacopina, who made it clear he was seeking to undermine her testimony about what she says was a vicious attack by Mr. Trump after they ran into each other at the Bergdorf Goodman store on Fifth Avenue in the mid-1990s.” See also, As E./ Jean Carroll testifies for a second day, the judge has a warning for Trump, NPR/The Associated Press, Thursday, 27 April 2023: “Donald Trump’s lawyer began grilling writer E. Jean Carroll in court Thursday about a 1990s encounter at a Manhattan department store that she says ended with Trump raping her — an account she acknowledged contained some details that were ‘difficult to conceive of.’ Lawyer Joseph Tacopina eased into Carroll’s cross-examination at a New York civil trial, questioning the validity of her bombshell claims while suggesting she only came forward with them decades later, in 2019, because of her disdain for Trump’s politics and because she wanted to sell copies of her book. Tacopina irritated Carroll by using the word ‘supposedly’ to cast doubt on her rape claim, drawing an immediate and stern rebuke from the writer. ‘Not supposedly. I was raped,’ she said. ‘That’s your version, Ms. Carroll, that you were raped,’ Tacopina said. ‘Those are the facts,’ she replied.”

A second firm hired by Trump campaign found no evidence of election fraud. The founder of the company has been interviewed by federal prosecutors investigating the former president’s efforts to overturn the 2020 results. The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Thursday, 27 April 2023: “Former president Trump’s campaign quietly commissioned a second firm to study election fraud claims in the weeks after the 2020 election, and the founder of the firm was recently questioned by the Justice Department about his work disproving the claims. Ken Block, founder of the firm Simpatico Software Systems, studied more than a dozen voter fraud theories and allegations for Trump’s campaign in late 2020 and found they were ‘all false,’ he said in an interview with The Washington Post. ‘No substantive voter fraud was uncovered in my investigations looking for it, nor was I able to confirm any of the outside claims of voter fraud that I was asked to look at,’ he said. ‘Every fraud claim I was asked to investigate was false.'”


Friday, 28 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: At least 23 civilians killed in Russian missile attacks, The Washington Post, Ellen Francis, Andrew Jeong, and Adam Taylor, Friday, 28 April 2023: “Russian attacks hit cities around Ukraine, killing at least 23 people, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Friday. In Kyiv, authorities said the capital came under the first missile attack since early March. A strike on an apartment building in the central city of Uman killed at least 20 people, Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry said. And in Dnipro, a young woman and a child were killed, the regional governor said. As air raid sirens sounded around the country, Ukraine’s armed forces said they thwarted 21 Russian cruise missiles.

