Aftermath of the Trump Administration, July 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 this site in the coming months. Thanks for reading!


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Saturday, 1 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: C.I.A. Director William Burns says Wagner’s mutiny is a sign of the war’s ‘corrosive’ effect on Russia, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Adela Suliman, Nick Parker, and Karen DeYoung, Saturday, 1 July 2023: “Russia’s ‘mistakes’ in Ukraine have laid bare its military weaknesses and damaged its economy for years to come, CIA Director William J. Burns said Saturday. Speaking in a lecture at Britain’s Ditchley Foundation, Burns reiterated the Biden administration’s insistence that the United States ‘had and will have no part’ in last week’s rebellion by Yevgeniy Prigozhin and his Wagner Group. The impact of Prigozhin’s ‘scathing indictment of the Kremlin’s mendacious rationale’ for the Ukraine invasion and the conduct of Russia’s military leadership in the war ‘will play out for some time, a vivid reminder of the corrosive effect of [President Vladimir] Putin’s war on his own society and his own regime.’

  • ‘Disaffection with the war will continue to gnaw away at the Russian leadership’ and create a ‘once in a generation opportunity’ for U.S. intelligence, said Burns, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia. ‘We’re not letting it go to waste,’ Burns said Saturday. Intelligence initiatives have included the unprecedented release of classified information on Putin’s war plans before the invasion and subsequent intelligence sharing with allies and Ukraine, and the use of social media through the Telegram channel ‘to let Russians know how to contact us safely on the dark web,’ he said. ‘We had 2.5 million views in the first week, and we’re very much open for business.’
  • Burns made a secret visit to Ukraine last month, when officials revealed an ambitious endgame for the war, The Post has reported. The strategy aims to retake Russian-occupied territory and open cease-fire negotiations with Moscow by the end of the year, officials familiar with the visit said.
  • The Biden administration is weighing whether to supply Kyiv with cluster bombs. Senior U.S. administration and defense officials have contacted lawmakers to assess their comfort with sending the munitions, people familiar with the matter told The Washington Post. The Biden administration has concerns about the optics of the move and the potential for long-term harm to civilians because the munitions can leave behind unexploded bomblets that remain deadly for decades.
  • A U.S. official told The Post that the United States has seen an ‘increasing need’ for cluster munitions, which could help address ammunition shortages in Ukraine. ‘We’ve always said our security assistance would evolve as battlefield conditions have evolved, and that continues to be the case,’ the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity about the sensitive issue. The United States is not among the more than 120 nations that have signed an international convention banning the use, transfer or production of cluster munitions, which international rights groups and other governments have long condemned as inhumane.
  • Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he offered Wagner troops an abandoned military base in Belarus, the country where Prigozhin, the mercenary group’s leader, relocated this week, although he has not made a public appearance there yet. Satellite imagery captured Friday showed what could be the rapid construction of a new camp in Belarus to house Wagner forces, according to local media and experts. The Post could not independently verify the reports.
  • Lukashenko signed a law allowing the ban of media outlets based in countries that he deems unfriendly to Belarus. The longtime authoritarian leader has a history of fomenting media criticism and protests.
  • Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez arrived in Ukraine on Saturday to meet with Zelensky, as his country takes over the rotating presidency of the European Union council. Sánchez tweeted: ‘I wanted the first act of the Spanish Presidency of the Council of the E.U. to be in Ukraine,’ as he expressed European solidarity. Zelensky tweeted his appreciation after a joint news conference, thanking Spain ‘for supporting Ukraine on the way to joining the European Union.’
  • Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modiexpressed understanding and support’ for Putin’s efforts to solidify power after the failed Wagner revolt, according to the Kremlin’s readout of their phone conversation Friday. The United States, Ukraine’s largest backer, has close ties with India, hosting a recent state visit for Modi, who has not condemned Russia’s invasion.
  • Japan said it spotted two Russian Navy ships in the waters near Taiwan and Japan’s Okinawa islands over the last four days, according to its Defense Ministry. Tokyo said last month that repeated Russian military activity near Japanese territory posed a ‘serious concern’ for the country’s national security, Reuters reported.

Trump pressured Arizona Governor Doug Ducey to overturn 2020 election, The Washington Post, Leigh Ann Caldwell, Josh Dawsey, and Yvonne Wingett Sanchez, Saturday, 1 July 20223: “In a phone call in late 2020, President Donald Trump tried to pressure Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey (R) to overturn the state’s presidential election results, saying that if enough fraudulent votes could be found it would overcome Trump’s narrow loss in Arizona, according to three people familiar with the call. Trump also repeatedly asked Vice President Mike Pence to call Ducey and prod him to find the evidence to substantiate Trump’s claims of fraud, according to two of these people. Pence called Ducey several times to discuss the election, they said, though he did not follow Trump’s directions to pressure the governor. The extent of Trump’s efforts to cajole Ducey into helping him stay in power has not before been reported, even as other efforts by Trump’s lawyer and allies to pressure Arizona officials have been made public. Ducey told reporters in December 2020 that he and Trump had spoken, but he declined to disclose the contents of the call then or in the more than two years since. Although he disagreed with Trump about the outcome of the election, Ducey has sought to avoid a public battle with Trump.”


Sunday, 2 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Wagner Group pauses hiring during move to Belarus, The Washington Post, Bryan Pietsch, Leo Sands, Shera Avi-Yonah, Ben Brasch, and Kyle Rempfer, Sunday, 2 July 2023: “Yevgeniy Prigozhin’s Wagner Group will pause hiring mercenaries for a month as its forces move to Belarus, scaling down the group’s activities after it aborted a mutiny attempt outside Moscow last month. A Telegram channel the company uses for hiring said Wagner’s forces won’t fight in Ukraine as they shift operations from Russia. Meanwhile, Spanish Prime Minister Pedro Sánchez visited Kyiv this weekend as his country took the helm of the rotating European Council presidency. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky hailed the visit as symbolic, saying it showcased a ‘new reality’ amid the Russian invasion.

  • The Wagner Group will stop recruiting new mercenaries for a month while its forces move to Belarus, and it has paused activities in Ukraine, according to a post on a Telegram channel the company uses for hiring. Prigozhin agreed to move his forces to Belarus last month as part of a deal brokered to stop his mutiny attempt. Wagner has used social media to mount a global hiring campaign in more than a dozen languages, the disinformation research group Logically told Politico Europe. Russia has also shut down several media outlets connected to Prigozhin, Reuters reported.
  • Sánchez’s visit to the Ukrainian capital underscores ‘the priorities of the Spanish presidency and our cooperation,’ Zelensky said in his nightly address after the Saturday visit. ‘It was always impossible to imagine our common European home as complete without Ukraine. And now we have achieved at the political level that European affairs are no longer considered without Ukraine.’
  • CIA Director William J. Burns said Russia’s ‘mistakes’ in Ukraine have revealed its military weaknesses and damaged its economy. He also reiterated that the United States had no part in the armed rebellion in Russia by Wagner Group founder Yevgeniy Prigozhin. Discontent in Russia during the war has created a ‘once-in-a-generation opportunity’ for U.S. intelligence, said Burns, who is also a former U.S. ambassador to Russia. Last month, he made a secret visit to Ukraine, where Ukrainian officials conveyed their goals for the war’s endgame.
  • President Biden will travel to Lithuania and Finland for diplomatic conferences this month, the White House announced in a news release Sunday. He will attend an annual NATO summit in Vilnius on July 11 and 12, and a U.S.-Nordic summit in Helsinki on July 13. Ukraine continues to seek fast-tracked NATO accession, a step British Defense Minister Ben Wallace said this week the alliance should consider. Some NATO members have been cool to that idea. The European Union is also considering Ukraine’s membership bid and may formally discuss it in December, European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said Thursday.
  • Russia’s Maks air show has been postponed until 2024, organizers confirmed. The biennial show, which was last held in 2021 and was scheduled to take place this month, bills itself as the hallmark of Russia’s aerospace industry. According to Britain’s Defense Ministry, ‘the show has probably been canceled largely due to genuine security concerns, following recent uncrewed aerial vehicle attacks inside Russia.’
  • The first direct flight from Russia to Cuba in over a year took place this weekendRussia’s state-run Tass news reported SundayPublicly available flight data showed the 13-hour flight, operated by Aeroflot’s Rossiya Airlines, bypassed European airspace with a route over the Arctic and south over the Atlantic. According to Reuters, flights from Russia to Cuba, Mexico and the Dominican Republic were suspended in February 2022 after Western countries blocked Russian flights from using their airspace.
  • Satellite imagery captured Friday showed what could be the rapid construction of a new camp in Belarus to house Wagner forces, according to experts and local media. The Post could not independently verify the reports. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said he offered Wagner troops an abandoned military base in the country. Prigozhin, the leader of the mercenary organization, also relocated to Belarus this week but has not yet made a public appearance there.
  • Poland will bolster security along its border with Russian ally Belarus by deploying an additional 500 police officers, Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said Sunday on Twitter. Kaminski described the situation on the border as ‘tense.’ Since Prigozhin’s relocation to Belarus last week, the Russian ally’s E.U. neighbors have grown increasingly wary of instability in the country spilling beyond its borders.
  • Viktor Bout — the Russian infamous arms dealer traded for WNBA megastar Brittney Griner in a prisoner swap — is running for a seat in a Russian regional legislature as an ultranationalist candidate, state news agency RIA reported Sunday. Bout was serving a 25-year prison sentence after being arrested in a U.S. sting operation in Thailand. Griner, the two-time Olympic gold medalist, was serving nine years in a Russian prison for carrying vape cartridges containing cannabis oil.

Continue reading Aftermath of the Trump Administration, July 2023:


Monday, 3 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Wagner chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin promises more ‘victories at the front’ in first message since mutiny, The Washington Post, Leo Sands, Lyric Li, Mary Ilyushina, and Mikhail Klimentov, Monday, 3 July 2023: “The founder of the Wagner mercenary group, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, shared an audio message Monday — his first since calling off his mutiny aimed at the leaders atop Russia’s Ministry of Defense. In the recording, which was published on a Telegram channel closely associated with Wagner, Prigozhin said his fighters will win the ‘next victories’ in the war in Ukraine. He also assessed his march on Moscow as successful. ‘Our “March of Justice” was aimed at fighting traitors and mobilizing our society,’ Prigozhin said. ‘I think that we have succeeded in much of this.’ He did not specify where he is now or discuss Wagner’s plans. It was not immediately apparent when Prigozhin’s latest message was recorded. Other channels linked to Wagner and Prigozhin did not broadcast the message. Investigators on Monday launched the International Center for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression against Ukraine, a key step in investigating whether Russia’s war in Ukraine meets the legal definition of the crime of aggression. The center, based in The Hague, is tasked with providing a mechanism for officials to collect, analyze and share evidence of aggression — a crime beyond the jurisdiction of existing international courts — to help build cases for future trials.

  • The U.S. ambassador to Russia met with jailed Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison on Monday. Gershkovich, who was detained in March on espionage charges, has been designated by the State Department as ‘wrongfully detained.’ Gershkovich, the Wall Street Journal and the U.S. government have all forcefully rejected the allegations against the journalist. The ambassador’s visit is the second since Gershkovich was detained, and it comes after a Russian court rejected Gershkovich’s appeal against his imprisonment at Lefortovo on June 22.
  • The new center in The Hague is a landmark first step in building a case against Russian officials and a possible precursor to the establishment of a special tribunal. ‘We cannot tolerate the gross violation of the prohibition of the use of force, one of the fundamental rules of the international rule-based order,’ said European Commissioner for Justice Didier Reynders at a news conference Monday.
  • The International Center for the Prosecution of the Crime of Aggression is backed by the European Union, the United States and Ukraine. It will allow prosecutors from different countries to share evidence that could be crucial in later trials. ‘We don’t want to wait until the end of the conflict,’ said Ladislav Hamran, president of the E.U. Agency for Criminal Justice Cooperation, which will house the center. Its key purpose ‘is to start building the case now,’ he said.
  • Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu credited the loyalty of his forces for the Wagner mutiny’s defeat in his first public comments since the rebellion. ‘These plans failed primarily because the personnel of the armed forces showed loyalty to the oath and military duty,’ Shoigu said, according to the state-owned Zvezda TV network. Moscow was rattled by the failed rebellion, which ended with Wagner chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin agreeing to leave the country.
  • A celebrated Ukrainian author died over the weekend of injuries from a Russian missile attack last week on a pizza restaurant in Kramatorsk, eastern Ukraine. Victoria Amelina, 37, was having dinner when the Iskander missile struck. Amelina is the 13th fatality as a result of the Russian attack on the Kramatorsk pizza restaurant. She was the author of two novels about contemporary Ukraine and children’s literature. In a statement, the PEN Ukraine writers association said Amelina was having dinner at the restaurant with a delegation of Colombian writers and journalists when the building was struck Tuesday.
  • About 700,000 children have been brought into Russian territory from war zones in Ukraine, a lawmaker in Russia’s upper house of parliament said. Grigory Karasin, chairman of the international committee in the Russian Federation Council, wrote on Telegram that hundreds of thousands of children have ‘found refuge’ in Russia in recent years. Earlier this year, the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Russian President Vladimir Putin and his children’s rights commissioner on charges of illegally transferring children from occupied territories, a war crime.
  • Russia’s navy chief, Adm. Nikolai Yevmenov, met with Chinese Defense Minister Li Shangfu in Beijing on Monday, China’s Defense Ministry said in a statement. In a readout posted by Beijing officials, Li said military relations between the pair would ‘keep being deepened and consolidated, making new progress, and getting elevated to higher levels.’ In March, Chinese leader Xi Jinping visited Moscow in a show of support for the countries’ growing alliance. U.S. officials have expressed concern that China will provide lethal aid to Russia.
  • Russia has no need for a new wave of mobilization after the withdrawal of Wagner forces from Ukraine, Andrey Kartapolov, head of the defense committee in Russia’s lower house, told Russian state news agency Tass.
  • Poland will deploy an additional 500 police officers to bolster security along its border with Russian ally Belarus, Interior Minister Mariusz Kaminski said Sunday on Twitter. Meanwhile, Poland and Germany haven’t agreed on a deal to open a maintenance center on Polish soil to repair Leopard tanks supplied to Ukraine, Der Spiegel reported.
  • Former vice president Mike Pence reiterated his support for U.S. military aid for Ukraine after visiting Kyiv last week.It’s in our national interest to give [Ukraine] what they need to win this fight and drive the Russian military out of Ukraine,’ the Republican presidential candidate said Sunday during an interview on CBS’s ‘Face the Nation.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Fighting Rages on Multiple Fronts as counteroffensive Continues. Kyiv’s forces have made more small gains, but the situation on the battlefield is ‘quite complicated,’ a senior Ukrainian official said. The New York Times, Monday, 3 July 2023:

  • Heavy fighting is taking place in the east and south, a senior Ukrainian official said.
  • The U.S. ambassador to Russia meets with detained WSJ reporter.
  • Zelensky calls for more air-defense systems, citing a lethal Russian drone attack in the northeast.
  • A backup power line is restored at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear complex, as a top U.N. official reiterates concerns about the plant.
  • Zelensky accuses Russia of trying to kill Georgia’s former President Mikheil Saakashvili.
  • Victoria Amelina, a renowned Ukrainian writer, dies from wounds sustained in a Russian missile strike.
  • A new center in The Hague aims to help build cases against Russian leaders.

Harvard’s Admissions Is Challenged for Favoring Children of Alumni. After the Supreme court banned race-conscious affirmative action, activists filed a complaint, saying legacy admissions helped students who are overwhelmingly rich and white. The New York Times, Stephanie Saul, Monday, 3 July 2023: “It’s been called affirmative action for the rich: Harvard’s special admissions treatment for students whose parents are alumni, or whose relatives donated money. And in a complaint filed on Monday, a legal activist group demanded that the federal government put an end to it, arguing that fairness was even more imperative after the Supreme Court last week severely limited race-conscious admissions. Three Boston-area groups requested that the Education Department review the practice, saying the college’s admissions policies discriminated against Black, Hispanic and Asian applicants, in favor of less qualified white candidates with alumni and donor connections. ‘Why are we rewarding children for privileges and advantages accrued by prior generations?’ asked Ivan Espinoza-Madrigal, executive director of Lawyers for Civil Rights, which is handling the case. ‘Your family’s last name and the size of your bank account are not a measure of merit, and should have no bearing on the college admissions process.’ The complaint from liberal groups comes days after a conservative group, Students for Fair Admissions, won its Supreme Court case. And it adds to accelerating pressure on Harvard and other selective colleges to eliminate special preferences for the children of alumni and donors. The Office for Civil Rights of the Education Department, which would review the complaint, may already be gearing up to investigate. In a statement after the Supreme Court decision, President Biden said he would ask the department to examine ‘practices like legacy admissions and other systems that expand privilege instead of opportunity.'” See also, Civil rights complaint targets Harvard’s legacy admissions preference. Group asks federal government to stop the university’s practice of giving a boost to children of alumni. The Washington Post, Nick Anderson and Susan Svrluga, Monday, 3 July 2023: “A civil rights group announced Monday that it has petitioned the federal government to force Harvard University to stop giving a boost to children of alumni in the admissions process, another sign of the mounting pressure on prestigious schools to change their policies following last week’s Supreme Court ruling that rejected race-based affirmative action. Lawyers for Civil Rights said it filed the complaint with the Education Department, alleging that ‘legacy’ admissions preferences at Harvard violate federal civil rights law because they overwhelmingly benefit White applicants and disadvantage those who are of color. The complaint came days after the high court struck down race-conscious admissions policies at Harvard and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The landmark ruling on Thursday declared that those policies — a form of affirmative action the court had previously allowed in the interest of assembling a racially diverse student body — violate equal protection guarantees under the Constitution.”

Trump once said a president under felony indictment would grind the government to a halt and create a constitutional crisis, CNN Politics, Andrew Kaczynski and Abby Turner, Monday, 3 July 2023: “Former President Donald Trump said in 2016 that a president under indictment would ‘cripple the operations of our government’ and create an ‘unprecedented constitutional crisis’ – years before he himself was indicted on federal charges while running for a second term as president. Trump made the comments nearly seven years ago about Hillary Clinton during the 2016 presidential campaign. ‘We could very well have a sitting president under felony indictment and ultimately a criminal trial,’ Trump said during a November 5, 2016, campaign rally in Reno, Nevada, reviewed by CNN’s KFile. ‘It would grind government to a halt.'”

Tuesday, 4 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russian and U.S. officials have talked prisoner swap for Gershkovich, The Washington Post, Annabelle Timsit, Bryan Pietsch, Robyn Dixon, and Shera Avi-Yonah, Tuesday, 4 July 2023: “Russian and U.S. officials have discussed a potential prisoner swap that could include detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said, though they ‘don’t want them to be discussed in public.’ Peskov told reporters on a call Tuesday that talks ‘must be carried out and continue in complete silence.’ Russian officials have previously indicated their willingness to discuss swapping U.S.-held prisoners for Gershkovich. Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said in April that such conversations could take place only after Gershkovich’s espionage trial ends. The Journal, Gershkovich and U.S. officials have denied the spying charges and demanded the reporter’s release.

  • Peskov’s comments came a day after the U.S. ambassador to Russia visited Gershkovich in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison. The reporter appeared ‘in good health’ and ‘remains resilient despite the circumstances,’ the U.S. Embassy said. Gershkovich was detained in March. The visit is the second by Ambassador Lynne Tracy since Gershkovich was detained; a Russian court rejected Gershkovich’s appeal last month.
  • The Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant lost connection to its main power line Tuesday morning, forcing it to rely on a recently installed backup power supplies, nuclear power company Energoatom said on Telegram. ‘This time the plant avoided a complete loss of all external power – which has happened seven times previously during the conflict – but the latest power line cut again demonstrates the precarious nuclear safety and security situation at the plant,’ International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said in a statement.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky claimed Russian forces are considering triggering an explosion at the site, which is Europe’s largest nuclear power plant. The Ukrainian army’s strategic command said Tuesday Russia had placed ‘objects similar to explosive devices’ on two of the plant’s power units, alleging Russia intended to detonate them and blame Ukraine for doing so. Renat Karchaa, an adviser to the head of Russia’s state nuclear energy company, accused Ukraine in turn of planning an attack on the plant July 5 using ‘a warhead stuffed with nuclear waste,’ RIA Novosti reported. The allegation echoes repeated Russian claims that Ukraine plans to use radioactive bombs.
  • NATO allies agreed to extend Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg’s term until October 2024, Stoltenberg confirmed Tuesday. This is the fourth extension for Stoltenberg, who has steered the alliance through Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. It comes a week ahead of a NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania. Zelensky and Stoltenberg spoke over the phone following the announcement, the Ukrainian president wrote on Telegram. ‘We coordinated our positions on the eve of the NATO Summit,’ Zelensky wrote. ‘Now is the time for powerful decisions and concrete steps in this direction.’
  • Putin claimed that Russians showed ‘a united front against the attempted armed rebellion.’ He was speaking virtually to leaders of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization, a Eurasian security and development alliance formed in 2001 by Russia, China and other states. Putin also thanked SCO member states ‘who expressed their support for the actions of the Russian leadership’ during Wagner’s mutiny.
  • Zelensky alleged without providing evidence that the Kremlin, via the Georgian government, is trying to kill Mikheil Saakashvili, who was the pro-West president of Georgia during Russia’s 2008 invasion. Saakashvili, who is imprisoned in Georgia on abuse-of-power charges, is a citizen of Ukraine and previously served as governor of Ukraine’s Odessa region. Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, summoned the Georgian ambassador for a ‘tough conversation’ about Saakashvili’s imprisonment, Ukraine’s Foreign Ministry wrote on Telegram. Human Rights Watch says Saakashvili’s trial occurred outside international legal standards.
  • Russian air defenses repelled a drone attack in the Moscow region, Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said on Telegram. Sobyanin said no one was injured and all drones were eliminated. Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport said it restricted landings and takeoffs shortly after 5 a.m. local time ‘for technical reasons beyond the control of the airport,’ and that some flights were rerouted. Flights had resumed their normal schedule by 8 a.m., Sobyanin said.
  • A Russian journalist and a human rights lawyer were attacked in Chechnya, the Novaya Gazeta newspaper said. Novaya Gazeta — which was Russia’s last independent newspaper before it was forced to suspend operations amid a crackdown on coverage of the Ukraine war — said that Alexander Nemov and Elena Milashina were ‘severely’ beaten in Grozny, the Chechen capital. They were on their way to hear the verdict in the trial of Zarema Musayeva, the mother of a Chechen human rights activist, who was abducted by Chechen security agents from her home in Nizhny Novgorod in January. Musayeva’s son, Abubakar Yangulbayev, is an exiled former lawyer for the Committee Against Torture and a critic of Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov. The apparent attack is part of a broader crackdown on any critics of Russian authorities that has gained pace during the war.
  • Zelensky spoke with the president of France, the prime minister of Sweden and NATO’s secretary general ahead of the NATO summit that will take place in Vilnius next week, the Ukrainian president said in his nightly address Tuesday. ‘We have coordinated our steps in the run-up to Vilnius,’ Zelensky said, without detailing those steps. ‘Every day we are adding content to the NATO summit.’

Federal Judge Limits Biden Officials’ Contacts With Social Media Sites. The order came in a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Missouri and Louisiana, who claim the administration is trying to silence its critics. The New York Times, Steven Lee Myers and David McCabe, Tuesday, 4 July 2023: “A federal judge in Louisiana on Tuesday restricted the Biden administration from communicating with social media platforms about broad swaths of content online, a ruling that could curtail efforts to combat false and misleading narratives about the coronavirus pandemic and other issues. The order, which could have significant First Amendment implications, is a major development in a fierce legal fight over the boundaries and limits of speech online. It was a victory for Republicans who have often accused social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and YouTube of disproportionately taking down right-leaning content, sometimes in collaboration with government. Democrats say the platforms have failed to adequately police misinformation and hateful speech, leading to dangerous outcomes, including violence. In the ruling, Judge Terry A. Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana said that parts of the government, including the Department of Health and Human Services and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, could not talk to social media companies for ‘the purpose of urging, encouraging, pressuring, or inducing in any manner the removal, deletion, suppression, or reduction of content containing protected free speech.'” See also, Judge blocks U.S. officials from tech contacts in First Amendment case. The Trump-appointed judge’s move could upend years of efforts to enhance coordination between the government and social media companies. The Washington Post, Cat Zakrzewski, Tuesday, 4 July 2023: “A federal judge on Tuesday blocked key Biden administration agencies and officials from meeting and communicating with social media companies aboutprotected speech,’ in an extraordinary preliminary injunction in an ongoing case that could have profound effects on the First Amendment. The injunction came in response to a lawsuit brought by Republican attorneys general in Louisiana and Missouri, who allege that government officials went too far in their efforts to encourage social media companies to address posts that they worried could contribute to vaccine hesitancy during the pandemic or upend elections. The Donald Trump-appointed judge’s move could undo years of efforts to enhance coordination between the government and social media companies. For more than a decade, the federal government has attempted to work with social media companies to address criminal activity, including child sexual abuse images and terrorism.”


Wednesday, 5 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky calls on Biden to invite Ukraine to NATO; Kyiv and Moscow trade nuclear plant false-flag claims, The Washington Post, Bryan Pietsch, Annabelle Timsit, Eve Sampson, and Sammy Westfall, Wednesday, 5 July 2023: “In an interview with CNN’s Erin Burnett that aired Wednesday evening, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky called on President Biden, whom he called the ‘decision-maker,’ to invite Ukraine into NATO ‘now.’ The Ukrainian leader said he understood that Ukraine would ‘never be in NATO before [the] war finishes,’ but he said even the invitation would motivate soldiers. Earlier Wednesday, Kyiv and Moscow traded allegations that a false-flag attack was looming at the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant in southeastern Ukraine. According to Ukrainian intelligence, Russian troops placed ‘objects resembling explosives’ on the roof of the power plant, Zelensky said in his nightly address. Russia accused Ukraine of planning an attack on the plant Wednesday using ‘a warhead stuffed with nuclear waste,’ the state-owned RIA Novosti news agency reported. The Washington Post could not independently verify the claims.

  • Zelensky said that he would have wanted to launch the Ukrainian counteroffensive ‘much earlier’ but that some areas lacked ‘the relevant weapons.’ While he said he was grateful for other nations’ support, he said he made U.S. and European leaders aware that he had hoped for an earlier start to the counteroffensive. ‘Everyone understood that if the counteroffensive unfolds later, then a bigger part of our territory will be mined,’ Zelensky told CNN. ‘We give our enemy the time and possibility to place more mines and prepare their defensive lines.’
  • Zelensky denied allegations that Ukraine was planning a false-flag attack on the nuclear plant, saying in his nightly address Tuesday that ‘the only source of danger to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant is Russia and no one else.’ On Wednesday, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov warned of ‘sabotage’ by Ukrainians, though he did not provide a basis for the claims. Fighting is ongoing near the plant, where fears of nuclear fallout have heightened in recent weeks. The plant lost connection to its main power line Tuesday morning, forcing it to rely on a recently reinstalled backup power supply, Ukraine’s national nuclear operator, Energoatom, said on Telegram.
  • Biden met with Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson at the White House on Wednesday, ahead of a major NATO summit set to take place in Vilnius, Lithuania, on July 11 and 12.I want to reiterate the United States fully, fully, fully supports Sweden’s membership in NATO. The bottom line is simple: Sweden is going to make our alliance stronger,’ Biden told Kristersson. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has resisted Sweden’s NATO membership — which requires the support of all alliance members — because of what it sees as Sweden’s leniency toward the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party, or PKK, which has waged an insurgency against Turkey.
  • Russian and U.S. officials have had discussions on a potential prisoner swap that could include detained Wall Street Journal reporter Evan Gershkovich, Peskov said Tuesday, though they ‘don’t want them to be discussed in public.’ Russian officials have previously indicated their willingness to discuss swapping U.S.-held prisoners for Gershkovich. On Monday, the U.S. ambassador to Russia visited Gershkovich in Moscow’s Lefortovo prison. The reporter appeared ‘in good health’ and ‘remains resilient despite the circumstances,’ the U.S. Embassy said.
  • A Russian investigative journalist and a human rights lawyer were brutally beaten in Russia’s Chechnya republic as they were en route to a high-profile trial Tuesday. A vehicle blocked their car while they were heading from the airport in the Chechen capital to the courthouse to attend the trial of a mother of exiled opposition activists. A group of masked men beat them and threatened to shoot them, according to rights groups and the journalist’s employer.
  • Canada, Sweden, Ukraine and Britain jointly asked the International Court of Justice to open proceedings against Iran over the 2020 shoot-down of a Ukrainian passenger jetIran shot down the plane in January 2020, killing all 176 passengers. In a statement released Wednesday, the ICJ said the four applicant nations said Iran violated the Montreal Convention, a treaty that deals with civil aviation safety, and also failed to conduct a fair criminal investigation and prosecution.
  • The leaders of Italy and Poland said Ukraine must receive ‘real security guarantees’ to achieve peace. According to Reuters, Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni said during a visit to Warsaw: ‘We are in perfect agreement with Poland on the need for real security guarantees for Ukraine, also because offering real security guarantees to Ukraine is also a key condition for the achievement in the future of a just and long-lasting peace.’ Italy, Poland and other members of NATO will meet next week in Lithuania. Ukrainian officials hope for more clarity on the next steps in their membership bid, but as The Post has reported, member states disagree on the issue.
  • The United Nations said it remains committed to agreements on grain and fertilizer exports from Ukraine and Russia. The Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement among Russia, Ukraine, the United Nations and Turkey to unblock grain exports from Ukraine, is up for renewal on July 17. Rebeca Grynspan, the secretary general of the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development, said the initiative and a memorandum of understanding on Russian food and fertilizer exports are needed to ‘to continue bringing down’ global food prices, Reuters reported. Russia previously suggested it would not renew the Black Sea deal unless it received more help exporting its own grain and fertilizer. On Wednesday, Peskov said that ‘Russia will announce its decision on the grain deal in due time, while there is still time.’
  • The Altai Project, a U.S.-based charity, has been banned in Russia, the Prosecutor General’s Office announced Wednesday. Russian officials said the goals of the organization — the latest in a string of NGOs declared ‘undesirable’ by the Kremlin — include ‘sabotaging the construction of the Power of Siberia-2 gas pipeline,’ a project intended to deliver natural gas from Russia to China through Mongolia. The Altai Project’s self-stated purpose is to preserve nature and assist Indigenous people in Eastern Europe and Eurasia. The organization ‘stands in solidarity’ with Ukraine, according to its website.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Explosions in Lviv in Western Ukraine Injure at Least 4. The city’s mayor said an apartment building had been damaged and that the number of casualties was expected to increase. The New York Times, Wednesday, 5 July 2023:

  • A Russian missile strike kills five people in Lviv.

  • Zelensky said he warned allies the counteroffensive would proceed slowly amid the wait for weapons.

  • The leader of the U.N.’s nuclear watchdog called for greater access to the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant.

  • A defendant died after a blast at a courthouse in Kyiv, officials say.

  • Ukraine strikes Russian-occupied Makiivka, a city with a painful recent history for Moscow.

  • A rabbi’s brush with danger in Ukraine’s flood zone went viral.

More Mar-a-Lago search warrant information released in Trump classified documents case. A less redacted version of the search warrant affidavit indicated officials became concerned after they viewed Mar-a-Lago security video they obtained from Trump’s company. NBC News, Tom Winter and Dareh Gregorian, Wednesday, 5 July 2023: “Federal agents investigating former President Donald Trump‘s connection to classified materials told the judge who signed the search warrant for his Florida estate last year that they were concerned that the whereabouts of some documents were unknown, a new court filing shows. A less redacted version of the search warrant affidavit made public Wednesday indicated that Justice Department officials became concerned after they viewed security camera video from Mar-a-Lago that they’d obtained from Trump’s company. The affidavit said the videos showed a Trump employee — since identified as aide Walt Nauta, a former White House valet — moving boxes out of a storage area where Trump and his lawyers had previously acknowledged having kept classified documents. ‘[T]he current location of the boxes that were removed from the storage room area but not returned to is unknown,’ the affidavit says. Those videos were referred to in the criminal indictment filed against Trump and Nauta last month. The indictment said that in the days before the Justice Department went to recover documents pursuant to a subpoena in June of last year, Nauta removed 64 boxes from the storage room and took them to Trump’s residence at Mar-a-Lago. He took just 30 of the boxes back to the storage room before federal authorities arrived, according to the indictment.” See also, Unredacted document shows Justice Department had video of boxes being moved at Mar-a-Lago before FBI search, CNN Politics, Katelyn Polantz and Devan Cole, Wednesday, 5 July 2023: “The Justice Department has made public more about the significant photographic and video evidence they collected last summer from Mar-a-Lago after the Trump presidency, in a newly released version of the investigative record that supported the FBI search of the resort. While the details match much of what was included in last month’s indictment of Donald Trump and his co-defendant Walt Nauta, the less-redacted search warrant affidavit reveals the extent of what prosecutors knew before asking to search the Florida property for documents or other evidence last summer. The search affidavit, which still has several pages of redactions, describes with more public detail what prosecutors could see on spring 2022 surveillance footage from multiple angles outside a basement storage room where classified documents were kept in boxes at Mar-a-Lago. The affidavit also includes at least one photo of boxes stacked in a room and captures how investigators believed boxes from Trump’s presidency were ‘relocated’ or had been moved around.”

Trump posted what he said was Obama’s address, prosecutors say. An armed man was soon arrested there. Associated Press, Eric Tucker, Wednesday, 5 July 2023: “Former President Donald Trump posted on his social media platform what he claimed was the home address of former President Barack Obama on the same day that a man with guns in his van was arrested near the property, federal prosecutors said Wednesday in revealing new details about the case. Taylor Taranto, 37, who prosecutors say participated in the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, kept two firearms and hundreds of rounds of ammunition inside a van he had driven cross-country and had been living in, according to a Justice Department motion that seeks to keep him behind bars. On the day of his June 29 arrest, prosecutors said, Taranto reposted a Truth Social post from Trump containing what Trump claimed was Obama’s home address. In a post on Telegram, Taranto wrote: ‘We got these losers surrounded! See you in hell, Podesta’s and Obama’s.’ That’s a reference to John Podesta, the former chair of Hillary Clinton’s 2016 Democratic presidential campaign.”


Thursday, 6 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Wagner’s Prigozhin returns to Russia; Rights group urges Washington not to provide Kyiv with cluster munitions, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Adela Suliman, Robyn Dixon, Natalia Abbakumova, Adam Taylor, and Sammy Westfall, Thursday, 6 July 2023: “Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko claimed Thursday that the leader of Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group, Yevgeniy Prigozhin, is no longer in Belarus but in Russia. After Prigozhin staged a failed rebellion against Russian defense officials, Lukashenko said on June 27 that Prigozhin was in Belarus as part of a deal between Moscow and Wagner that Lukashenko claimed to have brokered. Though the Kremlin said it ‘does not follow’ Prigozhin’s movements, and would not comment on his return to Russia, a St. Petersburg businessman, speaking Wednesday on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, confirmed his presence in the country and said authorities had returned funds to him. Human Rights Watch on Thursday called on both Russian and Ukrainian forces to ‘immediately stop’ using cluster munitions, Human Rights Watch said in a statement Thursday, and urged the United States not to transfer them to Ukraine, as Washington is poised to do. The group published new evidence suggesting that Ukrainian forces have injured civilians by use of the widely banned munitions — which Russian forces have used far more extensively, also causing civilian deaths. Cluster munitions, which scatter bomblets, are ‘indiscriminate weapons’ that continue to cause harm long after the end of a conflict, the rights group said.

