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News & Politics Thread (Part 6)

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  • Atypical
    Dec 1st, 2011

    Part 6.


    Dec 1st, 2011

    Judge rules Trump, children must comply with NY AG’s subpoena for testimony
    BY HARPER NEIDIG 02/17/22 03:18 PM EST


    Former President Trump and his two eldest children must comply with the New York attorney general’s subpoenas for their testimony in an investigation into the family’s business practices, a New York state judge ruled on Thursday.

    Judge Arthur Engoron denied the Trumps’ effort to quash the subpoenas, rejecting their arguments that New York Attorney General Letitia James (D) is conducting a politically motivated investigation that is depriving them of their constitutional rights.

    “In the final analysis, a State Attorney General commences investigating a business entity, uncovers copious evidence of possible financial fraud, and wants to question, under oath, several of the entities’ principals, including its namesake. She has the clear right to do so,” Engoron wrote.

    The judge dismissed Trump’s arguments that James’s various comments about the former president, including campaign vows to investigate him, undermine the legal basis for the investigation.

    Engoron wrote in his eight-page ruling that his own “review of the thousands of documents responsive to OAG’s prior subpoenas demonstrates that OAG has a sufficient basis for continuing its investigation, which undercuts the notion that this ongoing investigation is based on personal animus, not fact and law,” referring to the Office of the Attorney General.

    “As has often been said, that a prosecutor dislikes someone does not prevent a prosecution,” the judge added.

    He ordered Trump to comply with the subpoena within 14 days. Donald Trump Jr. and Ivanka Trump have 21 days to sit for a deposition.

    James applauded the ruling on Thursday.

    “Today, justice prevailed,” the state attorney general said in a statement. “Donald J. Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump have been ordered by the court to comply with our lawful investigation into Mr. Trump and the Trump Organization’s financial dealings. No one will be permitted to stand in the way of the pursuit of justice, no matter how powerful they are. No one is above the law.”

    Alina Habba, one of Trump’s attorneys, said in a statement that the ruling “confirmed what we’ve already known for some time – Donald J. Trump cannot get a fair ruling in the State of New York.”

    “The abhorrent statements made by Letitia leave no doubt that this is yet another politically motivated witch-hunt,” Habba continued. “It is disappointing that the Judge overlooked her egregious prosecutorial misconduct and has allowed her investigation–which blatantly violates the US Constitution–to continue undeterred. The court clearly had its mind made up and had no interest in engaging in impartial discourse on this critically important issue.”

    James’s office revealed last month that it had uncovered “significant” evidence that the Trump Organization has for years been falsifying the value of its assets for financial gain, including to win tax breaks and attract investors.

    That revelation came as Trump fought to block her efforts in both state and federal court, while painting the investigation as a political witch hunt in the media.

    Trump’s accounting firm, Mazars, said in a letter sent to the former president’s company last week that it could no longer vouch for the business’s financial statements for the past decade given the revelations from the attorney general’s investigation.

    The Trump Organization responded to the news with a statement saying that Mazars’ review of the financial statements proved that James’s civil investigation and the Manhattan district attorney’s criminal investigation were both unnecessary.

    “While we are disappointed that Mazars has chosen to part ways, their February 9, 2022 letter confirms that after conducting a subsequent review of all prior statements of financial condition, Mazars’ work was performed in accordance with all applicable accounting standards and principles and that such statements of financial condition do not contain any material discrepancies,” the statement said. “This confirmation effectively renders the investigations by the DA and AG moot.”

    In his ruling on Thursday, Engoron took aim at the company for releasing that statement.

    “To proclaim that the Mazars’ red-flag warning that the Trump financial statements are unreliable suddenly renders the OAG’s longstanding investigation moot is as audacious as it is preposterous,” the judge wrote.

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    May 20th, 2011

    Dec 1st, 2011

    Putin orders troops to breakaway Ukraine regions
    BY MONIQUE BEALS 02/21/22 05:19 PM EST


    Russian President Vladimir Putin has reportedly ordered troops to Ukraine’s separatist regions to carry out “peacekeeping functions” hours after stoking global condemnation for signaling his intention to recognize the breakaway areas.

    In decrees released late Monday, Putin ordered his defense ministry to send forces to maintain peace in the two separatist-held regions in eastern Ukraine, The New York Times reported. However, it was not immediately clear from reports if troops would enter areas outside those controlled by separatists.

    Putin’s order comes after he said that Moscow would recognize the regions, known as the so-called Donetsk People’s Republic and the Luhansk People’s Republic, as independent, a move that signaled a rejection of diplomatic efforts to cease fighting.

    “I consider it necessary to take a long-overdue decision: To immediately recognize the independence and sovereignty of Donetsk People’s Republic and Luhansk People’s Republic,” Putin said, according to The Associated Press.

    In response to that move, the White House said President Biden intended to sign an executive order prohibiting new U.S. investment, trade and financing from the Donetsk and Luhansk enclaves while other Western leaders condemned Russia’s decision as a breach of international law.