  • Eleven missiles and two drones were shot down over Kyiv, the city’s administration said. There were no initial reports of casualties or targets hit, but the administration said debris from intercepted attacks damaged a power line.
  • Nine people were hospitalized after the attack in Uman, far from the front lines, Ukraine’s Internal Affairs Ministry said. Rescuers rushed to put out fires and pull survivors from the wreckage. The Ukrainian national police said about 10 apartment buildings were damaged and three children were rescued from the rubble.
  • ‘This Russian terror must face a fair response from Ukraine and the world,’ Zelensky wrote on Telegram after the strikes. ‘And it will.’ Explosions also were heard overnight in the city of Kremenchuk and in Mykolaiv in the south, according to the Interfax Ukraine news agency.
  • The European Commission reached a deal with five E.U. countries over Ukrainian produce imports, the commission’s executive vice president, Valdis Dombrovskis, announced Friday. The agreement defuses a weeks-long crisis over import bans and protests by farmers in Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria, Romania and Slovakia. The European Commission will offer 100 million euros worth of support to those countries and implement emergency safeguards relating to wheat, maize, rapeseed and sunflower seeds in exchange for Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia withdrawing their import bans. (Romania does not have a ban.)
  • Oleksandr Bondarenko, a Ukrainian journalist who formerly worked for the BBC, was killed in fighting on the front lines, according to the BBC. Bondarenko joined the military after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February 2022. ‘It was always new challenges with this extraordinary man,’ said Maciek Bernatt-Reszczynski, the former head of the BBC’s Ukrainian Service. ‘Including the last, heroic one, to defend his country from aggression.’
  • The Biden administration imposed sanctions on Russia’s Federal Security Service (FSB) and other entities for their role in the ‘wrongful detention’ of Americans. U.S. officials maintained that the new sanctions on the FSB and the intelligence arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps would not set back efforts to free Americans. The latest measures are meant to ‘change behavior and to incentivize better behavior,’ a senior U.S. official said.
  • WNBA star Brittney Griner, who was released from detention in Russia, said she has no plans to play overseas again, unless she does so as a member of Team USA in the Olympics. In a news conference, she thanked her family, team and supporters. She advised others in similar situations in Russia, such as journalist Evan Gershkovich of the Wall Street Journal, to ‘just keep waking up, find a little routine and stick to that routine.’ She added, ‘We’re not going to stop fighting and bringing awareness to everyone left behind now.’
  • Russia’s Foreign Ministry rejected a U.S. consular request to visit Gershkovich on May 11, according to Russia’s Interfax news agency. The move comes in response to the U.S. denial of entry visas to Russian journalists covering Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov’s visit to the U.N. headquarters in New York, Interfax said.
  • Gershkovich said he was ‘humbled and deeply touched’ by all the letters he has received since he was detained in Russia while on a reporting trip last month. ‘I’ve read each one carefully, with gratitude,’ he said in a statement released Thursday and relayed by his legal representatives in Russia.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree introducing life imprisonment for treason in Russia. The crime was previously punishable by up to 20 years in prison. This was part of changes to Russia’s criminal code finalized Friday, including tougher sentences for terrorism and acts of sabotage.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russian Missile Strikes on Civilian Buildings Kill at Least 25 in Ukraine. Russian bombers launched two dozen cruise missiles at Ukrainian cities in the largest aerial strike in a month. One hit a nine-story apartment building in the city of Uman. The New York Times, Friday, 28 April 2023:

  • The deadliest strike hit an apartment block far from the front line, officials say.

  • Extending crackdown on dissent, Russia imposes harsher penalties for treason.

  • In Uman, a mother holds out hope her children will still be found alive.

  • The E.U. will keep letting in Ukrainian grains without tariffs.

  • Here’s why Russia is threatening to back away from the Black Sea grain deal.

  • The Kremlin steps up efforts to Russify occupied parts of Ukraine.

  • Ukraine’s defense minister says counteroffensive preparations are ‘coming to an end.’

Federal Prosecutors in January 6 Case Step up Inquiry Into Trump Fund-Raising. The Justice Department has been gathering evidence about whether the former president and his allies solicited donations with claims of election fraud they knew to be false. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Alan Feuer, and Jonathan Swan, Friday, 28 April 2023: “As they investigate former President Donald J. Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election, federal prosecutors have also been drilling down on whether Mr. Trump and a range of political aides knew that he had lost the race but still raised money off claims that they were fighting widespread fraud in the vote results, according to three people familiar with the matter. Led by the special counsel Jack Smith, prosecutors are trying to determine whether Mr. Trump and his aides violated federal wire fraud statutes as they raised as much as $250 million through a political action committee by saying they needed the money to fight to reverse election fraud even though they had been told repeatedly that there was no evidence to back up those fraud claims. The prosecutors are looking at the inner workings of the committee, Save America PAC, and at the Trump campaign’s efforts to prove its baseless case that Mr. Trump had been cheated out of victory.”