  • Prigozhin ‘is in St. Petersburg. He is not on the territory of Belarus,’ Lukashenko said in response to a question during a meeting with journalists Thursday, the state-owned BelTA news agency reported.
  • Flight tracking data from Flightradar24 reported that two jets associated with Prigozhin arrived in Belarus on June 27, one from southern Russia and one from St. Petersburg. Another group that tracks military and flight movements in Belarus, the Belarusian Hajun Project, also reported that flight tracking data indicated that the two Prigozhin-linked jets flew back to St. Petersburg later that day. There is no evidence that he was on board.
  • The Kremlin ‘does not follow [Prigozhin’s] movements,’ Russian presidential spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters Thursday after Lukashenko said the Wagner boss was in Russia. ‘We have neither the opportunity nor the desire to do so,’ Peskov said.
  • Lukashenko said an offer still stands for Wagner to station its troops in Belarus, a prospect likely to cause concern to neighboring NATO countries. ‘We offered them several former military camps that were used in the Soviet era,’ he said, according to a transcript released by his office. Without giving specifics, he added that Wagner ‘has a different vision for their placement’ and that the issue of relocating Wagner forces has not yet been resolved.
  • After chairing a meeting Thursday of delegations from Turkey, Finland and Sweden, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said ‘we reaffirmed that Sweden’s membership is within reach’ — but added that ‘there are some unsolved issues.’ Those issues would be worked on over the weekend before they meet again Monday — the day before the 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius, Lithuania begins, he said. ‘Any further delay in Sweden’s membership would be welcomed by the PKK [Kurdistan Workers’ Party] and President Putin,’ he said, adding that Sweden has ‘amended its constitution and introduced new anti-terrorist legislation.”
  • Ankara opposes Sweden’s candidacy over what it sees as the country’s support of the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which Turkey considers a terrorist group. Recently, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan signaled that a Quran-burning protest in Sweden, which was allowed by police, would fuel Ankara’s opposition.
  • Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky traveled to Bulgaria on Thursday to hold ‘substantial talks’ with Prime Minister Nikolai Denkov, he tweeted. He will also meet with government officials and lawmakers to discuss security guarantees and ‘Euro-Atlantic integration’ ahead of NATO’s July 11 summit, he said. Bulgaria has been an ally and supplier of arms to Ukraine during the war.
  • The United States supports Sweden’s membership to NATO, Biden told Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson during a meeting at the White House on Wednesday. Secretary of State Antony Blinken called his Turkish counterpart the same day to urge Turkey’s support on the matter.
  • An ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin was appointed to lead the country’s state news agency, Tass, as Moscow tightens its control over local media. Andrei Kondrashov, a former election spokesman for Putin, will head Russia’s oldest news agency, Reuters reported.
  • Zelensky urged President Biden to invite his country into NATO’s fold ‘now’ during an interview with CNN that aired late Wednesday. Zelensky said an invitation to the bloc would invigorate his forces even if membership happens at a later date. He also blamed a lack of ‘relevant weapons’ for a delayed launch of Ukraine’s counteroffensive operation, which he had hoped to begin ‘much earlier,’ he said.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Lukashenko Says Prigozhin Is in Russia, Not Belarus. The president of Belarus told reporters that the Wagner mercenary leader Yevgeny V. Prigozhin, who led a failed mutiny in Russia, had been in St. Petersburg as of Thursday morning. A Pentagon official said he had been in Russia during most of the time since the mutiny. The New York Times, Thursday, 6 July 2023:

  • Prigozhin is in Russia, Lukashenko says, in contrast with his earlier claims.

  • In his new spotlight, the Belarusian leader could gain leverage.

  • The State Department calls for prompt and transparent investigation of attack against Russian journalist.

  • The U.S. and allies say Russia and Iran are flouting a U.N. resolution over drones used in Ukraine.

  • The NATO chief projects optimism on Sweden joining, but Turkey’s approval remains far from certain.

  • As Turkey blocks Sweden’s NATO bid, resistance to Ankara’s F-16 deal is hardening in Congress.

  • A Russian missile strike kills six people in Lviv.

  • Russian troops put machine gun nests on the roof of the Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant, a Ukrainian official says.

Prosecutors in Trump classified documents case are facing threats. FBI says it is working with partner agencies to assess and respond to threats as classified-documents prosecution moves forward. The Washington Post, Perry Stein and Devlin Barrett, Thursday, 6 July 2023: “Individual prosecutors involved in the classified documents case against former president Donald Trump are facing substantial harassment and threats online and elsewhere, according to extremism experts and a government official familiar with the matter. At the same time, two officials said, federal agencies have not observed a general increase in threats against law enforcement in the weeks since Trump was indicted in South Florida — a sharp contrast from the surge of violent rhetoric in the days after FBI agents searched the former president’s Florida property last August. The officials spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive security issues. The FBI has called threats against law enforcement ‘reprehensible and dangerous,’ and says it is working closely with other law enforcement agencies ‘to assess and respond to such threats.’ Experts in political extremism say organized threats of violence against government institutions are generally down since the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol, in part because people have realized they could face legal consequences for taking action.”


Friday, 7 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Biden says Ukraine is ‘running out of ammunition;’ no NATO invitation for Zelensky at upcoming summit, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Victoria Bisset, Kareem Fahim, Adam Taylor, Eve Sampson, and Karen DeYoung, Friday, 7 July 2023: “The White House has approved the provision to Ukraine of cluster munitions. President Biden’s decision, as reported by The Washington Post, comes amid concerns about the pace of Kyiv’s counteroffensive and dwindling Western stocks of conventional artillery — and after internal debate about the weapons that are banned by most countries. Biden told journalists Friday that he made the decision to send cluster munitions because Ukraine is ‘running out of ammunition.’ ‘Ukraine will not be joining NATO’ at the alliance’s upcoming Vilnius summit, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters at a White House briefing on Friday, despite last minute appeals by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky. The active discussion at the summit, he said, would be on whether Ukraine has ‘moved beyond the need’ for benchmarks it has to meet to qualify for membership. Still, Sullivan said the summit would be ‘an important moment on the pathway toward membership.’

  • Human rights groups criticized the U.S. move on munitions. ‘Cluster munitions are an indiscriminate weapon that presents a grave threat to civilian lives, even long after a conflict has ended,’ Daniel Balson, the advocacy director for Europe and Central Asia at Amnesty International USA, a rights group, said in a statement. Mary Wareham, advocacy director of the arms division of Human Rights Watch, described the U.S. decision as ‘dismaying,’ arguing that removing the 1 percent failure measure would mean ‘an even greater threat to civilians, including de-miners.’
  • Ukraine has provided written assurances it will not use the munitions in civilian areas, where unexploded ‘dud’ bomblets can pose risks for decades to come. The U.S. weapons have a dud rate of 2.35 percent, said Colin Kahl, the Pentagon’s undersecretary for policy. He said it was ‘apples and oranges’ to compare the U.S. supplies to cluster munitions used by Russia with a ’30 to 40 percent’ failure rate that has left millions of unexploded submunitions on the battlefield.
  • More than 120 nations have signed a convention banning cluster munitions, which release smaller submunitions that can remain unexploded and endanger civilians years after a conflict has ended. The United States, Ukraine and Russia — which has allegedly used cluster munitions extensively in Ukraine — are not parties to the convention. Human Rights Watch urged the United States to refrain from sending them and for Russia and Ukraine to ‘immediately stop’ using cluster weapons. German and French officials told reporters their countries have declined to distribute cluster munitions to Ukraine, having made treaty commitments that prohibit them from doing so.
  • The decision to supply cluster munitions bypasses a U.S. law prohibiting the production, use or transfer of cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than 1 percent. A Pentagon spokesman, Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder, said Thursday that the United States will be ‘carefully selecting’ cluster munitions for Ukraine that have a ‘dud’ rate of 2.35 percent or below, referring to the percentage of submunitions each shell carries that would remain unexploded after the shell was fired.
  • ‘We recognize that cluster munitions create a risk of civilian harm from unexploded ordnance. This is why we deferred the decision for as long as we could,’ Sullivan told reporters Friday. ‘But there is also a massive risk of civilian harm if Russian troops and tanks roll over Ukrainian positions and take more Ukrainian territory and subjugate more Ukrainian civilians.’ In news briefings, Sullivan and Kahl said Biden’s decision to supply the controversial cluster weapons was unanimously recommended by his top national security advisers.
  • NATO does ‘not have a position on the convention on cluster munitions, because a number of allies have signed the convention and a number of allies have not signed the convention. And it is for individual allies to make decisions on the delivery of weapons and military supplies to Ukraine,’ Jens Stoltenberg, the alliance’s secretary general, said in a statement.
  • Some lawmakers in the U.S. also criticized the choice to supply cluster munitions to Ukraine. ‘I strongly oppose the Administration’s decision to provide cluster munitions,’ tweeted Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D-Pa.). ‘I challenge the notion that we should employ the same tactics Russia is using.’ Last month, Reps. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act intended to bar the transfer of U.S. cluster munitions.
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed support for Ukraine joining NATO, Zelensky said. In a statement released early Saturday, the Ukrainian leader said he was ‘glad to hear’ Erdogan say that ‘Ukraine deserves to become a member of NATO.’ Erdogan made the comment at a joint news conference with Zelensky in Istanbul, the Associated Press reported. Zelensky has been visiting NATO member states ahead of the alliance’s summit in Lithuania next week.
  • Questions remain about the agreement under which the militia leader at the helm of a failed rebellion against Russian defense officials avoided insurgency charges. Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko said Thursday that Yevgeniy Prigozhin, chief of the mercenary Wagner Group, was in Russia. A St. Petersburg businessman, speaking on the condition of anonymity for fear of reprisal, confirmed Prigozhin’s presence in the country and said money and weapons seized by Russian authorities were returned to him, The Post reported.
  • Sullivan responded Friday to reports that former U.S. officials affiliated with the Council on Foreign Relations, a think tank, had held talks with Russia’s foreign minister, Sergei Lavrov. Sullivan denied that such talks had served any diplomatic purpose, even indirectly. ‘My understanding is there was a meeting at the Council on Foreign Relations with the foreign minister of Russia,’ he said. ‘That meeting did not include participation from the United States government. The United States government did not pass messages through that meeting.’
  • Sullivan met Friday with family members and Wall Street Journal colleagues of U.S. journalist Evan Gershkovich, to mark his 100th day of detention in Russia on espionage charges that he, his representatives and rights groups unequivocally deny. The United States considers him to be wrongfully detained.
  • The European Union has moved toward a deal to use $544 million from its budget to ramp up production of ammunition and missiles. The E.U. presidency announced early Friday that the E.U. Council, representing member states, and the E.U. Parliament have reached a provisional agreement likely to be ratified and come into force by the end of July. The deal forms one part of an E.U. plan announced in March to boost ammunition production for Ukraine.
  • Ukraine has formally asked to join a transpacific trade pact, Japanese and New Zealand authorities said Friday, according to the Reuters news agency. A New Zealand Foreign Ministry spokesperson said the country received Ukraine’s request to join the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership in May, with the next steps in the application process to be determined during the body’s next meeting later this month. Other members of the pact include Britain, which agreed to join earlier this year, Mexico and Australia.
  • The Czech Republic pledged to send more attack helicopters and large-caliber ammunition to Ukraine, Prime Minister Petr Fiala tweeted Friday as Zelensky visited the NATO member state. Fiala said his country will also provide Ukraine with further pilot training, including for F-16 fighter jets. Their meeting came a day after Zelensky visited Bulgaria, another member of the bloc, ahead of next week’s NATO summit.
  • Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, said that ‘we reaffirmed that Sweden’s membership is within reach’ after a meeting Thursday of Turkish, Finnish and Swedish delegations. But he added that some ‘unsolved issues’ will be worked on ahead of another meeting Monday, the day before the NATO summit begins in Lithuania. Turkey has opposed Sweden’s NATO bid over what Ankara sees as Stockholm’s support for the Kurdistan Workers’ Party, which it considers a terrorist group.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Erdogan Expresses Support for Ukraine’s NATO Bid. After President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine paid a visit to Istanbul, the Turkish leader also said he would work to help extend the Black Sea grain deal for longer intervals. The New York Times, Friday, 7 July 2023:

  • With Zelensky at his side, Erdogan says Ukraine ‘deserves NATO membership.’

  • U.S. confirms talks with Russia on prisoner swap for Evan Gershkovich, but tempers expectations.

  • Biden defended the ‘difficult’ decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine.

  • Democrats denounce Biden’s decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine.

  • Here is why cluster munitions are controversial.

  • A Belarusian military base has hundreds of tents, but no Wagner fighters.

John F. Kelly, Trump’s Second White House Chief of Staff, Said in a Sworn Statement That Trump Discussed Having the I.R.S. (Internal Revenue Service) and Other Federal Agencies Investigate Two F.B.I. Officials Involved in the Investigation Into His Campaign’s Ties to Russia, The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt, Friday, 7 July 2023: “Mr. Kelly said that his recollection of Mr. Trump’s comments to him was based on notes that he had taken at the time in 2018. Mr. Kelly provided copies of his notes to lawyers for one of the F.B.I. officials, who made the sworn statement public in a court filing. ‘President Trump questioned whether investigations by the Internal Revenue Service or other federal agencies should be undertaken into Mr. Strzok and/or Ms. Page,’ Mr. Kelly said in the statement. ‘I do not know of President Trump ordering such an investigation. It appeared, however, that he wanted to see Mr. Strzok and Ms. Page investigated.’ Mr. Kelly’s assertions were disclosed on Thursday in a statement that was filed in connection with lawsuits brought by Peter Strzok, who was the lead agent in the F.B.I.’s Russia investigation, and Lisa Page, a former lawyer in the bureau, against the Justice Department for violating their privacy rights when the Trump administration made public text messages between them. The disclosures from Mr. Kelly, made under penalty of perjury, demonstrate the extent of Mr. Trump’s interest in harnessing the law enforcement and investigative powers of the federal government to target his perceived enemies. In the aftermath of Richard M. Nixon’s presidency, Congress made it illegal for a president to ‘directly or indirectly’ order an I.R.S. investigation or audit. The New York Times reported last July that two of Mr. Trump’s greatest perceived enemies — James B. Comey, whom he fired as F.B.I. director, and Mr. Comey’s deputy, Andrew G. McCabe — were the subject of the same type of highly unusual and invasive I.R.S. audit.”

Disciplinary panel calls for Rudy Giuliani’s disbarment. His ultimate disbarment or other penalty would be decided by the D.C. Court of Appeals. Politico, Kyle Cheney and Josh Gerstein, Friday, 7 July 2023: “A Washington, D.C.-based bar discipline committee concluded Friday that Rudy Giuliani should be disbarred for ‘frivolous’ and ‘destructive’ efforts to derail the 2020 presidential election in support of former President Donald Trump. ‘He claimed massive election fraud but had no evidence of it,’ the three-member panel declared in a 38-page decision. ‘By prosecuting that destructive case Mr. Giuliani, a sworn officer of the Court, forfeited his right to practice law.’ The committee tasked with reviewing Giuliani’s conduct consisted of two D.C. attorneys and one D.C. resident who is not a lawyer. The members deliberated for months after a weekslong series of hearings that featured testimony from Giuliani and several of his close associates. Trump waived attorney-client privilege to permit Giuliani to discuss the matters as well.” See also, D.C. Court of Appeals committee recommends Rudy Giuliani be disbarred. The committee found Giuliani’s challenges to the 2020 election results were ‘utterly false’ and ‘recklessly so’; D.C. Court of Appeals will make a final decision. The Washington Post, Keith L. Alexander, Friday, 7 July 2023: “A D.C. Court of Appeals committee that oversees attorney conduct recommended Friday that Rudy Giuliani, the former New York mayor and personal attorney to former president Donald Trump, be disbarred, determining he should not be allowed to practice law in the nation’s capital because of his attempt to block the results in the 2020 presidential election in Pennsylvania. The finding by the Ad Hoc Hearing Committee for the D.C. Board on Professional Responsibility follows lengthy hearings in December, in which Giuliani vehemently defended his decision to challenge the election results based on information that he said he had received at the time. ‘He claimed massive election fraud but had no evidence of it,’ the three-person committee determined. ‘By prosecuting that destructive case, Mr. Giuliani, a sworn officer of the court, forfeited his right to practice law. He should be disbarred.'”

Exclusive: Special counsel prosecutors question witnesses about chaotic Oval Office meeting after Trump lost the 2020 election, CNN Politics, Kaitlan Collins, Zachary Cohen, Paula Reid, Sara Murray, and Katelyn Polantz, Friday, 7 July 2023: “Special counsel Jack Smith’s team has signaled a continued interest in a chaotic Oval Office meeting that took place in the final days of the Trump administration, during which the former president considered some of the most desperate proposals to keep him in power over objections from his White House counsel. Multiple sources told CNN that investigators have asked several witnesses before the grand jury and during interviews about the meeting, which happened about six weeks after Donald Trump lost the 2020 election. Some witnesses were asked about the meeting months ago, while several others have faced questions about it more recently, including Rudy Giuliani. Last month, for two consecutive days, Giuliani sat down with investigators for a voluntary interview about a range of topics, including the tumultuous December 2020 meeting that he attended, sources said.”


Saturday, 8 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky uses Snake Island to mark 500 days of war; nations oppose Biden’s cluster munitions shipment, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Victoria Bisset, David L. Stern, Shera Avi-Yonah, and Andrea Salcedo, Saturday, 8 July 2023: “As Russia’s war in Ukraine reaches 500 days, Zelensky used Snake Island to rally Ukrainians. ‘I want to thank this place, a place of victory, every one of our fighters for these five hundred days,’ he said in a video posted early Saturday that showed him at the island, a small speck of land that to many Ukrainians has come to symbolize their resistance against Russia’s invasion. Britain joined Germany in distancing itself from the U.S. decision to supply Ukraine with cluster munitions on Saturday, as Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov tweeted a clarification and assurances about Ukraine’s use of the controversial weapons. Canada also opposed the shipment, saying it is committed to ending the use of such weapons. President Biden defended the move to supply Kyiv with cluster munitions on Friday, telling reporters that Ukraine is ‘running out of ammunition.’

  • In the undated video, Zelensky described Snake Island as ‘proof that Ukraine will regain every bit of its territory.’ The island was captured by Russian forces in the early days of the war — with its Ukrainian border guards responding to demands they surrender with profanity. The moment was hailed as a rallying moment in Ukraine’s defense — and Russia’s withdrawal a few months later was seen as a symbolic victory for Kyiv. Zelensky regularly publishes videos as part of his messaging efforts and has previously released similar videos, often self-shot, to rally Ukrainians during key milestones of the war.
  • Reznikov said Ukraine would not use cluster munitions in urban areas and would keep strict records of their use. The munitions would save the lives of Ukrainian soldiers and would not be used within Russia’s borders, he added.
  • Ukrainian troops have ‘trapped’ Russian forces in the eastern town of Bakhmut, Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Saturday, as she also acknowledged 500 days of war. Maliar said Ukrainian forces had advanced more than one kilometer (0.6 miles) to the south of the town, which fell to Russian control in May after months of bloody fighting, while British Defense Ministry said in its daily update Saturday that Ukraine had made ‘steady gains to both the north and south’ of the city.
  • Russia’s ambassador to the United States said that the weapons allotment was a ‘gesture of despair’ and that American involvement will ‘only lead to more casualties and prolong the agony of the Kiev regime.’ ‘Washington has ignored the negative opinions of its allies regarding the perils of the use of indiscriminate cluster munitions,’ Ambassador Anatoly Antonov posted Friday on Telegram.
  • European officials said they would not be sending such weapons to Ukraine. Britain’s Prime Minister Rishi Sunak and German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock, when asked by reporters about the U.S. decision, stressed that their countries are among the more than 120 nations that signed a treaty banning the use, stockpiling, production and transfer of cluster munitions. The United States, Ukraine and Russia are not parties to the treaty. Spanish foreign minister Margarita Robles took a firmer line, telling reporters ‘no to cluster bombs and yes to the legitimate defense of Ukraine, which we understand should not be carried out with cluster bombs,’ she said, per the BBC.
  • Canada also opposed the U.S. shipment of cluster munitions, John Babcock, a spokesman for Global Affairs Canada, said in an email to The Post. Babcock cited the international treaty prohibiting the weapons, which Canada is a party to, though the United States is not. ‘We do not support the use of cluster munitions and are committed to putting an end to the effects cluster munitions have on civilians — particularly children,’ Babcock said.
  • Human rights groups criticized the U.S. move on cluster munitions, describing the weapons, which can leave behind unexploded ordnance that can kill years after a conflict ends, as a ‘grave threat to civilian lives’ that ‘would inevitably cause long-term suffering.’
  • Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan expressed support for Ukraine’s NATO bid on Friday, telling reporters: ‘There is no doubt that Ukraine deserves NATO membership.’ Turkey has maintained a complicated balancing act during the conflict — supporting Ukraine but also being reluctant to support Western sanctions on Russia, while helping to broker agreements to export Ukrainian grain. Turkey is also holding up Sweden’s bid to join the NATO alliance, saying it is unhappy with Stockholm’s treatment of what it calls Kurdish militants.
  • Despite Zelensky’s last-minute appeals, ‘Ukraine will not be joining NATO’ at the alliance’s upcoming summit in Lithuania, Sullivan said at a briefing on Friday. However, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said separately that he expects the bloc’s leaders to reaffirm at the summit ‘that Ukraine will become a member of NATO’ and ‘unite on how to bring Ukraine closer to its goal.’
  • The U.N. aid chief said the Black Sea grain deal, which Russia has threatened to abandon, ‘isn’t something you chuck away,’ while speaking to reporters Friday. The deal has facilitated the export of millions of tons of grain and foodstuffs supporting global food security, according to the United Nations, and is set to expire in mid-July unless it is renewed. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres reiterated the ‘importance of full and continued implementation of the agreements’ in a statement released Friday.
  • Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, met Friday with Evan Gershkovich’s family members and Wall Street Journal colleagues to mark the U.S. journalist’s 100th day of detention in Russia. Gershkovich is being held on espionage charges that he, his employer and rights groups unequivocally deny, and the United States considers him to be wrongfully detained.

With Trump in trouble, Republicans step up assault on the Department of Justice and the FBI. Critics say the Republican party that touted its law and order credentials is now intent on wrecking institutions that get in Donald Trump’s way. The Guardian, David Smith, Saturday, 8 July 2023: “When Merrick Garland was nominated to the US supreme court by Barack Obama, Republicans refused to grant him a hearing. Now that Garland is the top law enforcement official in America, the party seems ready to give him one after all – an impeachment hearing. Republicans on Capitol Hill are moving up a gear in a wide-ranging assault on the justice department and the Federal Bureau of Investigation that would have been unthinkable before the rise of Donald Trump. The party that for half a century claimed the mantle of law and order has, critics say, become a cult of personality intent on discrediting and dismantling institutions that get in Trump’s way.”


Sunday, 9 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Biden tells CNN before NATO summit that Ukraine joining NATO is ‘premature,’ The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Leo Sands, Nick Parker, and Shera Avi-Yonah, Sunday, 9 July 2023: “President Biden said in an interview that aired Sunday that Ukraine should not join NATO before its war with Russia ends, calling a membership vote ‘premature.’ Some members of the defense alliance, including the United States and Germany, have opposed admitting Ukraine while the war is ongoing, warning that doing so would instantly draw NATO in as well. Biden told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria that members lack the required ‘unanimity’ as to whether to allow Ukraine to join. NATO member states will meet in Vilnius, Lithuania, this week, with Ukraine’s candidacy and Sweden’s blocked bid to join the military alliance expected to dominate the agenda. Biden heads to Europe on Monday, and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky told ABC’s ‘This Week’ that he plans to be in Vilnius.

  • Biden said he wants to lay out a ‘rational path’ for Ukraine to join NATO. He cited increased democratization as a bar Ukraine probably would need to meet, in addition to issues the ongoing war presents. He reiterated his commitment to protecting ‘every inch of territory that is NATO territory,’ which would practically put members ‘at war with Russia’ if Ukraine were to join.
  • Biden faces the challenge of uniting allies at this week’s NATO summit, where divisions are mounting over the Ukraine war. In addition to questions over the expansion of the alliance, Ukraine’s demand for an invitation and Turkey’s resistance to Sweden’s membership bid, Biden is also likely to face tensions over the U.S. decision to supply cluster munitions to Ukraine — which has also been criticized by figures within his own party.
  • Zelensky plans to go to the summit and try to ‘expedite’ Ukraine’s desired accession to NATO, he told ABC News in an interview that aired Sunday. And Ukraine ‘should get clear security guarantees’ even while it is not part of the defense alliance, he said.
  • Biden and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan discussed Turkey’s resistance to Sweden joining NATO in a Sunday phone call, the Turkish state media Anadolu Agency reported. Turkey opposes Sweden’s bid because of its view that the Nordic nation has a soft touch with protesters who have burnt Qurans, among other issues. Biden, who supports Sweden’s accession, and Erdogan also discussed Turkey’s efforts to join the European Union and agreed to meet one-on-one during this week’s summit.
  • The leaders of Britain, Germany and Spain said they would not send cluster munitions to Ukraine, distancing themselves from the U.S. decision. Canada also opposes the move, an official told The Washington Post, citing an international treaty prohibiting their use and transfer. The United States, Ukraine and Russia are not signatories to the treaty.
  • Some Democratic lawmakers criticized the decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine. Rep. Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), who is also running for Senate, said the United States would ‘risk losing our moral leadership’ by facilitating the weapon’s use in Ukraine. ‘When you look at the fact that over 120 countries have signed the convention on cluster munitions, saying they should never be used, they should never be used,’ Lee said on CNN’s ‘State of the Union.’ ‘This is a line that I don’t believe we should cross.’ Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.) and former senator Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) also opposed the decision in a Washington Post opinion article Friday.
  • U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Sunday that the dud rate on U.S.-supplied cluster munitions is low and promised assistance with demining ‘when war conditions permit.’ Speaking to ABC anchor Martha Raddatz, Kirby argued that Russia has already used cluster munitions in Ukraine, ‘in an aggressive war on another country, and indiscriminately killing civilians,’ while the Ukrainians ‘will be using them to defend their own territory.’ The Russian embassy in the U.S. called the decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine a war crime late Sunday in a Telegram message.
  • Moscow accused Kyiv and Ankara of violating a prisoner exchange agreement after five commanders from Ukraine’s Azov Brigade returned to Ukraine from Turkey, where they had been held after being freed from Russian captivity. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told Russian state news agency RIA Novosti that neither Turkey nor Ukraine consulted Russia about the transfer. Zelensky’s office said he accompanied the men from an Istanbul airport back to Ukraine after a state visit to Turkey.
  • Ukraine hailed Turkey’s facilitation of the release of the Azov Brigade commanders, who defended a steel plant in the southern port city of Mariupol last year during a nearly three-month siege. Peskov, however, said Saturday that the release breached the terms of an agreement.
  • After Russia captured the Azov Brigade commanders in spring 2022, they were transferred to Turkey as part of a prisoner swap. Zelensky said at the time that they would stay there until the end of the war. The Azov Brigade is one of Ukraine’s most adept military units. Formerly an independent, far-right militia with ultranationalist roots, it was designated by Russia as a terrorist group in 2022.
  • Polish President Andrzej Duda made an unannounced visit to the western Ukrainian city of Lutsk on Sunday, where alongside Zelensky he commemorated the 80th anniversary of anti-Polish massacres, according to his office. The Volhynia massacres — in which Warsaw estimates 100,000 Poles were killed by Ukrainian nationalists — have strained ties between the countries since World War II. Sunday’s joint service underlines how Russia’s invasion has pushed neighboring countries to directly address old wounds, bringing them closer. Poland has been a major hub for the delivery of aid to Ukraine during the war.
  • Portugal supports Ukraine’s NATO candidacy, the two countries said in a statement Saturday, after a phone call between their leaders. Portugal has provided substantial military aid to Ukraine independently and through the European Union initiative. In March, Portugal delivered three Leopard battle tanks to Ukraine.

Where Clarence Thomas Entered an Elite Circle and Opened a Door to the Supreme Court. The exclusive Horatio Alger Association Brought the justice access to wealthy members and unreported V.I.P. treatment. He, in turn, offered another kind of access. The New York Times, Abbie Van Sickle and Steve Eder, Saturday, 9 July 2023: “On Oct. 15, 1991, Clarence Thomas secured his seat on the Supreme Court, a narrow victory after a bruising confirmation fight that left him isolated and disillusioned. Within months, the new justice enjoyed a far-warmer acceptance to a second exclusive club: the Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, named for the Gilded Age author whose rags-to-riches novels represented an aspirational version of Justice Thomas’s own bootstraps origin story…. In recent months, Justice Thomas has faced scrutiny over new revelations by ProPublica of his relationship to Harlan Crow, the Texas billionaire, whose largess over more than two decades has included vacations on a superyacht, private school tuition for the great-nephew the justice was raising, and the purchase of his mother’s Savannah, Ga., home. None of this was reported by the justice, and the revelations have renewed calls for tighter Supreme Court ethics rules. But a look at his tenure at the Horatio Alger Association, based on more than two dozen interviews and a review of public filings and internal documents, shows that Justice Thomas has received benefits — many of them previously unreported — from a broader cohort of wealthy and powerful friends. They have included major donors to conservative causes with broad policy and political interests and much at stake in Supreme Court decisions, even if they were not directly involved in the cases.” See also, What to know about the Horatio Alger Association and Justice Thomas, The Washington Post, Brittany Shammas, Sunday, 9 July 2023: “An exclusive circle of wealthy, powerful Americans is in the spotlight after a New York Times report showed how Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas has benefited from being a member. The Horatio Alger Association of Distinguished Americans, an Alexandria, Va.-based nonprofit organization, has counted the justice as a member for three decades. The New York Times reported that he has called it ‘a home to Virginia and me,’ referring to his wife, and said it ‘has allowed me to see my dreams come true.'”

Six reasons why Moms for Liberty is an extremist organization, The Hill, Glenn C. Altschuler, Sunday, 9 July 2023: “The group Moms for Liberty was started in 2021 by Tina Descovich, Tiffany Justice and Bridget Ziegler, three current or former school board members in Brevard County, Fla. Initially focused on mask mandates and other COVID-19 restrictions in schools, the organization is now ‘dedicated to fighting for the survival of America by unifying, educating, and empowering parents to defend their parental rights at all levels of government.’ In just two-and-a-half years, Moms for Liberty has grown to 285 chapters and well over 100,000 members in 45 states. In 2022, more than half of the 500 candidates endorsed by the organization were elected to school boards. In a nod to Moms for Liberty’s status as a major player in the war against so-called ‘woke’ instruction related to gender identity, sexuality, race and racism, the leading contenders for the Republican presidential nomination spoke at its annual summit in Philadelphia last week. In June, the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) branded Moms for Liberty an ‘extremist’ organization. The SPLC emphasizes that in contrast to the relatively mild agenda on its website, Moms for Liberty’s social media posts, policies and practices target teachers, school officials and the U.S. Department of Education; advance conspiracy theories; and spread ‘hateful imagery and rhetoric against the LGBTQ community.’ The American Historical Association has condemned the group’s advocacy of censorship and legislation ‘that renders it impossible for historians to teach with professional integrity without risking job loss and other penalties.'”


Monday, 10 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Turkey agrees to Sweden NATO admission; Putin met with Wagner chief Prigozhin after rebellion, The Washington Post, Mary Ilyushina, Leo Sands, Lyric Li, Kareem Fahim, and Sammy Westfall, Monday, 10 July 2023: “Turkey on Monday agreed to admit Sweden to NATO, the alliance’s secretary general said, dropping months of opposition. The move came on the eve of a NATO summit in Lithuania. President Biden arrived in Lithuania on Monday for the talks, after a stop in Britain — part of a trip focused in part on rallying the support of U.S. allies for Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky is set to attend the summit. Later this week, Biden is set to visit Finland, which recently joined the alliance. Russian President Vladimir Putin met with Wagner Group chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin in Moscow five days after his failed mutiny, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said at a news conference Monday. The three-hour meeting on June 29 between the two men — once close allies — was called by Putin and attended by other Wagner commanders as well, Peskov said. At the meeting, Putin shared his assessment of ‘the events of June 24,’ Peskov said, referring to Wagner’s failed mutiny that took aim at Russian defense officials and threatened Putin’s grip on power. Peskov did not give any further details of Putin’s assessment.

  • ‘President Erdogan has agreed to forward the Accession Protocol for Sweden to the Grand National Assembly as soon as possible and work closely with the assembly to ensure ratification,’ Jens Stoltenberg, NATO’s secretary general, said in surprise remarks late Monday after meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Swedish Prime Minister Ulf Kristersson. Earlier in the day, Erdogan had appeared to connect progress for Sweden’s NATO bid to progress on Turkey’s stalled European Union membership push.
  • Also Monday, Biden met with Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Downing Street and with King Charles III at Windsor Castle.
  • Biden said that a NATO membership vote for Ukraine would be ‘premature’ while the war with Russia is ongoing, citing disagreement among NATO members, and called for a ‘rational path’ for Ukraine to join the bloc. To bring Ukraine into the alliance now, he said, would instantly draw NATO into the war with Russia. ‘I think we have to lay out a rational path for Ukraine to be able to qualify to be able to get into NATO,’ he told CNN’s Fareed Zakaria in an interview. On Monday, Peskov reiterated Moscow’s opposition to the prospect. ‘Ukraine will become a threat to our country, which will require an understandable and firm response,’ he said.
  • Wagner commanders pledged their loyalty to Putin at their meeting with him after the June 24 rebellion, according to Peskov. ‘The commanders themselves presented their version of what had happened,’ Peskov said. He added that Putin listened and offered them ’employment options,’ without specifying what they entailed and whether they were extended to Prigozhin. The Wagner chief’s future is unclear after the rebellion last month: Last week, Prigozhin returned to Russia to collect money and guns, suggesting the failure of his mutiny attempt may not have cost him all his remaining leverage.
  • Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has fundamentally altered relations between Russia and the West, Stoltenberg, the NATO secretary general, wrote in a Foreign Affairs article published Monday.Putin’s war of aggression against Ukraine has shattered any remaining illusions of peaceful cooperation,’ he wrote. He also hailed NATO’s recent expansion to include Finland, saying: ‘This is a game-changer for European security and will provide an uninterrupted shield from the Baltic to the Black Sea.’
  • Views of Putin are at an all-time low in some countries, while views of Zelensky are mixed, a new Pew Research Center poll of 24 countries found. A median of 87 percent of respondents had no confidence in Putin to do the right thing regarding world affairs. When asked the same question about Zelensky, about 4-in-10 said they had no confidence in his leadership. But results varied drastically among nations — confidence in Zelensky ranged from 86 percent in Sweden to 11 percent in Hungary.
  • Secretary of State Antony Blinken said on Twitter that he had ‘an important discussion’ with Ukraine’s foreign minister, Dmytro Kuleba, ahead of the NATO summit, and that he was looking forward to talks there on continued NATO support for Ukraine.
  • Wimbledon crowds booed Belarusian tennis player Victoria Azarenka after she lost to her Ukrainian opponent, Elina Svitolina. The boos appeared to focus on the pair not shaking hands after the match, in line with the policy of Ukrainian players in protest of the war. The tennis tournament welcomed back Russian and Belarusian players this year, after banning them in 2022.
  • Ten Ukrainian national police officers have traveled to Tokyo to be trained on identifying bodies of people killed in the war. The Ukrainian senior officers will work alongside and learn from Japanese officers who identified thousands of bodies after the 9.0-magnitude earthquake and tsunami of 2011, the National Police of Ukraine said on Telegram. The Japan Times reported that the officers are set to learn about mass autopsy procedures and specimen collection and DNA analysis.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Turkey Agrees to Support Sweden’s NATO Bid, Clearing Main Obstacle. The decision clears the way for Sweden to join the defense alliance, a move that had been held up by Turkey’s demands. The New York Times, Monday, 10 July 2023:

  • Turkey’s decision was a rapid reversal.

  • Putin and Prigozhin held a meeting in June, their first known contact since the mutiny.

  • Prigozhin’s status, and whereabouts, have remained a mystery since the failed mutiny.

  • A Russian strike on a frontline town in southern Ukraine kills seven.

  • Biden meets with Sunak, with the war on the agenda.

  • Ukraine Diary: One of Kyiv’s oldest gardens brings peace to the war-weary.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: NATO meets as Russia’s war blows past 500 days, NPR, Alex Leff, Monday, 10 July 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: President Biden and NATO allies will gather for the alliance’s summit in Lithuania starting Tuesday, and the war in Ukraine is due to dominate. Sweden’s pending entry to NATO and a possible pathway for Ukrainian membership — or not — have also been big issues in the lead-up to the gathering. A deal brokered by the United Nations and Turkey to enable Ukrainian grain and other farm goods to ship safely from Black Sea ports is due to expire next week, July 17. Russia has again threatened to back out of the deal if its own trade terms aren’t met. What happened: Russian President Vladimir Putin held talks with Yevgeny Prigozhin and other leadership from the Wagner Group mercenary force, the Kremlin said. They spoke just five days after Wagner’s rebellion against Russia’s defense leadership. It remains unclear what role Wagner could play in the war in Ukraine. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelenskyy marked the 500th day of the war with Russia over the weekend, issuing a video filmed on Snake Island, where he honored the troops defending his country. He also announced five commanders of a renowned unit that fought in the city of Mariupol who had been captured would be coming home. U.S. reporter Evan Gershkovich passed the 100-day mark in Russian detention. Emma Tucker, editor-in-chief of The Wall Street Journal, his employer, told NPR he remains in good health and relatively good spirits. The U.S. is giving Ukraine controversial cluster bombs to target dug-in Russian forces. Both Ukraine and Russia have been using cluster munitions, which are banned by over 120 countries because of their immediate and longer-term danger to civilians. Wagner Group mercenary boss Yevgeny Prigozhin was allegedly back in Russia, according to the autocratic leader of Belarus, which is the country where the Kremlin had said Prigozhin would be headed after his mutiny attempt. Ukraine said Russian forces placed devices resembling explosives on the roofs of nuclear reactors they control in Ukraine. Russia also accused Ukraine of planning attacks against the plant. President Biden welcomed Sweden’s prime minister to the White House in a show of support for the Nordic country’s entry into NATO, ahead of the alliance’s summit this week.”