    “We have anticipated a move like this from Russia and are ready to respond immediately,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said, noting that the move was a “blatant violation of Russia’s international commitments.”

    The U.S. has cautioned that Russia could invade Ukraine at any time after Moscow amassed as many as 190,000 troops near Ukraine.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Biden to name Ketanji Brown Jackson, DC appeals court judge, to Supreme Court


    President Biden will nominate Ketanji Brown Jackson, a federal appeals judge in Washington, D.C., to the Supreme Court, setting up the likely seating of the nation’s first female Black justice.

    The White House made the announcement official Friday morning. Biden is expected to deliver remarks introducing Jackson as his nominee on Friday afternoon.

    “Judge Jackson is an exceptionally qualified nominee as well as an historic nominee, and the Senate should move forward with a fair and timely hearing and confirmation,” the White House said in its statement.

    For Jackson, her nomination culminates a meteoric rise through the federal judiciary following just eight months on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit, a role she was chosen for after eight years as a federal district judge in D.C.

    Biden’s decision caps off a month of closely held deliberations at the White House over a replacement for Justice Stephen Breyer, who is due to retire at the conclusion of the Supreme Court’s current term this summer.

    Jackson, a former Breyer clerk, is expected to round out the court’s liberal wing, which also includes Sonia Sotomayor, 67, and Elena Kagan, 61. At 51, Jackson would also bring youth, diversity, and likely a more liberal outlook than the 83-year-old Breyer, known for his judicial modesty and pragmatism.

    Biden’s choice of Jackson delivers on his 2020 campaign vow to make history by nominating the first Black woman to the Supreme Court. Other candidates he considered for the role included J. Michelle Childs, a U.S. district judge in South Carolina, and California Supreme Court Justice Leondra Kruger.

    Jackson’s addition to the Supreme Court would not fundamentally shift its 6-3 conservative majority balance. But if she proves to be ideologically to the left of Breyer, it could reshape the three-member liberal minority and alter the court in more subtle ways.

    Biden’s selection sets in motion what is likely to be a polarized Supreme Court confirmation process in the 50-50 Senate.

    During her confirmation hearings to the D.C. circuit last spring, Jackson faced a grilling from Senate Republicans, some of whom trained their fire on her decision in a case involving a congressional subpoena to compel the testimony of former Trump White House counsel Don McGahn.

    In what was the most consequential opinion of her career up to that point, then-U.S. District Judge Jackson sided with the Democratic-led House committee pursuing McGahn, ruling in a blistering 120-page decision that former President Trump could not bar McGahn’s testimony, with an admonishment that “presidents are not kings.”

    Since then, she joined a unanimous three-judge D.C. Circuit panel that rejected Trump’s bid to block his administration’s records from being handed to the House committee investigating the Jan. 6 pro-Trump attack on the Capitol, a ruling the Supreme Court left intact.

    Prior to becoming a judge, Jackson spent two years as a federal public defender in D.C.

    Court watchers who previously spoke to The Hill about Jackson emphasized her reputation as a fair, balanced and serious judge who would not be swayed by a case’s political dimensions.

    CNN’s Jake Tapper was the first to report Biden’s plans to nominate Jackson on Friday. A source familiar with the plans confirmed them The Hill prior to Biden’s formal announcement.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Beto O’Rourke clinches Democratic nomination for Texas governor
    BY MAX GREENWOOD 03/01/22 09:04 PM EST


    Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke (D-Texas) easily captured the Democratic nomination for Texas governor on Tuesday, setting him up for his first statewide general election bid in the Lone Star State since his 2018 loss to Sen. Ted Cruz (R).

    O’Rourke faced a handful of fellow Democrats in the Tuesday primary, though there was little doubt about his chances of clinching the nomination. He has been the heavy favorite in the primary since announcing his candidacy in November, bolstered by his near-universal name recognition and fundraising prowess.

    The Associated Press called the race about an hour after polls closed.

    O’Rourke will likely face Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a stalwart conservative who is facing a crowded field of Republican primary challengers, but is widely expected to lock down the GOP nomination.

    O’Rourke, who served three terms in the House, shot to stardom within the Democratic Party during his 2018 campaign against Cruz. While he ultimately lost that race, he parlayed his popularity into a bid for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination. He eventually suspended his campaign in November 2019 before the first primaries and caucuses.

    While O’Rourke commands a loyal following among Democrats, both in his home state and nationally, he is also facing an uphill battle in his bid to oust Abbott in November.

    For one, Democrats nationally are facing a difficult political environment this year, given their current control of the White House and both chambers of Congress. At the same time, Texas hasn’t elected a Democrat to the governor’s mansion since former Gov. Ann Richards won the office in 1990.

    And while O’Rourke came within 3 percentage points of defeating Cruz in 2018, that was also in a year that proved much more favorable to Democrats across the board.

