The Hill’s Morning Report – US, Russia clash at UN meeting
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Total U.S. coronavirus deaths reported each morning this week: Monday, 884,260; Tuesday, 886,687.
The U.S. on Monday sought to rally the international community to confront Russia’s military buildup on Ukraine’s border by labeling it a threat to global peace and security, drawing condemnation from Moscow that Washington is stoking hysteria.
The United Nations Security Council session marked a public faceoff involving the United States, Russia and the global community following weeks of intensive diplomacy aimed at pressuring Moscow to withdraw more than 100,000 troops positioned on Ukraine’s border (The Hill and The New York Times).
“The situation we are facing in Europe is urgent and dangerous,” the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Linda Thomas-Greenfield said. “Russia’s actions strike at the very heart of the U.N. charter.”
Vasily Nebenzia, Thomas-Greenfield’s Russian counterpart, portrayed the Americans as provocateurs who were “whipping up tensions and provoking escalation,” as he insisted that Russia had no plan to invade Ukraine.
“You are almost pulling for this,” he said, looking at Thomas-Greenfield several seats away. “You want it to happen. You’re waiting for it to happen, as if you want to make your words become a reality.”
Today, the leaders of Britain and Poland are scheduled to visit Kyiv in a show of diplomatic solidarity with Ukraine, while U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov speak by phone (The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal).
The Associated Press: Russia and the United States are in disagreement about the diplomatic moves on each side of the Ukraine crisis. Russia on Tuesday denied assertions by Biden administration officials that Moscow sent a written response to Washington about its demands.
The U.N. meeting — requested by the United States last week — was the highest-profile arena for the two powers to sway world opinion over Ukraine. The Times reported Monday’s meeting had all the Cold War atmospherics of the tense days of clashes between the United States and Soviet Union decades ago. The Security Council gathering adjourned after two hours with no action taken — although none had been expected. Nebenzia left the meeting before it was over.
Thomas-Greenfield said afterward that the Russians “didn’t give us the answers we hoped they’d provide.”
Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has not spoken publicly about Ukraine since December, made no statement.
Meanwhile, in Ukraine, more than 300 fake bomb threats in the past month have been aimed at sowing fear. In a statement, the country’s security service said the goal was obvious: creating chaos and undermining the government (The New York Times).
Biden on Monday at the White House discussed energy supply security in Europe with the emir of Qatar, Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, hoping to allay worries among NATO allies that sanctioning Russia could mean interruptions of natural gas from that crucial energy source (MarketWatch and Bloomberg News). Qatar is one of the world’s largest suppliers of liquified natural gas, but its production is already going full tilt.
CNBC: Boeing wins Qatar Airways order for 737 Max planes.
The Hill: The administration and its allies are trying to salvage the Iran nuclear deal before Iran advances its nuclear capabilities to a degree that a weapon of mass destruction cannot be stopped. That time is just weeks away. Aware of realities, the administration says it is “preparing alternative options,” including with Israel, should the effort to revive the deal collapse.
LEADING THE DAY
CORONAVIRUS: Good news could finally be near for children ages 5 and younger as COVID-19 vaccinations may be available for them by the end of the month.
Individuals with knowledge of the situation told The Washington Post that Pfizer and BioNTech are expected to deliver its request for emergency-use authorization by today. Despite disappointing results for the shot’s two-dose regimen, that plan will likely be altered to include a third shot for the youngest age group, with regulators reportedly urging the companies to move ahead with that effort.
“We know that two doses isn’t enough, and we get that,” said one of the people familiar with the situation. “The idea is, let’s go ahead and start the review of two doses. If the data holds up in the submission, you could start kids on their primary baseline months earlier than if you don’t do anything until the third-dose data comes in.”
The news emerged as part of a busy day on the vaccine front. Earlier on Monday, the FDA fully approved Moderna’s COVID-19 vaccine for individuals ages 18 and older, handing the jab a boost and additional vote of confidence after follow-up data showed “high efficacy and favorable safety approximately six months after the second dose.”