U.S. Attorney David Weiss says he has not requested special counsel status as part of the years-long investigation to Hunter Biden, Weiss’ disclosure contradicts claimed by an IRS whistleblower. Politico, Monday, 10 July 2023: “U.S. Attorney David Weiss says he has not requested special counsel status as part of the years-long investigation into HunterBiden. ‘To clarify an apparent misperception and to avoid future confusion, I wish to make one point clear; in this case, I have not requested Special Counsel designation pursuant to’ the statute for appointing a special counsel. Weiss wrote in the letter to Senator Lindsey Graham, first obtained by POLITICO. The disclosure from Weiss came in response to a letter from Graham, the Judiciary Committee’s ranking member. The South Carolina Republican had sent Weiss a letter late last month requesting information about whistleblower allegations that he was denied special counsel status.” See also, Prosecutor Rebuts I.R.S. Official’s Account of Request in Hunter Biden Case. David Weiss, the U.S. attorney in Delaware, said he never asked to be named a special counsel, disputing testimony to a House panel. The New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Monday, 10 July 2023: “David C. Weiss, the federal prosecutor in Delaware who has led the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden, on Monday rebutted a key element of testimony to Congress by an Internal Revenue Service official who said that Mr. Weiss complained about being blocked from pursuing the case the way he wanted. In a letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee, Mr. Weiss said that he had never asked Justice Department officials to give him special counsel status to pursue the case, contradicting testimony to the House Ways and Means Committee by the I.R.S. official, Gary Shapley, who said Mr. Weiss had sought that status and been turned down.”


Tuesday, 11 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: NATO says it will invite Ukraine to join when ‘conditions are met; Zelensky calls lack of timeline ‘absurd,’ The Washington Post, Emily Rauhala, Michael Birnbaum, Meryl Kornfield, Toluse Olorunnipa, Niha Masih, Annabelle Timsit, Adam Taylor, and Sammy Westfall, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “NATO leaders would invite Ukraine to join the military alliance ‘when the Allies agree and conditions are met,’ NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg told reporters Tuesday as NATO begins its annual summit in this Baltic nation [Lithuania]. Stoltenberg’s comments came after Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky had criticized NATO leaders. In a tweet, he said, ‘wording is being discussed without Ukraine’ that gives little clarity on his country’s prospects for joining the bloc, in apparent reference to draft text that had been circulated. Kyiv wants specific pledges on when and how it can join the defense alliance.

  • Though Stoltenberg said Tuesday that NATO was ‘sending a message to Ukraine, which is stronger than any message NATO has ever sent before, on membership for Ukraine,’ Zelensky said any language that did not include a time frame for Ukraine becoming a member of NATO would be ‘absurd.’
  • The U.S. delegation was furious with Zelensky’s tweet, according to a person familiar with the situation who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive diplomatic considerations.
  • President Biden will meet with Zelensky at the summit, White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters Tuesday.
  • In a boost to the alliance, Turkey dropped its opposition to Sweden’s NATO membership bid on the eve of the summit, paving the path for Stockholm’s eventual inclusion as the bloc’s 32nd member state. ‘This summit is already historic before it has started,’ Stoltenberg said early Tuesday. 

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: NATO Says It Will Invite Ukraine to Join When ‘Conditions Are Met.’ NATO leaders said there would be a periodic review of Ukraine’s progress toward reaching the alliance’s standards on democracy and military integration. President Volodymyr Zelensky called for a firmer timeline before arriving in Lithuania for NATO’s summit. The New York Times, Steven Erlanger and Cassandra Vinograd, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “NATO leaders agreed in a joint statement to offer Ukraine an invitation to join, but remained vague on how and when, wording that essentially marked a victory for President Biden, who said before the summit that Ukraine was not ready to be a member. The alliance’s leaders, meeting at a summit in Vilnius, Lithuania, had struggled to agree on language about how to describe a timeline and conditions for what everyone agrees will be Ukraine’s eventual membership in NATO.”

Trump Lawyers Seek Indefinite Postponement of Documents Trial. The former president’s legal team argued in a court filing that no trial date should be set until all ‘substantive motions’ in the case were resolved, setting up an early key decision by Judge Aileen M. Cannon. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Maggie Haberman, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump asked a federal judge on Monday night to indefinitely postpone his trial on charges of illegally retaining classified documents after he left office, saying that the proceeding should not begin until all ‘substantive motions’ in the case had been presented and decided. The written filing — submitted 30 minutes before its deadline of midnight on Tuesday — presents a significant early test for Judge Aileen M. Cannon, the Trump-appointed jurist who is overseeing the case. If granted, it could have the effect of pushing Mr. Trump’s trial into the final stages of the presidential campaign in which he is now the Republican front-runner or even past the 2024 election. While timing is important in any criminal matter, it could be hugely consequential in Mr. Trump’s case, in which he stands accused of illegally holding on to 31 classified documents after leaving the White House and obstructing the government’s repeated efforts to reclaim them. There could be complications of a sort never before presented to a court if Mr. Trump is a candidate in the last legs of a presidential campaign and a federal criminal defendant on trial at the same time. If the trial is pushed back until after the election and Mr. Trump wins, he could try to pardon himself after taking office or have his attorney general dismiss the matter entirely. Some of the former president’s advisers have been blunt in private conversations that he is looking to winning the election as a solution to his legal problems. And the request for an open-ended delay to the trial of Mr. Trump and his co-defendant, Walt Nauta, a personal aide, presents a high-stakes question for Judge Cannon, who came into the case already under scrutiny for making decisions favorable to the former president in the early phases of the investigation.” See also, Trump seeks major trial delay, citing 2024 campaign and legal factors. Filing by Donald Trump”s lawyers says he will be too busy campaigning for president to prepare for classified documents trial. The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “Former president Donald Trump’s lawyers invoked the 2024 presidential campaign in court papers late Monday, arguing that for a host of legal and political reasons, Trump’s classified documents trial should be pushed far past the December time frame proposed by the Justice Department. In a 12-page filing, lawyers Christopher Kise and Todd Blanche claimed that putting the former president on trial later this year for alleged mishandling of classified papers and obstruction — even as he seeks the Republican nomination to return to the White House — would be unreasonable, telling, and would result in a miscarriage of justice.’ The lawyers asked U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon not to set a date for the trial for the time being, while the two sides work through pretrial motions and hearings. They suggested that to ensure an impartial jury, the trial should not be held until after the presidential election. Trump, the first former president ever charged with a crime, is the front-runner in the Republican presidential field. He and a longtime aide, Waltine ‘Walt’ Nauta, were charged last month in a 38-count indictment, setting the stage for a high-profile, high-stakes trial that is likely to test not just Trump’s popularity within his party and the country but also prosecutors’ ability to seek and win a conviction of a former president.” See also, Trump asks the judge to delay the start of his classified documents trial, NPR, Carrie Johnson, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “Former President Donald Trump is asking a judge to delay setting a trial date in his classified documents case, citing the extraordinary nature of a prosecution that could happen during the 2024 presidential race and what his lawyers cast as complex legal issues. In a court filing late Monday, Trump attorneys cite ‘the sheer volume’ of materials they must review in the case, which charges Trump and his valet with conspiring to obstruct a federal probe by hiding highly classified materials Trump had stored in a bathroom and a ballroom at his Florida resort. Those papers included secrets about defense and weapons capabilities of the U.S. government and its allies, according to the indictment.”

Justice Department Says the Presidency Doesn’t Shield Trump From E. Jean Carroll’s Suit. In a reversal, the department said it could no longer argue that Donald Trump was acting in his official capacity when he insulted the writer E. Jean Carroll. The New York Times, Benjamin Weiser, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “The Justice Department said Tuesday that it would no longer argue that President Donald J. Trump’s derogatory statements about E. Jean Carroll in 2019 were made as part of his official duties as president — a reversal that gives new momentum to her case. Ms. Carroll, 79, who won $5 million in damages in a trial accusing Mr. Trump of sexual abuse in the 1990s and defamation after he left the White House in January 2021, now is trying to push forward a separate lawsuit over comments that he made while president. That case has been mired in appeals. If a judge ultimately finds that those earlier comments were part of Mr. Trump’s official duties, that case would most likely be dismissed. The Justice Department had taken the position, first during the Trump administration and later under President Biden, that Mr. Trump was acting in his official capacity when he called Ms. Carroll a liar and denied her accusation that he had raped her nearly 30 years ago in a Manhattan department store dressing room. But the department said in a court filing Tuesday that new evidence had surfaced since Mr. Trump, 77, left office — including in the recent civil trial in which a Manhattan jury found Mr. Trump liable for sexually assaulting Ms. Carroll decades ago. The fresh set of facts suggests ‘that Mr. Trump was motivated by a “personal grievance” stemming from events that occurred many years prior to Mr. Trump’s presidency,’ department lawyers said in the filing.” See also, The Department of Justice no longer believes Trump should have immunity from E. Jean Carroll defamation lawsuit, CNN Politics, Kara Scannell, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “The Justice Department has reversed course and said it no longer believes that Donald Trump should be entitled to immunity for his response to E. Jean Carroll’s accusation of sexual assault, allowing the civil lawsuit to move forward to trial in January. The change in position eliminates one legal hurdle surrounding Carroll’s 2019 defamation lawsuit against Trump for statements he made while president, denying her allegation of rape decades earlier, that he didn’t know her, and that she wasn’t his ‘type.’ This lawsuit is separate from the sexual assault and defamation case that went to trial this year resulting in a jury awarding Carroll $5 million in damages. DOJ lawyers said in a letter to attorneys for Trump and Carroll that ‘the Department has determined that it lacks adequate evidence’ to conclude the former president was acting within the scope of his employment or serving the US government ‘when he denied sexually assaulting Ms. Carroll and made the other statements regarding Ms. Carroll that she has challenged in this action.'” See also, The Department of Justice will no longer intervene on behalf of Trump in E. Jean Carroll’s defamation suit. For years the Justice Department argued that Trump was acting within his presidential duties when he denied sexually assaulting columnist E. Jean Carroll and therefore immune from any liability. The Washington Post, Rachel Weiner, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “The Justice Department said Tuesday that it will no long seek to make the U.S. government the defendants in a lawsuit filed against Donald Trump by a writer who says the former president raped her several decades ago. The decision comes after three years in which the department, under both Republican and Democratic leadership, argued that Trump was acting within his presidential duties when he denied sexually assaulting columnist E. Jean Carroll. That determination made Trump, like other federal employees acting in their official capacity, totally immune from any liability. On Tuesday, a Justice Department leader said in a court filing that two things had changed since they first moved to intervene in the case. First, a D.C. court clarified the law around what qualifies as public work, saying that it was determined in part by ‘the subjective state of mind of the employee,’ that official responses to press questions didn’t always qualify and that the professional purpose can be so ‘insignificant’ as to be irrelevant. Second, a jury in New York State Court found that Trump sexually abused and defamed Carroll, and he has been accused of defaming her again in response to that verdict. (The jury did not find that Trump raped her, and he has since accused Carroll of defamation for insisting he did). ‘The circumstantial evidence of Mr. Trump’s subjective intent in making the allegedly defamatory statements does not support a determination in this case that he was sufficiently motivated by a desire to serve the United States Government,’ Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General Brian M. Boynton wrote. Rather, he said, drawing on both the statements Carroll sued over and what Trump has said since, the ‘history supports an inference that Mr. Trump was motivated by a “personal grievance” stemming from events that occurred many years prior to Mr. Trump’s presidency.'”

New grand jury is likely to decide Trump’s fate in Georgia election investigation, The Washington Post, Holly Bailey, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “Two grand juries were impaneled Tuesday in Atlanta — one of which is likely to decide whether former president Donald Trump and his allies should face criminal charges for their efforts to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in Georgia. Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) launched her investigation into alleged election interference more than two years ago, just days after a recording was made public of a January 2021 phone call that Trump made to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger (R). In the call, Trump said he wanted to ‘find’ enough votes to overturn his election loss in Georgia.” See also, Georgia grand jury handling potential indictments in Trump 2020 investigation is sworn in, CNN Politics, Marshall Cohen and Maxime Tamsett, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “The Georgia grand jury that is expected to consider charges against former President Donald Trump and his Republican allies for trying to overturn the 2020 election was sworn in Tuesday after a three-hour selection process in Atlanta. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis, an elected Democrat, launched the investigation in early 2021 after Trump tried to overturn his defeat in the Peach State with a public and private pressure campaign targeting Georgia election officials, the governor, lawmakers and prosecutors. A special grand jury previously heard testimony from 75 witnesses, including Trump advisers, his former attorneys, White House aides, and Georgia officials. That panel issued a redacted report with charging recommendations, which will soon be weighed by the new grand jury, potentially as soon as next month.” See also, A grand jury sworn in Tuesday could decide whether Trump is charged over Georgia’s 2020 election, The Associated Press, Kate Brumback, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “A grand jury that was sworn in Tuesday in Atlanta will likely consider whether criminal charges are appropriate for former President Donald Trump or his Republican allies for their efforts to overturn his 2020 election loss in Georgia. Fulton County District Attorney Fani Willis has been investigating since shortly after Trump called Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger in early 2021 and suggested the state’s top elections official could help him ‘find 11,780 votes,’ just enough needed to beat Democrat Joe Biden. The 2 1/2-year investigation expanded to include an examination of a slate of Republican fake electors, phone calls by Trump and others to Georgia officials in the weeks after the 2020 election and unfounded allegations of widespread election fraud made to state lawmakers.”

The Republicans Backed Gal Luft on Hunter Biden Claims. Now He Has Been Indicted. Luft, promoted by House Republicans as possessing evidence of corruption by the Biden family, was charged by federal prosecutors with lobbying and sanctions violations and with brokering arms deals with China and Iran. The New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “The co-director of a Maryland-based research group who claims to have damaging information about Hunter Biden has been charged with arms trafficking, sanctions violations and acting as an unregistered agent for China, according to a federal indictment unsealed on Monday. In an eight-count indictment, prosecutors in the Southern District of New York accused Gal Luft, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, of violating the Arms Export Control Act and the Foreign Agents Registration Act in brokering arms deals between Chinese companies, Iran and countries in the Middle East. Mr. Luft, promoted by some congressional Republicans as a keystone witness in their efforts to show corruption by the Biden family, is a fugitive from justice. He was detained by law enforcement officials in Cyprus in February in connection with the indictment, but fled after being freed on bond while awaiting extradition. If convicted, he faces up to 100 years in prison.” See also, House Democrats Demand Investigation of Comer’s indicted ‘Missing’ Biden Informant Gal Luft. Prior to the Department of Justice’s indictment of Luft being unsealed, Comer and other Republicans had hyped the accused Chinese spy of being a ‘very credible witness’ in the Biden family investigation. The Daily Beast, Justin Baragona, published on Wednesday, 12 July 2023: “Democrats on the House Oversight Committee called for an investigation on Wednesday into whether the committee’s Republicans relied on falsehoods and misinformation provided by Gal Luft, a supposed ‘whistleblower’ in the Biden family probe who has been charged with being an unregistered foreign agent for China and lying to investigators. In a letter to House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer (R-KY), Ranking Member Jamie Raskin (D0MAD) and Rep. Dan Goldman (D-NY) brought up the laundry list of charges against Luft, claiming the recently unsealed indictment by the Justice Department ‘eviscerates any credibility’ Luft has as a witness. ‘We are concerned that an official committee of the House of Representatives has been manipulated by an apparent con man who, while a fugitive from justice, attempted to fortify his defense by laundering unfounded and potentially false allegations through Congress,’ the letter reads.

Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville relents and says white nationalists are racist, The Washington Post, John Wagner, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), facing a barrage of criticism over a Monday night television interview in which he refused to say white nationalists are racists, relented Tuesday afternoon, acknowledging to reporters on Capitol Hill that they in fact are. ‘White nationalists are racists,’ Tuberville told reporters, after earlier exchanges with reporters in which he continued to insist that was a matter of opinion, a position that echoed his comments from an interview the night before. Appearing on CNN on Monday night, Tuberville was given the opportunity to clarify remarks from this spring when he appeared to be advocating for white nationalists to serve in the U.S. military. Tuberville said he rejects racism but pushed back against host Kaitlan Collins when she told him that by definition white nationalists are racist because they believe their race is superior to others. He said that was only her opinion and at one point in the back-and-forth characterized white nationalists as people who hold ‘a few probably different beliefs.’ Tuberville’s remarks drew a sharp rebuke Tuesday from Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.), who urged Tuberville to apologize.” See also, Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville now says ‘White nationalists are racists’ after refusing to denounce them, CNN Politics, Manu Raju, Rashard Rose, and Lauren Fox, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama finally condemned White nationalists, telling reporters on Capitol Hill on Tuesday that ‘White nationalists are racists,’ after previously refusing to equate White nationalism with racism. Tuberville had doubled down Monday when asked about his previous comments on White nationalism and said it was an ‘opinion’ that White nationalists are racist. During an interview on CNN’s ‘The Source with Kaitlan Collins,’ Tuberville repeatedly defended his previous comments. When Collins stated the definition of a White nationalist is someone who believes that the White race is superior to other races, Tuberville said, ‘Well, that’s some people’s opinion.'”

Judge orders former Trump aide Steve Bannon to pay lawyers nearly $500,000. The former president pardoned him from federal charges but the influential adviser faces ongoing legal troubles. The Washington Post, Alexandra Heal and Beth Reinhard, Tuesday, 11 July 2023: “A New York state judge has ordered former White House adviser Stephen K. Bannon to fork over nearly half a million dollars in unpaid fees to a law firm that says it represented Bannon in several high-profile matters, including helping him obtain a pardon in the final hours of the Trump presidency. The New York-based firm Davidoff Hutcher & Citron said Bannon paid only $375,000 of more than $855,000 in fees racked up from 2020 to 2022. The firm said its work included representing him on federal charges that he defrauded donors in a campaign to raise private funds to help build former president Donald Trump’s border wall — and helping him obtain a presidential pardon that led to the dismissal of those charges. ‘Defendant cannot receive the benefit of plaintiff’s legal representation and then insist he need not pay for it,’ said New York Supreme Court Justice Arlene P. Bluth in her ruling Friday.”


Wednesday, 12 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Biden and Zelensky agree: Ukraine will join NATO only after the war ends, The Washington Post, Emily Rauhala, Michael Birnbaum, Toluse Olorunnipa, Meryl Kornfield, Niha Masih, Annabelle Timsit, Adam Taylor, Sammy Westfall, and Mikhail Klimentov, Wednesday, 12 July 2023: “Coming out of the annual summit for NATO leaders — which began with unexpected tension but ended on a note of unity — both President Biden and Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky appeared to agree: Ukraine’s accession to NATO would come only after the war ended. In the run-up to the summit, Zelensky campaigned for Ukraine to be invited to join the military alliance. That request was ultimately not granted, though earlier Wednesday, the Group of Seven countries — Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Britain and the United States — issued a joint declaration of ‘unwavering’ support for Ukraine. Individually, NATO leaders also offered Kyiv security assurances and additional funding.

  • Biden delivered a sweeping speech at Lithuania’s Vilnius University on Wednesday, expressing unremitting support for Ukraine and NATO unity. ‘We will not waver,’ he said. He described a world at an ‘inflection point,’ tested by the war in Ukraine, among even larger and more existential challenges, including climate change and a global contest between democracy and autocracy.
  • Biden and other world leaders announced a major security program to boost Ukraine’s defenses over the long term, capping a NATO summit in which Ukraine was not invited to join the alliance but came away with a promise of years’ worth of additional military and humanitarian funding.
  • Biden told Zelensky, ‘The United States is doing everything we can to get you everything we can,’ as the meeting between the two leaders began. Zelensky thanked the United States for ongoing military aid, including Biden’s recent decision to approve the supply of widely banned cluster munitions to Ukraine. ‘The meeting was at least twice as long as planned, and it was as meaningful as it needed to be,’ Zelensky wrote on Twitter after the discussion. He said they touched on ‘Long-term support. Weapons. Politics.’
  • NATO would invite Ukraine to become a member ‘when allies agree that conditions are met,’ Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg said during a news conference with Zelensky, echoing language from a joint communiqué published Tuesday. 

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: ‘We Will Not Waver’: Biden Affirms Support for Ukraine After NATO Summit. The president, in a speech at Vilnius University, insisted that the alliance’s unity would hold. President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine stressed his gratitude for NATO’s military support. Back in Kyiv, Russia targeted the capital for a third night in a row. The New York Times, Lara Jakes and Steven Erlanger, Wednesday, 12 July 2023: “Over the course of a two-day summit in Lithuania, the leaders of NATO’s 31 member nations projected unity in their support for Ukraine in the face of Russia’s bloody invasion, promising new military support and making the strongest pledges yet that Kyiv would become a member — though they provided no clarity on when and how exactly it would happen. The consensus on Ukraine’s eventual membership and the agreement forged on the eve of the NATO gathering to clear the way to make Sweden the alliance’s 32nd member were significant successes. But the summit also reflected the diplomatic challenges inherent within an alliance that spans the Atlantic Ocean and now borders a war zone.”

Ray Epps, Arizona Man Cited in Conspiracy Theories, Sues Fox News for Defamation. Epps, a two-time Trump voter, says Tucker Carlson repeatedly and falsely named him as a covert government agent who incited the January 6 attack. The New York Times, Alan Feuer and Jeremy W. Peters, Wednesday, 12 July 2023: “The complaint was filed in Superior Court in Delaware, where Fox recently agreed to a $787.5 million settlement in a separate defamation case brought against the network by Dominion Voting Systems to combat claims that the company had helped to rig the 2020 election against Mr. Trump. ‘Just as Fox had focused on voting machine companies when falsely claiming a rigged election, Fox knew it needed a scapegoat for January 6th,’ the complaint says. ‘It settled on Ray Epps and began promoting the lie that Epps was a federal agent who incited the attack on the Capitol.'”

Regrets about Rupert Murdoch, CNN Reliable Sources Newsletter, Oliver Darcy, Wednesday, 12 July 2023: “Three former high-ranking Fox executives are blasting Rupert Murdoch for Fox News’ role spreading disinformation in the public discourse. In a joint statement published Wednesday, the executives — Preston Padden, Ken Solomon, and Bill Reyner— expressed profound regret for their roles helping Murdoch build Fox in its early days. Padden was Fox’s chief Washington lobbyist; Solomon was the vice president of network distribution; and Reyner was the lead outside counsel. While none of the executives worked on Fox News, the work they did on behalf of Murdoch decades ago established Fox as a national television force and helped pave the way for the birth of the right-wing channel. ‘At the time of our work in the 1990’s, we all greatly admired Rupert Murdoch and his vision and bold efforts,’ the trio said in their statement. ‘We genuinely believed that the creation of a fourth competitive force in broadcast television was in the public interest. We never envisioned, and would not knowingly have enabled, the disinformation machine that, in our opinion, Fox has become,’ they added.”



Thursday, 13 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Cluster munitions arrive in Ukraine; Russian general says he was pushed out for criticizing army, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Adela Suliman, Adam Taylor, and Sammy Westfall, Thursday, 13 July 2023: “President Biden was in Finland — NATO’s newest member state — for a Wednesday morning summit with Nordic leaders. At a meeting in Helsinki with his Finnish counterpart, Sauli Niinisto, Biden said that ‘it took me about three seconds to say yes’ to Finland joining the military bloc. ‘The fastest ratification that occurred in modern history,’ he said. In Russia, Maj. Gen. Ivan Popov claimed he was forced to retire after he highlighted problems with the army fighting in Ukraine, according to a voice message published by a Russian lawmaker. ‘In the name of you and our fallen combat friends, I had no right to lie, so I outlined all the problems existing in the army,’ Popov said, citing a lack of artillery and ‘mass deaths and injuries’ of soldiers. Senior officials ‘sensed danger in me and promptly, in one day, made up an order and got rid of me,’ he is heard saying on the voice message, suggesting divisions within the army over the conduct of its war effort. The Washington Post could not independently verify his claims. In an interview with Russian outlet Kommersant published Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin gave more insight into the meeting he held with Wagner Group mercenary boss Yevgeniy Prigozhin and 35 of his commanders five days after they launched their mutiny.

  • ‘U. S. cluster munitions are in Ukraine,’ Lt. Gen. Douglas A. Sims II, the Joint Chiefs of Staff’s director of operations, told reporters Thursday. He said Ukrainian forces ‘intend to use them in a tactical environment,’ unlike Russia, which has employed the munitions ‘against civilian communities.’ He also said Ukrainians ‘understand the potential for duds,’ referring to the possibility of the shells scattering unexploded submunitions — the reason the weapons are banned in much of the world.
  • In the Kommersant interview, Putin said that during his three-hour meeting with Wagner fighters on June 29, he presented them with options for the future, including staying ‘under their immediate commander,’ whom the outlet only referred to by the call sign Sedoi, meaning gray-haired. ‘They could all gather in one place and continue to serve,’ Putin said. ‘And nothing would change for them. They would be led by the same person who had been their real commander all along.’ Putin said Wagner forces nodded at the option, but Prigozhin rejected the offer.
  • When asked if Wagner will remain as a combat unit, Putin said, ‘Well, PMC “Wagner” does not exist!’ He added that ‘there is a group’ but that it did not exist as a legal entity. All of the ‘difficult’ questions around legalization, Putin demurred, would be left to the State Duma.
  • The NATO summit ‘put to rest any doubts’ about Ukraine’s future membership in the defense alliance, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in a nightly address. He previously described a lack of a concrete timeline for Ukraine’s future in NATO as ‘absurd’ in a tweet. In an interview with CNN’s Wolf Blitzer that was aired Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he had ‘no doubt’ that Ukraine would join NATO once the conflict with Russia is over.
  • Zelensky’s tweet this week challenging NATO leaders on the glacial pace of his war-torn country’s admission into the alliance so roiled the White House that U.S. officials involved with the process considered scaling back theinvitation’ for Kyiv to join, according to six people familiar with the matter, The Post’s Michael Birnbaum reports.
  • Putin said Ukraine joining NATO would create a security threat for Russia and would not increase Ukraine’s security. In an interview on state television, Putin said he is ‘not against security guarantees’ for Kyiv, adding that Ukraine has the right to ensure security — but not at the cost of the security of other countries. He also said new weapons deliveries to Kyiv will ‘only aggravate the situation for Ukraine and will fuel the conflict.’
  • Putin also threatened to back out of the U.N.-brokered Black Sea grain deal, which has allowed grain shipments to flow from Ukraine to other countries to ease a global food crisis. Speaking of the grain deal the same day, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen said that ‘the world needs it’ and that ‘Russia has a responsibility to prolong it, otherwise global food insecurity will be the consequence.’
  • Turkey’s decision to greenlight Sweden’s NATO bid raised eyebrows in Moscow. Russian hard-liners, stung by a flurry of recent Turkish gestures of support for Ukraine, are demanding that Turkey be designated an ‘unfriendly’ country. The pro-Western moves by Turkey, including President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s warm welcome of Zelensky in Istanbul on Friday, led to speculation that Turkey was pivoting to restore warmer relations with Europe and the United States after several years of close cooperation with Moscow.
  • Reuters reported that Canada agreed to unfreeze talks with Turkey about lifting export controls on drone parts, in what the outlet says could be a concession Ankara gained by dropping its veto on Sweden’s NATO bid. The outlet cited a person familiar with the talks who was not authorized to discuss details with media. Canada suspended exports on some drone technology to Turkey in 2020 while Ottawa investigated if the technology had been used by Azerbaijan’s military against Armenian forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. (It later concluded that it had been.)
  • Biden said he is ‘serious’ about pursuing a prisoner exchange with Russia to bring home Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has been detained in Russia for 100 days as of last week. ‘That process is underway,’ Biden told reporters on Thursday in Helsinki, adding that [we are] ‘doing what we can to free Americans being illegally held in Russia or anywhere else.’
  • ‘I don’t think there’s any real prospect — you never know — of Putin using nuclear weapons,’ Biden said at a news briefing with Finland’s president. ‘Not only has the West, but China and the rest of the world, has said, Don’t go there.’
  • Several E.U. ministers on Thursday pledged about $450 million to the European Investment Bank’s fund supporting Ukraine’s reconstruction. The fund, for urgent Ukrainian recovery and reconstruction needs, aims to serve as a ‘temporary bridge solution’ until long-term E.U. measures for Ukrainian reconstruction are available.
  • Russia may be using armored vehicles as ‘improvised explosive devices,’ according to Britain’s Defense Ministry. In June, it said, there were several reports of Russian forces using ‘antiquated armoured vehicles packed with several tonnes of explosives’ on the battlefield. ‘The crew likely bail out of the vehicle after setting it on its course,’ it said Thursday in a daily intelligence update. Incidents were reported around Marinka, near the city of Donetsk, and may be linked to Chechen units, which the ministry said were ‘pioneering the tactic.’ Although such attacks cause ‘extremely large explosions,’ they generally detonate before reaching their targets, limiting their capability, it added.
  • The International Olympic Committee confirmed that Russia and Belarus will not receive formal invitations to the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. The invitations are due to be sent out July 26. In an updated question-and-answer session on its website, the IOC said the National Olympic Committees of Russia and Belarus would not receive invites but reiterated its policy of leaving decisions on Russian and Belarusian athletes to the discretion of each sport.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: With Grain Deal Deadline Nearing, Putin Again Balks at Extension. The Russian leader said the U.N.-brokered deal that lets Ukraine export its grain across the Black Sea had been a ‘one-sided game’ and that Moscow might suspend participation on July 17. The New York Times, Thursday, 13 July 2023:

  • Putin threatens to pull out of the Black Sea grain deal, again.

  • Republican efforts to cut U.S. aid to Ukraine fail in House votes.

  • The Pentagon says Wagner troops are not fighting ‘in any significant capacity’ in Ukraine.

  • Biden said the U.S. is open to a prisoner swap to free Evan Gershkovich.

  • A fired Russian general’s remarks are the latest sign of disarray among military leaders.

  • One person is killed as Russia launches another drone assault on Kyiv, officials say.

Prosecutors Push Back on Trump’s Request to Delay Documents Trial. The office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, said there ‘is no basis in law or fact’ for granting a motion from former President Donald J. Trump that could push the start of the trial until after Election Day. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Thursday, 13 July 2023: “Federal prosecutors on Thursday asked the judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s classified documents case to reject a motion by Mr. Trump’s lawyers to have his trial indefinitely postponed, a move that could serve to delay the proceeding until after the 2024 election. The filing by the prosecutors came three days after Mr. Trump’s legal team made an unusual request to the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, asking her to set aside the government’s initial suggestion to hold the trial in December and delay it until all ‘substantive motions’ in the case were presented and resolved. The timing of a trial is crucial in all criminal matters. But it is especially important in this case, in which Mr. Trump has been charged with illegally holding on to 31 classified documents after leaving the White House and conspiring with one of his personal aides, Walt Nauta, to obstruct the government’s efforts to reclaim them. Mr. Trump is now both a federal criminal defendant and the Republican Party’s leading candidate in the presidential campaign. There could be untold complications if his trial seeps into the final stages of the race. Moreover, if the trial is pushed back until after the election and Mr. Trump wins, he could try to pardon himself after taking office or have his attorney general dismiss the matter entirely. Apparently recognizing these high stakes, prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, told Judge Cannon that she should not allow Mr. Trump and Mr. Nauta to let the case drag on without a foreseeable ending.”

Prosecutors Ask Witnesses Whether Trump Acknowledged He Lost 2020 Election. Jared Kushner was questioned before a federal grand jury as prosecutors appeared to be trying to establish if the former president knew his efforts to stay in power were built on a lie. The New York Times, Michael S. Schmidt and Maggie Haberman, Thursday, 13 July 2023: “Federal prosecutors investigating former President Donald J. Trump’s attempts to overturn the 2020 election have questioned multiple witnesses in recent weeks — including Mr. Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner — about whether Mr. Trump had privately acknowledged in the days after the 2020 election that he had lost, according to four people briefed on the matter. The line of questioning suggests prosecutors are trying to establish whether Mr. Trump was acting with corrupt intent as he sought to remain in power — essentially that his efforts were knowingly based on a lie — evidence that could substantially bolster any case they might decide to bring against him. Mr. Kushner testified before a grand jury at the federal courthouse in Washington last month, where he is said to have maintained that it was his impression that Mr. Trump truly believed the election was stolen, according to a person briefed on the matter. The questioning of Mr. Kushner shows that the federal investigation being led by the special counsel Jack Smith continues to pierce the layers closest to Mr. Trump as prosecutors weigh whether to bring charges against the former president in connection with the efforts to promote baseless assertions of widespread voter fraud and block or delay congressional certification of Joseph R. Biden Jr.’s Electoral College victory.” See also, Sources say Jared Kushner and Hope Hicks testified before grand jury investigating 2020 election interference, CNN Politics, Kaitlan Collins and Katelyn Polantz, Thursday, 13 July 2023: “Jared Kushner, Donald Trump’s son-in-law, testified before the grand jury investigating the aftermath of the 2020 election and the actions of the then-president and others, a source familiar with the testimony confirmed to CNN. Former Trump aide Hope Hicks also went before the grand jury, according to two sources familiar, testifying in early June. Some of the questions being asked in the grand jury were about whether Donald Trump was told he had lost the election, according to one of the sources familiar. Kushner’s and Hicks’ appearances before the grand jury are notable because both were members of the former president’s inner circle. Any indictment from the sprawling probe into the aftermath of the election, efforts to overturn the result or the January 6, 2021, attack at the US Capitol will likely rely, at least in part, on what individuals – from low-level aides to former Vice President Mike Pence – testified to under oath behind closed doors.”

F.D.A. Approves First U.S. Over-the-Counter Birth Control Pill. The move could significantly expand access to contraception. The pill is expected to be available in early 2024. The New York Times, Pam Belluck, Thursday, 13 July 2023: “The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday approved a birth control pill to be sold without a prescription for the first time in the United States, a milestone that could significantly expand access to contraception. The medication, called Opill, will become the most effective birth control method available over the counter — more effective at preventing pregnancy than condoms, spermicides and other nonprescription methods. Experts in reproductive health said its availability could be especially useful for young women, teenagers and those who have difficulty dealing with the time, costs or logistical hurdles involved in visiting a doctor to obtain a prescription. The pill’s manufacturer, Perrigo Company, based in Dublin, said Opill would most likely become available from stores and online retailers in the United States in early 2024.”

New York Is Ordered by Appeals Court to Redraw House Map. The decision, if upheld, could allow Democrats to shift as many as six Republican-held seats in their direction. Republicans vowed to appeal. The New York Times, Nicholas Fandos, Thursday, 13 July 2023: “A New York appeals court on Thursday ordered the state’s congressional map to be redrawn, siding with Democrats in a case that could give the party a fresh chance to tilt one of the nation’s most contested House battlegrounds leftward. Wading into a long-simmering legal dispute, the Appellate Division of the State Supreme Court in Albany said that the competitive, court-drawn districts put in place for last year’s midterms had only been a temporary fix. They ordered the state’s bipartisan redistricting commission to promptly restart a process that would effectively give the Democrat-dominated State Legislature final say over the contours of New York’s 26 House seats for the remainder of the decade. ‘In granting this petition, we return the matter to its constitutional design. Accordingly, we direct the I.R.C. to commence its duties forthwith,’ Elizabeth A. Garry, the presiding justice, wrote in the majority opinion, referring to the Independent Redistricting Commission. (Two members of the five-judge panel dissented.) Republicans vowed to appeal, leaving a final decision to the state’s highest court, the Court of Appeals, just a year after it stopped an earlier attempt by Democrats to gerrymander the maps.” See also, New York congressional map must be redrawn, court rules. The ruling to force the independent commission to redraw the map marks a victory for Democrats, but the decision is expected to be appealed to the state’s top court. The Washington Post, Maegan Vazquez, Thursday, 13 July 2023: “A New York appeals court on Thursday ordered an independent commission to redraw the state’s congressional map, signaling an opportunity for Democrats to regain House seats after redistricting contributed to Republicans flipping four districts in 2022. The 3-2 ruling issued by the Appellate Division of New York’s State Supreme Court orders the Independent Redistricting Commission to restart the mapping process. Restarting this process would eventually give final map approval to the Democratic-controlled state legislature ahead of the 2024 elections. But Thursday’s ruling is expected to be appealed to the state’s top court, the Court of Appeals, which will make the final decision. Thursday’s majority opinion found that appellants in the suit have ‘a clear legal right to the relief sought. This determination honors the constitutional enactments as the means of providing a robust, fair and equitable procedure for the determination of voting districts in New York.'”