    This year, early polling shows him facing a greater challenger. A survey released last week by The Hill and Emerson College showed Abbott leading O’Rourke in a hypothetical general election matchup 52 percent to 45 percent.

    Similarly, another recent poll from the Dallas Morning News and the University of Texas at Tyler found Abbott with a 7-point lead over O’Rourke. Still, that survey showed an improvement for the Texas Democratic hopeful, who trailed Abbott by 11 points in an earlier poll.

    Abbott also has a massive financial advantage over O’Rourke. Campaign finance reports filed at the end of January showed the Republican incumbent with more than $62 million the bank. O’Rourke, by comparison, reported having $6 million on hand.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Biden condemns Putin, projects unity in State of Union address


    President Biden on Tuesday delivered his first State of the Union address under the cloud of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, projecting unity among U.S. lawmakers and allies abroad and calling out Russian President Vladimir Putin.

    “Six days ago, Russia’s Vladimir Putin sought to shake the foundations of the free world thinking he could make it bend to his menacing ways. But he badly miscalculated,” Biden said.

    “Putin’s latest attack on Ukraine was premeditated and totally unprovoked. He rejected repeated, repeated efforts at diplomacy. He thought the West and NATO wouldn’t respond. He thought he could divide at home, in this chamber, in this nation. He thought he could divide us in Europe as well,” Biden said. “Putin was wrong. We are ready. We are united.”

    Biden spent the first 10 minutes of his 62-minute address to Congress speaking about the unfolding crisis in Europe before turning to domestic priorities such as addressing inflation and the COVID-19 pandemic.

    He used the address to announce plans to ban Russian aircraft from American airspace, joining the European Union and Canada in taking such a step, and highlighted a move by the U.S. and 30 countries to release 60 million barrels of oil from strategic reserves to address energy price spikes driven by the conflict.

    “We stand ready to do more as necessary, united with our allies,” Biden said. “I want you to know, we’re going to be OK.”

    “When the history of this era is written, Putin’s war on Ukraine will have left Russia weaker and the rest of the world stronger,” Biden said.

    Biden’s rhetoric on Ukraine, and particularly his recognition of the Ukrainian ambassador to the United States sitting next to the first lady, drew bipartisan applause as he vowed to remain tough on Putin. Members of both parties donned blue and yellow, a nod to the colors of the Ukrainian flag.

    Other parts of the address drew much more partisan reactions.

    When Biden denounced tax cuts for wealthy Americans passed during the Trump administration, Democrats jeered. Republican applause was sparse as Biden launched into plans for his domestic agenda for the coming year, and some Republicans chanted “Build that wall” as Biden spoke about immigration.

    The president sought to rebut Republican criticism in the days leading up to the address that Biden had set the economy back, pointing to record high inflation that was hurting consumers and middle-class families in particular.

    Biden touted the 6.5 million in jobs gains last year and highlighted the passage of the bipartisan infrastructure law last fall, announcing plans to start fixing 65,000 miles of highway and 1,500 bridges in need of repair this year as the law is implemented.

    He recognized Intel CEO Pat Gelsinger, who was a guest of first lady Jill Biden, to note growing investments in U.S. manufacturing.

    And, seeking to revitalize his stalled agenda in Congress, the president announced a rebrand of his Build Back Better proposal as his plan to “build a better America.” He reframed his economic plan as a way to fight inflation, calling on Congress to act to reduce prescription drug costs, cut energy costs by investing in climate-friendly technologies, and reduce child care costs.

    “Let’s get this done,” Biden said. “We all know we got to make changes.”

    Biden also called on the Senate to confirm his nominees to the Federal Reserve, who have been held up amid Republican opposition to some of the picks, noting that much of the power to address inflation lies with the Fed.

    Biden made a fresh but familiar appeal for unity, calling on Democrats and Republicans not to see one another as “enemies” but as “fellow Americans.” He offered some agenda items that members of both parties could work on together, including fighting the opioid epidemic and implementing privacy protections for children on social media.

    Much of his speech echoed the themes of his addresses to supporters when he travels, calling for corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, boosting the middle class, recalling his Scranton, Pa., roots and touting the nation is stronger when it works together.

    “As hard as these times have been, I am more optimistic about America today than I have been my whole life,” Biden said.

    Some Democrats have been pessimistic about their chances in November, citing historical trends, inflation and the persistent COVID-19 pandemic. But Tuesday marked something of a turning point in the government’s approach to the virus.

    Masks were not required in the chamber, and most lawmakers went maskless in a bid to signal it was time to turn the page to a new phase of the pandemic.

    “Last year, COVID-19 kept us apart. This year, we’re finally together again,” Biden said after he entered the chamber without a face covering.

    During the address, Biden pointed to widespread vaccinations, the availability of booster shots and treatments, and more widely accessible testing as reasons for optimism that the nation can safely return to normal.