North Carolina Supreme Court Gerrymander Ruling Reflects Politicization of Judiciary Nationally. When it had a Democratic majority last year, the North Carolina Supreme Court voided the state’s legislative and congressional maps as illegal gerrymanders. Now the court has a Republican majority and says the opposite. The New York Times, Michael Wines, Friday, 28 April 2023: “Last year, Democratic justices on the North Carolina Supreme Court ruled that maps of the state’s legislative and congressional districts drawn to give Republicans lopsided majorities were illegal gerrymanders. On Friday, the same court led by a newly elected Republican majority looked at the same facts, reversed itself and said it had no authority to act. The practical effect is to enable the Republican-controlled General Assembly to scrap the court-ordered State House, Senate and congressional district boundaries that were used in elections last November, and draw new maps skewed in Republicans’ favor for elections in 2024. The 5-to-2 ruling fell along party lines, reflecting the takeover of the court by Republican justices in partisan elections last November. The decision has major implications not just for the state legislature, where the G.O.P. is barely clinging to the supermajority status that makes its decisions veto-proof, but for the U.S. House, where a new North Carolina map could add at least three Republican seats in 2024 to what is now a razor-thin Republican majority. Overturning such a recent ruling by the court was a highly unusual move, particularly on a pivotal constitutional issue in which none of the facts had changed.” See also, North Carolina Supreme Court reverses redistricting ruling in a win for Republicans, The Washington Post, Patrick Marley and Robert Barnes, Friday, 28 April 2023: “A new majority on the North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday gave Republican lawmakers free rein to draw state legislative and congressional maps as they see fit, reversing a decision issued in December, when liberals controlled the court. Also Friday, Republicans on the court set the stage to reinstate a voter identification law that had been blocked in December by Democratic justices. The pair of 5-2 rulings showed how court elections can dramatically shift the direction of a state and, potentially, control of the U.S. House. The GOP-controlled state legislature will be able to draw new maps that favor Republicans in the 2024 election while reconfiguring congressional district boundaries in a way that could boost the GOP’s chances of capturing more House seats.” See also, North Carolina Supreme Court justices hand Republicans big wins with election rulings, Associated Press, Gary D. Robertson, Friday, 28 April 2023: “In massive victories for Republicans, the newly GOP-controlled North Carolina Supreme Court on Friday threw out a previous ruling against gerrymandered voting maps and upheld a photo voter identification law that colleagues had struck down as racially biased. The partisan gerrymandering ruling should make it significantly easier for the Republican-dominated legislature to help the GOP gain seats in the narrowly divided U.S. House when state lawmakers redraw congressional boundaries for the 2024 elections. Under the current map, Democrats won seven of the state’s 14 congressional seats last November. The court, which became a Republican majority this year following the election of two GOP justices, ruled after taking the unusual step of revisiting redistricting and voter ID opinions made in December by the court’s previous iteration, when Democrats held a 4-3 seat advantage. The court held rehearings in March. Friday’s 5-2 rulings also mean that state lawmakers should have greater latitude in drawing General Assembly seat boundaries for elections next year and the rest of the decade, and that the voter ID law approved by the legislature in late 2018 could be carried out soon.”

Jane Roberts, who is married to Chief Justice John Roberts, made $10.3 million in commissions from elite law firms, whistleblower documents show, Business Insider, Mattathias Schwartz, Friday, 28 April 2023: “Two years after John Roberts’ confirmation as the Supreme Court’s chief justice in 2005, his wife, Jane Sullivan Roberts, made a pivot. After a long and distinguished career as a lawyer, she refashioned herself as a legal recruiter, a matchmaker who pairs job-hunting lawyers up with corporations and firms. Roberts told a friend that the change was motivated by a desire to avoid the appearance of conflicts of interest, given that her husband was now the highest-ranking judge in the country. ‘There are many paths to the good life,’ she said. ‘There are so many things to do if you’re open to change and opportunity.’ And life was indeed good for the Robertses, at least for the years 2007 to 2014. During that eight-year stretch, according to internal records from her employer, Jane Roberts generated a whopping $10.3 million in commissions, paid out by corporations and law firms for placing high-dollar lawyers with them. That eye-popping figure comes from records in a whistleblower complaint filed by a disgruntled former colleague of Roberts, who says that as the spouse of the most powerful judge in the United States, the income she earns from law firms who practice before the Court should be subject to public scrutiny.”