Friday, 14 June 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Belarus says Wagner is training its troops; Pentagon says Wagner is no longer significant in Ukraine, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Adela Suliman, Robyn Dixon, Eve Sampson, and Michael Birnbaum, Friday, 14 July 2023: “The Russian mercenary group Wagner, which conducted a brief but dramatic rebellion against the Kremlin last month, is now training troops in neighboring Belarus, the Belarusian Ministry of Defense said Friday. ‘The fighters of Wagner PMC acted as instructors in a number of military disciplines,’ it said in a statement, outlining how Belarusian conscripts were learning to ‘master the skills of moving on the battlefield and tactical shooting,’ from Wagner instructors. Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday said there was no imminent threat of an invasion from Belarus. It comes as the Pentagon has assessed that Wagner is no longer ‘participating in any significant capacity in support of combat operations in Ukraine,’ according to Pentagon press secretary, Air Force Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder. In Russia, President Vladimir Putin dismissed the group’s existence telling national media that ‘Wagner’ does not exist! … There is no such legal entity and suggested its fighters should reassemble under another leader.

  • Zelensky said he participated in the Allen & Co Sun Valley Conference, sometime referred to as ‘summer camp for billionaires.’ In a tweet, Zelensky explained that he spoke with ‘the heads of the largest and most promising global companies, global investors, and major philanthropists’ about ‘investments, jobs in Ukraine, [and] support for our country and people.’
  • Most of Wagner’s forces are still in Russian-occupied areas of Ukraine, Ryder said. But they ‘really effectively are no longer contributing as a significant combat capability,’ he added. Wagner has handed over small arms, tanks and missile systems to the Russian Defense Ministry, which released a video showing the purported Wagner weapons. The Washington Post was unable to verify the video or confirm that the weapons featured in it were used by the Wagner Group.
  • Putin said he laid out options for the Wagner Group’s future five days after the rebellion, Russian newspaper Kommersant reported. The Kremlin meeting was on June 29. But Putin said his suggestions were rejected by Wagner founder, Yevgeniy Prigozhin. ‘They could all gather in one place and continue to serve. And nothing would change for them,’ he said of the group.
  • A Belarusian television channel aired Belarusian Defense Ministry video footage appearing to show Wagner fighters training a small force of Belarusian soldiers. The video could not be verified independently.
  • ‘The situation along the border with Belarus remains fully controlled,’ Ukraine’s state border service spokesman Andriy Demchenko said at a briefing in Kyiv. Still, he added, ‘we must be prepared for any development of the situation, because Belarus, unfortunately, continues to support Russia in the war it unleashed against Ukraine.’
  • A suspected Russian spy has been extradited to the United States from Estonia to face charges of providing American-made electronics and ammunition to the Russian military. Vadam Konoshchenok is allegedly connected to Russia’s Federal Security Service, or FSB, the country’s counterintelligence department that succeeded the Soviet Union’s notorious KGB.
  • Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov ‘effectively ascribed every problem in the world to the United States,’ at a meeting between top U.S. and Russian diplomats in Jakarta, Indonesia, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Friday. Blinken also said he heard nothing about Russia’s invasion of Ukraine from Lavrov ‘that suggested any change in direction.’
  • France has posthumously awarded slain AFP journalist Arman Soldin a top national honor. Soldin, 32, was killed in May while working in eastern Ukraine as a video journalist for the news agency. He was awarded the Legion d’Honneur, the country’s most prestigious national award. At the time, French President Emmanuel Macron hailed Soldin’s ‘bravery,’ ‘strength of character’ and ‘duty to inform,’ in a letter to AFP.
  • Zelensky infuriated U.S. officials with a tweet challenging NATO leaders on the pace of his war-torn country’s admission into the alliance, roiling the White House, The Post reported. U.S. officials considered scaling back theinvitation’ for Kyiv to join NATO in a communiqué, according to six people familiar with the matter.
  • Russia says it’s unfair that its athletes will not be invited to the 2024 Paris Summer Olympics. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov lambasted the decision Friday: ‘We do not consider it fair … We are categorically against the politicization of sport.’ He added that Russian sports stars should ‘have the right to compete in international competitions,’ and that Moscow would be making representations to the International Olympic Committee. Invitations to the games are due to be sent out July 26. This week, the IOC said on its website that the National Olympic Committees of Russia and Belarus would not receive invites.
  • Biden said he is ‘serious’ about pursuing a prisoner exchange with Russia to bring home Evan Gershkovich, a Wall Street Journal reporter who has been detained in Russia for 100 days as of last week. ‘That process is underway,’ Biden told reporters Thursday in Helsinki, adding that [we are] ‘doing what we can to free Americans being illegally held in Russia or anywhere else.’
  • Russia has closed a Polish consulate in the western city of Smolensk, it said, in retaliation to what it deemed the ‘unfriendly’ and ‘anti-Russian’ actions of Warsaw. The Russian government press service told Interfax that Russia’s diplomatic presence in Poland has also ‘been considerably cut,’ adding that the measure would ‘restore the parity of consular institutions.’

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Putin Seeks to Project Control Amid Military Turmoil. Three weeks after a mutiny by Wagner mercenaries, the Russian leader says he suggested that the group’s chief be sidelined and that its members fight under a different commander. The New York Times, Friday, 14 July 2023:

  • Putin discloses new details about a Kremlin meeting with the Wagner group.
  • Putin wants to travel to South Africa next month. The host country would prefer he didn’t.
  • Prosecutors say accused Russian spy smuggled U.S. technology and ammunition into Russia.
  • Biden official says the U.S. will continue to declassify and share data when it provides forewarning.
  • At a U.S. Army base in Germany, Ukrainian troops are striving to master the powerful M1 Abrams tank.
  • Belarus says some Wagner fighters are training its forces.
  • A Ukrainian commander describes the grueling battle against dug-in Russian forces.
  • Blinken said he saw no reason to meet with Lavrov in Indonesia.

Social Media Restrictions on Biden Officials are Paused in Appeal. A Fifth Circuit panel temporarily lifted a judge’s order that had blocked the administration from contacting platforms about most of their content. The New York Times, David McCabe and Steve Lohr, Friday, 14 July 2023: “A federal appeals court on Friday paused a judge’s order that had blocked much of the Biden administration from talking to social media sites about content. The case could have significant First Amendment implications and affect the conduct of social media companies and their cooperation with government agencies. In its three-sentence order, a three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said the preliminary injunction issued this month by a federal judge in Louisiana would be put aside ‘until further orders of the court.’ The appeals court also called for expedited oral arguments in the case. In the lawsuit, Missouri, Louisiana and five individuals said that President Biden’s campaign, his administration and outside groups pressured social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube to take down content that it objected to. That content included conservative claims about the coronavirus pandemic and the 2020 presidential election, and a story about Hunter Biden, the president’s son.”

Trump Employee Warned of Charges in Classified Documents Case. Prosecutors sent a target letter to a low-level worker at former President Donald J. Trump’s company, suggesting the possibility of indictment and confirming that the investigation is continuing. The New York Times, Ben Protess, Maggie Haberman, and Alan Feuer, Friday, 14 July 2023: “A low-level employee of the Trump Organization has received a target letter from the special counsel Jack Smith in connection with the investigation into former President Donald J. Trump’s handling of classified documents, suggesting that the employee could face charges and confirming that the broader inquiry continues, according to a person familiar with the matter. The employee, whom the person declined to name, received the letter in the past few weeks after appearing in May before a federal grand jury in Washington. Prosecutors have been trying to establish whether any of Mr. Trump’s aides or employees interfered with the government’s attempts to obtain security camera footage from Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s private club and residence in Florida. Footage from the cameras at Mar-a-Lago has been at the center of the case against Mr. Trump and was an instrumental part of the evidence used to obtain a warrant to search Mar-a-Lago last August. During that search, the F.B.I. hauled away a trove of more than 100 classified documents that Mr. Trump had taken with him from the White House and kept even after receiving a subpoena demanding their return.” See also, Trump Organization employee could be charged in documents case. The target letter is aimed at a low-level employee who had dealings at Mar-a-Lago, said a person who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs and Perry Stein, Friday, 14 July 2023: “Special counsel Jack Smith has sent a letter to a Trump Organization employee indicating that the worker could be indicted in connection with allegedly trying to obstruct the investigation into Donald Trump’s possession of classified documents after leaving office, a person with knowledge of the matter said. The target letter is aimed at a low-level employee of Trump’s family business who had dealings at Mar-a-Lago, the former president’s Florida home and private club. The worker is not an executive or someone with significant decision-making authority, said the person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss an ongoing investigation. The Trump Organization manages Mar-a-Lago as well as Trump’s other properties, including the security systems. One focus of the classified-documents investigation has been surveillance video from Mar-a-Lago, which federal investigators subpoenaed and showed workers moving boxes in and out of the storage area where documents with classified markings were kept.” See also, Target letter to Trump Organization employee signals new push in classified documents investigation. Investigators are looking at the employee’s handling of surveillance footage. ABC News, Alexander Mallin, Katherine Faulders, John Santucci, Mike Levine, and Lucien Bruggeman, Friday, 14 July 2023: “The special counsel investigating former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents has taken new steps to examine possible efforts to obstruct the probe, threatening potential charges against a Trump Organization employee who is suspected of lying to investigators, sources familiar with the matter told ABC News. Special counsel Jack Smith in recent weeks transmitted a target letter to the staffer indicating that he might have perjured himself during a May appearance before the federal grand jury hearing evidence in the classified documents probe, the sources told ABC News. The target letter to the employee, which was described to ABC News by sources familiar with it but not obtained or reviewed by ABC News, signals Smith’s growing interest in the Trump Organization’s handling of the surveillance footage and potential efforts to avoid sharing it with investigators.”

Trump Seeks Court Order to Quash Investigation in Georgia. Lawyers for the former president asked the state’s highest court to throw out the work of a special grand jury that investigated 2020 election interference and recommended indictments. The New York Times, Danny Hakim, Friday, 14 July 2023: “In his latest legal maneuver, Donald J. Trump sought a court order on Friday that would throw out the work of an Atlanta special grand jury and disqualify Fani T. Willis, the prosecutor leading an investigation into election interference in Georgia. A decision on indictments looms in the investigation, which has been in progress for more than two years. Ms. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, has signaled that the decision will come in the first half of August; she recently asked judges in a downtown Atlanta courthouse not to schedule trials for part of that time as she prepares to bring charges. Mr. Trump’s lawyers made their request in a filing to Georgia’s Supreme Court. They want the court to throw out the evidence gathered by the special grand jury. Though the Georgia Supreme Court is predominantly Republican, the Trump legal team acknowledged in its filing that its latest stratagem was a long shot, conceding that it had identified ‘no case in 40 years’ where the court had intervened in the way it seeks. ‘Then again, never has there been a case like this one,’ it added.” See also, Trump attorneys ask Georgia courts to block election investigation, The Washington Post, Holly Bailey, Friday, 14 July 2023: “Attorneys for former president Donald Trump asked Georgia’s top court to disqualify an Atlanta-area district attorney from investigating him over alleged 2020 election interference and to block the final report and any evidence gathered by a special-purpose grand jury in the case. The petition, filed late Thursday before the Georgia Supreme Court, echoed arguments made in a lower-court motion in April in which Trump’s attorneys first pushed to block Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) and her office from investigating whether Trump and his allies broke the law when they sought to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state, citing her public comments on the matter. That motion has been pending before Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney, whom Trump’s attorneys also sought to have removed from the case. They cited his oversight of the special grand jury, which they claim was conducted ‘under an unconstitutional statute’ and ‘through an illegal and unconstitutional process’ that violated Trump’s due process rights. In the Supreme Court petition, Trump’s Georgia-based legal team — Drew Findling, Marissa Goldberg and Jennifer Little — cited the lack of a ruling from McBurney as their reason for bringing their case to the state’s top court, citing ‘extraordinary circumstances’ in which their client’s attempts to ‘seek redress in normal course have been ignored.'”

House passes defense bill after adopting controversial amendments targeting abortion policy and other issues, CNN Politics, Clare Foran and Haley Talbot, Friday, 14 July 2023: “The House voted Friday to pass a sweeping defense policy bill following contentious debate and the adoption of controversial amendments that touched on hot-button social issues. The addition of amendments pushed by conservative hardliners related to abortion policy and transgender health care access as well as targeting diversity and inclusion programs infuriated Democrats and led to push back from some moderate Republicans – and will now set up a clash with the Democratic-controlled Senate. The bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act, sets the policy agenda and authorizes funding for the Department of Defense and is considered critical, must-pass legislation.” See also, House Narrowly Passes Defense Bill, Setting Up Showdown Over Social Issues. Republicans loaded the measure with a raft of social policy provisions–including limits on abortions, gender transition procedures and diversity training–that have little chance of surviving in the Senate. The New York Times, Karoun Demirjian, Friday, 14 July 2023: “Republicans on Friday rammed through the House a deeply partisan defense bill that would limit abortion access, transgender care and diversity training for military personnel, setting up a showdown with the Senate. The coming fight could imperil the crucial annual measure to provide a pay raise for troops, set defense policy to counter U.S. adversaries and sustain Pentagon programs at a time of rising threats. The House passed the measure on a vote of 219 to 210 with nearly unanimous Republican support, a significant victory for the far-right faction that forced a reluctant Speaker Kevin McCarthy to open the bill to an array of social policy prescriptions by threatening to block it if they did not get their way. But the move left the fate of the measure deeply in doubt, advancing a bill that has little chance of passing the Democratic-controlled Senate and raising questions about whether a compromise can be reached that could be enacted into law this fall. And the outcome suggested even more intense battles ahead on Capitol Hill to avert a government shutdown. Mr. McCarthy’s capitulation to the right, despite knowing it could cost him critical Democratic support for the must-pass bill, was a gamble that could become a playbook for the coming fight over federal spending, where hard-liners are pressing to impose similar socially conservative policies governmentwide.” See also, The House just passed a defense gill with controversial abortion and LGBTQ measures. It doesn’t stand a chance in the Senate. Top Democrats said provisions on abortion, transgender medical care, and diversity programs are an ‘ode to bigotry and ignorance.’ Politico, Connor O’Brien, Friday, 14 July 2023: “House Republicans united to narrowly pass major defense policy legislation on Friday that restricts the Pentagon policies on abortion access, medical care for transgender troops and diversity in a narrow vote. But the many culture war provisions Republicans packed into the must-pass National Defense Authorization Act to win conservative votes are doomed in the Democratic-controlled Senate. The 219-210 vote on Friday saw all but four Democrats oppose the bill, which authorizes a national defense budget of $886 billion for fiscal 2024. Conversely, only four Republicans opposed the measure as Speaker Kevin McCarthy held his conference together to clear the legislation. ‘I take solace in the fact that this is not going to become law and we have an opportunity to correct it,’ said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the ranking Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee, of the path forward. ‘But it’s really very disturbing how divisive all this has become, the degree to which the Republican majority wants to attack diversity. Bottom line. Attack trans people. Attack women. Attack people of color.'”

Saturday, 15 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: British defense minister Ben Wallace to resign; deadline for crucial grain deal looms, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Adela Suliman, and Nick Parker, Saturday, 15 July 2023: “British Defense Minister Ben Wallace plans to resign ‘at the next cabinet reshuffle,’ he told the Times of London in an interview published Saturday. Wallace has been a key figure in the U.K.’s support for Ukraine, sending the invaded country military aid and lobbying for more help for NATO from European member nations. The Black Sea Grain Initiative, which is credited with easing the global food crisis resulting from the war in Ukraine, is set to expire Monday amid rising concerns that Moscow will not renew the deal. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres sent Russian President Vladimir Putin a letter this week with a proposal to keep the deal operational but, as of Saturday, Russia had not responded.

  • Wallace’s announced his exit during a war that has put Europe on edge. This week, President Biden met with British officials in London during a trip that included a NATO summit headlined by the war. The United States and the United Kingdom have been among Ukraine’s largest supporters since Russia’s full-scale invasion last year.
  • The British minister pushed European nations to strengthen NATO funding, according to the Times: ‘You can’t take for granted your allies and partners,’ Wallace said in the interview. ‘You have to contribute.’
  • The United Nations said no new vessels had been allowed to join the Black Sea initiative since June 27, despite applications for 29 ships to join. The agreement allows safe passage for ships carrying grain and food exports through the Black Sea corridor, but Moscow has threatened several times not to extend the deal and recently told the United Nations that it intended to limit the number of ships picking up Ukrainian grain until Russia could resume ammonia exports. The deal, which was most recently extended in May, has allowed for the safe passage of more than 30 million metric tons of grain from Ukraine, according to the United Nations.
  • Putin told his South African counterpart, President Cyril Ramaphosa, that pledges to remove obstacles to Russian food and fertilizer exports had not been fulfilled, according to the Kremlin. The two will discuss the issue again at the BRICS economic summit next month, according to the Russian government Telegram page.
  • Troops from Russia’s mercenary Wagner Group were seen moving into Belarus on Saturday, according to Ukraine’s border service and reports from online military watchers. The Belarusian Ministry of Defense said Friday that Wagner fighters were training military personnel in Belarus, weeks after a failed rebellion by Wagner in Russia. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said this week that there was no imminent threat of an invasion from Belarus.
  • South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol arrived in Kyiv on Saturday, making him one of a handful of Asian leaders to visit war-torn Ukraine. He visited Bucha, a site of mass killings, and laid a wreath of remembrance in the capital before meeting with Zelenskyaccording to the country’s Yonhap news agency. Seoul has so far sent humanitarian and financial aid to Ukraine but is under pressure to send weapons.
  • The major oil field services firm SLB has suspended its shipments of products and technology to Russia in response to expanded Western sanctions, the company, formerly known as Schlumberger, announced in a statement Friday. The firm is one of the few oil equipment providers remaining in Russia after the invasion, and it came under pressure from rights groups for doing so. SLB said that its decision to suspend shipments was a ‘response to the continued expansion of international sanctions’ and that it ‘remains aligned with the international community in condemning and calling for an end to the war in Ukraine.’
  • South Africa is trying to persuade Putin not to attend the BRICS economic summit in the country next month, local media reported. As a signatory to the treaty establishing the International Criminal Court, which issued a warrant for Putin’s arrest in March, South Africa would be obligated to arrest the Russian leader. ‘It’s a big dilemma for us. Of course, we cannot arrest him,’ South African Deputy President Paul Mashatile said in an interview.
  • An alleged Russian spy has been extradited to the United States from Estonia to face charges related to providing ‘sensitive American-made electronics and ammunition’ to the Russian military ‘in furtherance of Russia’s war efforts,’ the U.S. attorney’s office for the Eastern District of New York said Friday.

Robert F. Kennedy Jr. Airs Bigoted New Covid Conspiracy Theory About Jews and Chinese. The long-shot candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination has a history of embracing conspiracy theories. His latest comments claimed the virus spared certain ethnic and religious groups. The New York Times, Jonathan Weisman, Saturday 15 July 2023: “A conspiracy-filled rant by Robert F. Kennedy Jr. that the Covid-19 virus was engineered to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people has stirred accusations of antisemitism and racism in the Democratic candidate’s long-shot run for president. ‘Covid-19. There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. Covid-19 attacks certain races disproportionately,’ Mr. Kennedy said at a private gathering in New York that was captured on videotape by The New York Post. ‘Covid-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.’ Mr. Kennedy has made his political career on false conspiracy theories about not just Covid-19 and Covid vaccines but disproved links between common childhood vaccines and autism, mass surveillance and 5G cellular phone technology, ill health effects from Wi-Fi and a ‘stolen’ election in 2004 that gave the presidency back to George W. Bush. But his suggestion that the coronavirus pandemic spared Chinese people and Jews of European descent strayed into new and bigoted territory.” See also, Jewish groups denounce Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s false remarks that Covid-19 was ‘ethincally targeted’ to spare Jews and Chinese people, CNN Politics, Lauren Koenig and Shania Shelton, Saturday, 15 July 2023: “A number of high-profile Jewish groups are denouncing Democratic presidential contender Robert F. Kennedy Jr.’s false remarks that ‘Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese’ people are ‘most immune’ to Covid-19. Speaking at a dinner in New York City earlier this week, Kennedy said ‘there’s an argument that it is ethnically targeted,’ according to video shared by the New York Post on Saturday. ‘Covid-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese,’ Kennedy said, adding that ‘we don’t know whether it’s deliberately targeted that or not.'” See also, Robert F. Kennedy Jr. suggests covid was designed to spare Jews and Chinese people, The Washington Post, Ruby Cramer, Saturday, 15 July 2023: “Democratic presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy Jr. advanced a dangerous conspiracy theory this week that the coronavirus could have been a bioweapon “deliberately targeted” to spare Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese people while disproportionately attacking White and Black people, according to a video of the remarks published Saturday by the New York Post. ‘There is an argument that it is ethnically targeted. Covid-19 attacks certain races disproportionately,’ Kennedy said during a dinner on New York’s Upper East Side on Tuesday evening. ‘Covid-19 is targeted to attack Caucasians and Black people. The people who are most immune are Ashkenazi Jews and Chinese.’ His remarks at the gathering — a dinner party attended by members of the media and Kennedy’s campaign manager at Tony’s Di Napoli on East 63rd Street — amplify racist and antisemitic tropes, including theories that blame Jews for the spread of the coronavirus to expand influence and financial gain, according to research by the Anti-Defamation League.”


Sunday, 16 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Putin threatens retaliation if Kyiv uses cluster munitions; grain deal deadline nears, The Washington Post, Kelly Kasulis Cho, Jennifer Hassan, and Marisa Iati, Sunday, 16 July 2023: “Russia has a stockpile of cluster munitions and reserves the right to continue to use them if Ukraine does, Russian President Vladimir Putin said in an interview with state media published Sunday. His remarks came after President Biden approved the provision of U.S. cluster munitions for Ukraine this month and the Pentagon said Thursday that Ukraine had received them. According to Human Rights Watch, both Russian and Ukrainian forces have used cluster munitions in the war, killing and injuring civilians. The Black Sea Grain Initiative, an agreement that has helped alleviate a global food crisis amid Russia’s invasion, is set to expire Monday. U.N. Secretary General António Guterres sent Putin a letter last week with a proposal to extend the deal, but as of Sunday, Russia had not responded.

  • More than 120 countries signed a 2008 convention banning the use of cluster munitions as inhumane and indiscriminate, but Russia, Ukraine and the United States are not parties to it. Several U.S. allies, including Germany and France, stressed they would not emulate the Biden administration’s decision to send the munitions to Ukraine.
  • The United Nations said no new vessels have been authorized to join the Black Sea Grain Initiative since June 27, which has added to concerns that Moscow may not renew the deal. At least 29 ships have applied to join the initiative, which allows grain and other food exports to safely pass through the Black Sea corridor. White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan told CBS News’s ‘Face the Nation’ on Sunday that he ‘can’t predict’ whether Putin will agree to extend the deal.
  • British Defense Secretary Ben Wallace said his comments implying that Kyiv should show more appreciation for Western aid were ‘misrepresented.’ He said during last week’s NATO summit that ‘people want to see gratitude’ for the enormous sums and political capital that Ukraine’s allies have spent to help Kyiv fight Russia, and that Ukraine should persuade lawmakers around the world that sending aid is worthwhile. In tweets written in Ukrainian and sent Saturday night, Wallace said that comment was ‘not about governments, but more about citizens and members of parliaments.’
  • Wallace announced plans to resign as defense secretary during the British government’s next cabinet reshuffle. In an interview with Britain’s Sunday Times newspaper, he also said he does not intend to seek reelection as a member of Parliament after his term. Wallace has served as Britain’s defense secretary for four years and is one of the United Kingdom’s key advocates for military support for Ukraine.
  • In a surprise visit to Ukraine, South Korean President Yoon Suk Yeol pledged $150 million in supplementary humanitarian aid and promised to continue to assist the country with demining and the restoration of infrastructure. Speaking at a televised news conference Saturday, Yoon said he would also provide ‘a larger scale of military supplies.’ Last year, South Korea provided nonlethal military aid such as body armor and helmets.
  • Ukraine’s trade deficit widened to $8.97 billion in the first five months of this year, Reuters reported, compared with a deficit of about $1 billion recorded during the same period a year ago. A trade deficit occurs when a country’s imports exceed its exports.
  • Russia said it will shut down a Polish consulate to retaliate for ‘unfriendly, anti-Russian’ government actions, according to an official statement provided to Interfax. The consulate, some 230 miles from Moscow, was opened about 12 years ago in a bid for better relations.
  • U.S. prosecutors indicted an alleged Russian intelligence agent after extraditing him to the United States on conspiracy charges, the Justice Department said Friday. Vadim Konoshchenok is accused of smuggling dual-use technology and ammunition from U.S. companies on behalf of the Russian government.


Monday, 17 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Official cays Ukraine attacked Crimean Bridge; Russia says grain deal is ‘being terminated,’ The Washington Post, David L. Stern, Robyn Dixon, Jennifer-Hassan, Kelly Kasulis Cho, and Sammy Westfall, Monday, 17 July 2023: “Ukraine’s military and security services carried out a deadly attack on a key bridge that connects the Crimean Peninsula to the Russian region of Krasnodar, a Ukrainian official said Monday. Ukraine used sea-surface drones to attack the bridge — a supply artery for Russia’s war in Ukraine — the official said, speaking on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of military operations. On Monday, Russia said it would resume its military blockade on Ukrainian grain, suspending a United Nations-backed deal that allowed shipments from Black Sea ports despite wartime hostilities.

  • The Crimean Bridge, also called the Kerch Bridge, which carries road and rail traffic, was also the site of an explosion in October that required months of repairs. In the latest attack, Russia’s Transport Ministry said the roadway on the bridge was damaged but that the spans remained on their supports. Train traffic across the bridge was initially suspended but resumed early Monday local time. Russia’s only other land route to Crimea passes through contested Ukrainian territory occupied by Russian forces.
  • The attack occurred at the height of Russia’s summer season. Crimea, which Moscow invaded and illegally annexed in 2014, has been a favorite holiday destination for Russians. Russian media identified the couple killed as Alexei Kulik, 40, and his wife, Natalya, 36. Their 14-year-old daughter, Angelina Kulik, who was injured in the attack, was hospitalized. The family was headed to Crimea for vacation.
  • President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that the agreement brokered by Turkey and backed by the United Nations, which had helped sustain crucial food supplies to countries worldwide, particularly in Africa and the Middle East, was ‘being terminated’ until its conditions are met.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Putin Condemns Attack on Key Crimean Bridge. The deadly attack on the Kerch Strait Bridge intensified criticism of Russia’s military leadership, which was already dealing with internal strife. The New York Times, Monday, 17 July 2023:

  • Russia blames Ukraine for attacking a vital bridge in occupied Crimea.

  • Russia says it has suspended participation in the Black Sea grain deal.

  • Russia defends itself against a flurry of criticism at the U.N. Security Council.

  • These are Russia’s demands for the grain deal.

  • Crimea’s Kerch Strait Bridge holds deep strategic, and symbolic, value.

  • A large Wagner convoy arrives at a camp in Belarus.

  • Russia’s detention of an American reporter is part of a crackdown on freedom of expression, U.N. experts say.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: The grain deal is out; cluster bombs and NATO expansion are in, NPR, Monday, 17 July 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: Turkish officials are working to restore the Ukraine grain deal after Russia suspended its participation Monday. Turkey’s government and the United Nations a year ago brokered the wartime deal that lets Ukraine export grain and other farm goods through the Black Sea. The deal’s backers say halting it could drive up global food prices, as Ukraine has traditionally been a major grain exporter. Observers are also watching for fallout or retaliation after an explosion on a key bridge linking the Russian mainland to the Crimea Peninsula early Monday. Russia blamed the blast on Ukraine, which has not claimed responsibility for it. Also Monday, British Foreign Secretary James Cleverly is due to chair a meeting at the U.N. Security Council on Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The United Kingdom holds the council’s rotating presidency. On Tuesday, the U.N. General Assembly is expected to debate the situation of occupied territories of Ukraine. What happened last week: NATO held an important summit in Lithuania with new member Finland at the table, and Ukraine waiting in the wings for a timeline to join. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy left the summit without a timeline but he did receive assurances for long-term backing from the United States and other allies. Turkey dropped objections to Sweden’s membership in NATO on the eve of the alliance’s summit, paving the way for another NATO expansion in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Biden administration said it wants to move forward with the sale of F-16s to Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdogan agreed to secure his country’s approval of Sweden’s NATO bid. But Congress would need to give the green light and some lawmakers have reservations about the sale. Ukraine received cluster bombs from the U.S., the controversial weapons banned in more than 100 countries because of their danger to civilians. The Pentagon said the cluster munitions have a far lower rate of failure to explode than other cluster bombs, that would leave fewer unexploded rounds on the ground that could harm the population. Analysts and human rights workers say both Russia and Ukraine have used cluster munitions in the war. President Vladimir Putin claimed that Russia hasn’t, but warned it has plenty of cluster bombs and would use them in ‘reciprocal action.’ Belarus said Russia’s Wagner Group mercenaries agreed to train Belarusian soldiers, in one of the latest developments since the mercenary group launched an attempted mutiny in Russia last month.”

Trump and Allies Forge Plans to Increase Presidential Power in 2023. The former president and his backers aim to strengthen the power of the White House and limit the independence of federal agencies. The New York Times, Jonathan Swan, Charlie Savage, and Maggie Haberman, Monday, 17 July 2023: “Donald J. Trump and his allies are planning a sweeping expansion of presidential power over the machinery of government if voters return him to the White House in 2025, reshaping the structure of the executive branch to concentrate far greater authority directly in his hands. Their plans to centralize more power in the Oval Office stretch far beyond the former president’s recent remarks that he would order a criminal investigation into his political rival, President Biden, signaling his intent to end the post-Watergate norm of Justice Department independence from White House political control. Mr. Trump and his associates have a broader goal: to alter the balance of power by increasing the president’s authority over every part of the federal government that now operates, by either law or tradition, with any measure of independence from political interference by the White House, according to a review of his campaign policy proposals and interviews with people close to him. Mr. Trump intends to bring independent agencies — like the Federal Communications Commission, which makes and enforces rules for television and internet companies, and the Federal Trade Commission, which enforces various antitrust and other consumer protection rules against businesses — under direct presidential control. He wants to revive the practice of ‘impounding’ funds, refusing to spend money Congress has appropriated for programs a president doesn’t like — a tactic that lawmakers banned under President Richard Nixon.”

Abortion in Iowa is legal again, for now, after a judge blocks new restrictions, Associated Press, Hannah Fingerhut, Monday, 17 July 2023: “An Iowa judge on Monday temporarily blocked the state’s new ban on most abortions after about six weeks of pregnancy, just days after Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the measure into law. That means abortion is once again legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy while the courts assess the new law’s constitutionality. The new law prohibits almost all abortions once cardiac activity can be detected, which is usually around six weeks of pregnancy and before many women know they are pregnant.” See also, Polk County judge temporarily blocks Iowa’s abortion law as court challenge continues, Des Moines Register, Stephen Gruber-Miller, Monday, 17 July 2023: “A Polk County judge has temporarily blocked Iowa’s ‘fetal heartbeat’ law as a court challenge plays out, meaning abortion is again legal in Iowa up to 20 weeks of pregnancy. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed the ‘fetal heartbeat’ law at about 2:45 p.m. Friday at the Family Leadership Summit, a gathering of conservative Christians where half a dozen Republican presidential contenders also took the stage. It took effect immediately, banning nearly all abortions after doctors detect cardiac activity in the embryo. That can occur about six weeks into a pregnancy, before many women know they are pregnant. There are narrowly defined exceptions for rape, incest, fatal fetal abnormalities and cases of medical emergency.”

Georgia Supreme Court Rejects Trump Effort to Quash Investigation. With indictment decisious imminent, the court refused to scuttle an investigation into whether the former president and his allies interfered in the 2020 election. The New York Times, Danny Hakim, Monday, 17 July 2023: “In a ruling on Monday, the Georgia Supreme Court rejected a long-shot attempt by former President Donald J. Trump’s legal team to scuttle an investigation into election interference weeks before indictment decisions are expected. The pronouncement from the court was both unanimous and swift, coming just three days after Mr. Trump’s lawyers submitted their filing. They had sought a court order that would throw out the work of a special grand jury in Atlanta and disqualify Fani T. Willis, the district attorney of Fulton County, from the proceedings. She has been the prosecutor in charge of the investigation into whether Mr. Trump and his allies interfered in the 2020 election in Georgia. Most of the court’s nine justices were originally appointed by Republican governors; thus far, the case has played out in Superior Court in Atlanta.” See also, Georgia Supreme Court rejects Trump petition to block election investigation. The unanimous opinion says Trump had not proved the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that warranted intervention by Georgia’s top court. The Washington Post, Holly Bailey, Monday, 17 July 2023: “The Georgia Supreme Court unanimously dismissed former president Donald Trump’s petition to block an Atlanta-area district attorney from investigating him over allegations of 2020 election interference and to throw out evidence gathered by a special purpose grand jury in the case. Trump’s attorneys had asked Georgia’s top court late Thursday to disqualify Fulton County District Attorney Fani T. Willis (D) and her office from further probing whether Trump and his allies broke the law when they sought to overturn Trump’s 2020 election loss in the state. The Trump motion also sought to quash the final report of the special grand jury. It asked the Supreme Court to ‘stay all proceedings related to and flowing from the special purpose grand jury’s investigation’ — a request made just weeks before Willis is expected to announce a charging decision in the high-profile case. But in an opinion published late Monday, the nine-member Supreme Court dismissed the petition, writing that Trump had not proved the ‘extraordinary circumstances’ that would warrant an intervention by the state’s top court. The decision said that the petition lacked proof that his constitutional rights had been violated; that ‘the facts or the law necessary’ to remove Willis from the case exist; or that other courts had rejected his claims.”

Judge Cannon to preside at first pretrial hearing in Trump documents case, The Washington Post, Perry Stein and Mark Berman, Monday, 17 July 2023: “The federal judge presiding over Donald Trump’s trial for allegedly mishandling classified documents is scheduled to meet with prosecutors and the former president’s attorneys for the first time Tuesday afternoon in a Fort Pierce, Fla., courtroom. The public hearing is expected to focus on administrative procedures required in a case that relies on classified government materials as evidence. It could also provide insight into whether U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon will push to resolve the trial before or after the 2024 presidential election. Prosecutors and Trump’s defense attorneys have sharply differed on when the trial should take place, and in an order Monday, Cannon said the two sides should come to the next day’s hearing prepared to discuss the potential timing.”

Trump’s Judges: More Religious Ties and More N.R.A. Memberships. A new study also found that judges appointed by the former president were more likely to vote for claims of religious freedom–unless they came from Muslims. The New York Times, Adam Liptak, Monday, 17 July 2023: “When Donald J. Trump was running for president in 2016, he vowed to appoint Supreme Court justices who would vote to overturn Roe v. Wade. Three justices and six years later, he made good on that promise. Mr. Trump also made a more general pledge during that campaign, about religion. At a Republican debate, a moderator asked whether he would ‘commit to voters tonight that religious liberty will be an absolute litmus test for anyone you appoint, not just to the Supreme Court, but to all courts.’ Mr. Trump said he would, and a new study has found that he largely delivered on that assurance, too. Mr. Trump’s appointees to the lower federal courts, the study found, voted in favor of claims of religious liberty more often than not only Democratic appointees and but also judges named by other Republican presidents. There was an exception: Muslim plaintiffs fared worse before Trump appointees than before other judges.”