    “We will continue to combat the virus as we do other diseases. And because this virus mutates and spreads, we have to stay on guard,” Biden said.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Reynolds response hammers Biden for “weakness on world stage”
    BY MYCHAEL SCHNELL 03/01/22 11:55 PM EST


    Iowa Gov. Kim Reynolds (R) hammered President Biden for his “weakness on the world stage” in the Republican response to Biden’s first State of the Union address Tuesday night.

    Reynolds, speaking from Des Moines, touched on Russia’s unfolding invasion of Ukraine and the U.S.’s “disastrous” withdrawal from Afghanistan in August before knocking Biden’s approach to foreign policy as “too little, too late.”

    “Weakness on the world stage has a cost. And the President’s approach to foreign policy has consistently been too little, too late,” Reynolds said. “It’s time for America to once again project confidence; it’s time to be decisive. It’s time to lead.”

    Reynolds specifically criticized the Biden administration for its posture prior to Russia beginning its invasion of Ukraine, including holding back sanctions on Russian pipelines—likely a reference to Nord Stream 2, the Russian natural gas pipeline.

    Biden on Wednesday announced sanctions against the company behind the pipeline and its corporate officers, only after Russian President Vladimir Putin recognized two breakaway territories in eastern Ukraine as independent and ordered troops into the areas.

    She also pointed out the “alarming rate” at which North Korea is testing missiles, and took a swipe at House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) for warning U.S. athletes participating in the Beijing Winter Olympics last month not to anger the “ruthless” Chinese government.

    Reynolds’ response also hit the administration on hot-button issues at home, including the role parents should play in education and the record inflation in the U.S.

    The governor said the American people are “tired of politicians who tell parents they should sit down, be silent, and let government control their kids’ education and future,” wading into the controversial debates regarding mask mandates in schools and the part parents should play in determining school curriculum.

    Allowing parents to play a role in the classroom became a popular rallying cry among conservatives after Republican Glenn Youngkin won Virginia’s gubernatorial race in November. He made parents and education a key focus of his campaign.

    Reynolds said Republicans are leading the “pro-parent, pro-family revolution” in Iowa and across the country.

    “Republicans believe that parents matter. It was true before the pandemic and has never been more important to say out loud: Parents Matter,” Reynolds said. “They have a right to know, and to have a say in, what their kids are being taught.”

    The Iowa Republican also hammered Biden and Democrats in general for elevated prices in the U.S. Annual inflation hit 7.5 percent at the end of January, marking the fastest rate since February 1982.

    Reynolds jabbed at the Democrats’ roughly $2 trillion social spending and climate package, dubbed the Build Back Better Act, which came to a standstill in December after Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) said he would not support the legislation.

    “Thankfully the President’s agenda didn’t pass, because even members of his own party said enough is enough,” Reynolds said. “Well, the American people share that view. Enough is enough.”

    The governor argued that Biden has failed in his two goals of making the U.S. respected on the world stage and uniting Americans.

    “Even before taking the oath of office, the president told us that he wanted to ‘make America respected around the world again and to unite us here at home,’” Reynolds said. “He’s failed on both fronts.”

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Jan. 6 panel claims Trump “engaged in criminal conspiracy”


    Former President Trump may have committed a crime in his effort to keep the 2020 presidential election results from being certified, the House committee investigating the attack on the Capitol said in a court filing Wednesday evening.

    The development came in the committee’s legal battle to compel documents from John Eastman, the lawyer charged with drafting the strategy for the Jan. 6 certification.

    The panel said that Trump and Eastman had worked together to try to convince then-Vice President Mike Pence to obstruct Congress’s certification of the Electoral College votes.

    “Had this effort succeeded, the electoral count would have been obstructed, impeded, influenced, and (at the very least) delayed, all without any genuine legal justification and based on the false pretense that the election had been stolen. There is no genuine question that the President and Plaintiff attempted to accomplish this specific illegal result,” the committee wrote in its filing.

    The committee also claims it “has a good-faith basis for concluding that the President and members of his Campaign engaged in a criminal conspiracy to defraud the United States.”

    A spokesperson for Trump did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

    The accusations are the most serious that the committee has leveled against Trump so far. The allegations filed on Wednesday are not formal charges nor do they indicate that the former president could face a criminal prosecution, but they signal that the committee has set its sights at the highest levels in probing what led up to the Capitol riot.

    The filing came in response to Eastman’s lawsuit seeking to block the committee’s subpoena for his private communications, which he has argued are privileged, in part because of his legal work on behalf of the former president.

    But the committee argues that Eastman, an attorney for the Trump campaign, may not claim his conversations with the former president are covered by attorney-client privilege, partly because legal advice rendered with the intention of committing a crime is not protected.

    Their filing on Wednesday asked the judge to review requested records personally in order to determine whether they fall under the crime-fraud exception to attorney-client privilege.

    “The Select Committee’s brief refutes on numerous grounds the privilege claims Dr. Eastman has made to try to keep hidden records critical to our investigation. The Select Committee is not conducting a criminal investigation. But, as the judge noted at a previous hearing, Dr. Eastman’s privilege claims raise the question whether the crime-fraud exception to the attorney-client privilege applies in this situation,” Chairman Bennie Thompson (D-Miss.) said in a statement.