The Moderna shot started to be administered in December 2020 under emergency use authorization. The full approval also comes five months after Pfizer’s COVID-19 received the same status (The Hill).
Additionally, Novovax asked the agency for an emergency use authorization for its shot for adults. According to the company, the request was based in part on results from two large clinical trials of approximately 30,000 participants in the U.S. and Mexico.
Two doses of the vaccine were given three weeks apart and demonstrated an overall efficacy of approximately 90 percent. However, trials took place before the omicron variant became dominant over the past two months (The Hill).
The Associated Press: All-out effort to keep Biden COVID-free; no “normal” yet.
The Washington Post: White House frustrations grow over health chief Xavier Becerra’s handling of pandemic.
> Infections: Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro announced on Monday that he tested positive for COVID-19. Del Toro, who is vaccinated, said he will work from home this week, adding that he returned from official travel on Friday (The Hill).
North of the border, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau also announced a positive test result for the virus, adding that two of his three school-aged children also contracted COVID-19 (CNN).
The Washington Post: D.C.-area COVID-19 hospitalizations fall, but hospitals are still suffering.
Reuters: Scientists are on alert over rising cases of infection caused by BA.2, omicron’s cousin.
The Denver Post: Denver’s mask mandate and vaccination order to end as COVID-19 cases decline.
The Associated Press: Denmark scraps most COVID-19 restrictions.
CONGRESS: Senate watchers anticipate that conservative Sens. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Josh Hawley (R-Mo.) will lean into the pending debate about a Black female Supreme Court nominee to boost their respective outreach to allies on the right. At a time when some Republicans on Capitol Hill have already stated that a nominee selected by Biden is likely to be a “left-wing ideologue,” Cruz, Hawley and other rising Senate conservatives are eyeing the spotlight and 2024, reports The Hill’s Alexander Bolton.
ABC News: Cruz joins Republicans in slamming Biden’s vow to name a Black woman to the Supreme Court, calling it “offensive.”
The Hill’s John Kruzel has a special video report HERE about Justice Stephen Breyer’s planned retirement this summer and the next steps in the nomination and confirmation process.
The Hill: Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said “several” Republican senators could be open to voting for a Biden Supreme Court nominee.
IN FOCUS/SHARP TAKES
POLITICS: The president this week will attempt to tackle crime, another issue that has proved politically perilous throughout the past year, when he travels to New York on Thursday in the wake of two shootings of New York Police Department officers and three officers in Houston.
As The Hill’s Niall Stanage notes in his latest memo, polling shows that Biden continues to struggle on the issue, which Republicans have used like a two-by-four against the majority party in recent years. The most recent example arrived last week when New York Police Detective Jason Rivera, 22, and his partner, Wilbert Mora, were shot and killed on Jan. 21 in Harlem.
In his eulogy at Rivera’s funeral on Friday, which was met with a sea of blue (pictured below), New York City Mayor Eric Adams (D) promised to combat the “senseless violence” exhibited in his death. Biden is set to appear alongside Adams during his visit.
> “Overturn” fallout: A Georgia district attorney asked for the FBI’s assistance in providing security after former President Trump labeled prosecutors investigating him as “racist” and called for massive protests if they “do anything illegal.”
Fani Willis, the Fulton County district attorney probing Trump’s efforts to overturn the 2020 results in Georgia, made the request in a letter to the FBI special agent in charge of the Atlanta field office. On top of security support, Willis specifically requested a risk assessment of the courthouse and buildings surrounding her office after “security concerns were escalated this weekend” (The Hill).
Trump’s remarks came during a Saturday rally in Texas, during which he also floated potential pardons for those who took part in the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol. That comment created yet another headache for GOP lawmakers, with very few siding with the ex-president on the issue.
“I just think people who broke the law on Jan. 6 need to be held accountable, period,” said Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) (The Hill).
Cristina Marcos and Mike Lillis, The Hill: GOP leaders silent on Trump’s claims that vice president could overturn elections.