How Harlan Crow Slashed His Tax Bill by Taking Clarence Thomas on Superyacht Cruises, ProPublica, Paul Kiel, Monday, 17 July 2023: “For months, Harlan Crow and members of Congress have been engaged in a fight over whether the billionaire needs to divulge details about his gifts to Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, including globe-trotting trips aboard his 162-foot yacht, the Michaela Rose. Crow’s lawyer argues that Congress has no authority to probe the GOP donor’s generosity and that doing so violates a constitutional separation of powers between Congress and the Supreme Court. Members of Congress say there are federal tax laws underlying their interest and a known propensity by the ultrarich to use their yachts to skirt those laws. Tax data obtained by ProPublica provides a glimpse of what congressional investigators would find if Crow were to open his books to them. Crow’s voyages with Thomas, the data shows, contributed to a nice side benefit: They helped reduce Crow’s tax bill.”


Tuesday, 18 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia attacks southern and eastern Ukraine after Crimean Bridge explosion, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Victoria Bisset, Natalia Abbakumova, Eve Sampson, and Sammy Westfall, Tuesday, 18 July 2023: “Russia carried out a wave of attacks across southern and eastern Ukraine overnight, in what it said was retaliation for Monday’s deadly explosion on the Crimean Bridge, which connects Russia to the illegally annexed peninsula. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it carried out a mass strike with sea-based weapons ‘against facilities where terrorist acts against Russian troops were prepared using unmanned boats’ near the city of Odessa. According to a Ukrainian official in Odessa, which is home to a major grain port, part of the port’s infrastructure was damaged as Ukrainian air defenses downed missiles fired by Russia. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov said it would be dangerous for Ukraine to continue exporting grain without Russian security guarantees, a day after Moscow withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative, an international accord that allowed the export of grain from southern Ukrainian ports that Russia had blockaded. The deal has helped sustain critical food supplies and temper rising food prices around the world. Bridge attack and aftermath: Russian President Vladimir Putin promised a response to the Crimean Bridge attack, which Russian officials said killed a Russian couple and injured a girl. Part of the bridge has reopened, a Russian official wrote on Telegram early Tuesday. A Ukrainian official, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive military operations, said Kyiv’s navy and special forces carried out Monday’s nighttime drone boat attack. It was the second time the bridge has been attacked during the conflict. The restoration of the Crimean Bridge could cost around $11 million to $14 million, Russian Deputy Prime Minister Marat Khusnullin said in a statement. The Ukrainian Air Force said Russia launched six Kalibr cruise missiles and 36 Shahed drones overnight. Serhiy Bratchuk, a spokesman for the Odessa military administration, said on Telegram that an elderly man was injured. Officials in Mykolaiv extinguished a fire that broke out after an industrial facility in the southern city was hit, its mayor, Alexander Senkevich, wrote on Telegram. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it destroyed fuel storage facilities near Odessa that had supplied fuel to Ukraine’s Armed Forces. Russia withdraws from Black Sea grain deal: The impact of Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal was immediately visible, U.S. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said. ‘Corn, soybean and wheat all shot up today as a result of this decision,’ he said Monday. The initiative had helped reduce food prices by more than 23 percent since March 2022 and ensured the safe passage of 32 million metric tons of foodstuffs from Ukrainian ports, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said Monday. South Africa’s president asked the International Criminal Court (ICC) to exempt his country from arresting Putin if the Russian president attends the BRICS summit in South Africa next month, arguing that attempting to arrest Putin would amount to a declaration of war against Russia. The ICC in March issued an arrest warrant for Putin for war crimes. President Cyril Ramaphosa in court documents published Tuesday said that ‘to declare war with Russia by arresting President Putin’ during the summit of the BRICS nations — also including Brazil, Russia, India and China — would be ‘a reckless, unconstitutional and unlawful exercise’ of government power, local news outlet News 24 reported. President Biden will discuss the repatriation of Ukrainian children ‘forcibly deported by Russian officials’ with a papal envoy this week in Washington, the White House said. Kyiv estimates that thousands of children have been taken to Russia or Russian-occupied territory. In March, the International Criminal Court in The Hague issued an arrest warrant for Putin and another top Russian official for their roles in the ‘unlawful deportation’ of Ukrainian children. Russian warships will participate in a joint naval exercise with China in the Sea of Japan, Russia’s Defense Ministry said Tuesday. A group of vessels left Vladivostok, in the far east of Russia, for the exercises, which are set to begin later this month, according to the ministry’s Telegram account. The two countries regularly conduct joint military drills. The Ukraine Defense Contact Group met again Tuesday and focused discussions on air defense, ammunition and armor, according to Ukrainian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov. The coalition, made up of about 50 countries, coordinates military support for Ukraine at monthly meetings.We will continue to move heaven and earth to get Ukraine what it needs,’ Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said at the meeting. Lithuania announced it will form a demining coalition for Ukraine, Lithuanian Defense Minister Arvydas Anusauskas said in a tweet after the Contact Group meeting. The coalition will invite nations with expertise to train de-miners or contribute equipment.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia Fires Drones and Missiles at Southern Ukraine. A day after blaming Kyiv for attacking a bridge to occupied Crimea, Russia launched a wave of strikes from the Black Sea, Ukrainian officials said. The New York Times, Tuesday, 18 July 2023:

  • Blast debris damages port facilities and houses in Odesa.

  • Wheat prices rise only slightly a day after Russia leaves the grain deal.

  • The U.S. announces $750 million in humanitarian and agricultural aid for Ukraine.

  • Moscow warns Ukraine against shipping grain across the Black Sea without its consent.

  • Russia’s accusation after the bridge attack renews attention on sea drones.

  • Divisions over Russia’s war in Ukraine cloud a meeting of G20 finance ministers.

January 6 Investigation: Trump Faces Possible Indictment in Capitol Attack Investigation. The former president said he received a second target letter from the special counsel, a sign that he could be indicted again. Days after receiving the first letter, Mr. Trump was charged with 37 criminal counts tied to the handling of classified documents. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Glenn Thrush, Adam Goldman, and Alan Feuer, Tuesday, 18 July 2023: “Former President Donald J. Trump has been informed that he could soon face federal indictment for his efforts to hold onto power after his 2020 election loss, potentially adding to the remarkable array of criminal charges and other legal troubles facing him even as he campaigns to return to the White House. Mr. Trump was informed by his lawyers on Sunday that he had received a so-called target letter from Jack Smith, the special counsel investigating his attempts to reverse his defeat at the polls, Mr. Trump and other people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday. Prosecutors use target letters to tell potential defendants that investigators have evidence tying them to crimes and that they could be subject to indictment. ‘Deranged Jack Smith’ sent Mr. Trump a letter on Sunday night informing him he was a ‘TARGET of the January 6th Grand Jury’ investigation, Mr. Trump said in a post on his social media platform. Such a letter ‘almost always means an Arrest and Indictment,’ wrote Mr. Trump, whose campaign is rooted in accusations of political persecution and a promise to purge the Justice Department and Federal Bureau of Investigation of personnel he sees as hostile to him and his agenda. Mr. Smith’s spokesman had no comment. An indictment of Mr. Trump would be the second brought by Mr. Smith, who is also prosecuting the former president for risking national security secrets by taking classified documents from the White House and for obstructing the government’s efforts to reclaim the material…. The target letter cited three statutes that could be applied in a prosecution of Mr. Trump by Mr. Smith’s team, a person briefed on the matter said. They include a potential charge of conspiracy to defraud the United States and a broad charge related to a violation of rights, the person said. Whether Mr. Smith and his prosecutors will choose to charge Mr. Trump on any or all of those statutes remained unclear, but they appear to have assembled evidence about an array of tactics that Mr. Trump and his allies used to try to stave off his election defeat.” See also, What is a Target Letter? A target letter is an official piece of correspondence from the Justice Department informing a person that he or she is being investigated. The New York Times, Remy Tumin, Tuesday, 18 July 2023. See also, Trump says he received a target letter in federal January 6 investigation, The Washington Post, Perry Stein, Josh Dawsey, and Jacqueline Alemany, Tuesday, 18 July 2023: “Former president Donald Trump said Tuesday morning that he received a letter from the Justice Department informing him that he is a target of the long-running investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. Trump wrote on social media that special counsel Jack Smith — the prosecutor leading the federal investigation — sent a letter on Sunday. His advisers declined to provide a copy, and a spokesman for Smith declined to comment. The target letter and potential indictment further ensnare Trump in unprecedented legal peril while he is campaigning as the front-runner to be the 2024 Republican nominee for president.” See also, The latest on Donald Trump’s indictments and other key investigations. In New York, Fulton County, Georgia, and D.C., the former president is the focus of criminal investigations. The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Devlin Barrett, and Jacqueline Alemany, updated on Tuesday, 18 July 2023. See also, Donald Trump says he’s a target of special counsel’s criminal investigation into 2020 election aftermath, CNN Politics, Jeremy Herb, Kristen Holmes, Kaitlan Collins, Paula Reid, and Katelyn Polantz, Tuesday, 18 July 2023: “Former President Donald Trump said in a social media post he’s been informed by special counsel Jack Smith that he is a target of the criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, a sign he may soon be charged by the special counsel. ‘Deranged Jack Smith, the prosecutor with Joe Biden’s DOJ, sent a letter (again, it was Sunday night!) stating that I am a TARGET of the January 6th Grand Jury investigation, and giving me a very short 4 days to report to the Grand Jury, which almost always means an Arrest and Indictment,’ Trump posted on Truth Social. Trump’s attorneys, including Todd Blanche, received the target letter from Smith’s team Sunday informing them that their client could face charges in the investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, two sources familiar with what happened tell CNN. A target letter from federal prosecutors to Trump makes clear that prosecutors are focused on the former president’s actions in the investigation into overturning the 2020 election – and not just of those around him who tried to stop his election loss. The target letter cites three statutes that Trump could be charged with: pertaining to deprivation of rights; conspiracy to commit an offense against or defraud the United States; and tampering with a witness, according to multiple news outlets, including The Wall Street Journal, that cited a person familiar with the matter. The Justice Department has been known in the investigation to be examining possible violations of the law around conspiracy and obstruction of the congressional proceeding on January 6, which is part of the witness tampering law, CNN previously reported following a Justice Department search of a Trump administration adviser’s home.” See also, Trump is notified he’s a target of the US criminal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election, Associated Press, Eric Tucker, Tuesday, 18 July 2023: “Former President Donald Trump said Tuesday he has received a letter informing him that he is a target of the Justice Department’s investigation into efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election, an indication he could soon be charged by U.S. prosecutors. New federal charges, on top of existing state and federal counts in New York and Florida and a separate election-interference investigation nearing conclusion in Georgia, would add to the list of legal problems for Trump as he pursues the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. Trump disclosed the existence of a target letter in a post on his Truth Social platform, saying he received it Sunday night and he anticipates being indicted. Such a letter often precedes an indictment and is used to advise individuals under investigation that prosecutors have gathered evidence linking them to a crime. Trump himself received one soon before being charged last month in a separate investigation into the illegal retention of classified documents.”

Judge Aileen Cannon seems skeptical of Trump desire to delay documents trial until after 2024 election, The Washington Post, Perry Stein and Mark Berman, Tuesday, 18 July 2023: “The federal judge presiding over Donald Trump’s trial for allegedly mishandling classified documents appeared skeptical Tuesday about the former president’s request that it be delayed until after the 2024 election. U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon also appeared wary of prosecutors’ request to begin the proceedings as soon as this year. During a hearing in federal court, Cannon did not set a new date for the trial, saying she would consider both sides’ arguments and make a decision on the timing ‘promptly.'” See also, Judge in Trump classified documents case tells prosecutors that a mid-December trial date would be too soon, CNN Politics, Tierney Sneed, Jeremy Herb, Devon M. Sayers, and Devan Cole, Tuesday, 18 July 2023: “US District Judge Aileen Cannon signaled she is likely to push back the start of a trial in the Mar-a-Lago classified documents case beyond the mid-December date proposed by federal prosecutors – but appeared deeply skeptical of arguments from Donald Trump’s lawyers that he couldn’t get a fair trial while running for president. During the hearing in Fort Pierce, Florida, Cannon told the prosecutors that their timeline was “compressed” and said that cases like this take more time. Cannon did not decide on a trial date but said she plans to ‘promptly’ issue an order on the matter.” See also, Prosecutors and Trump Lawyers Clash Over Timing in Classified Documents Case. In the first hearing before Judge Aileen M. Cannon, the two sides sparred over a trial date and how to prosecute a former president and current candidate. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Tuesday, 18 July 2023: “The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s classified documents case expressed skepticism on Tuesday about the government’s request to go to trial as early as December, but she also seemed disinclined to accede immediately to Mr. Trump’s desire to have the trial put off until after the 2024 election. Appearing for the first time at a hearing in the case, the judge, Aileen M. Cannon, came to no decision about when to schedule the trial, saying she would issue a written order ‘promptly.’ The question of the trial’s timing could be hugely consequential, given that the legal proceeding is intertwined with the calendar of a presidential campaign in which Mr. Trump is now the front-runner for the Republican nomination.”

Michigan Charges 16 in False Elector Scheme to Overturn Trump’s 2020 Loss. Among those facing felony charges was Meshwan Maddock, a Trump ally and a former co-chair of the Michigan Republican Party. The New York Times, Danny Hakim, Alexandra Berzon, and Maggie Astor. Tuesday, 18 July 2023: “The Michigan attorney general announced felony charges on Tuesday against 16 Republicans for falsely portraying themselves as electors from the state in an effort to overturn Donald J. Trump’s 2020 defeat there. Each of the defendants was charged with eight felony counts, including forgery and conspiracy to commit forgery, on accusation that they had signed documents attesting falsely that they were Michigan’s ‘duly elected and qualified electors’ for president and vice president. ‘They weren’t the duly elected and qualified electors, and each of the defendants knew it,’ Attorney General Dana Nessel, a Democrat, said in announcing the charges. ‘They carried out these actions with the hope and belief that the electoral votes of Michigan’s 2020 election would be awarded to the candidate of their choosing instead of the candidate that Michigan voters actually chose.’ The charges, the first against false electors in a sprawling scheme to hand the electoral votes of swing states won by Joseph R. Biden Jr. to Mr. Trump, add to the rapidly developing legal peril for Mr. Trump and those who helped him try to overturn the results of the election. They came the same day that Mr. Trump said federal prosecutors had told him that he is a target of their investigation into the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the Capitol and other schemes he and his allies used to try to maintain power.” See also, Michigan charges 16 Trump electors who falsely claimed he won the state. The charges are the first against Trump electors as investigations over attempts to overturn the 2020 presidential election intensify across the country. The Washington Post, Patrick Marley, Tuesday, 18 July 2023: “Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel charged 16 Republicans who falsely claimed to be the state’s 2020 presidential electors with forgery and other felonies Tuesday, bringing the first criminal prosecution against Trump electors as investigations over attempts to overturn election results intensify across the country. Nessel, a Democrat, brought the charges against former state Republican Party co-chairwoman Meshawn Maddock and 15 others who submitted official-looking paperwork to the federal government asserting they were casting the state’s electoral votes for President Donald Trump. Joe Biden won Michigan, and courts swiftly threw out lawsuits claiming Trump was the true winner of the state. The charges stem from a state investigation that is separate from a federal probe by special counsel Jack Smith into attempts to reverse the 2020 results. Trump on Tuesday said he had received a Justice Department letter telling him he was a target of Smith’s investigation.” See also, Michigan Attorney General charges participants in 2020 fake elector plot, CNN Politics, Zachary Cohen Marshall Cohen, Hannah Rabinowitz, and Jessica Schneider, Tuesday, 18 July 2023: “Sixteen fake electors who signed certificates falsely claiming President Donald Trump won Michigan in the 2020 election have been charged with multiple felonies, state Attorney General Dana Nessel announced Tuesday. This is the first time any of the fake electors have been charged with a crime related to the scheme, versions of which took place in multiple states. All 16 individuals were each charged with eight felonies: Two counts of forgery, one count of conspiracy to commit forgery, two counts of election law forgery, one count of conspiracy to commit election law forgery, one count of publishing a counterfeit record and one count of conspiring to publish a counterfeit record.”


Wednesday, 19 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Wagner boss Prigozhin appears to reemerge on video; Putin to skip South Africa summit amid risk of arrest, The Washington Post, Kelly Kasulis Cho, Victoria Bisset, David L. Stern, Natalia Affakumova, Eve Sampson, and Sammy Westfall, Wednesday, 19 July 2023: “Yevgeniy Prigozhin, the head of the Wagner Group, appeared to confirm that he is in Belarus, vowing in a new video to continue operating his mercenary network, but not in Ukraine. In what appeared to be the first video of him since he led a short-lived rebellion against Russian authorities last month, he said fighters would continue to work in Africa, and to train the military of Belarus, where he has taken exile. In the blurry footage uploaded to Telegram, verified by The Washington Post, he appears to address hundreds of men in Belarus and says he intends to turn the country’s military into ‘the second army in the world.’ Russian President Vladimir Putin will not attend the BRICS summit in South Africa next month ‘by mutual agreement,’ the South African presidency announced Wednesday. As a signatory to the International Criminal Court’s founding treaty, South Africa would have been obliged to arrest Putin in the country because of the ICC arrest warrant issued against him in March over alleged war crimes in Ukraine. South African President Cyril Ramaphosa had sought an exemption, saying that arresting Putin would amount to a declaration of war against Moscow. Prigozhin-linked groups in Africa, where Wagner has a military and commercial presence in more than a dozen countries, said earlier this week that the mogul had sold some of his business on the continent to pay salaries to his fighters. Speaking of the grain deal Wednesday at a meeting of government officials, Putin said, ‘It is Russia that contributes to global food security; claims that Ukraine feeds the world’s hungry are lies.’ Putin said Russia was capable of replacing Ukrainian grain on the world market both on a commercial and free-of-charge basis. The grain deal allowed nearly 33 million tons of commodities — mostly corn, then wheat — to flow into dozens of countries, United Nations data showed. Russia’s conditions to return to the deal include lifting sanctions from its agricultural bank and lifting restrictions on its ability to buy foreign agricultural machinery. U.N. spokesman Stéphane Dujarric said Secretary General António Guterres would ‘continue to explore all possible avenues to ensure that Ukrainian grain, Russian grain and Russian fertilizer are out into the global market’ after Moscow pulled out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative. Governments around the world, from France and Finland to Kenya, criticized Russia’s decision to pull out of the grain deal this week. The Russian Defense Ministry said that starting Thursday, all ships headed to Ukrainian ports in the Black Sea will be considered potential carriers of military cargo, given its withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal. ‘Accordingly, the flag countries of such vessels will be considered involved in the Ukrainian conflict on the side of the Kyiv regime,’ the ministry said. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov denied a claim that Russia had threatened South Africa with war if it arrested Putin, when asked about it at a news conference Wednesday. But he added that it was ‘absolutely clear to everyone in this world what it means to attempt to encroach on the head of the Russian state, so no one here needs to explain anything.’ Ramaphosa said in court documents published Tuesday that ‘to declare war with Russia by arresting President Putin’ during the summit would be ‘a reckless, unconstitutional and unlawful exercise’ of government power, local news outlet News 24 reported. The Pentagon announced a new $1.3 billion security assistance package of weapons and equipment for Ukraine on Wednesday. The commitment includes Phoenix Ghost drones, four National Advanced Surface-to-Air Missile Systems, mine clearing equipment, and artillery rounds, among other capabilities. The head of Britain’s foreign intelligence agency, MI6, encouraged Russians to spy for his country, Politico reported. In a rare speech in Prague, at an event hosted by the outlet, Richard Moore urged disaffected Russians to ‘join hands with us,’ adding: ‘Our door is always open. … Their secrets will be safe with us, and together we will work to bring the bloodshed to an end.’ The CIA has also sought to recruit Russians, and in May published instructions on how to share information safely with the agency online. President Biden will discuss the repatriation of Ukrainian children with a papal envoy this week in Washington, the White House said. Kyiv estimates that thousands of children have been taken to Russia or Russian-occupied territory. Russian warships will participate in a joint naval exercise with China in the Sea of Japan, also known as the East Sea, the Kremlin said Tuesday. A group of vessels left the far eastern city of Vladivostok for the exercises, which are set to begin later this month. The body of Nick Maimer, a veteran from Idaho killed in Ukraine, is being returned to the United States, according to Task Force 31, which describes itself as a group of veterans training Ukrainian soldiers. Maimer’s death was disclosed in May in a video showing Wagner chief Prigozhin, who stood next to Maimer’s body and shuffled through the veteran’s identification cards.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Ships Bound for Ukraine Will Be Considered Hostile, Russia Says. The comments by Moscow’s Defense Ministry came after Russia withdrew from a deal allowing Ukraine to ship grain, and after strikes that Ukraine said were aimed at grain infrastructure. The New York Times, Wednesday, 19 July 2023:

  • Wheat prices spike after Russia raises tensions in the Black Sea.
  • Russia strikes Odesa for a second day after withdrawing from the grain deal.
  • Video suggests that the Wagner leader visited Belarus to address his troops this week.
  • Britain’s spy master says Putin cut a deal with Prigozhin to end the Wagner mercenaries’ brief revolt.
  • The Pentagon unveils $1.3 billion for Ukraine, bringing total new U.S. aid this week to $2.3 billion.
  • The authorities in Crimea report a blast at a military base that closed a major highway.
  • What Russians saw on TV: The traitor and the ‘indisputable hero.’
  • Putin will not attend an August summit in South Africa in person, the Kremlin says.

Potential Trump Charges Include Civil Rights Law Used in Voting Fraud Cases. A target letter sent by the special counsel investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to reverse his election loss cited three statutes that could be the basis for a prosecution. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Adam Goldman, Charlie Savage, and Alan Feuer, Wednesday, 19 July 2023: “Federal prosecutors have introduced a new twist in the Jan. 6 investigation by suggesting in a target letter that they could charge former President Donald J. Trump with violating a civil rights statute that dates back to the post-Civil War Reconstruction era, according to three people familiar with the matter. The letter to Mr. Trump from the special counsel, Jack Smith, referred to three criminal statutes as part of the grand jury investigation into Mr. Trump’s efforts to reverse his 2020 election loss, according to two people with knowledge of its contents. Two of the statutes were familiar from the criminal referral by the House Jan. 6 committee and months of discussion by legal experts: conspiracy to defraud the government and obstruction of an official proceeding. But the third criminal law cited in the letter was a surprise: Section 241 of Title 18 of the United States Code, which makes it a crime for people to ‘conspire to injure, oppress, threaten, or intimidate any person’ in the ‘free exercise or enjoyment of any right or privilege secured to him by the Constitution or laws of the United States.’ Congress enacted that statute after the Civil War to provide a tool for federal agents to go after Southern whites, including Ku Klux Klan members, who engaged in terrorism to prevent formerly enslaved African Americans from voting. But in the modern era, it has been used more broadly, including in cases of voting fraud conspiracies. A Justice Department spokesman declined to discuss the target letter and Mr. Smith’s theory for bringing the Section 241 statute into the Jan. 6 investigation. But the modern usage of the law raised the possibility that Mr. Trump, who baselessly declared the election he lost to have been rigged, could face prosecution on accusations of trying to rig the election himself.”

Trump Hush Money Case Will Remain in New York State Court, Judge Rules. Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump had sought to move the first criminal case against him to federal court, but a judge put an end to the effort. The New York Times, Jonah E. Bromwich, Wednesday, 19 July 2023: “A judge on Wednesday denied former President Donald J. Trump’s request to move the Manhattan criminal case against him from state to federal court. The federal judge, Alvin K. Hellerstein, had signaled in a hearing last month that he was predisposed against moving the case brought by the Manhattan district attorney, Alvin L. Bragg. Mr. Bragg’s prosecutors have charged Mr. Trump with 34 felony counts of falsifying business records, stemming from a hush money payment made to a porn star in 2016. Mr. Trump’s lawyers had argued the case should be heard in federal court because it related to conduct he engaged in while president. But in the order Judge Hellerstein issued Wednesday, he echoed his contention at the hearing that Mr. Trump’s lawyers had failed to show that the behavior at issue — reimbursements to Mr. Trump’s former fixer, Michael D. Cohen, for the hush money payment — was somehow related to the office of the presidency. Judge Hellerstein wrote that the evidence overwhelmingly suggested that the matter involved something personal to the president: ‘a cover-up of an embarrassing event.'”

Judge clarifies: Yes, Trump was found to have raped E. Jean Carroll, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Wednesday, 19 July 2023: “After Donald Trump was found liable for sexually abusing and defaming E. Jean Carroll, his legal team and his defenders lodged a frequent talking point. Despite Carroll’s claims that Trump had raped her, they noted, the jury stopped short of saying he committed that particular offense. Instead, jurors opted for a second option: sexual abuse. ‘This was a rape claim, this was a rape case all along, and the jury rejected that — made other findings,’ his lawyer, Joe Tacopina, said outside the courthouse. A judge has now clarified that this is basically a legal distinction without a real-world difference. He says that what the jury found Trump did was in fact rape, as commonly understood.”

A federal judge denies Trump’s request for new trial in E. Jean Carroll legal saga, NPR, Jaclyn Diaz, Wednesday, 19 July 2023: “A federal judge has rejected former President Donald Trump’s motion for a new trial in the civil case brought by the writer E. Jean Carroll. A jury had previously found Trump liable for sexually abusing Carroll and defaming her, and awarded her $5 million in damages. Senior district Judge Lewis A. Kaplan of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York wrote in an order issued Wednesday that the jury in the case did not reach ‘a seriously erroneous result’ and its verdict is not ‘a miscarriage of justice,’ as Trump had alleged. ‘Now that the court has denied Trump’s motion for a new trial or to decrease the amount of the verdict, E Jean Carroll looks forward to receiving the $5 million in damages that the jury awarded her,’ Robbie Kaplan, Carroll’s attorney said in a statement.” See also, Judges deliver losses to Trump in two New York cases, The Washington Post, Shayna Jacobs, Wednesday, 19 July 2023: “Two federal judges handed legal losses to Donald Trump on Wednesday — one rejecting the former president’s bid to move from state to federal court his upcoming criminal trial on charges of falsifying business records, and the other denying a request for a retrial in a civil sexual assault case Trump lost in May. In the criminal records case, U.S. District Court Judge Alvin Hellerstein said Trump did not sufficiently prove that his alleged involvement in 2016 hush money payments to adult film actress Stormy Daniels, which stretched into Trump’s presidency, was related to his official role.” See also, Judge upholds the $5 million jury verdict against Trump in a writer’s sex abuse and defamation case, Associated Press, Larry Neumeister, Wednesday, 19 July 2023: “A federal judge on Wednesday upheld a $5 million jury verdict against Donald Trump, rejecting the former president’s claims that the award was excessive and that the jury vindicated him by failing to conclude he raped a columnist in a luxury department store dressing room in the 1990s. Judge Lewis A. Kaplan said the jury’s May award of compensatory and punitive damages to writer E. Jean Carroll for sexual abuse and defamation in the civil case was reasonable. Trump’s lawyers had asked Kaplan to reduce the jury award to less than $1 million or order a new trial on damages. In their arguments, the lawyers said the jury’s $2 million in compensatory damages granted for Carroll’s sexual assault claim was excessive because the jury concluded that Trump had not raped Carroll at Bergdorf Goodman’s Manhattan store in the spring of 1996. Kaplan wrote that the jury’s unanimous verdict was almost entirely in favor of Carroll, except that the jury concluded she had failed to prove that Trump raped her ‘within the narrow, technical meaning of a particular section of the New York Penal Law.’ The judge said the section requires vaginal penetration by a penis while forcible penetration without consent of the vagina or other bodily orifices by fingers or anything else is labeled ‘sexual abuse’ rather than ‘rape.’ He said the definition of rape was ‘far narrower’ than how rape is defined in common modern parlance, in some dictionaries, in some federal and state criminal statutes and elsewhere. The judge said the verdict did not mean that Carroll ‘failed to prove that Mr. Trump “raped” her as many people commonly understand the word “rape.” Indeed … the jury found that Mr. Trump in fact did exactly that.'”

Special counsel subpoenas security footage from Atlanta stadium that served as polling place in 2020 election, CNN Politics, Jason Morris and Zachary Cohen, Wednesday, 19 July 2023: “Federal prosecutors building a criminal investigation into former President Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election have asked for all security video from Atlanta’s State Farm Arena around polling day, according to a subpoena sent to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger’s office. The letter from special counsel Jack Smith and his investigators, dated May 31, 2023, asked the Georgia secretary of state’s office for ‘any and all security video or security footage, or any other video of any kind, depicting or taken at or near the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, on or about November 3, 2020, and any associated data.’ Former President Donald Trump and his campaign targeted Fulton County election workers who were stationed at the arena by baselessly claiming they were counting fake mail-in ballots. The FBI and Georgia Bureau of Investigation looked into claims of voter fraud at the arena, which was billed as Georgia’s largest-ever voting precinct, and concluded that ‘there was no evidence of any type of fraud as alleged.’ The Georgia State Election Board also recently concluded a years-long investigation into alleged misconduct by Fulton County election workers during the 2020 election, finding no evidence of conspiracy.”

Thursday, 20 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: More strikes hit Odessa; U.S. imposes sanctions on Russian, Kyrgyz companies, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Ellen Francis, Claire Parker, and Sammy Westfall, Thursday, 20 July 2023: “The United States slapped sanctions Thursday on Russian technology supply and development companies, as well as Kyrgyz companies that the U.S. accused of acting as intermediaries to allow Russia to import electronic equipment, bypassing Western sanctions. A Washington Post investigation published Tuesday revealed that Kyrgyz firms were profiting from soaring sales of sanctioned Chinese and European goods they transported to Russia. Missile strikes pummeled Ukraine’s Black Sea port region of Odessa for the third night in a row, while an attack on the nearby port city of Mykolaiv left two people dead and 19 wounded, including five children, Ukrainian officials said early Thursday. Ukraine said it would view Russian vessels in parts of the Black Sea as potentially carrying military cargo, in retaliation for Moscow announcing the same and pulling out of a U.N.-brokered grain deal this week. The tensions around maritime activity have sent wheat futures soaring in recent days. In the southeast, Ukraine has started using controversial U.S.-made cluster munitions, hoping to break up fortified Russian positions that have slowed its offensive, according to Ukrainian officials familiar with the matter, The Washington Post’s John Hudson and Isabelle Khurshudyan report. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Thursday that Ukraine was using the cluster munitions ‘quite effectively’ and that they are making ‘an impact on Russia’s defensive formations and Russia’s defensive maneuvering.’ The latest attack on Odessa sparked a fire in the city and killed one person, regional governor Oleh Kiper said Thursday. The barrage comes after Russia’s pullout from a U.N.-brokered deal that had allowed the flow of Ukrainian grain exports to the world, and after Moscow vowed to retaliate against Kyiv’s strike on the Crimean Bridge earlier this week. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said on Telegram on Thursday the attacks in Odessa and Mykolaiv showed ‘Russian terrorists continue their attempts to destroy the life of our country.’ Russia ‘should suffer a devastating sanctions blow’ in response, Andriy Yermak, the head of Zelensky’s office, said in a Telegram post. Ships headed to Ukrainian ports on the Black Sea could be considered potential carriers of military cargo as of Thursday, the Russian Defense Ministry said. ‘The flag countries of ships sailing to the Ukrainian ports of the Black Sea will be considered involved in the conflict’ on the side of Kyiv, it said. In response, Ukraine’s military said that beginning Friday, all vessels in the Black Sea heading toward Russia’s ports and Ukrainian ports occupied by Russian forces may be considered as carrying military cargo. The military also declared maritime navigation in northeastern parts of the Black Sea and the Kerch-Yenikale strait, connecting the Sea of Azov to the Black Sea along Crimea, to be ‘prohibited as dangerous’ starting Thursday. Ukraine accused the Kremlin of turning ‘the Black Sea into a danger zone,’ adding: ‘The responsibility for all risks lies entirely with the Russian leadership.’ The White House warned that Russia’s military has laid sea mines around Ukrainian ports and is preparing for possible attacks on civilian shipping vessels in the Black Sea. NSC spokesman Kirby on Thursday added that the United States was releasing this information strategically to avoid false flag operations by Russia. The European Union’s top diplomat accused Russia of deepening a global food supply crisis after the Kremlin withdrew from the grain deal. ‘This is going to create a big and huge food crisis in the world,’ Josep Borrell told reporters Thursday. Wheat prices rose early Thursday for the third consecutive day, CNBC reported, though they remained below peak levels reached in May 2022, in the early months of the Ukraine war. United Nations Secretary General António Guterres condemned Russia’s attacks on Ukrainian port facilities and Black Sea ports, adding that the attacks violate Russia’s memorandum of understanding with the United Nations that says the nation ‘will facilitate the unimpeded export of food, sunflower oil and fertilizers from Ukrainian controlled Black Sea ports,’ according to a statement from his spokesman. Germany is working with allies to make sure Ukrainian grain is not left to rot in silos after the suspension of the export deal, and will work to get the grain out by rail, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock said Thursday on the sidelines of a European Union foreign ministers meeting. Egypt, one of the world’s top wheat importers, criticized Russia’s exit from the deal and pledged to continue importing Ukrainian grain. ‘We are not pleased with the Russian withdrawal from the U.N. grain-export deal,’ Egyptian Supply Minister Ali El-Mosilhy told Bloomberg. Wagner Group head Yevgeniy Prigozhin appeared to confirm that he was in Belarus in a new video, posted on Telegram and verified by The Post. It appears to be the first footage of him since his group’s short-lived mutiny in Russia last month. He vowed that his fighters would continue operating, but not in Ukraine, saying they would keep working in Africa and would train the Belarusian army. E.U. foreign ministers discussed a new proposal Thursday by E.U. foreign policy chief Josep Borrell to establish a 20 billion euro ($22.3 billion) fund for defense support to Ukraine. The dedicated fund, which would be fall under the existing European Peace Facility — the E.U.’s off-budget funding instrument for security and peace — would provide up to 5 billion euros annually over four years for Ukraine. ‘This is the evaluation of the needs and the cost of our long-term security commitment to Ukraine,’ Borrell said in a Thursday statement. Britain is imposing sanctions on 13 individuals and businesses linked to Wagner in Mali, Sudan and the Central African Republic, the Foreign Office announced Thursday. South Africa announced that Russian President Vladimir Putin will not be attending the August BRICS summit — composed of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa — by ‘mutual agreement.’ This resolves a diplomatic quandary for South Africa, which, as a member of the International Criminal Court, would have an obligation to arrest Putin upon his arrival in the country.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: C.I.A. Director Says Kremlin ‘Appeared to Be Adrift’ During Aborted Mutiny. William J. Burns, in the most detailed account yet from a U.S. official, said the rebellion last month by Yevgeny V. Prigozhin and his Wagner private military company had revived deeper questions about the judgment of President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia. The New York Times, Thursday, 20 July 2023:

  • C.I.A. chief offers scathing assessment of mutiny’s effects on Putin’s rule.
  • Russia steps up attacks on ports, as White House warns Moscow intends to target civilian ships.
  • White House accuses Russia of planning a ‘false flag’ operation to blame Ukraine for any attacks on civilian ships in the Black Sea.
  • Despite grain deal collapse, Putin and Erdogan are still relying on each other.
  • Wheat prices remain high as concern grows about Black Sea instability and disruption to the grain supply.
  • Ukraine starts using American-made cluster munitions in its counteroffensive, U.S. officials say.
  • Belarus says Wagner fighters are training troops on the border with Poland.

Influential activist Leonard Leo helped fund media campaign lionizing Clarence Thomas, The Washington Post,  Shawn Boburg, Emma Brown, and Ann E. Marimow, Thursday, 20 July 2023: “The 25th anniversary of Clarence Thomas’s confirmation to the Supreme Court was approaching — a moment that would draw attention to his accomplishments on the bench but also to the misconduct claims that had nearly derailed his rise. Among the wave of retrospective accounts set to come out that year, 2016, was a star-studded HBO film dramatically recounting Anita Hill’s sexual harassment allegations. That spring, a flurry of opinion articles defending Thomas and railing against the film appeared in news outlets, penned by a D.C. lawyer who had worked in the George H.W. Bush White House during the confirmation. Websites celebrating Thomas’s career — and attacking his onetime accuser — popped up. And on Twitter, a new account using the name “Justice Thomas Fan Account” began serving up flattering commentary. ‘Justice Thomas: The most open & personable of Justices, intimate in sharing his feelings, easily moved to laughter,’ read one early tweet on the account. It was not apparent at the time, but the rush of favorable content was part of a coordinated and sophisticated public relations campaign to defend and celebrate Thomas, according to a Washington Post examination of public and internal records and interviews with people familiar with the effort. The campaign would stretch on for years and include the creation and promotion of a laudatory film about Thomas, advertising to boost positive content about him during internet searches and publication of a book about his life. It was financed with at least $1.8 million from conservative nonprofit groups steered by the judicial activist Leonard Leo, the examination found.” See also, Special counsel subpoenaed Georgia secretary of state for security video from Atlanta polling site. Brad Raffensperger’s office said it complied with special counsel Jack Smith’s subpoena for video from State Farm Arena on Election Day 2020. NBC News, Charlie Gile and Zoë Richards, Thursday, 20 July 2023: “Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger has complied with a recent subpoena from special counsel Jack Smith seeking security video from a polling site that was the subject of election fraud claims by former President Donald Trump and allies, his office told NBC News on Wednesday. The May 31 subpoena, first reported by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, sought Election Day video from State Farm Arena in Atlanta from Raffensperger’s office. The subpoena, obtained by NBC News, requested: ‘Any and all security video or security footage, or any other video of any kind, depicting or taken at or near the State Farm Arena in Atlanta, Georgia, on or about November 3, 2020, and any associated data.'”