    “We believe evidence in our possession justifies review of these documents under this exception in camera. The facts we’ve gathered strongly suggest that Dr. Eastman’s emails may show that he helped Donald Trump advance a corrupt scheme to obstruct the counting of electoral college ballots and a conspiracy to impede the transfer of power.”

    While the committee does not have prosecution power, it’s planning to release a report of its findings, which could be formally referred to the Justice Department, which could then weigh whether to pursue any charges.

    But the extraordinary accusation indicates the breadth of evidence that the committee has obtained in its investigation into the riot at the Capitol and the events leading to it.

    The filing includes depositions with a number of high-ranking former Trump officials, including those who worked for Pence, like his national security advisor Keith Kellogg and Pence’s White House counsel Greg Jacob, who opposed plans to have Pence buck his ceremonial duties to certify the election results.

    The documents also include heated emails between Eastman and Jacob, who criticized him for forwarding legal advice that “functioned as a serpent in the ear of the President of the United States.”

    “Respectfully it was gravely, gravely irresponsible for you to entice the President with an academic theory that had no legal viability, and that you well know would lose before any judge who decided the case,” Jacob wrote.

    In an earlier email, Jacob wrote he did not believe “there is a single justice on the United States Supreme Court” who is as “broad minded” as Eastman, saying his plan didn’t fit within “every legal trail placed before me.”

    It also includes a transcript of the deposition with Eastman, during which he invoked his Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination 146 times. He has also been ordered by the court to review 1,500 of his emails a day for content that might be covered by executive privilege.

    It’s still unclear how the judge in the case will rule on Eastman’s privilege claims. A hearing for the case is scheduled for Tuesday.

    Charles Burnham, an attorney for Eastman, said the Trump attorney “has a responsibility to protect client confidences, even at great personal risk and expense.”

    “The Select Committee has responded to Dr. Eastman’s efforts to discharge this responsibility by accusing him of criminal conduct. Because this is a civil matter, Dr. Eastman will not have the benefit of the Constitutional protections normally afforded to those accused by their government of criminal conduct. Nonetheless, we look forward to responding in due course.”

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Russian invasion transforms Zelensky
    BY BRETT SAMUELS 03/03/22 05:59 PM EST


    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has turned around his domestic political fortunes with his leadership over the past few weeks, earning the support of an overwhelming majority of the country in the face of a Russian invasion.

    Zelensky, an entertainer turned politician, saw his approval ratings steadily decline since his election in 2019, continuing a string of displeasure with leadership within Ukraine over issues like corruption.

    But his stewardship of the country and stirring calls to defend Ukraine in the face of Russian aggression have impressed even those who were skeptical of his leadership just a few weeks ago, and his approval ratings have risen to over 90 percent, according to one recent poll.

    “I would’ve given him a C last year. I think he was a mediocre president at peace, and he’s a fabulous president at war,” said Melinda Haring, who previously was editor of the UkraineAlert blog at the Atlantic Council, where she is now deputy director of the Eurasia Center.

    “He’s really turned things around,” Haring said. “I’m surprised by him. I’m surprised by his physical courage, I’m impressed with his stiff upper lip.”

    Before running for office, Zelensky was best known in Ukraine as an actor and comedian who had appeared in movies and on reality television. His populist campaign garnered significant support, and he won election with roughly 73 percent of the vote, handily defeating then-President Petro Poroshenko.

    Prior to the invasion, Zelensky was probably best known among Americans for being at the center of President Trump’s first impeachment, in which Trump pressured Zelensky during a phone call to investigate Joe Biden and his family just days after Trump ordered a hold on U.S. military aid to Kyiv.

    In recent days, video clips have gone viral of Zelensky competing on the Ukrainian version of “Dancing With the Stars” in 2006 and voicing Paddington the bear in the Ukrainian version of the 2014 film “Paddington.”

    Those light-hearted moments have been a jarring juxtaposition to images of a weary but resolute Zelensky delivering video messages from the city of Kyiv, vowing to stay and fight for his people.

    The Ukrainian Embassy in Great Britain said on Twitter over the weekend that Zelensky had turned down an offer from the U.S. to evacuate him, saying he needed “ammunition, not a ride.”

    “I am here. We are not putting down arms,” Zelensky said in a video posted over the weekend meant to dispel talk he had evacuated. “We will be defending our country, because our weapon is truth, and our truth is that this is our land, our country, our children, and we will defend all of this. That is it. That’s all I wanted to tell you. Glory to Ukraine.”

    But the fascination and admiration for Zelensky overshadows the rocky footing he was on just a few months ago, with his administration facing questions about corruption, infighting and an uncertain approach to the prospect of Russian aggression.