Saturday, 29 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Crimea reports drone attack on oil depot; Russia kills 25 in Uman, a city in central Ukraine far from the front lines, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Ellen Francis, David L. Stern, and Dan Rosenzweig-Ziff, Saturday, 29 April 2023: “A drone attack hit a fuel depot in Crimea on Saturday, sparking a fire and damaging four tanks, authorities in the Russian-occupied peninsula said. The fire came a day after Russian strikes killed at least 25 people in Ukraine, including children, highlighting the unrelenting toll on civilians of the war, now in its second year. In Uman, a city in central Ukraine far from the front lines, at least 23 people were killed in an attack that battered apartment buildings, Ukrainian officials said early Saturday.

  • The fire has been extinguished, said Mikhail Razvozhaev, the Russian-appointed governor of Sevastopol, the largest city of the Crimean Peninsula, which Moscow annexed in 2014. Officials said at least one of two drones was shot down over Crimea on Saturday. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.
  • A spokesman for Ukraine’s military intelligence directorate described the fire as ‘God’s punishment’ for the civilian deaths in Uman. ‘This punishment will be long lasting,’ Andriy Yusov said in comments posted on the agency’s website, warning Crimea residents to avoid being near military facilities. ‘We can neither confirm nor deny’ Ukrainian involvement in the incident, he told The Washington Post. Russia has blamed Kyiv for a series of blasts in Crimea, including against Russian military sites last year. Kyiv has not officially claimed the attacks while warning they will continue as a result of the war.
  • Thick plumes of smoke could be seen rising into the air in Sevastopol. The blaze will not affect the supply of fuel to the city and other tanks in the depot were not damaged, governor Razvozhaev added. Russian news agencies said there were no casualties.
  • The dead in Uman include four children, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address Friday. He thanked the military for shooting down 21 missiles that targeted Ukraine in the deadliest attack since the winter. In January, Russia killed at least 25 people when it struck Dnipro.
  • Pope Francis met with Ukrainian refugees and later with an envoy of the Russian Orthodox Church in Budapest Saturday. More than 2.5 million have crossed into Hungary from Ukraine since the start of the war, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. The Vatican said Francis met with the Russian Orthodox Church’s representative in Hungary, Metropolitan Hilarion, for 20 minutes and that the conversation was ‘cordial,’ according to the Associated Press.
  • Some European Union states and the European Commission reached a deal on Ukrainian produce imports, the commission’s executive vice president said Friday. The deal defuses a crisis over import bans by Poland, Hungary, Bulgaria and Slovakia. The European Commission will offer more than $100 million of support to those countries, which will withdraw their bans. Ukrainian food exports to its neighbors have risen due to Russia’s presence in the Black Sea, but that has raised concerns about depressed crop prices in those countries.
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a decree introducing life imprisonment for treason. The crime was previously punishable by up to 20 years in prison. This was part of changes to Russia’s criminal code finalized Friday, including tougher sentences for terrorism and acts of sabotage.
  • A Ukrainian counteroffensive against Russian troops is still being planned and will happen, Zelensky said in an interview with northern European journalists Saturday. In addition to expectations for a counteroffensive, the interview, shared on Zelensky’s Telegram account, covered the NATO summit planned for July, the costs of liberating Crimea and Ukrainian requests for fighter aircraft.
  • South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol said the world must ensure the invasion of Ukraine cannot succeed, in a Friday speech at Harvard University. Yoon, who is on a state visit to the United States, told reporters that his country was considering its options when he was asked whether Seoul would provide lethal aid to Kyiv.


Sunday, 30 April 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia blames Ukraine for drone attack on Crimea fuel depot, The Washington Post, Rachel Pannett, Annabelle Timsit, Nick Parker, and Ben Brasch, Sunday, 30 April 2023: “Russia accused Ukraine of carrying out Saturday’s drone attack on a fuel depot in Crimea, the peninsula illegally annexed by the Kremlin in 2014. Ukraine hasn’t claimed responsibility for the strike, which comes as Kyiv is preparing for a long-anticipated spring counteroffensive to retake territory seized by Moscow. ‘The enemy … wanted to take Sevastopol by surprise, as usual on the sly, staging an attack in the morning,’ the port city’s Kremlin-appointed governor, Mikhail Razvozhaev, wrote on Telegram, without providing evidence for his claim. He said that one drone reached the fuel depot — a second drone was destroyed by servicemen on surveillance duty — and that the fire it caused was extinguished. No casualties were reported.