In New Interview Trump Threatens That It Would Be ‘Very Dangerous’ if Jack Smith Sends Him to Jail, Mediaite, Tommy Christopher, Thursday, 20 July 2023: “Ex-President Donald Trump threatened it would be ‘very dangerous’ if he were jailed over the new charges he’s likely facing, citing the ‘passion’ of his fan base. Trump completely hijacked the news cycle when he announced Tuesday that he’s about to be indicted in Special Counsel Jack Smith’s investigation into Trump’s conduct surrounding the 2020 election leading up to the January 6 attack on the Capitol. Since that all-caps-festooned announcement, Trump has ranted about the charges in various public forums, and it did not take long for him to raise the specter of violence that his supporters resorted to after he incited them on January 6.”

Senate Panel Approves Supreme Court Ethics Bill With Dim Prospects. Republicans accused Democrats of trying to undermine the court with the measure and vowed to block it from advancing in the Senate, making it highly unlikely to become law. The New York Times, Carl Hulse, Thursday, 20 July 2023: “The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday approved legislation that would impose strict new ethics rules on justices, moving over fierce objections from Republicans to address a string of revelations about Supreme Court justices taking free luxury trips and receiving other financial benefits from wealthy benefactors. The legislation, which stands little chance of advancing given the strong G.O.P. opposition, would require the Supreme Court to, at a minimum, adopt and adhere to ethics and disclosure rules equivalent to those applied to members of Congress. It would also impose new transparency requirements and create a panel of appellate judges to review misconduct complaints made against the justices. Democratic members of the committee said the action was necessary because the court has refused to police itself.” See also, Senate committee advances Supreme Court ethics bill after alleged justice misconduct. The justices oppose independent oversight, citing separation of powers. ABC News, Devin Dwyer, Thursday, 20 July 2023: “The Senate Judiciary Committee on Thursday — for the first time — voted to advance legislation that would require the U.S. Supreme Court to adopt a binding code of ethics, to adhere to more stringent disclosure requirements and explain recusal decisions to the public. The vote was 11-10 along party lines, with all Democrats in support and all Republicans opposed. The bill — ‘Supreme Court Ethics, Recusal, and Transparency Act’ — is now cleared for a full Senate vote. ‘We are here because the highest court in the land has the lowest standards for ethics anywhere in the federal government,’ said Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse, D-R.I., who sponsored the measure.”


Friday, 21 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia strikes Odessa amid Black Sea tensions; U.S. warns of plans to attack civilian shipping, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Ellen Francis, Claire Parker, and Mikhail Klimentov, Friday, 21 July 2023: “Russian forces held a live-fire exercise in the Black Sea on Friday, and also struck granaries in Ukraine’s port region of Odessa, ramping up tensions days after Moscow pulled out of a U.N.-backed grain export deal. The Kremlin’s withdrawal from the agreement has suspended the flow of shipments via Black Sea routes from Ukraine, a major grain exporter, and raised fears for global food supplies. Russian missiles have pounded Ukrainian port cities this week, as Moscow and Kyiv issue warnings to ships in the Black Sea. The U.N. Security Council is meeting Friday to discuss the humanitarian impact of Russia’s pullout from the grain deal, reached last year to alleviate a food security crisis in developing countries. At the meeting, the United States warned that Russia could be planning to attack Black Sea shipping routes. ‘The United States has information that the Russian military may expand its targeting of Ukrainian grain facilities to include attacks against civilian shipping,’ said Linda Thomas-Greenfield, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations. ‘Our information also indicates that Russia laid additional sea mines in the approaches to Ukrainian ports. We believe this is a coordinated effort to justify any attacks against civilian ships in the Black Sea and lay blame on Ukraine for these attacks.’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he planned to speak with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Friday evening about subjects including the Black Sea and food security. Russia struck an agricultural facility in Odessa in the fourth day of pounding the port region, the Odessa governor said. The attack injured two employees and destroyed tons of peas and barley, Oleh Kiper added. The wave of attacks also comes after Moscow promised to retaliate for Kyiv’s strike on the Crimean Bridge earlier this week. Two children were killed in a Russian artillery strike on a village in the Donetsk region: a boy born in 2013 and a girl born in 2007. In a statement on his website, Zelensky offered his condolences to the family and friends of the deceased. Radar imagery collected Friday appears to show newly arrived vehicles and equipment at a rumored Wagner base in the village of Tsel in Belarus. The images, provided to The Washington Post by Maxar Technologies and Umbra, show ‘dozens, if not hundreds, of vehicles and equipment have recently arrived at the facility,’ according to Stephen Wood, senior director at Maxar. Friday’s images show an increase in material compared to previous imagery gathered on July 16. Russian authorities detained Igor Girkin, a former Russian commander in Ukraine and prominent war blogger, on Friday. The charge — reportedly ‘public calls for extremist activities’ online — likely stems from Girkin’s loud criticism of Russian leaders and their military strategy, and comes despite his otherwise-fervent support of the war in Ukraine. The CIA director suggested that Putin could still seek revenge on Wagner Group chief Yevgeniy Prigozhin over his short-lived mutiny. William J. Burns also commented on Russian Gen. Sergei Surovikin, who had good relations with the Wagner boss and whose whereabouts sparked rumors last month. ‘I don’t think he enjoys a lot of freedom right now,’ Burns told NPR’s Mary Louise Kelly at the Aspen Security Forum, stopping short of saying Surovikin was in custody. Prigozhin appears to have accepted exile in Belarus, brokered by Lukashenko. Tensions around maritime activity are simmering and the price of wheat futures has risen, though it has not reached its May 2022 high. Russia has said it considers ships en route to Ukrainian Black Sea ports to be involved in the conflict as of Thursday, and Ukraine responded that it would treat vessels headed toward Russian ports the same. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Kyiv’s use of cluster munitions weapons was ‘actually having an impact on Russia’s defensive formations’ and Ukrainian forces were using them ‘effectively,’ though the decision to send the widely banned munitions has met criticism from human rights groups. He made the comments after The Washington Post reported that Ukraine began using the U.S.-provided munitions in a bid to push through Russian lines in the southeast. Zelensky called for limits on funding cultural activities during the war in his nightly address. The cultural minister, Oleksandr Tkachenko, announced his resignation, citing a ‘misunderstanding about the importance of culture during war’ with the president.Museums, cultural centers, symbols, TV series — all of this is important,’ Zelensky said, ‘but now there are other priorities.'” A Russian naval ship fired cruise missiles at a target vessel and destroyed it as part of a Black Sea drill, the Defense Ministry said Friday. Russian warships and planes also practiced sealing off areas temporarily closed to shipments and seizing ships, it said. Britain lifted sanctions on Oleg Tinkov, the former oligarch who founded Russia’s Tinkoff Bank but renounced his Russian citizenship months after the country’s invasion of Ukraine. ‘He spoke out against the war unambiguously, and this shows others in his position that they can do the same to potentially have sanctions lifted,’ wrote Mikhail Khodorkovsky, the exiled Russian oligarch, in support of the decision on Twitter. Russian President Vladimir Putin is set to meet with Belarusian President Alexander Lukashenko on July 23 while Lukashenko is on a working visit to Russia, the Kremlin’s press service said Friday. Putin and Lukashenko ‘will continue to discuss relevant aspects of continued development of Russian-Belarusian relations of allied strategic partnership, as well as integration interaction within the Union State.’ Poland plans to move military formations from the west to the east of the country, citing the presence of the Wagner Group in neighboring Belarus, according to Polish national news agency PAP. ‘Training or joint exercises between the Belarusian army and the Wagner Group is undoubtedly a provocation,’ it quoted the secretary of Poland’s security committee as saying. Russia’s deputy defense minister held talks with his Iranian counterpart on military cooperation and exchanged ‘views on regional security and the international situation,’ the Russian Defense Ministry said Friday.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russian Strikes and Naval Drills Unsettle Black Sea as U.N. Meets. The U.N. Security Council held an emergency meeting on the collapse of a deal that had allowed Ukraine to ship grain despite a Russian blockade. Moscow again struck granaries in the port of Odesa and the Russian Navy practiced destroying a ship in the Black Sea. The New York Times, Victoria Kim, Ivan Nechepurenko, and James C McKinley Jr., Friday, 21 July 2023: “Russia stepped up its campaign to keep Ukraine from exporting grain on Friday, carrying out live fire exercises in the Black Sea, striking granaries in Odesa and presenting a list of demands at the United Nations that its ambassador said must be met before Moscow will let grain shipments resume. As Moscow hammered Odesa with missiles for a fourth straight night, the American secretary of state, Antony J. Blinken, said the aerial assault on Ukraine’s ports would imperil the world’s food supply and warned alternative routes are not likely to make up the shortfall. Speaking at the Aspen Security Forum, Mr. Blinken said, ‘Russia, by weaponizing food, is doing something truly unconscionable.'”

Trial in Trump Documents Case Set for May 2024. Judge Aileen M. Cannon rejected former President Donald J. Trump’s request to delay the trial until after the election but pushed the start date past the Justice Department’s request to begin in December. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Friday, 21 July 2023: “The federal judge overseeing former President Donald J. Trump’s prosecution on charges of illegally retaining dozens of classified documents set a trial date on Friday for May 2024, taking a middle position between the government’s request to go to trial in December and Mr. Trump’s desire to push the proceeding until after the 2024 election. In her order, Judge Aileen M. Cannon said the trial was to be held in her home courthouse in Fort Pierce, Fla., a coastal city two and a half hours north of Miami that will draw its jury pool from several counties that Mr. Trump won handily in his two previous presidential campaigns. Judge Cannon also laid out a calendar of hearings, throughout the remainder of this year and into next year, including those concerning the handling of the classified material at the heart of the case. The scheduling order came after a contentious hearing on Tuesday at the federal courthouse in Fort Pierce where prosecutors working for the special counsel, Jack Smith, and lawyers for Mr. Trump sparred over when to hold the trial. The timing of the proceeding is more important in this case than in most criminal matters because Mr. Trump is now the front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination and his legal obligations to be in court will intersect with his campaign schedule. The date Judge Cannon chose to start the trial — May 20, 2024 — falls after the bulk of the primary contests. But it is less than two months before the start of the Republican National Convention in July and the formal start of the general election season. Mr. Trump’s advisers have been blunt that winning the presidency is how he hopes to beat the legal charges he is facing, and he has adopted a strategy of delaying the trial, which is expected to take several weeks, for as long as possible. The Justice Department declined to comment on Judge Cannon’s decision. But it did not come as a surprise to prosecutors, who set their initial, aggressive timetable expecting that she would select a date, probably sometime in the first half of 2024, and reject the Trump legal team’s request to push it past the election, according to a person familiar with the situation.” See also, Judge Cannon schedules Trump’s classified documents trial for May 2024, The Washington Post, Perry Stein and Mark Berman, Friday, 21 July 2023: “The federal judge presiding over Donald Trump’s indictment for allegedly mishandling classified documents has scheduled his trial to start in late May of next year, rejecting claims by the former president’s attorneys that a fair trial could only be held after the 2024 election — as well as the Justice Department’s request to start as soon as December. U.S. District Judge Aileen M. Cannon heard arguments from both sides on Tuesday and said she would issue her decision promptly. On Friday, she scheduled a jury trial to begin in the Fort Pierce Division of the U.S. District Court in Southern Florida during the two-week period that begins May 20, 2024. Picking a date — which could still be delayed depending on pretrial motions and other issues — was complicated. Trump was indicted on state charges earlier this year in New York and is scheduled to stand trial there in March. On top of that, Trump’s attorneys wanted Cannon to take into account his busy campaign schedule.” See also, The Trump Classified Documents Trial Schedule-Annotated, Bloomberg, Zoe Tillman, Friday, 21 July 2023: “A federal judge in Florida set a May 20 trial date in the classified documents prosecution against Donald Trump, adding a new milestone to the former president’s busy legal and political calendar next year. Friday’s order from US District Judge Aileen Cannon also featured a detailed schedule leading up to the trial in her Fort Pierce courtroom, previewing the work ahead for both sides and future fights.”

Alabama Republicans refuse to draw a second Black congressional district in defiance of Supreme Court. The Supreme Court this year reaffirmed a federal court order for Alabama to include two districts where Black voters make up voting-age majorities, ‘or something quite close to it.’ NBC News, Jane C. Timm, Friday, 21 July 2023: “Alabama Republicans on Friday defied a U.S. Supreme Court order by passing a new congressional map that includes only one majority-Black district. The GOP-controlled Legislature had called a special session to redraw an earlier map after the Supreme Court reaffirmed a federal court order to include two districts where Black voters make up voting-age majorities, ‘or something quite close to it.’ But on Friday, state Republicans approved a new map with just one majority-Black seat and a second district that is approximately 40% Black. The bill passed the House in a 75-28 vote after the Senate voted 24 to 6 in favor of the revised map. The map was completed Friday afternoon — hours before the court-ordered deadline for the Legislature to draw up new boundaries — as a compromise between the House and Senate versions. Republican Gov. Kay Ivey signed the redistricting map into law Friday night. A federal court will hold a hearing on the map Aug. 14.” See also, Alabama Lawmakers Decline to Create New Majority-Black Congressional District. Republican lawmakers pushed through a new congressional map a month after the Supreme Court ruled that the state’s existing map diluted the power of Black voters. The New York Times, Emily Cochrane, Friday,. 21 July 2023: “Alabama Republicans pushed through a new congressional map on Friday that will test the bounds of a judicial mandate to create a second majority-Black district in the state or something ‘close to it,’ incensing plaintiffs in the court case and Democrats who predicted the plan would never pass muster with a judicial panel charged with approving it. A month after a surprise Supreme Court ruling that found the state’s existing map violated a landmark civil rights law by diluting the power of Black voters, the Republican supermajority in the Alabama Legislature backed a plan that would increase the share of Black voters in one of the state’s six majority-white congressional districts to about 40 percent, from about 30 percent. The map also dropped the percentage of Black voters in the existing majority-Black district to about 51 percent from about 55 percent. In Alabama, more than one in four residents are Black. Notably, the redrawing ensures that none of the state’s six white Republican incumbents would have to face one another in a primary to keep their seat. The proposal will have to be approved by a federal court, which will hold a hearing on it next month.” See also, Alabama legislature adopts new congressional map that could defy court order. The Washington Post, Maegan Vazquez and John Wagner, Friday, 21 July 2023: “The Republican-led legislature in Alabama approved a new congressional map on Friday that lowers the percentage of Black voters in a majority-Black district and allocates a 40 percent Black voting population to another district. A legal challenge to the map is already in the works, with Democrats saying the change is not enough to comply with a federal court order.”

Fulton county prosecutors prepare racketeering charges in Trump inquiry. Sources say the racketeering charges are based on influencing witnesses and computer trespass. The Guardian, Hugo Lowell, Friday, 21 July 2023: “The Fulton county district attorney investigating Donald Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 election results in the state of Georgia has developed evidence to charge a sprawling racketeering indictment next month, according to two people briefed on the matter. The racketeering statute in Georgia requires prosecutors to show the existence of an ‘enterprise’ – and a pattern of racketeering activity that is predicated on at least two ‘qualifying’ crimes. In the Trump investigation, the Fulton county district attorney, Fani Willis, has evidence to pursue a racketeering indictment predicated on statutes related to influencing witnesses and computer trespass, the people said. Willis had previously said she was weighing racketeering charges in her criminal investigation, but the new details about the direction and scope of the case come as prosecutors are expected to seek indictments starting in the first two weeks of August.”

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis Faces Swell of Criticism Over Florida’s New Standards for Black History, The New York Times, Sarah Mervosh, Friday, 21 July 2023: “After an overhaul to Florida’s African American history standards, Gov. Ron DeSantis, the state’s firebrand governor campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, is facing a barrage of criticism this week from politicians, educators and historians, who called the state’s guidelines a sanitized version of history. For instance, the standards say that middle schoolers should be instructed that ‘slaves developed skills which, in some instances, could be applied for their personal benefit’ — a portrayal that drew wide rebuke.”

Department of Justice to sue Texas over Governor Abbott’s floating wall and razor wire along the Rio Grande, Texas Public Radio, David Martin Davies and Dan Katz, Friday, 21 July 2023: “The Justice Department has notified Texas that it plans to file a lawsuit over Gov. Greg Abbott’s floating border barrier in the Rio Grande to deter migrants from crossing illegally. The DOJ sent a letter to Abbott on Thursday demanding that Texas remove the buoys and razor wire along the Rio Grande by Monday, July 24, or legal action will be taken. ‘The State of Texas’ actions violate federal law, raise humanitarian concerns, present serious risks to public safety and the environment, and may interfere with the federal government’s ability to carry out its official duties,’ the letter read. ‘The floating barrier at issue here is a structure that obstructs the navigable capacity of the Rio Grande … which is a navigable water of the United States within the meaning of the Rivers and Harbors Act. Texas does not have authorization from the Corps [of Engineers] to install the floating barrier and did not seek such authorization before doing so.'”

Americans Want the Supreme Court to Stop Behaving Like This. Yes, even Republicans. Slate, Dahlia Lithwick and Anat Shenker-Osorio, Friday, 21 July 2023: “Republicans are suffering from a pretty acute—and possibly terminal—case of onstage/backstage disorder. That’s the disease that allows them to say things aloud among themselves when they are at events like Federalist Society gatherings or fundraisers for big money donors—only to be forced to disavow them when they find themselves ‘onstage,’ which is to say visible to the voters they purport to represent. Last week’s laughable claims came from Justice Brett Kavanaugh and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who insisted that the current U.S. Supreme Court is a temperate band of merry centrists. It’s a perfect example of how trying to deny in public the very same things you give out awards for in private simply can’t be sustained. Eventually, folks figure out that you’ve spent many decades and billions of dollars to manufacture a wildly authoritarian Supreme Court. You bought it, you broke it. Deal. The problem with the onstage/backstage approach to politics is that at some point enough voters catch on that what’s happening to them—be it climate disasters, gun violence, student debt, racist voter suppression, reproductive injustice, or labor union-gutting barricades to fair pay—emerges as the result of a clear, ruthlessly orchestrated plan. When presidents campaigned around these goals, red-state legislatures enacted them, court procedures were broken for them, and the right-wing six-justice supermajority spent two terms obliterating precedent to deliver them, voters do figure out this really is the plan. Which is why this precise instant was a very bad moment for the chief justice and Republican officials to make their claims that the Supreme Court is too holy to be subject to investigation and reform.”


Saturday, 22 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Zelensky says Crimean Bridge must be ‘neutralized’; reopening grain route is a ‘priority,’ The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Ellen Francis, Tamia Fowlkes, and Andrea Salcedo, Saturday, 22 July 2023: “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has described the Crimean Bridge linking the peninsula to mainland Russia as a target that must be ‘neutralized.’ Kyiv attacked the bridge earlier this week using drone boats, prompting Moscow to promise retaliation. In a call with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Zelensky said it was an ‘absolute priority’ to restore the Black Sea corridor that allows ships to carry Ukrainian grain to the world. Turkey’s presidential office acknowledged the two spoke Friday about the grain deal from which Russia has pulled out. Zelensky also said Saturday night that he discussed the matter with NATO’s secretary general and noted that further talks with NATO officials were planned. For days, Russia has struck Ukrainian port regions on the Black Sea after withdrawing from an agreement that opened shipping routes in wartime. U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths said millions of people are at risk of hunger because of Russia’s withdrawal from the grain deal, raising global grain prices and tensions in the Black Sea. Brokered by Turkey and the United Nations last year, the agreement had allowed the safe passage of ships carrying grain from Ukraine, a major exporter. UNESCO condemned Russian attacks on the ‘historic center of Odessa,’ which is protected under the World Heritage Convention. The U.N. cultural organization reported damage to sites including the Odessa maritime and literature museums. Zelensky said the Crimean Bridge ‘is the road used to feed the war with ammunition,’ in comments at the Aspen Security Forum. ‘And any target that is bringing war, not peace, has to be neutralized,’ he said. Monday’s explosions on the bridge to Crimea — which Moscow illegally annexed in 2014 — killed two people. Russian officials condemned it as a ‘terrorist attack.’ A drone attack in Crimea caused an explosion at an ammunition depot, the Russian-backed head of Crimea, Sergei Aksyonov, said Saturday, blaming Ukraine. He said on Telegram that there were no initial reports of casualties or major damage, and that authorities had asked people near the site to evacuate temporarily. The Ukrainian armed forces said later that they had destroyed oil and ammunition depots. Radar imagery appears to show newly arrived vehicles and equipment in Belarus, at a rumored base for fighters from the Wagner Group. The images, provided to The Washington Post by Maxar Technologies and Umbra, show that ‘dozens, if not hundreds, of vehicles and equipment have recently arrived at the facility,’ according to Stephen Wood, senior director at Maxar. The images show an increase in materiel compared with previous imagery gathered on July 16. Zelensky said he spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about ‘our steps to unblock and ensure the stable operation of the grain corridor.’ A meeting with the Ukraine-NATO council was scheduled ‘in a few days’ to discuss the matter, Zelensky said in his evening address. Russian tennis player Vera Zvonareva was blocked from entering Warsaw days before the Poland Open, border authorities said Saturday. Though it was not clear what prompted Polish authorities to deny her entry, the Polish Internal Ministry cited Zvonareva’s nonadmission as a matter of public safety and state security, tying her to support for Russia and Belarus. However, according to the BBC, in March 2022 Zvonareva had ‘no war’ written on her visor while playing at the Miami Open. ‘Vera has departed Poland and we will be evaluating the issue further with the event,’ tennis’s international governing body WTA tweeted. Zvonareva has played in two Grand Slam finals and was the world’s second-ranked player in October 2010, according to the WTA; she is listed as 60th now. Zelensky spoke with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg about threats to global food security and access to the Black Sea grain deal, he wrote in a Telegram post Saturday. Stoltenberg tweeted an admonishment of Moscow and what he characterized as an attempt to ‘weaponise food.’ The Ukrainian president added that the pair continued conversations about Ukraine’s integration into NATO. Russia and China are conducting naval drills in the waters between South Korea and Japan that conclude Sunday. The exercises involve anti-submarine warfare maneuvers, ‘ensuring the security of communications in the waters and airspace’ and joint artillery firing, according to Russian news agencies. President Biden elevated CIA Director William J. Burns to his Cabinet. The symbolic move does not give Burns new authority, but it will be read as a victory for the CIA and it reflects the central role the spy chief has played in the administration’s foreign policy and his key role as a messenger to Russia, The Post’s Shane Harris reports. China’s deputy U.N. ambassador called for the flow of grain exports to resume, urging the warring factions to work with the United Nations. At a U.N. Security Council meeting Friday on the halted grain deal, Geng Shuang said a solution was necessary to maintain ‘international food security and alleviating the food crisis in developing countries in particular.'”

Biden will establish a national monument honoring Emmett Till, the Black teen lynched in Mississippi in 1955, Associated Press, Darlene Superville, Saturday, 22 July 2023: “President Joe Biden will establish a national monument honoring Emmett Till, the Black teenager from Chicago who was abducted, tortured and killed in 1955 after he was accused of whistling at a white woman in Mississippi, and his mother, a White House official said Saturday. Biden will sign a proclamation on Tuesday to create the Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument across three sites in Illinois and Mississippi, according to the official. The individual spoke on condition of anonymity because the White House had not formally announced the president’s plans. Tuesday is the anniversary of Emmett Till’s birth in 1941. The monument will protect places that are central to the story of Till’s life and death at age 14, the acquittal of his white killers and his mother’s activism. Till’s mother’s insistence on an open casket to show the world how her son had been brutalized and Jet magazine’s decision to publish photos of his mutilated body helped galvanize the Civil Rights Movement. Biden’s decision also comes at a fraught time in the United States over matters concerning race. Conservative leaders are pushing back against the teaching of slavery and Black history in public schools, as well as the incorporation of diversity, equity and inclusion programs from college classrooms to corporate boardrooms.” See also, Biden will designate a national monument honoring Emmett Till and his mother Mamie Till-Mobley, NPR, Juliana Kim, published on Sunday, 23 July 2023: “President Biden will designate a national monument at three sites in honor of Emmett Till and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley — both of whom served as catalysts for the civil rights movement. Biden is expected to sign a proclamation on Tuesday, which will be the 82nd anniversary of Till’s birth. The new monument will be established across three locations in Illinois and Mississippi in an effort to protect places that tell Till’s story, as well as reflect the activism of his mother, who was instrumental in keeping the story of Till’s murder alive. In August 1955, two white men abducted, tortured and killed Till, a 14-year-old Black boy, after [being accused of whistling] at a white shopkeeper’s wife in a grocery store in Mississippi. Roy Bryant and J.W. Milam were acquitted but later confessed to the killing in a magazine. Fifty years after the crime, the shopkeeper’s wife, Carolyn Bryant Donham, also admitted to lying about Till touching her.” See also, Biden to Create Monument to Emmett Till and His Mother Mamie Till-Mobley Amid Fights Over Black History. The murder of 14-year-old Emmett Till and the activism of his grieving mother helped galvanize the civil rights movement in the United States. The New York Times, Erica L. Green, published on Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “President Biden on Tuesday will establish a national monument honoring Emmett Till, the Black teenager who was abducted and killed by white supremacists in 1955, and his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, who helped galvanize the civil rights movement by bravely displaying her child’s brutalized body for the world to see. The Emmett Till and Mamie Till-Mobley National Monument will span three protected sites in Illinois, where Emmett was born 82 years ago, and in Mississippi, where he was killed at the age of 14 after being accused of whistling at a white woman. The president’s decision to dedicate a monument to two figures whose story underscores the legacy of racism in America comes in the midst of a divisive political battle over how to teach Black history in schools. Last week, Gov. Ron DeSantis of Florida, who is campaigning for the Republican presidential nomination, came under fire after education officials in his state introduced new standards for teaching Black history.” See also, Biden establishes new national monument dedicated to Emmett Till, The Washington Post, Amy B Wang and DeNeen L. Brown, published on Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “President Biden on Tuesday signed a proclamation to establish a new national monument dedicated to Emmett Till, who was brutally murdered at age 14 in 1955, and to his mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, whose activism in the wake of her son’s death helped spark the civil rights movement. Biden and Vice President Harris, speaking before the signing, used the moment to emphasize the importance of remembering the country’s ‘full history’ amid increasing efforts by some state-level lawmakers to ban books and restrict what can be taught in public schools. ‘At a time when there are those who seek to ban books, bury history, we’re making it clear — crystal, crystal clear — while darkness and denialism can hide much, they erase nothing,’ Biden said. ‘We can’t just choose to learn what we want to know. We have to learn what we should know. … We should know everything: the good, the bad, the truth of who we are as a nation. That’s what great nations do.'”


Sunday, 23 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: At least 1 killed and 21 injured after missiles rain down on Odessa, The Washington Post, Heidi Levine, Kelly Kasulis Cho, Annabelle Timsit, Tamia Fowlkes, and Shera Avi-Yonah, Sunday, 23 July 2023: “Russia struck Odessa, Ukraine, with a barrage of missiles overnight — the fifth day of attacks in a week for the embattled port city — killing one civilian and injuring 21 people, including four children, Ukrainian officials said Sunday. Officials accused Russia of damaging a historic cathedral and residential buildings. Nearly 50 buildings, including 25 architectural monuments and the Greek Consulate, sustained damage, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Sunday. Russia has continuously bombed Odessa, home to Ukraine’s biggest port, since backing out of a deal to allow the export of Ukrainian grain to the rest of the world. This week’s strikes have been the worst of the war, an Odessa resident told The Washington Post. ‘The week has been more painful than the last strikes,’ Roman Zaichenko said. He and his family, who have lived in Odessa for about two years, went from their top-floor apartment into the underground parking lot while the explosions cracked the sky overnight. He said he fears for the safety of his children, ages 4 and 5, but he doesn’t plan to leave. Zelensky said Ukraine would retaliate against Russian attacks in Odessa. Photos and footage posted by Ukrainian authorities on Telegram showed piles of rubble, overturned cars and blown-out roofs in the city, as well as shattered religious murals at the Transfiguration Cathedral, a religious structure with more than 200 years of history that was destroyed by Soviet authorities in 1936. Russia’s Defense Ministry said it struck Odessa overnight, asserting without evidence that the attack was designed to target Ukrainian forces preparing attacks against Russia. The Russian armed forces used sea- and air-launched precision-guided weapons to strike areas where unmanned boats meant for attacks against Russian territory were being prepared and manufactured, Igor Konashenkov, a ministry spokesman, said at a news briefing. In a separate message, the ministry denied striking the Transfiguration Cathedral, blaming Ukrainian air defenses for the damage without providing evidence. The Post could not independently verify the claims. The U.S. ambassador to Ukraine said the Odessa attack had ‘terrible costs.’ Bridget A. Brink said on Twitter that the city, ‘a world heritage site and a vital port for global food security,’ was left with ‘a destroyed cathedral, ruined homes, and burning grain silos’ after the overnight strike. More than 20 architectural monuments were damaged, the Odessa regional administration reportedAmong the landmarks are 19th- and 20th-century buildings in the historic center of Odessa that are legally protected UNESCO World Heritage sites. UNESCO condemned ‘the brazen attack carried out by the Russian forces’ in a news release Sunday. ‘This outrageous destruction marks an escalation of violence against [the] cultural heritage of Ukraine,’ said Audrey Azoulay, UNESCO’s director general, in the release. One person was killed by Russian shelling in Kherson, Ukraine’s armed forces said. The attacks were aimed at a residential area and an administrative building, they said. Zelensky discussed steps with NATO’s secretary general to unblock grain export routes outlined in the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the pact that Russia pulled out of last week, Ukraine’s president said in his evening address Saturday. Zelensky said he and Jens Stoltenberg also discussed Ukraine’s ‘fastest possible accession to NATO,’ which Ukraine is intent on joining. At a recent summit, leaders of the defense alliance said certain conditions must be met, and members must agree, before that can happen — though they reiterated that ‘Ukraine’s future is in NATO.’ The Ukraine-NATO Council will convene on Wednesday, Zelensky said in his Sunday evening address. Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western partners in the grain deal of failing to address global food insecurity in an article posted by the Kremlin early Monday. Putin said high- and middle-income countries had benefited from exports shipped under the deal instead of African nations. He claimed that Russia is ‘capable of replacing the Ukrainian grain both on a commercial and free-of-charge basis, especially as we expect another record harvest this year.’ The United Nations, which helped broker the deal, has argued it allows more grain to enter the global market, lowering food prices around the world. Putin and Belarusian leader Alexander Lukashenko met Sunday in St. Petersburg, Russian state media reported. The Kremlin previously said the leaders would discuss their nations’ ‘strategic partnership.’ The meeting comes two days after Putin warned that any attack against the neighboring state would be considered an attack against Moscow. ‘Many may die’ of starvation without an active Black Sea grain deal in place, said U.N. aid chief Martin Griffiths. He also warned of a spike in global food prices and financial devastation for Ukrainian farmers. ‘Some will go hungry, some will starve, many may die as a result of these decisions,’ he said. A Russian official condemned Ukraine and the United States after the death of a war correspondent from Russia’s RIA state news agency. In a Telegram post, Viktor Bondarev, chairman of the defense and security committee in the Federation Council, the upper house of Russia’s parliament, accused Ukraine of using cluster munitions and implied the United States was also to blame. Human Rights Watch has previously said that Russia and Ukraine were using cluster munitions during the war.”

As Inquiries Compound, Justice System Pours Resources Into Scrutinizing Trump. For all their complexity, the Trump-related prosecutions have not significantly constrained the ability of prosecutors to carry out their regular duties, officials have said. The New York Times, Glenn Thrush, Ben Protess, Alan Feuer, and Adam Goldman, Sunday, 23 July 2023: “Jack Smith, the special counsel overseeing criminal investigations into former President Donald J. Trump, employs 40 to 60 career prosecutors, paralegals and support staff, augmented by a rotating cast of F.B.I. agents and technical specialists, according to people familiar with the situation. In his first four months on the job, starting in November, Mr. Smith’s investigation incurred expenses of $9.2 million. That included $1.9 million to pay the U.S. Marshals Service to protect Mr. Smith, his family and other investigators who have faced threats after the former president and his allies singled them out on social media. At this rate, the special counsel is on track to spend about $25 million a year. The main driver of all these efforts and their concurrent expenses is Mr. Trump’s own behavior — his unwillingness to accept the results of an election as every one of his predecessors has done, his refusal to heed his own lawyers’ advice and a grand jury’s order to return government documents and his lashing out at prosecutors in personal terms.”

One year old, US climate law is already turbocharging clean energy technology, Associated Press, Isabella O’Malley and Michael Phillis, Sunday, 23 July 2023: “On August 16, after the hottest June ever recorded and a scorching July, America’s long-sought response to climate change, the Inflation Reduction Act, turns one year old. In less than a year it has prompted investment in a massive buildout of battery and EV manufacturing across the states. Nearly 80 major clean energy manufacturing facilities have been announced, an investment equal to the previous seven years combined, according to the American Clean Power Association. ‘It seems like every week there’s a new factory facility somewhere’ being announced, said Jesse Jenkins, a professor at Princeton and leader of the REPEAT Project which has been deeply involved in analysis of the law.”