    When Zelensky gave a press conference in November as Russia was building up forces around Ukraine, journalists and activists in the country expressed frustration that the president was not responding more forcefully and was instead picking fights with the press, according to UkraineWorld, an English language service providing updates about Ukraine.

    Oleksiy Haran, a scholar at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, wrote at the time that he expected Zelenksy to be “more decisive” in his message to the Ukrainian people about the threat of a Russian attack.

    Serhiy Sydorenko, editor in chief of the Ukrainian publication European Pravda, wrote after the press conference that Zelensky was facing a sharp drop in his popularity and the fracturing of Ukraine “is growing again, and it’s sad”.

    Andrew Lohsen, a fellow in the Europe, Russia and Eurasia Program at the Center for Strategic International Studies, said Zelensky’s trajectory since his election had steadily declined much like his predecessors, dipping to about 33 percent just a few weeks ago.

    But the Russian invasion, and Zelensky’s response to it, has led to an unmistakable rallying moment for the president and his country. A poll conducted last weekend that interviewed 2,000 Ukrainians found 91 percent of respondents supported Zelensky’s actions.

    “These images of him broadcasting from in front of the presidential administration when there’s reports of a bounty on his head or that he’s enemy number one, I mean, that is real courage,” Lohsen said. “So, absolutely, he’s really become respected as the leader of the country and still has the faith of the vast majority of his citizens right now.”

    In a Washington Post guest column published earlier this week, Anna Myroniuk, a journalist for the Kyiv Independent, wrote about her early misgivings about Zelensky and her uncertainty that he could rise to the challenge upon being elected to office.

    She did not vote for Zelensky in 2019, and she expressed concerns about his approach to corruption and his sensitivity to media criticism. But his handling of the conflict with Russia has been a bright spot for Myroniuk and others who have seen Zelensky go toe-to-toe with Russian President Vladimir Putin with the world watching.

    “The actor-turned-president stumbled and did not live up to my expectations at first—but now he has demonstrated that he is not shying away from the biggest responsibility for any national leader: the protection of their people,” Myroniuk wrote.

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    Nov 4th, 2010

    Dec 1st, 2011

    Young as White House budget chief in historic first
    BY ARIS FOLLEY 03/17/22 01:47 PM EDT


    Vice President Harris swore in senior adviser and longtime congressional aide Shalanda Young as the head of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) on Thursday, making her the first Black woman in history to assume the Cabinet position.

    Young was sworn in during a ceremony two days after the Senate voted to confirm her to the role and almost a year after she was first installed as acting director of the OMB, which oversees execution of the government’s budget.

    Young was previously tapped by the White House to serve as deputy budget director, but assumed an acting leadership role in the office after Neera Tanden withdrew her nomination for budget chief in March 2021 amid scrutiny over past political tweets.

    President Biden announced plans to nominate Young to the role last November as the official had also drawn the backing of top Democratic leaders like Speaker Nancy Pelosi (Calif.), House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.), and Majority Whip James Clyburn (S.C.).

    Her nomination was endorsed by the Congressional Black Caucus, as well as from Republicans like Sen. Richard Shelby (Ala.), ranking member of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

    “I think it’d be hard for the Biden administration to do any better. She’ll do a good job, if they let her,” Shelby told The Hill during the Senate vote on Young’s confirmation on Tuesday.

    Young’s experience spans years on the House Appropriations Committee, including as a Democratic staff director, clerk, and deputy staff director, among other roles. During her time with the panel, the White House said Young oversaw $1.3 trillion annual appropriations legislation, disaster aid and “major aspects of COVID-19 related spending.”

    Her confirmation makes her the fifth Black woman to be named to Biden’s Cabinet and joins several history-making additions to the body, including Harris, who is the first Black American, South Asian American, and woman to serve as the nation’s No. 2 position.

    The news comes as the White House is also making a push for Nani Coloretti to be confirmed as OMB’s deputy director.

    Coloretti is a senior vice president for business and financial strategy at the Urban Institute. She previously served as deputy secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development, assistant secretary for management, and acting deputy chief financial officer of the Department of the Treasury and acting chief operating officer of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

    If confirmed, the White House has said Coloretti would be among the “highest-ranking Asian American, Native Hawaiians, or Pacific Islanders serving in government.”

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Zelensky challenges conscience of Congress


    Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky confronted Americans on Wednesday with a graphic portrait of his country’s suffering in the face of Russian hostility, delivering an impassioned speech that challenged both the policies of the Biden administration and the conscience of a Congress that’s now vowing to escalate its response.

    While Zelensky failed to secure the backing for his most urgent request, the creation of a no-fly zone over Ukraine, his subsequent plea for less drastic interventions—including more anti-aircraft weapons and tougher economic sanctions—won the enthusiastic support of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

    If those positions weren’t exactly new, Zelensky’s gripping appeal seemed to reinforce them. Some lawmakers said that was his strategy all along.