  • A Ukrainian military intelligence official described the Crimean incident as ‘God’s punishment’ for a Russian strike on an apartment building Friday that killed many civilians. Andriy Yusov said the Saturday attack destroyed more than 10 fuel tanks housing some 40,000 tons of oil intended for Russia’s Black Sea Fleet.
  • Four people were killed by strikes in the Russian region of Bryansk, its governor Alexander Bogomaz said in a Telegram post. Bogomaz blamed Ukraine for the strikes against the village of Suzemka, which he said also injured two people. Ukrainian officials did not publicly comment, and The Washington Post could not independently verify Bogomaz’s claim. Bryansk borders Belarus to the west and Ukraine to the south.
  • President Biden said he is ‘working like hell’ to bring home detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich. At the White House Correspondents’ Association dinner, Biden promised Gershkovich’s family, present in the audience, to work to secure the journalist’s release from prison in Moscow, where the State Department says he is being wrongfully detained after being accused of espionage. ‘Evan went to report in Russia to shed light on the darkness that you all escaped from years ago. Absolute courage,’ Biden said. ‘We all stand with you.’
  • The Russian Defense Ministry has appointed a new military logistics leader, ostensibly ousting the general known as the ‘butcher of Mariupol.’ Col. Gen. Aleksey Kuzmenkov is the new deputy defense minister in charge of combat service support, the ministry announced Sunday. It did not address where Col. Gen. Mikhail Mizintsev, who had held the post since September, may be moved. Ukrainian officials and activists accused Mizintsev of orchestrating a brutal siege that killed thousands of civilians and razed residential buildings in Mariupol last year.
  • Russia threatened to retaliate against Poland after Warsaw authorities took over a building used as a school by the children of Russian diplomats. Warsaw Mayor Rafal Trzaskowski said that the building belongs to the city and that the move to repossess it is based on an order from Polish courts and follows a years-long dispute with Moscow. Russia’s Foreign Ministry called it ‘a blatant violation of the Vienna Convention of 1961’ and warned of a ‘harsh reaction and consequences for the Polish authorities and Poland’s interests in Russia.’
  • Former German chancellor Angela Merkel defended her approach to Russia and Ukraine in an onstage interview with the German newspaper Die Zeit. Merkel led Germany from 2005 to 2021 and has been criticized for deepening her country’s ties with Russia during that time. In the interview, she stood by her efforts to push for an agreement between Russia and Ukraine in 2014 over the Donbas region. She said diplomacy was necessary and should be considered to end the war.
  • Pope Francis said the Vatican is involved in a secret Ukraine peace mission, Reuters reported. ‘I think that peace is always made by opening channels. You can never achieve peace through closure,’ the pope told reporters on a flight back from a three-day trip to Hungary. During the trip, he called for more European unity to end the war in Ukraine by opening doors to migrants and those in need. He also said he met with Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.
  • French President Emmanuel Macron confirmed to Zelensky that France would deliver an unspecified arms package, Zelensky said during his nightly briefing. Zelensky said Macron ‘confirmed the supply of exactly what I mentioned in the previous conversation.’ According to the summaries of his nightly briefings, the last time the two leaders spoke was April 15 — but that summary provided no details. The most specific Kyiv got about arms talks on the Sunday call was this: ‘The speed and specificity of response is very important, it is something that significantly enhances our capabilities. We appreciate France’s confirmation of providing our Armed Forces with a powerful armored package.’
  • Former U.S. House speaker Nancy Pelosi said she and members of a U.S. delegation who visited Ukraine a few months after Russia’s invasion ‘thought we could die’ during the trip. ‘It was very, it was dangerous,’ Pelosi told the Associated Press in an interview. Pelosi also said she ‘would have hoped’ that the war ‘would have been over by now’ and said that Ukraine must emerge victorious for the sake of democracy. ‘We must win. We must bring this to a positive conclusion — for the people of Ukraine and for our country,’ she told the AP.




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!