Monday, 24 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia says drone strikes skyscraper in Moscow, after attacks on Ukraine’s Odessa region, The Washington Post, Kelly Kasulis Cho, Annabelle Timsit, Eve Sampson, and Sammy Westfall, Monday, 24 July 2023: “A drone struck a skyscraper in Moscow early Monday, shattering glass on the 17th and 18th floors, Russian officials reported. The wreckage of a second drone was found on Komsomolsky Prospect, a thoroughfare in central Moscow. Mayor Sergey Sobyanin said two nonresidential buildings were struck but there were no casualties. Moscow blamed Kyiv for the apparent attack. In another night of attacks on Ukraine’s Odessa region, drones targeted port infrastructure along the Danube River, an important export route for Kyiv in light of Russia’s exit from a U.N.-backed grain export deal. The attack injured six people and destroyed a grain hangar, said Oleh Kiper, the regional governor. Grain prices rose steeply the morning after the attack. Moscow downed the drones, Russia’s Defense Ministry said, blaming Ukraine for the attack. Drone strikes are a rarity for the Russian capital, and a similar attack earlier this year on two residential buildings there was widely considered a prelude to further escalation in the war. Though Ukraine denied responsibility for the drone attack in May, the event struck a chord among Russians, who for the first time witnessed wartime hostilities trickling into residential parts of the city. The overnight drone attack in Odessa lasted four hours, Ukrainian officials said on Telegram. It was part of a string of attacks in the southern Ukrainian port city, killing at least one person and injuring 21, including four children. White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said that Russia’s bombardment of Odessa with missiles and drones has been ‘devastating.’ She also reiterated the warning that the United States thinks Russia may attack civilian targets in the Black Sea and blame Ukraine in a false flag operation. Ukraine attacked an ammunition depot in Crimea with drones overnight, the Russian-backed head of the peninsula said. Sergei Aksyonov said the depot was in the Dzhankoi area of Crimea, where Russia has an air base. He said debris from a Ukrainian drone also damaged a home in the Kirovsky district, southeast of Dzhankoi. The Russian Defense Ministry said Ukraine attacked Crimea with 17 drones but said most were disabled by air and electronic defenses. Three drones fell on Crimean territory, and there were no casualties, it said. The Washington Post could not independently verify the claims. Russia illegally annexed Crimea in 2014 and uses the peninsula as a base for its forces. The most vulnerable will pay the highest price’ for the ending of the Black Sea grain deal, U.N. Secretary General António Guterres said. Speaking at a summit on food systems, Guterres said that Russia’s decision last week to back out of the U.N.-brokered agreement has already caused wheat and corn prices to rise, ‘which hurts everyone.’ He urged world leaders to come up with a solution and said he is still ‘committed to facilitating the unimpeded access to global markets for food products and fertilizers’ from Ukraine and Russia. Russia’s Danube drone attack drew international condemnation after strikes hit grain infrastructure overnight. The Foreign Ministry of Moldova called it a ‘brutal attack,’ and Romanian President Klaus Iohannis called the strikes ‘a recent escalation’ that was ‘very close to Romania.’ Dmytro Kuleba, the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, called the incident ‘food terrorism.’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky urged European leaders to lift restrictions on the country’s grain exports over land amid Russia’s attacks on port infrastructure. The European Commission restricted land exports through Hungary, Poland, Romania and Slovakia in May to protect the country’s economies from an influx of cheaper Ukrainian grain. Zelensky said on Monday during a news conference in Kyiv that blocking exports after the agreement expires on Sept. 15 would be ‘unacceptable in any form.’ An American video journalist for Agence France-Presse, Dylan Collins, 35, was wounded by shrapnel in a drone attack near Bakhmut on Monday. He is being treated at a hospital, and is conscious and speaking to his colleagues, the French international news outlet said in a tweet. The U.S. Treasury Department imposed sanctions on three officials from Mali for facilitating the Wagner mercenary group’s ‘malicious activities’ and ‘entrenchment’ in the West African nation. The individuals include Mali’s defense minister Sadio Camara — whom the department said organized the deployment of the Wagner Group in Mali — and two air force officials. Unilever said it will allow Russian employees to be conscripted if they are called to fight. ‘We will always comply with all the laws of the countries we operate in,’ Reginaldo Ecclissato, the company’s chief business operations and supply chain officer, said in a letter to the B4Ukraine Coalition this month. He added that Unilever, a British multinational packaged goods company that employs about 3,000 workers in Russia, ‘condemns the war in Ukraine as a brutal, senseless act by the Russian state.’ Russian President Vladimir Putin accused Western partners of the grain deal of failing to address global food insecurity. In an article posted by the Kremlin, the Russian leader said high- and middle-income countries benefited from exports shipped under the deal instead of African nations. The United Nations has argued that it allows more grain to enter the global market, lowering food prices around the world. Data published by the U.N. shows that 43 percent of wheat exports under the deal went to countries classified as lower-middle- and low-income by the World Bank.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia Strikes Danube River Port, Escalating Attacks on Ukrainian Agriculture. A drone attack on a port near Romania signaled that Moscow, after pulling out of a deal enabling Ukraine to ship grain via the Black Sea, is targeting alternate export routes. The New York Times, Monday, 24 July 2023:

  • Russia struck a port across the Danube from Romania, sending wheat prices up.
  • Russia destroys drones targeting Moscow, and blames Ukraine.
  • Ukraine at NATO and a Russia-Africa summit: What to watch for this week.
  • The crackdown on the opposition in Belarus has worsened since 2020.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: As Russia pounds Odesa, Moscow and Crimea become targets, NPR, Monday, 24 July 2023: Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: Russia is accusing Ukraine of launching a ‘terrorist drone attack’ on Moscow early Monday. The Russian Defense Ministry said one uncrewed aircraft crashed close to its headquarters in central Moscow and another hit an office high-rise in another part of the capital. That followed reports from Russian-installed authorities in Crimea of an overnight drone attack on the peninsula, striking an ammunition depot and a residential building. Winners of the 2022 Nobel Peace Prize from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia are in Washington, D.C., to talk about their work and the war in Ukraine. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni will visit the White House on Thursday, meeting with President Biden to discuss global issues including support for Ukraine. Also Thursday, Russian President Vladimir Putin hosts a summit with African leaders. What happened last week: Russia backed out of the Ukraine grain deal (again), sparking concern in food-insecure countries and condemnation from the head of the United Nations, the United States and allies. The U.N. and Turkey brokered the deal with Russia and Ukraine a year ago to allow Ukraine to resume shipping grain and other farm goods safely during the war. Russia complains that its side of the bargain isn’t being met, even though Western countries say their sanctions don’t target Russian food exports. Russia targeted a Ukrainian port and food facilities after pulling out of the grain deal. Russia struck Odesa for several days over the past week, killing three people and injuring many more. The attacks hit the city’s key Black Sea port and food storage, destroying many tons of food, as well as badly damaging a cathedral and other historical buildings. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy fired the country’s ambassador to the U.K., Vadym Prystaiko, after the ambassador said Zelenskyy had used ‘unhealthy sarcasm’ in remarks toward the British defense secretary. An explosion on the bridge to Crimea last Monday knocked out a section of road, killing two people and injuring a third. Russia, which annexed Crimea from Ukraine in 2014 and built the Kerch Bridge linking the Russian mainland with the peninsula, blamed Ukraine for the attack. Officials in Kyiv have not acknowledged direct responsibility for the attack, although Ukrainian officials have called the bridge a military target and did acknowledge an attack on it last year.”

Justice Department Sues Texas Over Floating Barrier in Rio Grande. The suit was the first direct challenge by the Biden administration to Governor Greg Abbott’s border security program, Operation Lone Star. The New York Times, J. David Goodman, Monday, 24 July 2023: “The Justice Department filed suit on Monday against the State of Texas over its installation of a floating barrier meant to stop people from swimming across the Rio Grande, arguing that the interlocking buoys placed in the river by the state violated federal law. The suit comes after Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas, who heralded the installation of the 1,000-foot barrier this month, refused a request from the Justice Department to remove the buoys voluntarily, vowing instead to fight in court to keep them in place. Mr. Abbott has blamed President Biden for the large numbers of migrants crossing the border illegally…. There has been a growing outcry among Democrats and even some in Texas law enforcement over other, increasingly aggressive tactics that the state is using to block immigrants, including installing additional layers of concertina wire along the banks of the Rio Grande. State police officers have been shouting at migrants to turn back and, in some cases, refusing to provide water to people who request it. In the lawsuit over the buoy barrier, the federal government argues that Texas is in violation of a section of the federal Rivers and Harbors Appropriation Act that prohibits the placement of structures in waterways without federal approval.” See also, Biden administration sues Texas governor over Rio Grande buoy barrier that is meant to stop migrants, Associated Press, Paul J. Weber and Valerie Gonzalez, Monday, 24 July 2023: “The Justice Department on Monday sued Texas Gov. Greg Abbott over a newly installed floating barrier on the Rio Grande that is the Republican’s latest aggressive tactic to try to stop migrants from crossing into the U.S. from Mexico. The lawsuit asks a federal judge in Austin to force Texas to remove a roughly 1,000-foot (305-meter) line of bright orange, wrecking ball-sized buoys that the Biden administration says raises humanitarian and environmental concerns. The suit claims that Texas unlawfully installed the barrier without permission between the border cities of Eagle Pass and Piedras Negras, Mexico. The buoys are the latest escalation of Texas’ border security operation that also includes razor-wire fencing, arresting migrants on trespassing charges and sending busloads of asylum-seekers to Democratic-led cities in other states. Critics have long questioned the effectiveness of the two-year operation, known as Operation Lone Star. A state trooper’s account this month that some of the measures injured migrants has put the mission under intensifying new scrutiny.” See also, Justice Department sues Texas over floating barrier on the Rio Grande, The Washington Post, Maegan Vazquez, Monday, 24 July 2023: “The Department of Justice on Monday announced a lawsuit against Texas and its governor, Greg Abbott (R), over the use of a floating barrier along the Rio Grande intended to stop migrants from crossing the U.S.-Mexico border. Abbott ordered the installation of a 1,000-foot chain of orange buoys earlier this month at a busy area for illegal crossings near Eagle Pass, Tex. The barrier is one component of ‘Operation Lone Star,’ Abbott’s $4 billion campaign to bus migrants to northern U.S. cities while deploying Texas state police officers and National Guard troops to the border. Texas officials have lined the Rio Grande’s banks with new obstacles to the migrants, including stacked shipping containers and thickets of concertina wire. The Justice Department says in its lawsuit that the barrier was built without the federal authorization that is legally required under the Rivers and Harbors Act, which bars the obstruction of U.S. waterways.”

Special counsel Jack Smith is scrutinizing February 2020 meeting where Trump praised US election security protections, CNN Politics, Sean Lyngaas, Kylie Atwood, Zachary Cohen, and Evan Perez, Monday, 24 July 2023: “Special counsel Jack Smith’s office has asked former US officials about a February 2020 Oval Office meeting where then-President Donald Trump praised improvements to the security of US elections, according to multiple people familiar with the matter. In the meeting with senior US officials and White House staff, Trump touted his administration’s work to expand the use of paper ballots and support security audits of vote tallies. Trump was so encouraged by federal efforts to protect election systems that he suggested the FBI and Department of Homeland Security hold a press conference to take credit for the work, four people familiar with the meeting told CNN. Those details offer a stark contrast to the voter-fraud conspiracy theories Trump began spreading publicly just weeks later and continued to use to question the 2020 election results.”

Former Giuliani colleague turns over thousands of pages to special counsel on 2020 election. Bernard Kerik, a former New York city police chief, worked with Giuliani to try to find voter fraud after the 2020 presidential election. NBC News, Garrett Haake and Rebecca Shabad, Monday, 24 July 2023: “The lawyer who represents former New York City Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik has turned over thousands of pages of documents to special counsel Jack Smith’s office as part of the federal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 presidential election. The attorney, Tim Parlatore, said Monday that he submitted the records to Smith’s office on Sunday. ‘I have shared all of these documents, approximately 600MB, mostly pdfs, with the Special Counsel and look forward to sitting down with them in about 2 weeks to discuss,’ Parlatore said in a statement to CNN that he later confirmed to NBC News. The Daily Beast first reported that Kerik had handed over the documents, following a privilege review by former President Donald Trump’s campaign.” See also, Special counsel Jack Smith received documents from Giuliani team that tried to find fraud after 2020 election, CNN Politics, Paula Reid, Zachary Cohen, and Tierney Sneed, published on Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “Among the materials turned over to special counsel Jack Smith about supposed fraud in the 2020 election are documents that touch on many of the debunked conspiracies and unfounded claims of widespread voter fraud peddled by former Donald Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani. The documents had been withheld by former New York Police Commissioner Bernie Kerik, who claimed they were privileged, only to be handed over to Smith on Sunday at what appears to be the late stages of the federal investigation into efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The files include affidavits claiming there were widespread ‘irregularities,’ shoddy statistical analyses supposedly revealing ‘fraudulent activities,’ and opposition research about a senior employee from Dominion Voting Systems that are central to civil litigation and a federal criminal probe stemming from a voting systems breach in Colorado.”

Tuesday, 25 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. approves new round of military aid for Ukraine, The Washington Post, Kelly Kasulis Cho, Jennifer Hassan, and Eve Sampson, Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “The Pentagon announced $400 million in additional security assistance to Ukraine on Tuesday, a package set to include Stryker combat vehicles and small Hornet drones, along with a restock of artillery ammunition. The United States has given Ukraine more than $100 billion in aid during the war. Russia said it had the ‘right to take tough retaliatory measures’ after claiming it thwarted two drone attacks in Moscow on Monday, which shattered windows on the 17th and 18th floors of a skyscraper but caused no casualties. Ukrainian authorities continue to warn residents of strikes in Odessa, a southern port city that in recent days has come under sustained Russian attacks, which have killed at least one person and injured many, including children. The airstrikes have damaged 146 residential buildings in the city, according to Ukrainian forces. At least 28 historical buildings in the center of Odessa, an area deemed a UNESCO World Heritage site, also were said to be damaged. Russia’s legislature raised the country’s maximum draft age to 30 in legislation passed in the lower house on Tuesday. The previous draft age span was 18-27. The changes are to be enacted Jan. 1, according to an official Telegram channel. Ukraine’s defense minister said his country will continue to launch attacks on Crimea and the Crimean Bridge, also known as the Kerch Bridge, which connects the peninsula to Russia.All these targets are official targets because it will reduce their capacity to fight against us [and] will help to save the lives of Ukrainians,’ Oleksii Reznikov told CNN. Moscow seized Crimea from Ukraine in 2014. Experts found land mines on the periphery of Ukraine’s Zaporizhzhia nuclear power plant during a walk-through this week, International Atomic Energy Agency Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said. The mines were spotted in a buffer zone between the site’s internal and external perimeter barriers, but their presence is nevertheless ‘inconsistent with the IAEA safety standards and nuclear security guidance,’ he said. Russian President Vladimir Putin plans to visit China in October during the Belt and Road Forum, a summit on Eurasian cooperation, Russian news outlets reported Tuesday. Chinese President Xi Jinping, who has refused to condemn Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, visited Moscow in March. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and other officials arrived in North Korea Tuesday, joining a Chinese delegation, Reuters reported. The visit, marking North Korea’s Victory Day holiday, is intended to bolster military ties, Russia’s Defense Ministry said in a statement posted to Telegram. Putin has signed legislation that bans people from gender-affirming procedures. The bill was approved unanimously by both houses of parliament and prevents transgender people from becoming foster or adoptive parents. The move is Russia’s latest attempt to crack down on the LGBTQ+ community, advocates say. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky and British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak spoke on the phone Tuesday. The pair discussed Russia’s attacks on Odessa and Ukraine’s desire to strengthen its air defense, Zelensky said, adding, ‘We must defend Odessa.’ European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen condemned Russia strikes on Ukrainian grain storage and export infrastructure, posting that Europe would continue to support Ukraine amid Russia’s ‘ruthless’ war and that the European Union had paid Ukraine an additional 1.5 billion euros (about $1.6 billion) in aid. Last week, the United States and European countries announced billions of dollars in recovery assistance to Kyiv. Lithuania approved a military aid plan for Ukraine that pledges about $221 million over three years. It will cover lethal and nonlethal aid, military training and the repair of military equipment in Lithuania. A U.S. Marine veteran, who was detained by Russia and freed in a 2022 prisoner swap, was injured fighting in Ukraine, the State Department told reporters Tuesday. Trevor Reed, who the Biden administration described as wrongfully detained, was held by Russia for three years. He was transported to hospital in Germany through support of a nongovernmental organization, State Department spokesman Vedant Patel said. Reed was injured by a land mine, according to the The Messenger, which first reported the story. Russia is set to take part in discussions on grain and fertilizer exports at the Russia-Africa summit this week, the state media outlet RIA Novosti reported, after the country fueled food-insecurity concerns by pulling out of the Black Sea Grain Initiative this month.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Russia Moves to Expand Conscription, Bolstering Its Army. A proposed law could add millions of trained soldiers to the recruitment pool for Russia’s war in Ukraine, sparing the Kremlin a general mobilization that could sap support for the war. The New York Times, Tuesday, 25 July 2023:

  • Russia, seeking a bigger army, moves to raise the top age for military service.
  • New U.S. aid to Ukraine includes artillery, air defenses and mine-clearing equipment.
  • Ukraine works to secure its grain export routes in the face of attacks by Moscow.
  • Russian shelling killed a child at play and injured others in eastern Ukraine, a local official reports.
  • A former U.S. Marine freed in a prisoner swap was injured while fighting in Ukraine.
  • The U.N. dismisses Russian claims about P.O.W.s from Mariupol.
  • In a heavily damaged Odesa cathedral, a morning Mass is held in front of caution tape.

Federal Judge Blocks Biden Administration’s New Asylum Policy. Immigrant advocacy groups had challenged the administration’s decision to sharply limit who is allowed to apply for asylum in the United States. The New York Times, Miriam Jordan and Eileen Sullivan, Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “A federal judge struck down on Tuesday a stringent new asylum policy that the Biden administration has called crucial to its efforts to curb illegal crossings along the U.S.-Mexico border. The ruling was a blow to the White House, which has seen unlawful entries plunge since the new policy was put in place in May. But the policy has been far from the only factor in the dramatic decline in crossings, and how the ruling on Tuesday will affect migration, if it stands, is uncertain. The judge, Jon S. Tigar of the U.S. District Court in Northern California, immediately stayed his decision for 14 days, leaving the asylum policy in place while the federal government appealed the decision. The appellate court could extend the stay while it considers the challenge. Under the policy, most people are disqualified from applying for asylum if they have crossed into the United States without either securing an appointment at an official port of entry or proving that they sought legal protection in another country along the way.” See also, Federal judge tosses Biden administration asylum rule for migrants, The Washington Post, Maria Sacchetti, Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “A federal judge in California on Tuesday struck down the Biden administration’s temporary restrictions on migrants seeking asylum, ruling that the government’s plan to reduce illegal crossings on the U.S.-Mexico border violated federal law. U.S. District Judge Jon S. Tigar ruled against a system the Biden administration imposed more than two months ago that penalizes migrants who cross the border illegally and rewards those who instead scheduled appointments to seek asylum. Tigar delayed his ruling from taking effect for 14 days to give the government time to appeal. The judge, a Barack Obama nominee, sided with advocacy groups that had argued that the Biden restrictions violated federal law in part by endangering migrants fleeing harm and preventing migrants from seeking asylum if they crossed the border illegally, which Congress never intended. Tigar said in his ruling that the Biden administration’s temporary asylum restrictions were ‘both substantively and procedurally invalid.’ The Biden administration immediately moved to appeal in hopes of preventing Tigar’s ruling from taking effect. Officials asked Tigar to consider delaying his ruling longer than two weeks while the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit considers the government’s position.” See also, A judge blocks limits on asylum at US-Mexico border but gives Biden administration time to appeal, Associated Press, Rebecca Santana, Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “A federal judge on Tuesday blocked a rule that allows immigration authorities to deny asylum to migrants who arrive at the U.S.-Mexico border without first applying online or seeking protection in a country they passed through. But the judge delayed his ruling from taking effect immediately to give President Joe Biden’s administration time to appeal. The order from U.S. District Judge Jon Tigar of the Northern District of California takes away a key enforcement tool set in place by the Biden administration as coronavirus-based restrictions on asylum expired in May. The new rule imposes severe limitations on migrants seeking asylum but includes room for exceptions and does not apply to children traveling alone. ‘The Rule — which has been in effect for two months — cannot remain in place,’ Tigar wrote in an order that will not take effect for two weeks.”

Some July Heat: ‘Virtually Impossible’ Without Climate Change, Analysis Finds. The latest study from World Weather Attribution scientists predicts that extreme heat waves will return more frequently. The New York Times, Delger Erdenesanaa, Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “Some of the extreme temperatures recorded in the Southwestern United States, southern Europe and northern Mexico at the beginning of the month would have been ‘virtually impossible’ without the influence of human-caused climate change, according to research made public Tuesday. During the first half of July hundreds of millions of people in North America, Europe and Asia sweltered under intense heat waves. A heat wave in China was made 50 times as likely by climate change, the researchers said. World Weather Attribution, an international group of scientists who measure how much climate change influences extreme weather events, focused on the worst heat so far during the northern hemisphere summer. In the United States, temperatures in Phoenix have reached 110 degrees Fahrenheit, roughly 43 Celsius, or higher for more than 20 days in a row. Many places in southern Europe are experiencing record-breaking, triple-digit temperatures. A remote township in Xinjiang, China, hit 126 degrees, breaking the national record. ‘Without climate change, we wouldn’t see this at all,’ said Friederike Otto, a senior lecturer in climate science at Imperial College London and co-founder of World Weather Attribution. ‘Or it would be so rare that it basically would not be happening.’ But in a climate changed by fossil fuel emissions, heat waves of this magnitude ‘are not rare events,’ she said.” See also, Heat waves in the U.S. and Europe and Asia ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change, study finds. Scientists say such events will become only more intense and more frequent unless humans halt the burning of fossil fuels that warm the planet, The Washington Post, Brady Dennis, Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “The deadly, protracted heat waves that have scorched parts of North America and Europe this month would have been ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change, according to a new study published Tuesday. The analysis by the World Weather Attribution network, a coalition of scientists that conducts rapid analyses to determine how the warming atmosphere influences extreme weather events, examined weather data and computer model simulations to compare the climate as it is today, having experienced warming of about 1.2 degrees Celsius (2.2 Fahrenheit) since the late 1800s, with the climate of the past. The results came with a sobering reminder: Once unfathomable heat waves are not only happening, but becoming more common.” See also, Study finds that U.S. and European heat waves ‘virtually impossible’ without climate change, NPR, Nathan Rott, Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “The life-threatening heat waves that have baked U.S. cities and inflamed European wildfires in recent weeks would be ‘virtually impossible’ without the influence of human-caused climate change, a team of international researchers said Tuesday. Global warming, they said, also made China’s recent record-setting heat wave 50 times more likely. Soaring temperatures are punishing the Northern Hemisphere this summer. In the U.S., more than 2,000 high temperature records have been broken in the past 30 days, according to federal data. In Southern Europe, an observatory in Palermo, Sicily, which has kept temperature records on the Mediterranean coast since 1791, hit 117 degrees Fahrenheit on Monday, shattering its previous recorded high. And in China, a small northwest town recently recorded the hottest temperature in the country’s history. July is likely to be the hottest month on Earth since records have been kept. ‘Without climate change we wouldn’t see this at all or it would be so rare that it would basically be not happening,’ said Friederike Otto, a climate scientist at Imperial College London who helped lead the new research as part of a collaborative group called World Weather Attribution.”

Climate Change Could Push the Atlantic Ocean Currents Past a ‘Tipping Point’ This Century. The system of ocean currents that regulates the climate for a swath of the planet could collapse sooner than expected, a new analysis found. The New York Times, Raymond Zhong, Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “The last time there was a major slowdown in the mighty network of ocean currents that shapes the climate around the North Atlantic, it seems to have plunged Europe into a deep cold for over a millennium. That was roughly 12,800 years ago, when not many people were around to experience it. But in recent decades, human-driven warming could be causing the currents to slow once more, and scientists have been working to determine whether and when they might undergo another great weakening, which would have ripple effects for weather patterns across a swath of the globe. A pair of researchers in Denmark this week put forth a bold answer: A sharp weakening of the currents, or even a shutdown, could be upon us by century’s end.” See also, Scientists Warn Major Ocean Current System Could Collapse. The system, part of the ‘global conveyor belt,’ could slow down or stop completely by mid-century, a new study finds. Huff Post, Nick Visser, published on Wednesday, 26 July 2023: “An important system of ocean currents that circulates water around the planet could significantly slow down or even stop completely in just a few decades, according to a shocking new study released Tuesday. The network is called the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, which includes the Gulf Stream. It’s a series of ocean currents that brings warm water north, and cold water south across the Atlantic Ocean, part of a ‘global conveyor belt’ that impacts weather patterns across North America, Europe, Asia and Africa, according to NOAA. Researchers in Denmark analyzed sea surface temperatures to determine the strength of the AMOC, using data from 1870 to 2020. The pair, Susanne Ditlevsen of the University of Copenhagen, and her brother, Peter Ditlevsen of the university’s Niels Bohr Institute, then created a statistical model to analyze early-warning signals that there are problems with the current network. The authors concluded the AMOC could collapse at any point between now and 2095, even as early as 2025. Their models rely on ‘the current scenario of future emissions,’ assuming that greenhouse gases would continue to be released into the atmosphere without dramatic steps to reduce them. The new research was published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications.” See also, Scientists detect sign that a crucial ocean current is near collapse, The Washington Post, Sarah Kaplan, Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “The Atlantic Ocean’s sensitive circulation system has become slower and less resilient, according to a new analysis of 150 years of temperature data — raising the possibility that this crucial element of the climate system could collapse within the next few decades. Scientists have long seen the Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation, or AMOC, as one of the planet’s most vulnerable ‘tipping elements’ — meaning the system could undergo an abrupt and irreversible change, with dramatic consequences for the rest of the globe. Under Earth’s current climate, this aquatic conveyor belt transports warm, salty water from the tropics to the North Atlantic, and then sends colder water back south along the ocean floor. But as rising global temperatures melt Arctic ice, the resulting influx of cold freshwater has thrown a wrench in the system — and could shut it down entirely. The study published Tuesday in the journal Nature Communications suggests that continued warming will push the AMOC over its ‘tipping point’ around the middle of this century. The shift would be as abrupt and irreversible as turning off a light switch, and it could lead to dramatic changes in weather on either side of the Atlantic. ‘This is a really worrying result,’ said Peter Ditlevsen, a climate physicist at the University of Copenhagen and lead author of the new study. ‘This is really showing we need a hard foot on the brake’ of greenhouse gas emissions.”

New filings show eight search warrants were issued in Trump classified documents case. Prosecutors argued that seven additional warrants should be kept secret. NBC News, Tom Winter, Jonathan Dienst, and Rebecca Shabad, Tuesday, 25 July 2023: “Eight search warrants and affidavits were filed in connection with the federal case involving former President Donald Trump’s handling of classified documents, which resulted in a slew of criminal charges against him, according to recently unsealed court motions. The motions were filed in connection with the ongoing efforts by media organizations, including NBC News, to obtain access to much of the information in the search warrant served at Trump’s Mar-a-Lago residence in Palm Beach, Florida, last year. Prosecutors filed a motion last month with the federal court overseeing the case, requesting permission to disclose the warrants and accompanying documents to the legal teams representing Trump and his aide Walt Nauta as part of disclosure requirements now that both men have been charged.  In the motion, which was unsealed Tuesday, prosecutors said they have not publicly disclosed the contents, locations or devices sought by the search warrants, and they asked the court to keep the details under wraps. The existence of one of the warrants was already known, because it was executed on Trump’s estate last year, and he announced it on his social media website. The indictment also made it clear that prosecutors had obtained other information — including photos and messages from cellphones — but the prosecution did not indicate whom it had obtained the information from, whether voluntarily or through warrants.”

Education Department Opens Civil Rights Inquiry Into Harvard’s Legacy Admissions. An inquiry into admissions preference for family of alumni and donors began after the Supreme Court’s decision last month limiting affirmative action. The New York Times, Michael D. Shear and Anemona Hartocollis, Tuesday, 25 July 2023; “The Education Department has opened a civil rights investigation into Harvard University’s legacy admissions policy, inserting the federal government directly into a fierce national debate about wealth, privilege and race after the Supreme Court gutted the use of affirmative action in higher education. The inquiry into one of the nation’s richest and most prestigious universities will examine allegations by three liberal groups that Harvard’s practice of showing preference for the relatives of alumni and donors discriminates against Black, Hispanic and Asian applicants in favor of white and wealthy students who are less qualified. The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights has powerful enforcement authority that could eventually lead to a settlement with Harvard or trigger a lengthy legal battle like the one that led to the Supreme Court’s decision to severely limit race-conscious admissions last month, reversing a decades-long approach that had increased chances for Black students and those from other minority groups. The move by the Biden administration comes at a moment of heightened scrutiny of college admissions practices following the ruling, which has resurfaced long-simmering anger about the advantages that colleges often give to the wealthy and connected. Harvard gives preference to applicants who are recruited athletes, legacies, relatives of donors and children of faculty and staff. As a group, they make up less than 5 percent of applicants, but around 30 percent of those admitted each year. About 67.8 percent of these applicants are white, according to court papers.”


Wednesday, 26 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv and Moscow say Ukrainian forces mount attack in Zaporizhzhia region, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Jennifer Hassan, Miriam Berger, Robyn Dixon, and John Hudson, Wednesday, 26 July 2023: “Ukrainian forces are mounting a push along Russia’s front lines in the Zaporizhzhia region, Russian and Ukrainian officials said Wednesday. The White House is in talks with European and Ukrainian partners to find an overland route to move grain out of Ukraine after Russia withdrew from the Black Sea Grain Initiative last week, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu said talks with his North Korean counterpart in Pyongyang would ‘contribute to strengthening cooperation between our defense agencies.’ Shoigu is in North Korea as the country prepares to mark the Korean War armistice anniversary. Ukraine’s military has launched an offensive and made advances south of the town of Orikhiv in the country’s southern Zaporizhzhia region, according to Ukrainian officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive military matter. The ultimate goal of the military push is to reach the Sea of Azov and sever Russia’s land bridge to Crimea, a strategic strip of territory Moscow seized after the Feb. 24 invasion and a key conduit for the Kremlin’s movement of troops and military equipment into Ukraine. Ukraine’s Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said Ukrainian forces are ‘gradually advancing’ in the direction of Melitopol and Berdyansk. but she did not say how far they had moved. Both Russia and Ukrainian officials acknowledged intense fighting around the town of Robotyne, with Russia’s defense ministry saying a Ukrainian attack on the Russian-held area was repelled and a Ukrainian official denying the claim. Western-provided tanks are involved in Ukraine’s push to take ground in the Zaporizhzhia region, Vladimir Rogov, a Russian official in Ukraine, said on Telegram. Moscow fired another barrage of cruise missiles across Ukraine on Wednesday evening, according to the Ukrainian Air Force, who said it shot down 36 of 39 missiles launched. Russia launched four hypersonic Kinzhal missiles, according to the statement, which did not say whether any where among those that hit. ‘[T]here were a few hits, and some missile fragments fell,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said in his nightly address. Russia’s Black Sea Fleet has changed position ‘in preparedness to enforce a blockade on Ukraine,’ Britain’s Defense Ministry said Wednesday, noting the change since Moscow pulled out of an international grain deal this month. It said Russia may use the repositioning to ‘intercept commercial vessels’ it believes are heading to Ukraine. The deal allowed exports of nearly 33 million tons of commodities to other countries, according to United Nations data. The White House is exploring ‘less efficient’ land routes to export grain from Ukraine, as it expects Russia’s blockade to last ‘at least for some time,’ Kirby told reporters Wednesday. ‘You can’t move as much or as fast via land routes, whether it’s truck or rail,’ he said. ‘But we’re working to see what we can do to try to alleviate or increase the flow.’ Russia’s Federal Security Service has arrested renowned Russian sociologist Boris Kagarlitsky on charges of ‘justifying terrorism,’ state-controlled news agency Tass reported. Kagarlitsky, a critic of Russia’s war in Ukraine, was also arrested as a dissident in the Soviet era. His latest detention shocked Russian intellectuals, with prominent pro-Kremlin analyst Sergei Markov calling it ‘a gross political mistake.’ Kagarlitsky, who has denied the charges, was transferred to Syktyvkar, where the case will be investigated more than 800 miles northeast of his home in Moscow. Only 16 African heads of state were set to attend a Russia-Africa summit on Thursday — fewer than half of the 43 who went in 2019 — despite last-ditch diplomatic overtures. Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov blamed the West’s ‘absolutely unconcealed brazen interference’ for the reduced attendance. Since the beginning of Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine last year, fuel and food costs across Africa have spiked, hitting some of the continent’s most vulnerable populations the hardest. Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Gain Initiative last week has raised concerns over further price hikes. Moldovan authorities accused Russia of attempting to ‘destabilize the internal situation in our country’ in a statement Wednesday. In response, authorities said, Moldova is reducing the number of staff at Russia’s embassy in its capital, Chisinau. Russian Foreign Ministry spokesperson Maria Zakharova denied the claim, saying Wednesday that ‘Russia does not interfere in other states’ internal affairs’ and that Moldova’s decision ‘will not go unanswered.’ A U.K. parliamentary committee says British government failures helped the Wagner Group and its network to thrive. A document from Britain’s Foreign Affairs Committee, part of the House of Commons, calls on the government to designate the Wagner network as a terrorist organization and stop it from using London as a financial hub. The committee said sanctions placed on members of the group, which is led by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, are ‘underwhelming’ in comparison with those of other countries like the United States. ‘For nearly 10 years, the Government has under-played and under-estimated the Wagner Network’s activities, as well as the security implications of its significant expansion,’ the report said. Ukraine attacked the Crimean Bridge in October, the head of Ukraine’s security service Vasyl Maliuk said Wednesday, confirming Kyiv’s involvement. ‘The destruction of the Crimean Bridge is one of our achievements,’ he said. Ukraine also struck the bridge this month. Moscow expects Kyiv to continue to launch attacks on Crimea, which Russia illegally annexed in 2014, and the Crimean Bridge, which connects the peninsula to Russia, Russian Defense Minister Oleksii Reznikov told CNN.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: U.S. Says Main Thrust of Ukraine’s Counteroffensive Has Begun. Artillery duels flared along the southern front, as troops trained and equipped by the West pressed forward. The New York Times, Wednesday, 26 July 2023:

  • ‘This is the big test’: U.S. officials describe a new Ukrainian effort to sever Russia’s hold on the south.

  • U.S. officials describe a 3-point rationale for Ukraine’s renewed assault.

  • Russia launches another barrage of missiles across Ukraine.

  • Biden, shifting course, orders the U.S. to share evidence of Russian war crimes with the I.C.C.

  • Senator Menendez urges the U.S. to punish Russian officials involved in deporting Ukraine’s children.

  • Tensions surfaced at U.N. Security Council meetings after Russian attacks and grain deal’s collapse.

  • Russia’s defense minister stresses military cooperation on a visit to North Korea.

Giuliani Concedes He Made False Statements About Georgia Election Workers Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss. Rudolph W. Giuliani said he still had ‘legal defenses’ in a case brought by two election workers who said he had defamed them as he asserted that the 2020 election was marred by fraud. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Wednesday, 26 July 2023: “Rudolph W. Giuliani has conceded that while acting as a lawyer for former President Donald J. Trump, he made false statements by asserting that two Georgia election workers had mishandled ballots while counting votes in Atlanta during the 2020 election. The concession by Mr. Giuliani came in court papers filed on Tuesday night as part of a defamation lawsuit that the two workers, Ruby Freeman and Shaye Moss, had brought against him in Federal District Court in Washington in December 2021. The suit accused Mr. Giuliani and others of promoting a video that purported to show Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss — who are mother and daughter — of manipulating ballots while working at the State Farm Arena for the Fulton County Board of Elections. In a two-page declaration, Mr. Giuliani acknowledged that he had in fact made the statements about Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss that led to the filing of the suit and that the remarks ‘carry meaning that is defamatory per se.’ He also admitted that his statements were ‘actionable’ and ‘false’ and that he no longer disputed the ‘factual elements of liability’ the election workers had raised in their suit. But Mr. Giuliani, insisting that he still had ‘legal defenses’ in the case, said that he continued to believe his accusations about Ms. Freeman and Ms. Moss were ‘constitutionally protected’ under the First Amendment. He also refused to acknowledge that his statements had caused the women any damage — a key element required to collect a judgment in a defamation case.” See also, Giuliani is not contesting making false statements about Georgia election workers, The Washington Post, John Wagner and Amy B Wang, Wednesday, 26 July 2023: “Rudy Giuliani, who served as a lawyer for former president Donald Trump, is no longer contesting as a legal matter that he made false and defamatory statements about two former Georgia election workers — but argues in a new court filing that what amounted to false claims about vote-rigging in the 2020 presidential election was constitutionally protected speech and did not damage the workers. The filing late Tuesday in federal court in Washington is the latest twist in a lawsuit brought by Ruby Freeman and her daughter, Shaye Moss, who counted ballots in Fulton County, Ga., during the November 2020 election.” See also, Giuliani concedes he made public comments falsely claiming Georgia election workers committed fraud, Associated Press, Kate Brumback, Wednesday, 26 July 2023: “Rudy Giuliani has conceded that he made public comments falsely claiming two Georgia election workers committed ballot fraud during the 2020 presidential race but is arguing that the statements were protected by the First Amendment. That assertion by Giuliani, who as part of Donald Trump’s legal team tried to overturn results in battleground states, came in a filing Tuesday in a lawsuit by Ruby Freeman and Wandrea ‘Shaye’ Moss. Their lawsuit from December 2021 accused the former New York City mayor of defaming them by falsely stating that they had engaged in fraud while counting ballots at State Farm Arena in Atlanta. The lawsuit says Giuliani repeatedly pushed debunked claims that Freeman and Moss — mother and daughter — pulled out suitcases of illegal ballots and committed other acts of fraud to try to alter the outcome of the race.”