    “The point of the no-fly zone request is to make us feel guilty that we can’t do the no-fly zone, so that we work even harder on everything that we can do,” said Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-N.J.), who served as a pro-democracy official at the State Department. “It’s brilliant. It’s exactly what he should be doing.”

    While warning against Congress trying to “micromanage” the administration, Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee, predicted that Zelensky’s speech would prompt lawmakers to seek additional ways to defuse Russia’s aggression.

    “You can’t leave the speech without thinking to yourself, what more can we do? And I think that will be the question a lot of members are asking,” Murphy said.

    As Russia’s bloody invasion of Ukraine was poised to enter its fourth week, Zelensky has launched a series of virtual speeches, to the United States and other western allies, in an effort to build public pressure for more military assistance to Ukraine.

    Zelensky’s entreaty in the address was not subtle.

    Invoking touchstone events from U.S. history, including Pearl Harbor and 9/11, he framed the conflict as a universal battle between freedom and tyranny. Airing a highly graphic video of mass graves and dead children, he said Ukraine is “fighting for the values of Europe and the world.” He called out President Biden’s non-interventionist approach to Putin’s aggression.

    “To be the leader of the world means to be the leader of peace,” Zelensky said.

    The emotive speech brought tears to the eyes of some lawmakers, who are facing mounting pressure from voters at home to do more to help Ukraine without launching a third World War.

    “I don’t think the American people have an appetite for a shooting war, but that doesn’t mean that we’re limited to what we’re doing now,” said Rep. Dan Kildee (D-Mich.). “We have to be smart about it, obviously. But Putin’s got to be stopped.”

    “The administration has led the world and the coalition in support of Ukraine, but without more that’s not going to be enough,” echoed Rep. Jason Crow (D-Colo.), a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. “There are a lot of things we can do that we haven’t yet done.”

    Shortly after Zelensky’s speech, Biden announced $800 million in new assistance for Ukraine, including helping provide 800 anti-aircraft systems to combat Russian planes; 9,000 anti-armor systems to help destroy Russian tanks and armored vehicles; 7,000 small arms such as machine guns and shotguns; and a total of 20 million rounds of ammunition, including artillery and mortar rounds.

    “We’re going to give Ukraine the arms to fight and defend themselves through all the difficult days ahead,” Biden said.

    New aircraft were not on the president’s list, an expected omission after the Pentagon had previously rejected a Polish plan to send Ukrainian Soviet-era MiG-29 fighter jets, to be replaced by U.S. fighters, with warnings that Russia could mistakenly perceive the transfer as escalatory.

    Though the decision has been backed by top Democrats, there’s also bipartisan support for getting the planes to Ukraine. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) said Wednesday that Biden, by refusing the transfer, is single-handedly preventing the Ukrainians from creating their own no-fly zone.

    “You have an air defense that you can provide,” he said. “It’s only being held up by one person: Biden.”

    Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), the top Republican on the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, also circulated a draft of a nonbinding resolution shortly after Zelensky’s speech to urge the Biden administration to support transferring the planes and air defense systems to Ukraine.

    “This is a moment in history that everybody will be watching and judging how this unfolds and we have a chance in real time to make a difference,” Graham said.

    Yet military experts are warning that the MiG-29s are outdated, and that providing them to Ukraine would not only be ineffective in providing air cover, it would also force Ukrainian pilots into suicide missions.

    “The MiG wouldn’t last a second in Ukrainian air space right now,” said Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee.

    “You’d be better served to get drones or javelins, more Stingers or surface-to-air missiles. Those are the things that are proving most effective for the Ukrainian to use right now. That’s where our focus should be,” he said.

    Malinowski noted that, after calling for the no-fly zone, Zelensky began his menu of alternatives with the S-300 anti-aircraft missiles—a more realistic weapon, Malinowski argued, both practically and politically.

    “That is not only more possible, but actually a much more effective way of achieving his goal of clearing the skies,” Malinowski said.

    But there’s broader support in Congress for ramping up air defense systems, and lawmakers are working on a separate deal to formally end normal trade relations with Russia, after Biden backed the idea Friday. That bill has been stalled amid disagreements between the White House and Congress over who would have the authority to restore normal relations, but Democratic leaders are predicting a quick resolution.

    “The president wanted some time to talk about that,” House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) told reporters Wednesday. “But we will do it soon.”

    Biden, in coordination with European allies, has also imposed several rounds of financial penalties, including those targeting Russian banks, oligarchs and Putin himself. But lawmakers on Wednesday wasted no time echoing Zelensky’s call for broader sanctions.

    “We can sanction every single Russian individual on the face of the planet, and I think we should listen to President Zelensky’s call for increased economic sanctions. But I would expect that there would be more sanctions to come,” Murphy said.

    Sen. Rob Portman (R-Ohio), the co-chair of the Senate Ukraine Caucus, urged the administration to broaden the banks that are cut off from SWIFT, an internal communications system used by banks to finalize transactions.