The Hill: White House press secretary Jen Psaki: Trump raising Jan. 6 pardons, overturning election a reminder he’s unfit.
CNN: Marc Short, the then-chief of staff to former Vice President Mike Pence, testified in House Jan. 6 investigation.
> Trump’s advisers Col. Phil Waldron and retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, a former White House national security adviser, drafted two versions of an executive order to seize voting machines as part of Trump’s efforts to undermine the 2020 election results. The proposal, publicly broached but never executed, was to use the federal government to access voting machines in states that Trump lost (CNN).
ABC News: Trump’s fundraising extends massive $122 million war chest.
The Hill: Trump under fire over Tennessee primary nod.
The Washington Post: The National Archives received Trump presidential records that were torn into bits, some taped back together.
The Morning Report is created by journalists Alexis Simendinger and Al Weaver. We want to hear from you! Email: firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com. We invite you to share The Hill’s reporting and newsletters, and encourage others to SUBSCRIBE!
Going after the Kremlin mafia, by The Wall Street Journal editorial board. https://on.wsj.com/3oaoLvi
Democrats accidentally made it easier for state-level Republicans to cut taxes this year. Oops, by Catherine Rampell, columnist, The Washington Post. https://wapo.st/3uh0esw
WHERE AND WHEN
The House meets at 1 p.m.
The Senate convenes at 10 a.m.
The president and Vice President Harris will receive the President’s Daily Brief at 10:15 a.m. Biden, a former Senate Judiciary Committee chairman, and Harris, a former Judiciary Committee member, at 1:45 p.m. in the Oval Office will confer about a summertime Supreme Court vacancy with Durbin, and its ranking member, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) (The Associated Press).
The White House press briefing is scheduled at 1:30 p.m.
➜ INTERNATIONAL: In a sign of widening U.S. involvement in the Yemen war, the U.S. military on Monday launched interceptor missiles as Yemen’s Houthi rebels targeted the United Arab Emirates, the second-such time American troops have opened fire (The Associated Press). … British Prime Minister Boris Johnson on Monday apologized again for Downing Street parties during the pandemic that breached strict COVID-19 restrictions imposed on the general public. A government report partially released on Monday criticized a lack of leadership. For Johnson, it’s not the end of the controversy. The brief summary of the investigation provided little detail about 16 reported parties at the British prime minister’s residence and office and at other government buildings. At least 12 of the gatherings, on eight different dates, are now the subject of a criminal probe by London’s Metropolitan Police (The Washington Post).
➜ HEALTH: For the second consecutive year, more than 100,000 people in the U.S. died from diabetes in 2021, setting off calls for federal action to remedy the issue. The figure comes via Reuters analysis of data collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with diabetes-related deaths surging 15 percent in 2021. The total increased 17 percent in 2020. The news comes as experts push lawmakers to enact broader policy alterations to stem the increase, including the promotion of healthier foods and tax increases on sugary drinks, among other issues (Reuters).
➜ ACQUISITION CORNER: Only weeks after becoming a national sensation, the free online word puzzle called Wordle has a new home. The New York Times on Monday acquired the game for a sum “in the low seven figures,” according to the publication. Wordle creator Josh Wardle said on Twitter that he has “been in awe of the response” to the game, which was released to little fanfare in October. Millions of individuals now enjoy the daily stab at six tries to guess a common five-letter word (The New York Times).
And finally … School’s out in Cincinnati (kind of).
Cincinnati Public Schools announced on Monday that students will get Feb. 14 off, and not for Valentine’s Day. It’s the day after Super Bowl LVI, and when the hometown Cincinnati Bengals play the Los Angeles Rams in the team’s first appearance in the big game since Super Bowl XXIII in 1989. The school system said students and staff will get the day off in order to “celebrate what we believe will be our city’s first-ever Super Bowl victory.”
Mike Moroski, a Cincinnati Public Schools board member, noted that the district usually gives students the post-Super Bowl Monday off but initially didn’t schedule it this year after the NFL extended its season a week, altering when the big game is played. Things, as they say, changed (USA Today).
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