Thursday, 27 July 2023:


Trump Faces Major New Charges in Documents Case. The office of the special counsel accused the former president of seeking to delete security camera footage at Mar-a-Lago. The manager of the property, Carlos De Oliveira, was also named as a new defendant. The New York Times, Alan Feuer, Maggie Haberman, and Glenn Thrush, Thursday, 27 July 2023: “Federal prosecutors on Thursday added major accusations to an indictment charging former President Donald J. Trump with mishandling classified documents after he left office, presenting evidence that he told the property manager of Mar-a-Lago, his private club and residence in Florida, that he wanted security camera footage there to be deleted. The new accusations were revealed in a superseding indictment that named the property manager, Carlos De Oliveira, as a new defendant in the case. He is scheduled to be arraigned in Miami on Monday. The original indictment filed last month in the Southern District of Florida accused Mr. Trump of violating the Espionage Act by illegally holding on to 31 classified documents containing national defense information after he left office. It also charged Mr. Trump and Walt Nauta, one of his personal aides, with a conspiracy to obstruct the government’s repeated attempts to reclaim the classified material. The revised indictment added three serious charges against Mr. Trump: attempting to “alter, destroy, mutilate, or conceal evidence”; inducing someone else to do so; and a new count under the Espionage Act related to a classified national security document that he showed to visitors at his golf club in Bedminster, N.J. The updated indictment was released on the same day that Mr. Trump’s lawyers met in Washington with prosecutors in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, to discuss a so-called target letter that Mr. Trump received this month suggesting that he might soon face an indictment in a case related to his efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election. It served as a powerful reminder that the documents investigation is ongoing, and could continue to yield additional evidence, new counts and even new defendants.” See also, The Trump Classified Documents Indictment, Annotated, The New York Times, Charlie Savage, updated on Thursday, 27 July 2023: “The Justice Department on Thursday released an updated version of an indictment charging former President Donald J. Trump with 40 criminal counts. They relate to Mr. Trump’s hoarding of sensitive government documents after he left office and his refusal to return them, even after being subpoenaed for all remaining records in his possession that were marked as classified. The indictment supersedes one released June 8, adding three criminal charges for Mr. Trump and naming an additional defendant.” See also, Trump charged with seeking to delete security footage in documents case. Unsealed indictment charges second aide at Mar-a-Lago and brings new counts against the former president and longtime valet Walt Nauta. The Washington Post, Devlin Barrett, Perry Stein, Spencer S. Hsu, and Josh Dawsey, Thursday, 27 July 2023: “Prosecutors announced additional charges against Donald Trump on Thursday in his alleged hoarding and hiding of classified documents at Mar-a-Lago, accusing the former president and a newly indicted aide of trying to keep security camera footage from being reviewed by investigators and bringing the number of total federal charges against Trump to 40. Trump already faced 31 counts of illegally retaining national defense information, but federal prosecutors led by special counsel Jack Smith have added a 32nd to the list. That count centers on a now-infamous conversation Trump allegedly had at his golf club and summer residence in Bedminster, N.J., in July 2021, focused on what has been described by others as a secret military document concerning Iran. In that conversation, which was recorded, Trump said: ‘As president I could have declassified it. … Now I can’t, you know, but this is still secret.’ The new indictment also levels accusations of a broader effort by Trump and some of those around him to cover their tracks as the FBI sought to retrieve highly classified documents kept at Mar-a-Lago, Trump’s home and private club, long after his presidency ended. The indictment charges that Trump and two aides, Waltine ‘Walt’ Nauta and Carlos De Oliveira, requested that another Trump employee ‘delete security camera footage at the Mar-a-Lago Club to prevent the footage from being provided to a federal grand jury.'” See also, Read the superseding indictment bringing new charges against Trump, The Washington Post, Washington Post Staff, Thursday, 27 July 2023: “Federal prosecutors released a superseding indictment against former president Donald Trump Thursday, hitting him with a fresh charge over his alleged hiding of classified documents at his Mar-a-Lago home. In addition to the 31 counts he already faces, Trump was charged with illegally retaining national defense information. The released documents reveal the details of the new charge as well as charges against Carlos De Oliveira, the second Trump aide to be charged in the documents case. If you’re unable to read the full text on mobile, the full pdf is available here.” See also, 3 things we learned from new charges against Trump in documents case, The Washington Post, Aaron Blake, Thursday, 27 July 2023. See also, In audio recording, Trump is heard discussing sensitive Iran document. The recording is an important piece of evidence in the federal case against the former president. The Washington Post, Jacqueline Alemany, Thursday, 27 July 2023. See also, Trump charged with additional counts in Mar-a-Lago documents case, NPR, Carrie Johnson, Thursday, 27 July 2023: “A grand jury in the Southern District of Florida has charged former President Donald Trump with a new count of willful retention of National Defense Information in the case related to his handling of classified documents. The new charge stems from a top-secret presentation Trump waved at aides at his Bedminster, N.J., resort. A new defendant was also added to the indictment against Trump and his aide Walt Nauta. Carlos de Oliveira, 56, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla., was added to the obstruction conspiracy charged in the original indictment.” See also, Here’s where the criminal and civil cases facing Trump stand, NPR, Jaclyn Diaz, Thursday, 27 July 2023. See also, Keeping Track of the Trump Investigations, The New York Times, Thursday, 27 July 2023: “State and federal prosecutors are pursuing multiple investigations into Donald J. Trump’s business and political activities, with the cases expected to play out over the coming months. Here is a guide to the major criminal cases involving the former president.”

Trump’s Lawyers Meet With Prosecutors as Election Interference Charges Loom. The former president’s legal team had a last-ditch chance to provide information to the office of Jack Smith, the special counsel leading the inquiry. The New York Times, Maggie Haberman, Alan Feuer, Ben Protess, and Glenn Thrush, Thursday, 27 July 2023: “Lawyers for former President Donald J. Trump met on Thursday with officials in the office of the special counsel, Jack Smith, as federal prosecutors edged closer toward bringing an indictment against Mr. Trump in connection with his wide-ranging efforts to overturn the 2020 election, according to three people familiar with the matter. It was not immediately clear what subjects were discussed at the meeting or if Mr. Smith took part. But similar gatherings are often used by defense lawyers as a last-ditch effort to argue against charges being filed or to convey their version of the facts and the law. On Thursday, the prosecutors were said to have listened courteously — without signaling their intentions beyond what they had conveyed in an earlier letter to the former president — as Mr. Trump’s lawyers made their arguments. In a post following the meeting on his social media site, Mr. Trump said that his lawyers had ‘a productive meeting’ with the prosecutors. He said they had explained to Mr. Smith’s team that ‘I did nothing wrong, was advised by many lawyers, and that an indictment of me would only further destroy our country.'” See also, Trump lawyers meet with special counsel’s office as grand jury convenes, The Washington Post, Josh Dawsey, Spencer S. Hsu, Devlin Barrett, and Perry Stein, Thursday, 27 July 2023: “Lawyers for former president Donald Trump met Thursday morning with prosecutors from special counsel Jack Smith’s office, more than a week after Trump said he received a letter from the Justice Department telling him he could face criminal charges in connection with his efforts to overturn the 2020 election. The meeting, confirmed by a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss it, is another sign that Smith could be close to seeking an indictment of Trump — or making a charging decision — in the long-running elections probe.” See also, Trump says his lawyers have met with prosecutors ahead of possible 2020 election indictment, Associated Press, Eric Tucker, Thursday, 27 July 2023: “Lawyers for Donald Trump met Thursday with members of special counsel Jack Smith’s team ahead of a potential indictment over the former president’s efforts to overturn the results of the 2020 election in the run-up to the Jan. 6, 2021 riot at the U.S. Capitol, according to a person familiar with the matter. Trump himself confirmed the meeting in a post on his Truth Social network….”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Putin says fighting around Zaporizhzhia has intensified and promises grain to African leaders, The Washington Post, Andrew Jeong, Ellen Francis, Natalia Abbakumova, Robyn Dixon, and Miriam Berger, Thursday, 27 July 2023: “Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is seeking to boost ties with African leaders at a St. Petersburg summit, told his visitors that Russia could replace Ukrainian grain, ‘both on a commercial basis and free of charge to the most needy countries in Africa.’ The pledge comes as the Kremlin’s withdrawal from the Black Sea grain deal this month continues to block the flow of Ukrainian grain exports to the world, raising fears for food supplies to vulnerable countries, including in Africa. Ukrainian officials said the military had launched a new push against Russian lines, achieving some gains in the south, The Washington Post reported. A U.S. official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive and ongoing operations, said the purpose of Ukraine moving additional forces to the Zaporizhzhia region was unclear, adding that it could be the result of fresh troops probing Russian lines or replacing fatigued units. Speaking to journalists at the summit, Putin said that fighting in Ukraine had intensified and that ‘most of the armed clashes have taken place in the main attack, the principal attack area, in the Zaporizhzhia sector,’ he said. Ukraine’s 35th Brigade recaptured the village of Staromaiorske, in the Donetsk region, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said Thursday in a video posted to Telegram — a claim that could not immediately be verified independently. The capture would mark the first time Ukraine has retaken a village in weeks. Kyiv is slowly gaining ground in its ongoing counteroffensive, according to Ukrainian and western officials. Putin promised free grain to six African nations in the coming months. It was not clear when or how the deliveries would be made to Burkina Faso, Zimbabwe, Mali, Central African Republic, Eritrea and Somalia — where millions of people face severe hunger. U.N. officials have denounced the Kremlin for nixing an agreement that had helped alleviate the global food crisis. The African Union’s chairman called on Moscow to ‘facilitate the access of both Ukrainian and Russian food.’ In a speech at the summit in St. Petersburg, Azali Assoumani said African nations were ready to work ‘on all fronts’ with Moscow, which he described as a ‘special partner,’ and said a resolution with Ukraine would help save people suffering from the food crisis. Russia’s defense minister handed a letter from President Vladimir Putin to North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, North Korean state media reported. The Russian minister is visiting Pyongyang, which is marking the 70th anniversary of the armistice of the Korean War. Zelensky on Thursday visited the historic Transfiguration Cathedral that was ripped apart in a barrage of Russian missiles over the weekend. In a tweet he said the strikes damaged the building’s ‘entire structure’ and ‘completely destroyed’ the church’s altar. Architecture experts are assessing whether the building — a UNESCO World Heritage site in the port city of Odessa — can be restored, he said. China has ‘become an increasingly important buttress for Russia in its war effort probably supplying Moscow with key technology,’ according to a newly released unclassified Office of the Director of National Intelligence report, dated June 2023. The report found that China has become an ‘even more critical economic partner’ for Russia since it invaded Ukraine last year, mitigating the effects of Western sanctions and export controls. The United States will cooperate with the International Criminal Court’s investigation into war crimes in Ukraine, Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Thursday in New Zealand. Washington is not party to the statute that set up the ICC. ‘We support the ICC’s investigation,’ Blinken told reporters. The Pentagon has been cautious about such cooperation, fearing it might set a precedent that exposes U.S. personnel to investigations for actions elsewhere. Swedish officials accused the Kremlin of backing a disinformation campaign against Stockholm. Russian-backed actors are ‘amplifying incorrect statements such as that the Swedish state is behind the desecration of holy scriptures,’ a Swedish minister said, according to Reuters. Copies of the Quran have been burned at demonstrations in the country, triggering outrage among Muslim communities. Sweden has maintained that it does not support burning the holy book but that it cannot block such acts during protests because of free-speech laws. The Russian Embassy in Stockholm did not immediately respond to a request for comment. A Ukrainian world-champion fencer was disqualified from the Fencing World Championships in Milan after refusing to shake hands with a defeated Russian opponent. Ukrainian fencer Olga Kharlan, 32, had claimed victory over Russian fencer Anna Smirnova before being issued a ‘black card.'”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Ukraine Pushes South but Faces Obstacles in Counteroffensive. A day after U.S. officials said that Ukraine had begun the main thrust of its counteroffensive, Kyiv said it was pushing on two fronts, as President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia said fighting had intensified. The New York Times, Thursday, 27 July 2023:

  • Ukraine aims to drive a wedge through Russian-occupied territory in the south.
  • A Ukrainian fencer is disqualified after refusing to shake hands with a Russian opponent.
  • Putin promises free grain for some African nations, trying to shore up Moscow’s image.
  • Russia’s promise of free grain reflects the Kremlin’s priorities in Africa.
  • Amid an escalating conflict with the West, Putin tries to position himself as in control.
  • Unverified photographs of Prigozhin surface as African leaders convene in St. Petersburg.
  • Russian forces strike the Odesa port, killing one, Ukraine’s military says.


Friday, 28 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Fighting escalates in southern Ukraine; Russia claims it shot down two missiles, The Washington Post, Kelsey Ables, Ellen Francis, Natalia Abbakumova, Adam Taylor, Serhiy Morgunov, and John Judson, Friday, 28 July 2023: “Ukraine has reported gains in the southeast after launching a new counteroffensive push. Ukrainian troops in the Donetsk region said they had recaptured a village, which would be the first that Kyiv reclaimed from Russia in weeks. The Washington Post could not independently verify the claim. Deputy Defense Minister Hanna Maliar said that Ukrainian forces ‘are gradually moving forward’ south of the eastern city of Bakhmut but that ‘battles are quite tough.’ Moscow claimed to have shot down two Ukrainian missiles inside Russian territory, with one intercepted missile landing in the town of Taganrog in the Rostov region, injuring nine people, according to local officials. Oleksiy Danilov, head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, dismissed the claims on Telegram, saying the damage was due to the ‘completely illiterate actions of operators of Russian air defense systems.’ Two airstrikes also hit a government security services building belonging to Ukraine’s SBU and an apartment building in downtown Dnipro on Friday evening, injuring at least five people, Ukrainian officials said. It’s the first time the city center of Ukraine’s fourth largest city has come under missile attack since January. African leaders pressed to end the war during their visit to Russia but stopped short of directly confronting Putin. ‘This war must end. And it can only end on the basis of justice and reason,’ African Union Commission Chairman Moussa Faki Mahamat, also the foreign minister of Chad, said in St. Petersburg. ‘The disruptions of energy and grain supplies must end immediately. The grain deal must be extended for the benefit of all the peoples of the world, Africans in particular.’ The African Union presented the Russian president with a 10-point peace plan in June. Battles have raged along Ukraine’s front lines, as Ukrainian troops made slow but steady advances in their counteroffensive to push through the Russian-held south, The Post reported, citing officials in Kyiv. Ukraine aims to reach the Sea of Azov, severing Moscow’s land bridge to Crimea in the process, although Ukrainian forces remain far from the sea. Ukraine has in recent weeks launched attacks on Crimea, which was illegally annexed by Russia in 2014. Russia’s Defense Ministry said Ukrainian forces mounted offensive actions in Zaporizhzhia on Friday. Putin said earlier that ‘most of the armed clashes’ have taken place in the southern Ukrainian region. A U.S. official speaking on the condition of anonymity in line with ground rules had said that it was unclear what the moves may be but that a boost in Ukrainian forces in Zaporizhzhia could be the result of fresh troops probing Russian lines or replacing fatigued units. Putin said ‘Russia’s attention to Africa is growing steadily’ and that this ‘is reflected in our plans to step up our diplomatic presence on the continent.’ He said Russia was ‘ready to restore and open new Russian missions abroad.’ The Russian leader, seeking to boost ties, is hosting African leaders at the St. Petersburg summit, although far fewer African leaders are attending in comparison with the first Russia-Africa summit in 2019. North Korea showcased new drones at a military parade attended by leader Kim Jong Un alongside Russian and Chinese officials, North Korean state media said Friday. As it marks the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice, North Korea this week opened its borders to visitors for the first time since the pandemic began. The foreign officials included Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu. Brazil can’t approve a U.S. request to extradite an alleged Russian spy because the Russian government’s own extradition request for the man has already been approved, the Brazilian Ministry of Justice and Public Security said Thursday. Sergey Cherkasov was charged by the U.S. Justice Department in March with acting as an illegal agent of Russian intelligence while attending a Johns Hopkins University graduate program in Washington. Brazil’s justice minister, Flávio Dino, said on Twitter that Cherkasov will remain imprisoned in Brazil for the time being. Russian officials say they want Cherkasov on drug trafficking charges. Seven Russian individuals and five entities were sanctioned by the European Union Council for allegedly running a ‘digital information manipulation campaign’ in support of Russia’s war in Ukraine, the council said Friday. ‘This campaign, to which government bodies or bodies affiliated to the Russian State have participated, relies on fake web pages usurping the identity of national media outlets and government websites, as well as fake accounts on social media,’ the council said in a statement. Ukrainian world champion fencer Olga Kharlan was disqualified from the Fencing World Championships in Milan after refusing to shake hands with defeated Russian opponent Anna Smirnova. The handshake is mandatory in fencing. In a video on Instagram, Kharlan said she ‘acted with her heart’ and ‘screamed in pain’ after being disqualified. ‘The rules have to change because the world is changing,’ she said. A Ukrainian presidential adviser described Russia’s promises of grain for African nations as ‘blackmail’ after the Kremlin pulled out of the U.N.-backed deal that allowed the flow of Ukrainian grain to world markets. Moscow’s withdrawal from the grain deal was ‘dramatically increasing the negative effects of drought and food shortages on the African continent,’ Mykhailo Podolyak said after Putin told African leaders that Russia could replace Ukrainian grain. The U.S. Senate passed a bill that would extend the Ukraine Security Assistance Initiative through fiscal 2027, quashing partisan efforts to limit aid to Kyiv, The Post reported. The bill is expected to spark heated negotiations with hard-line Republicans in the House seeking to limit aid to Ukraine. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky on Friday met with the Qatari prime minister, who announced his country’s intention to allocate $100 million for Ukraine’s humanitarian needs and 50 university scholarships for Ukrainian students. Both sides said the two discussed the situation surrounding the Black Sea Grain Initiative, the return of Ukrainian children taken to Russia and resolving the war itself.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Moscow Says It Shot Down Two Ukrainian Missiles Over Russian Cities. Debris from one missile injured several people and caused damage in Taganrog, about 30 miles east of the Ukrainian border, the Russian Defense Ministry said. The New York Times, Friday, 28 July 2023:

Biden Overhauls Military Justice Code, Seeking to Curb Sexual Assault. The largest overhaul of the Uniform Code of Military Justice since its creation in 1950 removes commanders’ authority over cases of sexual assault and a handful of other high-profile crimes. The New York Times, Michael D. Shear, Saturday, 28 July 2023: “President Biden gave final approval on Friday to the biggest reshaping in generations of the country’s Uniform Code of Military Justice, stripping commanders of their authority over cases of sexual assault, rape and murder to ensure prosecutions that are independent of the chain of command. By signing a far-reaching executive order, Mr. Biden ushered in the most significant changes to the modern military legal system since it was created in 1950. The order follows two decades of pressure from lawmakers and advocates of sexual assault victims, who argued that victims in the military were too often denied justice, culminating in a bipartisan law mandating changes.”


Saturday, 29 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Saudis to host peace talks, the Wall Street Journal reports; Zelensky visits troops near Bakhmut, The Washington Post, Niha Masih, Ellen Francis, Tamia Fowlkes, Kyle Rempfer, and Natalia Abbakumova, Saturday, 29 July 2023: “Western diplomats will meet to discuss peace ideas with Brazil, India and Ukraine in a Saudi Arabian summit next weekend, according to a Wall Street Journal report. Though Russia is not expected to attend, Ukrainian and Western officials hope the effort could help shape future peace talks, the Journal reported. On Saturday, Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky said he visited special operations forces near the eastern city of Bakhmut, which troops have been fighting to recapture since it fell to Russia in May in a bloody battle. Ukrainian officials say they have made some gains in their latest counteroffensive to smash through Russian defenses in the southeast. Russian President Vladimir Putin said Saturday that his troops have halted Ukrainian attacks ‘in all directions,’ and ‘in one area the Russian military has launched an attack.’ Representatives from 30 countries will meet in Jeddah on Aug. 5 and 6 to discuss the Russia-Ukraine war, the Journal reported Saturday. ‘Western diplomats said that Saudi Arabia was picked to host the second round of talks partly in hopes of persuading China, which has maintained close ties to Moscow, to participate,’ the newspaper reported without naming the diplomats. Russia and China say they have been deepening economic ties in an effort to push back on the West. Brazilian justice officials said they could not approve a U.S. extradition request for Sergey Cherkasov, whom the United States accuses of being a Russian spy, because they already are processing Moscow’s request to hand him over on allegations of drug trafficking. Cherkasov, who is serving time in Brazil on charges of using fraudulent documents, was charged by the U.S. Justice Department with acting as an illegal agent of a Russian intelligence service while attending Johns Hopkins University in Washington as a master’s student. One of his lawyers has denied the allegations of spying. Yevgeniy Prigozhin said he supports the coup in Niger. The paramilitary leader said the coup was a long overdue push against Western colonization, according to Reuters, and he teased potential aid from his Wagner Group fighters to maintain order. Prigozhin stirred discontent in Russia last month after his Kremlin-backed group began an attempt at mutiny against Russian defense officials. The International Olympic Committee invited Ukrainian fencer Olga Kharlan to compete at next year’s Paris Olympics after she was disqualified from the Fencing World Championships in Milan for refusing a mandatory handshake with Russian opponent Anna Smirnova. ‘As a fellow fencer, it is impossible for me to imagine how you feel at this moment,’ the president of the IOC wrote in a letter, which Kharlan shared on Instagram. The International Fencing Federation said it would readmit Kharlan into the Milan tournament, allowing her to join the women’s saber team competition this weekend. The federation said it ‘stands fully behind the penalty,’ which was in line with the rules, but had made anextraordinary decision’ that was ‘in keeping with the Olympic Spirit’ after consulting with the IOC. Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky signed a law moving the date of Christmas from Jan. 7 to Dec. 25 as part of an effort to ‘renounce Russian heritage.’ The government said that Christmas is a Christian holiday, integral to Ukraine, and that observing the Julian calendar, which celebrates Christmas on Jan. 7, had long been imposed on the Ukrainian people. More than 100 Wagner Group mercenaries in Belarus have moved close to the border with Poland, Polish Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki said Saturday. The mercenaries were near the Suwalki Gap, Morawiecki said, referencing a strategic corridor bridging the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad and Belarus. ‘Now the situation becomes even more dangerous,’ Morawiecki said in comments reported by Polish public broadcaster TVP. Secretary of State Antony Blinken accused Russia’s defense minister of visiting North Korea to secure weapons. ‘I strongly doubt he’s there on holiday,’ Blinken told reporters, according to Agence France-Presse. ‘We’re seeing Russia desperately looking for support, for weapons, wherever it can find them,’ Blinken was quoted as saying on a trip to Australia that ended Saturday. Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu visited Pyongyang this week as the city marked the 70th anniversary of the Korean War armistice. Global aid needs have skyrocketed during the pandemic and the war in Ukraineaccording to Carl Skau, the deputy executive director of the World Food Program. He said the United Nations had to cut the provision of food, cash payments and assistance to millions of people in countries including Afghanistan and Yemen because of ‘a crippling funding crisis.’ UNESCO representatives are in Odessa to inspect damage at protected sites, regional governor Oleg Kiper said Saturday. More than 20 historic sites were damaged during Russian missile strikes this month, Kiper said on Telegram. The monitors are set to spend four days in Odessa, which is home to notable 19th- and 20th-century architecture and is a UNESCO World Heritage site.”

Judge throws out Trump’s ‘big lie’ defamation lawsuit against CNN, The Washington Post, Caroline Anders, Saturday, 29 July 2023: “A federal judge on Friday dismissed Donald Trump’s lawsuit against CNN, in which the former president said the network defamed him by associating him with Adolf Hitler. Trump argued that by using the phrase the ‘big lie’ in reference to his unfounded claim that the 2020 presidential election was stolen, the network created an unfair association between him and the Nazi regime. Hitler and Nazi minister of propaganda Joseph Goebbels used the term as a propaganda tool that involved repeating a falsehood until the public started to believe it. A quote, ‘If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it,’ is often attributed to Goebbels, though it’s unclear where the comment came from. Trump argued that the network’s references to the ‘big lie’ created a ‘false and incendiary association’ between him and Hitler, and caused ‘readers and viewers to hate, contempt, distrust, ridicule, and even fear’ him. But U.S. District Judge Raag Singhal ruled that the comments did not constitute defamation.”


Sunday, 30 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Kyiv confirms Saudi Arabia summit; U. S. national security adviser expected to attend, The Washington Post, Bryan Pietsch, Leo Sands, Serhiy Morgunov, Tamia Fowlkes, Nick Parker, and Michael Birnbaum, Sunday, 30 July 2023: “Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky’s office confirmed Sunday that Saudi Arabia is preparing to host peace talks on behalf of Ukraine. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to attend the talks, according to a person familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the sensitive plans. The summit, which Russia is not attending, is reportedly intended to give Ukraine’s backers and other countries a chance to align positions on how to end the war, ahead of a wider-ranging summit later this year. In Moscow, Kremlin officials accused Ukraine of targeting the Russian capital and Crimea early Sunday with drone strikes, all of which they said they thwarted. Saudi Arabia will host a Ukrainian-backed peace summit to be attended by delegations from the United States, India, Brazil and South Africa, among other countries, the Associated Press reported. The office of Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak confirmed the plan to meet in Saudi Arabia. According to the Wall Street Journal, which first reported on plans for the talks in Jeddah on Aug. 5 and 6, the meeting is intended to pave the way for a summit later this year, when global leaders hope to declare their support for shared principles for a lasting peace. Kyiv will discuss long-term security measures with Washington ‘this week,’ Yermak said, referring to a recent agreement with Group of Seven nations. Yermak reiterated Ukraine’s desire to join NATO, though he acknowledged that the country would not be accepted into the defense group until the war ends. The White House did not immediately respond Sunday afternoon to a request for comment on the meeting. Russia said it thwarted a drone attack on Moscow early Sunday and blamed Ukraine for the strike. One drone was stopped over Odintsovo, southwest of the capital, and two more crashed in Moscow, the Russian Defense Ministry said on Telegram. Moscow Mayor Sergei Sobyanin said two office towers in the capital were ‘slightly damaged’ but nobody was hurt or killed. A Ukrainian air force spokesman acknowledged strikes in Moscow, but did not say whether Kyiv was behind them. Russia’s report comes less than a week after it accused Ukraine of a drone attack on a Moscow skyscraper. Russian officials also accused Ukraine of using drones to target Crimea, which Moscow invaded and illegally annexed in 2014. On Sunday, Russia’s Defense Ministry said its forces intercepted and downed 25 Ukrainian drones aimed at the peninsula, adding that there were no reports of casualties or damage. A spokesman for Ukraine’s air force, Yuriy Ignat, acknowledged the drones in Moscow and Crimea but did not say whether Ukraine played a role. ‘There is always something flying in Russia, and in Moscow in particular,’ he said. A Soviet coat of arms was dismantled at the Motherland monument in Kyiv on Sunday. Crews will replace it with the Ukrainian trident symbol, despite low support for funding cultural works. Such wartime spending led Culture Minister Oleksandr Tkachenko to resign this month; he posted a video of the dismantling Sunday. Pope Francis called on Russia to restore the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which collapsed this month after Moscow withdrew from the deal and refused to guarantee the safety of agricultural cargo in the Black Sea. ‘I appeal to my brothers, the authorities of the Russian Federation, so that the Black Sea initiative may be resumed and grain may be transported safely,’ Francis said Sunday during his Angelus prayer, Reuters reported. Over the weekend, Putin acknowledged publicly that Russian companies will earn more from the increase in global food prices resulting from Moscow’s withdrawal from the initiative. The International Olympic Committee invited Ukrainian fencer Olga Kharlan to compete at next year’s Paris Olympics after she was disqualified from the Fencing World Championships in Milan for refusing a mandatory handshake with Russian opponent Anna Smirnova. ‘As a fellow fencer, it is impossible for me to imagine how you feel at this moment,’ IOC President Thomas Bach wrote in a letter, which Kharlan shared on Instagram.”

Senator Chris Murphy dismisses Supreme Court Justice Samuel Alito’s claims that the Senate has ‘no authority’ to regulate the Supreme Court, The Guardian, Maya Yang, Sunday, 30 July 2023: “Senator Chris Murphy has dismissed claims by the supreme court justice, Samuel Alito, that the Senate has “no authority” to create a code of conduct for the court as ‘stunningly wrong.’ The Connecticut Democrat made those remarks in an interview on CNN’s State of the Union on Sunday, adding that Alito ‘should know that more than anyone else because his seat on the supreme court exists only because of an act passed by Congress.’ ‘It is Congress that establishes the number of justices on the supreme court,’ Murphy said. ‘It is Congress that has passed in the past requirements for justices to disclose certain information, and so it is just wrong on the facts to say that Congress doesn’t have anything to do with the rules guiding the supreme court.’ He continued: ‘It is even more disturbing that Alito feels the need to insert himself into a congressional debate.’ Murphy’s comments came after the Wall Street Journal published an interview with Alito on Friday in which he said: ‘I know this is a controversial view, but I’m willing to say it. No provision in the constitution gives them the authority to regulate the supreme court – period.'”


Monday, 31 July 2023:


Russian Invasion of Ukraine: At least 10 dead, more than 100 injured after missile strike on Zelensky’s hometown, The Washington Post, Jennifer Hassan, Lyric Li, and Miriam Berger, Monday, 31 July 2023: “Russian strikes killed at least ten people and injured more than 100 others in the Ukrainian city of Kherson and in Kryvyi Rih — President Volodymyr Zelensky’s hometown — Ukrainian officials said. Emergency workers in Kryvyi Rih were able to rescue a 10-year-old girl who initially had been reported dead, according to the Ukraine’s Ministry of Internal Affairs. The strikes came as Ukraine and Croatia’s foreign ministers met in Kyiv, where they agreed on ‘the possibility’ of using Croatian ports to export Ukrainian grain, in the aftermath of the collapse of the Black Sea grain deal, Ukrainian Minister of Foreign Affairs Dmytro Kuleba said in a statement. Six people were killed and at least 75 injured in Russian strikes on a residential building and a university building in Kryvyi Rih. The head of the Dnipropetrovsk Regional Administration said one of the dead was found trapped in the rubble of a destroyed laboratory at the university. Two Russian strikes on Kherson killed at least four people and wounded 17, including a minor hospitalized in serious condition, Kherson Gov. Oleksandr Prokudin said on Telegram. One of the victims was a utility worker killed in the first strike. Kuleba said Croatia and Ukraine ‘will now work on laying the most efficient routes’ to Croatian ports on the Danube and the Adriatic Sea, though he did not specify a time-frame. Analysts have warned that global food prices and shortages could spike after Russia left a deal allowing ships carrying Ukrainian grain to safely pass through the Black Sea. The Kremlin said Kyiv was behind drone strikes in Moscow and Russian-annexed Crimea, which Russia thwarted over the weekend. Zelensky said Sunday that such attacks are ‘inevitable,’ but Ukrainian officials have neither confirmed nor denied involvement. Kyiv is set to begin discussing long-term security measures with Washington this week, Ukrainian presidential adviser Andriy Yermak said, referring to a recent agreement with the Group of Seven nations. The plan will be discussed in three phases that culminate in a meeting of heads of state, he said. Yermak reiterated Ukraine’s desire to join NATO, though he acknowledged that the country would not be accepted into the defense alliance until the war ends. U.S. national security adviser Jake Sullivan is expected to attend a Ukrainian-backed peace summit in Saudi Arabia, according to a person familiar with the matter, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive planning. Russia is not attending the summit, which is reportedly intended to give Ukraine’s backers and other countries a chance to align positions on how to end the war. Pope Francis called on Russia to restore the Black Sea Grain Initiative, which collapsed this month after Moscow withdrew from the deal and refused to guarantee the safety of agricultural cargo in the Black Sea. ‘I appeal to my brothers, the authorities of the Russian Federation, so that the Black Sea initiative may be resumed and grain may be transported safely,’ Francis said Sunday during his Angelus prayer, Reuters reported.”

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Deadly Russian Missile Strike Hits Apartments in Central Ukraine. Kryvyi Rih, the hometown of President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, was attacked hours after he warned that the war was ‘returning to the territory of Russia.’ The New York Times, Monday, 31 July 2023:

  • A Russian missile strike kills 6 people in Kryvyi Rih.

  • Ukraine is moving to export its grain through Croatia’s ports.

  • Saudi Arabia will host talks about Ukraine’s peace plan, diplomats say.

  • A new recording says that Russia’s Wagner mercenary group will stop recruiting.

  • Ukraine boosts its fuel supply before winter.

  • Extensive minefields impede Ukraine’s counteroffensive, military experts say.

Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Ukraine’s counteroffensive makes some gains, NPR, NPR Staff, Monday, 31 July 2023: “Here’s a look ahead and a roundup of key developments from the past week. What to watch: Conflict analysts are looking for further signs that Ukraine may have entered a new, bolder phase of its counteroffensive against Russian forces. Saudi Arabia will host Ukraine peace talks this weekend, the Wall Street Journal reported and Ukrainian officials confirmed, but Russia is apparently not invited. The United States will take over the rotating presidency of the United Nations Security Council for August, with a focus on food security following Russia’s withdrawal from the Black Sea Grain Initiative. A panel tasked with investigating allegations that South Africa provided weapons to Russia is due to report its findings to the country’s president soon. Friday will mark one year since U.S. basketball star Brittney Griner was sentenced to prison in Russia. After months of negotiations with the U.S., Russia released her in December in exchange for the U.S. freeing a Russian arms dealer. What happened last week: Ukrainian forces launched a heavy assault in the Zaporizhzhia region, leading to news reports saying Ukraine could be stepping up its counteroffensive. They recaptured a small village, Staromaiorske, from Russian forces. Ukrainian forces are fighting on at least three major fronts in the south, east and northeast. Over the weekend, Ukrainian drones damaged buildings in Moscow.Gradually, the war is returning to the territory of Russia,’ Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy said, though Ukraine has not officially claimed the drone attacks. Russian President Vladimir Putin hosted a summit with African leaderspromising free delivery of tens of thousands of tons of grain to Burkina Faso, Central African Republic, Eritrea, Mali, Somalia and Zimbabwe. But he did not accede to the African leaders’ requests to resume the Black Sea grain deal allowing Ukrainian exports — a deal that Russia terminated earlier this month. Russian lawmakers passed a higher age limit for military conscription. Starting in January, men 18 to 30 will have to carry out military service or training for one year, up from the current age cap of 27. They also approved a measure to ban draftees from leaving the country, after a draft order last year set off a mad rush out of Russia. The United States will provide $400 million in military assistance for Ukrainethe 43rd time President Biden is using his drawdown authority to support Ukraine against Russia’s invasion. U.S. Marine veteran Trevor Reed was injured while fighting in Ukraine. Reed had been imprisoned in Russia and was freed as part of a prisoner swap with the U.S. last year. At some point he wound up joining Ukrainian forces, but the U.S. government said Reed was not fighting on its behalf. Ukraine decided to let its athletes take part in competitions in which Russians and Belarusians will be competing under neutral flags and not publicly support the war against Ukraine.”

Judge Rejects Trump’s Effort to Short-Circuit Georgia Election Case. A Fulton County judge chided Donald Trump’s lawyers for ‘unnecessary and unfounded legal filings’ ahead of indictments expected in mid-August. The New York Times, Richard Fausset and Danny Hakim, Monday, 31 July 2023: “A Georgia judge forcefully rejected on Monday an effort by former President Donald J. Trump to derail an investigation into attempts by Mr. Trump and his allies to overturn his 2020 election loss in the state — an investigation that is expected to yield indictments in mid-August. Mr. Trump tried to get Judge Robert C.I. McBurney of the Fulton County Superior Court in Atlanta to throw out evidence collected by a special grand jury and disqualify the prosecutor overseeing the investigation, Fani T. Willis, the Fulton County district attorney. But in a nine-page order, Judge McBurney wrote that Mr. Trump did not have the legal standing to make such challenges before indictments were handed up. The judge said the ‘injuries’ that Mr. Trump claimed to have suffered from the two-and-a-half-year investigation ‘are either insufficient or else speculative and unrealized.’ The office of Ms. Willis, a Democrat, is expected to present potential indictments in the matter to a regular grand jury in the next few weeks. The Georgia investigation is part of a swirl of legal troubles surrounding Mr. Trump, who has already been indicted on state charges in New York connected with hush-money payments in 2016, and on federal charges over his retention and handling of classified documents after leaving office in 2021.” See also, Trump attempt to derail Georgia election investigation is rejected by judge, Associated Press, Kate Brumback, Monday, 31 July 2023: “A judge on Monday rejected an attempt by former President Donald Trump to keep a Georgia district attorney from prosecuting him and from using certain evidence gathered in her investigation into potential illegal meddling in the 2020 election in the state. Fulton County Superior Court Judge Robert McBurney didn’t mince words in his nine-page ruling, which said Trump lacked the legal grounds to bring the challenge before any indictment has been filed in the case. Any harm alleged by Trump and by Cathy Latham, a Republican fake elector from Georgia who had joined his motion, is ‘either insufficient or else speculative and unrealized,’ the judge wrote. The alleged harms ‘are insufficient because, while being the subject (or even target) of a highly publicized criminal investigation is likely an unwelcome and unpleasant experience, no court ever has held that that status alone provides a basis for the courts to interfere with or halt the investigation,’ McBurney wrote. In a caustic footnote, seemingly nodding to Trump’s status as the dominant frontrunner for the 2024 Republican nomination for president despite having been indicted twice already, the judge added, ‘And for some, being the subject of a criminal investigation can, à la Rumpelstiltskin, be turned into golden political capital, making it seem more providential than problematic.'”





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!