    “We need to tighten the sanctions on the banks, include them all in SWIFT, and do more in terms of sanctioning individuals,” Portman said. “And today I would make a statement to those Russian officials, and to those Russian commanders: You have a choice. War crimes are being recorded. The world is watching. You have a choice.”

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    White House COVID-19 response coordinator Zients to leave post
    BY NATHANIEL WEIXEL 03/17/22 08:03 AM EDT


    President Biden’s coronavirus response coordinator Jeff Zients will depart in April to return to private life, the White House announced Thursday.

    Zients, who helped coordinate the largest vaccination campaign in American history through multiple waves of the pandemic, will be replaced by Ashish Jha, a public health expert who currently serves as dean of the Brown University School of Public Health.

    “Jeff spent the last 14 months working tirelessly to help combat COVID. He is a man of service and an expert manager. I will miss his counsel and I’m grateful for his service,” Biden said in a statement.

    Zients’s deputy Natalie Quillian will also leave the administration in April, according to a White House official.

    The departure of Zients is a sign the White House views the crisis phase of the pandemic as over, and is shifting to a longer-term strategy. Jha is a practicing internist and public health researcher who has been on the front lines of the COVID-19 response.

    Zients is a management consultant with experience in rapid response political situations, including leading the team that fixed the healthcare.gov website after a disastrous launch.

    The White House is in the midst of a delicate balancing act as officials try to balance getting America back to a semblance of normalcy while also grappling with the continued uncertainty and threat of the coronavirus.

    “Thanks to all the progress we’ve made, Americans are safely moving back to more normal routines, using the effective new tools we have to enable us to reduce severe COVID cases and make workplaces and schools safer,” Biden said.

    But he added that “our work in combatting COVID is far from done.” More people need to be vaccinated and boosted, a vaccine needs to be approved for children under five years old, and vulnerable populations still need to be protected.

    “As we enter a new moment in the pandemic—executing on my National COVID-19 Preparedness Plan and managing the ongoing risks from COVID—Dr. Jha is the perfect person for the job,” Biden said.

    Zients’s departure also comes as the White House is struggling to secure more than $22 billion from Congress to fund the nation’s future response. Administration officials have warned without the money it requested, there will not be enough money to purchase additional tests, treatments or vaccines.

    Congress was poised to pass $15 billion as part of a government funding package last week, but it fell apart when House Democrats objected to paying for it in part by taking back $7 billion in federal money that had been allocated to the states.

    The lack of funding for the future could put the U.S. at risk if another deadly variant begins spreading. While infections are on a downward trajectory in much of the country, they are rising in parts of Europe and Asia, which is often a predictor of what will happen in the U.S.

    Jha has generally been a voice of optimism throughout the pandemic, even as he has called for aggressive responses. He has been a constant presence on cable news, and on Twitter, for much of the last two years.

    On Thursday, Jha tweeted he was “honored” to have the opportunity to serve.

    “For all the progress we’ve made in this pandemic (and there is a lot), we still have important work to do to protect Americans’ lives and well being,” Jha said.

    “We are in so much of a better place with vaccines, diagnostics, increasingly, therapeutics, and much more,” Jha said, but added that “We are not done” and are “very likely to see more surges of infections.”

    In a statement, Brown University said Jha will take a short-term leave for the temporary special assignment.

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    Dec 1st, 2011

    Biden, allies to announce new sanctions on Russia
    BY MORGAN CHALFANT 03/22/22 02:27 PM EDT


    White House national security adviser Jake Sullivan said Tuesday that President Biden and U.S. allies would announce new sanctions on Russia for its invasion of Ukraine when the president travels to Brussels later this week.

    “He will join our partners in imposing further sanctions on Russia and tightening the existing sanctions to crack down on evasion and to ensure robust enforcement,” Sullivan told reporters during a press briefing.

    Sullivan declined to provide details about specific sanctions, saying he wouldn’t get ahead of the announcement that would be made in conjunction with U.S. allies on Thursday.

    Still, he emphasized that the measures would involve enforcing current sanctions by “ensuring that there is joint effort to crack down on evasion, sanctions busting, on any attempt by any country to help Russia basically undermine, weaken, or get around the sanctions.”

    Biden is slated to attend an emergency NATO meeting, met with the other Group of Seven (G-7) leaders, and address a European Council summit on Thursday in Brussels. He’ll also travel to Poland and meet with Polish President Andrzej Duda the following day.

    Sullivan also said that Biden would announce a new joint action on enhancing European energy security as well as new U.S. contributions to a humanitarian response to Russia’s war in Ukraine. Millions of Ukrainians have fled their homes amid the war, many of them crossing over into neighboring Poland. It’s unclear if Biden will meet with refugees when he visits Poland on Friday.

    The U.S. and its allies have already imposed punishing sanctions on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine that began almost four weeks ago. These measures include sanctions on Russian banks and oligarchs and the removal of some Russian banks from the SWIFT international banking system.

    Biden has also banned domestic Russian oil and gas imports, a step that Europe did not join in because of its dependence on Russian energy.

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